THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
December 4, 2012
Guests: Claire McCaskill, Steve Clemons
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
There was a strange bit of a bombshell in Washington today. A little
bit of bombshell news that came from an unexpected source.
Veteran investigative reporter Bob Woodward of Watergate fame got his
hands on an audio recording of the top U.S. commanding general in
Afghanistan meeting off the record with a FOX News analyst. The meeting
apparently took place last spring. It was General David Petraeus who was
at the time commander of all U.S. forces in the war in Afghanistan.
And on the tape, FOX News analyst says that she was asked by her boss,
by the chairman of FOX News, to pass along some very specific advice for
KATHLEEN T. MCFARLAND, FOX NEWS ANALYST: He say that if you`re
offered chairman, take it. If you`re offered anything else, don`t take it.
Resign in six months and run for president. OK?
And I know you`re not running for president. But at some point, when
you go to New York next, you may want to just chat with Roger, and Rupert
Murdoch, for that matter.
Can I just say -- can I just tell him what I`ve suggested and that
we`ve discussed --
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: Yes, sure.
MCFARLAND: -- is that next time you go to New York, you`re going to
stop by and see him?
PETRAEUS: Yes. I`d be happy. I would love to see him. I haven`t
seen him in awhile. So --
MCFARLAND: I think he would very much appreciate the conversation.
PETRAEUS: I would love to see -- yes, he`s a brilliant guy.
MCFARLAND: He`s simply brilliant.
PETRAEUS: He is. Tell him if I ever ran, but I won`t. But if I ever
ran, I`d take him up on his offer.
MCFARLAND: OK. All right.
PETRAEUS: He said he would quit FOX.
MCFARLAND: I know. Look, he`s not the only one.
PETRAEUS: And bankroll it.
MCFARLAND: Bankroll it?
PETRAEUS: Or maybe I`m confusing that with Rupert. No.
MCFARLAND: I know Roger, he`s done OK. But no, I think the one who`s
bankrolling it is the big boss.
PETRAEUS: That might be it.
MCFARLAND: OK. The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger`s going to run
it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house.
PETRAEUS: Yes, right. OK.
MCFARLAND: We`re all set.
PETRAEUS: No, it`s never going to happen. You know it`s never going
to happen. It really isn`t.
MCFARLAND: I know it`s never going to happen.
PETRAEUS: My wife would divorce me.
PETRAEUS: And I love my wife.
MCFARLAND: Tell her it`s a beautiful house.
PETRAEUS: We have a beautiful house. With his-and-her`s bathrooms,
believe it or not. I just want to live in it. I`ve never spent a night in
MCFARLAND: I know. That`s the happiest marriage.
PETRAEUS: Keep your mitts off my dressing room.
MCFARLAND: My husband and I have had a very long and happy
relationship because we have completely separate bathrooms.
PETRAEUS: Isn`t that -- I mean, that`s the ticket.
MCFARLAND: It`s great.
MADDOW: And that is how the tape ends. That recording was made April
16th of last year. A week and a half later, April 28th, the president
announced he was nominating General Petraeus to head the CIA, which is to
say, right before the president announced General Petraeus as his choice to
run the CIA, the chairman of FOX News was urging the general not to take
the job, not to take any job short of being chairman of the Joint Chiefs,
saying he should resign from any other job short of that to run for
president instead, as a Republican against President Obama in this past
election. And it`s all on tape.
This is salacious almost to the point of prurient, right? I mean,
first of all, we`re talking about General Petraeus here, most famous
general in the country. Until recently, one of the most admired high
profile people in the country of any field. Long-time Republican fantasy,
potential presidential contender, the man who just resigned from running
the CIA in a sex scandal that we still don`t understand. We just know that
it costs him his job.
And here he is on tape talking about how he will have the FOX News
chairman run his campaign and the owner of FOX News will bankroll his
campaign and then he raises the issue of his wife, out of the blue. So,
there`s a certain level of salacious interest in this new tape because of
who is on it.
Beyond that, there`s the media factor. Here on tape is the FOX News
Channel trying to recruit a presidential candidate for the Republican
Party. The FOX News chairman, Roger Ailes, telling Bob Woodward at "The
Post" once Mr. Woodward was reporting on this, quote, "I thought the
Republican field in the primaries need to be shaken up and Petraeus might
be a good candidate."
He said that on the record, after being caught doing it on tape, which
means the FOX News Channel seriously is not like anything else in news.
