Guests: Mark McKinnon, Howard Dean
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Yes, I‘ve seen the original thing. So, I think you did maybe cut out something in the middle. But, boy, did you get a lot of it on the air.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You‘re welcome, America.
MADDOW: I could se your blood pressure rising through the screen when you came back on the air. Well done, my friend. Great to see you, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us for this next hour.
For the last few weeks on this show, you may have noticed we have been doing something that we call “The Best New Thing in the World Today.” We do it right at the end of the show.
Tonight, we have a rather profane but awesome “Best New Thing in the World Today” coming up at the end of the show. We‘re looking forward to it.
But there‘s something else in today‘s news that almost made the cut. It is the best new thing in politics today. And we‘re not saving it for the end of the show. We‘re going to do that right now.
It is today‘s evidence that there‘s going to be just as much surreal non sequitur strangeness in this upcoming election as there was in the last one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: What do you mean Second Amendment remedy? Second Amendment remedies, anything?
SHARRON ANGLE ®, FORMER NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: We‘re looking at how we can best benefit from the media.
REPORTER: Sharron, will you answer some questions quickly?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has to go. I‘m sorry.
REPORTER: Sharron, can we talk to you quickly?
ANGLE: I have to get on, but I just want to get out the vote. OK?
REPORTER: Why don‘t you answer what Second Amendment remedies means?
ANGLE: We needed to have the press be our friend.
REPORTER: You‘re not willing to answer what Second Amendment remedies means?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Among the highlights of the last election was Sharron Angle running away from the press and refusing to answer her threat, her repeated threat that if she lost the election, her supporters would pursue their political aims with guns.
There was also this guy, the guy running in Alaska. He had me do my interview with him after I‘ve gone to Alaska to talk to him. He had me do our interview while we were walking down escalators and going through doors together. It was all a little weird.
But the most deeply satisfying weirdness of the last election was probably the candidacy in Delaware of Christine O‘Donnell. Even though it was a great Republican year, 2010, Christine O‘Donnell, like Joe miller, like Sharron Angle, did not win.
Christine O‘Donnell didn‘t even get close to winning, but she did win a place in American history forever with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, FORMER DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I‘m not a witch. I‘m nothing you‘ve heard. I‘m you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Long after people forget her name is Christine O‘Donnell, we will all remember, “I‘m not a witch.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I‘m Christine O‘Donnell, and I‘m not a witch. I‘m nothing like you‘ve heard. I‘m you. And just like you, I have to constantly deny that I‘m a witch. I‘m not a witch. And if I am, do you really want to cross me? I didn‘t think so.
ANNOUNCER: Paid for by the coven to elect Christine O‘Donnell, who is not a witch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All right. So, that was “Saturday Night Live.” But the person who made the “I am not a witch” actual ad for Christine O‘Donnell‘s actual ad for Senate is a Republican consultant by the named Fred Davis. And Fred Davis has just made the first totally strange non sequitur deliberately odd campaign ad of this next election, of this presidential cycle. We‘ve got an “I am not a witch” ad, kind of, and she made it not for Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin or Herman Cain, for any of the candidates who we frankly expect this year to be occasionally laughing at, if not with.
No, Fred Davis has made the new “I am not a witch” ad for one of the supposedly real serious candidates, for Jon Huntsman. Did you see this today? Watch this.
I want you to know before you see it that we did not edit this. This is not something that we on the show cut to look stranger than it is. This is just what it is. Are you ready? Again, we are not editing this. We are cutting it. Here it is, unedited. Go. Play it.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: That‘s it. We did not edit that.
We did not—what does that mean? You don‘t know. I do not know.
We are not supposed to know. I think that‘s the point.
But that‘s what Jon Huntsman‘s campaign for president is going to be like, I guess. Whoo hoo! I had no idea this was going to happen again.
Jon Huntsman is due into the race officially on Tuesday. He tells “Esquire” magazine in a new interview that his campaign will be organized on two major and equal platforms. The two platforms are: number one, debt reduction, and number two, ending the war in Afghanistan. Those will be the two pillars of his presidential campaign. We‘ll have more on the war of politics later on the show tonight.
But, strategically, beyond his platform, the most important things to know about Jon Huntsman so far, well, apparently, he‘s going to be the weird one in the race, as we learned today from his inaugural campaign and he is skipping Iowa.
Jon Huntsman skipping Iowa and apparently blaming it on his opposition to corn subsidies, telling the “Des Moines Register” that there‘s no reason to waste time trying to court Iowa voters who see corn subsidies as a way of life and a deal breaker. Think that‘s really why Jon Huntsman is skipping Iowa?
