Guests: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Clifford Alexander
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure and honor to introduce Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Chris, did you say big-ass at one point in the last hour?
HAYES: You know, it was on the prompter, so I thought someone had vetted it for standards. That was not an ad lib for the record.
MADDOW: I have to say in the make-up room, while we were all listening to you talk about Noah‘s Ark, when you said “big-ass” the room erupted in cheers. Well done, my friend. Good to see you.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us.
Today was one of those big days in politics where everybody lit their hair on fire over something that happens every single day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: FOX News getting an exclusive look at a letter signed by GOP senators pledging to block the Democratic initiatives until the Senate acts to stop tax hikes.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: They have delivered a letter to the Democratic leadership that says all 42 Republicans are, in effect, prepared to filibuster anything that would be put before those two measures.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They‘re going to block any other legislation, any other legislation from coming up for vote during this lame duck session.
JOHN KING, CNN: No DREAM Act, no “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” no anything else, Senate Republicans say, until they try to negotiate an agreement on tax cuts.
TONY HARRIS, CNN: They bound to prevent a vote on any legislative item until the tax issue is resolved.
DANA BASH, CNN: This letter is saying that they‘re going to hold up everything on the Senate floor.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: OK. I just—that is not news. Holding up everything on the Senate floor is news? Are you kidding me?
They‘ve been holding up everything on the Senate floor for four years now. It would be news if they didn‘t. But today, it inexplicably became news like it had never happened before. This was amazing.
Today, it became the subject of all this hair-on-fire reporting because of a three-page letter—a three-page letter signed by all 42 Senate Republicans delivered to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The letter saying, if we don‘t get our way on tax cuts for income over $250,000 a year, we will filibuster everything in the Senate. In the original legalese from the document, quote, “We will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item.”
Forgive me, but Republicans have not greed to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed on any legislative item in four years, since 2007. This is not new, and this is not news.
Republicans filibustered the stimulus bill. They filibustered all the different parts of the health reform bill. They filibustered Wall Street reform. They filibustered stuff that they have agreed with.
They have filibustered that food safety bill we talked about on yesterday‘s show. They‘re so used to filibustering stuff that they filibustered that one before 15 of them voted for it anyway.
They filibuster bills they agree with now. They filibuster bills they disagree. They filibuster all regular business of the Senate.
If there was a resolution tomorrow morning to say “Good morning, Mitch McConnell, it‘s nice to see you,” they would filibuster that.
Over the last four years, since they have been in the minority, since January of 2007, Republicans have employed a blanket filibuster on everything.
So, their big threat today was: they‘re going to start filibustering stuff. They‘re threatening to blow up something that is already blown up. They are—we‘re already living in the rubble of the thing that they blew up, because they blew it up four years ago. They are threatening to burn down something that is already burned down. They‘re threatening to kick in the teeth of something that has already had all of its teeth kicked out.
This would be like if you now, this year, in 2010, threaten to blow up those giant Buddhas in Afghanistan. Oh, yeah, I remember those giant Buddha statues, those were awesome.
But the Taliban already blew them up. They‘re gone. The only silver lining to the Taliban blowing those up is that nobody can threaten to blow them up anymore because they‘re already gone.
If you‘re the Death Star and you‘ve just blown up Alderaan, you can‘t threaten to blow it up, it‘s blown up. You already did it.
Republicans have already blown up the Senate. Republicans are threatening to start obstructing things now? To not let a majority vote make the decisions anymore in the United States Senate? Are you kidding me? There is nothing left to blow up.
Ordinarily, things don‘t take 60 votes to pass the Senate. Things take 51 votes to pass a simple majority. The reason that we think everything needs 60 votes to pass now is because 60 votes is what it takes to break a filibuster.
And since Republicans filibuster everything, everything takes 60 votes to pass now. So the super majority that is reserved in our Constitution for extra special, extra weighty stuff like ratifying treaties and impeaching people, that super majority threshold is now used for every single “Hi, how are you, let‘s name a post office” piece of anything that has to go through the United States Senate.
Republicans, in the minority of that body, have essentially just made it so. They unilaterally changed the country quite radically so that this is the way that things go, or rather don‘t go through our nation‘s legislature now.
Here‘s the filibuster in the last 10 congresses. Maybe you can see a vague pattern there, right? Ballpark holding steady. That‘s the last 10 congresses. Then, boink—that‘s what happened when the Republicans went into the minority in 2007. We don‘t yet have the numbers for the 111th Congress, but you get the idea.
