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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Ken Strickland, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Ron Bloom

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you, Keith.  Appreciate it.

And thanks to you at home for joining us.

We do have some breaking news for you tonight on the military‘s “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.  An Alaska television station, KTVA, scoring a scoop—a declaration in an interview to be aired in Alaska tonight from the senator who looks to be possibly the deciding vote for repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

The ban on gay people serving openly has been in place since 1993.  The White House contends that the way the statute was written and passed precludes the option of President Obama unilaterally stopping the policy by executive order.  The White House has, therefore, advocated that Congress vote to repeal the ban.  The House did just that in May, voting to allow the military to repeal the policy if a Pentagon study on repeal says it is feasible.  That study is due in less than two weeks.  Early leaks of findings suggest that study will say repeal is feasible.

In the Senate, an effort to pass a similar repeal failed when John McCain led a filibuster of the entire spending bill for the Pentagon in order to stop the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” provision, which was attached as an amendment.  To defeat John McCain‘s filibuster, 60 senators must vote to pass the defense authorization bill with the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” attached to it.

Today, for the first time, signs that that 60-vote threshold may have been reached.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT:  Senator Collins and Senator Lugar have indicated in the last couple of days that they‘re prepared to vote for cloture to take up the Defense authorization bill, including “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”


MADDOW:  Senator Joe Lieberman at a repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” conference today, announcing two promised Republican votes in favor of repeal.

You may notice in this camera angle here, the handsome bald guy standing just behind Senator Lieberman, recognized him?  U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, you may have seen on this show last night.  He‘s facing discharge from the Air Force because of this policy after 19 years of service, after combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, after begin awarded nine Air Medals, including one for bravery.

After Senator Lieberman made his announcement about Republicans Susan Collins and Dick Lugar being willing to vote for repeal, we then learned from a preview broadcast on CNN that in an interview to be broadcast tonight in Alaska, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says she, too is willing to vote for a defense authorization bill that repeals “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

By my layman‘s count, that means today, for the first time, there is a way to see this policy ending.  That said, I don‘t necessarily trust my own counting.

Joining us now is somebody whose counting I do trust, Senate producer Ken Strickland.

Ken, thanks very much for being here tonight.

KEN STRICKLAND, NBC NEWS SENATE PRODUCER:  Good evening, Rachel.  How are you?

MADDOW:  I‘m good.  Thank you.

With these three Republican pledges today, do you see a means of counting to 60 here, to beat the filibuster and get this policy repealed?

STRICKLAND:  Well, let‘s start with Senator Lieberman.  He‘s been talking to people.  He‘s been talking to people privately.  I guess we have to take him at his word.

But the one thing that he said specifically was that there would be 60 votes there if the process for bringing the defense authorization bill to the floor—that‘s the bill that has the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” provision in it, if that was a fair and open on process.

You remember, right before the elections, Senator Collins specifically, she voted no.  She voted with the Republicans on not to bring the bill to the floor because the process was not fair and open.

So, first and foremost, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to convince Republicans when they bring this bill to the floor that it will be open.  How open is a question.  But there will be a number of amendments that can be voted on and debated.

Now, I did talk to somebody in Senator Murkowski‘s office about this interview.  And there are a couple of things they want to make sure that people understand—and that is that Murkowski‘s view is once she sees that report, she wants to make sure that the troop support it and that it has not hurt morale or recruitment.

So, there are basically three things that we need to watch to make sure Senator Reid and Joe Lieberman are right and that they have those 60 votes.

First thing is, does that report get the Defense Secretary Gates on December 1st?  And then how quickly does it get to Congress?  And what do they think of it?

Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has promised to hold hearings.  Those hearings will be key.  Who will come to those hearings and what will they say?  And how will Republicans interpret what they hear?

If—according to Lisa Murkowski‘s office, if they meet those tests, that the troop support and it doesn‘t hurt morale or recruitment, then there might be a path to 60.  And, of course, then there‘s the passage of this broad sweeping defense authorization bill, and whether or not they can get that done in a manner that they can pass the overall bill—Rachel.

MADDOW:  In terms of how you understand the calendar on this, Ken, if we‘ve got that report coming in on time, on December 1st, Senator Levin says he wants the hearings right away—in terms of a vote, as you point out, very importantly, Senator Lieberman today saying he wants a fair and open amendment process.  And that‘s the condition on which Senator Lugar and Senator Collins are voting, or sort of offering their repeal votes here.  If you‘ve got a fair and open amendment process, if you got the schedule that they‘ve got set up for the lame duck process, can all of this it happen before Christmas?

STRICKLAND:  That‘s a good question.  If you look at it the way—if you listen to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the things that he‘s laid out that he wants to accomplish in this lame duck process, it‘s hard to see how that happens unless they stay in all the way through Christmas, all the way through New Year‘s and all the way into February.  It‘s a very ambitious list.