They officially are just a media arm of the Republican Party. They are a
political operation serving the needs of the Republican Party.
And that`s OK, but we should stop thinking of them as something other
than that. It`s fine. It is OK to be that, but that`s how they should be
seen. There`s nobody else in the news who is like that.
And the fact we have this recording in the first place is itself a
fascinating little mystery. Who leaked to Bob Woodward the recording of
this off-the-record conversation between the top commander in Afghanistan a
week before he was named head of the CIA and a FOX News correspondent.
There were certainly not very many people in the room, so how did this
recording end up in the hands of "The Washington Post" and why?
Is somebody out to get Roger Ailes at FOX News? Somebody out to dance
on the grave of General Petraeus` public service career?
And relatedly, honestly, why did "the Washington Post" run this in the
style section? The style section. This is a lot of things. Stylish is
hard to see as one of them.
So, for all of these reasons, this audio recording is rather salacious
news. But buried under all that salaciousness, there`s also something
newsworthy here. Not just because the whole thing is juicy and weird and
about a residual sex scandal in a weird part of the paper, and about a
weird part of the media and a weird part of the Republican Party.
If you listen to the rest of the tape, what you ultimately get to it
is General Petraeus turning down this very kind offer from the FOX News
chairman to run for president and have FOX News support him all the way.
But in the way he politely turned down Roger Ailes` advice, General
Petraeus said something that I think might be very important about how the
U.S. government works now, and why a man such as himself might want a
particular job in Washington at a time like this.
Listen to this part of the tape. This is where General Petraeus makes
his argument for why not just the Joints Chiefs chairman job would be a
good job, but why in particular running the CIA would be a really good job
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PETRAEUS: An awful lot of what we do in the future, believe it or not
in Libya right now, perhaps --
PETRAEUS: -- is with that organization can do.
We`re going to be retrenching militarily. Again, you`re going to take
big budget cuts and that`s going to be all about -- it`s going to be the
post -- sort of the early 1990s kind of stuff.
MCFARLAND: Yes. It will be the, quote, "peace dividend" after Iraq,
an after Afghanistan. It`ll be the peace dividend.
PETRAEUS: The other folks on the other hand -- I think are going to
be in a growth industry. Our intelligence community. Going to have to be.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: General Petraeus telling FOX News in this meeting that he`d
be happy not just being named chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but also with
the CIA director job because he argues they are the same sized jobs or at
least they are going to be, arguing that the future of national security in
the United States is probably not with the military. It`s more like the
CIA. The intelligence community, that`s the growth industry, even as we
are retrenching militarily.
Military will be playing a smaller role. CIA will be playing a larger
role in the future. So if you really want to be in charge of what`s going
to be a bigger deal in America`s future, you ought to head -- head over to
become the head of the CIA.
That is apparently what is understood to be the new order of things in
Washington. It`s not necessarily the way things are supposed to be.
Tim Weiner, who wrote the definitive history of the CIA called "Legacy
of Ashes" gets at that fact in "The New York Times" this week writing,
quote, "Before 9/11, the CIA`s clandestine service never assassinated
anybody itself, though at times it tried, as in the case of Fidel Castro.
Since then drone air strikes against suspected foreign terrorists have
killed some 2,500 people, including civilians, without public discussion in
He also says, "Intelligence is the hard work of trying to know your
enemy. It is not the dirty business of political murder."
What the CIA has been through and what it means for our country is a
big change. And it is not a big change that we debated much as a country.
But this off-the-record, behind closed doors meeting between FOX News
and the man they were trying to line up to become the next Republican
nominee shows us in a way we haven`t seen before the degree to which this
is the common understanding of insiders in Washington. While those of us
who are theoretically supposed to be debating what our national security
posture is and how our country get done in the world by force have mostly
been left out of the discussion.
All but for "The Washington Post" style section leaking this tape as
if the most important thing here is General Petraeus revealing the
existence of his and her`s separate bathrooms at this new home.
We never had a national debate about whether the CIA should start
acting more like the military. The CIA started acting more like the
military. If there was ever a time that we might be able to go ahead and
have that debate, belatedly, it might be about to happen within the next
Hillary Clinton is going to soon be stepping down as secretary of
state. Leon Panetta reportedly does not plan to stay on as defense
secretary for President Obama`s full second term -- although there`s
fuzziness around that. And, of course, the nation needs a CIA director
Now, "The Associated Press" is reporting that President Obama may
announce his pick for defense secretary within the next couple weeks and he
may make it in a high-powered package announcement along with his choice
for secretary of state. So, all these jobs coming up, State, Defense, CIA,
all will need to be confirmed by the Senate and almost of them may well be
announced at once and before Christmas.
