Guests: Sam Stein, Howard Dean
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, here‘s Rachel Maddow.
Good to see you, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good to see you too, Shirley.
MADDOW: That was great, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly.
MADDOW: Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the first hour. It is very, very good to be back.
Now, today, most of the country got back to work. After the Thanksgiving holiday, Washington, D.C., got back to work as well. Lawmakers returned to the nation‘s capital for a short work period between now and when they break again for Christmas. In that very short period of time, there‘s some basic stuff that they really have to do in the business of keeping the federal government going.
But Democrats and Republicans also have some big decisions to make about what the country needs right now—about what we ought to do about our big problem. This is my friend 9.6 percent -- 9.6 percent is the unemployment rate right now. It is the giant thing that is looming over everything else in politics and everything else in the country right now. No matter what the political fight of the minute happens to be, no matter what the battle lines are being drawn on any a particular issue, politically, this is still really the only thing that matters, 9.6 percent. You can‘t hear anything else going on in politics for al the noise that this is making.
As the two parties sit back down at the table, this is like the holiday centerpiece, and no you can‘t eat it. Now, remember, what we‘re dealing with right now is not the new Congress that was just elected in November. This is the last session of the old Congress. So, with Barack Obama Democrat in the White House, with Harry Reid and a 56-seat Democratic majority in the Senate, with Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, a 77-seat Democratic advantage in the House, with Democrats in control of the legislative and the executive branches for this last short period of time, what is the most effective way to tackle this problem?
Now, luckily, this is not an essay question. This is a multiple choice question, and the answers have already been figured out for you.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office did the math—literally, they did the math on the various policy options that are being considered right now, to deal with our problem and our friend, this giant number. They crunched the data on a bunch of policy propositions to figure out which of those policies would have the best net effect on the economy in terms of jobs. At the very top, the single most effective thing that they studied that Washington can do to reduce unemployment—the very top? Increasing aid to the unemployed.
Why is that the most effective thing Washington can do? Because people who are unemployed are broke. So, if the government gives them money, they will turn around and spend it. They‘ve got to. They will spend that money instead of saving it, because they cannot afford to save it. And spending that money increases consumer demand, which is good for companies that supply that demand, which means those companies get more busy and they grow, which means they hire more people and so on. That‘s the whole idea of stimulus.
Unemployment benefits aren‘t just handy for people who paid into unemployment insurance and lost their jobs, unemployment benefits are handy for all of us, because they are very, very stimulative. They are very good for the economy as a whole. Aid to the unemployed is the single most effective policy that the nonpartisan CBO studied.
Of the 11 different policies they evaluated, the single most effective one for creating jobs: unemployment benefits. The single least effective one for creating jobs was, oh, reducing income taxes. Yes. So, again, to be clear, most effective, best thing for the economy: unemployment benefits. Least effective in terms of what‘s good for the economy: reducing income taxes.
This is multiple choice and you get the answers. Not from some schmuck on cable TV, but from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that office that studies this stuff. If you care about jobs, their study makes the answers easy—most effective thing for creating jobs: unemployment benefits. Least effective thing for creating jobs: cutting the income tax.
The Democratically-controlled Congress that we still have is now faced with the not at all very hard decision about whether they should do something that will work, or whether they should do something that will not really work. That‘s a hard one.
Of course, the Republican position on this is clear and has been for the long time. The newest Republican senator is Mark Kirk of Illinois. He was sworn in today because he won a special election in his state. Senator Kirk on MSNBC this morning stated that he wants to do the least effective thing—reducing the income tax for rich people. He wants to do that no matter what the cost is. No matter what the effect is on the deficit.
Senator Kirk says he will spend anything in order to do that least effective thing. But the thing that will work, the most effective thing: extending unemployment benefits—he‘s not so sure about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK KIRK ®, ILLINOIS: Well, I want to make sure that we extend the tax cuts no matter what.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Do you agree that it is important to extend unemployment benefits especially as we go into the holiday season?
KIRK: Yes, as long as they are paid for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: With a condition, as long as they‘re paid for. The tax cuts, no need to pay for those. Those are a super high priority, since they will only have a very small effect, if any, on jobs. The thing that will bring up the jobs numbers, that‘s not a priority, that‘s a maybe, that depends.
That combination of ideas does not make any sense if your goal is jobs, if your goal is to reduce the unemployment rate and to get the economy growing again. It‘s incoherent. That math does not work, as they say.
But that combination of ideas does make a lot of sense, and it is a really good policy combination if you‘re not aiming at doing something about this and instead, you‘re aiming at something else.
Here‘s what happens—here‘s what‘s happened in America in terms of who we are as Americans and what divides us, here‘s what‘s happened roughly over the course of my lifetime. What you‘re looking at right here is the richest 10 percent of Americans, OK?