And bringing a bill to the floor doesn‘t necessarily mean it‘s going to happen quickly.  Remember, the defense authorization bill is a huge bill, hundreds of pages.  Even when there‘s nothing controversial in it, it could take a week, two weeks, maybe even three weeks.

So, the question is going to be: Is there political will between Democrats and Republicans to either shorten it down or to move through it quickly?  That remains an open question.

And what about the Bush tax cuts?  What about a vote on immigration that Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to have?  The calendar gets smaller and smaller and smaller each time you add another provision that you want to vote on.  Will he be able to manage the calendar in a way that Republicans can feel confident that the process will be fair and will be open?

MADDOW:  Ken Strickland, Senate prosecutor for NBC News—Ken, thank you so much.  Really appreciate it.

STRICKLAND:  You‘re welcome.

MADDOW:  I should mention two other senators‘ comments today that should be on the record as we consider this.  Senator Udall today at that press conference with Senator Lieberman said although right now the plan is for the Senate to adjourn in the lame duck session on December 10th, he said he personally would be happy to stay through Christmas Eve working on this in order to get it done.

It should also be noted that the “Washington Blade,” which is a very good gay paper out of D.C., today is reporting, quoting the Stone Wall Democratic Club of southern Nevada.  Their communications director saying that activists in favor of repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” met with staffers from Senator John Ensign‘s office today—Republican Senator Ensign of Nevada.  And they say his regional representative on military issues, a staffer named Margo Allen, assured them that John Ensign, too, would be willing to vote to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

We‘ve been trying to get confirmation of that right now, just being reported in the “Washington Blade.”  But interesting.

Joining us now here in studio is someone who knows the ins and outs of the Senate intricately, my friend Lawrence O‘Donnell, host of “THE LAST WORD” here on MSNBC.

Lawrence, thank you very much.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST:  Good to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Three Republicans, maybe four, now indicating they are on board to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Are these chickens not yet hatched or is it time to start counting?

O‘DONNELL:  They are indicators of what is to come.  You can—when you see Susan Collins moving in this direction, you can expect Olympia Snowe has a better than 50 percent chance of following, George Voinovich.  You are at a number now of indicators that look like it‘s going to be easy to get over 60.  It‘ll end up being over 60.

It won‘t be that one of these Republicans will have to then be blamed as being the one who delivered this bill.  They‘ll get over 60 in the way it‘s trending right now.  Leaving aside for the moment all of that procedural stuff you just went through with Ken.  That‘s the prohibitive factor right now, is how you get it all done.

You know, they stayed until just about Christmas Eve last year.  So, they know how to do this.

Harry Reid made promises in order to get re-elected.  He got re-elected by the skin of his teeth.  He‘s got a promise on bringing up the DREAM act to the Latino communities.  He got a promise on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  He has got to deliver on these promises and he knows that, in these lame duck sessions.  He‘s got to bring this up.

And the way it looks now, and—you know, when happens in the Senate, you kind of—you get the feeling of—oh, it looks like we‘re going to make it.  But you never know you‘ve made it until they count the votes.

MADDOW:  Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor both voted with the Republican filibuster on this before—before the election.  They raised procedural objections.  Neither of them said it was an anti-gay vote.  They said they were concerned about the way that amendments were handled.

Joe Lieberman now is calling for a free and open amendment process.  For those of us who don‘t know the Senate intricacies enough and mostly just want to know whether that means this thing is going to pass—is a free and open amendment process a thing that is prohibitive to do in terms of time?

O‘DONNELL:  No.  The truth is it‘s almost always a free and open amendment process.  And that‘s why it takes forever to get anything done in the Senate.

And so, they don‘t really—neither side really wants a free and open amendment process.  They want an amendment process that we agree on, you know.  And then the health care bill, they agreed on an amendment process that was actually extremely negative to the Republicans tactically.  And McConnell knew he was doing that.

And so, they will probably find an agreement that works on how to go forward with it with amendments.  The—you know, the Murkowski break is very interesting because look at her political—her personal political calculation is.  She just got reelected—I mean, literally last night, right?

MADDOW:  Last night, yes.

O‘DONNELL:  She knows, as she sits there today, if I have a political price to pay for this, it‘s six years from now.  She‘s just been re-elected for six years.  And she‘s looking at this and saying, what is Alaska going to think of this issue five years from now if it goes away and basically, you know, in January of 2011, if that goes away?  And I think the reasonable prediction is, Alaska isn‘t going to care.

MADDOW:  Yes.  Lawrence O‘Donnell, host of “THE LAST WORD,” which airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern—your interview with Murkowski last night was great.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris Hayes interviewed him last night.  It was my first night off.

