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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guests: Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Frank Rich


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Chris.


I‘m very happy that you just did that commentary on the Casey Anthony verdict.  I did not know what to say about it if anything tonight.  But when I found that you were going to be saying, I knew that we basically had it cover.  So, thanks, man.  I appreciate it.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Thank you.  That means a lot, Rachel. 

Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Thanks.

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

The great Frank Rich is going to be here shortly for his interview since leaving “The New York Times.”  I‘m very excited about that.

But, first, over the span of the last five years, the giant oil company ExxonMobil has been the single most profitable company in the entire world.  ExxonMobil is among the most profitable companies the entire world has ever known.  They first became the most-profitable company in the world back in 2006.  Since then, they have taken that top spot in 2007, in 2008, and again in 2009.

This past year was such a great year for Exxon that they made $5 million in profit every single hour, 24 hours a day, just profit.

In addition to making itself into a money-making machine the likes of which the world has never seen, ExxonMobil has also been really very busy lately making the famed and treasured Yellowstone River in Montana look like this.

For a company that has the closest thing the world has ever known to infinite resources, they have infinite money at their disposal—you cannot mint money faster than ExxonMobil makes it.  For a company that has infinite resources at its disposal, this mess that they have made of the Yellowstone River seems to be beyond their capacity, outside their grasp.

Late Friday night, one of Exxon‘s oil pipelines burst beneath the Yellowstone River, just outside of Billings, Montana.  The cause of the rupture is so far unknown, but the result of it is visible as far as the eye can see -- 42,000 gallons of crude oil is the estimate, an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil gushed into the river on Friday night, overrunning its banks and coating everything in sight.

Right after the accident happened, Exxon officials estimated that most of the oil released would affect only a 10-mile area surrounding the rupture.  They were then forced to acknowledge a day later that the spill would, in fact, reach beyond that 10-mile stretch.  EPA officials are now saying oil has been spotted at least 40 miles away.

Yesterday afternoon, an ExxonMobil spokesman told “The Associated Press,” quote, “It‘s unlikely that there‘s any oil in the water at this point.”  Again, that was yesterday afternoon.

Here‘s video from earlier today.  That‘s oil.  That‘s the water. 

That‘s oil in the water.

During a press conference over the weekend, Exxon‘s top official at the scene reported that no injured wildlife had been found in the area, unless bathing in crude oil is a hot new volunteer is a hot new volunteer trend among Montana Wildlife, that Exxon claim would also be disproven by photos published by the “Billings Gazette” of soiled pelicans and turtles.  There‘d also been reports of a dead duck that has turned up since.

In terms of the health risks posed by their spill, ExxonMobil reports, “We continue to monitor air quality and all previous reports have confirmed no danger to public health.”

No danger to public health.  Everything is fine.  Relax, people. 

Don‘t overreact.


            One local resident who lives along the Yellowstone River decided to

challenge that claim in person with the president of ExxonMobil Pipeline




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know two people in the hospital already over this.  One person was passing out last night because of the fumes, and now my wife.  And I don‘t believe you don‘t know what‘s in the oil, what‘s making people sick.


MADDOW:  In terms of the air quality around the Yellowstone River right now, which again, Exxon says it has been fastidiously monitoring, another local property owner who lives right alongside the Yellowstone River told “The Associated Press,” quote, “The smell has been enough to gag a maggot.”  “The Associated Press” reporter confirmed the skunk with his or her own nose.

In the four days since the oil pipeline ruptured underneath Montana‘s Yellowstone river, ExxonMobil‘s public statements of fact have not squared with the actual facts.

And even before spill.  I mean, consider the matter how we got here in the first place.  Back in May, just a few weeks ago, Exxon officials shut down this very pipeline over concerns about rising water levels along the river, due to recent heavy rain in Montana.  They were asked by city officials to assess the risk of operating this pipeline in these high water conditions.

After performing that risk assessment, the company decided to restart the pipeline and they said they examined its safety record and decided that any risk from high water in the river was low.  They just decided based on reviewing their own safety record that actually high water was no big deal for this pipeline, they can handle it.

What‘s believed to have caused this oil spill?  High waters in recent weeks that may have exposed the pipeline to debris.

ExxonMobil reviewing its own safety record to make that sort of decision is important here because it calls to mind ExxonMobil‘s safety record.  Back in July of last year, federal officials notified Exxon that this particular pipeline was subject to a number of probable violations of the law.

Among the regulations Exxon was in apparent violation of—emergency response training, rules governing the potential corrosion of pipes, and having out of dates maps and records for this pipeline.  Exxon‘s records apparently included valves on the pipeline that no longer existed.