This is the share of America‘s wealth held by the richest 10 percent of Americans, between 1952 and 1982. I was born in like ‘73, right? So, at that point, it was a pretty stable figure. Between ‘52 and ‘82, the number remained pretty steady. As you can see, the richest 10 percent of Americans had about a third of the wealth in this country.
Then watch what happened—the richest 10 percent of Americans got richer and then richer and then ever richer, to the point where in 2007, they held about one half of all the wealth in this country. The George W. Bush years were boom times for the richest Americans.
In the first five years after the Bush tax cuts passed, which mostly benefited rich people—here‘s what happened to the richest 1 percent of Americans. Their average incomes rose every single year. The richest 1 percent of Americans saw their income go up an average of more than 10 percent each year between 2002 and 2007.
You want to know what happened to the median income of the rest of the country during that same time period? Watch this—stayed flat.
As the richest Americans got way, way richer, everybody else saw their income stay the same.
You want to know what happened to the poverty situation in America during those years? Yes, surprise. Not. The number of people in poverty ticked up and up and up during that time as well.
So, now, we‘ve got this big problem, right? Actually, we‘ve got two giant problems.
Number one: what to do about my friend here? What to do about my friend, 9.6 percent unemployment? That‘s one problem.
The other problem is what kind of country do we want to be? This is where we went in the Bush era. The richest people in the country did better than they have ever done. And not just my lifetime, not just your lifetime, but many lifetimes.
Since we were a country that would be largely unrecognizable to us as the United States of America, what Congress now has to decide is this: do we as a country take on $700 billion extra of debt so that people making more than a quarter million dollars a year can get a little something extra? That would be the thing that is least effective for the economy as a whole. Or do we do the thing that‘s rated the most effective thing for the economy as a whole? Everybody take a hit to help out the richest people in the country a little more than they‘ve already been helped out? Or help out the whole economy for the whole country?
Everybody is very clear on what the Republican position is on this. But right now, for a few more weeks, it is the Democrats who are still in charge in Washington. What‘s their position on this?
Joining us now is Sam Stein, political reporter at “The Huffington Post,” who got a scoop on this today.
Sam, thanks very much for your time.
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks, Rachel. I wish your producers would have told me it‘s OK to bring my cardboard numbers with me. I had no idea that it was that episode.
MADDOW: What‘s your number?
STEIN: I have the same number, it was ironic, I guess.
Sam, I know you had some fresh reporting on this issue today, what‘s going to happen with these tax cuts. What does it look like the Democrats in Congress are going to try to do here?
STEIN: Well, it looks like they‘re going to try to make somewhat of a dramatic stand, where they hold the vote strictly on extending the current rates for the middle class, those families that make $250,000 or less a year. In all likelihood, even with the majorities that they currently enjoy, that‘s not going to pass the Senate, strictly because you have some conservative Democrats who won‘t go along with it, and you have a united Republican opposition to it. But they‘re going to hold the vote anyway.
After that, you have what they told to me is going to be sort of a grab bag of policy compromises, what can you get in exchange for allowing the temporary extension for the rates for the wealthy? And one of the things that they‘re talking about in serious is extending unemployment benefits for a full year. We‘re not at the detailed section yet, whether it will be paid for or not paid for. But the logic is, you don‘t give up the House and not get anything in return. And so, they‘re looking for things to get in return.
MADDOW: I know that the Democratic calculation here is not only to try to get something in exchange for what it is that they‘re willing to give up, but it‘s also that Republicans should pay a political price for voting in favor of something—
MADDOW: -- that‘s only going to benefit the rich, and against unemployed people. Are you able to see any Democratic plan to make Republicans pay that political price?
STEIN: Well, that‘s the idea behind holding that first symbolic vote, which is essentially what this administration had started out wanting, what the majority of the Democrats do still want, which is just to extend the rates for those making under $250,000 or less. Whether or they can they actually extract the political price is largely dependent upon the political operations at the White House and among Democrats in Congress.
Can they make the Republicans seem sort of out of touch with middle class America? Can they make them cringe for actually voting against a long-term middle class tax relief? I don‘t have much confidence in their ability to do so, because they‘ve had similar votes like this in the past, and there‘s never been a political price the Republicans have paid.
MADDOW: Sam, how does the president‘s announcement today about a federal pay freeze play into the politics here.
STEIN: Well, it just adds to the terrible optics, what essentially he‘s asking is for federal employees, including doctors at the V.A., nurses, people who manage the federal parks, he‘s asking them to keep the income levels at the current rates for two years. At the same time, Congress is likely going to turn around in a matter of weeks and say all those families that are making $250,000 or more are going to have their taxes extended for however long, maybe two years, maybe more, maybe one year.
