Monday, Nov. 15th, 2010

Guests: James Carroll, Jonathan Turley

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

And thanks to you at home for joining us tonight.

Behold the newest Republican members of the United States Senate.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  This is a little larger meeting than this day two years ago and four years ago.  And after the ‘06 election, we had one Republican freshman senator.  After the ‘08 election, we had two freshmen Republican senators.  Obviously, I‘m pretty excited to be sitting here with 13 this year.  And it‘s going to be a huge improvement to the United States Senate from our point of view.


MADDOW:  That was the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, welcoming to town the newest Republican senators who will officially take their seats when the new Congress is sworn in in January.  Republicans will still be in the minority in the Senate in January, but there are more of them than there were before the elections.

And top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell is therefore about to take on a much more highly visible and politically important role in Washington, D.C.  That‘s really important.  Here‘s why: As the lame duck Congress gets to work, there‘s lots of reporting and parsing and speculating and negotiating about the tax cuts, right—about whether or not rich people are going to get a giant new tax cut.  That has been America‘s front-page political issue—actually for a few months now.  It started getting debated even before the elections.

But honestly, nothing‘s really expected to happen on the tax cuts issue legislatively until the week after Thanksgiving at the earliest.  What is about to happen a lot sooner than that in D.C. is a much more dramatic change from what we have been talking about for months now—something that puts the Republican Party‘s Mitch McConnell problem at the center of American news and politics.  And I‘m not sure very many people have seen this coming.

Here‘s how it works: President Obama has now arrived back home from his nine-day overseas trip to Asia.  He is just home for a few days, though, and he will hop back on Air Force One for another overseas trip.  At the end of this week, president Obama will fly to Portugal where he is to speak on Friday at the big international conference about what to do now in Afghanistan.

Did you notice that the elections were about precisely nothing foreign?  We have not had any politics about something that didn‘t start with “A” and end with “merica” in months now.

Here‘s how much these past elections were not about anything foreign,

including our two wars.  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado

were the Republican candidates in the two hardest fought, highest profile,

closest Senate races of these elections.  Both of those candidates in both

of those incredibly hard-fought races said things on the record during the

campaign about the war in Afghanistan that were—oh, boy, take your pick

either completely incoherent or suitable for framing as part of a diagnostic manual for (WHISTLING).


But their opponents in both of these races, despite being in fights for their political lives, their opponents, their Democratic opponents, did not even bother to make political hay out of what these two political candidates said.  They left this stuff on the table.  In elections—in these two elections where I thought nothing got left nothing on the table, the Democrats left this on the table.


REPORTER:  We have many Air Force people at Nellis Air Force Base.  We have two wars we‘re prosecuting right now.  You haven‘t talked about how we would prosecute those wars.  No answer at all?  You are literally staying silent about the two wars we‘re in right now?

SHARRON ANGLE ®, FORMER NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE:  No.  The two wars that we‘re in right now is exactly what we‘re in.


MADDOW:  Just to be clear, Sharron Angle‘s only on the record statement to reporters during her U.S. Senate campaign, her only on-the-record statement about America‘s wars was, quoting her exactly, “The two wars that we‘re in right now is exactly what we‘re in.”  Tada!

Ken Buck‘s take on Afghanistan was more astonishing because he actually went on at length, at painstakingly, confusing, stupefying length.


KEN BUCK ®, FORMER COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE:  The first thing I think we need to do is to make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for terrorists.  When I say “safe haven,” I‘m not talking about that there isn‘t a possibility of a terrorist in Afghanistan.  I‘m saying that when you look at other countries similarly situated, Somalia or Yemen, other countries, that Afghanistan is at least as safe as those countries.


MADDOW:  At least as safe.  See, we want to be as comfortable with Afghanistan as we are with Somalia and Yemen, where al Qaeda launches its attacks against us from now.  That‘s what Ken Buck‘s goal is in Afghanistan.  That Afghanistan would be at least as safe as Somalia—during the campaign.

But this was money left on the table by Democrats during those Senate races.  The Democrats were fighting against those two candidates in the hardest-fought campaigns of the entire election season did not even bother with that stuff, because this year in American politics, it was not a foreign policy year.

Anything foreign, including our own wars, was almost entirely absent from the elections.  And it wasn‘t just the elections, it‘s been nearly a full year since President Obama made his big speech at West Point about what to do in Afghanistan.  And that topic has essentially been off the table in American politics since then.

