Guests: Maj. Margaret Witt, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Jonathan Turley,
Chris Hayes, Kent Jones
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now to discuss the ruling that a major discharged under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” must be reinstated—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Go east, indeed. Thank you. Have a great weekend.
OLBERMANN: You, too.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well.
How about a bit of big breaking news late on a Friday? A federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002 has issued a federal court ruling late today, essentially dismantling the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy. This is the second very strong federal court ruling against the military‘s gay ban in less than a month.
The plaintiff in this case has not done a national TV interview before. She will be joining us in just a moment for an exclusive discussion, along with someone whose face will be familiar to those of you following our coverage of this issue over the last seven weeks or so—excuse me, over the last year or so.
The last seven weeks or so have been an unbelievably good seven weeks for gay rights in America—at least on paper.
The proposition that removed existing same sex marriage rights after couples had already been married in California, the Prop 8 case—Prop 8 struck down as unconstitutional seven weeks ago.
Two weeks ago, “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” struck down in its totality as unconstitutional by a federal judge in California.
Two days ago, a ban on same sex couples adopting children passed by the legislature in Florida more than 30 years ago also struck down by a state court judge.
And now the U.S. Air Force Major Margaret Witt case. In a court room in Tacoma, Washington, today, Judge Ronald Leighton, appointed by George W. Bush in 2002, was ruling for a second time on Major Witt‘s case.
Now, Major Witt was suspended in 2004. She was ultimately discharged under the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy. In 2007, she sued the government over her dismissal. The same judge who ruled today ruled, Ronald Leighton, ruled the first time against Major Witt, saying her dismissal was proper under the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.
But then something remarkable happened. When Major Witt appealed that ruling, the higher court, the federal appeals court, sided with her and they sided with her in a very specific way. They told Judge Leighton in the lower court that he had to hear her case again. But this time, he had to apply a different legal standard when he judged her case.
If you want to know anything about how this part of civil rights in America goes, if you want to know how “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is going to get struck down by the courts and that‘s probably how it is going to die, what the court told Judge Leighton was he had to consider Margaret Witt personally. He had to rule on whether her, specifically her as an individual person, her being fired, was necessary to further the military goals of unit cohesion and morale and readiness, the goals that the policy is supposed to further.
The policy says gay people have to be rooted out of the military and fired from their jobs because of unit cohesion and morale and readiness because those military goals require it. Well, the appeals court told Judge Leighton, you know, they got to prove that. Judge Leighton looked at Margaret Witt‘s case again, and today, this time, said, no way does firing her help the military.
Under what is known as the Witt standard, Judge Leighton ruled today that the Air Force must reinstate her and in his words, “as soon as practicable.”
From the ruling, quote, “The evidence produced at trial overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the suspension and discharge of Margaret Witt did not significantly further the important government interests and advancing unit morale and cohesion. To the contrary, the actions taken against Major Witt had the opposite effect. Her unit is a highly professional, rapid response air evacuation team. It‘s compromised of flight nurses and medical technicians who are well-trained, well-led and highly motivated. They provide a vital service to our fighting men and women around the world.
Serving within that unit are known or suspected gay or lesbian servicemen and women. There is no evidence before this court to suggest that their service within the unit causes problems of the type predicted in the congressional findings of fact that justify the ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell‘ policy. These people trained together, fly together, care for patients together, deploy together. There is nothing in the record before this court suggesting that the sexual orientation, acknowledged or suspected, has negatively impacted the performance, dedication or enthusiasm of the unit.
There is no evidence that wounded troops care about the sexual orientation of the flight nurse or medical technician tending to their wounds.
The evidence before the court is that Major Margaret Witt was an exemplary officer. She was effective leader, a caring mentor, a skilled clinician, and integral member of an effective team. Her loss within the squadron resulted in a diminution of the unit‘s ability to carry out its mission.”
“Good flight nurses,” the judge says, “Good flight nurses are hard to find. The evidence clearly supports the plaintiff‘s assertion that the reinstatement of Major Witt would not adversely affect morale or unit cohesion.” And then he said they had to take her back.
Joining us now, Major Margie Witt and Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach.
Colonel, Major, thank you both for being here and congratulations on this ruling.
LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH, U.S. AIR FORCE FIGHTER PILOT: Thank you, Rachel.
MAJOR MARGARET WITT, WON COURT CASE AGAINST DADT: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Major Witt, let me ask what you think this means practically for you in the short-term? Do you expect you will be reinstated right away?