This is not normal. This is the procedural removal of America‘s capacity to solve its problems through the legislative process. Republicans have been doing this since 2007.
So, why is them threatening to do it some more now getting all sorts of news coverage today? It‘s not a rhetorical question. As best as I can tell, it‘s because Republicans want it to get lots of attention. And so, it‘s getting lots of attention this.
Honestly, this is the emptiest threat possible. They are threatening to do something they have already done and have been doing for four freaking years now. But now—now, they‘ve written a letter—a letter that‘s apparently aimed at trying to gain some sort of leverage over Democrats.
Although you would not necessarily know it by reading the Beltway press, it is actually the Democrats who have the political leverage right now. It‘s the lame duck Congress. Democrats have huge majorities in both houses of Congress and they control the White House. Republicans can‘t pass anything on their own. Democrats have the leverage to be to wringing concessions out of Republicans, not the other way around.
Republicans, despite their very healthy self-esteem and the Beltway press that loves to fluff that, Republicans don‘t actually run the place. They are not in any position to dictate terms. And yet, that is exactly what they‘re trying to do right now, with a big assist from the Beltway media. And that‘s where the big fake empty threat comes in.
The whole fight that D.C. is having right now is over what‘s going to happen to the Bush tax cuts, right? That was the basis for the letter that the Republicans sent today. We will filibuster everything until the tax cuts are dealt with. Even though we already filibuster anything anyway, we melodramatically threaten to filibuster again—until we get what we want for rich people‘s tax cuts.
The thing that Republicans want on the tax cuts should theoretically give Democrats even more leverage over them than they already have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: They are willing to risk everything in order to get a bonus round of tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. They are literally willing to stop everything, risk everything in the economy in order to get an extra tax cut.
We don‘t care if it‘s paid for, doesn‘t matter if it‘s paid for, doesn‘t matter if anything else gets done, doesn‘t matter on national security, we‘re not going to take up the START Treaty, we don‘t care about our relationship with Russia, we don‘t care about national security issues, we want a tax cut for our friends—millionaires, billionaires, adding $700 billion to the debt.
This is not partisanship. This is about common sense and what works. We have had a policy in place that has no worked. So, why would we continue it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan on the Senate floor today. We‘ll be speaking with her in just a moment.
She was there laying out the case against the Republican stance on the Bush tax cuts right now, $700 billion in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires that is not to be paid for. We‘re just going to lard it on to the deficit. That‘s what the Republicans are drawing this line in the sand about.
No tax cuts for the middle class, no nothing, no START Treaty, no funding of the Pentagon, no nothing until the richest Americans get a bonus. Republicans have said they will not blink on that. And Democrats now appear ready to test that resolve.
Tomorrow, House Democrats are reportedly planning to hold a vote just on the Democratic tax plan. The Democratic tax plan is a tax cut for all income up to $250,000 a year, but not a tax cut on income above that. It is a vote to extend the tax cuts to 98 percent of Americans, while letting the tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans expire.
How will Republicans vote on that? Think they‘re going to vote to raise taxes on everyone as punishment for rich people not getting their own special bonus?
Democrats still control both houses of Congress. Republicans can make all of the empty threats they want, but it‘s up to some people in the media to point out when the threats are empty, and it‘s up to Democrats to point out that they have the leverage.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Senator Stabenow, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
STABENOW: Yes. It‘s good to be back.
MADDOW: There are reports tonight that House Democrats will hold a vote tomorrow on the middle tax cuts, letting the tax cuts for income over $250,000 a year expire, effectively calling the Republicans‘ bluff.
Do you expect that the Senate might do the same thing?
STABENOW: I do, Rachel. We have every intention of bringing up that vote, putting folks on the line, having to decide—in fact, it was interesting today on the floor of the Senate, a number of us on the floor throughout the day.
And Senator Schumer actually asked a Republican colleague today on the floor after he objected to extending unemployment benefits if they would be willing to accept extending tax cuts for folks up to $1 million, but not beyond. And he wasn‘t willing to answer that. He was asked that several times.
And so, it‘s very clear what this is about -- $700 billion, not paid for, going on the national debt, a policy as you pointed out in my comments earlier that doesn‘t work, hasn‘t worked. You know, they‘ve had this policy in place of extra tax cuts for 10 years, and I just want to know where are the jobs? We‘ve lost over 800,000 jobs in Michigan. If this had worked, I‘d be on the floor fighting to continue it. But it hasn‘t worked.