Maybe this is the time to have the debate about the way our national
security is run. The debate we did not necessarily have before we started
making big fundamental changes to that system that mostly just still get
discussed behind closed doors.
Joining us now is Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. She`s a member
chair of the Armed Services Committee. She`s chair of the Readiness and
Management Support Subcommittee.
Senator McCaskill, thank you very much for being here.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It`s great to
be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: You and I have had a lot of interesting conversations over
the years about national security, in part, because we have some
differences of opinion on it. Did I say anything there that struck you as
either misstatement of the facts or just contrary to the way that you
MCCASKILL: Well, I think it`s important to point out that the enemy
of today is a much different enemy than the enemy that our country worried
about when we were very young, during my parent`s generation and their
parent`s generation. Now, this is an enemy that`s all over the world.
They have the ability to strike at us as we saw on 9/11. And so, the
necessity that our government be able to have eyes and ears everywhere,
learning where terrorists are.
Now, having said that, we have to marry that with our constitutional
principles and make sure that we stay true to our constitutional
principles. And therein lies the challenge. How do we deal with an enemy
that doesn`t necessarily represent a country? It represents a philosophy.
How do we deal with a group of people that are spread around the world with
the technology of today, with the ability to strike it at any moment in a
way that has fundamentally hurt our country?
So, I think that`s the debate that you`re referencing, and, yes, I
think it`s healthy for us to have that debate.
MADDOW: I feel like the eyes and ears part of it, everybody is on
board with. Like the eyes and ears, the idea of an intelligence agency
does and why they have the kinds of power that they do and where
policymakers disavow what they do, and so much of it is kept secret is
because they are supposed to be finding out things in the world. That`s
why after 9/11, for example, it was the CIA who had unarmed drones out
there, not the Air Force that has them, because the CIA was out collecting
information about forces in the world that might want to do us harm.
I`m all for that. The thing that I felt like just started happening
that we didn`t debate was the CIA being used essentially as a branch of the
military -- the CIA being used for not just looking, but for killing.
MCCASKILL: Well, I really think that why I can`t go into some details
here, by and large, the decisions to use drones to take out our enemies
still rests primarily with our military. In fact, in Missouri, in Whiteman
Air Force Base, there`s actually one day I was there and they were saying
there`s some guys going to fly a mission. And it was guys going into these
things that look like temporary buildings and they were flying drones in
the whole effort to help along with the Turkish government, with some of
the efforts we were making then as it related to the conflicts in the
And so, there`s primarily, I think -- and I think there is
cooperation. But also keep in mind that some of these drone strikes were
effective and they did without harm to civilians. And sometimes with
traditional warfare, it is more dangerous to innocents in the area than
highly-sophisticated drone strikes.
So while we have to have the debate about drones and who`s using them,
we have to make sure we stay true to our constitutional principle. We also
need to know we`ve got bad guys that want to bring harm to our country.
They aren`t all in uniform and they are not all on a military base
MADDOW: With the Defense Authorization Bill getting a 98-0 vote in
the Senate, what gets a 98-0 vote anymore? That`s sort of amazing to see
But looking at some of the amendments there, the passage to urge the
president to speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan before his
ultimately end date for the end of combat operations at the end of 2014, a
vote on somewhat controversial amendment concerning changes to indefinite
detention and so on -- I feel like some of the partisan divisions that we
expect and that we remember from the George W. Bush era, in the post-9/11
fights about security and liberty, I feel like some of those partisan
divisions are getting blurred and you can`t necessarily predict a person`s
divisions in these debates based on their party anymore. Do you feel that,
MCCASKILL: I think that`s true. I think D versus R is less prominent
in this space than some of the other spaces. You know, obviously, the vote
we had today on the Disability Treaty was painful for many of us. That was
a right wing R versus all of the Democrats in the Senate.
But, you know, there are a lot of things in the Defense Authorization
Bill. As, you now, we have talked about this before. I`m very proud of
the sweeping contract reforms that we got included in that bill.
I hope your listeners who know the kind of money we have wasted on war
profiteering and abusive contracts in the war space, that they stay on the
members of Congress to make sure it stays in the bill, because it`s not in
the House version. It`s going to be a conference-able item. All these
reforms and war contracting that could really make a difference going
forward, that we`re holding contractors accountable to a standard that I
think Americans would feel much better about.
