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Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Nathaniel Frank, Glenn Greenwald, Michael Almy

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you.

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


In politics, in news, in civil rights, it has been a very, very big day.



MADDOW (voice-over):  Seventeen years and coming.  Today was going to be it, the beginning of the end of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Surprise, the push for repeal went kersplat on the floor of the Senate.

Surprise, Senator Jim Webb votes with the Democrats.

Another surprise—Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln vote with the Republicans.

The bottom line is no progress against “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Not today.

All the political and practical details with MSNBC‘s Lawrence O‘Donnell and “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” expert, Nathaniel Frank.

And this jaw-dropping exchange between Senator John McCain and a reporter.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  We do not go out and see, find out if someone is gay or not.

REPORTER:  There are documented cases.

MCCAIN:  They do not, they do not, they do not.  You can say that they are, you can (INAUDIBLE).  It‘s not true.


REPORTER:  That is the case of Mike Almy, Senator.


MADDOW:  Major Mike Almy joins us live.

And the senator standing for reelection by write-in scores a sad own goal against her own campaign.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.



MADDOW:  Today in the United States Senate, language in the defense authorization bill that would let the military repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” fell to defeat.

Senate Republicans, in fact, took the historic step of filibustering the entire defense authorization bill in order to maintain the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.  They would not even allow debate on the defense bill because it included that language to let the military repeal its own policy on keeping gay people out of the military.

And so, we don‘t have a bill to fund the military this year, at least so far.  And the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy lives.

What happens next?  Well, here‘s a clue.  When I interviewed Vice President Joe Biden less than a week ago, I asked him why if the administration was so opposed to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” why were they still implementing it?  Why were they still discharging openly gay members of the U.S. military now that Barack Obama is commander-in-chief?  Why not at least put that on hold while the military studies getting rid of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”?

Here is how Vice President Biden responded.


MADDOW:  The policy under such intense scrutiny, that study underway at the Defense Department, is progress being made both in the courts and politically, why not suspend the discharges of people under the policy now pending that Defense Department review?  Why keep kicking people out now while all of this movement is happening toward ending the policy?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Because that is the compromise we basically had to make to get the votes to finally repeal it.  In other words, everybody is looking for—in my view, if I could just wave a wand, it would just be flat repeal.  No one else would be able to suspend it.  And everyone suspended would be able to come back if they wanted to.

But the truth of the matter is, we had to build a consensus for this, working very hard on the telephone, calling people, telling them—and everybody is looking for the orderly elimination of this law.  I would prefer it not be orderly.  I would prefer it just end, boom, done.  But that‘s why that hasn‘t happened.


MADDOW:  “That‘s why that hasn‘t happened.  We had to build a consensus for this,” he says.  “We had to continue implementing ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell‘ in order to get the votes we needed to repeal it.”

Hey, you know what?  Even though you may have made that deal, you didn‘t get the votes to repeal it.  I don‘t know who promised that, who promised that if the White House just keeps discharging people right all along, says they‘re opposed to the policy, that they keep kicking people out anyway—I don‘t know who promised that if the White House just keeps kicking people out, that will allow the policy to be repealed.  But that didn‘t happen today.

If this was a political deal, if this was a political compromise, that sort of thing involves two parties negotiating in good faith about what they‘re going to do.  The other side in this case did not hold up their end of the bargain, if indeed that was the bargain.

So, if you‘re the White House, are you still going to hold up your end of this broken bargain?  Or are you going to do what you say you really want to do?


BIDEN:  I would prefer it not be orderly.  I would prefer it just end, boom, done.


MADDOW:  Boom, done.  That could happen.  Will it?

Lots to say and lots to find out about that tonight and in days ahead.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of nonsense explanations that have been put forth already purporting to explain what happened today in the Senate.  Senate Republicans, for example, initially tried to explain away their vote by saying, “We don‘t like amendments to the defense authorization bill that aren‘t specifically about defense issues.”


SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  The majority party, I feel, is using our men and women in uniform as a tactic to pass politically expedient legislation entirely unrelated to the defense authorization.  It is in my view not appropriate.


MADDOW:  Amendments to the defense bill should just be about defense. 

That‘s why Republicans said they were blocking this bill today.

That‘s not why they blocked this bill.  What you see here—do we have that scroll?

Scrolling before you on the screen right now—these are all amendments that Republicans have attached to defense authorization bills just in the past few years: banning Internet gambling, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil drilling, allowing concealed weapons to be carried across state lines, increasing fines for broadcasting indecent material on television—oh, the humanity—toughening up campaign finance regulations.  All of these things have been attached by Republicans to defense authorization bills in the past.

Do any of them sound like they have anything at all to do with funding the U.S. military?  No, they do not.

