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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, June 17, 2011

Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thanks, Lawrence.  Have a great weekend.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

When President Obama was traveling through Europe last month, what was happening back home in Washington was a dramatic, down to the wire, last-minute decision by Congress—it was a last-minute decision to pass a reauthorization of the Patriot Act.  The Patriot Act, of course, the controversial, bye-bye Fourth Amendment, post-9/11, national security powers expansion that was first passed during the Bush administration right after 9/11.  That law has some sunset provisions in it, certain parts of it expires unless Congress affirmatively extends them.

Congress almost did not extend those sun-setting portions of the Patriot Act. But at the very last minute, they did pass the extension and they sent it to President Obama‘s desk.  President Obama‘s desk, however, was empty.  He was not there.  He was in Europe at that time.  He was in France, to be specific.

And since this was a time-sensitive matter, the White House did not have many options.  It put out this not exactly Orwellian but sort of scary futuristic-sounding statement.  “Failure to sign this legislation poses a risk to U.S. national security.  The president will, therefore direct the use of the autopen to sign it.”  Autopen!

The autopen isn‘t Austrian.  It‘s a robotic signature device that puts a mechanical reproduction of the president‘s actual signature on a document.  Use of the autopen must be directed directly by the president.

Although that happened, the autopen thing happened three weeks ago.  Now, 21 members of Congress are asking President Obama to resign the Patriot Act without the autopen, with just an actual pen in his hand.

The only other time the autopen has ever really made national news is when it was revealed during the George W. Bush administration that Mr.  Bush‘s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was using the autopen to sign letters of condolence to the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is probably why the syllables autopen make a lot of people feel like they want to throw up, even if they can‘t remember why.

But another sort of sleeper story in today‘s news, at one point this afternoon, had our show investigating today whether or not autopens are ever used at the state level, whether or not they are used by governors.  The reason we want to know is because as of this morning, there were 1,170 bills sitting on Rick Perry‘s desk in Texas.  The deadline for those bills to be acted upon, for them to be made law or vetoed is Sunday.  That‘s the deadline.

One thousand one hundred and seventy bills, the Texas legislature meets roughly once in a blue moon.  This is all the work they have done during the last session.  And Rick Perry has to do one thing or another with the 1,170 bills by Sunday.

Unfortunately, for the Texas legislature, Rick Perry has been very busy lately—and not in Texas.

On Tuesday of this week, he was here in New York City.  Governor Perry stopped in at our neighbors across the street to give an interview to a gentleman named Neil Cavuto, who‘s one of the FOX News Channel hosts.  He then gave a rousing speech on Tuesday night to the New York City Republican Party‘s annual Lincoln dinner.

On Wednesday, he had a private lunch with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the kind of private lunch that gets a press release.  He also made a stop in North Carolina on Wednesday for the meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

Governor Perry finally returned to Texas yesterday.

But, tomorrow, he‘s back on the road.  He‘s going to New Orleans.

Remember, 1,170 bills on his desk.  The deadline is Sunday.

But, tomorrow, he is due to be out of state, again.

Look at this.  This is the Web site for the Republican Leadership Conference which is held every year.  In every presidential primary year, it becomes the showcase for people running for president.

Sure enough, the people speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference this year include Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, even Jon Huntsman—due to announce his candidacy on Tuesday—Jon Huntsman apparently got a bad cold and felt he could not travel to make his speech at this event, but he still reportedly sent his wife and daughters, not to give a speech there, but just to sit there and be Huntsmans, because it is that important.

Do you think that the Republican Leadership Conference would have something to brag about, right?  If you‘re bragging about all the presidential candidates who they‘ve got speaking at their event.

Just today, they had Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum speaking on the same day.  But even on the day those two declared candidates were speaking, the Republican Leadership Conference put up on the front page of their Web site, on their event Web site, the guy who was supposedly not a presidential candidate who is not speaking until tomorrow.  That‘s got to sting.

But Rick Perry is clearly enjoying this.  But I mentioned that there are 1,170 bills on his desk in need of his attention by Sunday.

Governor Perry‘s spokesman, a man named Mike Miner explained what the governor is doing by telling reporters that the governor‘s priority is on the Texas legislature.  And, no, we were never able to figure out if Texas has an autopen.

But here‘s the deal with Republicans running for president this year.  There are all these people who aren‘t very interesting as candidates in their own right.

Ron Paul is always interesting, his particular brand of libertarianism and his wide following among not traditionally Republican constituencies.  Herman Cain is a very interesting candidate this year, definitely a real crowd pleaser, if nothing else.

Michele Bachmann is interesting.  She has been—frankly, she has been a side show as a Republican politician for her career in her Congress.  But she is trying to mount what looks like a very mainstream and probably well-funded campaign.

