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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Kent Jones, Suhail Khan, Gail Hillebrand


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thanks very much for that.

And thanks for you—thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

We begin tonight with what has past becoming the most embarrassing non-Justin Bieber related obsession of the summer of 2010.  It is the proposed building of an Islamic community center in downtown New York City.

Now, this story, this talking point maybe, has quickly become a study in political awkwardness for many conservatives.



GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  The imam from the Ground Zero mosque apparently wants Sharia law in America.

The imam of the proposed Ground Zero mosque won‘t even denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Now, let me ask you this, would a moderate imam, a peaceful Muslim, employ another imam who told an Arabic language Web site that, quote, “Only the Jews could have perpetrated the 9/11 attack”?


MADDOW:  Here‘s what I mean about awkwardness with this story on the political right.  That host that you just saw there in those clips, this guy here, Glenn Beck, before spending this summer in being against the imam and what Mr. Beck calls the Ground Zero mosque, before this became this summer‘s scare story talking point, Mr. Beck himself appeared on TV with that very same imam.  Not to envy against him but to join him in promoting a moderate vision of Islam.

Former Bush administration official Karen Hughes is having the same kind of awkwardness with her own record in this story.  Ms. Hughes has now written a op-ed arguing that the planned cultural center in downtown New York City should be moved further away from the World Trade Center site, calling the plan to build there, especially contentious because, she says, quote, “it goes to the heart of who is to blame for the attacks of September 11th, 2001.”

An Islamic community center goes to the heart of who is to blame for the attacks of September 11th?  If that does not make any sense to you, rest assured it probably does not make any sense to Karen Hughes either, because Karen Hughes also knows the imam behind the proposed Islamic center she is arguing shouldn‘t be built or should at least be moved.  In fact, she worked with him on Muslim outreach during the Bush administration.  They, in fact, traveled together, side by side, to promote a moderate vision of Islam.

So, how is he such a radical now?  What explains the sudden turnaround?  What explains the fact that people who have had dealings in the past with this specific person, with the imam behind the proposed Islamic center in downtown Manhattan and know him to be a moderate and who have said so out loud—what explains why they suddenly have decided that the man is so dangerous?

The difference is that now, this moderate imam‘s community center has been declared this month‘s new “scare white people” story.  So, the truth about the imam doesn‘t matter anymore.  The truth about the cultural center that they want to build downtown doesn‘t matter anymore.  It‘s time to scare white people for political profit.

And this formula should be pretty familiar by now.  We‘ve been through episodes of “scare white people” game recently.  That was—one about Van Jones who was smeared on FOX News as a violent convicted felon.  Of course, that wasn‘t true, but he still lost his job as a White House environmental adviser.  Be afraid—be afraid of policy wonk, dorky guy Van Jones.

Of course, there was also ACORN, a mostly minority community-based organization attacked as a group of criminal thugs based largely on cooked-up deceptively edited videotapes created by right wing activists.  Be afraid—be afraid of the minority community-organizing group made up of poor people.

Now, there was the completely ginned up New Black Panthers episode.  White people, be afraid of two whacked out guys who braid their beard hair and hung out outside a polling station on Election Day a year and a half ago.  We dug up the old tape so you can be afraid.

And, also, don‘t forget Shirley Sherrod, who, thanks to again to video-editing designed to be misleading, was portrayed as a racist Obama administration official—racist in that she was out to make sure white people didn‘t get any help from the Department of Agriculture.  White people, be afraid—be afraid of Shirley Sherrod.

After all of these other very recent chapters in the scare white people political playbook: “A,” we should have been ready for it, but, “B,” it‘s quite clear that it‘s time for a new one.  So, the Ground Zero mosque controversy was born.

What‘s worth noting about all of these different “scare white people” stories is that they‘re not really actual news stories.  I mean, no real news organizations started running with this story as actual news.  The best “scare white people” stories are invented out of whole cloth, from inside the media world, so they can be just the right kind of scary in just the right kind of way in order to drive just the right political consequence.

So, ultimately, if the conservative media drives this to make it big enough, then normal news organizations pick it up, too, sometimes because they‘re gilded (ph) into it by conservatives.  But no non-FOX, non-conservative media outlet ever starts these things.

The problem is once they get going, some people get caught up in them.  Take, for example, poor Laura Ingraham, the conservative talk show host who had the misfortune of talking about the mosque in non-scary terms before everybody got the memo that this was the new “scare white people” story.