MADDOW:  And it was sort of weird to hear Chris‘ voice coming from the corner over there.

O‘DONNELL:  I loved it.  You know, he did very well for us.  So, I can take more nights off.  That‘s all I care about.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.  I really appreciate.

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m just going to hang for the rest of the show.

MADDOW:  Excellent.

O‘DONNELL:  And I‘ll just do my show from right here.

MADDOW:  We serve cocktails (INAUDIBLE).

O‘DONNELL:  Great.  OK.

MADDOW:  Still ahead: I will use the words Democrats and spine in the same sentence without also using the phrase, “Where is your.”

Also, Texas Governor Rick Perry—hate to break it to you—but General Motors is not dead.  My condolences, sir.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  So, I‘d just as soon not talk about Glenn Beck, seriously.  But then I‘d also prefer it if Glenn Beck refrained from talking smack about Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  Unfortunately, situation B tonight precludes adherence to situation A.  That‘s ahead.


MADDOW:  This is one of the rare days in the news, one of those rare

days in news where all of the disparate political developments of the day

make sense together, where there appears to be a theme about what‘s going

on in the news.  Today‘s theme—it‘s kind of gross but you get the point



I know spinefulness isn‘t a word but spinelessness is.  And that‘s the

word that people are always applying to Democrats.  And today, Democrats

did not live up to their spineless reputation.  In fact, quite the contrary



So, even though there‘s no such word as spinefulness, I am using it anyway.  My apologies to Merriam and to Webster.

We‘re going to talk a lot more about some of this stuff in more detail later in the show.  But in just the past 24 hours in Washington, Democratic backbone is turning up in the most unexpected places.

After Republicans hinted and gestured and mumbled about how they didn‘t want to extend unemployment benefits this year, they talked about it openly to their base.  But they weren‘t really eager to trumpet that we hate the unemployed message nationwide.

After trying to stick it to people who‘ve lost their jobs in this economy but no pay any political or PR praise for that, Democrats in the House today made Republicans put up or shut up about the unemployed.  Democrats forced a vote, an up-or-down vote on extending unemployment benefits.  Republicans voted overwhelming against it.

It needed a two-thirds vote to pass and it didn‘t pass.  Never before as a country have Congress voted to deny unemployment benefits when the unemployment rate was over 7.2 percent.  But, today, Republicans did just that.  And Democrats forced them to do it in the record.

Have you lost your job in this economy?  Do you know anybody who‘s lost their job?  Do you think people who‘ve lost their job should get unemployment benefits?

These people scrolling by, these people are the people in Congress who voted no on that.  We know their names now, thanks to Democratic leadership in the House forcing them to put up or shut up.

The full list, both sides of that vote today is posted at our Web site, if you want to see it.

This Democratic outbreak of spinefulness also extended today to national security.  We will talk about this in more detail later on in the show because there‘s a really cool, super top secret spy versus spy component to it.

But on Capitol Hill, the top Democrat in the Senate today, Harry Reid, said there would be a vote this year on the big nukes treaty.  Republican Senator Dick Lugar turned on his party yesterday, late yesterday, and he excoriated his fellow Republicans for blocking this treaty.  In an interview with “Foreign Policy,” Lugar told Democrats they should call his own party‘s bluff and demand a vote on the nuke treaty right away to force Republicans to decide if they really are going to not just drag this out but actually vote no on something that Lugar says would be so dangerous for national security.  He says call Republicans‘ bluff, make them vote on this thing, and do it now.

Harry Reid appears to be taking Senator Lugar‘s advice on that.  He says they will vote on it in the lame duck.  Spinefull—Democratic spinefulness.  Am I asleep, am I dream?

Did somebody slip the booze from our chemistry experiment on last night show into my coffee tonight?  Because there is more Democratic spinefulness in evidence on what has been the biggest political issue in the country for months now.  One in which Democrats have the clear choice between doing what they want, which is what the large majority of the public wants, which would put the Republicans in the position of voting against what the public wants.  They have a choice between that or caving completely.

On the Democratic plan to cut the deficit by killing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Democrats have had a clear choice between taking a big popular public stand or caving.  So, of course, everybody thought they would cave.  Today, news that they won‘t.  Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House under Nancy Pelosi told Democrats at a caucus meeting today that they won‘t cave.

Greg Sargent and the “Washington Post” reporting that as progressives have been advocating, Democrats will schedule a vote on a tax cut for all income up to a quarter million dollars.  And if Republicans want to add $700 billion to the debt by giving tax cuts to income over a quarter million dollars, they‘ll have to do that on their own time.  And good luck to them on that, given the public polling on this issue, which is with the Democrats‘ position, and given that whole supposed concern Republicans have got about the deficit and the debt—not to mention the fact that come January, Republicans will still only control one house of Congress.