There are also indications that another of top tier candidates, Mitt Romney, could end up skipping out on Iowa. Mr. Romney‘s campaign announced last week he is not participating in the Iowa straw poll, which is sort of a dry run before you get to the Iowa caucuses in January. Mr. Romney and just about every other candidate have in the past treated that straw poll as almost a nominating process in itself.
So, does skipping that straw poll mean that Mitt Romney will not compete in Iowa really at all? We don‘t yet know. Officially, he still will be competing in Iowa. We‘ll see whether it does or not.
But it‘s Jon Huntsman saying he‘s not going to compete in Iowa. Mitt Romney signaling he‘s at least not taking Iowa as seriously as he once did.
That doesn‘t mean, however, that all of the candidates who are seen as credible contenders, as top tier contenders, as mainstream enough to really make a go of it, nationally—it does not mean that all of those guys are skipping Iowa, because there is one other candidate seen as being in that company, that‘s Tim Pawlenty and Tim Pawlenty really is campaigning in Iowa. He is campaigning in Iowa and he is trying very hard to win there.
So, all we can say then is that the two expected to be top tier serious mainstream candidates who are both Mormons are the ones who are really not going to be competing in Iowa. And that may be a coincidence. That may also be strategic.
Conservatives have long held sway in Iowa Republican politics, and the caucus process itself selects for more fervent, more ideological, more conservative people to participate in it. But in recent years, the specifically Christian conservative dominance in Iowa Republicanism has dragged Iowa Republican politics, especially around presidential politics, it‘s dragged those politics sort of into the weeds.
In a year of widespread political extremism in the red states, Iowa Republicanism and this strong overt strand of Christian conservatism that runs right down the middle of it, Iowa Republicanism stands out even in a year like this. Yes, all of the Republican legislatures coast to coast are trying out anti-abortion bills, right? But in Iowa, House Republicans there say they have passed what will the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country.
Other Republican legislatures are banning abortion at 20 weeks this year. Iowa Republicans are going for 18 weeks because they want to be first.
And remember, when Tim Pawlenty was asked on the campaign trail in Iowa recently what he thought the penalty for abortion should be, he did not immediately offer up specific prison terms, remember this? And his spokesman had to call in later and said he did want prison. He did later clarify that he thinks doctors should go to prison.
But the director of Iowans for Life said of his hesitance, quote, “It does give me pause.”
That group had previously supported Tim Pawlenty, but without having prison terms for abortions ready when asked, his lack of fervor gave them pause about his candidacy.
Right now in Iowa, six Republican candidates are taking part in a bus tour around the state of Iowa, promoting the abolition of the Federal Reserve and the return of America to the gold standard. After the Iowa Supreme Court voted unanimously in 2009 to allow gay marriage, there has been anti-gay rights recall effort against the Iowa judges who had the temerity to issue that ruling. That recall effort was launched by a group called The Family Leader.
And I wanted to show what their logo is like this, because this is specifically how they spell their name. The capitalization counts. The whole name of the group for Family Leader is capitalized except for the I in family, which is lower case, they say, to represent via font the individuals‘ submission before God.
That group, the small I people, recalling Iowa Supreme Court justices. They‘re now organizing a presidential lecture series featuring speeches from candidates Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Tim Pawlenty.
This group, the small I people, they are against things like health clinics in schools, all health clinics in all schools, because it might be a way for Planned Parenthood to get at your kids. This group, the small I people, they are against divorce for everybody. They are against contraception.
Even in conservative circles, this is not what you would describe as a mainstream group. This is a very extremely conservative religious group. Their lobbyist in the state capital this year led the Republican campaign that won the Iowa presidential caucuses in 2008 on the Republican side.
These are the folks who are hosting the presidential lecture series that everybody who‘s competing in Iowa, including the supposedly mainstream candidates, is participating in. This is what counts right now in Iowa. This is how you compete for the Republican nomination in Iowa.
The small “I” people, right, counts as mainstream Republican politics in Iowa right now. Now, not to cast aspersions of radicalism on the entire state of Iowa, the whole state is not like this. This is just what Republican politics are like in Iowa right now.
The polling, the statewide polling in Iowa right now, says that no Republican candidate is going to get anywhere President Obama in the real election. He will beat even the nearest polling Republican candidate by 10 points.
But this is not the general election right now. This is the primary.
This is the competition for the Iowa Republican heart.
And Iowa has become so radicalized by the Christian conservative fringe that it may have become irrelevant to all presidential politics. And it‘s also frankly led to a lot of really stupid political punditry all over the country. The emerging theme of national political prognostication right now is that a candidate named Michele Bachmann is really important. She is much more important than anyone gives her credit for.