MADDOW: President Obama has set up a bipartisan group to try to reach some sort of compromise on this issue. I have been hearing a lot of “no compromise” rhetoric from the other side—
MADDOW: -- from the Republican side over the last few weeks. Do you think that the Republicans will be willing to compromise on this issue? They‘ll be willing to trade away something on this?
STABENOW: I‘ll be very surprised. I mean, obviously, the president is reaching out, that‘s his job to reach out. He has his position, his principles.
He‘s been very clear about supporting continuing tax cuts for 97 percent of the American public. And that‘s been very clear. But he‘s trying to get some discussion going. I appreciate that.
But the bottom line is that we can‘t afford another $700 billion going on the national debt. Imagine, the deficit commission coming out with proposals on Social Security and Medicare. Can you imagine what else they‘ll have to come out with if we add another $700 billion to the national debt?
So, it‘s jobs, the debt, Social Security, Medicare, people who were out of work, holding Medicare—the middle class tax cuts and small business tax cuts hostage. I mean, these guys really will stop everything, risk everything, just to give another average $100,000 tax cut a year for millionaires in this country.
MADDOW: Hearing you make that case here on this show right now—hearing you make that case today on the Senate floor, seeing the visuals, the signs that you put up today and helping them make that case on the Senate floor, it‘s clear that you are trying to not only make your own case, but essentially to make the Republicans answer for what you see is the political payroll in their own position.
You are somebody who is—have a long career in politics, who understands how these things work in nuts and bolts terms. How do you make the other side pay a political price when they‘re taking a stance that‘s against the public polling, that you think is against the national interest, and that really ought to be something that strikes the country as unpopular?
STABENOW: Well, I think—I think it‘s certainly unpopular in Michigan, when folks lay out what the tradeoffs are. And I think we have to be willing to say no to holding middle class tax cuts hostage and help for small businesses.
And by the way, Rachel, we have had 16 different tax cuts that we have passed in the last two years. They have filibustered every single one of them—eight of those just a couple of months ago in the small business jobs bill.
So, we‘re not going to be lectured by folks about small business. I mean, we‘re the ones that are out there fighting for small business as well as the middle class. And in my judgment, we have to be willing to draw a line in the sand and be able to say we‘re not going any farther and be willing to walk away.
If they want to hold the country hostage for $700 billion more in debt with an economic policy that‘s cost us jobs, I think we need to say no.
MADDOW: On that point, do you think the Democrats would be willing to walk away, to say, listen, these can expire, we can deal with it retroactively some other time, but when it comes down to holding tax cuts for the middle class hostage to this deficit-busting $700 billion worth of bonuses for the richest people in the country, we‘re not going to do it? Could Democrats let the tax cuts expire?
STABENOW: Well, I think the majority of us feel that way. And the question is always around the margins in terms of what ultimately happens. But this is a very strong sentiment in our caucus. And people who are very, very concerned, both about the debt in this country, about jobs, and about what‘s happening to middle class families that are seeing their house under water and their own economic situation under water.
And they—the vast majority in our caucus feels very strongly about this.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, helping us make some news here tonight in our coverage of this issue—thanks very much for your time tonight, ma‘am. It‘s nice to see you.
STABENOW: Always good to be with you.
If people are going to filibuster everything, how come when they do it they don‘t have to stand up in front of Congress and read the D.C. phonebook for three days or read cookbooks or, you know, stay out there all night anymore? It‘s a good question. And it turns out that it‘s a good question with what turns out to be a fascinating and unexpected answer.
Stay with us for that.
Also, we made a televangelist adultery confession matrix today at work. Spare that graph paper. Too many interns, you know how these things happen. That‘s coming up, too. And it turns out we‘re very proud of that.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Coming up, the latest televangelist sex scandal. This one includes answers to questions nobody asked. We made a graph of it. Way too much details—ahead.