Signs of spinefulness, right?  Signs of spinefulness are forcing the other party to take a public stand on things that put them at odds with public opinion, forcing the other party to take a public stand on things that put them at odds with how that party wants to be perceived, and not letting the other party stretch things out forever to give themselves time to turn popular ideas like insurance reform or nuke treaties with Russia into unpopular things by sheer dent of how long they‘re getting battered around in Washington.

It is a sign of spinefulness to run the calendar, to frame the debate, to decide things on your own timeline, to make your opponents own up for their unpopular positions.  All of these things in evidence in Washington today—Democratic spinefulness has broken out.  Everybody panic.


MADDOW:  So, what I‘m about to do, I do not enjoy.  I don‘t like swatting at media figures for saying provocative offensive things, especially when the one saying provocative, offensive things is somebody show‘s name rhymes with schmenz smeck (ph).  But I can‘t let this one go.

Here‘s what happened.  When a woman named Denise called into Glenn Beck‘s radio show earlier this week to allege that there‘s something shady going on with the highly-esteemed, nonpartisan veterans group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Here‘s what Denise had to say:


GLENN BECK, THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM:  Let‘s go to Denise in New York. 

Hello, Denise.

DENISE, CALLER:  I‘m an Iraqi vet, and I was invited to march in the parade in New York on Veterans Day you.  And the organization that invited me was the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  So, they treated us like royalty, literally.  They gave us breakfast, lunch, dinner, a spread like you wouldn‘t believe—and I questioned, where do they get the money for all this?

And I went the next day, I checked them out online and come to find out that they‘re actually funded by, which totally shocked me.  I told my boyfriend, I said, “You are not going to believe what I found out today.  George Soros has his hands even in the military, our American military.”


MADDOW:  Now, I have worked in radio.  I understand the pressure of that giant chasm of time that needs to be filled with something to talk about.  And when that something comes in the form of an allegation involving one of your favorite, a bogeyman, as George Soros is to Glenn Beck, you know, I‘m sure it‘s more than tempting.

But that when that something involves talking smack about an esteemed and worthy institution like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, there really is one appropriate response.  It‘s not the one Glenn Beck had.


BECK:  What they‘re doing is they are creating the misery and they‘re coming out and they‘re organizing all of these people under the guise of labor unions or something as innocuous sounding as a, you know, the Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans foundation.  But it is Soros and communists and radical money.  And they are tying and duping people in as much as they can.

And so, that way if you trust them—if you didn‘t go out and do your homework, if you weren‘t skeptical, you would trust them.  And they would say, “Hey, you‘ve got to stand up and stand with us on this issue,” and you‘d be used.  You already were.

DENISE:  You‘re absolutely right.  And that‘s the amazing thing, is that people don‘t realize, they treat, they wine and dine people to the point where they treat you so good, how could you ever say anything bad about them?

BECK:  And, Denise, when people are hungry and this kind of money is available, and they wine and dine and treat you right and they show you a piece of the good life, how many people will be duped by it and just take it, because it‘s better than the alternative.

Denise, thank you so much for paying attention.  Thank you so much for standing guard.


MADDOW:  Thank you so much for standing guard against these communists masquerading as a veterans organization that are using you for their communist purposes.  Thank you for standing guard against news communists who are duping you—these communists over at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

There are people all over America today who listen to Glenn Beck who now believe that IAVA is a communist front group because Glenn Beck said so.

IAVA is not a communist front group.  They do not feed veterans who marched in parades with them as part of a communist plot to dupe veterans into becoming communist.  They do not take money from Move On or from other FOX News bogeyman, more boogie-ish than me.

But even if they did, it would still be the patriotic equivalent of a mortal sin to do what Glenn Beck did this week when he randomly and at length and in totally made-up detail launched this 100 percent false attack on Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America—a nonpartisan group that does nothing wrong and does nothing like what all Glenn Beck‘s listeners now think they do.

I generally try to be of good cheer when it comes to people being dumb in the media, but this is more than just dumb.  This is disgusting.  Leave the veterans alone.


MADDOW:  That is the piped-in sound of a Chevy Camaro engine revving during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange this morning.  It was a good day on the stock market, and a good day in particular for the people you just saw opening the stock market there, the folks from General Motors.  GM had their big initial stock offering on Wall Street today.  It helped drive the whole stock exchange higher.  The Dow closed up 173 points today. 

Now, because the government bailed out GM, this is not just an American business story.  It‘s also a politics story.  There‘s a little bit of awkwardness in them there politics over the fact that GM is doing really well right now. 


SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  You know what‘s going to happen?  They‘re going to be—congressmen are going to be causing the president of General Motors to drive his hybrid car to Washington to talk about hiring your grandmother, what kind of car are you going to have, where are you going to paint it, where are you going to buy your engine.  They‘re not going to be having time to make any cars. 


MADDOW:  That was Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee making a very specific, very odd prediction last year about what would happen to GM because of the government bailout.  You know, people make bad predictions.  It happens all the time.  I am a very bad predictor myself.  You might remember me saying that Hillary Clinton was going to have a big floor fight at the Democratic Convention in 2008.  That one did not pan out. 

So I have sympathy and empathy for people who say things are going to work out a certain way and then they don‘t.  And a lot of Republicans made the same prediction, dire prediction about GM.  A lot of them said when the Obama administration wanted to bail out GM that it would just be a disaster. 

It wasn‘t just Lamar Alexander.  It was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyle and Richard Shelby and Jim DeMint in the Senate, Minority Leader John Boehner and Tom Price and Eric Cantor and Trent Franks in the House, and RNC Chairman Michael Steele, just to name a few.  They all said the GM bailout would not work. 

And it worked.  GM‘s first day on the stock market was today.  It was the biggest IPO in American history.  GM made more money in its initial stock offering than any U.S. company ever.  Today for GM was bigger than Google‘s first day on the stock market or eBay‘s, or any other American company you can think of. 

Today, GM raised more than 20 billion dollars.  Also in the past week, the car that more than anything GM is staking its future on, the Chevy Volt, won Motor Trends Car of the Year.  This is not a we feel sorry for you, way to make an effort, most improved kind of award.  This is Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year.  This is a real award.  This is like best car, period. 

The point is it‘s a very good time for General Motors.  To be clear, GM, because of the government bailout, did not go out of business.  A brand-new study from the Center for Automatic Research found the bailout of GM and Chrysler saved 1.4 million jobs.  Now, with the new financial health of the company, GM is on track to have its first profitable year since 2004 and to pay the government back the bailout money.  It is a success. 

It‘s one thing to predict that something in America is going to fail and then have it not fail.  Right?  So what, you got it wrong.  Pleasant surprise, right?  Things went well for the country.  You thought they wouldn‘t.  You were a little too cynical.  America ended up actually winning out.  Isn‘t that good news? 

So what you got your prediction wrong.  That I understand.  What I don‘t understand is not being psyched that something went right in America.  Now that we know that the GM bailout worked and it worked beautiful, what do you make of critics of President Obama on the right who still wish that it had not happened, or better yet, who deny that there was any success at all? 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  They plowed ahead from the very beginning with one piece of legislation after another, written by liberals for liberals.  And so by the spring of 2009, they had bailed out automakers that should have been allowed to reorganize or to fail. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You look at the GM bailout today, an example of huge federal intervention, a bailout of a private company.  Yet today, GM is still around.  It‘s going to do its IPO.  Taxpayers in a position to get back a big chunk of that money and potentially millions of jobs saved.  Does that in any way diminish your feeling that Washington should have a much diminished role? 

GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  No.  As a matter of fact, it probably is a good exhibit of why government should not be involved in the private sector.  The fact of the matter is those jobs would not have been lost.  They may have been transitioned by a private sector acquisition of GM. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just so I understand, you‘re not saying that if GM had gone bankrupt, no jobs would be lost? 

PERRY:  I don‘t know whether it would have been any jobs lost or not.  But at the end of the day, that‘s how the process is supposed to work.  If you have a company that is not profitable, then it goes through bankruptcy and it shakes out. 


MADDOW:  The GM bailout worked, 1.4 million American jobs saved.  The bailout money on track to being paid back.  The company in good shape and getting better all the time.  GM is working. 

Here‘s a question for you, governor: are you for that or are you against that? 

Joining us now is Ron Bloom, a senior adviser to the secretary of the Treasurer and member of the president‘s Task Force on the Automotive Industry.  Mr. Bloom, thank you for your time today.


MADDOW:  What does today‘s stock offering say about the health of GM and the wisdom of this bailout? 

BLOOM:  Well, I think it‘s a good day.  I think it‘s a good day for the country.  It‘s a good day for General Motors.  But it‘s a good day for the country. 

Look, 17 months ago, this company did enter bankruptcy.  But if it had been allowed to enter bankruptcy on an uncontrolled basis, which is what some of our critics seem to think it should have been done, it would have been gone into liquidation.  As you pointed out, Rachel, studies have shown at least a million, maybe two million jobs, would have been lost. 

Those—and the entire automobile industry in America could have come apart at that point, because the automobile industry in America is very interconnected.  The Ford Motor Company, who didn‘t go into bankruptcy, applauded our decision to help GM, because they understood that if the suppliers who supply GM had been allowed—if GM had failed, the suppliers would have failed and Ford wouldn‘t have been able to make cars, nor would Honda or Toyota. 