Jon Huntsman is interesting, not just because of the head cold family travel issue, but because of his, so far, quite strange advertising, hiring the “I am not a witch” guy and then running his own surreal, non-sequitur “I am not a Wizard” ad.  Also the fact that he is getting into the race so late.  He‘s just been kind of interesting.

Newt Gingrich has been interesting as well, sadly and short of a schadenfruede way.  After hinting at running for president for a decade so as to make money off seemingly important enough to maybe run for president, after a decade of building to it, Mr. Gingrich‘s first real step over the threshold was right on to a rake.

Also, Rick Santorum is running.  I should never say it that way, I‘m sorry.  And although maybe the top tier may eventually include Jon Huntsman -- John Huntsman technically isn‘t in yet.

So, the real cast of credible contenders, sort of top-tier contenders at this point is only Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney.

Tim Pawlenty I think sort of being considered a credible candidate, mostly on reputation at this point.  As we talked about on last night‘s show, Mr. Pawlenty has yet to get out of double digits in any recent poll.  He‘s been campaigning his heart out.

So far, that has only earned him 5 percent in New Hampshire.  That‘s a new poll.  That‘s up from his last poll in New Hampshire.  He‘s behind Rudy Giuliani who is not running and behind Sarah Palin who is not running.

He‘s only one point ahead of Herman Cain.  He is polling at half of Michele Bachmann.  And this is not in Iowa.  This is New Hampshire.

For whatever reason, things are not just connecting for Tim Pawlenty, as Chris Hayes said on this show last night, there does not appear to be any Paw-mentum.

So, that really leaves, as the only candidate in the top tier, Mitt Romney.  And while everybody concedes that Mr. Romney is the front-runner, the widespread and admitted dislike of him among the Republican political class, among the people who ran alongside him in ‘08, among people who know him, it may be driving the common wisdom now that the Republicans field is kind of a hold your nose situation.

Mitt Romney maybe in the lead, but there aren‘t very many people who are very happy about that.  And so, there is still this hunting for someone else to please get in.  That means Bob Dole, literally floated General David Petraeus‘ name, again this week.

That means South Carolina Republicans have formed a tiny altar to Chris Christie and have worshiped it in front of him by cameras.  It means Rick Perry, also.  Rick Perry, apparently forgetting about 1,170 pieces of legislation that he has to do something about before Sunday while he travels around the country lapping up the attention.

Nobody knows if Rick Perry is going to get in or not.  When he traveled to New York this week, he traveled with his longtime political adviser, who‘s one of the people who just quit Newt Gingrich‘s campaign.  So, that might be a sign that Mr. Perry is running.

Venerable Texas political reporter Wayne Slater reported on our air last week that Rick Perry‘s family is urging him to run.  For a lot of candidates, that‘s a very important factor.

We just don‘t know yet whether or not he is going to run.  He hasn‘t made an announcement.  He has not announced that he‘s going to announce of an announcement.

But whether or not he ultimately joins the race, there‘s one thing to understand about the case that Rick Perry will make and the case that Rick Perry‘s supporters will make for why he would make a good candidate and why by extension he would make a good president.  There‘s one thing to understand about the case for Rick Perry that is being made so far and that it looks like it will be the basis for his presidential run.  One thing to understand about that—it‘s baloney.

This is not a story about Anthony Weiner, this is actually baloney.  Every time—visual aid, every time you hear anybody talk about the Texas miracle and why Rick Perry ought to run for president, because Texas is in such great shape under Rick Perry‘s decade of leadership, I want you to imagine this and remember how stupid I looked holding this—baloney.

If we can talk about Anthony Weiner in part on the strength of him having a funny name for three week, let this be what you think of when somebody tells you how awesome Rick Perry made the economy of Texas.


GOV. RICK Perry ®, TEXAS:  I‘m proud to be a Texan.  I‘m proud to be a conservative.  Not just because I‘m from Texas, because conservatives have won the war of ideals.

See, in Texas, you don‘t have to use your imagination and go, well, what do you think if we tried this conservative principle over here?  We‘ve been doing it.  We‘ve been doing it and it‘s paying great dividends in our state.


MADDOW:  Great dividends.

This is the case for Rick Perry for president.  “The Wall Street Journal” lead editorial last week was titled “The Lone Star Job Surge.”  Everybody from “The Wall Street Journal” editorial page to the “National Review” to everybody else who is encouraging Rick Perry to run is making this case that Texas has this awesome economy.  Yes, the national economy maybe in bad shape.  But Texas has an awesome economy, thanks to Rick Perry‘s 10 years in charge there.

After Rick Perry‘s 10 years in charge in Texas, Texas is a lot of things, but a place where economically everything has worked out awesome?  Baloney.