Poor Karen Hughes, poor Glenn Beck—they‘ve all been caught doing an about-face on this story since it has been named the new “scare white people” story of the summer.  But here‘s where it gets really embarrassing for our friends on the right—it‘s not just about having to walk-back their earlier comments that made it seem like they‘re now trying to create a controversy where they admit there wasn‘t one just a few months ago.  It‘s that the way, way, way, way right wing really wants this fake controversy to be about more than just this one Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan at that time at the hollowed ground that is the former Burlington coat factory.

The really, really, really, really right wing that‘s very excited about this story has latched onto this opportunity to make their draconian anti-Islam message try to resonate around the country.  They are trying to start a nationwide protest movement not against just this one Islamic cultural center but against all mosques, against all Muslims.  And the problem with that plan is that they‘re overplaying their hand.  Yes.

So, now, instead of having this narrowly-focused ridiculous outrage over one Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan generated out of whole cloth like these other stories designed to scare white people in advance of elections, instead of that, you got a broad anti-mosque crusade?  That‘s kind of falling apart, because the pros aren‘t in charge of this anymore.  This thing got too big, and there were too many people on the very far right wing of American politics ready to run with this in a direction that is sort of off the cliff.


PAMELA GELLER, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER:  It is a triumph.  It‘s triumphant.  We know that the Islamic pattern is to build giant mosques on cherished sites of conquered lands.  We know from research done by SANE that four out of five mosques preach a hate and preach incitement to violence.


MADDOW:  That was one of the driving forces behind this story, Pamela Geller of the group Stop Islamization of America, citing statistics live on television.  Four out of five mosques preach hate and preach incitement of violence.

Now, as she said, that statistic comes from a group called ironically enough SANE, the Society of Americans for National Existence.  That‘s one of those groups that was named after a drunk game of Boggle.

This group is famous previously for claiming that black people, black Americans specifically, are inherently violent, and that yes, there was discrimination written into this country‘s founding documents, but maybe that‘s why this country turned out so great.  Think about it.

They also say they want to outlaw Islam.  Not symbolically or hyperbolically, they actually want to make it illegal to be a Muslim in America, and they put it in writing.  Here‘s their proposed resolution to criminalize Islam in this country.  I am not making this up.  I didn‘t PhotoShopped this thing.  It‘s the real thing.

And without any adults around to hit the brakes, these are the folks who are being allowed to drive the national discussion in this country on the current “scare white people” political tactic.

Joining us now Suhail Khan.  He is the chairman of the Conservative Inclusion Coalition.  He‘s a former aide in the George W. Bush‘s White House.

Mr. Khan, thanks for joining us again tonight.  Nice to see you.


MADDOW:  Suhail, I know that you have a history with folks like Pam Geller.  In fact, they went after you at one time.  What can you tell us about that?

KHAN:  Well, if I remember growing up those Christmas specials with the “Island of the Misfit Toys,” well, Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, Steven Emerson, Robert Spencer, these guys or these misfits who couldn‘t really make it in mainstream politics, so they kind of went away and got together and they started to kind of talking each other about their conspiracies and their wanting to sow mistrust and hatred towards other religious minorities.

And, unfortunately after, you know, playing with themselves for a long time and putting their stories up on the Internet and attacking people, serving their government, serving their country, they‘ve now morphed into something of a mainstream effort, kind of latching onto this fear around the so-called mosque at Ground Zero and have tried to get into mainstream politics.  And, unfortunately, they‘ve had some attention and have had some success just because of the emotional nature of this issue.

MADDOW:  Have they—to be clear, Suhail, they have come after individual Muslims who are working in the U.S. government, outing people as if it‘s some sort of scandal that you could be both Muslim and serving your country?

KHAN:  Absolutely.  Just as you started out, they feel that Islam is a threat.  That being Muslim should be made illegal and a federal crime.  So, when they find Muslim Americans serving in government, they want to go out there and they try to smear their names, smear their backgrounds.

And sometimes, in a politically sensitive time, that can be enough to ruin people‘s careers.  You can imagine if you‘re a loyal American Muslim working in a government agency or serving your local community, and suddenly, there‘s all these horrible stories printed on the Internet, and you don‘t have to time to, you know, respond and your family goes through incredible heartache.  And this is the real tragedy of these guys‘ efforts.  And what‘s worse is not only are they spending time going after innocent Americans, but they‘re really distracting the country from the real enemy that we face that we all have to join together and fighting as Americans regardless of our background.