So the entire automobile industry was at risk.  The president stepped forward.  This was an extraordinary time.  Let‘s remember, we were in the depths of the worsts recession since the Great Depression.  He insisted on tough sacrifice from all the stakeholders at GM.  This was a difficult deal. 

But the stakeholders came together, the employees, the managers, the creditors, the suppliers, the dealers.  Everyone came together and agreed to make tough sacrifices.  On that basis and that basis alone, the president extended a helping hand.

And General Motors has now taken a very important step forward.  As you pointed out today, over 20 billion dollars of private capital said that they believe in General Motors.  I think that‘s a pretty good day for America.  And the president and the Obama administration is doing what we said we would do.  We are exiting this investment as soon as practical, because we don‘t think, in the long run, it is proper for the government to own these companies. 

But in an extraordinary time, when the economy is teetering, to lend a helping hand to those who are willing to execute self help as well seems to me to make all the sense in the world.  I think today‘s a very important validation of that strategy. 

MADDOW:  Governor Perry speaking in that quote that we played from him there is essentially making the case that the government shouldn‘t have gotten involved on principal, saying that‘s how the process is supposed to work.  If you have a company that‘s not profitable, it goes through bankruptcy and it all shakes out.  He‘s essentially making the case that this rewards mismanagement.  It sends the wrong message in terms of capitalism, sets up the wrong incentives.  What‘s your response to that? 

BLOOM:  Well, I‘d say two things.  Number one, this was not an ordinary time.  This was an extraordinary time.  Number two, General Motors is, because of the place it sits in the economy, absolutely critical to a very, very broad base of our economy.  So this is not just any company.  And it‘s not just the jobs at General Motors that were at stake. 

General Motors, at the time, was employing maybe 70,000 or 80,000 people.  We‘re talking about over a million people whose jobs would have been at risk.  That‘s the first thing. 

The second thing is I think we can‘t underestimate the sacrifice that the president did insist on from the stakeholders of General Motors.  This was not some fairy godmother thing where the Obama administration came along and said, we‘ll give you anything you want.  Retirees took reductions in their health care benefits.  That‘s a very difficult thing to do.  Workers took pay cuts.  Creditors took reductions in obligations they were owed. 

There was a wholesale reorganization of the GM management.  The board of directors had a huge overhaul.  Dealers, unfortunately, couldn‘t continue to sell their cars.  And suppliers took sacrifices.  So this was a very tough-minded restructuring. 

And of course we worry about this issue the governor appears to be discussing of the moral hazard.  But I don‘t think this is a good example at all of that.  This is a very, very tough deal.  But what it shows is when people come together and when we are at a moment of extraordinary crisis and when they‘re prepared to sacrifice, I think it‘s entirely appropriate that the government lend a helping hand. 

MADDOW:  Ron Bloom, senior adviser to the secretary of the Treasury and a member of the president Task‘s Force on the Automotive Industry, thanks for helping understand this.  I appreciate your time. 

BLOOM:  Great.  Thanks to be here.

MADDOW:  Coming up on “THE LAST WORD,” Lawrence O‘Donnell talks to out-going Florida Governor Charlie Christ about Jim Morrison from the band the Doors potentially being pardoned for his indecent exposure conviction.  Break on through.  Also, people—people are strange. 

Coming up on this show, loose nukes, debunking Sarah Palin, and the serious consequences of removing facial hair too soon.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Debunction junction, what‘s my function?  I love this segment. 

All right, story number one, true or false—


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The man charged with plotting the embassy bombings nearly walks free. 


MADDOW:  Nearly walks free.  Is that true or false?  False.  Unless you consider 20 years in prison minimum, no parole, to be nearly walking free. 

In a federal court in New York yesterday, a former Guantanamo prisoner who was tortured in U.S. custody and thought by many, therefore, to be unprosecutable was convicted.  He was convicted of conspiracy in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.  The charge of which he was convicted carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison without parole.  Prosecutors say they will be pushing for a life sentence. 

On Fox News today, that was reported as nearly walking free.  Twenty years without parole, minimum. 

Story number two, true or false.  Sarah Palin has waded into the battle between Congressman Ed Royce and Spencer Bachus over who should be chairman of the House Financing Services Committee?  Palin has put some weight behind Ed Royce in that fight, because Spencer Bachus, she says, was for the Wall Street bailout.  Is that true or false? 

That is false.  Spencer Bachus was for the Wall Street bailout.  And Sarah Palin may be anti-Spencer Bachus for any number of reasons.  It could be because he said publicly that Sarah Palin cost the Republican party the Senate this year.  But it cannot be true that Sarah Palin is against Spencer Bachus right now because Bachus voted for that Wall Street bailout.  That‘s why she says she‘s against Spencer Bachus. 