Today, Republicans objected to the potential of the DREAM Act, an immigration bill being attached to the defense authorization bill.

But three years ago, it was Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett who tried to attach the very same DREAM Act to this very same bill -- thus, disproving the fake objection from Republicans today that this is somehow about the purity of the defense bill.  That the defense bill never has anything non-germane attached to it.

Republicans also tried to say that what happened today was because they wanted to be able to offer more amendments to the defense bill on their own side.  That was the argument from Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.  She said she‘s all for getting rid of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy, but she voted to filibuster today because Republicans have a lot of amendments they want to put forward, and Democrats wouldn‘t allow Republicans to amend the bill.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  I will defend the right of my colleagues to offer amendments on this issue and other issues that are being brought up.  The majority leader apparently intends to shut down the debate and exclude Republicans from offering a number of amendments.


MADDOW:  So, that‘s also why Republicans say they blocked this bill today.  But that‘s not actually why they blocked it.

Here is Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor of the Senate saying he would allow Republican amendments to this bill.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  There are a number of amendments that I think need to be considered on it initially.  And I‘ve stated what those would be more than likely.  I‘ve also, in my conversations with my Republican friends—they‘ve indicated that they want likely more than just a motion to strike the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” that‘s in the base of the bill.  I said that‘s fine.


MADDOW:  I said that‘s fine.  That was last Thursday.  Senator Reid‘s office confirming to us today that his insistence was that Democrats get their amendments through, and then they would consider Republican amendments.

This whole argument that Republicans weren‘t being allowed to amend the bill—it‘s not true.  It is made up.  The technical term for that is malarkey.

John McCain and Republicans also said today that this was about deferring to the military, that Congress shouldn‘t change the policy on gay people serving openly before the military itself has a chance to study it.


MCCAIN:  Why are we now trying to jam this thing through without the survey being completed and without a proper assessment of its impact?  Let us hear from the men and women who are serving in the military.


MADDOW:  Strike three.  That‘s also why Republicans say they blocked this bill today, but that‘s not actually why they blocked it.  The language in the bill that Republicans filibustered today is not actually a repeal of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.  The language would allow the military to sign off on a repeal if their existing current ongoing study of it so indicated.

When Bill Clinton instituted this policy in the early 1990s, Congress wrote it into law.  What this amendment does is say, if the military studies it and decides they can get rid of the policy safely, this would take the law off the books, essentially, at the military‘s instruction.

Republicans say this bill didn‘t sufficiently defer to the military, and that‘s why they‘re blocking it.  That is not why they blocked it.  The bill put the whole question in the military‘s hands.  It was not about that.

It‘s also not about non-germane amendments being attached to bill.

It‘s not about Republicans wanting to add their own amendments to the bill and being prevented from doing so.

Republicans say those are all of the reasons why they blocked this bill today.  But none of those are the reason why‘s they did it, demonstrably.

The defense authorization bill has passed the House and the Senate 48 years in a row now, ever since 1962.  Today, Republicans did a historic thing.  They chose to block funding for the entire U.S. military, and they did it not because of any of that window dressing procedural stuff they are trying to hide behind today.  They did it because they want to keep this anti-gay policy in place.

This is about the gays.  They tried to dress it up as being about all these other things, all these process things.  It‘s not about any of those other things.  It is about the gays.

And sometimes that manages to bleed through all the nonsense.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA:  All of America is watching, and they don‘t think that the defense authorization bill in times of war would—is the appropriate thing to do to advance a far-left liberal agenda.  What is that liberal agenda?  The liberal agenda is to have open gays serving in the military.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS ®, ALABAMA:  I just think that‘s dangerous to say this is not going to have a corrosive impact on the men and women in the military, is a mistake.  And it won‘t be able to be passed next year, maybe after the American people have sent some new senators to this Senate.  Maybe then it won‘t be so popular and have so much support.


MADDOW:  Senators, your culture war is showing.

So, what happens next?  Well, President Obama‘s on record—he‘s on tape promising to end “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” this year in 2010.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.


MADDOW:  This year, President Obama said back in January, it is a promise that he has made in public.  It is a promise that he has also made in private.  It is a private promise that he made to people whose lives are being ruined by this policy right now while he is still commander-in-chief.


LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH, FACES DISCHARGE UNDER DADT:  I basically told him that I am currently being discharged under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  And I told him the situation for me was urgent and I needed his help.  He looked me right in the eye and he said, we‘re going to get this done.


MADDOW:  We are going to get this done.

Not to get craven here, but here is the polling that‘s been done about “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” recently.  Overall, 75 percent of American says repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Look at the number among Republicans -- 64 percent of Republicans support repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Seventy-five percent of independents.  And look at the number among Democrats, 80 percent say repeal it.