But it is about to come back.  What is expected to happen at the end of this week is that President Obama will elaborate on how the U.S. war in Afghanistan ends.  Which means that we‘re going to very quickly change gears in this country from nobody talk about the war in Afghanistan to everybody freak out about the war in Afghanistan.  We started to see a preview of this from Republican Senator John McCain this weekend.  Where else?  On “Meet the Press,” after White House adviser David Axelrod broached the idea of a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.


DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  You just heard David Axelrod say any withdrawal would be conditions-based.  Is that not enough to satisfy you?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Well, I‘d like to see the president say that it‘s only condition-based.  According to Mr. Woodward‘s book, his problem is the political—the left base of the Democratic Party.  You don‘t fight and conduct wars that way.  You win and then you leave, and that‘s what we‘ve done in Iraq.


MADDOW:  That statement from John McCain is so perfect in so many ways.  First of all, he‘s already setting the stage that no matter what President Obama will say this week habit leaving Afghanistan, John McCain is already against it because it‘s from the liberal left.

Also, what exactly does he think we did in Iraq?


MCCAIN:  I‘d like to see the president say that it‘s only condition-based.  You win, and then you leave.  And that‘s what we‘ve done in Iraq.


MADDOW:  Actually, the way that we are still leaving Iraq is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney negotiated with the Iraqi government a date certain by which we would leave regardless of what was going on in that country.  They negotiated a timetable for withdrawal.  George Bush signed it and now, our country is following through on that signed agreement—an agreement that really had nothing to do with conditions on the ground.

The sheer ahistorical incoherence of John McCain‘s vehement response to this question, his lurch toward partisan gain when he was asked about Afghanistan is as sure as sign as, I think, we get in American politics that we are likely up for another round of partisan politicking about the war.  Democratic president says he wants to end a war, that‘s essentially the cue for the Republican Party‘s theme song, their fight song to start up just at the thought of it.

This is the next big thing that‘s going to happen in D.C., and there is a very big political problem at the heart of it for the Republican Party.


MCCONNELL:  And I believe the American people sure have chosen outstanding members to join the United States Senate.


MADDOW:  Mitch McConnell—Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the United States Senate in former President George W. Bush‘s new book, the opening lines of chapter 12 include a bombshell about Mitch McConnell and the war in Iraq.  According to President George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell came to him with a request right before the midterm elections in 2006.

“Mr. President,” he said, “your unpopularity is going to cost us control of the Congress.”  “Well, Mitch,” I asked, “what do you want me to do about it?”  “Mr. President,” Mr. McConnell said—“Mr. President,” he said, “bring some troops home from Iraq.”

President Bush says Mitch McConnell asked him privately to withdraw troops from Iraq in 2006 because it might help Republicans win the 2006 elections.  That was, of course, while Mitch McConnell was simultaneously making the case in public that any Democrat wanting to withdrawal troops from Iraq was all but a traitor.


MCCONNELL:  General Abizaid had it correct when he said, if we leave Iraq, they‘ll follow us.  They‘ll come back here.  So, cutting and running is not a strategy for protecting the American people here in the United States.


MADDOW:  Spoken in the same month that President George W. Bush says Mitch McConnell was lobbying him behind closed doors to—what did he call it?  Cut and run.  Mitch McConnell is calling it cutting and running.  That‘s what he was saying publicly while lobbying President Bush privately to pull the troops out for political reasons.

Mitch McConnell has not denied this new revelation on President Bush‘s new book.  Senator McConnell‘s hometown paper, the Louisville “Courier-Journal” denounced the senator for, quote, “contemptible hypocrisy” because of this story.

We reported this story here on Friday night.  We asked Senator McConnell to please appear on the show to discuss this.  His office has declined our request.

But with that skeleton in Mitch McConnell‘s closet now revealed, Republicans have a problem on their hands.  The debate in this country is about to return to questions of whether and when and how to draw down U.S.  troops in wartime.  What‘s their leader in the Senate going to say about it?  And why won‘t anyone believe him that that‘s what he means?  And why will anybody believe him that he‘s lobbying for the same thing in public as he is in private?

And what‘s his explanation for saying he wanted to change the strategy in the other war to help Republicans win the ‘06 midterms?  He‘s the Republican leader in the Senate, and this scandal hanging over their Senate leader means Republicans are now politically hamstrung on the war as long as he‘s there.

So what happens next here?

Joining us now is Jim Carroll.  He‘s the reporter who first wrote about the story in Senator McConnell‘s hometown newspaper “The Courier-Journal.”  After Mr. Carroll‘s reporting, it was “The Courier-Journal‘s” editorial board that blasted Senator McConnell for, quote, “contemptible hypocrisy” over this issue.

Mr. Carroll, thank you so much for your time tonight.