But that can‘t be the reason.  Because Sarah Palin herself was for the Wall Street bailout. 


SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  As for the economic bailout provisions and the measures that have already been taken, it is a time of crisis and government did have to step in, playing an appropriate role to shore up the housing market, to make sure that we refine out some of the potentially frozen credit lines and credit markets.  Government did have to step in there. 


MADDOW:  David Corn did a great piece on this today at “Mother Jones.”  Sarah Palin says she is anti-Spencer Bachus and actually anti-Lisa Murkowski, for that matter, because they were for the Wall Street bailout.  But Sarah Palin herself was for that bailout too.  So there‘s got to be something else going on there. 

And story number three, true or false, the U.S. Senate race in Alaska is done?  Is that true or false?  False. 

All three falses today.  The Associated Press has called it for incumbent Republican Senator and write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski.  Yes, NBC News had declared Lisa Murkowski the apparent winner.  Yes, Senator Murkowski declared victory last night. 

But the Republican nominee, Tea Party favorite Joe Miller is not giving up you.  To find out why, we‘ll ask our fake Alaska Senate race correspondent, Bill Wolf.  Bill? 

BILL WOLF, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Fake?  I lived there for 28 hours.  Had a beard for three weeks.  Yes, Joe Miller is not going quietly into that good night.  He has—we learned this afternoon from the Associated Press that Joe Miller has asked a federal judge to issue a temporary or preliminary injunction against certifying the election results. 

On his website, he has six affidavits of Alaskan voters, which suggest write-in voter fraud you and ballot box stuffing.  So Joe Miller, despite the fact that the Alaska Republican Party told him to give it up, is rage, rage, raging against the dying of the light or something less poetic. 

MADDOW:  I don‘t mean to be weird, but since Joe Miller is still fighting, do you think you might have been a little premature in shaving off your Alaska election beard? 

WOLF:  I did come prepared for this eventuality. 

MADDOW:  Who says you can‘t have it both ways? 


MADDOW:  So most of what we cover on this show is politics.  But one of the most intense and just sort of baseline awesome stories that we have covered here in the past year that wasn‘t politics was a—we should have the music for this—a super secret, dead of night, deep cover, saving us from the end of the world mission to secure nuclear material.  A mission that was interrupted, I kid you not, by a giant earthquake in South America. 

Do you remember this story?  U.S. officials went—OK—U.S.  officials went on a secret mission to Chile to secure 39.6 pounds of highly enriched uranium and transport it back here to the U.S. for safekeeping.  Twelve hours after they managed to extract all of the uranium and secure it inside these specially made unbreakable casks, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile where they were, the biggest earthquake anywhere in the world in 50 years. 

The uranium was safe, but the scientists were forced to embark on a middle of the night secret convoy to the port through an earthquake ravaged country side in a desperate and ultimately successful trip to get that uranium out of the country.  It‘s an incredible story.  Thank God it ended well. 

But this week, the drama of that story has been eclipsed.  The Chilean mission recovered 39.6 pounds of highly enriched uranium, enough to make about one nuclear bomb.  This week, U.S. officials went on a—cloak and dagger undercover mission to recover enough nuclear material to make 800 bombs, 11 tons of highly enriched uranium, along with three tons of weapons grade plutonium.  It was the largest lock down of at-risk nuclear material ever. 

OK, get rid of that.  This was the biggest unsecured pile of nuclear material anywhere in the world outside of Russia and the U.S.  And you now where it was?  It was about five proverbial minutes from Chechnya.  You know, war-torn Chechnya, gripped by a decades-long insurgency Chechnya, as in al Qaeda-associated Muslim extremists Chechnya. 

Yeah, about 800 bombs worth of essentially unsecured nuclear material was located just across the Caspian Sea from Chechnya in Kazakhstan.  Now, we the people did not know about this top secret mission to lock down that nuclear stuff until this week.  But what U.S. officials did there is incredible. 

So this nuclear reactor in question is in the western coast of Kazakhstan, right across from Chechnya.  During the 1970s, this reactor was used to provide nuclear power to that region, as well as nuclear weapons grade plutonium for the Soviet Union‘s nuclear arsenal.  After the Soviet Union broke up, this reactor was left with three tons of plutonium and 11 tons of highly enriched uranium in a totally dangerous part of the world, in a not secure facility. 

What do you do with all of that stuff?  Well, in secret, nuclear experts were flown in from the U.S., and they embarked on a super top secret mission to transport this stuff.  I mean, we‘re talking 800 nuclear bombs worth of nuclear material.  Eighty hundred bombs worth of material.  They wanted to transport it clear across the country, an 1,800 mile, 13-day over land journey to the other side of Kazakhstan. 