Why is Michele Bachmann, as radical as she is, so important? Pundits say because she could win Iowa. Yes, that is probably true.
Michele Bachmann probably can win Iowa, the small I people, the “ban divorce” people, they love the Michele Bachmanns of the world. Why wouldn‘t they?
But you know what? Mike Huckabee won Iowa, too. The small I people love Mike Huckabee. Did that mean Mike Huckabee had a chance at being the Republican nominee for president ever? Not really.
Will Michele Bachmann winning in Iowa mean that she has any chance of winning the Republican nomination ever? Not really. There‘s no real reason to believe that.
Winning Iowa wins you nothing else. It means you can win Iowa. It maybe means you can monetize that for future TV shows or something. But it doesn‘t mean you‘re going anywhere in any other state.
Presidential politicking is often stupid. It is a bit show-offy.
It‘s a bit of three ring circus.
But the Iowa Republican caucuses right now are no longer one of rings in the circus. The Iowa Republican caucuses are the freak show outside the circus, trying to siphon off interest from people who are on their way to the main event. The actual main event may itself still be a ridiculous circus, but the freak show outside, the side show that is the extra ticket, that is headquartered in Des Moines. It has been for a few years.
Iowa conservatives have radicalized themselves into pointlessness.
Tim Pawlenty, it‘s not too late. You can still change your mind about Iowa. Fly away. Manchester is nice this time of year. Be free.
Joining us now is Republican strategist Mark McKinnon. He engineered five winning presidential primaries and elections, working most recently with John McCain in 2008. He‘s also a contributor to “The Daily Beast.”
Mark, it‘s nice to have you back on the show. It‘s great to see you.
MARK MCKINNON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You too, Rachel. How are you?
MADDOW: Good. Thank you.
Does it make sense to you that Tim Pawlenty has decided to stake his candidacy on Iowa? Do you think it‘s going to end well?
MCKINNON: I don‘t think it‘s going to end well for Tim Pawlenty, period. His performance in the debate was a huge mistake. He got thrown a huge softball over the plate and refused to even swing at a critical time when Republicans were really watching, donors and a lot of others. So, it was a critical mistake.
Iowa is important because it‘s first, but it does not represent mainstream Republicans. And as we saw last time, a lot of candidates put a lot of time and resources in that state, where there is a lot of, as you said, fervor out there, for very little return. And it launched somebody like Mike Huckabee, who actually spent very little money.
So, I think that Jon Huntsman is making a very wise and strategic decision not to play in Iowa. Mitt Romney is showing some hint that he may do the same, by staying out of the Ames poll, which is coming up.
So—but it is first, and there‘s going to be a lot of attention. So, it‘s going to—as you said—it shows a lot of insight into Republican politics here.
Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry, if he gets in the race, and I think he‘s going to, are likely to win Iowa. But then they‘ve got to go up to New Hampshire and South Carolina. I think Huntsman or Romney will probably win New Hampshire. So you have Bachmann or Perry out of Iowa. Then Romney or Huntsman out of New Hampshire.
Then you have probably a three-way mash up in South Carolina. So, Michigan becomes important, which Romney will probably win. Then I think it all comes down to Florida.
So, I think Florida is going to be the key state in this Republican primary.
But you‘re right. Iowa less significant because the smart players are realizing that it just soaks up way too much time, way to many resources, and it‘s going to launch somebody like, you know, a Herman Cain or a Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry or somebody else who really appeals to those social conservatives where they have the fervor.
MADDOW: Do you think chasing the fervor, trying to market yourself to those social conservatives, has more than an opportunity cost? It costs you more than the fact that you can spend that money and that time and that energy elsewhere? Do you think there‘s a chance it hurts mainstream candidates to take the kinds of positions and do the kind of campaigning you have to do in order to attract those Iowa voters?
MCKINNON: Well, that‘s the potential pitfall. You pointed out the whole issue with Tim Pawlenty on that particular issue, kind of turning himself into a pretzel to appeal to Iowa conservatives. And if you really truly appeal to Iowa conservatives, then it‘s very difficult to appeal to the mainstream Republican primary voters and almost impossible to appeal to general election voters.
So, you can win Iowa, but there is a cost associated. On the other hand, you know, Mike Huckabee won that. And if Mike Huckabee hadn‘t made the mistake of turning his resources toward Michigan, where he wasn‘t going to win, but I guess he thought he could, and put that all into South Carolina, he could have won South Carolina. South Carolina has a lot of similar voters there.
So, if somebody like a Perry or Bachmann wins Iowa and South Carolina, then that could change the map a little bit.