“A,” this is a promise that President Obama has made.

“B,” Republicans are totally caught with their pants down on this. 

They are on the wrong side of public opinion on this by a mile.

And, C, Democrats do have this little problem with the enthusiasm of their base in this election season.

The whole reason the White House says it won‘t suspend—it wouldn‘t suspend the implementation of this policy, that it wouldn‘t stop kicking people out while the military study on this is still pending is because they say they agreed not to as part of the political deal.  They gave that up in exchange for enough votes in the Senate to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Those votes did not turn up today when they were supposed to.  Whoever Democrats negotiated with did not keep up their end of the bargain.

The White House could decide right now, tonight, to stop implementation of this policy pending the military‘s review.

The right wants a culture war against gay people?  That‘s a war that in 2010 anti-gay politicians lose and pro-civil rights politicians win.

Does the White House leave that on the table and walk away?  Or do they try to win?  Do they try to do well politically by doing what they say is right for the country?  Do they do it?  What happens next?


MADDOW:  MSNBC‘s Lawrence O‘Donnell joins us next.

Plus this—


MCCAIN:  We do not go out and see, find out if someone is gay or not.

REPORTER:  There are documented cases.

MCCAIN:  They do not, they do not, they do not.  You can say that they are, you can (INAUDIBLE).  It‘s not true.


REPORTER:  That is the case of Mike Almy, Senator.


MADDOW:  Senator John McCain apparently does not understand the faintest thing about the policy he filibustered today.

Major Mike Almy, formerly of the Air Force, the man whose case bewildered John McCain today, will be joining us live in just a minute.


MADDOW:  Two interesting sets of votes today as the Republicans successfully filibustered the whole defense bill to stop the military from being allowed to repeal the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.

First, Jim Webb.  Lots of reporting before the vote suggesting that even though he‘s a Democrat, he was going to side with Republicans on the filibuster.  He did not do so.  Senator Webb put out a statement today indicating his continued hostility to repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” but he said the defense bill should not be filibustered.

Second, the two Democratic senators from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, neither on the national radar as likely party-switchers on this vote, but both voted with Republicans to filibuster today.  With no apparent sense of irony, both senators also putting out statements today exclaiming in passionate terms how much the defense bill deserved a debate -- a debate that couldn‘t happen because both senators voted with Republicans to keep it from coming up for debate.

Also, up is down, black is white, hippos are skinny, and Blanche Lincoln is going to win reelection this year.

Joining us now is MSNBC‘s own Lawrence O‘Donnell.  “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell premiers Monday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern here on MSNBC about which we are all very, very excited.

Lawrence, thanks very much.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE LAST WORD”:  But you excite so easily.

MADDOW:  I do.  I‘m excitable.

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re not the test.

MADDOW:  It‘s nerves, you know?  I have the nerves.

What happened today?  Republicans said they wanted to introduce amendments.  Harry Reid said he wasn‘t opposed to that.  And then Republicans voted against it anyway.  What really happened?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, you know, each one of them is citing a different Senate tradition and protocol to support their position.  There is a—you know, a tradition of unlimited amendments in the Senate.

But the way the Senate actually works is the leaders on each side make an agreement.  Let‘s limit the amendments to this, this many.  Sometimes limit it to 100.  I mean, it doesn‘t have to be some tiny little thing.  But let‘s understand, us two leaders, what the road map is when we take this bill out here.

Even if one party is opposed to it, they‘re going to allow the bill to go to the floor, and then, you know, vote against it on the floor.  And cloture normally was only necessary to get to a final vote in the old Senate.  By the old Senate—I mean the Senate of six or seven years ago.

MADDOW:  So the key point, though—filibustering a bill to stop it from even coming up for debate.

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s the new trick.

MADDOW:  To head off at the pass even the possibility of any amendments is new.  It used to be that you filibustered it once you knew what the bill was.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.  And one of the reasons you filibustered it is the amendment process didn‘t go your way.  You know, you tried to get six or seven amendments in there.  They were all defeated, so you say, “I don‘t like this bill.  I‘ll do anything to stop it.”

To take the most controversial bill of the Clinton presidency, the most controversial bill of the decade of the 1990s was Hillary Clinton‘s health care bill, which when I was working the Senate then, we brought it out on to the Senate floor.  There was no opposition to bringing it out on to the Senate floor.

We debated it on the Senate floor.  The Republicans offered amendment after amendment.  They, by the way, were very successful with those amendments.

MADDOW:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  They killed the bill on the floor through the debating process, which they handled very effectively.

This is a new tactic.  We‘re not going to even debate it.