MADDOW:  In terms of the radical-ness of these anti-Muslim extremists.  Again, we‘re talking about Pamela Geller, we‘re talking about Frank Gaffney, we‘re talking about other people who have been out there for a long time and we‘ve known about in this sort of percolate up to the surface every once in a while when one conspiracy theories gets latched onto by a more respectable person—we‘re now seeing them operate in more influential circles than we‘ve really ever seen before.

As far as you can tell, is s this sort of a high water mark for them in terms of how much access they get to mainstream conservatives?

KHAN:  I hope so.  I hope so.  For years, you know, they were marginally tolerated if that.  You know, when they made presentations in meetings around Washington, D.C., people would check their BlackBerry or kind of, you know, talk and whisper among themselves and figure out what they‘re going to have for lunch.

But now, these guys—they found an issue and just as you said in the beginning, they‘re not opposed to the mosque at Ground Zero per se.  They‘re opposed to any mosques anywhere.  They‘re opposed to Muslims serving their country.  They‘re opposed to Islam, period.

And they just happen to have latched onto this issue, and because it‘s the silly season right before the elections, unfortunately, some were duped into getting involved in this issue.

But thank God, the grown-ups have come back into the room, and people, like Governor Christie and Ted Olson, who happened to have lost his wife on 9/11, are standing up and saying, enough, we‘ve got to stop this.  We have a Constitution.  We have individual rights of religious liberty, and all Americans should be able to practice those rights freely.

MADDOW:  Suhail, let me just ask you one last question about sort of I guess responsibility in a time like this.  George W. Bush spoke publicly at a time of incredible national emotion on the issue of religion after 9/11, calling for essentially tolerance and respect and for distinguishing between radicals who do things in the name of Islam and people who are—who happen to be Muslims who practice their faith in a peaceful way.  George W. Bush seems to be staying out of this argument right now.

I personally was surprised to see Karen Hughes, who had been such a visible figure in his administration in terms of reaching out to the Muslim world, decide that she wanted this cultural center moved as well.

Do you expect that George W. Bush may change his mind about this or that somebody else quite highly ranking from the Bush administration might step in and try to be an adult here?

KHAN:  I can‘t tell and predict what will happen.  I can tell you that a lot of people from the Bush administration, people like former Solicitor-General Ted Olson; Jim Glassman, who was the head of diplomacy at the State Department, has come out and said this is not only un-American, but this is giving us a black eye around the world.  Other people, and as I said, people, like Governor Christie, future heroes within American politics are staying this is enough.

And that gives me great hope that, again, our democracy, our Constitution will be protected in the days ahead.

MADDOW:  Suhail Khan, chairman of the Conservative Inclusion Coalition, a former aide in George W. Bush‘s administration, a guy who I‘m sure gets no shortage of grief just for being on this show, which makes me very grateful—Suhail, thanks a lot for joining us.

KHAN:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, the “scaring white people” business also has a thriving franchise in Washington.  Tea partiers, if you are planning to go to the big rally in D.C. on Saturday to reclaim the “I Have a Dream” march as if it was a conservative enterprise, don‘t go wandering all over town unless you want to confront that which scares white people.

“Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC contributor, Gene Robinson, joins us next.


MADDOW:  The favorite Beltway media narrative says that tomorrow‘s primary elections are bad news for incumbents.  The Beltway media narrative?  Brick wall, brick wall.  Beltway media narrative.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  This weekend is the anniversary of “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous speeches, one of the most famous moments in America history.  This year, on the 47th anniversary of the speech, a FOX News Channel TV host has decided to use the anniversary as an occasion for a rally of conservatives in Washington at the site of the speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

I don‘t purport to understand revising civil rights history so people will think conservatives were form civil rights and not against.  I do not purport to understand these revisionist efforts.  I‘m just telling you that‘s what they‘re doing.

But a Tea Party group based in the great state of Maine has put out a guide for any Tea Party minded folks who might be planning on attending the rally in D.C.  It‘s sort of a tea partiers rough guide “I‘m from out of town” guidebook for visiting our nation‘s capital—parts of it at least, parts of our nation‘s capital, very specific parts of it.

Right before they list the exact home addresses for a number of Democratic politicians—nice—they give tea partiers traveling to D.C.  for this big rally, they give them some safety advice for how a visiting tea partier protestor should visit our nation‘s capital.

Quote, “If you are on the subway, stay on the red line between Union Station and Shady Grove, Maryland.  If you are on the blue or orange line, do not go past Eastern Market, Capitol Hill, toward the Potomac Avenue stop and beyond.  Stay in northwest D.C. and points in Virginia.  Do not use the green line or yellow line.  These rules are even more important at night.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with many other areas, but you don‘t know where you are, so you should not explore them.  Do not use the green line or the yellow line.  It is dangerous.  It is scary.