MADDOW: Mark, I want to ask you about something that‘s a little bit of a sensitive subject. I don‘t want you to feel you have to go out on a limb in order to answer it. But to have Romney and Huntsman both signaling a little reluctance about Iowa, and Tim Pawlenty jumping right in, that‘s sort of—the issue of Iowa is really the only one in which those three guys are not being lumped together as having some of the same opportunities, some of the same challenges.
For example, there was a story earlier this week that Obama re-election headquarters, the three names and the three schedules they‘ve got up on the wall are Romney, Huntsman, and Pawlenty. These three guys are always seen as doing the same thing. But Pawlenty is the only one competing in Iowa.
Is it possible that there is a religion factor that goes into the decision of a Romney or a Huntsman in terms of whether or not they‘re going to try to make the case of those conservative voters in Iowa when they are both of the Mormon faith?
MCKINNON: I don‘t think they would never say that, but I think that‘s probably gone into the thinking. I think that‘s a realistic assessment. They know that they—that those issues scratch a bit in Iowa. And that they have a real kind of pure litmus test out there with the Christian conservatives. And that‘s problematic for them.
So, you know, it‘s a smart strategic move. And, by the way, I thought it‘s very interesting that Jon Huntsman has decided to locate his campaign headquarters in Florida, which, again, is another indicator just how important that state is going to be in the Republican primaries this time.
MADDOW: Mark McKinnon, Republican strategist, contributor to “The Daily Beast” and somebody who I‘ve missed talking to about these things—
I hope you‘ll back soon, Mark. Thanks a lot.
MCKINNON: Nice to see you, Rachel. Kick as hard.
MADDOW: Thank you. Appreciate it.
All right. We‘re going to be talking a little bit about the Mitt Romney front-runner blues when we come back.
Mitt Romney is getting attacked by all sides as he stands at the presumptive front-runner in Republican politics. He is getting a weird assist in defending himself, or at least avoiding an attack from one of his Republican rivals. He‘s getting a weird assist from state officials in the great state of Massachusetts.
Why are they doing that? I don‘t know. But I‘ll tell you what they‘re doing when we come back.
MADDOW: “The Best New Thing in the World Today” is very good. I have to forewarn you, however, that it involves this (BLEEP). It involves a lot of (BLEEP). But it is worth it. That‘s “The New Thing in the World Today” coming up at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS: I‘m grateful to all those from across Massachusetts who came through for me even when it was a long shot, and I especially want to thank a very special friend whose encouragement from the beginning helped show me the way and helped show us the way to victory, and that is former Governor Mitt Romney. Thank you, Governor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the night of his special election victory, celebrating his big upset win with a big shout out to Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney, as you heard Scott Brown say there, helped guide Mr.
Brown to victory that night.
Do you want to see where Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire, former governor of Massachusetts, was living at that time? Do you want to see where he was apparently mentoring Scott Brown from?
What you are looking at here is the unfinished basement of Mitt Romney‘s son‘s house in the town of Belmont, Massachusetts. That right there is where Romney says he and his wife lived back then after selling their own home just around the corner. The former governor of Massachusetts living in an unfinished basement.
Believing that, that Mitt Romney was living in his son‘s basement, is key right now to believing that Mitt Romney did not commit voter fraud when he voted for Scott Brown in that special election in January.
This week, one of Mr. Romney‘s special opponents for the Republican nomination, a man named Fred Karger, asked Massachusetts to investigate whether Mr. Romney was legally able to vote in that election, since he appeared to be taking up permanent residence at one of his multimillion dollar homes in California or New Hampshire, and not in his son‘s unfinished basement, which was the address at which he was registered to vote.
The law in Massachusetts makes it clear that your residence for voting purposes must be where you dwell. The law says it must be the center of your domestic, social and civil life.
If Mitt Romney registered to vote at an address that wasn‘t really where he lived, that wasn‘t really the center of his life, that would be illegal.
So, it may be a marginal issue to his politics and his ambition, but there ought to be at least an explanation here. It does seem fair to ask if Mitt Romney was lying when he said his residence, the center of his life, was his son‘s unfinished basement and none of his actual homes.
It seems reasonable to ask that question. It seems reasonable to ask, apparently, unless you are a Massachusetts election official. Almost immediately after this complaint was made and the story went public, election officials in Massachusetts tried to shut it down. A spokesman for the election‘s division telling the conservative Web site, “The Daily Caller,” quote, “The time to bring this up was when he voted.”
We spoke with that same official today who told us definitively, quote, “There will be no investigation.”
Asked what the official thought of the substance of these allegations brought forward by Mr. Romney, he told us, quote, “I think Mitt Romney is a candidate for president, and there‘s an election next year.” So, case closed. That‘s the reaction at the state level. Essentially, we refused to look into it.