Look at the unemployment situation in Texas right now.  Texas is in the middle of the pack in the country in terms of its unemployment rate.  Twenty-three states across the country have a lower unemployment rate than Texas does.  And that stubborn unemployment rate in the Lone Star State has been going up as the rest of the country has recently been coming down.

And, from the recession until now, wages in the country have gone up 5 percent.  In Texas they have gone up 0.6 percent.

In California, since the recession, wages have gone up 9.3 percent.  In New York, it was 2.5 percent.  Again, nationally, 5 percent.  In Texas, it was 0.6 percent.

In terms of the jobs that Texans do have, Texas has the highest proportion in the country of people making minimum wage and the highest number of people earning minimum wage anywhere in the country.  Nationally, in median terms, American workers are making $12.50 per hour.  That‘s the median wage, nationally.

In Texas, the median wage is $11.20 per hour.  And by the way, you don‘t health insurance.

Texas has the highest proportion of uninsured people in the entire country.  More than one in four Texans do not have health insurance.  That‘s the worst of anywhere in the country.

And in the face of that, Governor Perry wants to opt out of Medicaid, which is the way you are supposed to get insurance if you are disabled or poor.  And the Texas legislature with Governor Perry‘s support, just passed a bill to kill Medicare.  What Paul Ryan wants to do at the national level, Rick Perry and Texas Republicans are trying to do at the state level.  They are trying to privatize Medicare and thereby get rid of it.

So, in Texas, the unemployment rate has been going up.  It has the most people in the country who are making only minimum wage, people overall are making less money than the rest of the country.  You are more likely in Texas to have no health insurance than anywhere else in the country.  And Rick Perry is working double time to make that even worse.

And as Rick Perry travels around all those “we love you, Rick Perry” dinners, he keeps talking about how the federal government can really learn a thing or two about the economy from Texas.

Texas right now has the fourth worst budget deficit in the country.  That‘s the fiscal discipline the conservative principles that Rick Perry has been bragging on.  The fourth worst budget deficit in the country at the state level.  The only states that have a worst deficit are California, New Jersey and New York.  I know what you‘re thinking.  Come on.  Come on.

Texas is a huge state with such a huge economy.  Put in context, Maddow.  Be fair.

OK, as percentage of the state‘s budget rather than just in absolute terms, as a percentage of the state‘s budget, Texas has the fifth worst budget short fall in the country.

But the single most important thing to know about Rick Perry, the thing that motivated us to go out in a giant hailstorm today to buy this enormous baloney is this—on the same day that Governor Perry asked for stimulus funds, he set up a petition online titled, “no government bailouts.”  He wrote on his Rick Perry blog, “Join our fight and add your voice to a growing list of several thousand Americans who are fed up with this irresponsible spending that threatens our future.”

That was on the day he endorsed the federal check for $6.4 billion in stimulus money that he was screaming from the rooftops he would never accept.  The same day, join our fight, the day that he‘s accepting the money.

Rick Perry had previously advocated that Texas reject the stimulus money because he said we can take care of ourselves.

In 2009, Rick Perry screamed from the rooftops that he would not accept stimulus money.  He then took the stimulus money and that was the money that filled in 97 percent of Texas‘ budget shortfall that year.

We have been balancing our budget in Texas.  Oh, really?

According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, no state was more dependent on stimulus funds than Texas under Rick Perry.

Maybe Rick Perry will be the Republican antidote to the Mitt Romney frontrunner blues.

But the case for Rick Perry is going to have to be something other than the awesome, conservative, no federal money Rick Perry economy of Texas.

I know it‘s not a story about a guy named Weiner, but it‘s just as much baloney.

By all accounts, Governor Perry has many charming qualities.  They are going to have to pick something else for him to run on.

The good news for Texans in all this, though, is that after headlines like this—look at this—ran in the “Houston Chronicle,” “Perry flirts with White House run as bills pile up.”  After that ran in the “Houston Chronicle” today, the governor finally did make it back to his office today to stop flirting with the presidency long enough to actually sign some of those 1,170 bills that have been sitting there waiting for the governor to come back home.


MADDOW:  FOX News challenge host Bill O‘Reilly says that Louisiana senator and hooker guy David Vitter should resign from the Senate over that whole hooker scandal.  Bill O‘Reilly said that on television.  Somebody finally advocating that Vitter has got to go.  Does that strike you as a true statement or does that strike you as bunk?

Let us meet at the junction for some debunktion, that‘s coming up.


MADDOW:  Imagine it is election day, 2010.  Here, this will help.


MADDOW:  It‘s November 2nd, 2010.  Decision 2010.  You are home. 

You are home in, say, Baltimore, for example.