How do you safely transport 14 tons worth of lethal nuclear materials that every terrorist in the world would love to get their hands on?  You do it very, very carefully.  Secret teams of officials sent in to upgrade the rail system along the route so it could handle 110-ton railroad cars. 

Why did they need specially built, specially locking 110-ton railroad cars?  Because the precious cargo riding on top of those cars were these specially built, super unpenetrable casks full of the nuclear material.  Stainless steel and concrete casks that took years to design.  Each cask has two bolted on seals, and a third seal that is welded on.  These casks were locked into the specially built rail cars.  And the mission was to truck these super heavy rail cars, carrying the most dangerous thing in the entire world, the thing that al Qaeda wants more than anything to get, across this central Asian country with nobody knowing what they were doing. 

It was not until all these casks were safely moved all the way across that country and locked down in a brand-new, state-of-the-art nuclear facility run by the U.N. that we even knew that any of this was happening.  And we only know about it now because of a great McClatchy story that had all the details in it this week. 

Groups of Kazakh security guards trained for the mission inside the U.S. for five weeks.  Dry runs were held in sub zero temperatures to test all of the equipment.  And in the end, it was a huge success.  All of that nuclear material is now controlled.  It is now safe and sound.  It is under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, under the control of the U.N.  It is no longer five proverbial minutes away from Chechen insurgents who would either love to get their hands on it or who know a guy they could sell it to who would love to get his hands on it. 

If you actually care about that whole smoking gun, could be a mushroom cloud thing, if you believe what al Qaeda says when they say they want nuclear materials, not only was this a huge success, this was a huge freaking success.  If you believe in the end of the world, not necessarily in religious terms, but in terms of people on this Earth who are trying to achieve the means of causing it, then this is probably the best news you will hear all year. 

Locking down loose nuclear material was Barack Obama‘s pet issue when he was a United States senator.  Then as president, Mr. Obama went to Prague last spring and he set out the goal of securing all of the world‘s loose nuclear material within four years.  A year after that, he hosted this never before like it summit in Washington to actually seal that deal, to lock up all the loose nuclear material in the world over four years. 

This effort is a huge hairy deal.  It did not become a huge hairy political deal, though, because who‘s against this?  Right?  The American Press, we like to cover conflict when we talk about politicians.  There‘s not a lot of conflict about the wisdom of locking up loose nukes.  A key part of the president being able to make huge leaps and bounds forward steps on this, though, is that there isn‘t—not only is there not national resistance to it here, domestic resistance to it, there really isn‘t credible international resistance to it, either. 

And the reason there isn‘t, the key is that while we‘re the big gorilla in the room in terms of how many nuclear weapons we have, we have tied these efforts at locking up loose nukes, at counter proliferation—we have tied those efforts to us also making deals with Russia to reduce our numbers of nuclear weapons.  Us and Russia have almost all of the nuclear weapons in the world and we‘ve been reducing those numbers, and tying counter proliferation to that is what makes progress on this stuff possible. 

And that‘s why Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger and James Baker, and Sam Nun and Bill Cohen and Brent Scowcroft all met in D.C. today with President Obama to express their astonishment that Republicans in the Senate, led by Jon Kyl of all people, are currently blocking the president‘s new treaty on nukes with Russia. 

This group is not a Democratic tableau.  This is not a partisan crew.  These are not liberals.  This is Republican and Democratic secretaries of state and defense saying this is one thing you guys really don‘t want to screw up.  After this show of bipartisan force in Washington today, the White House said they think they‘ve got the votes to get this treaty passed. 

As we mentioned earlier in the show, Republican Senator Dick Lugar, so incensed with his own party playing games with this, asked Democrats to put this up for a vote and call Republicans‘ bluff.  Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid suggesting today that he plans to do just that.  We‘ll see. 


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The importance of this treaty transcends numbers.  We have listened to the wisdom in an old Russian maxim, though my pronunciation may give you difficulty.  The maxim is doveriay no proveriay (ph), trust but verify. 


MADDOW:  The man who negotiated the first of the treaties like this between Ronald Reagan and the Soviets talked last night about what‘s at stake if we do not pass this treaty. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have to look at the consequence of what happens if this treaty goes down.  We lose the verification system that has already lapsed under the treaty that I negotiated.  And we become—we lose all credibility on the problem stopping nuclear proliferation. 

Margaret, there are only two governments in the world that would not like to see this treaty ratified: the government in Tehran and the government in North Korea. 


MADDOW:  And apparently Senate Republicans, too.  Maybe it would change their minds if they take a field trip to Kazakhstan.  I promise to cover it if they go. 

Now it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Good evening, Lawrence.



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