At the town level, where the alleged fraudulent voting happened, the answer has been essentially the same, except it‘s been sort of more funny there. Belmont‘s town clerk told the Web site Patch.com that not only is Mr. Romney registered in Belmont, Massachusetts, but he‘s been one of the town‘s most active voters while he has been registered there. Quote, “If everyone was as dedicated as he has been, we would have a far more involved electorate.”
OK, that‘s probably true. But was he legally allowed to vote there?
Since he didn‘t seem to actually live there at the time?
Quote, “Since he is an active voter, he proves that this is where his residency is.”
OK. Wait. Since he is an active voter, that proves that this is where his residency is? But if he‘s been voting illegally, does the fact that he has been voting illegally a lot make it not illegal? If you do something many, many, many times—does that make it not illegal when you do it? This is such a weird answer. This is so strange.
The clerk went on to say, and I quote, “Mr. Romney has declared that Belmont has been his hometown and continues to be so. And why should we dispute that?” Because it seems dramatically improbable that a multimillionaire with multiple, multimillionaire dollar homes is not living in any of those homes so he can live in his son‘s unfinished basement? Unfinished as in concrete, no wall board, et cetera? That‘s where he said he lived. That‘s where he was registered to vote.
That seems improbable. I recognize this is not murder. This is not the gravest crime in the world. I do not know if Mitt Romney actually lived in his son‘s unfinished basement or not. I don‘t know if he committed voter fraud or not. I‘m sure there must be an explanation for the whole thing.
But, wow, we don‘t have an explanation. Could officials in Massachusetts be any less interested in finding out?
Whether or not Massachusetts is just going to keep insulting anybody who has the temerity to ask about this story, whether or not the Romney campaign thinks it can keep just not returning calls when they get questions about this—the larger point that this gets at is that this allegation originated with a Republican. A fellow Republican presidential candidate, in fact, coming at Mitt Romney, in this case, from the left, trying to throw a wrench into Mitt Romney‘s campaign in order to keep him from getting the nomination.
And Fred Karger, that rival would-be nominee is not alone in going after Mr. Romney. The Republican groups who have said they will do whatever they can to stop Mitt Romney from becoming the nominee are as varied as Fred Karger and the right wing corporate Tea Party group FreedomWorks and the Western Representation PAC, the conservative magazine, “The National Review,” the conservative economic group Club for Growth, even socially conservative groups like American Right to Life.
“The New Republic” magazine reporting today that the aforementioned Western Representation PAC is, quote, “hoping to raise and spend as much as $500,000 on TV and radio ads attacking Romney as an unscrupulous opportunist, all of which will be funneled into his most critical early primary state.” The executive director of that group telling “The New Republic,” quote, “We‘re going to put all of our focus on New Hampshire.”
Meanwhile, that anti-abortion group which ran these TV ads against Mitt Romney back in 2008, they say they plan to repeat that strategy this time around in an effort to, in their words, “decimate Mitt Romney‘s campaign.”
But perhaps the clearest sign of Republican dissatisfaction with Mitt Romney as the front-runner for his party‘s nomination is that Republicans are still trying to recruit alternatives into the race so he doesn‘t win. This was the scene today in South Carolina, which holds the first presidential primary in the south and that Mark McKinnon was just describing how important it is. Today, a group of 10 Republican state legislators in South Carolina held a press conference to beg New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to get into the race.
These Republicans in South Carolina telling everyone who would listen that they are not satisfied with the current crop of Republican candidates in the race, including, of course, and perhaps most especially, the front-runner, who we‘re all supposed to believe has been making his official primary residence in his son‘s unfinished basement.
MADDOW: On the same weekend that we taped the ads for this show that were set at Hoover Dam and that the wind farm out in the desert, we also shot a one take 20-second-something thing that nobody was really sure should ever end up actually being an ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, we‘ve got a war in Afghanistan. Next to Afghanistan is Pakistan. And they‘re providing safe haven to the people who we are fighting here.
So, we go to Pakistan and say help us out with our war here. Pakistan does not care about our war over here. They really don‘t.
You know what they care about? The country on the other side of them, India. We give them aid, saying, please help us out in our war. They instead use that aid to make more nuclear weapons to point at these guys.
None of this makes sense unless you understand their motivation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That ad was not slated to run in the initial launch of our ad campaign. But everybody on our show really liked it. And so, we asked the marketing people, could they please get it ready to go?