The whole lines.  Don‘t—don‘t—if you‘re coaching the turnstile and you feel like—is it nighttime?  Yes.  Don‘t do it!

As you can see, the green and yellow lines are two of D.C.‘s central metro lines.  In fact, you make it harder on yourself if you don‘t take those lines, especially if you‘re coming in from Maryland or, say, Virginia.  I wonder if it‘s rough for the people going, say, to the Pentagon, right?  Not being able to ride the blue line because the yellow line is so scary.

Protecting yourself from the evil green and yellow lines would also protect you, of course, from Howard University, the country‘s most prominent historically black college—aahh!  Or maybe it‘s the U Street stop, the U Street stop where you‘ll find Ben‘s Chili Bowl, a historic restaurant that attracts luminaries and laymen alike with its sloppy beefy goodness, and at which I gained five pounds in two weeks while once renting an office across the street.

Perhaps it‘s another attraction only accessible on the yellow and green lines could be the National Archives where the Constitution is?  Be afraid, Constitution is there, especially at night.

Look at this other map of D.C.  Here‘s another map of D.C.  You see the big rectangular part?  If you follow the Tea Party tour guide, you will limit yourself to that little sliver—see that tiny sliver in the middle of it?  Little tiny, little thing looks like a flag on its side—that‘s it.  That‘s the part of D.C. you‘re advised to segregate yourself within if you are visiting Washington, D.C. for the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Joining us now is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor and D.C. resident Eugene Robinson.

Gene, thanks very much for your time.


MADDOW:  If you avoided all the places in D.C. that the main Tea Party wants you to avoid, what would your experience of Washington, D.C. be like?

ROBINSON:  It wouldn‘t—you wouldn‘t see much of the city, obviously.  You would—you‘d spend a lot of time trying to get to places accessible only on the green and yellow lines by way of the red line, but only the red line to Union Station.  So, I don‘t know what you‘re supposed to do when you get to Union Station.  Get on a train and get out of town immediately.

Look, this is—this is obviously “scaring white people” part two, and what they have done is essentially try to put off-limits any parts of the city where these main tea partiers believe you might be more likely to encounter, dare I say, black people.

MADDOW:  What are some of the things that you would miss if you were sincerely going to cut the green and yellow lines out of your life?

ROBINSON:  Well, let‘s see.  You couldn‘t—you couldn‘t go to the D.C. waterfront or the Arena Stage, one of the great theaters in the nation‘s capital.

If you took seriously their prescription about where to go on the red line, of course, you couldn‘t go to Catholic University, to the National Shrine, the grandest Catholic basilica in Washington.  You know, I could go on and on.  You‘d miss the whole U Street scene, which is the most happening nightlife and restaurant scene in town.

And, of course, you would miss the newly gentrifying Eighth Street corridor, which is the kind of really hippest, most cutting edge part of town.  But you don‘t want to see any of that.  You want to be afraid and you want to stay in this little—this little kind of safe zone.

MADDOW:  Well, you can tell my feelings about this by the way I introduced it.  I know, rare.  But it does seem particularly amazing to me to have this “stay away from all the parts of the city where you might encounter black people” instruction when they are going to a rally that is on the occasion of the 1963 march on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech.

I have to ask your reaction to the overall setting here, hosting a sort of conservative take back civil rights rally on this occasion.

ROBINSON:  I have—I have two reactions, I guess, Rachel.  Number one, you know, this is being put on by Glenn Beck, who I think his main purpose here is self self-aggrandizement on an almost Napoleonic scale.  I mean, and so, I think that‘s really a large part of what this is about.

Now, a lot of people will come, be like a Tea Party rally, I think, in that there will be some racist elements, there will be some crazies, and there will also be a lot of people who are animated by perhaps a diffused sense of grievance who just happen to have picked the wrong pied piper.  And so, those are the people for whom I guess I feel a bit sorry because I think in the end, Glenn Beck is out for himself and they‘re going to be kind of left with their grievances unaddressed and feeling worse about the political process and worse about everything than before.

MADDOW:  And not to mention strict instructions not to visit the Constitution.

ROBINSON:  They‘re not going to have any fun in Washington.  Then again, we‘ll all be able to eat the Ben‘s Chili Bowl because there won‘t be any out-of-towners there.  So, there will be more for us.