JAMES CARROLL, LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL REPORTER:  Rachel, thanks for having me.  Always glad to talk to a fellow Red Sox fan.

MADDOW:  Very good.  Now, you keep that quiet, unless it‘s going to get you in trouble at home.

CARROLL:  No, it‘s fine.

MADDOW:  You have obviously covered Senator McConnell for a long time now.  What was your reaction when you first read about—when you first read this account in President Bush‘s new book?

CARROLL:  Well, little secret—you know, Washington reporters, we do what every time there‘s a major book that comes out, we do the Washington read, you know?  We run to the index and we flip through it to see what names are in the back.  And I was expecting, you know, this is George W.  Bush‘s memoirs, I was expecting some very kind references to Senator McConnell that probably, you know, wouldn‘t really raise an eyebrow anywhere.

And while I was reading this in the bookstore at Borders, in the middle of downtown Washington, my mouth dropped open, and I kind of looked around to think, gee, I hope people aren‘t wondering what it is I found in here.  And I hurriedly bought my copy of the book and scurried back to the office and wrote a story.

It‘s striking because this is not the kind of revelation you would expect to see in a book from a Republican president about that current Republican leader of the Senate who is going to be even more prominent in the next coming years.

MADDOW:  Now, Senator McConnell has pointedly not denied the allegations.  And yet, I mean, this is—as far as I understand, Senator McConnell and President Bush were pretty close.  I mean, at least publicly, Senator McConnell was one of his biggest defenders, specifically on the Iraq War.

Is there a potential rift between President Bush and Senator McConnell we didn‘t know about before?

CARROLL:  Well, you know, we‘re put at a disadvantage a little bit here because it‘s sort of a he said/he‘s not saying kind of a story.


CARROLL:  And, oddly, it sort of flipped in reverse what you would normally expect.  People, a lot of times, like to come out of the White House and say what they said with the president and, of course, the president is not saying anything.  So, you don‘t know what they‘re saying anything.

In this case, you‘ve got President Bush saying what Bush—what he and Senator McConnell discussed alone in the Oval Office.  But McConnell has said that he is not going to discuss what advice he gives to the president of the United States, but he‘s always been supportive of the troops.  But he doesn‘t address the actual issue that‘s raised in the book.  So, we‘re kind of at a disadvantage until either Senator McConnell writes his own book or decides he wants to say something more about it.

MADDOW:  Have you been surprised by the muted reaction so far among elected officials?  I know in your piece, you quoted the Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky being critical of Senator McConnell on this.  But other than that, there has not been broad political response to this yet.

CARROLL:  It‘s very funny.  You know, I fully expected, you know, a lot of forehead-smacking and desk-pounding and a lot of phone calls in the next day.  And it‘s sort of—you know, not too much really came out of it.

There‘s a lot of conversation about it, you know, in the blogosphere and some Web sites and your program, but it really has not turned into a big political issue.  Perhaps, you know, last week, Congress wasn‘t here, as you know, when Congress is here, Washington becomes much bigger—a much bigger echo chamber than normal.  And so, it kind of—you know, if Bush could‘ve timed it any better, I can‘t imagine how.

But, you know, one other thing I want to point out in this thing is—this is not just any senator he‘s writing about.  This is Mitch McConnell, who if you looked up—if there was such a place to look up staunchest defender of the Iraq War policy, Mitch McConnell‘s face would be right there.  And this was true, you know, throughout many trying times throughout the Bush administration.  That‘s number one.

Number two, this is a family matter.  Who was sitting as the longest-serving cabinet member in George Bush‘s administration?  Mitch McConnell‘s wife Elaine Chow, secretary of labor, was there from beginning to end.  So, this was—this was just a—that‘s why you called it a bombshell, I was flabbergasted and thunderstruck and any other word you can find to read this.

And, you know, when I talked to some analysts, they—the word I heard mostly was “wow.”   And people said, I didn‘t know that President Bush had it in for Mitch McConnell.  And because we don‘t know what Mitch McConnell‘s really thinking about this, we‘re kind of at a loss ourselves.

MADDOW:  At this point, it feels like suspended animation with him avoiding comment.  But I don‘t—even if there isn‘t a huge political firestorm over this, I think to have something on this on the record about him, he‘s got to comment eventually.  I‘m going to keep asking him to come on the show.  I can almost guarantee you he will say no every day.

But if you hear from him, will you tell us?

CARROLL:  I would be glad to.  I‘d be glad to.

MADDOW:  All right.  Jim Carroll, reporter for the Louisville “Courier-Journal”—thanks for your reporting.  Thanks for your time tonight.