The optics are terrible, especially going into the holiday season, and with the real likelihood that the Senate tomorrow will fail to pass unemployment insurance for the next year. Keep in mind, the Labor Department has estimated that 2 million people might lose their unemployment insurance in December alone if those claims are not passed in the next week. That‘s a horrendous amount of people who, going into the Christmas break, who simply won‘t have any money to spend on the holiday season.
MADDOW: Sam, in the big picture here, in terms of the way that the two parties are squaring off.
MADDOW: Obviously, the Democrats want unemployment benefits extended. Obviously, the Republicans want tax cuts for the rich people—those are the two big positions.
But in terms of the trading here, to what extent do Republicans actually seem set to trade anything away? I mean, Democrats keep going back with concession after concession after concession. Are they actually going to get anything?
STEIN: Well, that‘s a great question to pose to the Obama White House, which today seemed to give in on the notion that you should freeze federal pay. This has long been a Republican talking point. It‘s more a budgetary gimmick than anything else. No one seriously thinks it will actually solve the deficit crisis. Not only that, it‘s anti-stimulative. If you give people money, they tend to spend it. As opposed to giving rich people money, who tend to save it.
What they got in return for doing this—no one knows. In fact, they said they didn‘t get anything in return. They wanted to make an honest decision about reducing federal deficit. It will save, I think, $50 billion over the course of 10 years.
But again, where was the negotiation here? What did—what they did extract for Republicans on return? Was there anything on unemployment insurance? It doesn‘t seem like it.
MADDOW: Unbelievable. Sam Stein, political reporter at “Huffington Post”—thank you for your reporting. Thanks for your time tonight, Sam.
STEIN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Also, thank you for complimenting me on my giant number.
MADDOW: Yes, that‘s very nice. And it works both ways. It‘d just mean something different.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. Still ahead: newly-elected Republicans are claiming a mandate for change, so say newly-elected Republicans, of course. Howard Dean will join us to talk about that.
Plus, the latest from the congressman who just compared himself to General Patton. Next stop, Berlin.
That‘s all coming up. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: What do Republicans get for their unrelenting lockstep opposition to everything proposed by President Obama? They get everything they want. The president‘s generosity problem highlighted by Sam Stein. More ahead on that later to come.
MADDOW: After President Obama was inaugurated, he started hosting bipartisan White House cocktail parties. Remember that? He was so obsessed with trying to figure out what they were serving in terms of cocktails at the cocktail parties, I never figured it out.
I never even got close, because before I could get any inroads, before I could really effectively work my Washington, D.C. liquor provider sources, and I do have, the cocktail parties just sort of tailed off without the announcement they were going away. I think the original idea was that these parties could be the sort of social human side, semi-nonofficial component of this White House‘s effort to find Republican friends, to pursue things in Washington in a bipartisan way.
We haven‘t heard about one of those cocktail parties in a long time now, and I don‘t think it‘s because they‘re still happening, but they‘re keeping them secret. I‘m telling you, my liquor sources are really good sources.
But there is due to be another bipartisan confab tomorrow in Washington, presumably minus the tequila. The president is hosting congressional leadership from both parties tomorrow to talk about whatever it is these guys talk about when they get together.
The Beltway narrative about this meeting is all about the emboldened Republicans and the chastened Democrats. After the election, the Republicans are in the cat bird seat in D.C., that‘s how the Beltway press is selling it.
Here‘s my question, though, this is a year when foreign policy has not been the subject of big political fights, even the giant WikiLeaks story this weekend and today is, thus far, not really translating into partisan political fighting in Washington. Although Sarah Palin is doing her best.
Politics right now, to the extent that it‘s about policy at all and not just about personality and name-calling and reality TV, when it comes to things that people are substantively disagreeing about in politics right now, it‘s about domestic issues. It‘s the Bush tax cuts, it‘s health reform, it‘s “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” These are the big headline policy issues right now.
And on all of these issues, it is an empirical matter, it is a factual matter to note that the Republican position is the opposite of what the public says it wants.
On the Bush tax cuts, the polling right now and fairly consistent overtime is against the Republican position—a majority of Americans say, sure, extend the Bush tax cuts but not for income over a quarter million a year, we can‘t afford it.
On health reform, the polling right now is against the polling right now is against the Republican position that health reform should be repealed. A majority of Americans say either keep health reform as it is or expand it.
On “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” the polling has consistently, for years now, been against the Republican position and in favor of gay people serving openly in the military.
Now, I understand the Beltway inclination right now is to cede to Republicans every possible advantage, to give them the momentum in politics right now. But think about this in human terms: who would you rather be in a negotiation? Which party would you rather be, the one where on every big issue on the table, you are against what the people say they want? Or would you rather be the one where you and the public are on the same side against the other guys?