MADDOW: When we imagine this thing, when we turn this thing over in our minds, this is what we imagine it is like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JAMES STEWART AS JEFFERSON SMITH: You all think I‘m licked. Well, I‘m not licked. And I‘m going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled like lies these and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody will listen to me. Somebody --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Approximately four to six servings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn‘t happening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: C.J.—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell is he doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s a recipe for deep fried fantail shrimp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. But what‘s he still doing up there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s got a recipe book.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long will it go?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today at the Capitol, the media was able to cover the arrival of cots that may be needed. You can see this on your screen right now. Texas Republican Phil Gramm and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell could possibly filibuster the campaign finance bill. That might cause overnight sessions Wednesday and Thursday.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Overnight sessions. We imagine that somebody is going to filibuster something in the Senate, we imagine cots, right? We imagine this is a dramatic thing. We imagine they‘ll be staying up all night.
They‘ll be refusing to yield the floor. They‘ll be reading from anything at hand—phone books, cookbooks, biscuit recipes, like Strom Thurmond did when he filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957. They‘ll do anything to keep talking on the floor, to keep the filibuster going.
We imagine this as a dramatic thing, a cinematic thing—something that takes physical sacrifice to bring the gears of the legislature to a halt, to supplant majority rule and substitute instead your own principled intransigence—a thing not to be undertaken lightly or by the weak of bladder. That‘s what we imagine.
That is not what it is like anymore. Since after the 2006 elections, Republicans have filibustered pretty much everything. And they‘re never up all night and never reading from the phonebook and they‘re never reading from the cookbook and there‘s never awkward bathroom breaks where people are sprinting on and off the floor hoping nobody notices they‘ve left.
There‘s no drama. There‘s no cinematography anymore in conferring filibuster. They just filibuster in a quiet haw, hem paperwork kind of way that nobody notices, but that does bring the gears of the legislature to a halt and supplant majority rule. It‘s just that nobody remarks anymore on why, or who‘s doing it, or whether their radical stance is warranted.
This has led to a lot of liberal frustration in the last couple of years. If Republicans are going to block majority votes, block the Senate from being able to accomplish just about anything, shouldn‘t it at least be uncomfortable for them to do it? Shouldn‘t it be a big deal? Shouldn‘t it require some measure of sacrifice? Shouldn‘t it have at least a small measure of drama?
Why don‘t Democrats make them filibuster the way we imagine filibusters to be? They don‘t do it for a good reason—or at least for a real reason. But it is a real reason that might change.
Joining us now is the Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He‘s author of my favorite congressional memo of at least today and maybe this whole month.
Senator Merkley, thank you very much for your time.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: You‘re welcome. It‘s great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So help me—so help me clear this up. Can the Senate right now actually force a filibustering senator to read the phone book, to stay up all night and actually hold the floor?
MERKLEY: No, they can‘t, and they never could. Folks who stayed up all night did it to dramatize their position, but they weren‘t required to. Once they objected to the regular order of a majority vote, a simple majority of 51, then the responsibility goes to the majority to come up with 60 votes.
And so, they can simply object and go home to dinner and leave the institution suspended for a week, because it takes about a week under the debate rules before you can resolve an objection of this nature. And so, if we‘re going to be there all night on that circumstance, the majority that has to stay and try to dramatize the fact that they‘re objecting to the filibuster, as opposed to the filibustering senator having to stay on the floor.
MADDOW: Wow. OK. Well, you have proposed making what happens in the Senate more like what we imagine when we think of the filibuster. You wrote in this memo “The public believes that filibustering senators have to hold the floor. Indeed, the public perceives the filibuster as an act of principled public courage and sacrifice. Let‘s make it so.”
How would you do that? And why do you think it would be important to do that?
MERKLEY: Well, first of all, it‘s very important for the public to know when someone‘s objecting. If they say, no, a majority vote isn‘t good enough and I‘m objecting and therefore triggering—and a single senator can do it—a super majority, they should have to put themselves on record so the public can respond to that and say, yes, we support you, we think you‘re a hero, or, why are you blocking unemployment insurance? You‘re making life miserable for millions of working Americans who can‘t find a job in this great Bush recession.
And so, they have to be accountable before the public. And the way to make that happen is to require a filibuster petition. That is for the filibustering senators to declare “we object to the regular order of a majority and we insist on continued debate,” and then for them to stay on the floor and to continue speaking on the floor.
And if at any moment no one‘s willing to speak, that ends it and we go to the vote. If at any moment, the required number do not stay on the floor, that ends it and we go to a vote.
The American public will see what‘s happening, they can respond. It‘s transparency, accountability. And that‘s what we need.