WITT: You know, I sure hope so. I‘m ready wherever they are.
MADDOW: What have you been doing since you were discharged under the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy? What have you been doing in civilian life?
WITT: I‘m a pediatric physical therapist and I‘m also the rehab coordinator for the veterans‘ hospital.
MADDOW: And if this goes through - if what the judge says has to happen ends up happening, if the Air Force does take you back, you are—you‘re eager to get back to—back into the Air Force?
WITT: Oh, absolutely. I can‘t get—you know, I can‘t wait to get back to my unit and be with my incredible unit members. They‘re wonderful group.
MADDOW: Colonel Fehrenbach, you are currently fighting your own discharge from the Air Force. Like Major Witt, you did not tell anyone anything about your sexual orientation. You were outed by a third party. What is this decision today mean to you and to your case?
FEHRENBACH: Well, the decision today just solidifies what was before known as the Witt standard and sets a precedent. So, it gives me a lot of hope we‘ll be successful in my fight.
As you said, I didn‘t tell, you know, they asked me, and I‘ve been fighting this battle for two years now. And, again, from day one, when I was confronted this, in May 16th, 2008, two days later is when Margaret got her first victory and that gave me hope. And I hope today doesn‘t just give me hope, but there are thousands of people out there being confronted with a “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” case right now and I hope Margaret‘s victory today give them hope as well and allows them to fight.
MADDOW: Victor, let me ask you specifically about the rationale for the judge‘s ruling. It wasn‘t just that Major Witt should not have been fired because her being gay wasn‘t harming the military. What the judge ruled essentially was that firing her is what harmed the military.
I wonder if that rationale, either in legal terms, nuts and bolts legal terms as a precedent, or just in terms of the morale of the people who are fighting this policy, if that is a significant—a significant part of the ruling.
FEHRENBACH: I absolutely think it is. You know, as you mentioned, he said it wasn‘t her orientation that was the problem for the unit, is when they fired her. And then he added good nurses, good flight nurses are hard to find. You know, I live it everybody. If you pull me out of my unit, it‘s going to harm that unit. And not only that, it affects the morale of my unit.
So, I think that‘s across the board. And, again, they said in my case as well that my presence was detrimental to good order, discipline, morale and unit cohesion. At the irony of that was at the time when they said that, not one single person in my unit, except for my commander and number two in charge, even knew of the nature of my case. So, they have no grounds to discharge me.
MADDOW: Margaret, after the ruling, the judge in this case, Judge Leighton, I know that he brought himself to tears and much of the courtroom to tears when he read a statement describing distresses on you as a person, to be what he called a central figure and a long term highly charged civil rights movement. He described how it resonated with him personally when you said how important your family was in supporting you.
I imagine that was surprising. What did it mean to you that the judge addressed you in those very personal terms at that point?
WITT: It was very surprising. It was very heartfelt. He spoke to me directly.
I think he really understands the impact that it has on everyone around you, particularly family, and how thankful I was to have my parents behind me. And I think he really—he really gets that and he knew that it was—it was a big struggle and a big event.
MADDOW: Major Witt, your case is similar to Colonel Fehrenbach‘s, that you weren‘t asked, you didn‘t tell, you were outed by a third party. Before that happened, did you—did you—what did you expect from the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy? Did you know you could be outed and investigated and kicked out without ever volunteering to anybody that you were gay?
WITT: I—the third party thing is—was very enlightening, yes. I wasn‘t aware of that. I think I was aware—I wasn‘t going to tell, they weren‘t supposed to ask me, but I really wasn‘t aware that the third party could out me at any time.
MADDOW: Victor, let me just ask you one last question—I know that you told us here on this show that the president told you man to man, eye to eye, that he was going to end this policy. He told you he was going to get it done. I remember you saying it here on this show.
I wonder, as things have changed so much since you and I first talked over a year ago, I wonder if you were starting to think that maybe it‘s going to be people like you and Margaret Witt and Mike Almy who are going to change this policy despite the president, not because of him.
FEHRENBACH: As you mentioned, I‘ve been disappointed over and over again by the lack of leadership and courage that we have seen from so many of our political leaders.
Thanks to, you know, Major Witt and people like her, you know. I‘ve had hope I‘ve been able to fight, and on that note—you know, we have experienced a loss—you could call it this week—but that fight is not over as well.
I think people need to realize they can still contact their senators. I personally would like to sit down and talk with my senator from Ohio, Senator Voinovich, and tell him my story—maybe to sway his decision there. I would love to sit down with Senator McCain.