One of the things you get to vote on today on your state today, election day, 2010, is who will be Maryland‘s governor.  The incumbent Democrat Martin O‘Malley, you can see him there on the left, he is being challenged by a former Republican governor named Bob Ehrlich.

So, you‘re at home in Baltimore, it‘s election day, 2010, and while you are home, your phone rings.  You pick up the phone and this is what you hear.


VOICE:  I‘m calling to let everyone know that Governor O‘Malley and President Obama have been successful.  Our goals have been met.  The polls are correct and we took it.  We‘re OK.  Relax.  Everything is fine.  The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight.  Congratulations and thank you.


MADDOW:  Our goals have been met.  Everything is fine, don‘t bother going to vote, stay home and watch TV.  That was a robocall, an automated recording with no paid for by, blah, blah, blah at the end of it.  That automated recording went out on election day, 2010, and it went to more than 100,000 voters in Baltimore City and in Prince George‘s County.

Baltimore City and Prince George‘s Country are notable for things in electoral politics.  They are both majority black jurisdictions and majority black districts tend to vote strongly Democratic.

In the 2008 election in Baltimore City, Barack Obama got about 200,000 votes, John McCain got 28,000.  In Prince George‘s County in ‘08, Barack got 300,000 votes, John McCain got about a tenth of that.  Those are huge, huge margins.

Baltimore City and Prince George‘s County, largely African-American and reliably Democratic.

The robocall saying “don‘t go vote today” targeted those specific jurisdictions.  Now, it may have been an accident, or it may have been a coincidence.  But that is not what a grand jury thinks.

Two operatives from the Bob Ehrlich campaign, from the Republican challenger‘s campaign, have been indicted in Baltimore City now for orchestrating that robocall.  This was a criminal indictment.  One of the operatives was Paul Schurick, Bob Ehrlich‘s campaign manager.  The grand jury charged him with three counts of conspiring to violate state campaign laws and two counts of violating election laws.  The other man charged was a consultant named Julius Henson.  He faces similar charges.

According to the indictment today, the plan to discourage likely Democratic voters from voting was months in the making.


REPORTER:  The indictments say Henson‘s plan was hatched in June of last year.  It was called the Schurick doctrine, the indictment say, which was designed to promote confusion, emotionalism and frustration among African-American Democrats, focused in precincts where high percentages of African-Americans vote.


MADDOW:  Schurick doctrine—to confuse, upset and promote confusion among black Democrats.  Focus in precincts where high percentages of African-Americans vote.

On election day, about two hours before poll closed, the consultant, at least it says in the complaint, the consultant send the campaign manager a text message confirming that this robocall, this don‘t bother to vote robocall had gone out and he wanted to make sure that he was going to get paid for it tomorrow.

That‘s the allegedly illegal way to make sure the people you do not want to vote cannot or do not vote.  And, yes, you can do it the illegal way, and that can sometimes result in your house getting raided by the feds while the local media films it.

You can also do the same sort of thing the legal way.  According to the nonpartisan Brennan Center at NYU, this year, at least 37 states are considering or have considered new laws this year to make it harder to vote or harder to register to vote.  Seven states have passed laws limiting the ways you can register.  And making it more difficult and more expensive to vote, all seven states governed by Republican-controlled legislatures.

The Democratic governor of Missouri vetoed one of these bills today.  Republicans in the legislature of Missouri are already vowing to send him another one.  And, of course, they are angling for a constitutional amendment to restrict voting rights in Missouri.

The lawyers group, the Advancement Project, says what red state legislatures are doing in the states right now is the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.

This week, “USA Today” published an editorial titled  “Our View:

Republican ID laws smack of vote suppression.”  Quote, “Scratch just gently below the surface and these news measures appear unnecessary at beast.  Voter fraud is rare and consist largely of the types of actions that IDs would not correct.  Republicans see a benefit in lowering the turnout among certain voters.  The people most likely to be dissuaded by the hassle of obtaining an ID card—the old and infirm, the young and poor—tend, of course, to vote Democratic.

Joining us now is Melissa Harris Perry, professor of political science at Tulane University and MSNBC contributor.

Melissa, it‘s great to see you.  Thanks for being here.


MADDOW:  Are legislative efforts to make it harder to vote—harder register to vote, are they—should we see them as being on the same continuum with the kinds of voter suppression tactics in Baltimore like the ones that led to these indictments today?

HARRIS-PERRY:  Yes.  And, in fact, we should also see them on the same historical continuum with the Jim Crow laws that included things like poll taxes and literacy tests and on the same continuum with the kind of so-called good government reform that occurred in urban areas, largely to suppress the voting of white ethnics, like the Irish and the Italians during the start of the 20th century.