CARROLL:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  OK.  Still to come: a protest at the White House today. 

Also, John McCain picks another huge, ugly fight with John McCain.

And the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is maybe going to stop selling those foam Statue of Liberty hats, or maybe not—major constitutional issues at stake all to come.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Today at the White House, the direct action side of efforts to overturn the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy led once again to multiple arrests as activists handcuffed themselves to the fence at the White House‘s north gate.  Discharged Army Lieutenant Dan Choi and a dozen others criticized the president and deliberately invited arrest by their actions in order to keep the pressure on to repeal the military‘s ban on gay people serving openly.

We will have much more ahead on that story.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  One of the things I‘m looking forward to with Congress coming back into session is that maybe it will put an end to the trend of late of which the hottest stories in the media are about the media.  Although I know I have done my part on this.  The meta media stories that have dominated the news for the past week or two mostly, I think are more heat than light.  That said, I do think it‘s been useful to have the overt acknowledgment we‘ve had these last couple of weeks that in the 24-hour news cycle and in cable news, in particular—honestly, it‘s really political conflict that is most marketable, that drives viewership.

One of my favorite political conflict stories of all time is the sharp, bitter, divisive, at times inhumanely polarizing political conflict between John McCain and John McCain.  John McCain, for example, against the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans—John McCain, on the other hand, totally for those very same tax cuts.


GREGORY:  If you go back to 2004, I know your position on the Bush tax cuts did change and you talked about that before.  But I do want to play something you said from an interview in 2004 and ask you about it.


MCCAIN:  I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthiest Americans.  I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.  But the middle-income tax credits, the family and child tax credits, all those, I would keep.


GREGORY:  That‘s exactly what President Obama says.


MADDOW:  So, what does John McCain today have to say to John McCain 2004?  He says, is there a statute of limitations?  No, seriously, that‘s what he said.


MCCAIN:  Is there a statute of limitations?




Even though John McCain 2004 was against tax cuts for the rich, John McCain now says this:


MCCAIN:  It is not the time to raise anyone‘s taxes.


MADDOW:  Anyone‘s.

John McCain is also diametrically opposed to John McCain on environmental legislation.


MCCAIN:  Cap and trade, that there will be incentives for people to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  It‘s a free market approach.


MADDOW:  That‘s the John McCain who was in favor of cap and trade.  But if President Obama‘s on board with that idea, John McCain finds that he is very much against cap and trade.


MCCAIN:  By the way, that‘s cap and tax.  That‘s not cap and trade.


MADDOW:  I can‘t even say the words.  John McCain who ran for president in 2008 also essentially admitted that he would vote against John McCain‘s own immigration proposal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  At this point, if your original proposal came to a vote in the Senate floor, would you vote for it?

MCCAIN:  It won‘t.  It won‘t.  That‘s why we went through the debate.  No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today.  The people want the borders secured first.


MADDOW:  John McCain is also against Jerry Falwell, among others, as well as being for Jerry Falwell.  Here is as the against Jerry Falwell model of John McCain.


MCCAIN:  Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robinson or Jerry Falwell on the right.



MADDOW:  That‘s the model of John McCain that is against Jerry Falwell.  Jerry Falwell is an agent of tolerance.  But keep in mind, there is a different model of John McCain who is totally for Jerry Falwell.


TIM RUSSERT, FMR. MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?

MCCAIN:  No, I don‘t.  I think he can explain to you his views on this program when you have him on.


MADDOW:  Every once in a while, a politician changes their mind, and there‘s nothing wrong with changing your mind.  Normal humans do it in the normal course of events all the time.  Politicians do it, too.  They get new information.  They recognize new political realities, ideas shift around in the country.

But this has happened to John McCain on every single major policy issue that has come up during his time in the Senate and he‘s been in the Senate for a really long time.  There is not a major issue on which John McCain can be found now to have one identifiable position.  Not a single one.

John McCain‘s positions on every single major policy issue that he has faced since he‘s been in the Senate are now utterly incoherent.  It is impossible to say what he believes unless you‘re only counting the current model.  And that makes it all the more remarkable that John McCain is such a perceived front of wisdom for the punditocracy in Washington.

What John McCain says he thinks about something at any one moment carries a great weight in the Beltway and gets written up and pontificated over—despite the fact if you wait five minutes, John McCain is likely to have a totally new stance on the same issue depending on who‘s asking and why.  And that is the practical context for understanding John McCain‘s importance to repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

In Mr. McCain‘s 59th appearance on “Meet the Press” yesterday -- 59 --

Senator McCain made clear his current stance on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” which is that even though the Pentagon is completing its study of the effects of repealing the policy, the effects of repealing the policy on unit cohesion and morale, Senator McCain now demands that there must be another study on unit cohesion and morale.