Joining us now is former Vermont governor and Democratic Party, Howard Dean.
Governor Dean, thank you for coming in.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, don‘t poll numbers affect the leverage that the two parties bring to the negotiating table at a time like this?
DEAN: They do. But the problem in Washington is everybody seems to have lost sight of what‘s right. What‘s right is we have a huge problem with the deficit. Any Republican who says they want to extend the Bush tax cuts, all of them, without paying for it, is not serious about the deficit. They ran on the deficit. Apparently, that was the one big fib.
Any Democrat who says they want to extend the Bush tax cuts without paying for them is not serious about the deficit. So, there‘s a lot of chicanery and political nonsense going on in Washington on both sides. I think we need actually to call people into account, be for what not just what the people want, be for what‘s right for the country, dealing with the deficit is right for the country.
MADDOW: That is something that people have been getting away with in politics for decades now. I mean, the Republican Party‘s reputation is one of fiscal conservativism. And when you look at the function—fiscal function of the government under Democratic leaders versus Republican leaders, Democrats do much better as fiscal conservatives but the reputation doesn‘t follow them.
DEAN: I agree. I‘d like to see the Tea Party—how serious the Tea Party is as a political movement if they want to extend the Bush tax cut cuts to the people who make $1 million a year without paying for them, and they‘re not serious movement anymore. They‘re just a bunch of angry populists. Let‘s get serious. We‘ve had this election where Republicans won a lot of seats. Now, let‘s see who wants to do what for the country.
If the principle or objective of the Republicans is to make President Obama is a one-term president, they‘re not serving their country. And I think that was the message to the Tea Party to the Republicans is: we ain‘t hiring you either, we‘re just firing the other guy, now get to work.
And I‘d like to see the Republicans get to work and do something right for this country for a change.
MADDOW: What‘s the political strategy, though, toward getting that done? You can‘t force people to actually do math. You can‘t force people to unlearn everything they‘ve been told about what is the truth about the two different political parties—
DEAN: The only person that can do that and that‘s President Obama. President Obama has the bully pulpit. He is, by far, the biggest megaphone in America. He has to stand up and ask the question: do you want to give people who make $1 million a year tax cuts without paying for them and make the deficit worse? And do you want to take money away from people who have unemployment benefits in order to pay for people who make more than $1 million a year.
That‘s the very question you were asking earlier. If that‘s what you want to do, this is not the country I thought it was.
MADDOW: But when Republican—the Republican rejoinder to that is, here, I‘ve got a shorter way of saying it: tax cuts, good!
DEAN: But the American people know—
MADDOW: That‘s it.
DEAN: But the American people know that‘s not true. Look, they threw out Bush because Bush had a tax cut that wasn‘t paid for, two wars that weren‘t paid for and a medical benefit that wasn‘t paid for. People are tired of that.
You know—you want to know why people think Chris Christie is a good governor? I don‘t agree with him on a lot of his stuff. But he promised tax cuts and then he paid for them by cutting stuff. And I don‘t approve of what he cut, but if you‘re going to have tax cuts, you‘re going to have to cut something.
Now, let‘s make—let‘s see what the Republicans have for the cut. We‘re done here with the games. We need a strong White House that‘s going to stand up and tell the truth. And we need to stick it to the Republicans if they don‘t tell the truth.
MADDOW: A lot of these fights right now are happening among Republicans. One of the things we‘re going to talk about later on the show is some of the campaigning by Republicans for committee chairmanships. Obviously, John Boehner is the speaker, there was no contest there, but there is some fighting among Republicans about who gets to be in charge of the various committees.
Joe Barton is one of these guys who want to be in charge of one of the House committees under the Republicans. He‘s campaigning—overtly campaigning. He sent out his PowerPoint presentation saying I am a fiscal conservative. A guy who voted for both Bush tax cuts that weren‘t paid for and Medicare Part D which wasn‘t paid for—
MADDOW: -- which was disastrous for the deficit.
DEAN: But, look, we know the Republicans aren‘t fiscally conservative. Most American people don‘t believe they‘re fiscally conservative. Look at Bush‘s record.
DEAN: He ran up a huge deficit by not paying for things. They‘re not paying the bills.
MADDOW: And now, in 2010, even after that, there are Republicans speaking to other Republican congressmen who know they‘ll get away with it.
DEAN: Because they have the same problem that the White House had in a sense. They‘re locked into Washington speak. They—if Republicans are talking like that, they haven‘t heard the Tea Party yet. I think the Tea Party is serious about real fiscal conservatives, and I think those people know that you can‘t get a tax cut for nothing. You got to cut something in order to give a tax cut.