This is all part of a very, very long tradition within American politics of attempting to keep ones opponents out of the voting booth by using language about proper and appropriate, you know, voters.  But it‘s always about simply suppressing those that you don‘t want there, pulling the lever on election day.

MADDOW:  One of the things that I feel like has changed and I take your point of the historical continuity about this as a strategic matter, but something that has changed I think in the last, I don‘t know, eight or 10 years, is that there doesn‘t seem to be a modern political consensus anymore, that it is a good idea for people to vote, that higher voter participation is a national value, that people should be encouraged to vote and that we should be proud when a lot of people do.

I feel like—when I was a kid, when I was growing up, even into my 20s, that was the sort of way that people, at least, that was the sort of thing people at least give lip service to, I don‘t feel we have consensus on that anymore.

HARRIS-PERRY:  Yes. Well, I actually don‘t think that there‘s ever been a very strong consensus around that in the American political system.  I mean, from the very beginning, we were founded on a sense of, you know, real concern and anxiety about populism.  We don‘t even directly elect our president.  We didn‘t used to directly elect our senators.  We didn‘t allow women to vote.

I mean, we‘ve always had to reach for the vote.  We‘ve always had to push to extend the franchise.  So, I actually think this is pretty consistent with how Americans thought about it.  But I want to be really, really clear here, that this, these rules of the game, this is where politics really matters.

We spent a lot of time in media.  We spent a lot of time in elections, really talking about the personalities, the individuals who are going to hold office, are they courageous, are they smart, are they competent, are they liberal, are they conservative.  But the grit (ph), the stuff that makes all of this turn out one way or another are the rules by which we vote.

And so, when you start seeing massive efforts like this, then you know something is afoot that is not just about who will or won‘t run in 2012.  That‘s almost irrelevant.  This is where the big stuff is happening.

MADDOW:  I could not agree more.  And I have always had an impressionistic theory that the reason that Republicans are better at thinking about the structural issues, about those rules issues, as you describe it, is because the Republican Party and the conservative movement operate independent of one another and the conservative movement cares about advancing conservative principles and policies more than it cares about any individual candidate who they might fall in love with.

So, they have persuaded the Republican Party to do the eyes on horizon, long term things that change the structures in which politics is discussed in which we have politics, in a way that Democrats have never really been able to do because Democrats are really focused election to election to election.

HARRIS-PERRY:  Well, that‘s part of it.  But I don‘t want to give quite that much credit to Republicans.  I mean, parts of the others simply that Democrats are the messier party.  We actually do have a more diverse electorate in terms of the variety of issues and opinions that are represented within the truly big tent of the Democratic Party, part of the difficulty in holding together party discipline with such a diverse party.

But, look, when you look back at the George W. Bush administration and the efforts to move us away from talking voter suppression and instead to talk about voter fraud and even to fire U.S. attorney generals who U.S.  attorneys who were not willing to prosecute, quote, “voter fraud” and even with their aggressive voter fraud efforts, they find fewer than 100 individual instances.  I‘m not even talking, you know, hundreds of thousands of people like we‘re seeing in this Maryland case -- 100 people who seem to have committed voter fraud.  That compared to this enormous problem of voter suppression that is old and historic and deeply rooted—look, we have to get it together, not so much as Democrats but as Americans.  This is where the health of democracy lies.

MADDOW:  MSNBC contributor and Tulane University professor, Melissa Harris-Perry, you are wicked smart.  It‘s great.

HARRIS-PERRY:  Can you come save me?  I‘m in New Orleans.  They are here.

MADDOW:  They are.  You should go see it.  OK, wait.  Hold on.  OK. 

You guys, don‘t listen.


MADDOW:  If you go over there and can get anybody to talk to you, I will—what can I do?  I will do something that you really want that I don‘t know about yet.

HARRIS-PERRY:  I will at least TwitPic it.  How about that?


MADDOW:  Yes.  Deal.


MADDOW:  OK, Melissa, appreciate it.

All right. A full on Debunktion Junction tonight, and my favorite correction of an on-air mistake ever really is “The Best Thing of the World Today.”  That is coming up.


MADDOW:  I love Fridays.

All right.  After we had our normal news meeting as a staff, one item remained so pressing late into the afternoon that we had to call a second emergency news meeting in my office late in the afternoon to try to address it.


BILL WOLFF, TRMS EXEC. PRODUCER:  When we make an error, the worst thing is when you get called on it.  Sometimes it‘s by a viewer.  Sometimes it‘s by a newspaper.  It always feels terrible.  This was by a 6-year-old.

MADDOW:  It wasn‘t just a 6-year-old.  It was like a lot of 6-year-olds.

WOLFF:  Yes.  Right.  The whole 6-year-old.  We don‘t really rate in that demo.  The whole 6-year-old demo chimed in instantly.