And I think Carl Levin made this crucial point to Senator Collins when she was saying, you know, “We wanted—we want to have more amendments.”  Levin said, “OK, let the bill come to the floor.  We‘ll start the amendment process.”

MADDOW:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  And then—

MADDOW:  That‘s what you say you want.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.  And what Levin was doing was saying, in effect, hey, this is the way it worked for my first 20 years here, you know?

And you‘re seeing that in today‘s Senate, the last few years in the Senate.  You see people very passionately arguing that this isn‘t the way it works or it has worked.  And they‘re right.  But there is a new Senate that is this real obstructionist.  You know, we‘re going to start the obstruction early.

There‘s a laziness to this.  There is a—what the Republicans get out of this by saying, you know what?  We don‘t even want to waste the time debating on the floor.  We want to stop the action now so we can rush off and make fundraising phone calls—instead of let the bill go to the floor, you know, slug it out, try your amendments, and then do the cloture vote.  They don‘t want to do any of the work that takes place on the Senate floor in what used to be the normal Senate.

MADDOW:  And you see the over—the old language being carried over into the new Senate, which makes them all look so stupid—

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- which are these arguments.  This deserves a debate. 

That‘s why I‘m voting to not debate it.


MADDOW:  Who are you talking about?

O‘DONNELL:  -- we‘re at the point now—what‘s going to be interesting, if we do see a minority Democrat group in the Senate next year, I expect to see some of the same tactics employed by them that is employed—because that‘s what happens.

MADDOW:  You never will.

O‘DONNELL:  There‘s this contagious across the aisle thing that happens.  Once you see the other side play the game that way, and now, it‘s your turn, it is very likely they will play the game that way.  And so, you‘ll see on some other, you know, set of issues, exactly the same dynamics reversed.

MADDOW:  I don‘t believe you.

O‘DONNELL:  Because the Democrats are too honorable for that.

MADDOW:  Because there‘s no such thing as a Democratic Jim DeMint.  I haven‘t yet seen anybody who‘s going there throwing that many bombs.


O‘DONNELL:  You know, it doesn‘t—it doesn‘t even have to be that.  I mean, I think it‘s something the Democratic leader, be it Harry Reid or someone else, could actually lead the way McConnell does.

I mean, McConnell is a reasonable man compared to DeMint.  And McConnell is leading these things to do them this way.  He‘s the one who‘s saying, let‘s change the Senate into making this a reasonable tactic to use.  And—


O‘DONNELL:  And the people have been around for a while, don‘t—they can‘t really quite believe it‘s happening.  And, by the way, some of the Republican moderates don‘t want to play this game.  But in moments like this, the party pressure is something that they simply can‘t deny.

For Susan Collins, it‘s easier for her.  She had a choice today between party and her own position.  And it was easier for her to choose party when all the dust cleared.

MADDOW:  “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell premiers Monday night at 10:00 Eastern, right here on MSNBC.  That‘s why we‘re all waiting with bated breath for that to happen.

O‘DONNELL:  I‘ve got the best lead-in cable television.

MADDOW:  It‘s very kind of you—sort of.  Thank you, Lawrence.

We now turn to the story and Nathaniel Frank.  Nathaniel Frank is author of the book, “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.”

Nathaniel, thanks very much for your time.

NATHANIEL FRANK, DON‘T ASK, DON‘T TELL HISTORIAN:  Good to see you again, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I know you‘ve been pretty optimistic over time that we were on the verge of repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  What‘s your reaction to today‘s loss in the Senate?

FRANK:  Well, it‘s a profound leadership failure.  I mean, this is a policy that the American public wants to see repealed.  It‘s a policy that increasingly the military itself, you have the secretary of defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and polls show that military opposition among the troops is dropping.

And so, to see it sort of go up in flames today is, of course, disappointing.  You‘re right.  Have I been optimistic and haven‘t had the best track record on that.  But still, we‘ve come a long, long way since 1993 in terms of the culture where the military is and what the research says on this court case striking it down.  So, I remain optimistic, but certainly, this is a setback.

MADDOW:  The White House said that it would not suspend implementation of the policy, wouldn‘t stop kicking gay people out as part of the political compromise to get the votes for repeal.  Whoever told them they would get those votes did not tell them the truth.

Does it seem possible that the White House would consider now stop kicking—stopping kicking people out of the military pending the military‘s study being released in January?

FRANK:  Well, it‘s important to understand that is an option.  I think there are three options now forward.  One is that during the lame duck session of Congress—although it‘s tough, it‘s going to be tough, it is possible for Congress to—for the Senate to actually do this.

Second is an executive order.  And there is documentation by lawyers for how this is an option under stop-loss powers of the White House to suspend this, as you‘ve been saying.  That is an option.