I would love Senator McCain to come to work with me on Monday and see how today‘s military operates and see how this is a nonissue of the military. He wants to rely on a hypothetical survey. He can come to work with me and see how professional military people operate.
MADDOW: Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach and Major Margie Witt—again, congratulations on this big freaking deal of a ruling and thanks so much for joining us tonight. I wish I was there to take you both out for a beer.
FEHRENBACH: Oh, Rachel, I‘ve got a hat for you on Monday and go Irish. Beat Stanford.
MADDOW: That‘s going to be your consolation hat after Stanford beats you guys. But, seriously, Victor, appreciate it.
FEHRENBACH: Not right, not right. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you, guys.
All right. So, the administration and the Senate are unwilling or unable to do what the federal courts appear to have no problem doing. In other words, when it‘s not political, “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” does not stand up. In a moment—why that is and what happens next.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Twice since Labor Day, a federal judge has declared “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” to be unconstitutional. That would suggest that the policy is not long for this world, not because of politicians who say they want to get rid of it, but despite those politicians. That‘s ahead.
Plus, an excellent day today in U.S. politics for billionaires. Though really what day isn‘t an excellent day for billionaires when you think about it.
An actual Democratic leader also appears ready to commit an act of politics, an act of politics that might help Democrats for the elections. Man bites dog, I know.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, a judge named Ronald B. Leighton, ruled that Air Force Major Marjorie Witt is, quote, “constitutionally entitled to reinstatement to her duties as an Air Force flight nurse” after she was fired years ago under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
Another day, another bombshell federal court ruling against the policy that now feels like it is teetering on the edge of existence. Even with big majorities of Democrats and big majorities of independents and even big majorities of Republicans saying they want to kill this policy—politicians don‘t seem to be able to get it together to kill it. Are the courts beating them to it, after, lo, these many 17 damn long years?
Joining us to help answer that question is George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, who blogs at JonathanTurley.org.
It‘s good to see you, Jon. Thanks for joining us.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: What—how important do you think this ruling is in terms of the immediate future of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy?
TURLEY: You know, Rachel, the Witt standard, as it‘s called, is enormously important and may actually be more important than the real blockbuster decision a few weeks ago finding “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” to be just fundamentally unconstitutional. The reason is that that earlier decision, you could find court of appeals judges who are uncomfortable with just saying that it cannot be done as a constitutional question.
But what the Witt standard does is it would effectively kill this policy under the weight of a standard that quite reasonably says, look at the individual. If you‘re going to say this individual is a threat to unit cohesion, prove it. And most fascinating about this case and Judge Leighton is that after he was reversed, after he ruled against her, he had a two-week bench trial. And in those two weeks, he found what he clearly thought was profound evidence that not only was this not a danger to unit cohesion, but that the real danger was the removal of this talented nurse.
MADDOW: It‘s interesting to me when I was trying to follow the legal chain of reasoning here, because we do have this interesting case in which you got the same federal judge ruling on the same individual twice, and his rulings went two different directions. He initially ruled against Margie Witt, now upon getting, essentially, legal direction from the appeals court, telling him to think about it in a different way, use a different rational, different standard, he ruled in the opposite way.
MADDOW: The justification for the appeals court telling him to rule a different way is that they said they were following Supreme Court precedent in Lawrence v. Texas, another landmark gay rights ruling. Are all of these rulings coming out of fundamental change about gay rights and civil rights issues in the federal court system?
TURLEY: I think they are. And, you know, Rachel, the most elegant aspect of all of this is it‘s very, very easy to dismiss cases against gays and lesbians as some faceless, monolithic body. It‘s much, much more difficult when you have to face a person, a talented and patriotic person who is doing a very important job. And I think that‘s what is so elegant about this decision is that when you actually took the time to find out who Witt was, and what she did, the outcome was inevitable.
And I think that your point is still a very good one that it is—it does appear to be the courts that are most likely to address this policy, which has always been built on what is—can be described as a not so noble lie, that, you know, that gays and lesbians are a threat to military readiness. And this case puts the lie to that assertion.
But it also, Rachel, is very similar to what we saw with the civil rights movement in terms of African-Americans. That Congress has never been particularly brave in terms of constitutional rights or civil liberties, the courts have often stepped in. And with the civil rights movement, it was the courts that simply decided not to wait any longer and handed down decisions like Brown V. Board of Education.
And this seems to be following the same trend where you have a coalescing of federal judges who are saying, enough. That we can‘t continue to blindly impose this discriminatory policy.