I mean, honestly, to be fair, there are so many different John McCains to choose from on this issue, we should really start a few John McCains ago.  Way back in 2006, John McCain told Chris Matthews it should be up to military leaders that if and when the military decided it was time for “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” to be repealed, he would be onboard with the military.


MCCAIN:  The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, “Senator, we ought to change the policy,” then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.


MADDOW:  That was 2006.  Then the leadership of the military did come to him and say it‘s time to change the policy.


ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEF OF STAFF CHAIRMAN:  It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  The president announced he will work with Congress this year to repeal the law known as “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  I fully support the president‘s decision.


MADDOW:  After that—after that, the John McCain who wanted to hear from military leaders, wanted to defer to military leadership—that John McCain mysteriously disappeared.  The new John McCain was very, very angry that the military leadership was talking about getting rid of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” because it meant that they weren‘t being properly deferential to Congress.


MCCAIN:  I‘m deeply disappointed in your statement, Secretary Gates.  Your statement obvious is one which is clearly biased without the view of Congress being taken into consideration.


MCCAIN:  See, that John McCain says the military must defer to Congress.  Also, there‘s a different John McCain that says the Congress really must defer to the military.  I bet those two John McCains hate each other.

Overall—overall, though, why does John McCain disagree with John McCain on how the decision to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” should be made?  When the host of “Meet the Press,” David Gregory, asked that question on “Meet the Press” yesterday, he got the opinion of a whole new John McCain.


GREGORY:  Why doesn‘t that meet your standard of 2006 for you to say, OK, it‘s time to change views?

MCCAIN:  Because as I said back then, that we need to have a careful examination.  And Admiral Mullen was, as quote, “speaking personally.”  We are going to go, hopefully, through a year-long study that will hopefully also have the feelings of the men and women who are serving.


MADDOW:  That was John McCain speaking in February.  I stand corrected.

John McCain there, February John McCain thinks really that what we need to consider is not so much Congress or military leaders, but what the troops themselves think about repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Enter a study which surveyed members of the military about their feelings on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  The survey has reportedly found that 70 percent think that the effect of repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” would be positive, mixed or nonexistent.

So, what does John McCain think about repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” now, now that every single new condition he has placed his support has met?


GREGORY:  Are you going to stand in the way—you personally—in the way of this ban being lifted?

MCCAIN:  I will stand that I want a thorough and complete study of the effect on morale and battle effectiveness of the United States military.  I will listen, as I‘ve said for years, to our military leaders.  And not a—not a study that is leaked as we know this town‘s pretty good at that.

GREGORY:  That said, seven in 10 members of the military think it would just be fine to have it lifted.

MCCAIN:  You and I have not seen that study.


MADDOW:  And even when that study comes out, he already knows he wants another study.

John McCain is not the chair of any committee.  John McCain does not have any major legislation to his credit from his entire career in the Senate other than the McCain/Feingold campaign finance law, which he doesn‘t exactly support with a brass band anymore anyway.

Senator John McCain‘s stances on legislation and important policy issues and principles are so fundamentally inconsistent as to render the phrase “flip-flop” meaningless.  And yet John McCain is still viewed as a Washington oracle, as a guy you‘ve got to win over.

If you do fail to win him over, though, don‘t worry, a new John McCain might come along any minute now and maybe you will have better luck with him.


MADDOW:  Programming note - even if you are a person who saw it when it was aired the first time here on this show, evidently, you guys are breaking the “” with all the downloading and streaming of my extended interview of the host of Comedy Central‘s “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart. 

Because of the high level of continuing interest in that interview, which, frankly, is almost pestering at this point, but in a nice way, we have been asked to re-air the full sit-down between myself and Jon Stewart, which is fine by me.  The interview will happen again, this bat time, this bat channel, 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Friday, this Friday, here on MSNBC.  We‘ll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, welcome to the Liberty Central online store.  Here you can get office supplies, apparel, home things - all sorts of things. 


MADDOW:  Nearly, a year ago, Liberty Central, a conservative advocacy organization, was founded by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas‘ wife.  Her name is Ginni Thomas. 




It is a pleasure to be with you.  What an honor.  If you have a crown on, I feel like I‘m next to your heart and soul.  Despite the lies from the other side, despite the intimidation, you are America‘s political first responders, and we thank you for coming out. 

I‘ve been living and working in the Washington, D.C. area for 30 years.  And I‘m here to tell you a couple of things that they‘re not going to tell you.  First of all is they‘re scared to death of you. 