And the third is to decide—for the president to decide not to appeal a federal court case what has just recently struck this policy down.  And that‘s an option, too.  It looks like the president thinks that this policy is unconstitutional, even though he hasn‘t said that.  The court judge herself cited the president, saying that this policy has failed to achieve its purpose, and it actually undermines national security rather than protecting it.

So, all the research is in.  All the evidence is in.  And these are options.

I‘m not going to hold my breath about what the White House is going to do.  But it‘s very important to understand that they do have options.

MADDOW:  In terms of those three options—again, not asking you to speculate on things that you do not know about.  But would each of those be -- would have the same effectiveness?  Would each of those be the same sort of death knell for the policy, or would one of those be temporary, one of those be a half measure?  Is one of those things a more final way to approach it?

FRANK:  Well, I do agree that going through the Congress is the most permanent and is the most—the preferable way to do this.  Congress wrote this into law.  Keep in mind that it was—“don‘t ask, don‘t tell” was born as an amendment to the defense spending bill.

MADDOW:  Right.

FRANK:  So, it would be just for it to disappear that way.  An executive order could potentially be reversed, but it‘s very hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube when you said people can serve openly.  What are you going to then do?  Tell everyone that they have to forget who‘s gay?  It really doesn‘t work operationally.

And the court case, I think, is maybe one of the more likely now, is for the president to say this actually is unconstitutional.  And although there is a tradition of defending standing law, it‘s not obligated to defend a policy that it believes is unconstitutional.  And that would certainly be a good way to go, too.

MADDOW:  Historian Nathaniel Frank, author of the book “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America”—it‘s good to have you on the show tonight, Nathaniel.  Thanks for joining us.

FRANK:  Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:‘s Glenn Greenwald still to come tonight.

Plus, a spelling error makes a very bad political situation very much worse for one beleaguered Republican senator.

That‘s all coming up.


MADDOW:  The last time a write-in candidate got elected to the United States Senate, the year was 1954.  The candidate was Strom Thurmond.  Now Lisa Murkowski is trying to become the only candidate in more than 50 years to duplicate Strom Thurmond‘s achievements.  If that is not daunting enough, she is doing this from the State of Alaska, where no state white candidate has ever won a write-in campaign.  But in case losing her own party‘s primary for her own Senate seat, and the challenges of running a write-in campaign were not daunting enough. 

The Republican Party in Washington is considering making things just that much harder for Alaska‘s senior senator.  Tomorrow, her fellow Republicans in the Senate are expected to vote on whether to punish Senator Murkowski for her right in candidacy by stripping her of her leadership position on the Energy Committee.  Conservatives like Jeff Session already publicly lobbying at today to have Senator Murkowski demoted and stripped of her Senate power.  So much for the whole collegiality of the Senate thing. 

But with all of those challenges, with their own colleagues and the Senate turning on her rather viciously, with the Tea Party groups ripping her to shreds saying, her write-in campaign, showed utter contempt for the people of Alaska who rejected her, even as the same groups gleefully promote Christine O‘Donnell who did exactly the same thing, who—write-in campaign, after she lost the Republican primary in 2006, with the long odds she is facing and all this myriad craven enemies who would have thought that Lisa Murkowski would also have to put up with guff from her own campaign.  A new online ad posted last night used the look of a 1950s-style PSA to show how to cast a write-in vote for Senator Murkowski.  First you fill in the little bubble on the ballot where it says, write in her, and then you write in her name, then if you‘re voting absentee, you put that ballot in the mail.  The goal was to show how easy it is to write in her name.  The end of the ad rather undercut that message. 


UNIDENTIFIED:  Fill it in, write it in, and send it in. 

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, ALASKA:  I‘m Lisa Murkowski, and I approved this message.  


MADDOW:  The school children in the ad had no problem spelling Lisa Murkowski‘s name, but whoever produced the ad for her own campaign clearly did, asking voters to visit, instead of  Because her campaign quickly fixed the ad, but not before someone actually registered telling it with anti-Murkowski judge and telling people to vote for the official GOP candidate Joe Miller. 

Lisa Murkowski‘s campaign is now laughing off the gaffe, arguing that people don‘t even have to spell Lisa Murkowski, her name properly on the ballot because the director of the Alaska Divisions of Elections just has to determine a voter‘s intent in order to count a write-in ballot.  They say a spelling mistake should not disguise intent that said in what could prove to be yet another blow to Murkowski‘s chances, Alaska‘s attorney general is apparently now reviewing that whole issue.  Oh, Lisa Murkowski, you are not having an easy time of it this year.  But think about how much f-u-n it‘s going to be, to get back with all these folks if you actually turn this into w-i-n.