MADDOW:  You know, Mr. Silver Lining does it again.  Well-done, Eugene Robinson.  Thanks a lot, Gene.  I really appreciate it.

ROBINSON:  Good to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Gene, of course, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post” and an MSNBC contributor.

We will be right back.


MADDOW:  Sometimes policy is really handy for daily life.  Sometimes, it‘s an esoteric debate.  Sometimes, it‘s a sort of thing that we fight about it, you never really know how it translates to your everyday life.

But sometimes, it hits you right in the wallet.  Back before anybody did anything about it in D.C., credit card companies could legally monkey with your debt in fairly, spectacularly, obnoxious ways.

Por ejemplo, they could suddenly increase your interest rates out of the blue with little warning, just, voila, surprise, your 12 percent interest rate is magically now a 20 percent interest rate.  Enjoy.

That was before.  Now, credit card companies have to give you 45 days‘ notice before waiving that magic interest rate hike wand.  And if you don‘t like the rate increase, if you think that double-digit interest is out of your league, you now have the right to cancel your card before the increase goes into effect. 

You didn‘t have that right before.  Now, you have it.  When you sign up for a new card, they used to be able to jack up your rate almost immediately after you signed up for that card. 

Today, no interest rate increases for the first year after you sign up.  Oh, and increasing the interest rate on your old debt?  Increasing the interest rate now on stuff that you paid for under a different rate?  Yes, no more.  Rate hikes can now only apply to new debt. 

So if you bought, say, a new TV in March because you calculated that you‘d be paying 12 percent interest on it because that was the interest rate on the card that you used to pay for the TV, they now can‘t tell you a month later in April that, actually, you‘ll be paying twice that interest on it and if you don‘t like it, too bad. 

Those are just some of the highlights.  Those are some of the big deal changes brought about by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 which President Obama signed into law in May of last year, even though nobody really noticed. 

Those new regulations on interest rates have been law of the land since this past winter.  But as of yesterday, weirdly on Sunday, the third and final phase of the Credit Card Act went into effect regulating penalty fees that credit card companies can charge you for violations. 

Now, no fee can be over $25 or be of a greater value than the violation itself.  If you went $10 over your credit card limit, the credit card can‘t - the credit card company can‘t fine you $50 for that $10 overcharge.  They can‘t also charge you an inactivity fee for not using an account. 

Have you ever been hit with one of those?  It‘s like a journey - it‘s like waking up like a cockroach, a cockroach‘s journey into being punished for what you didn‘t do.  They also can‘t penalize you more than once for a single violation.  They can‘t keep charging you a fee over and over again for you just having done one bad thing. 

This credit card reform is one of those things that the Obama administration has done that, honestly, when people list legislative accomplishments of this presidency, it often doesn‘t even make the list. 

Maybe that‘s in part because the name of the bill is really boring.  But I‘ve got to tell you, this is one of those things where a policy change in Washington is going to have a real impact on most of our daily lives.  And so practically, this is a very big deal. 

Politically, the Obama administration might not get all that much credit for it.  They‘re not good at getting credit for stuff that they have done, even when it uniformly affects Americans in a positive way. 

Most importantly, we get a window, through this process, into the credit card industry and how it operates, because you know how they responded to these new rules?  They‘ve jacked up their interest rates to record heights.  You guys stay classy. 

Joining us now for more on these momentous changes in your relationship with your beloved credit card company is Gail Hillebrand.  Gail is a senior attorney at the west coast office of the Consumers‘ Union, a non-profit publisher of “Consumer Reports.”  Gail, good evening.  Thanks very much for joining us. 


MADDOW:  First, let me ask you - since you‘re an expert on these things and I‘m not, let me ask you if I adequately explained those changes.  Is that a pretty fair assessment of what‘s going to change in people‘s relationship with their credit card companies? 

HILLEBRAND:  That‘s a pretty fair assessment of the most recent changes.  Overall, the most important change is the one that got last February, that your rate doesn‘t go up on the money you already borrowed.  But the new changes involving mostly the fees are also important. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the overall regulation of the credit card industry, a lot of the debates that we have about cleaning up after the financial crisis, about Wall Street reform, about regulating the financial industry. 

To a lot of regular Americans, these are fairly esoteric debates or they‘re debates that get translated into politics at large.  But just about everybody has a credit card.  Just about everybody has feelings about their credit card company.  In terms of the overall regulation of this industry, are these big new rules?  Is this significant stuff? 