MADDOW: If that were to have—if you got enough support among your Democratic colleagues to actually change the rules to this, what would be the sort of threshold that we‘d be looking for? What would it take procedurally to change the rules so that would become the new rules? Would you need some giant number of senators to vote for that? Or could you just do it with the majority?
MERKLEY: It takes a simple majority under the Constitution to change the rules of the Senate. Now, back when Southern Democrats wanted to lock in their opposition to civil rights, they put in a clause in the rules that said the Senate is a continuing body and must abide by the previous rules.
No one believes that that would stand up to a constitutional challenge. You can‘t have a body, years and years ago, lock in the way that the current Congress operates. Under the Constitution, we‘re empowered to write our own rules.
So, we need 51 -- and, by the way, I hope it‘s not partisan. I hope the Republicans say, hey, we‘re going to be in the majority some day—I hope it‘s a long time from now. But we‘re going to be in the majority some day, we want a system that actually enables the Senate to debate and to tackle the problems America faces.
MADDOW: It would also—and I say this as a competitor of theirs—send C-Span ratings through the roof. And as a competitor of theirs, this would be so cool that I would support it anyway.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon—thank you for being willing to walk us through this and thanks for your time, sir.
MERKLEY: You‘re welcome. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: OK. So, it turns out when you make a matrix of televangelists confessing their sins on television—televangelists confessing their sins on television become a lot easier to tell apart. A public service of a very specific kind—still to come.
MADDOW: In 1946, the U.S. Military, like lots of other things in American life was segregated by race. The Defense Department at the time surveyed troops about racial integration of the Armed Forces.
Four out of five white service members responded by saying they absolutely did not want to serve in integrated units with African-Americans. Four out of five said no way. White servicemen did not want to serve with black servicemen. They did not want to work with them. They did not want to live with them. They did not want to train with them period, end of story.
The response from President Truman - he ordered them to do it anyway. In January of 1948, President Harry Truman issued an executive order that said, “We‘re integrating. Like it or not, this is the way it‘s going to be. Get over it.” Why? Because he said so and he was president.
The Pentagon‘s new comprehensive review of a totally different personnel matter, the ban on gay people serving openly in the military, goes into great detail about the precedent of racial integration of the Armed Forces as a personnel matter, and specifically, the resistance to racial integration among white troops at the time.
“Though there are fundamental differences between matters of race, gender, and sexual orientation,” the report says, “we believe the u.s. Military‘s prior experiences with racial and gender integration are relevant.”
“In the late 1940s and early 1950s, our military took on the racial integration of its ranks before the country at large had done so. Our military then was many times larger than it is today, had just returned from World War II, and was in the midst of Cold War tensions and the Korean War.”
“By our assessment, the resistance to change at that time was far more intense. Surveys of the military revealed opposition to racial integration of the services at levels as high as 80 percent to 90 percent.”
“Some of our best-known and most revered military leaders from the World War II era voiced opposition to the integration of blacks into the military, making strikingly similar predictions of the negative impact on unit cohesion.”
“But by 1953, 95 percent of all African-American soldiers were serving in racially-integrated units while public buses in Montgomery, Alabama and other cities were still racially segregated.”
“Today the U.S. Military is probably the most racially diverse and integrated institution in the country - one in which an African-American rose through the ranks to become the senior-most military officer in the country 20 years before Barack Obama was elected president.”
When we return, the interview. The interview tonight is with the nation‘s first African-American Secretary of the Army, Clifford Alexander. You probably do not want to miss this.
MADDOW: Judging by its press coverage so far, you might think that the big military review of the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy that was released this week ahead of tomorrow‘s hearings on the matter, you might think that that report was a survey, a referendum of members of the military about what they think about repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” whether they think the policy ought to be repealed.
It explicitly was not that. The report says explicitly, quote, “It is not the Department of Defense‘s practice to make military policy decisions by a referendum of service members.”
That makes sense. You don‘t do a referendum on people‘s rights in America. That‘s the whole idea of rights. Also you don‘t do a referendum on how the military should be run. That‘s not how the Defense Department does things.
However, one of the more fascinating and surprising things in the Pentagon‘s review is the level of detail the report goes into about the experience, the previous experience, of racially integrating our military, that experience as a precedent for ending “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” not only arguing that civil rights could be granted against much stronger headwinds than today‘s headwinds against gay rights, but arguing that that the granting of those civil rights to members of our military 50, 60 years ago, but that made our military stronger.