Since the leak was discovered, Exxon says they still haven‘t seen the pipe that caused this whole mess in the first place.  Exxon‘s pipeline company president saying, quote, “We are very curious about what may have happened at the bottom of the river.”

They have to be curious about it because they still haven‘t seen it.

Again, ExxonMobil is one of the most-profitable companies on planet earth.  Exxon is one of the most-profitable companies the earth has ever known in the whole history of people making profit with companies.  And yet, four days after this big oil spill of theirs, they still have no way of seeing the ruptured pipe in question.  They say they are curious about it.

What does all of the money in the world buy a company like Exxon in terms of response capabilities of a spill like this?  There it is—all the money in the world, 45,000 feet of floating boom, about eight miles of boom that‘s been placed in the water and the surrounding areas to try to contain all the oil.

That rather depressing shot of the boom look familiar to you at all?  Yes.  It‘s the same type of largely ineffective boom that was used during the BP oil spill last year.  And if that boom looked familiar back then, it‘s because that was the same type of largely ineffective boom used 40 years earlier during the Santa Barbara spill of 1969.

This is the technological level of Exxon‘s response to a big oil spill in 2011, 45,000 feet of boom.  Also, about 2,000 absorbent pads.  Clean-up crews can be seen here laying down these pads along the riverbed.

What does a company with more resources than any company has ever had, what do they do when their product spills?  Hey, you guy, do you have paper towels?  That‘s pretty much it, absorbent pads.  That‘s their technology.

Exxon has been proven wrong over and over and over again about this spill over the past four days and as the governor of Montana rages against this company for not only having caused this disaster, but for the lack of resources on-hand so far to respond to it.  What the rest of us elsewhere in the country are left with here is, first of all, the specter of the Yellowstone River, the site of some of the greatest fishing on earth, this pristine national treasure befouled to the point where its smell could—what‘s that called? -- is enough to gag a maggot.

We‘re left with that as a nation and with the sense of awe and wonder there‘s a red versus blue, Democratic versus Republican fight in Washington right now because Democrats want to stop taxpayer subsidies to this industry.  Democrats want to stop taxpayer subsidies to the richest companies, the richest industries civilization has ever known.

And, apparently, that is worth fighting over.

Joining us now is the governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer.

Governor Schweitzer, thanks very much for your time today, sir.  It‘s good to see you.

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA:  Great to be back, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Can you give us any update on the extent of the damage?  We heard 25 miles downstream from Exxon tonight.  We heard 40 miles from the EPA.

What‘s your understanding?

SCHWEITER:  Nobody knows.  They flow on the river, I flew over the river.  And from an airplane, you can barely see any oil at all.

You can‘t—you can‘t see what‘s happening on those lowlands, those prairie areas.

What happened was the river was crested.  It was at flood stage, when the pipe burst.  Now, the river is coming down, and those areas that are outside the river channel are now losing the water because it‘s draining back into the river or its infiltrating and what‘s left behind is this black goo.

They tell us that they‘ve flown in the river, but the river is too high to put boats on, so they tell us, the furthest we‘ve seen it downstream is 15 miles.  Well, that river is running at seven miles per hour.  And with all of those profits that ExxonMobil has, they haven‘t bought a $2 calculator to know that 48 hours, it‘s running seven miles per hour, that‘s enough to get it to the North Dakota border and we are now much more than 48 hours, and yet they say, well, it could only have gone 25 miles.

Well, of course, oil floats on top of water.  Water is moving down very quickly.  So, it‘s moving along—some of that oil moved as far as the Missouri River confluence to the North Dakota border.

MADDOW:  Are you satisfied with how ExxonMobil has responded to the leak since they found out about it?  Do you think that a company with as many resources as they have should be able to do more than they are doing?

SCHWEITZER:  Well, you know, Reagan famously said that we will trust but verify.  But when the president of this pipeline company came out during the first 24 hours and said it‘s only gone 10 miles and there‘s no damage to wildlife, that was leaving us with just verify and verify.

So, it is the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, EPA, yes, we‘re working with ExxonMobil.  They will ultimately pay for all of this.  They told me today they would.

But just a year and a week ago, I called in all the agencies in state government and I said, OK, let‘s have a mock drill right now.  What happens if a pipeline bursts, an oil pipeline bursts and the Yellowstone River right now, what agency is in charge, who pays for it, where are the resources?

And I was assured that these private pipelines companies and oil companies, they all work together and they strategically place equipment around the country, near these pipelines, and when there‘s an emergency, they all come together and they work together until the disaster is fixed.  Nope, it didn‘t turn out that way.  Actually, the crew came in from Salt Lake City.  Equipment has come from the coast.  We waited a couple of days until we had any kind of a boat or crew could get on the river.