HILLEBRAND:  They‘re very significant in a couple of ways.  Banks can no longer charge you for things that don‘t really cost somebody money.  I call that no harm, no fee.  They can‘t charge you for inactivity.  They can‘t charge you for deciding that your transaction will not go through because they will put you over limit. 

And there‘s a very clear rule they can never charge you more than the amounts at stake.  So if it‘s - your minimum payment is late, they can‘t charge you more than that minimum itself.  After that, it gets a little mushy.  We asked the Federal Reserve to cap the amount a bank could charge you without a steady, just fine you across at $10, and they picked $25 instead.  We think that‘s a little high. 

MADDOW:  OK.  In terms of the way that the credit card companies have responded to this, as I‘ve mentioned, they have hiked their rates.  I want to ask you about that in a second. 

But one of the things that puzzle me is that they‘ve reacted to these reforms by complaining in a sort of non-specific terms that this is going to cost them billions of dollars.  This is going to hit their bottom line really, really, really deeply. 

But they never say exactly how much they make off their customers off of late fees and other forms of penalties.  Is that intended to be some sort of state secret in the credit card industry, because they don‘t want us to know how much they‘re gouging us?

HILLEBRAND:  Well, I think the state secret is there‘s nothing to back up these threats.  Since the Truth and Lending Act in 1968 and virtually every reform since the banks have said, we‘re going to take the ball and go home.  You know what?  They need us as customers.  They can‘t take that ball and go home.

And these new rules mean they have to charge us a little more fairly and we‘ll have a chance to know how much we‘re paying before we sign up and before we charge on the card. 

MADDOW:  From your experience with the Consumers‘ Union, do you feel like there‘s good evidence over time or just in the last few years that a lot of the problem that Americans have with debt is not understanding when penalties are going to hit them, when interest rates are going to be hiked? 

Just that the fine print and the lack of transparency in the rules is a big reason why a lot of people have gotten into trouble in the personal debt? 

HILLEBRAND:  The credit card industry really engineered the fine print to maximize their revenue which means to make sure you paid more, more than you should.  And that has encouraged debt.  The other thing for consumers in debt is the monthly payment doesn‘t tell you how much the loan is really going to cost. 

MADDOW:  Why have credit card companies hiked their rates in the last year to a nine-year high?  Obviously, they have some concerns about their bottom line.  They think these regulations are going to hurt them.  But presumably, it‘s a competitive enough industry that those are going to come back down, won‘t they? 

HILLEBRAND:  I think credit card companies hike their rates partly because they‘re worried about the economy.  They don‘t know, you know, whether the recession is over or whether it‘s coming back.  They‘re worried about whether you and I are going to have jobs tomorrow and so they want to keep rates up just in case. 

They also hike their rates partly to make sure that they could jack up those rates later.  Remember, it used to be they could promise you a low rate and give you a high rate.  Now, they have to give you the rate they promised you, at least on the money you already borrowed. 

And then, they have to tell the truth about what it‘s really going to cost.  So did they jack up the rates?  Or are they just telling us the real costs now? 

MADDOW:  So rather than getting all of our money via fees and hidden things that we didn‘t know about, they‘re telling us up front what they intend to squeeze us for? 

HILLEBRAND:  Well, that‘s right.  But that means every person who holds a card in their wallet can decide, “Do I really want to pay that much?  Or would I rather put my card in the drawer? 

MADDOW:  Gail Hillebrand, senior attorney at the west coast office of Consumers‘ Union, the non-profit publisher of “Consumer Reports” magazine, thanks for joining us and for being so plain spoken and clear about what‘s often a very confusing issue.  It‘s great to have you. 

HILLEBRAND:  You‘re welcome. 

MADDOW:  So, hey, North Korea, I just read your latest Facebook profile and all I can say is, you go.  Details next.


MADDOW:  A developing story for you.  Do you remember when those American women who were reporters for Current TV got arrested in North Korea - Laura Ling and Euna Lee?  Well, around this time last year, you‘ll recall that former President Bill Clinton made a surprise trip to Pyong Yang and met with Kim Jong Il and got those two reporters out of North Korea safely. 

Now, the Web site of “Foreign Policy” magazine is reporting that another former U.S. president is about to take another trip to North Korea to try to free yet another American who is being held prisoner there. 

This time, it‘s former President Jimmy Carter, and the American in custody is not a reporter.  He‘s a 30-year-old Boston man who was reportedly working as an English teacher in South Korea when he crossed over into the north.  He was arrested early this year.  He has been sentenced to eight years in prison.  The man‘s name is Aijalon Mahi Gomes - forgive the pronunciation. 