But by the time it was color-corrected or whatever it is they do to make it go on the air, a really big thing had happened in America‘s relationship with Pakistan. U.S. Navy SEALs helicoptered into Pakistan‘s interior in the dead of night and they killed Osama bin Laden.
Not only had bin Laden living in Pakistan apparently for years, right next to a big Pakistani military facility unmolested, but by the supposed no stones unturned efforts by the Pakistanis, those had never turned him up. Some Pakistanis were even mad that Osama bin Laden was killed, mad about the incursion on Pakistani sovereignty, sure, but also, seriously, just mad that he was dead.
Pakistan does not care about our war over here. They really don‘t.
Today, we learned that Pakistan‘s intelligence service has arrested five informants in Pakistan who helped us find bin Laden. The five included an army major who wrote down license plate numbers of cars that were seen at bin Laden‘s house, which, of course, is how the CIA found bin Laden.
For his trouble, for that informant‘s trouble, for helping the U.S. find and kill Osama bin Laden, Pakistan just arrested him. Our great ally helping us out in our war.
MADDOW: Pop quiz. In the United States of America, who has the authority to declare war? Answer, your United States Congress, of course.
Article I, Section VIII of the U.S. Constitution lists all the thing Congress has the power to do. The 11th thing listed, Clause 11, is the power to declare war.
Now, we haven‘t actually declared war since, I think, World War II. That said, we have waged plenty of wars. And after Vietnam, Congress passed something called the War Powers Resolution, to not only affirm its constitutional role in getting us into wars, but also to affirm their own ability to stop presidents from getting us into wars without Congress.
Presidents understandably do not like the War Powers Resolution. It passed over Nixon‘s veto, in fact. But it did pass, and it is the law.
It says that if the president cannot get Congress to authorize some particular war, that war can‘t go on for more than 60 days, and yes, you are right. There‘s been no congressional authorization as to what is going on in Libya. No authorization at any point.
That being said, our 60 days has been up since May 20th. So, is it legal?
Today, the White House explained why they think it is legal, why they think they are cool with it, why what we are doing in Libya is OK, according to the administration, even though Congress hasn‘t authorized it.
I‘m not sure if there was anybody who saw this argument from them coming, but the administration‘s explanation was a big surprise to me. Their argument, their explanation for why this is legal is that the war in Libya is not a war.
The language of this law specifically restricts when and how the president can introduce the U.S. armed forces, quote, “into hostilities.” According to the White House today, what we are doing in Libya, not that hostile.
And I quote, “We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own. We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped, or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission in Libya is not the kind of hostilities envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.” So said the State Department today.
So, because we are in a support role, because we‘re not leading what NATO is doing in Libya, this isn‘t a U.S. war. And even though War Powers are granted to Congress, it doesn‘t matter, it doesn‘t apply here. That‘s the White House‘s argument against what is turning out to be bipartisan and increasingly aggressive pushback on U.S. involvement in Libya.
Just the latest sign of that pushback, a lawsuit against the administration, calling Libya war illegal. That was filed by 10 members of Congress today.
These politics around issues like this are not just limited to Libya. It‘s getting more popular in Congress now to oppose the war in Afghanistan, as well. The number of House Republicans publicly opposing the Afghanistan war has tripled in the last year. A bipartisan group of 27 senators sent a letter to the president today, calling for a sizable and sustained troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.
And the Afghanistan issue is surfacing in a big way in Republican presidential politics as well. Jon Huntsman, as we described earlier in the show, Jon Huntsman, due to announce his campaign on Tuesday—
Huntsman, the two platforms of his presidential run will be the debt and getting out of Afghanistan. That will be one of the two things on which he is going to run for president. We will see in Republican politics and Republican primary politicking, how well that platform is going to go over.
His campaign manager, you will recall, was John McCain‘s campaign manager, too. So, apparently, they think this is going to resonate. They think they‘ve got a winner with this issue.
Mitt Romney also floated an anti-Afghanistan position in the debate this week. Weirdly, Mr. Romney described the war in Afghanistan as a war of independents. Nobody really knows what he meant by that, but he did make noises about ending the Afghanistan war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It‘s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can consistent with the world that comes from our generals that we can hand the country over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That one person applauding liked that. Whether moved by principles they forgot they had during the George W. Bush era or by partisan antipathy for Barack Obama, Republicans are now joining the longstanding Democratic critique of America‘s war-making jones.
This, of course, is driving old school Republicans nuts who never met a war they didn‘t like. Lindsey Graham, for example today, denounced Mitt Romney as being like Jimmy Carter for saying he wanted to end the war in Afghanistan.
This is a super interesting split right down in the middle of Republican politics right now, whether it means we will have a new national politics about America‘s propensity for war making, I think that is the most interesting unanswered question of the year so far.