And so, if you wait long enough, this oil will dissipate, and, of course, the interests of the state of Montana to protect this river and the wildlife is not perfectly aligned with ExxonMobil whose primary interest is to protect the liability for their shareholders.

MADDOW:  What do you attribute the difference between the drill and the way it worked out?  Were people lying about the degree of readiness so that they get a thumbs-up to keep doing what they were doing?  Or is this something that—is this something where it could be better regulation?  Is there something where the mistakes were unforeseeable?  What explains that, do you think?

SCHWEITZER:  All of the above and older technology.  This pipeline is a 20-year old pipeline.  We no longer lay pipelines in rivers like this one is installed.  We no longer have a pipeline that‘s just five feet into the sediment at the bottom of a river.

If you‘re building new pipelines, the protocol today is that you drill horizontally 25 feet below the river bed, so even if it were to burst, it‘s not introduced to the river.

I asked them today specifically—if you replace this silver tip pipeline, are you going to horizontally drill under the river?  And I wasn‘t sure what the answer was.  They were engineers that sounded a lot like lawyers.

MADDOW:  The affects of these spills can last years.  Of course, that depends in part on how the clean-up effort is, but also how bad the damage is from the outset.

Do you have concerns about ExxonMobil sticking around as long as it has to, to clean up Montana, to clean up this river and help those who have been hurt by this?

SCHWEITZER:  I told them today that the clean-up will be done when the client, the state of Montana, the people of Montana, and the wildlife of Montana in that Yellowstone River decide that clean-up is done.  It won‘t be decided by ExxonMobil and it won‘t be decided by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

When we decide the clean-up is done, it‘s done.  And I can tell you this—I‘m the only soil scientist in America that‘s a governor.  And I‘m going to be on this like smell on a skunk until it‘s fixed.

MADDOW:  Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, thank you for your time tonight, sir, and good luck dealing with this big Exxon mess you got on your hands.

SCHWEITZER:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

Brand new “New York Magazine” writer at large and one of our all-time favorite guests, Frank Rich, will join us for “The Interview” shortly.  We‘re very much looking forward to that.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  In what possible political context does this make sense?  In what possible political context does a state Senate president say in total seriousness—without a grin on his face—does a state Senate president say of his state‘s governor, quote, “I want to punch him in the head”?

That happened.  The totally infuriating context for that is next.


MADDOW:  Welcome back again from the 4th of July holiday weekend, in case you have been having a personal news vacation—which I kind of hope you have been.  Let me tell you the great state of Minnesota is still closed.

And we brought you this story on Friday when the people of Minnesota were just finishing day one of their state government shutdown.

State road repair, if it‘s not an emergency—forget it.  Those new

bridges they are building in the all too short Minnesota buildings season -

not right now.


State rest stops?  Nope.  Hoping to get your driver‘s license?  No. 

Child care assistance—not now.  Parks like this one, closed.

And now, actually, worse off than before they closed, police arrested 12 people this weekend for breaking into an office and a pair of cabins at Afton State Park in Minnesota and also for adding a body part in spray paint to poor Smokey the bear as reports “The Minneapolis Star Tribune.”

The local sheriff‘s office says this kind of vandalism and burglary would never have happened if the state government had not shut down and sent the workers home.

Today, a bipartisan panel of Minnesota luminaries, including former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale stepped in and former Republican Governor Arne Carlson stepped in, too, desperately trying to try to broker some kind of deal, some kind of end to this standoff.

Democratic Governor Mark Dayton met briefly with Republican lawmakers this afternoon.  They do not appear to have made any progress.

What‘s happening in Minnesota is nominally being described as a fight over the budget, the Republican legislature wants big spending cuts to close the deficit and the Democratic governor wants a mix of spending cuts and more taxes on people making over 1 million bucks a year.  That‘s the nominal description of what this fight is about.

But consider also that Minnesota‘s Republicans also threw into their list of demands things like banning abortion at 20 weeks and stripping union rights, and making it harder to vote in Minnesota.

What does that have to do with a budget shutdown?  Not a lot—but if a budget is seen as something to be hoped for, something to be steered at rather than avoid it, why not just throw in every demand plus the kitchen sink?  If you are an ambitious Republican politician these days, frankly, you‘re not hoping to avoid a shutdown, you are hoping for a shutdown, preferably a long one, so you can brag about it later.