And I don‘t think most of the Tea Party people want their Medicare and Social Security cut in order to give people who make over $1 million a tax cut.
MADDOW: Do you think that they are powerful enough and that they are serious enough about that message that we could see things on the chopping block that are usually protected? Things like defense?
DEAN: I think you could, if everybody‘s willing to give something. If we were to raise taxes on the people who could well afford it, which is people who make over a quarter of million dollars a year, if we were then to look at cutting defense and cutting Social Security growth and cutting Medicare growth in a serious way, then you have the formula for dealing with the deficit. But if you leave one of those things out, none of this is going to work and everybody better get that message.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the politics of this right now. Obviously, the 50-state strategy under your leadership, as Democratic Party chairman, brought huge, huge victories for Democrats in congressional elections. But a lot of those Democrats who were elected were more conservative Democrats who are among those who are peeling off on issues like the Bush tax cuts, peeled off on issues like health reform.
What do you think about the overall political benefit to the Democratic Party of having made the tent big enough for a lot of those conservatives?
DEAN: I think we have to understand that the House did their job, the House passed the stuff that had to be passed and Nancy Pelosi, I think, is a terrific speaker. She may not be popular, and the Republican may have savaged her, but she did the job that big time speakers do, which is to get complicated legislation through the House.
The Senate was a different matter. The Senate was the obstacle, and largely because Republicans decided that they wanted to try to take out Obama rather than do anything that might be good for the country. The START Treaty is a perfect example of that.
And for us not to sign the treaty with the Russians limiting nuclear weapons on both sides and getting our inspectors back for the first time is ludicrous, it‘s just politics. I think it‘s frankly disgusting what the Republicans are doing, throwing us over—throwing our national interests over.
MADDOW: But they‘re on the record about that. I mean, Mitch McConnell not only said it on the record, he reiterated it in front of a bank of microphones, that he wants the president to be a one-term president and that‘s the first priority of Republicans.
DEAN: Right. What we need is strength. What we need to do is here, Rachel, is be strong. Bill Clinton, who I still think is the best political mind in America, once said people will always vote for someone who‘s strong and wrong, i.e., the Republicans, rather than someone who‘s weak and right, and if we can show some strength.
People see what Mitch McConnell is about. They know Mitch McConnell doesn‘t give a damn about unemployed people, he only cares about getting rid of Barack Obama. They know that Mitch McConnell doesn‘t give a damn about the START treaty and the better relationships with Russia. They only care about getting rid of Barack Obama.
That‘s not—they know that‘s not going to serve them well. But we have to be strong. We have to stand up for some principles once in a while. Once we start standing up for our principles, believe me, we‘re going to start winning elections again.
MADDOW: But isn‘t the Democratic strength, at least among the elected, is about unity? And right now, there isn‘t a single Democratic position on what to do about the tax cuts? We‘ve got the House planning on voting about not extending the tax cuts beyond $250,000. Chuck Schumer‘s out there saying, no, no, let‘s make it $1 million. The House hasn‘t even voted on that yet.
There isn‘t even Democratic unity among Democrats who are considered to be mainstream elected Democrats.
DEAN: I think the Democrats are going to start to get their act together. That‘s how—you know, the Republicans are really good in opposition, because they make things up and they‘re great propaganda artists. They‘re terrible at governing because they don‘t care what the facts are.
We don‘t mind having six different positions. But it‘s terrible for messaging. And somebody better get to work in Washington and start messaging, because if we don‘t, we‘re going to have an even smaller—we‘re going to have minorities in both the House and Senate, and we may not have the presidency after 2012.
MADDOW: Does the president—is the president the one who leads the messaging?
DEAN: He has to. The president always leads the message. When you have a president, the president is always the leader of the party. They have both a responsibility and ability to lead with the message. And we‘ve got to get a message from the White House, and it has to be a consistent tough message that he‘s got to make the Democrats fall in line.
MADDOW: Governor Howard Dean, former Vermont governor, former Democratic Party chairman—it‘s always really nice to have you here, Governor. Thanks a lot. Nice to see you.
DEAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: In the mind of the man who wants to be the next head of the energy committee in the House, he himself is General Patton. You‘ll never believe who he thinks is Eisenhower. That‘s coming up next.
MADDOW: We got a train while I was away. I knew it would happen. It was promised to me and I knew it. So exciting.
All right. Debunktion junction, what‘s my function? Back from vacation, not only do we have a new train, there‘s a ton of debunkery to get to from myriad parts of the newspaper.
First, true or false? Ready? True or false - a worm crawled into nuclear centrifuges in Iran and made them spin out of control. Is that true or is that false? True. It‘s true if a little figurative.