They‘re scared and they‘re hiding from you.  There‘s a war going on and Washington wants to make it look real complicated, real technical.  And it‘s not so complicated.  It‘s not so technical. 

Every day, citizens have stayed, have stuck their feet in the ground and planted a flag in the ground and stopped tyranny before.  And every generation has its time.  And I guess this is our time, because we‘re all fulfilling pulled to the front lines. 

From the front lines, I‘m telling you, we need your help.  We‘re at risk of losing the country.  We have 61 days to put the brakes on this train that‘s heading for the cliff.  And they thought we weren‘t going to wake up in time, but they were wrong.  Join me. 


MADDOW:  That is the kind of advocacy work that Ginni Thomas has been doing for the past year all the while emphasizing publicly that she is married to an associate justice of the Supreme Court. 


THOMAS:  Thank you so much.  Can I just say if something happens in Washington, my husband and I are heading to Texas. 


What we‘re doing at “” is equipping citizen leaders to lobby for liberty.  And so - my husband and I do really different things, by the way.  But there was a tornado over our wedding when we got married.  God knew that we were both troublemakers coming together. 

So I do - I do policy, he does law.  And I don‘t understand that world, and I‘m glad God didn‘t tell me to do that because I don‘t know how to do that.  But thank you all for what you do. 


MADDOW:  Liberty Central is new on the scene, but it is a player on conservative politics already, in part because of a lot of money.  In the past year, it got two really big secret donations - one for $50,000, one for $500,000.  We do not know who made those donations.

Presumably, Liberty Central knows where the money came from, but they don‘t have to disclose it.  Did those donors make those donations to Justice Thomas‘ wife organization in order to influence how Justice Thomas might rule on a particular case?  Nobody knows.  There‘s no public disclosure of those donations. 

Justice Thomas, of course, ruled in favor of Citizens United paving the way for organizations like Liberty Central to fund ads and other communications for political candidates. 

And that, according to the “L.A. Times,” quote, “Clarence Thomas has been the lone justice to argue that the laws requiring public disclosure of large political contributions are unconstitutional.”

But whenever people criticize Ginni Thomas for doing the kind of political activism she‘s been doing, considering who her husband is and the power he has, Ms. Thomas has repeatedly said her activism raises no conflicts of interest. 

Out of the blue today, however, have come reports that Ginni

Thomas has suddenly decided to step down from her activist position.  A

spokeswoman for Liberty Central‘s public relations agency telling the

“Washington Post,” quote, “she‘ll take a backseat so that Liberty Central

can continue with its mission without any of the distraction” 

And a board member of Liberty Central is now denying that report telling “,” quote, “There have been absolutely no discussions with the board about her stepping down.” 

We contacted Liberty Central ourselves early this afternoon to try to get clarification.  So far, we‘ve had no response to them.  But what if Liberty Central‘s PR agency told the “Washington Post” something that is true, that Ginni Thomas is stepping down so her advocacy organization can continue its work without distractions? 

What prompted that sudden decision when she‘s been openly marketing herself as an activist based in part who her husband is for nearly a year?  Suddenly, this is a distraction? 

Maybe it became a distraction for the Supreme Court, which is an oddly lawless place if you think about it because, in our system, nobody gets to tell Supreme Court justices what to do. 

Joining us now is George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley.  Professor Turley, it‘s nice to have you back on the show.  Thanks for being here. 


MADDOW:  So obviously, the spouses of Supreme Court justices are entitled to their own careers, their own views, their own activities.  But are we entitled to know whether, in pursuing those careers, there are conflicts of interest for their judicial spouses? 

TURLEY:  I think we are.  This was an act of remarkable poor judgment on the part of Mrs. Thomas.  I mean, the - you give up certain things when you become a Supreme Court justice.  And frankly, you give up a few things when you‘re married to a Supreme Court justice. 

Most spouses of justices have avoided controversy because they realize that, in some ways, this is a demonstration of their commitment to their spouses that they need to take a less prominent role, because there‘s only nine of them, and their roles are so central to this country. 

It showed almost a contempt for that tradition to take a position of this kind.  And no one‘s saying that a spouse shouldn‘t have his or her own career or political views, but adults make mature decisions all the time and that requires some restrain restraint.  There‘s no restraint here.  And I think it did hurt the institution a great deal. 

MADDOW:  If we ever find out who the donors are to Ginni Thomas‘ political organization, if they are groups that either argue cases before the Supreme Court, have interests before the Supreme Court - if there‘s a case in which Justice Thomas should conceivably have to recuse himself because of those donations, does he get to make that decision himself, or does somebody else tell him recuse?