NARRATOR:  Minnesota gripped by one of the longest strikes in history.  Why?  Because Governor Tim Pawlenty refused to cave in to government unions.  Result?  Pawlenty won.  Minnesota government shutdown.  Why?  Because I‘m Tim Pawlenty would not accept Democrats‘ massive tax and spending demands.  Result?  Pawlenty won.

Tim Pawlenty results, not rhetoric.

TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Tim Pawlenty and I approve this message.


MADDOW:  I‘m Tim Pawlenty and I won.  You—you may be losing, you blind and deaf Minnesotans who have to do without while Republicans insist on changing the voting rules in an abortion ban.  You may be losing, but I, Tim Pawlenty, I am made of wind.

Tim Pawlenty has decided that a state government shutting down when he was in charge of that state government is a great political outcome, great enough to run for president on even.  But as big fights like this unfold in a bunch of states all over the country right now, who wins these fights isn‘t always just in the eye of the ambitious beholder.

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker launched his union stripping bill this spring, the people of Wisconsin filled the capital building and streets of Madison for weeks.  People who support union rights lost in the sense that Governor Walker‘s union-stripping bill passed, but they also won in the larger picture.  By fighting Governor Walker all the way to the Supreme Court, Wisconsinites built momentum that they needed to force a recall election for most of the Republican state senators who are eligible for recall and have voted for the bill.  Six of them now are up for recall this summer.

Wisconsin Republicans tried to force recalls for all the Democrats who are eligible, too, but they just got three of them—less than half the number they were aiming at.  In one of those races, the preferred Republican candidate failed to make it onto the ballot in the end because he didn‘t turn in enough ballot signatures to get himself on the ballot.  He only needed 400 signatures to get his name on there and he didn‘t even bother to sign his own petition himself, and so, he‘s not going to be in that election.

Wisconsin Republicans won the elections in their state last year handily.  Republicans in Wisconsin won in 2010.  But Wisconsin Republicans are losing 2011 badly so far because of their own overreach on policy matters and because Democrats fought them back on union rights so hard and gave the people who are angered by what the Republicans were doing a place to channel their anger.

In Wisconsin, that‘s how it‘s worked out.  New Jersey on the other hand, New Jersey, you‘re not Wisconsin.  When Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey proposed his own union-stripping bill, people who support unions rights and then union themselves, turned out in protests.  The labor unions marched more than once, which is something.  But it‘s not Wisconsin.

Governor Christie did exactly what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin in going after union rights, and going after them hard, but in New Jersey, the fight did not go the way it did in Wisconsin, because the Democrats in New Jersey did not stand up against Chris Christie, most of them did, I should say, but they were not united against them.  Some Democrats went along with Chris Christie on stripping union rights.  They said they had to do it in order to protect their other priorities.  They give a little on union rights now, and in exchange, Governor Christie would give in a little for them on something else.

So the Democrats are in the major in the legislature in both houses, but the Democrats in New Jersey do what Republican Governor Chris Christie want anyways, enough Democrats vote with Republicans to pass Chris Christie‘s plan.  They leave union rights out to dry because they say they are getting some other things they want from Governor Christie in exchange.

What do you think happens next?  Governor Chris Christie signs the budget stripping union rights in the state, and what do the Democrats get in return?  They get nothing.  Chris Christie uses his veto power when he signs his budget, to whack out nearly $900 million in programs that the Democrats had bargained with him to keep.  He even then added in new taxpayer giveaways to corporations to add injury to the already injurious insult.

Democrats in New Jersey gave up the opportunity to stand for union rights and got actually less than nothing in return.

The Democratic state Senate president, Steven Sweeney, says, wow, he just can‘t believe it.  He tells reporters, quote, “This is all about him, Governor Christie, being a bully and a punk.”

The leader said when he found out what Governor Christie had done, quote, “I wanted to punch him in the head.”  He said, you know who he reminds me of?  Mr. Potter from “It‘s a Wonderful Life,” the mean old bastard who screws everybody.

But, now—now the Senate President Sweeney, the Democratic who went along with Chris Christie on this, now he wants you to know that he has a plan.


STATE SEN. STEVEN SWEENEY (D), NEW JERSEY:  Well, guess what, we are going to fight back, we are going to make the arguments, and we‘re going to prove a point that this is not right to the taxpayers of this state.


MADDOW:  You know, the time for fighting generally is between the opening bell and the closing one.  You can fight and win, you can fight and lose, but lose forward like Wisconsin Democrats did—fighting like hell and thereby inspiring the people they fight for.

But if you, instead, assume the fetal position during the fight, wait for it all to end, and then come up swinging once it‘s all over, the technical term for that is too late.  On union rights or any what are supposed to be core Democratic principles, if you surrender and you still get beaten up, you‘re doing it wrong.