MADDOW:  Since Christine O‘Donnell was chosen as the Republican Party Senate nominee from  Delaware last week, that has provided some competition for Sharron Angle as the face of the Republican class of 2010 for this year‘s elections.  As the personification of the post-Bush, post-McCain Republican Party, and it‘s very quotable beliefs.  But Sharron Angle isn‘t taking this challenge to her media primacy lying down.  In an effort, maybe to keep the magic alive, Sharron Angle traveled to Utah this weekend to take part in the event sponsored by the John Birch Society.  John Birch Society of course famous for being kicked out of respectable conservative politics in the 1960s by William F. Buckley and company, because they didn‘t want how crazy the  John Birchers were to be conflated with the rest of conservatives. 

The John Birch Society also famous for contending that President Eisenhower, yes, Ike, was not only a communist but an active agent of the Soviet Union secretly controlled by his brother.  The John Birch Society famous for leading the charge against putting fluoride in drinking water because it was a secret mind control plot.  So, Sharron Angle this weekend went to a John Birch Society event in Utah and told the assembled crowd, quote, “This is mainstream America.”  The John Birch Society and the fluoride.  Again, “This is mainstream America.”  Quoting Sharron Angle there. 

The John Birch Society is not mainstream America.  It may be mainstream Republican politics right now.  Sharron Angle is in fact opposed to fluoride.  But mainstream America, the John Birch Society, no.  No, no, no, no, no, no.  Do you believe that President Eisenhower was a Soviet agent?  You don‘t?  Then no.  No, OK?  No. 

Joining us now for the interview is Glenn Greenwald, attorney, author and blogger for  Glenn, it‘s great to see you.  Thanks for being here.  

GLENN GREENWALD, AUTHOR, SALON.COM:  Great to see, Rachel.  

MADDOW:  Is the whole idea of what is mainstream, what makes a person electable, is it influx?  Has the political center moved very far to the right this year?

GREENWALD:  I‘m really un-persuaded by that claim.  I certainly understand the view and don‘t doubt the view, the claim that this new crop of Tea Party candidates is quite radical and extremist.  I mean, no rational person could doubt that.  But the reason why I don‘t think it‘s significantly more or certainly radically more radical than prior generations of Republicans leaders is because to say that really I think is kind of obscure as even sort of trivializes how radical and extremist prior Republican leaders were.  I mean, if you look for example at the last decade, we had George Bush and Dick Cheney starting an aggressive war that killed 100,000 people of Middle Eastern, instituting a worldwide torture regime and claiming all sorts of powers that are (INAUDIBLE) tyrannical and before that, probably the most Buddhist extremist in America.

Newt Gingrich was the leader of the Republican Party throughout the 1990s.  He was speaker of the House.  And before that, you had Reagan radicals.  Ronald Reagan was elected on a platform of eliminating whole federal agencies like the Department of Education.  People that are with him and—tried to put Robert Bork on the Supreme Court.  So, are this—is this current crop of candidates radical and extremists?  Absolutely.  But are they significantly more so than prior Republicans?  I don‘t think so.  

MADDOW:  When we see though, like for example, the fight over “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” today, one of the other issues with that was the Dream Act.  So this dream act is an immigration measure.  The last time—one of the things that I pointed out in talking about Republican hypocrisy on that today is that it was Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett of Utah who tried to put the Dream Act on the defense authorization bill the last time around.  The idea that Republicans would do that now, that Orrin Hatch wouldn‘t be in huge trouble if he tried to do that now.  Senator Bob Bennett already turfed out.  They have clearly taken some sort of turn to the right just within the last decade, haven‘t they?

GREENWALD:  Well, I mean, again, I think, you know, that is sort of relative.  I mean, if you look back to the 1990s, for example, there were leaders of the Republican Party who actually thought that Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered in the case of Hillary because she was carrying on a secret affair with him, and they were calling for special prosecutors and they impeached a two-time highly popular elected president over a very petty sex scandal.  And they were talking about all sorts of very extremist act in terms of religious conservatism. 

Jesse Helms with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, threatened Bill Clinton that he better not go on military basis, else, he‘d be assassinated.  So, is it the case that since Barack Obama has been elected, their obstructionism has been the kind of theme of the Republicans?  Absolutely.  But the Republicans were almost as much in lock-step during the Bush years when they were supporting all of those extremist and radical policies with very little dissent. 

MADDOW:  Glenn, another race that you have been writing about is Russ Feingold is facing a very uphill battle against the very conservative Republican Challenger name Ron Johnson.  I know you interviewed Senator Feingold recently.  Why do you think that he is so important to Democratic politics right now?