TURLEY:  Well, it‘s pretty much up to the justice.  And these justices have not been recusing themselves.  Justice Scalia has refused repeatedly to recuse himself in very significant controversies.  They are the final word, that‘s why they‘re called supreme, not because they‘re inviolate, but because they‘re last. 

And they can make those decisions.  This court has been fairly hostile towards requests for recusal. 

MADDOW:  The other justices that have sort of stumbled into these fields, stumbled into these controversies recently, include Justices Scalia and Thomas.  It was reported they were at secret meetings organized by the head of Koch Industries, which, of course, funds political groups like Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. 

Those aren‘t spouses of justices.  Those are actual justices.  Is that against the code of conduct they‘re supposed to use that says they shouldn‘t themselves engage in political activity? 

TURLEY:  It is against, in my view, the traditional code of conduct.  They‘re not supposed to be participating in fundraising for political organizations.  They‘re not supposed to be just paid and getting members for political organizations. 

I think that some of these definitely cross the line.  Justice Alito was just in the news about participating in a fundraiser and he just simply said that this isn‘t a problem.  It is a problem. 

And past justices have refused to cross that line.  And I‘ve got to tell you, I think the directions, really, it‘s hard not to mistake that we‘re going back in history.  This is the type of thing that Samuel Chase did in 1804 when he was a rabid federalist.  It was one of the reasons he was impeached. 

But we‘re going back to a period when our - when our justices were not apolitical, where they seemed to parade their political affiliations.  It‘s a terrible direction to take this country in. 

And I‘m just shocked that these justices would have such little faith in their institution but more importantly fealty in their institution to take a less political role. 

MADDOW:  Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, thank you so much for your time tonight. 

TURLEY:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Immediately following this show tonight, Lawrence O‘Donnell will be hosting a special two-hour program on the topic of the immigration.  It‘s called “Beyond Borderlines.”  He‘s co-hosting it with Maria Teresa Kumar.  It‘s a very important topic, obviously, and it‘s going to be a very cool two-hour special.  That‘s coming up next. 

Coming up on this show, though, how many push-ups can you do?  And how many can you do by wearing a badger costume that outweighs you and makes your head as big as a wood stove?  It‘s very important.  That‘s coming up next.


MADDOW:  On Friday‘s show, your cheating-and-sports update concerned Antonio Margarito effectively banned from boxing after he got caught putting plaster in his gloves last year. 

Texas, ever classy, decided to license Mr. Margarita to box again anyway, even though nobody else would license him.  That was for a fight on Saturday against Manny Pacquiao in Dallas. 

Now, I don‘t know if Mr. Margarito cheated this time around.  Texas certainly didn‘t care regardless.  But if he did cheat this time around, he did not cheat well enough as Mr. Pacquiao beat him like he was an egg and Pacquiao was an angry Julia Child with a whisk. 

Since it turns out we like reporting on cheating and sports, here‘s today‘s “is it cheating” news.  When the University of Wisconsin football team scores, the team and its fans are very happy.  The mascots for the team, Bucky the Badger, I‘m sure, is also happy. 

But that happiness is tempered, because every time new points go up on the Wisconsin scoreboard, Bucky Badger, the mascot, has to do pushups for every point that Wisconsin has put on the board. 

So Wisconsin‘s scores at touchdown and an extra point, Bucky does seven pushups.  When they score field goal, the Wisconsin scores goes from seven to 10, and Bucky does 10 pushups - 10 more pushups, I should say. 

If Wisconsin scores another touchdown and extra point and their scores goes to 17, Bucky then does 17 more pushups, putting his total pushups tally by that point of the game up to 34.

Here‘s the problem which has given rise to the mystery.  On Saturday, the Wisconsin football team scored 83 points - Wisconsin 83, Indiana 20.  Wisconsin scored 83 points, 11 touchdowns, two field goals. 

With Bucky having to do pushups equal to the number of points on the Wisconsin scoreboard every time there was a new score, that turns out to be a total of 573 push-ups in a big plushy suit with a giant fur head on. 

Here is the mystery.  After Wisconsin scored the 76th point, here is what happened, Bucky Badger left the stadium after having done only 414 push-ups.  Six minutes later, Bucky, or someone wearing the same Bucky suit came back and finished all the push-ups expected of him or her - all 573 of them. 

By the time, the Badgers were done running up the score against poor Indiana.  Was it the same Bucky?  Whoever came out in the Bucky suit the second time seemed remarkably refreshed and pushup-capable unlike the Bucky Badger that left just a few minutes before. 