MADDOW: If the politics can‘t happen on this, if despite the White House‘s assurances to people who want to see this policy gone that they‘ll get rid of the policy politically somehow, if that can‘t happen, this really does get worked out in the courts—are we eventually heading toward a Supreme Court showdown on this issue? And is there any way to foresee what the conservative Roberts court would be like as a venue for this challenge making it all the way?
TURLEY: Well, the expectation is it would come down once again to Justice Kennedy who is becoming a court of one on these issues, unless the court changes significantly. And we have to—it could come to that. I mean, the Obama administration is moving to roll back on the victory earlier against “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” They are trying to get that victory essentially negated in most part. And so, you have not just the administration not helping, but in this case, hurting.
What they‘re not doing is what Governor Schwarzenegger did, what Attorney General Brown did, which is to say, look, we had a duty to defend a statute, but we‘re not going to appeal it because we happen to agree with how the court came out. The Obama administration appears not to be doing that.
MADDOW: Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, putting as fine a point on things as we need to hear—thank you, Jon. It‘s good to see you. Thanks.
TURLEY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: As well as Republican politicians are expected to do in the elections this year, the Republican Party itself as an institution doesn‘t really functionally exist anymore. Who exactly is paying for all of this campaigning? I have a hint for you, there are not have many of them and the—you could describe them with the word that ends in -illionaires and begins with B.
That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: Hey. We‘ve had some other late breaking news today on what has all week long been a giant question mark about what Democrats are doing in terms of election strategy for this year.
There‘s a huge list of things people disagree on in terms of Democrats‘ political strategy for this election. Should there be a national messaging strategy? Or should Democrats just let Republicans do that and instead have individual Democrats compete locally district to district, essentially ignoring Washington? Should Democrats talk about the Tea Party movement and the extremism of this year‘s crop of Republican candidates? Or should they pretend like that‘s not happen and talk about their own agenda?
There is a lot of points on which reasonable people disagree this year about how Democrats ought to campaign and what is likely to be a very upstream election for them this year. But just about everybody agrees, for all those points of disagreement, just about everybody agrees that Democrats do have a winning issue on tax cuts.
The Republicans who passed the George W. Bush tax cuts in 2001 set them to expire at the end of this year. As those expire, what the Obama administration and most Democrats say is that there should be tax reductions from here on out on the first $250,000 that anyone makes. For everything under a quarter million dollars on income, tax cuts.
If you are making more than $250,000 a year, you don‘t get a tax cut on that higher income. For all the income over a quarter million dollars a year, you go back to Clinton era rates, when if I remember correctly, I think rich people were doing just fine—thank you very much.
The winning issue for Democrats here is that Republicans have said they don‘t want anybody to get tax cuts. They don‘t want anybody to get tax cuts, unless rich people do—unless people making more than a quarter million dollars of a year get tax cuts, too.
Honestly, their position is that they want to hold hostage lower tax cuts for the middle class, for anybody making less than a quarter mil so that rich people can get their taxes cut. That‘s their priority. And that is the definition of a winning issue for the Democratic Party, especially in a year with a really lousy economy.
So, for days now, it has been the biggest, stupidest question mark in politics. Why aren‘t the Democrats hammering this home? Why aren‘t the Democrats specifically forcing a vote on this tax cut thing before the election?
Why aren‘t Democrats forcing the Republicans into doing what the Republicans say they‘ll do, which is to vote “no” on middle class tax cuts because they want to take care of the rich? Why aren‘t they forcing the vote that will make Republicans look really bad in the eyes of most voters? Why aren‘t Democrats doing this? This is a gain (ph), what are they thinking?
Well, as of tonight, we still don‘t any what Harry Reid is thinking because apparently he is still not planning on holding a tax cut vote in the Senate before the election. But as of tonight, it is being reported that Nancy Pelosi is moving toward forcing that vote, that most obvious of all obvious politically smart votes.
Before the election, still nobody has any clue what Harry Reid is thinking, but Nancy Pelosi, at least in the House, has started to make electoral sense for Democrats. More on that with Chris Hayes—ahead.
MADDOW: Hey, good news for the big guy. The ninth richest men in the country last year were two brothers, two brothers who inherited a giant oil and chemical company from their dad. If you combined their wealth, they were tied at number nine for richest guys in the country, if you combined their wealth, the two brothers combined fortune was behind only Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in this country. But as singletons individually last year, David Koch and Charles Koch were tied to be the ninth richest men in the country. This year, moving on up, they are tied for fifth this year.