What we‘re talking about here is a computer worm, not a worm that you would find, say, on the end of a fish hook or in your garden. Back in July, a company based in Belarus found the Stuxnet - S-T-U-X-N-E-T - Stuxnet computer worm on machines that belonged to one of its clients.
Now, the worm appeared to be specifically designed to target a nuclear plant in Iran. Within the nuclear plant, it appeared to be specifically designed to attack the plant‘s centrifuges, the centrifuges that enrich uranium by spinning the element at high speed.
Now, this computer worm was designed to infect the software controlling the centrifuges, to cause them spin out of control. They would randomly speed up and slowdown, totally throwing a wrench in the works, right?
Before today, this was a rumored attack, an alleged attack on Iran‘s nuclear program. But today - for the first time after denying it before, today, Iran confirmed the worm. Iran confirmed today, yes, the Stuxnet worm did get into their centrifuges.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad telling reporters a little vaguely that Iran‘s enemies had created problems for a, quote, “limited number of our centrifuges,” and that, quote, “They will not be able to do it again.” So rumors about a computer worm spinning Iran‘s nuclear centrifuges out of control - we are calling that one true. Strange, definitely, but true.
Next one, true or false? Senator Jon Kyl is totally against earmarks. Sen. Kyl thinks earmarks are bad and Congress should not be in the business of designating specific funding to be sent back to senators and congressmen‘s home districts.
Jon Kyl is against earmarks - is that true or false? False, or if we could flip the Debunktion Junction sign around fast enough, it would be false and then true and then false again.
Since Congress began - are there more? Oh, that‘s it? Thank you. Since Congress began tracking earmarks two years ago, Jon Kyl personally secured nearly $11 million in earmarks for his home state. Whoo!
Then he joined the Republican Senate ban on earmarks this month, so no more earmarks for him. But then, after that, last week Jon Kyl brought home another $200 million to settle a water rights claim dispute in Arizona, federal money earmarked specifically for a home state pet issue, important to the senator‘s constituents at the senator‘s request.
So if you ask Jon Kyl if he‘s against earmarks, surely he will say that‘s true. But if instead of just listening to what he says, you look at what he does, he proves that that‘s false.
Story number three - true or false? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is not running for president. This should be an easy one. After all, the guy is totally on the record about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON”: The big rumor that everyone‘s been talking about is that you might run for president?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Yes, I mean -
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): No chance.
FALLON: No chance?
CHRISTIE: No chance.
FALLON: At all?
CHRISTIE: No, because -
FALLON: You could change your mind.
CHRISTIE: I guess I could and people are happy about that.
Hopefully, they‘re from New Jersey. Here‘s the thing - why would I want a
less powerful job than the one I have now. To be governor of New Jersey
is, you know -
FALLON: Pretty powerful guy?
CHRISTIE: That‘s it. It‘s great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK, Chris Christie says definitely no chance, no chance. Mr. Fallon says no chance. No chance. Chris Christie, New Jersey governor, no chance, not running for president. Is that true or false?
I said, is that true or false? No buzzer, no ding, ding, ding. That is because unlike any technical fault you might have expected, this actually is unknowable. The New Jersey governor says emphatically he‘s not running for president.
But the current “New York Magazine” profile of Gov. Christie notes that at almost all his public appearances as governor, Chris Christie is tracked by a staffer whose job it is to capture on film what his staff calls “Chris Christie moments.” They literally call them moments.
Quote, “When one occurs, Christie‘s press shop splices the video and uploads it to YouTube. From there, conservatives throughout the country share Christie clips the way tween girls circulate Justin Bieber videos.”
Chris Christie moments - they call them moments - captured by staffers and circulated to national conservatives for their favorites library on YouTube, which makes it kind of hard to take on face value Chris Christie saying he doesn‘t have his eye on some other, say, national office.
At this moment, we here at Debunktion Junction cannot yet consider this “I‘m not running” thing. We cannot yet consider this claim to be debunked. But if you check back with me in about five minutes, we might have a new answer for you. Five minutes, five moments - whatever.
MADDOW: May I have the first slide, please? I think we‘re going to have to dim the lights for this. First slide? OK. First slide - Joe Barton for chairman, Energy and Commerce Committee.
The Republicans were very clear that John Boehner was going to be Speaker of the House when they won the majority in the House in this November‘s elections. But Republicans are having a doozy of a fight over who gets to be powerful within the House, who gets to run the committees now that their party is in control.
The guys who are - and I do mean guys - who are fighting to become chairman of a couple of these committees - the Appropriations Committee and the Energy Committee - they‘re doing these presentations this week to the Republican Steering Committee, doing presentations today and tomorrow, making their case for why they ought to be in charge of these powerful committees.