Joining us now for the interview is Clifford Alexander, the first African-American man to serve as Secretary of the Army. He is a proponent of repeal the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to the show. Thank you for joining us.
CLIFFORD ALEXANDER, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN SECRETARY OF THE ARMY:
Thank you, Rachel, for having me.
MADDOW: What do you think about the analogy between then and now, between the process of racial integration in the late ‘40s and the ‘50s and repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” today?
ALEXANDER: Well, it is somewhat flawed, but it kind of misses the point of the fact that is saying to gay people that they should lie when they come in the service and stay under cover, and if they don‘t stay under cover, we‘re going to kick you out.
It‘s anti-American, antithetical to any ethical standard. But I also would call with a historical context of 1946 being the beginning.
My wife, Adele Alexander, is a historian. She wrote a book called “Homelands and Waterways” where her great grandfather came from Ireland during the Civil War, joined the Union Navy, a black man, served with white sailors during that time and was severely wounded.
Now, there have been periods where the Navy would not admit any black people. And the Navy has a very different attitude and, frankly, history than the Army does.
When I was Secretary of the Army, for example, I made 30 black people general officers. The Marines, during that entire period of time, had one officer who was general officer who was black.
So it is uneven within the services. It is uneven historically. And the Truman example is an excellent example of something that did take place, but not analogous completely by any stretch of the imagination to the issue of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”
One reason, for example, if a black man or woman decided to join the service and you did it the way that they‘re doing now with gay people, you would say, how in the world are they going to pass? They couldn‘t quite be black and pretend to be white. It doesn‘t quite work that way.
So I think what we have to analyze is, A, the basic inequity of all that we‘re doing, B, the somewhat condescension of studying this issue to death, C, whether in America, in this year of 2010, with the president who supports it, with the service people who support it, with the American public that supports it and any person who is really ethically sound supports it, should say, look, this has now reached the point of absurdity.
Let us go ahead and do what we ought to do in an American society, and let us see to it that, right away, there doesn‘t need to be a heck of a lot of planning. We say in the services that people who are gay serve like people who aren‘t gay.
What I said when I was Secretary of the Army when it related to women in the service and we had some issues there. I said women in the Army are soldiers in the Army. Gay people in the Army are gay people in the Army. They are soldiers. That‘s what they are. That‘s what they do.
They do according to their MOS, their military occupational specialty, what they are assigned to do. Now, again, you know, these senators can get up and pontificate day after day as they often do about, oh, this is going to be that such a problem.
All they are exposing are the biases, nothing else. They‘re not exposing or helping the service by any stretch of the imagination. And if the general officers who come up there to represent the services should state their own point of view, they ought to say from whence it came why would any head of the Marine Corps, for example, get before us and say a gay person can‘t serve as well as a person who is straight?
It doesn‘t make a heck of a lot of sense. We shouldn‘t be asking people about their sexual orientation. We should be asking people about their skills. We should not be asking young men and women as they come into the service whether, in fact, they are worried about sitting next to somebody or worried about being with someone else.
We don‘t ask it about whether they want to do push-ups or not either. So it is now - you know, it‘s well beyond the time that it should have been changed, that our president had stated some time, unfortunately, with muted voice publicly, enough about the nonsense of keeping this up. Let the Congress act, and the Congress should act. I mean, the Congress should act on a lot of issues.
But this is a particular issue of moral importance to this country. And those who oppose it should be underlined for what they stand for, which is antithetical, again, to American traditions of morality, to democratic traditions, to having a service that is strong, that includes people who have the skills.
And you know, at this day in time that we‘re even talk about this as we have to and having a whole group of people because of their political party being against this makes absolutely no sense.
But I do think the only way to address it is to address it straight on and to call those who oppose it what they are, which are people who are, in many ways, hurting, I think our readiness.
MADDOW: Clifford Alexander, former Secretary of the Army. I have had the privilege to talk with you about this, I think three times now, about this show. And each time, I have been bowled over by your insights, sir. Thank you so much for joining us.
ALEXANDER: Oh, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thank you. Coming up on “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell, he speaks with Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat who is on the most controversial commission around, the dreaded debt commission, a.k.a. the cat food commission.
On this show, there‘s news about the saga of the Republican senator, “Oops, I slept with my staffer then paid her off with my parents‘ money among other things,” John Ensign. That‘s next.