Is one college mascot depicted capable of doing 573 crowd-pleasing push-ups while wearing a plushy badger suit and a giant fur head?  So far, the University of Wisconsin Athletics Department is not talking, at least to us.  For us, Bucky the Badger-gate is still unresolved. 

Next week, the Badgers play Michigan.  We‘re not planning on DNA testing the mascot for that occasion, but we will be watching with beer.



REP.-ELECT ALLEN WEST ®, FLORIDA:  I have a clearance that even the president of the United States cannot attain.


MADDOW:  In the United States, there is no security clearance the president of the United States cannot get.  That‘s like saying, “I have Super Bowl rings from 2001, 2003 and 2004 that not even Tom Brady could get.”  Impossible. 

But do not tell that to Congressman-elect Allen West.  Since he was elected in Florida‘s 22nd District, Congressman-elect West has made headlines.  He‘s made headlines mostly by naming this radio host as his chief-of-staff, as the person who would run his office in the capitol. 


JOYCE KAUFMAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I don‘t care how this gets painted by the mainstream media.  I don‘t care if this shows up on YouTube, because I‘m convinced that the most important thing the founding fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was gave me a Second Amendment. 


And if ballots don‘t work, bullets will.  I‘ve never in my life thought that the day would come where I would tell individual citizens that you are responsible for being a militia that the founding fathers designed.  They were very specific.  You need to be prepared to fight tyranny. 


MADDOW:  Since Allen West announced that he would name that radio host as his chief-of-staff in Washington, things have gotten stranger in the story. 

First, the host announced that she would not be chief-of-staff after all.  Then, Mr. West said that not having her as his chief-of-staff had renewed his commitment to use his time in office as a Congressman to bring the left to its knees. 


WEST:  What they need to understand now is that I‘m even more

committed, even more focused on making sure that this liberal, progressive

socialist agenda, this left-wing vile, vicious, despicable machine that is

out there is soundly brought to its knees, and that‘s my commitment -  


MADDOW:  After those comments, we contacted Congressman-elect Allen West‘s office to see if he would explain what the vile, vicious, despicable machine is, how he intended to bring it to its knees and whether or not he would come on this program to talk about it. 

No response.  We are hoping it will.  Although he won‘t yet talk to us, Allen West did talk to CNN this weekend. 


WEST:  And that despicable, disgusting action and the way that they went after Joyce Kaufman shows that, not only does the liberal left have some issues with racism, because I guarantee you, if I was a black Democratic Congressman-elect, they would not be doing this type of actions.  And the fact that they are attacking a woman like this - that shows me something about sexism and misogynist behavior. 


MADDOW:  Congressman-elect Allen West says the only reason Joyce Kaufman was being criticized is because she‘s a woman.  Reminder, this is Joyce Kaufman. 


KAUFMAN:  I don‘t care how this gets painted by the mainstream media.  I don‘t care if this shows up on YouTube because I am convinced that the most important thing the founding fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. 


And if ballots don‘t work bullets will. 


MADDOW:  She also said she was going up into the hills of Kentucky, in the Midwest, to Vermont and New Hampshire to gather together men and women who understand that some things are worth fighting for and dying for if things didn‘t go the way she wanted them to on November 2nd

I‘m going to go out on a limb here and say that the fact Joyce Kaufman is a woman is not the controversial thing about her. 

Similarly, I‘m sure that Allen West has made a strong - I‘m not sure that Allen West has made a strong case that his attempt to make Joyce Kaufman a congressional chief-of-staff is only controversial because of Mr.

West‘s race.  To be clear, I think this is why the headlines, congressional

chief-of-staff colon -


KAUFMAN:  And if ballots don‘t work, bullets will. 


MADDOW:  I think that‘s more to the point.  Congressman-elect Allen West now says if the prospect of that person becoming a congressional chief-of-staff is unsettling to you, it is because of your racism and sexism. 


I don‘t know how exactly, but I would really like the opportunity to ask him in person.  Since we invited him on as a guest last week, Mr. West has done interviews with CNN.  He did a very friendly one with Fox Business. 

He, so far, does not want to appear here.  Let me say it again that we would love to have him.  Congressman-elect Allen West, if somebody in your staff is clipping this for you, if you stumble across this on YouTube, if you‘re watching, I mean it - we would love to have you here. 

It would be fair.  It might even be fun.  And I‘d love to have you clarify this in your own words rather than me trying making sense of them without you. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  Now, it‘s time for “Beyond Borderlines,” hosted by Lawrence O‘Donnell and Maria Teresa Kumar.  Good night.



Copyright 2010 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>