Moving on up! To the top, to an even more deluxer apartment even higher up in the sky high. The name David Koch rings a bill for you because of David Koch‘s politics. Mr. Koch ran for vice president as a libertarian in 1980. He garnered a below infinitesimal proportion of the vote, and then in disgust just started bankrolling right wing causes instead of running for office anymore. He bank rolls stuff that includes Americans for Prosperity, he‘s bank rolled Freedom Works and other groups that have organized the Tea Party movements. You remember Americans for Prosperity is the group that ran bus tours against health reform that said that reforming health care would be the equivalent of the holocaust.
David Koch may not have succeeded in getting his head put on your money like Caesar, but he is even richer this year than he was last year. So, if you‘d liked him bankrolling a big proportion of what you see in American politics right now, buckle your seat belt for the year ahead. American politics right now is turning out to be great news for the big guys. As you may have noticed, Michael Steele isn‘t exactly running things for the Republican Party right now. That‘s a picture of him recently on a trip to Guam and Saipan, the kind of plays that he has been spending time so as to stay far out of the way of any actual Republicans actually running for impending actual election.
Michael Steele has since embarked on a Michael Steele goes to the Hinterlands bus tour where the Republican Party chairman plans to visit dozens of congressional districts that do not have a competitive race this fall. No matter how much fun it is to talk about Michael Steele on cable news, and it is fun, no matter his job title as head of the Republican Party, neither Michael Steele nor the Republican Party proper are running the Republicans election efforts this year. Frankly it is more of a Karl Rove joint. A Karl Rove‘s political group, American Crossroads is pledging to spend $52 million on behalf of Republican candidates for these elections this year, $52 million, $52 million. A half million dollars of Tea Party money ousted an incumbent senator in the Alaska primaries this year.
Karl Rove is planning on spending 100 times that much. And the good news for the big guys is that he‘s raising it all from billionaires. Not kidding. Salon.com‘s Justin Elliott took a look at the groups—or Karl Rove‘s groups‘ financial disclosures for the month of August and it turns out that out of the millions of dollars that Karl Rove‘s group raised last month, 91 percent of it came from just three sources. Ninety one percent of the money that Karl Rove raised last month came from two billionaires and one company that‘s owned by a billionaire. Ninety one percent of the funding for Karl Rove‘s giant outside group that is dumping tens of millions of dollars into the elections for Republicans, 91 percent of their fund-raising last month came from three billionaires.
And that‘s actually off pace for them. Because the month before 91 percent of their funding came from billionaires, the month before that, 97 percent of their fund-raising came from billionaires. Eight candidates endorsed by the Republican Parties‘ official Senate campaign arm lost their primaries this year. Eight candidates who had been anointed by the Republican Party proper and have Republican Party support lost. Michael Steele kicked off campaign season by banishing himself to Saipan. The official Republican Party is not functioning in these elections in any meaningful sense of the word, functioning.
But the Tea Party movement is doing a lot, thanks to David Koch, billionaire, and the $50 million plus giant elephant in the room in terms of TV ads and get out the vote and other Republican campaigning this year is Karl Rove‘s operation. Which, thanks to good reporting by Justin Elliott, we know he is also funded by billionaires. Basically by three guys, three billionaires. There only, as far as we can tell, this is fan to look at today, as far as we can tell, there are only 403 people in the entire country with from whom illionaire can start with a b, 403 people in the entire country. It is not a large constituency. But boy howdy is a well represented one.
Joining us now Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and MSNBC contributor, Mr. Chris Hayes. Hi, Chris, nice to see you.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to see you, Rachel. I love it when you guys tease to me after the commercial break. It really makes me feel good.
MADDOW: Hold on, here comes Chris. We practice it in the news meeting. I jump out from behind a desk, I wear glasses. All right. So, lots and lots and lots of money and only a handful of people giving it to Karl Rove‘s political group. Does this sort of tell us more than we knew before about Republicans and tax policy and Republicans, billionaires who love Republicans and their tax policy?
HAYES: Well, I mean, it lays it all on the table. And some instances, we already knew this, right? I mean, the Republican Party is at its core, the sort of existential core of the modern post-Reagan Republican Party is tax cuts for wealthy people. That, if there is one thing that everybody gets behind, the one thing that the party has—the one policy the party has become a vessel for, is that. That‘s what the conservative movement and the modern Republican Party embody fundamentally. And this is the most sort of bold faced naked intense kind of class politics, frankly. This is just self-interest.