MADDOW: Why is Harry Reid the top guy in the Senate? I don‘t mean this as an existential question. I mean it small, more factual terms. How did Harry Reid end up back in the Senate this year?
He ran in the state with the worst unemployment in the country. Polls said he was really unpopular. There was a huge voter swing against Democrats this year. His opponent had a ton of money. She used that money to blanket the state with brutal over-the-top ads, accusing Reid of everything short of murder, and she only just stopped short of that.
But even though the Republican Harry Reid ran against had money and she ran a no-hold-barred campaign, even though all the political winds were blowing the wrong direction for Harry Reid, even though all the polls said he would lose, Harry Reid did not lose. He won.
Because come Election Day, the Nevada Republican Party did not show up. Come Election Day, there was a Democratic Party in Nevada working to turn out voters to elect Harry Reid, but there was not a Republican party in Nevada working to elect Sharron Angle. And that‘s because there‘s no real Republican Party in Nevada anymore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): Last year, I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It‘s absolutely the worst thing that I‘ve ever done in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “But wait until you hear what I did after.” The top two elected Republicans in the Great State of Nevada were the governor, Jim Gibbons, and Sen. John Ensign. Gov. Gibbons, felled by sex and ethics scandals, was voted out of office in his own primary.
Sen. Ensign, also dogged by his own blockbuster sex and ethics scandal. And when the top two statewide office holders in your party are Jim Gibbons and John Ensign, your party falls apart.
And tada, Harry Reid beats the spread by a mile and keeps his Senate seat on Election Day. So if you like Harry Reid still being in the Senate instead of Sharron Angle, you, in part, have Sen. Ensign‘s sex and ethics scandal to thank for that.
And there‘s news on that scandal today. As you know, Ensign admitted to shtupping a staffer while he was supposed to be busy chairing the Republican Party‘s national Senate campaign in 2008.
That year, Mr. Ensign had a gigantic, complicated affair with his staffer who was married to his best friend who was also his staffer. And while that was all going on under John Ensign‘s rather distracted leadership, the Republican Party lost eight Senate seats.
Both of the staffers embroiled in this mess quit. And then, the husband of the employee John Ensign had been shtupping, supposedly his previous best friend, turned up as a lobbyist sooner than the law allows congressional staffers to make that particular career change.
And he got that lobby gig allegedly with John Ensign‘s help. Then, it turned out that John Ensign‘s parents also gave the family of the mistress and the brand-new lobbyist husband $96,000, a gift they said - a whim. It was next to the register. They picked it up on impulse.
That led to some rather obvious accusations that the senator had broken some finance laws. So there‘s John Ensign, Nevada‘s highest ranking Republican official who was not the scandal-ridden governor fending off investigations by the Federal Elections Commission, by the Senate Ethics Committee, and by Department of Justice.
Today, none of the facts of the John Ensign scandal have changed, but we can report that his actions appear to have moved at least one step closer to legal. The senator‘s office is saying in a statement today that the Justice Department has dropped its criminal investigation of John Ensign.
Quote, “Sen. Ensign is certainly pleased that the Department of Justice no longer views him as a target in their investigation.” Of the three investigations into the John Ensign sex and ethics scandal, this is the second one to be called off.
The Federal Election Commission dismissed its complaint against John Ensign last month saying commissioners had voted to close his file. That leaves the Ethics Committee in the United States Senate as the lone remaining body still trying to figure out the details here, what the $96,000 gift was all about. Was that really a coincidence? Really?
And how did the mistress‘ husband get those lobbying gigs with those John Ensign-linked companies when John Ensign was looking to make his “I‘m sorry, I shtupped your wife” apologies at the time?
Sen. Ensign‘s office today said that now that the Department of Justice appears to be ending its Ensign investigation, the senator hopes the Ethics Committee soon follows suit. I‘m sure he does hope that. We will keep you posted.
MADDOW: The largest Christian televangelist TV network in the world is Trinity Broadcasting, co-founded in part by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in 1973.
But the second biggest network is also huge. It‘s called Day Star Television Network. It‘s based in Texas. It broadcasts in more than 200 countries. Its budget is more than $70 million a year.
It became a primary sponsor for a NASCAR team earlier this year. A person I‘m assured is very famous, named Dr. Phil, taped a PR promo for the network. It‘s a big deal as these kinds of deals go.