MADDOW:  After 9/11, the United States started jailing people in a way we have not done before.  Most importantly, we started jailing people indefinitely, without putting them on trial.  That‘s the kind of thing for which we used to condemn other countries, the kind of thing that used to make us crow about our devotion to the rule of law.

But beyond how we put people in prison and whether or not we still believe that is a thing that has to be done within the bounds of law, we also, after 9/11, started holding prisoners in new places.  The CIA started holding prisoners in secret, in secret prisons that still have not been fully accounted for.

Investigative reporters following airplane tail members think they turned up evidence of these CIA black site prisons in places like Poland and Romania and Thailand, among others.

The U.S. military also started holding prisoners many, many, many prisoners, holding them in countries where they were captured and in some cases, back in the United States.

And even in a corner of a hostile communist country in the Caribbean, our off-shore prison set up there to avoid the jurisdiction of any country‘s laws, including our own.

But lest we think that pretty much covers it in term of post-9/11 putting people in prison, here‘s a new one—since April, we have been holding a prisoner on a Navy ship.  He‘s a young Somali and an indictment unveiled today says U.S. forces arrested him in mid-April and brought him to some U.S. Navy ship somewhere where they kept him onboard the ship and questioned him for two months about his alleged ties to al Qaeda and the Somali extremist group al-Shabaab.

Now, the prisoner has been flown to New York City where he will face nine terrorism related charges in a real civilian court.

The administration says most of this young man‘s questioning on the ship took place before he was read his Miranda rights.  They also say that he continued cooperating with his questioners after he was finally advice of those rights.

And thus, we are unnoticed, that the map of where we think our countries prisons might be must include all the oceans, anywhere in the world.


MADDOW:  Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz worked for two years for Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, eventually becoming Mr. Huntsman‘s chief of staff.  Jon Huntsman is now running for president and his former of chief of staff, Jason Chaffetz, just endorsed somebody who is not Jon Huntsman for president.  Mr. Chaffetz today endorsing Mitt Romney—Mitt Romney who having been called out for saying President Obama has made the economy worse since he took office when he did no such thing has gone from denying he ever said that about President Obama to saying it over and over and over again.

Also in 2012 news today, Newt Gingrich has not released his numbers for the first fundraising quarter, and he doesn‘t have to for another 10 days, but Mr. Gingrich is already lowering expectations for that eventual announcement—and I mean really lowering those expectations.  Think basement level and a few floors below that.

Not even a month after all his senior staff resigned all at the same time, Mr. Gingrich claims, quote, “Candidly, the consultants left us in debt.  But every single week since they left, we‘ve been cutting down the debt and we raise more than we spend in a week.”

So, since they left, we‘ve been bringing in more than we‘re spending.  He wants to clarify, which presumably means that before that, he was not bringing in more than he was spending every week.

Also in 2012 news today, Herman Cain, the pizza CEO, hired new staffers in Iowa.  That does not mean he‘s expanding his Iowa operation.  It means he is replacing some of the staffers who quit his campaign last week.

Nobody quite knows why Herman Cain for president staffers have been quitting both in Iowa and in New Hampshire, but ran a very strange, un-sourced assertion today about, quote, “Staff and volunteers in the Hawkeye State accusing each other of affairs, homosexuality, and professional misconduct.”  I would love to elaborate on that or explain what “Politico” was talking about, but that‘s it.  “Politico” just threw that out there for debate with no sourcing and nobody knows what they mean.  Nice!

The process of picking a presidential nominee in either party frankly is always kind of fun.  In this Republican Party in this year in particular, it is going to be a whole lot of fun.  There‘s really no sport, art, or spectacle in the United States of America that can compete with presidential politics for sheer American entertainment value.

When it comes to the basic question, though, of who will win and whether or not President Obama is going to get a second term, the determinists among us will tell us that however fun this whole process is, the process of Republican Party picking its nominee is pretty much irrelevant.  The determinists among us will tell us that you don‘t even need to know the name of who the Republicans—you don‘t even know the name that the Republicans are going to choose for the nominee to be able to predict the election results next November.

The determinists among us will say that the only thing you need to know to be able to tell us who is going to win the next election is what the unemployment rate is.  Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, no president has been reelected with a national unemployment rate above 7.2 percent.  That‘s what it was when Ronald Reagan was reelected in 1982.  Above 7.2 unemployment, no president has ever won himself a second term -- 7.2.  Unemployment rate right now is 9.1.

Whether or not that election forecast is any more motivating than any other thing about unemployment being that high, what options does the Obama administration—what options do the Obama administration have to consider for bringing the unemployment rate down?  What can they do?