Can we have the second slide here, please? You can tell from their presentations that the Republican Party is going through the same internal fights that it did, leading up to the last elections.
Republican incumbents are still worried that somebody more conservative is going to come along and replace them. They‘re still worried about their right flank.
So here‘s Joe Barton, former oil company executive, who has been the ranking member on the Energy Committee for four years. He is only known nationally for apologizing to BP after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But he‘s now feeling compelled to boast about just how right wing he is to his fellow Republicans.
Here he is in this slide bragging about his American Conservative Union lifetime rating. Right under that, he brags that he led the Republican resistance to health care reform, which, of course, passed the House.
Also, he led the GOP fight against cap and trade, which also passed the House. You know, the important thing, making the case for yourself in this way, is to stay away from the little inconvenient details that mess up a narrative, like bragging about the thing you fought hard to defeat wasn‘t actually defeated, that you were, in effect, the captain of the losing team.
What you want to get into is not all those little details that complicate the narrative. You just want to get into the broad strokes.
Here‘s where this gets beautiful. Can we have the next slide, please? This is what Joe Barton boils his case down to. I did not make this up as a joke about Joe Barton. This is Joe Barton making his own case.
He says Speaker Boehner is Dwight Eisenhower. Eric Cantor is Gen. Omar Bradley, one of America‘s finest commanders in World War II. And Joe Barton, quote, “I want to be Gen. Patton. Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it.”
That‘s his case. That‘s his case. If that‘s Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and Gen. Patton, who is their opponent?
Yes, the Obama administration would be Nazi Germany. And these three Republicans, none of whom served in the military, are the U.S. Military generals leading the charge against those Nazis.
And there‘s the big issue. Can we bring the lights up, please? When Democrats talk about Republicans - light? Thank you. When Democrats talk about Republicans in Washington now, they‘re still talking about the prospect of working together, of compromise, of Republicans taking some responsibility for governing.
That‘s what Democrats talk about when they talk about Republicans in Washington. But when Republicans in Washington talk amongst themselves, President Obama is Adolf Hitler. Kumbaya, right?
MADDOW: On “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell tonight, Lawrence speaks with Fmr. President Jimmy Carter on the Wikileaks document dump and more.
Also, here on this show, there‘s more important news about all female bodyguards in blue camouflage and the art of tremendously bad negotiation. Separate stories still to come. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: A couple years ago, the National Security Archive, which sounds like part of the government, but isn‘t - it‘s part of George Washington University. The National Security Archive released a grand little guide about how to read State Department cables.
It‘s like a secret decoder ring for all this all-caps abbreviation, jargon-y stuff that you get in State Department documents, like, for example, the 750,000 State Department documents just leaked by Wikileaks.
If you‘ve heard anything about the Wikileaks thing, you may have heard about the voluptuous blonde Ukrainian nurse who goes everywhere with Libyan leader Muammar Khadafi, right?
Well, this is the document that it comes from - its American embassy in Tripoli. It‘s the American embassy in the capital of Libya. It goes to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. It is effective immediately.
It then gets copied to all these other places, the Arab League collective, the European political collective, U.S. mission at the U.N. in New York, for the National Security Council to CIA to Africom, the Pentagon‘s Africa Command, which is inexplicably headquartered in Stuttgart Germany, also back the embassy where it came from.
It is cool to learn how to read all these abbreviations because they‘re written in a way that makes you feel cool to be able to read them. But the real drama here, at least for those of us at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, is not so much that, oh, my god, we‘ve got this secret no-foreign-eyes cable from the American Embassy in Tripoli or that it mentions the voluptuous Ukrainian blonde nurse.
The bombshell here, as it were, is about Muammar Kadhafi‘s, and I quote, “legendary female guard force.” If you‘re a fan of this show, you may notice that we report on this a lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera) Col. Khadafi also, of course, brought along his entourage of 40 women bodyguards - 40 of them, all women. And if we could linger on this thing with the bodyguards for just a moment, they are not for show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
That was from this past summer. We now know as of last fall and just a year before that, the State Department thought the almost all female guard force was on its way out.
And I quote from this cable, “Khadafi‘s recent travel may also suggest a diminished dependence on his legendary female guard force as only one woman bodyguard accompanied him to New York.”
And then, same cable, secret no foreign eyes, quote, “Observers in Tripoli speculate the female guard force is beginning to play a diminished role among the leader‘s personal security staff. Only one female guard is included among the approximately 350-person strong Libyan delegation to New York.”
Now, why is this secret information? I have no idea, but it also turned out to be totally misleading because he brought 40 of those female bodyguards with him next year to Rome.
Now, while THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff interest in Khadafi‘s all-female bad ass bodyguard troop is purely prurient, which is as hard to admit as it is to say, this does point out a larger issue, maybe the larger issue evident out of this giant document.