GREENWALD:  Well, the irony of Senator Feingold is that he is in real danger because of this enthusiasm gap.  And yes, Senator Feingold‘s entire career has been driven by political courage and conviction, the lack of which on the part of the Democratic Party generally is why there is an enthusiasm gap in the first place.  And it would be a really better irony if the Democratic Party‘s inability to convince its own voters that it‘s willing to fight for what they believe in, sweeps out of the Senate, an individual who has spent years, really decades fighting for progressive values, often at the risk of his own political standing.  I mean, he is from a purple state, and yet has taken some of the most courageous positions of the Democratic Party has offered in the last two decades. 

MADDOW:  Let me just ask you one last question briefly on Larry Summers, widely seen as the architect of the Obama administration‘s economic policies, announced today that he is leaving at the end of the year.  Do you have any reaction to that?

GREENWALD:  Well, I guess you could say better late than never.  And that would be the most complimentary thing.  This is obviously long overdue.  I mean, Larry Summers by all accounts was really the architect of the deregulation policies in the ‘90s that led to Wall Street‘s ability to run rampant.  And that caused the financial crisis in the first place.  He never should have been in that position.  Clearly, his policies advising President Obama have been a failure on most levels.  And I think that it certainly can only get better and not worse whoever it is who ends up replacing him. 

MADDOW:  Glenn Greenwald of  Always interesting and provocative to talk to you.  We get so much mail when we have you on the show.  It‘s such a pleasure.  

GREENWALD:  I know you have mails.  



MADDOW:  Exactly.  Thanks a lot Glenn.  Great to see you.

GREENWALD:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Christine O‘Donnell‘s fantastic reasoning for not wanting so-called czars in the administration. 

And on this show, two U.S. senators, one Al Franken with an impassioned plea on behalf of gay troops.  And the other, a bewildered and angry John McCain.  Confused and wrong on the facts, repeating himself and snapping at reporters that the military doesn‘t snoop on e-mails to find out if its service people are gay.  Major Mike Almy who was discharged from the Air Force for exactly that reason joins us shortly.     


MADDOW:  On the day when the Senate voted to not allow the military to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” if it decided it should, leave it to John McCain to provide what may have been the strangest, angriest moment of the day.  That‘s coming up.                                  



SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA:  I say there is one thing I don‘t understand is that Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy.  I mean, we all know that brave gay men and women have served in this country‘s uniform throughout its history.  And we have this policy.  I mean take for example General Smith.  And I pointed to the commander of the base.  I say now, here is one of the bravest men ever in the history of our country to don our nation‘s uniform and battle, and yet he is one of the gayest men I‘ve ever met.  And they started laughing and cheering.  I said now, why should General Smith have to stay in the closet?  When he is such a great leader. 

General Smith, stand up and wave.  And he got up and waved and everyone cheered.  And then the bleachers, there was a group of women soldiers who cheered extra loud and waved at him and he waved back at them.  And at the end of the show, the general—at the very end of the show, we sang “American Soldier” by Toby Keith.  I don‘t know if you know that song, but it‘s a beautiful song.  And I‘ll always have this from doing USO tours, I was seeing soldiers with their arms around each other and crying and singing.  I don‘t do it for the money.  I got bills that I can‘t pay.  And at the end of the show, the general came up and he gave this beautiful frame with an American flag that had flown over the base. 

And he gave it to every member of our troop.  And when he gave it to me, he said, Al, keep telling those Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell jokes.  I think he may have some fans up there.  And he pointed at those women.  And later those women came up to me and said, we‘re gay.  And they‘re all—I mean - - I think everybody knew it.  And this was 2006.  This is when it was really hard for the military to recruit people.  And so, they gave waivers out at that time.  I swear if you ask every man and woman on that base, who would you rather have, standing to your right or standing on your left?  A gay man or a gay woman who‘s been serving with you the last year or somebody that comes in here with a moral waiver and those troops who had moral waivers, many of them served very honorably and bravely, or someone with a cognitive waiver.  Many of those flourished in the military are doing great things.  But if you ask that, they‘d say, I want that gay soldier, I want that lesbian soldier who I know and has been on my right and on my left.  All gay and lesbian service members want to be able to serve. 


MADDOW:  Minnesota Senator Al Franken speaking today on the Senate floor just after Republicans  filibustered the entire defense authorization bill, the bill mapping out future spending for the whole military, just so they could stop the part of it that would let the military repeal the ban on gay people serving.  We have more ahead, please stay with us.         


MADDOW:  Senator John McCain led today‘s successful filibuster of the defense bill in order to block the repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.  And when it was all over, Senator McCain had this extraordinary exchange with journalists.  This was immediately following the vote.  He‘s speaking with the Advocate Magazine‘s Kerry Eleveld and Metro Weekly‘s Chris Geidner.  


JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Regulations are, we do not go out and seek to find out if someone‘s sexual orientation. 