One thing they can‘t do is contract government spending.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve both reported recently that contracting spending would put the recovery at risk.  Whatever deal needs to be worked out on the debt ceiling, whatever fight needs to be had in Washington, anything that dramatically shrinks government spending right now would put what ground we have gained since the start of the recession at risk.

In other words, anybody who is worried about the debt and the deficit, yes, those are problems in the long run—but in the short-term, right now, in terms of the current economic situation we‘re in with 9.1 percent freakin‘ unemployment, do not cut spending.  It will put everything at risk.

Three months ago, the great columnist Frank Rich left “The New York Times,” where he had worked for three decades.  And his first piece for his new employer, “New York Magazine,” Mr. Rich argues that Mr. Obama‘s reelection is in jeopardy not only because of the high unemployment rate, but because the president did not deal with the root causes of the recession in the first place—and those root causes of the recession are not some mysterious macro economic, grand weakness in the economy, but rather the potentially criminal conniving fraud carried out by a countable and identifiable batch of Wall Street bankers who have been let off scot-free.

Joining us now for “The Interview” is former “New York Times” columnist, Frank Rich, doing his first interview since becoming a writer at large for “New York Magazine.”  His first article for the magazine entitled, “Obama‘s Original Sin,” was published online on Sunday.

Frank, it is great to see you.

FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  Great to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Congratulations on your new gig.

RICH:  Thank you.  Thanks for having me tonight.

MADDOW:  You‘re wearing it well.

RICH:  I think so.  So far, it‘s been a week.  But, yes.

MADDOW:  In terms of the financial crisis, what options do you think President Obama had that he did not take?

RICH:  Well, the biggest thing is that no one has been prosecuted.  The Justice Department started something called Operation Broken Trust, but has basically gone chasing after sort of mini-Madoffs.

Regulation has fallen by the wayside, not only is the bill weak, but now, it‘s just being besieged by lobbyist—lobbying Democrats and Republicans.  And so, the rule-making isn‘t happening.  Elizabeth Warren, the Consumer Protection Bureau—he never really fought for it.

So, he‘s sort of been too passive, I think, about this cloud that hangs over the country and then has the affect of sort of making the unemployment situation bad as it in real life, politically worse, too, because it‘s not clear that he‘s on the side of the people who suffered most over the last three or four years.

MADDOW:  On those—on those personnel and individual issues, on prosecutions, on the issue of Elizabeth Warren, do you think that those things would have an important symbolic affect or do you think that they would have a material affect in terms of the recovery?

RICH:  In terms of the recovery, probably not a material effect, more symbolic effect.  And the fact is, I feel that because he didn‘t address this and address this real injustice in the country, it sort of makes him be linked to Wall Street as sort of a defender of Wall Street even though he probably isn‘t in real life.  He once made his famous “fat cats” remarks, but then retreated from it.

At the same time, he never really had a big concerted jobs program beyond the original too small stimulus—he sort of segued from the stimulus to health care and now to incredibly, as you‘ve been talking about tonight, fighting the Republicans on their own turf of the deficit when government spending has to happen to help dig Americans out of this hole.

Long-term, you‘re right—of course, spending has to be brought in control and we have to consider deficits.  But we are in a recovery that‘s not happening for too many Americans.

MADDOW:  One of the things that you write about in “New York Magazine” in this piece is the sort of magically invisible polling on whether or not people actually care about the deficit, that by these huge margins, people would much prefer the government to focus its priorities on job creation and bringing the economy back from the dead rather than focusing on deficit reduction.

But in Washington, deficit reduction is r like a church.

RICH:  It‘s a church and it‘s become a middle-of-the-road church.  It‘s not just Republican church.  It‘s an editorial paged church, too, that everyone is supposed to just be preoccupied with the deficit.

As you said and as I wrote, the polling has never known that Americans care most about that, even after the so-called shellacking, which the deficit supposedly caused the Democrats to lose.  By a huge margin, voters told polls that they wanted unemployment and the economy fixed way ahead of the deficit.

So, why Obama succumb to this?  Why it‘s become this church?  It‘s really the entire establishment, it‘s not just Republicans and conservatives.  It‘s the Democratic liberal establishments to some extent.

I just don‘t get it.  I mean, politically, it‘s disastrous and, obviously, it‘s bad for the country.

MADDOW:  I think that generally one of the things that—one of the things that I sort of feel like is the meta issue in the type of political commentary that I do is that nobody really cares about hypocrisy—everybody expects hypocrisy from politicians.  And so, you tell a politician they are being a hypocrite, and they say, oh, you have such a nasty tune, stop saying those rude things, because they don‘t care about the substance of it.