I mean, when you think about what kind of money is on the table, when you think about the tax cuts that are currently being debated, think about what a marginal tax increase or keeping the Bush rates means for the Koch brothers or other billionaires in perpetuity right? Because we‘re not talking about a sunset. So, extend it out 20, 30 years, take the current present discounted value and what you arrive at is that it is rational to spend tenths, if not hundreds of millions of dollars now to forestall that eventuality. That‘s the situation we‘re faced with.
MADDOW: I feel like it was understood before and it was sort of—when you boil down democratic versus Republican in terms of what they really mean in American politics, it was understood before, they we‘re talking about Republicans really representing moneyed interests. And a lot of them don‘t even contest that. They talk about essentially rich people as job creators. You know, they‘re OK with that as their agenda. It is not a slur against the party to say that. What I think feels new, though, is to have three people giving 91 percent of the funding to the biggest Republican interest group in the election. To have it be such small numbers of people, and we‘re in a situation where the whole country could essentially be in a Michael Bloomberg for mayor situation.
HAYES: That‘s exactly right. And what it does is it embodies one of the most kind of under covered and poorly understood but important trends in American political economy over the last 30 years, and that is this, yes, OK, we all know the rich has gotten richer, there is been more inequality. But what‘s really happened is that the further you go up the income scale, the higher the rate of return has been. So, when you look at the top 10 percent, OK, they have gotten richer. The top one percent have gotten richer much more and much faster than the top 10 percent. The top 10th of the top one percent, the top 100 of the top one percent.
So, the further up you go the more the money is pooled and collected. And what it ultimately does aside from whatever inequity is that, it‘s sort of produces and what other kind of a risk it produces the financial system, it produces a political system that fundamentally starts to verge on oligarch. It starts to verge on a system that is dysfunctional. Because particularly with citizens united now, the amount of money that is pooled to the top really does begin to pose a threat to general popular democracy. And I know that is sort of an extreme thing to say, but at a certain point we have to—we are staring in the face of something really kind of ominous and I feel like this election may be such a turning point.
MADDOW: Yes. It is a face in profile on a gold dime of David Koch. Briefly, Chris, we‘re out of time, but I just want to get your brief reaction to this news tonight that Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be rethinking the Democrats resistance on holding a vote on tax cuts before the election. Is that a good move in your.
HAYES: It is a good move. I mean, look, Nancy Pelosi is not the problem, right? I mean, people are frustrated with the Democrats and frustrated with the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi I think has done a pretty remarkable job over the last two years. And I think she understands all the political arguments you‘ve been making, that I‘ve been making, that Keith Olbermann has been making, that a whole host of people have been making, watching this unfold. I think Nancy Pelosi understands these arguments. The question is, can she basically get the Blue Dogs on board with that? And if she essentially bluffs them into it, she have look, we‘ll going hold a vote, you know, maybe she can kind of convince them that this is in their best interests. It is crazy that she has to do that convincing, but, yes, it is a good idea. And I‘m glad to see that is back on the table.
MADDOW: Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and MSNBC contributor and all around jack in the box whenever we need him to be, hey, it‘s Chris Hayes. Thank you very much, Chris.
HAYES: Have a great weekend, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
So, coming up, Democrats may not be psyched about running on the Democratic Party‘s political achievements for the elections this year. But it turns out Republicans are. The actual dirty little signature bearing evidence on screen for you to see, next. Stay with us.
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REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER ®, MICHIGAN: The bill before us is a trillion dollar mistake.
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MADDOW: A trillion dollar mistake that that guy wants in on. The fine art of blatant bold faced, two-faced shameless hypocrisy as acted out in three parts by Congressman Thaddeus McCotter and friends. It‘s sort of a passion play, more of a pageant, I think. It‘s coming up.
MADDOW: So, here‘s the bad news. On the day that we find out that a fistfight broke out in the stands between a man and two women no less while Sharron Angle was speaking in candidate forum in Nevada. On the day that Stephen Colbert braves performance art and politics together so tightly that he almost pops immigration reform out of Congress with the sheer pressure of his wit. On the day we actually get in the mail this steak mailer from the crazy Carl for governor campaign in New York, the piece of direct mail scented with the smell of land fill. On the day when we most need a man of Kent Jones‘ talents to make sense of the world around us, Kent is on vacation. That‘s the bad news. We need him. He‘s gone. The good news is that it turns out that Kent does some freaking crazy weird stuff on vacation and then pops into a studio to tell us about it. Kent, did you seriously do what I heard you did today?