Now, this is 250,000 diplomatic cables that have been leaked, and it is true that there will be some diplomatic consequences from the leak.
But most of the consequences so far seem to be embarrassment over things like name-calling and gossip, and like this one, right, openly-sourced items readily knowable by anybody who reads newspaper or who watches geeky cable news shows with dodgy judgment on what foreign policy issues are important.
But all of this stuff is classified. All of this stuff is secret. All of it goes through an incredibly elaborate expensive process of classification, sending up your secure communications, keeping it classified for years.
I mean, as intelligence goes, this is pretty tame stuff. But it is timidity that comes at great cost. Secrecy comes at great cost. It is an expensive thing to do, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of trust.
Every time Wikileaks does a document dump, everybody is expecting bombshell secrets. Maybe the bombshell is there‘s way too much stuff that‘s being called secret.
Since the start of the Obama administration, Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football has been the go-to metaphor for liberals trying to explain what happens when the White House tries to negotiate with Republicans.
The Republicans, of course, are Lucy, kindly holding the football. And every time Charlie Brown thinks he‘s got to deal with Lucy or Obama thinks he‘s got a deal with Congressional Republicans, everybody‘s going to work together, Lucy is going to hold that football. She‘s going to hold it steady.
And then, just as Charlie Brown is about to kick it, she pulls it away. And Charlie Brown never learns. Lucy always pulls it down at the last moment causing Charlie Brown to kick at nothing and fall down over and over and over again.
Why won‘t Charlie Brown learn, and why does President Obama keep trying to negotiate with Republicans when the Republicans always disappoint him? That has been the central cartoon-based metaphor around which liberals have understood the predictable the pitfalls and faults of bipartisanship in the Obama era.
I have a suggested refinement to the metaphor and it involves removing Lucy from the equation. I know this is bad in terms of gender parody in our metaphors, but the fact Republicans don‘t want to help out on policy is no longer surprising, totally predicable and therefore maybe not that politically important.
The important political decisions right now are not anything having to do with Republicans. It‘s whether or not Democrats can figure out a way to succeed without them. Republicans are not going to help. That‘s settled. That‘s done. Stick a fork in it, et cetera.
What are Democrats going to do about it? If today‘s presidential announcement about a federal employee salary freeze has anything to do with it, apparently, the Democratic game plan is to pull the ball away from themselves whenever they try to kick it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Today, I‘m proposing a two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal workers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, if you‘re trying to negotiate policy with someone, it is always a good idea to have in mind what you are willing to give up, what your concessions will be during the negotiation.
But this White House consistently gives up its concessions at the start before getting anything in return. They did this on health reform. The president on record saying he supported a single-payer system, saying he thought that would be the best thing for the country.
He then immediately conceded that and took it off the table. Rather than start from that position and give it up in exchange for something else for the other side moving some distance closer to you, single payer was off the table from the beginning.
On the stimulus, the administration knew that tax cuts were the least stimulative thing the government could spend its money on. Knowing that, they conceded at the outset to devote just under 40 percent of the stimulus bill to tax cuts even before getting any concessions from the other side in return.
On cap and trade, they put concessions on the table right from the start. They would increase the number of nuclear power plants. They would allow a big expansion of offshore drilling, both of which would be awesome things to trade away for votes from the other side.
But they gave them away for no votes. What did they get in exchange for giving Republicans something they dearly wanted? Goose egg. Precisely nothing. They offered their concession without getting anything in return.
We saw that same strategy today, with the pay freeze for federal employees. This is something public sector workers and people concerned that the public sector remains an attractive option for the best talent in the country - this is something they worry about.
It‘s sort of a thumb in the eye for the Democratic base. What do they get in return for that? Is that distant polite applause from Republicans? No. No. Actually, it‘s nothing. Bupkis. Crickets. They don‘t even get polite applause.
It may make sense in negotiations to know what you are willing to trade away. It may make sense to have in mind at the outset of negotiations what your concessions will be when it gets to the point of negotiation where you have to trade away something.
It may make sense to have those things in mind from the outside, though. What will you trade away for? The key word, though - the key idea is trade. You should get something back when you give up something that is of value to you, or else it‘s not so much trading as it is getting pooched over and over and over again.
That does it for us tonight. There‘s lots to add to what you see on the show. We‘re very proud of our excellent blog at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” Our E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our free podcast is at iTunes.
Now, it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.” Hi, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE LAST WORD”: Rachel, it is so great to be back after my mini-Thanksgiving vacation.
O‘DONNELL: Does that sound convincing at all?
MADDOW: No, not at all.
O‘DONNELL: Oh, OK. OK. Thanks, Rachel.
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