But the commentariat and the Beltway should care about hypocrisy.  The people who set the common wisdom in Washington and the sort of Beltway press ought to care about their own hypocrisy and not having given a hoot about the deficit for the entire eight years of the Bush administration.  Now, it‘s a 100 percent U-turn toward the Obama administration.  And it seems like that ought to be something that you can at least embarrass them over.

RICH:  You‘d think so.  And you‘re absolutely right.  And, again, it‘s very important that we know the liberal establishment as part of this.  It is not just the hypocrisy of conservative Republicans who gave Bush a blank check for the war in Iraq and gave everyone tax cuts—a lot of Democratic stood idly by and signed on to it and didn‘t make a fuss, or when they did make a fuss, they were considered to be flakes, or far—you know, immediately designated as being the far left.  It‘s just crazy.

So, now, hypocrisy is enormous, and I don‘t understand—none of even the sincere or sort of sincere hypocrites at the center of this debate on the deficit have explained why cutting short-term deficit is going to help Americans in a sputtering recovery.  No one has offered a single explanation.  Have you heard one?

MADDOW:  Well, I—you do hear the sort of up is down, black is white, day is night explanation that somehow getting the deficit more under control will be a job creation device.

RICH:  Oh, because people will therefore be sort of not on edge.  Corporations that are sitting on nearly $2 trillion dollars worth of cash won‘t be on edge with uncertainty.  Well, that‘s just ridiculous.  That‘s a very thin read.

MADDOW:  Even thinner read is that corporations are being—aren‘t borrowing money to invest in equipment and expansion that would allow them to hire new workers because the government has taken up so much of the debt that interest rates are very high, interest rates that are a spitting distance of zero.

RICH:  These are Rube Goldberg arguments, you know?


RICH:  If people remember that reference—they are so convoluted and they don‘t make sense because they don‘t make sense.  And yet, I think the public is sort of tuned out from this, and it‘s sad.

I think people are really depressed—people who are suffering right now, not to mention poor people, but middle class people who can‘t get jobs, who have family members who can‘t get jobs.  I think they must regard Washington by large as a relevant joke.

MADDOW:  You explained in online chat with your editor at “New York Magazine” that one of the reasons you wrote this piece was because you have started to fear for President Obama‘s reelection chances.  When you think about those overall prospects and when you think about the president‘s political challenge about trying to get reelected next November—do you think there is sort of time and political space for him to reclaim the populism that you‘re suggesting he ought to sort of pursue?

RICH:  I think—look, absolutely, there‘s a long time between now and Election Day.  I should start with the fight now about the debt ceiling.  He‘s got to—he‘s already taken a somewhat weakened position for the reasons we‘ve been talking about—but he‘s got to stand strong.

You know, I would say challenge the Republicans to do to the country what happened in Minnesota and, you know—

MADDOW:  But they will do it, though.  Don‘t you think they are after shutdown for its own value?  Don‘t you—

RICH:  And if so, I just don‘t see how a party whose whole stick is we‘re against government won‘t be blamed for it.  I don‘t see how Obama can be blamed for that.

This is the anti-government party, the Republican Party.  If the government shuts down, it will look like they got what they wanted.

MADDOW:  Right.

RICH:  And I think when people start not getting their checks, when services break down, when there‘s real chaos at a time of this huge unemployment, I think he should call their bluff.  I felt that for a long time.

MADDOW:  On the debt ceiling, I think one of the important issues I guess in terms of framing this, we‘re really speeding right to it.  We‘re down to the point where contingency plans are sort of already falling into place—it is, in part, a government shutdown. They will have to shut down parts of the government so as to avoid defaulting on.

But the other thing that will happen is that the one thing that I‘m just joking about, which is that interest rates are within spitting distance of zero, that might actually change.  That‘s sort of the one little bit of flexibility we‘ve got in the economy right now.

RICH:  Right.

MADDOW:  And it could do real, serious damage.

RICH:  Real, serious damage.  And it‘s amazing that this is not being discussed by this Beltway establishment.


RICH:  In fact, how much reporting or commentary have you seen that even deals with the what-if scenario except in the broadest terms—you know, Timothy Geithner saying it‘s going to be a catastrophe, or sometime Jamie Dimon or someone saying it.  But no one has actually spelled out to the public what it means, including liberals and the Democrats.

MADDOW:  Yes, and that may be some spine-stiffening coming on that as time goes by.

Frank Rich, former “New York Times” columnist, now “New York Magazine” writer at large—it‘s really nice of you to have done your first interview now that you‘re with “New York Magazine” with me, I‘m really glad.