Former President Carter does have experience negotiating with the North Koreans.  He‘s even done so as a former president already back in the ‘90s.  But as yet, again, this report that he‘s going to North Korea as a private citizen to try to get this young American man freed from prison, as yet this report is exclusive so far to “Foreign Policy” magazine. 

We‘ll let you know if it is confirmed and if we get more details.  We‘ve also got details ahead about how things went really disastrously wrong on Facebook today for North Korea, the little dictatorship that couldn‘t.  That‘s coming up.


MADDOW:  Hey, you know, there are primaries tomorrow which means - say it with me now - there‘s an anti-incumbent tidal wave of voter anger sweeping away on the establishment candidates. 

It is such an awesome headline.  It is such an awesome story.  And it has as much a relationship to the facts as Ben‘s Chili Bowl does to the health of your arteries.  That‘s coming up.


MADDOW:  Last week, North Korea joined Twitter - at least, it seemed like they did.  The U.S. State Department spokesman welcomed the North Korean government to Twitter, welcomed them to the networked world. 

And then, precisely one minute later, he challenged the insecure little tin pot dictatorship to allow its citizens to tweet as well.  Yes, right. 

Still, though, during the last couple of weeks, there have been reports that North Korea might be taking quite a few baby goose steps into the bold 21st century world of social networking. 

Not only what seems to be an official state-run Twitter account for the unpronounceable name, but a Twitter account even maybe for the government-run North Korean news agency.  Also, what appears to be a North Korean government-run YouTube channel which includes videos of trains and also, inexplicably, videos of spaniels - a lot of videos of spaniels. 

Yes.  Yes.  It just goes on like that for a long time.  They look hot.  Not that way.  Anyway, now that Kim Jong Il‘s miserable little starving totalitarian (UNINTELLIGIBLE) appears to have joined the Facebook. 

See, here‘s North Korea‘s Facebook page.  Now, perhaps because they are not the most tech savvy social network savvy bulbs on the tree, the nation of North Korea appears to have joined Facebook not as an entity, not as an institution or as a country.  They appear to have joined Facebook as a person. 

And as pointed out by the brilliant Web site, One Kit(ph) today, North Korea has not only joined Facebook as a person; North Korea has specifically declared itself on Facebook to be a male person a male person who is interested in men. 

Neat.  Congratulations.  I had no idea.  Now that I‘m just getting my head around the idea that North Korea is not only on Twitter and on YouTube, but also on Facebook and a gay on Facebook, our dictatorship confusion correspondent, Kent Jones, tells me there is more to this story.  Hi, Kent. 

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  There is.  Hi, Rachel.  Everything you just said has been denied.  Denied.  A government official told “Forbes” that the North Korean government is not using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - not. 

And that whole thing about being interested in other men, that‘s been taken down.  They say those social networking accounts are being run by government supporters and not by Kim Jong Il‘s loyal minions. 

And yet, they seem to be a little touchy about the whole thing.  Said the official, quote, “We think there is plenty of misinformation, speculation and sensationalism regarding the reality of North Korea.  This is the hypocrisy of a society that calls itself democratic but is in reality fearful of the ideological power and influence from our side.”

MADDOW:  Yes.  This is the whole premise - there are two premises.  One is that it‘s all the supporters of the government of Kim Jong Il who are doing this, freelance. 

JONES:  It‘s spontaneous.  It‘s grassroots. 

MADDOW:  It‘s for love -

JONES:  If only I could create a site in love of the north Korean dictatorship, that - that would work. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I think the idea, though, that, obviously, this is some sort of capitalist running dog, you know, a conspiracy against North Korea because we are so insecure about how much Americans want to be like North Korea.

JONES:  I‘m just threatened every day.  I‘m like we‘re that close to

North Korea, that close -

MADDOW:  We have to make sure we disguise their message so it doesn‘t appeal to the people of Nebraska. 

JONES:  Today, Facebook.  Tomorrow, Nebraska.  That‘s how it works. 

MADDOW:  How about the whole gay thing?  The man -

JONES:  You know what?  The whole gay man issue - we don‘t really know.  They didn‘t deny it. 

MADDOW:  They specifically didn‘t deny the “we‘re gay on Facebook” thing? 

JONES:  No.  It‘s still out there. 

MADDOW:  Fair enough. 

JONES:  Still out there. 

MADDOW:  I‘d love to hear from them about it if they want to talk. 

Kent, I will clear your Google cache for you later if you want.  I‘m sorry

to have made you -


JONES:  I was going to ask. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” an exclusive investigation into President Obama‘s secret Muslim-ness. 