MADDOW: As we have finished the war in Iraq and as the end game in
Afghanistan is starting to become more clear, although we still don`t know
the pace of withdrawal there -- do you feel like this is the time when we
establish new norms for things like contracting, for things like oversight,
and for things like what gets debated and what doesn`t? What`s on the
president`s plate? What`s on Congress` plate moving forward?
I mean, national security challenges are always going to evolve.
We`re always going to have something on the horizon.
Is there a sort of template of lessons that we ought to have learned
from these 12 years of war now moving forward that we should get in place
MCCASKILL: We need to be very careful and thoughtful about the cuts
to our military, because we have to maintain readiness. But anybody who
says that we can`t cut anything out of the Pentagon has not spent the time
in the weeds in the Pentagon that I have. There has been a lot of money
wasted through very wasteful practices, particularly in the space of
If we don`t get this fixed now, we will be right back repeating the
same mistakes the next time that we find ourselves putting men and women`s
lives at risk on behalf of our nation far, far away.
MADDOW: But you feel like the constructive discussions that are
happening right now around the defense bill and some of the things you have
worked on, you feel like it`s potentially ground to move forward?
MCCASKILL: I do.
MADDOW: Do you think a constructive work is being done?
MCCASKILL: I do. And the main thing is to not go on to the next
MCCASKILL: We need to stay in this space, make sure we debate the
issues fully, make sure we set policy clearly and then hold them
accountable. Hold their feet to the fire and make sure that we don`t go
back to bad habits and some of decisions you`re talking about, everyone
understands what the ground rules are.
MADDOW: I think this is an incredibly important time in national
security and it`s times like this when you have to actually be focused on
having the best debate. Not times when things are starting, but times when
things are ending.
MCCASKILL: That`s exactly right.
MADDOW: Senator McCaskill, congratulations on your win.
MCCASKILL: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: A hard fought Senate race. Nice to see you. Thanks a lot.
MCCASKILL: Nice to see you. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: After President Obama was sworn into office in January 2009,
he decided that his first TV interview, his first TV interview he would
give as president, the very first interview he gave from the White House
would not be with NBC or CBS or ABC. It would instead be with the Arabic
news channel, Al Arabiya. This was a week after his inauguration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My job to the Muslim
world is to communicate that Americans are not your enemy. We sometime
make mistakes. We have not been perfect. We can have disagreements but
still be respectful.
I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent
civilians and we will hunt them down. But to the broader Muslim world,
what we`re going to be offering is a hand of friendship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What we`re going to be offering is a hand of friendship.
President Obama used his first TV interview as president to address
what he viewed as job one of his new administration -- mending our
relationship with the Muslim world. After eight years of George Bush being
America`s face to the Muslim world. That was his first interview.
Well, today Barack Obama gave his first TV interview since being
reelected as president. And, again, it was not with NBC or CBS or ABC. It
was instead with Bloomberg News.
Yes, the president sat down with the financial news network Bloomberg
today to talk about job one for his administration now -- dealing with the
issue that currently has a stranglehold on this nation`s policymaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We have the potential of getting a deal done, but it`s going
to require what I talked about during the campaign, which is a balanced,
responsible approach to deficit reduction that can help give businesses
certainty and make sure that the country grows. And, unfortunately, the
speaker`s proposal right now is still out of balance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sometimes you hear a sound byte, especially after the
campaign, and it just sort of sounds like the normal talking points of the
campaign that you always here, you`re always hearing politicians saying the
same thing in TV interviews.
Listen again to that last thing that the president said there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Unfortunately, the speaker`s proposal right now is still out
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Speaker`s proposal is out of balance -- empirical statement,
sort of, right?
It turns out there`s a way to judge whether or not that empirical
statement is true. What`s happening in Washington right now is that both
sides, Republicans and Democrats, are making offers and counteroffers about
how to deal with the giant fiscal mess that they created, this artificial
debt line that Washington created, right?
Well, the White House made its offer to Republicans last week. They
sent Timothy Geithner up to Capitol Hill to unveil the administration`s
offer to congressional Republicans.
The offer was essentially a mix of tax hikes on income over a quarter
mil which the president had campaigned on, as well as spending cuts, which
the Democrats are not crazy about, and entitlement cuts which the Democrats
really, really aren`t crazy about. It`s essentially, you know, here are
some things we want, here are some things that you want, and that`s sort of
the way that compromising works.