I got a call during the show from a 6-year-old saying like, wrong! 

And he wasn‘t even kidding.


WOLFF:  I was like that‘s bad.  He said, yes, that‘s bad.  He was not joking.  You guys got it wrong.


MADDOW:  The drunk monkey camera work is totally my fault.  I‘m sorry, it‘s me holding the flip cam and going like this.

What was it that had our 6-year-old demographic so upset with us? 

Another clip from our emergency news meeting.  Here‘s a hint.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who does live in a pineapple under the sea?  You think you know, don‘t you?  The answer may surprise you.  It totally surprised me.  That beautiful weirdness is coming up.


MADDOW:  “Debunktion Junction,” what‘s my function?  I‘ve missed you.

OK.  First question, true or false.  FOX News host Bill O‘Reilly, staunch conservative, major right wing influence, self-proclaimed fair person, wants Republican Senator David Vitter to resign because David Vitter cheated on his wife with hookers.  And that‘s at least as bad as what Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner did.  Mr. O‘Reilly says since it was right for Anthony Weiner to quit, Republican Senator David Vitter should as well.

Is that true or false?

True.  Or to be specific, that is it‘s at least true now.


ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS:  We‘d be far better off with Vitter out?

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS:  I don‘t think Vitter should be there. 

Absolutely not.


MADDOW:  I don‘t think Vitter should be there.  No double standard here.  A clear statement, throw that David Vitter bum out.  Very clear.

And very clearly not what Mr. O‘Reilly has been saying since David Vitter turned up on the client list for the D.C. madam.  As far as we can tell, Mr. O‘Reilly has never before last night called for David Vitter to resign.  In fact, when Democrat Eliot Spitzer resigned in his hooker scandal and Mr. O‘Reilly said Mr. Spitzer had to go, Mr. O‘Reilly specifically clarified at that time that Spitzer had to go for his hooker scandal but Vitter was actually fine to stay.


O‘REILLY:  People are saying, well, look, there‘s a senator in Louisiana, Vitter.  But when you are the chief law enforcement officer, when that‘s your sworn duty and you violate criminal law, I mean, there‘s no way you can stay and keep your job.  It‘s not like being a senator or congressman or everything else.


MADDOW:  It‘s not like being a senator with hookers.  I mean, that, who cares?

I can report to you tonight that Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has still never been the governor of New York but now, retroactively trying to look evenhanded, Bill O‘Reilly says he should resign.


O‘REILLY:  I don‘t think he should be there.  Absolutely not.


MADDOW:  I never said otherwise, except for all the other times I said—OK.

Next question, true or false?  Republicans want to spend $4 billion on building a new generation of nuclear weapons as in this “Washington Post” headline from last November and in this headline from  Republicans want $4 billion for better, newer nuclear weapons.

Is that what America needs?  Is that true or false?

False.  At least today it‘s false.  We had asked this question back in November, I thought the answer was true.  In November, Senator Jon Kyl insisted that President Obama commit $4 billion to making sure that America can blow the world up dozens of times over with newer and better means than the ones we have already.

Senator Kyl insisted on those billions of dollars for new nuclear weapons as the Senate Republicans condition for ratifying the president‘s arms reduction treaty with Russia.  The White House said, OK, you can have your $4 billion.  So, the Senate barely voted for the treaty and the deal was done.

But as Walter Pincus reports today for “The Washington Post,” somebody forgot to tell the other Republicans in Washington, the ones in the House.  Somebody forget to tell them that new nuclear weapon is something Republicans want to spend billions of dollars on.  House Republicans just cut out those $4 billion that the Senate Republicans insisted so loudly for months.

So, even though Republicans did want $4 billion for new nuclear weapons just a few months ago, now, they don‘t want that anymore.

Last question.  True or false?  The Portland, Oregon, water district is draining a nearly 8 million gallon reservoir of public drinking water because somebody peed in it.  It sounds like a classic urban myth, but is it true or false?  They are draining a small lake in Portland, Oregon, because somebody peed in it.  Is that true or false?

True.  And it is costing $36,000 to do it.  A 21-year-old man named Josh says he had a pleasant buzz on this weekend when he just all of a sudden had to go.  He apparently did not know the water in the reservoir was meant for people to drink.  He says he thought it was a sewage treatment plant.  Nice place to get a buzz on.

A surveillance camera caught Josh mid act in this incredibly grainy, scary footage.  And the water district decided that his output, even though it was a wee little bit of output was just too gross.  I can‘t be 100 percent sure, but I think this is the same Josh in the all dark shorts here having a martial arts fight here in his backyard.  And again, same shorts here, I think in a cage match.  His fighting nickname is The Monkey.