But first on this show, a pre-debunking - a pre-debunking of a loser fake disproven zombie story that will not die, that you will be hearing all day in tomorrow‘s news.  That‘s next.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Tomorrow - yes - four more states hold primary elections.  Forty-one down, nine to go, plus the District of Columbia.  I hereby confidently predict that the results of tomorrow‘s elections will be more of this. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It looks like Meek is pulling it out, but anything can happen in an anti-incumbent mood of an election. 

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  And it‘s an anti-incumbent year.  So for Washington, it‘s not so popular to be seen with the ultimate insider in some ways. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s been a lot of talk, of course, over the past few months - this strong, anti-incumbent feeling in many areas of the country. 


MADDOW:  You know, that started off a whole anti-incumbent thing, started off as a headline when the primary season started back in February. 

Back then, people at least tried to offer some factual evidence to back it up as an assertion.  Now, that doesn‘t even happen anymore.  It‘s just the received common wisdom.  It‘s the politics story that wants to be told.  And no matter how much the facts, actual election results, contradict that story, the story remains. 

Check out this contortion in today‘s “Washington Post” in an article about tomorrow‘s primaries.  Quote - see if you can follow this, “The contests offer more evidence that establishment candidates can prosper in this year of the outsider.” 

Translation, we‘re still calling it the year of the outsider no matter how many outsiders lose, no matter how many insiders win.  We like this story too much to change the headline. 

This was another one, another really good one.  This was from the Associated Press last week before Washington State‘s primary.  Here‘s the quote, “Fighting off anti-incumbent fervor, President Obama is rallying Tuesday for Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.” 

And then, after Sen. Murray won that primary, there was this from the “Seattle Times,” quote, “The primary results in both the Senate and Congressional races showed a few signs of the sweeping anti-incumbent sentiment seen in some other states.” 

It‘s sweeping but you know how a corn broom like has little lines, little spaces in between the - it‘s sweeping.  It just missed some spots.  We know the story must be true because everybody keeps saying it is, even though the evidence we are directly reporting, directly contradicts the story but stick with the story. 

Why?  What if there isn‘t a huge anti-incumbent wave evident in this year‘s elections?  What if the beltway media‘s chosen narrative for explaining politics this year isn‘t borne out by the facts?  What if it just isn‘t true?  How would we know? 

Here‘s a little experiment.  Look at this.  These are the names of incumbents who have won their primary elections this season.  By our count, there are 317 of them.  I don‘t think we‘re going to have time to go through all of these.  Rob(ph), can we - do you mind if we just switch to the other one, the one with the incumbents who didn‘t win their primaries?  Can we switch over to that one? 

That‘s it?  That‘s it.  Seven.  Seven.  Seven incumbents lost, out of 324 races.  One governor, two senators, four members of Congress.  The latest Congressperson to lose her seat in a primary was Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, mother of Kwame Kilpatrick, as in the Detroit mayor who is now serving 18 months to five years in prison for violating probation on a previous conviction. 

Here‘s how the Associated Press‘ political writer described her downfall.  Quote, “Incumbents beware.  Another lawmaker just bit the dust in a year when fickle voters seem eager to fire long-time lawmakers.” 

Yes.  Voters sure have been eager to get rid of seven of them out of 324, including Kwame Kilpatrick‘s mom who is, what, supposed to be representative of, what, every other lawmaker in the country is going through this year because they‘re all Kwame‘s mom, too? 

Tomorrow, we have two high profile races involving incumbents.  Sen. John McCain, who is fighting against J.D. Hayworth to try to hold on to his Senate seat, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who is fighting a challenge from a man named Joe Miller whose name is very easy to spell and who is endorsed by Sarah Palin. 

I don‘t know how much stock you put in polling but polls do show both incumbents are expected to win.  If these two more incumbents do win tomorrow, expect headlines like “Anti-incumbent mood fails to take Murkowski down.”  Or “John McCain escapes anti-incumbent wave.” 

The anti-incumbent wave, we swear, still exists despite the fact that everybody seems to be escaping it.  Sometimes, big news narratives make the facts make more sense.  They make disparate data points more understandable. 

And sometimes they are lazy nonsense, unperturbed by actual news and driven by mindless repetition.  Tomorrow, and for the rest of this election season, beware of lazy nonsense and mindless repetition. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, there‘s lots to add to what you see on the show.  We‘re proud of our excellent blog at “”  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.  Have a great night. 



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