KENT JONES, MSNBC PERFORMER: Well, I mean, it depends on what you think it is that I did today. I‘m in San Francisco and I think that I helped the people of San Francisco advance music to the next level.
JONES: That‘s what I think I was doing today. So, may I present the festival of music for people and Thingamajigs.
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JONES: This is a guitar, but not like one we know. Tell me about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Right, this guitar actually has no threads on it.
And so, it is basically a combination of an ode and a guitar.
JONES: You told me these are Skach boxes. What is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Skach box is a kind of instrument that comes out of a technique called skaching. And skaching is basically taking a shaped comb and scraping it across a surface.
JONES: And that‘s what it sounds like inside my head.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is a Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument. And this is a photo Koto. They react to light in a way that you will hear when I play.
JONES: Could you play a little bit for me, please?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Of course. Actually, your cameraman can play?
JONES: What? How does that work?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK. Light comes in here, ready.
JONES: That was my cameraman playing the photo Koto. It‘s a first.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This one is used from recycled pan lids and this is called the percussion ball. Each hole has a different length tube in it. So, the longest one is about 10 feet long. And so, the length of the tube determines the pitch of the note that you‘re getting.
JONES: Thank you, good night!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Kent, if you come back to the office without that thing, that thing makes noise when you hit it with light, I‘m going to be very angry.
JONES: I‘m going to need a bigger desk, I‘m just saying right now.
MADDOW: And also, maybe a larger overhead compartment for the flight home.
JONES: That goes without saying.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Happy vacation.
JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: OK. All right. Names, ranks and corresponding shamelessness. Coming up next, as Republican politicians try to run on the Democrats‘ policy achievements this year, there is down low, grainy, low-res evidence, ahead.
MADDOW: OK. What I‘m holding right here is something that shouldn‘t beggars belief but it beggars belief. Look at this. What this is, is a letter to President Obama‘s energy secretary requesting funding from the Energy Department as part of the stimulus package, funding that would, quote, “employ 100 people over a three-year period.” The person who signed it, the person who signed this letter asking for stimulus money to create 100 jobs is this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAN LUNGREN ®, CALIFORNIA: The idea is not to grow government, but to grow the economy, create jobs. Unfortunately, the stimulus package passed by the House fails on this count.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican Congressman Dan Lungren of California, making it very clear last year that that darn stimulus package is not going to create any jobs. Then here‘s the same guy Dan Lungren writing to the Energy Department a month after that tape that you just saw, one month later asking for stimulus money to create jobs in his district. But, wait, I thought he said, the stimulus couldn‘t do that. Congressman Lungren, like practically every other Republican in the country, has spent much of the last year trashing the stimulus package at every turn. Attacking the stimulus is not only useless, not only something that won‘t create jobs but it‘s something that‘s even worse than useless, something that‘s harmful, harmful to the economy.
If you pass this stimulus, the economy will be worse off than if you don‘t pass this stimulus. The stimulus is hurting the country‘s economy. That‘s what Republicans have been saying in public, and then proving in private that they don‘t actually believe. That letter that I just read was posted online today by the “Wall Street Journal,” which has found yet another treasure trove of Republicans trying to run against the Obama record by talking all sorts of smack about the Obama record, but then proving, they don‘t actually believe all that smack that they‘ve been talking. Take Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado. Last year, Congressman Lamborn voted against the stimulus bill. And he voted against it with glee and an exclamation point, saying, quote, “This spending bill is a sorry substitute for a comprehensive economic stimulus plan. It will actually weaken our nation‘s long-term economic growth.”