And although it is totally true that somebody named Josh who might be this guy, peed in the Oregon reservoir and they are having to drain it at the taxpayers cost of tens of thousands of dollars, I do not advise teasing this guy about it.  I do not advise teasing this Josh the Monkey of Oregon about it if this is indeed the same guy.  I do not advise teasing him about anything.  Just quietly call this true and move on.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  When we find out every single day how many people actually watch this show the night before, it happens at roughly 4:08.  Not that I pay attention.  The audience numbers are broken down by age, like a certain number of people between ages 18 to 34 watch us, a certain number between 25 and 54, and so on and so on.

We never figured that we were doing that well with the highly sought after demographic of 6-year-old viewers, until I made a critical factual error on this show last week.  And an alarmingly high number of viewers in the coveted 2-7-year-old demo let us have it.  We hit a nerve.

You know what it‘s like to be corrected by a tiny child and have the child be totally correct?  A lot.  Over and over again for a week.  A new adventure in cable TV show host humility is coming up next.


MADDOW:  Headline, March 1st, 2006.  “Iraq‘s worst week and Bush‘s,” quote, “For the first three years of this colossal misadventure, Bush and his political advisers were able to obscure Iraq‘s harsh reality beneath the smokescreen of antiterrorist fear mongering and patriotic fervor.  But the smoke is blowing away.”

Headline, March 23rd, 2006.  “Civil war?  What civil war?”  Quote, “That there should be a political controversy over whether there is a civil war in Iraq, is a tribute to the Bush‘s administration‘s Orwellian attention to political rhetoric.  By the most widely accepted social science measure, Iraq is incontestably in a civil war,” end quote.

Juan Cole for years was one of the country‘s most articulate and uncompromising and consistent critics of the war in Iraq.  There have been a lot of critics of the war in Iraq.  But one of the reasons that Juan Cole has been a rather important one is because the man knows of what he speaks.  He is Richard P. Mitchell collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan.

When you have an academic title like that, that has somebody else‘s name in your professional title, because you have an endowed chair , that means you are not just a professor.  It means you‘re a highly esteemed top of the game professor.

Dr. Cole speaks and reads Arabic.  He is an expert on the modern history of the Middle East and South Asia.  He actually speaks a number of different dialects of Arabic as well Urdu and Farsi, which is the language that they speak in Iran.

His “Informed Comment” blog became important quickly in the early days of the Iraq war and even before it, not just because of his analysis and his intellect, but because unlike almost anybody else writing on the subject in English for an American audience, Juan Cole was drawing on Arabic language source materials.  He was bringing to a U.S. audience what he could read that the rest of us couldn‘t, what was other being said and reported only to the Middle East.

Because of that blog, “Informed Comment,” Juan Cole became a frequent guest of mine on my radio show on Air America before I was here.  He‘s also been a guest here on this show since I have been a host at MSNBC.

Then out of nowhere, yesterday, Juan Cole ended up on the front page of “The New York Times,” not for something that he has done or written, but because “The Times” is reporting allegations from a former CIA officer about Juan Cole, allegations that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on Professor Cole in order to discredit him.

The former agent telling “The Times,” quoting from “The Times,” “White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, who writes an influential blog that criticized the Iraq war.”  Sensitive information, of course, meaning personal information, to make him look bad.

For context here, around the time the CIA officer alleges this was all happening, “The New York Times” points out that Professor Cole was being targeted by conservatives trying to stop him from getting a very prestigious academics appointment to Yale University.

As “The Times” put it, quote, “In 2006, conservative columnists, bloggers and pundits with close ties to the Bush administration railed against him, accusing Professor Cole of being anti-American and anti-Israeli.  Yale ultimately scuttled the appointment.”

These allegations in “The New York Times” this week about the Bush White House and CIA are very explosive allegations.  For one thing, the CIA is not supposed to be doing diddly to American citizens.  But for another thing, an allegation that the White House would turn any intelligence agency against its domestic critics, even if you believe that happens all the time, it is still a very, very grave charge to level.

To be clear, there is only one named on the record source for this story.  One retired CIA officer.  But “The times” says they only talked to that named source after they learned about the Juan Cole allegations elsewhere.  Intelligence officials went on record with “The Times” to dispute the most explosive parts of the history.  They told “The Times,” quote, “White House officials did ask about Professor Cole in 2006, but only to find out why he had been invited to CIA-sponsored conferences on the Middle East.”  The official said that the White House did not ask for sensitive personal information and that the agency did not provide it.

We asked the CIA about the retired officer‘s allegations.  They told us something that they also told “The New York Times.”  Quote, “We have thoroughly researched our records and any allegations that the CIA provided private or derogatory information on Professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong.”

Senior intelligence official today also told us that Professor Cole has participated in CIA conferences in the years since this alleged series of events, both during the Bush administration and during the Obama administration.