Republicans, of course, rejected that White House proposal out of
hand. They said they were flabbergasted that was even put forward as the
president`s idea of compromise. Ha!
We have since learned what the Republican Republicans` view of
compromise really is. As I mentioned on the show last night, before the
election, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner had proposed that
revenues could be raised by this much. That`s little pile of money there.
After the election, which his party lost after a campaign on that very
show, he`s now offering post-election this much new revenue. So, John
Boehner`s offer since losing the election got worse.
That new offer came in a new outline of proposals that the Republicans
sent to the president in a letter yesterday. It`s a plan that they
describe in their letter as "a fair middle ground."
Here`s what they consider a fair middle ground. We did this in chart
form at MaddowBlog.com today, because it turns out it`s really simple. And
looking at it this way makes it really simple.
Here`s what they are offering. So, on the side of what the
Republicans get, this is what the Republicans get. The Republicans get the
tax rates they want, the Medicare cuts they want, the Social Security cuts
they want, the trillion dollars in spending cuts President Obama has
already agreed to, hundreds of billions in additional spending cuts, ending
the payroll tax break, ending extended jobless benefits and they get the
opportunity to create a new debt ceiling crisis in a few months.
So, that`s on the Republican side, what the Republicans get in their
What do the Democrats get in their proposal? They get this -- a
promise to end undefined tax deductions and loopholes of some kind at some
point maybe next year. Tada! Behold, a fair and balanced middle ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Unfortunately, the speaker`s proposal right now is still out
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, balance.
Here`s the amazing part, though -- after congressional Republicans
released their plan yesterday, which gives them everything they want and
promises Democrats that they might get something undefined that they might
want maybe some time in the future. We`ll talk about it later.
After they put forth that sweet deal, this was the reaction from the
Beltway`s professional conservative class. This is genius. Quote, "Sadly,
this plan leaves conservatives wanting."
Wanting what exactly? The declaration that Mitt Romney is actually
president? Wanting what really? A pony? Did you get not get your pony?
You guys, we leave something out. There`s a conservative guy in K
Street somewhere who didn`t get his pony. Let`s add the pony.
Yes, there`s your pony. Now, are you happy? Still not happy?
This is a game. Republicans put forward an offer in which they get
everything they want and Democrats get nothing, even though Democrats just
won the election. Then the Republicans have the people on their own side
squawk and complain as if what`s just happened is such a compromise.
They must be giving so much to be upsetting their own side so much.
It`s total bullpuckey. I mean, it`s fine. Everybody knows they are doing
this. They do this all the time.
But if you have been following the back and forth in Washington over
this supposed negotiation, do not let anyone convince you that this part of
it is anything but horse hooey.
MADDOW: Your crazy uncle who watches FOX News all day is very worried
about this. Not the Chrysler Building, you can see in the middle of the
picture, although I have always been worried about that myself. I feel
like it looks like a cross between a needle on a record player and a needle
on a syringe, which is a bad combo.
But, no, the building that your crazy uncle who watches FOX News is
all upset about is the one on the right there -- the greenish one with the
nice view across the East River. That building is the world headquarters
of the U.N., the United Nations -- the place where the black helicopters
nest, the place where it might sound like they are talking about putting
bike racks in city downtowns.
But your crazy uncle who watches FOX News all day knows what they
really mean when they`re talking about bike racks is world domination by
the antichrist who works at the United Nations and is also sort of
There have been far right hysterical conspiracy theories about the
United Nations as long as we have had both the United Nations and far right
But today, the far right got loose in the United States Senate in the
way that seems to have freaked out even some of the Republican Party. And
that story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTERS: We will rise.
REPORTER: Today`s protest took place this morning outside the Moscone
Center, where the American Public Transit Association is holding their
POLICEMAN: I don`t care if you`re in a wheelchair. You don`t run
REPORTER: The demonstrators came from all over the nation, seeking a
federal mandate for all cities with a public transit system to install
wheelchair access on buses and trains. The association opposes this plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They insisted on taking the train or the bus even when the
law said they had no such right. And except for their bravery that led
them to take that stand, they were just regular people.