RICH:  I‘m delighted to be here.  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

All right.  Out on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney keeps saying President Obama has been made the recession worse.  I would really like to hear him say that to Ed Schultz‘s face.  Ed has a few things to say about that right after this show.

And here, the difficulty of finding a good repairman in space.  It‘s more complicated than you think.  It‘s just ahead.


MADDOW:  OK.  Still ahead—this is the fun part.  The not-very-fun part is getting a ride home if you get stranded.  A near-earth orbit “Moment of Geek” coming up.


MADDOW:  While Washington fights over Republicans demanding cuts from just everything while leaving taxpayer subsidies for corporate jets and oil companies alone, you know what the House Republican budget would cut?  It would cut the budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration—the people who lock up loose nukes all over the world, the people who help other countries detect and intercept loose nuclear material.

Countries like, say, Moldova, where authorities are arrested six people who are allegedly trying to sell more than two pounds of uranium 235.  That‘s the uranium used in nuclear fuel and nuclear bombs.  Police say the uranium 235 was stored in a sealed, lead container in one of the suspect‘s apartments.

The six suspects had smuggled it from Russia, and they were trying to sell at least some of it to as yet unnamed North African country.  Asking price?  Nearly $30 million.

Authorities in Moldova had been monitoring the suspects since March, but they say they had some help, help from, quote, “experts from Ukraine, Germany and the United States.”

It only takes 55 pounds of enriched uranium and some not particularly difficult to master technology to made a crude nuclear bomb, making a dirty bomb is even easier to do.  You need less radioactive material and almost no technology to do that.

And, yes, as these arrests remind us, there is an active black market for enriched uranium.  Whatever scant piece of mind there is when it comes worrying problems of loose nukes comes—thanks to the hard and aggressive work of agencies like the National Nuclear Security Administration—now on the chopping blocks, thanks to House Republicans this year.  The National Nuclear Security Administration on the chopping block thanks to House Republicans to the tune of about $1 billion.

But the private jet tax loophole, the oil companies subsidies—no, those ones, we can‘t afford to get rid of those.


MADDOW:  Last week, a piece of space junk whizzed past the International Space Station at 29,000 miles an hour.  Six astronauts were inside the space station more than 200 miles above the earth.  They were warned that the space junk was coming and there was a chance it might hit them.  As the junk approached them, the astronauts hunkered down inside two Soyuz capsules that were attached to the space station and just hope they did not get hit.

Luckily, they didn‘t get rit.

But what would have happened if they had?  Let‘s say a piece of space garbage does whack into the craft that‘s keeping awe live and you need rescue or repair if you want to stay alive?  Who are you going to call if you‘re in space and you need help?

The flight director after whom NASA named its mission control center in Houston, a man named Christopher Kraft, is pointing out to anyone who will listen that who you call in the event of an emergency in space is the space shuttle.  Mr. Kraft wrote a letter to NASA warning of what could happen if God forbid life support system on the space station fail, or the thrusters that keep that station in low earth orbit and falling to earth were to fail, without a space shuttle to mount a rescue or repair mission.

Mr. Kraft has recruited some big names to endorse his warning, astronauts like the man who commanded the first space shuttle mission in 1981, Robert Crippen, also Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame.

But warning or not, today, the countdown clock started for the last space shuttle mission, STS-135.  Atlantis gets the honor of being the last shuttle to make the ride into orbit.  It‘s scheduled to happen on Friday.

But here‘s the thing, the original reason these four astronauts on Atlantis were selected was not to fly this mission.  They were selected for this trip after only initially training to go up if the crew from the previous shuttle, STS-134 needed a space rescue -- 134 was going to be the last trip.  These guys were going to be the space tow truck drivers if they were need.

But even though 134 didn‘t need rescuing, earlier this year, NASA decided to send these guys up anyway, which is awesome for them, of course.  Now, the question is—what happens if these astronauts need to be rescued?  There‘s nobody coming after them.  There‘s no tow truck anymore.

The plan is that they‘d have to come home in a Russian Soyuz capsule -

those area lot less roomy than the space shuttle.  They only sit three at a time.


And rule is, one of those sits has to have a Russian butt in it.  So, the four-person team could be stranded on the space station and they have to catch rides home as they‘re available, meaning one of the four astronauts, the pilot, Douglas Hurley, might not get to come home for about a year.

If something goes wrong, that‘s the plan.  Three of the four hitch rides with the Russian, and one guy stays in space for a year waiting for the next ride home.  Contingency plans in space, kind of puts everything else in perspective.

That does it for us tonight.  Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”  Have a good night.



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