Right now, “The Times” is alone in reporting on this story.  A lot of other people have picked up this story, because it is so explosive, but nobody else should be noted has been able to further any additional reporting on this story so far.

And the former CIA officer who made the allegation that ended on the front page of the “Times,” his name is Glenn Carle, and it should be noted that Glenn Carle has a book due out at the end of this month, detailing his sometimes troubled career at the CIA.  That officer is alone so far in going on the record to confirm these accusations.  But for his part, Professor Juan Cole has written on his blog that the news of Mr. Carle‘s allegations come to him as a visceral shock.

Professor Cole is reacting to these allegations, to this front page news that he is the subject of by calling for an investigation.  Juan Cole gave us this statement.  He said, “If what Glenn Carle alleged actually happened, the charter of the CIA was violated and the U.S. Constitution was violated.  If there are no consequences for such actions by the powerful then their successors will be all the more tempted to repeat them.

Unless a full investigation of in story is launched by the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees and by Eric Holder at the Department of Justice, we will not get the documents that show exactly what was done and how widespread these abuses were and we won‘t be in the position to take the steps to forestall them from being repeated.”

The United States Senate does now say it is taking action on this.  Intelligence Committee chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said today in a statement, quote, “The committee is looking into this, depending on what we  find, we may take further action.”

Juan Cole is traveling in Europe right now.  He‘s promised to come on this show and talk with us about it in person when he returns.

In the meantime, his full statement of the matter is posted at our Web site,, if you‘d like to check it out.  And we are continuing to push our own reporting into understanding this story.  We‘ll keep you posted as we learn.

And we‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  OK.  “Best New Thing in the World Today” is a correction. 

It is a correction to a factual error I made on this program one week ago.  I was talking about one of the many targets of the very, very, very anti-gay American Family Association when I said this -- 


MADDOW:  They also went after SpongeBob SquarePants who, after all, lives with his starfish friend Patrick in a pineapple under the sea and occasionally holds Patrick‘s hand.


MADDOW:  OK.  If you are a 6-year-old child or the parent of a 6-year-old child or perhaps you are an adult who watches SpongeBob SquarePants without any excuse, then I know from my inbox and from our show‘s voice mail that you immediately figured out what I got wrong there.

All right.  Here‘s the real deal.  SpongeBob SquarePants has is a own house.  He lives in that pineapple that you see there on the right.  Also, he is (INAUDIBLE).  Patrick, the starfish, Patrick Star lives under the rock there on the left, the one with the weather vane on top.  So, different houses, they do not live together.

That said, the American Family Association did once attack SpongeBob for promoting homosexuality.  But I guess not because he and Patrick technically cohabitated.  They live near each other, but not together.

That error of mine was egregious.  It was brought to my attention first by a 6-year-old boy named Hunter Kale (ph).  Hunter, here we go, Hunter not only had his mother deliver a message to me that I was wrong, with an exclamation point, he drew me a picture to show me who lives where.

You see SpongeBob and his pineapple house.  You see Patrick standing next to his rock and it is signed emphatically by Hunter, exclamation point.  All right.

I also got a drawing from 7-year-old Kasi (ph), which shows me the layout of SpongeBob‘s neighborhood in Bikini Bottom, revealing to me that not only do not SpongeBob and Patrick not live together, they are not next door neighborhoods.  Squidward‘s house is in it middle there.

I also got drawings from Harry and from Ella.

This is from Ella.  Ella‘s drawing making sure that I‘m aware that SpongeBob‘s neighborhood is well down in the sea, beneath a small island.

And Harry‘s drawing, I would call this—this is less strictly representational of my error than I think it is more an impressionistic yet emphatic correction of me getting it wrong.

And then today, two more—two more SpongeBob and Patrick‘s offerings arrived from 2-year-old Aisha and 4-year-old Ivanni (ph).  These are coloring book pages as you can see, but they do illustrate SpongeBob and Patrick‘s relationship which apparently involves holding ears as well as hands.  This is Ivanni‘s.

All right.  So, after the segment, I‘m putting all these drawings back where they belong, which is on our office wall, next to the board, where we plan each day‘s show.  Look, reminders to me, yes, that‘s where they are—that‘s the show for today.  And this is all of the corrections hounding me all week long for getting this wrong to an extent that it made 6-year-olds send me all this important explanatory artwork.

Reminder to the entire staff of the importance of getting our facts right on everything, every fact, because having so many children so emphatically correct me ,it is actually “The Best New Thing in the World Today,” as long as it never happens again.  I‘m deeply humbled by this experience.

Now, with those kids to bed very quickly, because now, it‘s time for prison.  Prison in three, two, one—go!





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