Twelve days later, 12 days later, Congressman Lamborn writes to the Obama administration asking for stimulus funds for project to his district, saying, quote, “These projects will create jobs.” The jobs, he wrote, “will provide significant stimulus to our state and national economy.” That was 12 days after he says the stimulus will weaken our nation‘s long-term economic growth. Also signing onto that letter requesting stimulus funds for projects to create jobs was Republican Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, the same Mike Coffman who said this about the stimulus one month prior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE COFFMAN ®, COLORADO: The American recovery and re-investment act of 2009 is a massive and wasteful government spending bill that will not stimulate our economy, but will recklessly plunge our nation deeper and deeper into debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But please, Obama administration, may I please have some of that awful, harmful money, so I can bring jobs to my district because I think it will help. Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, blasted the stimulus, as quote, “Unnecessary spending that won‘t create jobs.” For more of that won‘t create jobs part of it, because he then wrote to the Energy Department asking for stimulus funds for a research lab in his district. He wrote, quote, “The research laboratory would employ 25 to 50 scientists and technicians with secondary employment of up to 400 people.” So says the guy who says it wouldn‘t create any jobs. Republican Congressman Jack Kingston joined Mr. Westmoreland in pleading for that stimulus money to create jobs in his district in Georgia. That would be this Jack Kingston.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: Mr. President, where is the stimulus package? Where are the jobs? This is not the change the folks in Coffee County, Georgia can use. They need jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They need jobs, they don‘t need that stimulus that won‘t provide jobs, so please can I have some stimulus money so I can get jobs for my district? Because I think it will work. Remember Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee? When Zach Wamp wasn‘t busy dodging questions about his time living at C Street, Zach Wamp was busy envying against that wasteful, good for nothing, irresponsible Democratic stimulus bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ZACH WAMP ®, TENNESSEE: It does many, many things that are not stimulating. So, they shouldn‘t call this a stimulus bill. The vast majority of this is just social spending. It‘s a transfer of payment from one taxpayer over to other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Social engineering, transfer of wealth, it is anything but
stimulus, it is not going to create jobs. After Zach Wamp said that, he
wrote this to the Energy Department asking for those horrible, terrible,
no-good, very bad stimulus funds, writing specifically that he wanted the
money to, quote, “create about 200 manufacturing jobs in Georgia and 120 in
Tennessee, it will create more than 1,000 total jobs when the direct jobs
and indirect jobs created by this proposal are added together, because it‘s
so stimulative.” Also voting against the stimulus and trashing it publicly
was Republican Congressman Michael Turner of Ohio, who last month said,
quote, “More Americans believe Elvis is alive than those that believe
stimulus created jobs”
Well, put Mr. Turner in the second category. Because here he is asking for stimulus money for a, quote, “Project that will create and retain highly skilled jobs.” That only people who would believe in Elvis would believe were real jobs? You remember the stimulus debate at all, and I know, that‘s a long time ago, you will recall lots of doomsday rhetoric about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCOTTER: The bill before us is a trillion dollar mistake. It will harm working families like Greg‘s, deprive them of hope and damage our already recessed economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A few months after trashing the stimulus, Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter undercut his own credibility rather dramatically by asking for that horrible bad stimulus funding, quote, “To invest in vital home-grown technologies and job creation.” Ditto Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK ®, KANSAS: The bill that is in front of us I think is neither prudent or responsible. I think don‘t it kinds of digs us out to the hole that we‘re in. I think, it just digs a whole deeper. It‘s spending a lot of money and it‘s not going to stimulate the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s not going to stimulate the economy? I think I said, Texas before, Sam Brownback, of course of Kansas. Senator Brownback then asked the Energy Department for a piece of that un-stimulative will dig us into a deeper home money. He said, quote, “Funding for this project will support job creation in the near term.” Job creation by that thing that‘s not going to create jobs. Republicans continue to prove over and over again that they are not at all embarrassed by stuff like this. Democrats, on the other hand are proving themselves yet again to be afraid of their own shadows. Democrats think they‘re going to get bet in this year‘s election. So, they‘re essentially refusing to campaign. That‘s a surefire way to win. What could they campaign on?
Well, Republicans apparently think that Democrats could be campaigning on reforming the health care system in this country, because a ton of the stuff that Democrats did in the health reform bill, Republicans just put in their new pledge to America. And they are now running on that as if it is their own record and what they want to do as if they‘re not talking all sort of smack about health reform and how it needs to be repeal. They‘re running on those ideas, because they think the American people will like those ideas. Democrats, on the other hand, actually implemented those ideas and they‘re refusing to run on them. And with the stimulus, it is the exact same thing.
Republicans are trying to bring home to their constituents all of the economic benefits of the stimulus plan, all of the jobs that it will create. While talking all sorts of smack about the stimulus, saying it doesn‘t work, saying it‘s a waste, they‘re trying to take credit for the fact it does work. Republicans have no problem running on the Democrats‘ record. But Democrats apparently will not. As we said on this show last night, Democrats have a weird inferiority complex when it comes to campaigning. They like their own ideas better, but they like the way that Republicans run for office better. Well, the way that Republicans are running for office this year, is by running on the democratic policy achievements of this year. Democrats, if you don‘t believe in yourself enough to do that, just copy what the Republicans are doing, because they‘re running on your record. Good night.
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