Like this guy, Jack Warren, who was hauled by police off a city bus in
Cincinnati on May 19th, 1986. Mr. Warren was hauled off that bus and
arrested for the crime of insisting that he should be allowed to ride with
everybody else. Even though he had a disability and even though he had
He was part of a civil rights group called ADAPT, Americans Disabled
for Public Transit. They`re founded in Denver in 1983. They are active in
cities across the U.S. back then and still now in some cities.
This footage here comes from San Francisco in 1986. Activists in
wheelchairs facing down city buses and police officers chaining themselves
to the bus wheels, knowing they would be arrested. Knowing that nothing
says something is wrong here more clearly than getting arrested for the
crime of asking to pay your fare and get onboard just like everybody else.
Pressured by those dramatic protests and these activists making their
case, it was President George H.W. Bush, Poppy Bush, who responded by
signing historic legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was
a huge leap forward for our country. It`s why we have wheelchair lifts on
buses now and handicap restrooms in public places, and curb cuts and
sidewalks and instructions in Braille on ATMs. It`s why you can bring a
service dog with you everywhere.
The Americans with Disabilities Act says you cannot be discriminated
against in this country just because you have a disability. There needs to
be some reasonable accommodation made so people with disabilities can
access the same public accommodations that we all can.
Poppy Bush signed that law in 1990, nearly a quarter century ago.
This week, Senator John McCain said America is a more loving and
caring nation because we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. And
the reason that John McCain was saying that publicly this week is because
this week the United States Senate had been considering a treaty modeled on
the Americans with Disabilities Act, to persuade other countries to do what
we have done, to treat our law like the gold standard for all countries, to
which all countries should aspire.
It`s kind of flattering, right? I mean, our civil rights advance, one
that was hard fought, but won. Our civil rights advance, a model for the
world. So far, this treaty has been signed by 154 countries, including the
U.S., it`s been ratified by 126 nations, not including the U.S.
President Obama, in other words, signed it a couple years ago, but
it`s not been ratified by the United States Senate.
To be clear, this U.N. treaty would not require anything from us at
all. We already have disability rights and a legal framework for enforcing
those rights. This treaty just pushes other countries to do what we have
done, by ratifying that treaty, we would commit on an international level
to what we already believe in here.
Ratifying that treaty would help us lead the rest of the world to
catch up to that historic leap that we took as a country back when
President Bush I signed that landmark legislation.
And with the exception of a black helicopter conspiracy theory on the
right championed by failed presidential candidate and failed Senator Rick
Santorum, Rick Santorum who I should mention is now a columnist at a white
secessionist birther Web site, that`s his job now, except for his not-so
black helicopter conspiracy theories, ratifying this treaty was sort of a
political no brainer.
I mean, this treaty has bipartisan support and not the usual token
bipartisan support. I mean, this has the real thing -- real bipartisan
support from leading Democrats and leading Republicans. This treaty has
vocal support from veterans, so many of them return from war with
disabilities sustained in the service of their country. Veterans are as
potent a constituency as you will find in American politics today on both
sides of the aisle.
Decorated Vietnam veterans John McCain and John Kerry, these two men
who have been rivals in the Senate on everything short of which way is up
and which way is down, these two men have been bipartisan leaders together
on this treaty. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities has united the seemingly unitable.
So, the vote was scheduled today in the Senate. Ratifying a treaty
takes a 2/3 vote. So, you need 66 yea votes.
Former Senator Bob Dole was there at the Senate for the occasion, in
his wheelchair, after a hospital stay. A decorated wounded combat veteran
from World War II, the former Republican presidential nominee on the floor
of the Senate. He was there with his wife there on the floor of the
So senators had to walk past him in his wheelchair on the way into
vote. And the Republicans in the Senate voted no. The U.N. treaty on
disabilities rights got 61 votes from our Senate, which is a majority, but
you need a 2/3 super majority to ratify a treaty and only eight Republicans
voted for the treaty.
It requires nothing of us, 38 Republicans voted no. And so, the whole
treaty failed by a handful of votes. So, forget Poppy Bush, Republican
president. Forget John McCain, war hero. Forget Bob Dole in his
wheelchair in the Senate, where he served for decades. Forget our wounded
veterans in their wheelchairs, forget them all.
Republicans are now instead going with Rick Santorum and the not-so
black helicopter theory instead now this year in 2012. They did that
Joining us now is Steve Clemons from the New America Foundation. He
writes at "The Washington Note" and "The Atlantic" magazine, where he`s
Washington editor-at-large. Steve is also a former policy adviser for New
Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, where he worked on a bunch of different
Mr. Clemons, thank you for being here.