KERRY ELEVELD, ADVOCATE MAGAZINE:  But Senator, that‘s not. 

MCCAIN:  We do not.  That is the fact.  That is the fact.  I know the military very well.  And I know what‘s being done.  And what is being done is that they‘re not seeking out people who are gay.  And I don‘t care what you say.  I know it‘s a fact.  

ELEVELD:  It‘s not what I say.  

MCCAIN:  I don‘t care what you say and I don‘t care what others say.  I‘ve seen it in action.  I‘ve seen it in actions.  I have sons in the military.  I know the military very well.  So, they‘re not telling you the truth.  

ELEVELD:  Senator, just to make sure.

MCCAIN:  Just to make sure, we do not go out and seek out and find out if someone. 

ELEVELD:  Private e-mails, private e-mails are not searched?  

MCCAIN:  We do not go out and see if someone is gay or not.  We do not go out and seek to find out whether someone is gay or not. 


ELEVATED:  There are documented cases of it.  

MCCAIN:  They do not, they do not, they do not.  You can say that they are, you can say (INAUDIBLE), it‘s not true. 


CHRIS GEIDNER, METRO WEEKLY:  It is the case with Mike Almy, Senator.  

MCCAIN:  Bring them to our office.  It is not the policy.  It is not the policy.  It is not the policy. 

GEIDNER:  But it is the case that it is happening, Senator.

MCCAIN:  It is not the policy.  It‘s not the policy.  It‘s not the policy.  It‘s not the policy.  You can say that it is the policy if you choose to.  It is not the policy.  I‘ll be glad to get that to you in writing. 


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Major Mike Almy, who regardless of what Senator McCain believes in fact was discharged with the Air Force under Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell after the military searched his private e-mails.  Mike, thanks very much for joining us again. 

MAJ. MICHAEL ALMY, FMR. AIR FORCE OFFICER:  Thank you, Rachel.  It‘s good to be here again.  

MADDOW:  Let me get your response to what Senator McCain said today. 

ALMY:  I was literally quite stunned when I first heard it.  I just heard it this evening.  And I was quite shocked.  As you know, I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March and told my story.  Senator McCain was there.  He sat 20 feet away from me and he listened to every word of my testimony.  For him to make that statement today that the military does not search private e-mails, tells me that he either didn‘t listen to my testimony in this past March, he forgot what I said, or he‘s being deliberately deceptive with the American public about the true nature of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell and using partisan politics over the interests of National Security.  The simple truth is the Air Force searched my private e-mails in 2005 in Iraq. 

During the height of the insurgency, they launched an investigation solely to look into my private e-mails, solely to determine if I had violated Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell and to find whatever evidence they could use against me.  And those e-mails searched in Iraq were the sole basis of my discharge from the Air Force, despite that, he never make—once makes an statement to the Air Force that had violated Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell in my entire 13-year service career.  So, for Senator McCain to make that allegation, I‘m just dumb founded about where he comes up with that type of explanation, that type of an answer to a reporter.  And to be quite honest with you, I‘m very angry at that statement today.  

MADDOW:  At one point, Senator McCain volunteered, bring him to our offices, bring him to our offices, sitting there with Senator Lindsey Graham.  Do you have any plans to try to visit Senator McCain or Senator Graham to tell them this in person, to remind them of what they already heard?

ALMY:  I would love to visit Senator McCain in person.  I would love to shake his hand and I would love him to look me directly in the eye and tell me that the military does not search private e-mails.  Because I know for a fact that that‘s not true.  My story indicates that.  My story is that the military violated Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.  They searched my private e-mails in Iraq and they used those to throw me out.  And that‘s just one example among hundreds of others of how this policy has been abused and violated to serve the purposes of the military.  It‘s not there to protect gays and lesbians.  It is there to throw them out.  And this is just one more example of it.  About how Senator McCain and so of our other leaders in Congress are out of touch with this policy and using partisan interest above national security.  And this must stop.  

MADDOW:  Major Mike Almy, who was discharged from the United States Air Force after the military searched his private e-mails while he was serving during the height of insurgency in Iraq in 2005.  Mike, thank you for your activism, your service, thanks for joining us tonight on short notice to respond to Senator McCain tonight.  

ALMY:  Thanks for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  That‘s it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow.  Meanwhile, there‘s lot to add what you have seen on the show.  We‘re very proud of our excellent blog at  Our e-mail address is  And our free podcast is available at iTunes. 

Thanks again for tuning in with us again tonight.  We knew this was going to be a big show with the Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell vote today.  We‘ll continue to cover this and await the White House‘s response as they consider whether or not they use an executive order to shut this thing down if Congress won‘t do it.  “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.   



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