Joining us now is a man who has changed his own mind publicly about the Afghanistan war, former chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean.
Governor Dean, it‘s good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Rachel.
Always a delight.
MADDOW: Thank you.
For context here, can you explain how and why you changed your own mind on Afghanistan?
DEAN: I supported the—I actually supported President Bush when he went into Afghanistan. Of course, I did not support him when he went into Iraq because they killed 3,000 of our people, or harbored people who did.
And I supported President Obama when he added troops because I thought that, even though it wasn‘t likely it would succeed, there was a chance. And my biggest concern about Afghanistan is that 50 percent of the population, i.e., women, who will essentially be treated as Stone Age slaves and worse when we leave.
About two or three months ago, Karzai, who is clearly corrupt, also began to politic, using women as the wedge issue, and began to intimate that he didn‘t think school was necessary and he thought Sharia was a good idea and so on and so forth.
And I thought to myself, why are we spending all this money and sacrificing American lives if there‘s not going to be much difference between Karzai and the Taliban? And I think it‘s probably time to go.
MADDOW: Now that we are seeing so many Republican, such a rapid increase in Republicans coming out against the war in Afghanistan, also some Republican resistance on the war in Libya—when you look at that, do you—do you see that as just partisan and opportunist? Or do you that this might represent a real evolution to Republican politics around wars?
DEAN: I think on the presidential level, it‘s just partisan hypocrisy. I mean, when were they when George Bush was running around in Iraq, claiming that there were also kinds of weapons of mass destruction and so forth and so on?
But I do think that there‘s some rank-and-file Republicans—Ron Paul, for example, has opposed to going to all kinds of different wars. I think there‘s some rank-and-file Republicans that are concerned about the spending aspect of it, and I think that‘s a legitimate concern.
MADDOW: In 2004, when you made your bid for president, you picked up a lot of the early support you picked up because you were so strongly against the Iraq war at that time. How do you think that war politics might play into this year‘s Republican presidential primary politicking? Is it possible to run an anti-war Republican candidacy for president?
DEAN: It‘s very tough. I mean, I think you put your finger right on the core of the Republican view on wars. They—most of them are pretty belligerent, and they really have liked wars in the Republican Party for a long, long time.
And so, it‘s hard for them to see this sort of anti-war wing because -
I mean, I thought that quote about Jimmy Carter and Mitt Romney, whatever it was, was so typical of the old sort of war wing of the Republican Party.
But, you know, the Republicans are going to have to change. They can‘t sort of get away with baiting gays, immigrants, and Muslims all the time. They‘re eventually going to actually have to say something that makes some sense.
And this is a debate that‘s important for the country. And I‘m actually kind of glad to see this in a Republican. There‘s a sensible reason to oppose the war in Afghanistan. They should be debated.
It‘s not a partisan war. It‘s been pursued by a Republican president and a Democratic president. And I think that this is worthy of debate.
And I also agree that I don‘t fault Barack Obama for not paying a lot of attention to the War Powers Act because nobody has paid much attention to it for a long, long time. But it is there for a good reason. And I think, not being a lawyer, I do think we ought to pay more attention to it.
MADDOW: It is interesting to see, when the administration said today that they were going to come out with their statement about why they thought what they were doing in Libya was legal, I thought they‘d do what al the presidents do, which is say, the War Powers Act, who needs it? It‘s unconstitutional. We don‘t have to follow it.
But, in fact, they said, we think it‘s constitutional. We would follow it if this was a war. But this isn‘t a war, and so, therefore, it doesn‘t apply.
It was a very strange evasion of the issue, but one that leaves the War Powers issue intact and I thought that was—I thought that was a notable development.
DEAN: Well, it‘s an interesting question actually. And, again, I‘m not a lawyer, but we are playing a support role behind the British and the French. We are playing an important role, but the question is: is this really a war? Are we intervening in a civil—somebody else‘s civil war, or are we trying to stop a humanitarian catastrophe? Which we are.
So, it‘s a tough, it‘s an interesting debate. But it‘s a debate that the country needs to have because it‘s really expensive, and we can‘t afford this right now.
MADDOW: It‘s a great test to the media, to see if we can cover big, important debates that aren‘t red versus blue.
MADDOW: That comes from different axes.
Governor Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic Party, it‘s been a real pleasure to talk to you about this. Thanks, sir.
DEAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We will be right back. Hold on.
MADDOW: In recent weeks, we have covered the story of something called the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit. It is a unique place, a public school for high school girls who are pregnant or who have had kids while they are school age. Most kids of those circumstances drop out. But Catherine Ferguson was designed to not just keep those girls in school, but to keep the expectations high that they would ground. That if they graduate, they would get to college.