Yesterday, the founders of this televangelism power house, Joni and Marcus Lamb, aired a very special episode of their regular morning program, which is called “Celebration.” They also had a very special guest on the show, their marriage counselor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONI LAMB, TELEVANGELIST: I discovered that he was having an emotional relationship, if you will, with someone and that it had turned into an improper relationship.
MARCUS LAMB, TELEVANGELIST: Of course, when I came to know that she realized what I had done, I was just - I just instantly went into despair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘d had one inappropriate period of misbehavior with one person, and it wasn‘t a man, you know. It wasn‘t a transvestite. It was with a woman, and she was a Christian woman.
M. LAMB: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, whether she was or not, I don‘t know, but she had that image.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you‘re confused, don‘t feel bad. This stuff is confusing. If you are having a hard time keeping track of all the evangelist infidelities you have seen on television over the years, it is hard to keep them straight. So sordid. It is hard to remember who‘s who. First of all there‘s Jim Bakker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re saying that Jerry Falwell is lying when he
accuses you of having had sex with Jessica, and when he -
JIM BAKKER, TELEVANGELIST: No -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when he says - when he says that there have been homosexual incidents dating back from 1956 to the present?
J. BAKKER: I admitted that I‘ve had 15 to 20-minute relationship with Jessica Hahn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Relationship. Jim Bakker was heading up Praise the Lord Ministries in 1987 when he admitted on TV, among other venues, to having 15 to 20 minutes with a church secretary.
But the bigger part of the Jim Bakker scandal was not the church secretary shtupping, but the money. That‘s why he went to prison. Mr. Bakker was convicted of mail and wire fraud in 1989.
So Jim Bakker is the church secretary shtupping fraud prison guy, not to be confused with Jimmy Swaggart. Jimmy Swaggart‘s scandal came complete with prostitution and a very tearful on-camera confession.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY SWAGGART, TELEVANGELIST: To my fellow television ministers and
evangelists, please forgive me for sinning against you. I have sinned
against you, my Lord. And I would ask that your precious blood would wash
and cleanse every stain -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Background here is that Jimmy Swaggart had been going after other televangelists like Jim Bakker for marital infidelity for years.
When the tables were turned in 1988, he was forced to admit that he himself had availed himself of the services of a prostitute. So he confessed with many tears as you saw. He stepped down from his ministry for three months.
Then, despite being defrocked by the Assemblies of God, he went back as an ordained minister of his own Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. Then, three years later, he was busted with another prostitute in his car, at which point he told his congregation that his proclivities were, and I quote, “none of your business.”
So Jimmy Swaggart, “the hooker, cry and repent about the hooker, hooker again” guy, not to be confused with the Jim Bakker, the secretary-shtupping fraud prison guy. Not to be confused with Ted Haggard.
At the time of his scandal, Ted Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was founder and senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. And here‘s Ted Haggard not crying, but giving some of the most amazing local news interviews ever to appear on anyone‘s television ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED HAGGARD, TELEVANGELIST: I did call him. I did call him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you call him about?
HAGGARD: I called him to buy some meth, but I threw it away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how did you know that he would sell it to you?
HAGGARD: He told me about it. I went there for - I went there for a massage. So - OK, we‘re late for our appointment, and so - thank you for your work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you find him to get that massage from him?
HAGGARD: A referral.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From?
HAGGARD: From the hotel I was staying at.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A hotel where?
HAGGARD: I‘ve stayed a lot of hotels in Denver because I write in Denver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ted Haggard is the hooker - for what it‘s worth, dude hooker. No crying, but also “meth, which he bought, but didn‘t use” guy. Not to be confused with Jimmy Swaggart, the “hooker, cry and repent about hooker, hooker again” guy, not to be confused with Jim Bakker, the secretary-shtupping fraud prison guy, not to be confused with Marcus Lamb, co-founder of Day Star television network.
Again, for the purposes of televangelist sexual confession
taxonomy, the important thing here is this -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘d at one inappropriate period of misbehavior with one person and it wasn‘t a man. It wasn‘t a transvestite. It was with a woman, and she was a Christian woman.
M. LAMB: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, whether she was or not, I don‘t know, but she had that image.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So Marcus Lamb‘s sex scandal did not involve a hooker, a dude hooker, or an employee, as far as we know. His infidelity was with a woman who was apparently, importantly, not born a man. Also, no crying.
‘ So over time it has been hard to keep these guys straight to remember who‘s who. We have created a matrix. You can download the full-size version at MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com. You‘re welcome.
Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.
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