To make those expectations feasible, girls attending Catherine Ferguson could bring their kids with them. There‘s day care. There‘s a preschool curriculum for the little kids. There‘s parenting classes.
The school also had a working farm. It maintains small class sizes.
This is a unique place. It has been a unique place.
But, today, June 15th was the last full day of classes ever at Catherine Ferguson Academy. A state appointed emergency manager with unilateral power to make decisions on his own over the heads of all elected official decided to close the school. Michigan started using special overseers for special school districts and towns a few years ago. The powers of these overseers were dramatically expanded earlier this year by Michigan‘s new Republican governor, Rick Snyder.
So, even though they had wanted to shut down Catherine Ferguson before, now they really are doing it. When the Catherine Ferguson students learned that their school is at risk of being closed in April, they staged a sit-in protest. A dozen of them were arrested. Two students and a teacher were in court this week on trespassing charges. They‘re asking for a jury trial because they say they don‘t think the people of Detroit would convict them for standing up for their school.
To help us get footage for covering this story last week, we sent the folks at Catherine Ferguson Academy a couple of a little cheap handycams that we use when we are on the road. Our hope was that the students would send back to us footage of life at the school before it ends.
Late last night, we found the first clips in our inbox.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the CFA farm. This farm brightens up my day, it taught me agriculture. They taught me how to weed and plant. Taught me how to milk goats, to pick up the chickens, to feed the ducks, everything, it‘s wonderful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son, he learns a lot in the preschool, the day care he goes to. He comes home learning something new every day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me, personally, CFA made me a better woman for my child and myself. It hurts me to see them shutting us down like this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m a class of ‘93 graduate of Catherine Ferguson Academy. I have a 20-year-old son who I had when I was 14. And I just want to say the school means everything. You know, you have a baby, you still calling and said, hey, we need to get on, our math isn‘t done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The school has helped a lot of students. My sister attended this school in 2000, she graduated. Now she‘s in the army. To sit up and take away a school from them. What else are they going to do? Nothing, they need the support and the help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see the onions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The garlic, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, the onions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The onions are down further. This is all garlic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all garlic—I didn‘t know garlic grew like this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, garlic is a root plant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my school and I‘m going to fight as much as I can to keep this school open, because this is my school and I‘m not going to let you close it down.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Tomorrow, the students at Catherine Ferguson are dismissed after a half day and then the school will be closed. There‘s a big rally and protest planned at the school at noon tomorrow. The actor Danny Glover is among the people expected to attend. If we get more footage from the young moms of Catherine Ferguson and their advocates, we will share that with you as well. More information is at our Web site, MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: OK. “The Best New Thing in the World Today” is a piece of audiotape that if you are the kind of person that has a Facebook wall, it‘s probably already on your Facebook wall. If it is not, it will be in about two minutes.
All right. It starts like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Audible Inc. presents “Go the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to Sleep” written narrated by Adam Mansbach. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That has to be the world‘s happiest big voice guy, right? A paid announcer, a guy who probably cannot believe that after all the lame things he has been paid to pronounce in his big guy voice career, he‘s finally getting paid to introduce this.
And Samuel L. Jackson—Samuel Jackson, in his career has raised the bar for anyone trying to make an impression by cursing. Samuel Jackson is the reader for this audio book for the most anticipated not quite a children‘s book since the final installment of “The Harry Potter” series. A book that made it on number on Amazon, I believe, a month before its actual release, when pirated copies started circulating via e-mail. The book is called go the word I can say on TV to sleep.
And while it looks like a kid‘s book and kind of purports to be a kid‘s book, it is really a book for parents, for any adults who has ever despaired for getting their kids to go to bleeping sleep already. It also appeals to people who like swear words well spoken.
So, without further ado, here‘s Samuel L. Jackson reading go the unsayable word to sleep.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL L. JACKSON, NARRATOR: The cats nestled close to their kittens. The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You‘re cozy and warm in your bed my dear. Please go the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to sleep.
The windows are dark in the town child. The whales huddle down in the deep. I‘ll read you one very last book if you swear you‘ll go the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to sleep.
The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest, and the creatures who crawl run on and creep. I know you‘re not thirsty, that‘s (EXPLETIVE DELETED) stop lying. Lay (EXPLETIVE DELETED) down my darling and sleep.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Fly in the sky.
The book goes on the same vein for four more glorious minutes, I urge you to enjoy all of them, for they are the “Best New Thing in the World Today.”
And now, kids, it‘s bleeping time for “THE ED SHOW.” Bleep you (ph).
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