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Am I being naive to think this was going to pass?
CLEMONS: No, I think a lot of people thought it was going to pass
because of all the treaties that are pending, this one would have seems
like the easiest to pass. There`s the law of the seas treaty, there are
other treaties out there that have been pending for a long time. This is
about people in need and it didn`t.
This is a branch of the GOP that doesn`t represent all Republicans,
but it`s the pugnacious, obnoxious, nationalist wing that really resents
any international deal making. There`s a lot of worry not just about
people with disabilities, but all the other treaties that position the
United States and show that it can be the primary sculptor of global
affairs that serve Americans, and we`re defecting from that as of today`s
MADDOW: So 126 countries ratifying this, but us, not ratifying it,
particularly when it`s modeled on our law. You`re saying that essentially
takes us out of a global leadership role?
CLEMONS: It leaves a void and it sends signals to the rest of the
world that the United States is walking away from the responsibility of
primary leadership in the world of sculpting global affairs in the world
that are good for Americans but for good for others in the world.
And what was really tragic about today as you said, this lifted up
standards in the rest of the world. You know, John Kerry made a mistake on
the floor. He was saying support the U.N. on this, support the U.N.
It`s not supporting the U.N. This is supporting Americans with
disabilities. When they go to Istanbul, Turkey, when they go to Saudi
Arabia, when they go to China, when they go to India, when they go around
the world, this is basically saying to these other places dignity and
respect and access matter for people. And that the terms of equality that
exist in law should apply to those with disabilities.
That -- I can`t believe that that would be controversial and you would
have essentially only 61 senators in the United States Senate vote yes on
MADDOW: The Republicans, I`m not going to go into Rick Santorum`s
black helicopter conspiracy theory on this because I don`t want to dignify
it with verbiage, but I recognize the Republicans have crazy conspiracy
theories about the U.N. The thing that strikes me about this one in
particular is that you had Bob Dole and Poppy Bush and John McCain and all
these sort of Republicans.
CLEMONS: Well, none of them can be Republicans today, right?
CLEMONS: I mean, you know, they are talking about Chuck Hagel, you
know, an extreme RINO, Republican in Name Only. Possibly getting a
position in the Republican administration.
But what is Bob Dole, who is a candidate for president? What is John
McCain who voted for this? Are they RINOs? Are they the new RINOs?
I mean, that`s what it means is that the Republican Party has moved so
far away from their standard bearers, incumbents in government. I mean, I
think it was one of the saddest things I have seen to see these senators
walk by Bob Dole, salute him and then essentially vote against him.
MADDOW: And saying the senator, if you want to travel abroad, while
you`re using that wheel chair, we actually have, we are going to take no
responsibility for ensuring your dignity and respect abroad.
MADDOW: I know that you have been in touch with Senator Lugar and
with Senator Hagel recently. Senator Lugar is in a poignant spot in his
career, leaving the Senate after being primaried by somebody who then lost
in the general election, President Obama paying elaborate tribute to Dick
Lugar this week, talking on national issues of nuclear security.
When you talked with Senator Lugar and Senator Hagel, what are they
expressing about their views about what`s happening in their own party
CLEMONS: I think they are concerned. I mean, I think they are
concerned in a constructive way, just as I have heard to be honest
Democrats occasionally expressed concern about movements here. But I think
when I listen to Richard Lugar talk about the face of American
internationalism and the fact that this used to be an easy place for
Democrats and Republicans to stand together and to support a principled
engagement in the world, that Lugar and others that are no longer in the
Senate like Hagel, others that left the party and became independents like
Lincoln Chafee, who`s now governor of Rhode Island, there`s a group of
Republicans that just said this isn`t working for us.
What you have seen is a senator not that many people talk about
anymore, but you see the ghost of Jesse Helms in all of this. Jesse Helms
was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1990s,
suspended our payments to the United Nations. It was during Helms tenure
in Foreign Relations that many of the so-called conspiracies, the signs
with the United Nations, when I worked for Jeff Bingaman in New Mexico,
these signs were everywhere, you know? Block and ban the U.N.
CLEMONS: And it was the year of the child. It was like this, where
people believed that they were going to be told how to raise their
children. And that`s what essentially came under this, is that the home
schooling league began to animate voters because they believe this treaty
would somehow circumvent sovereignty and would basically result of people
losing control of their children.
So, it`s a vantastical (ph), horrible interpretation of a treaty that
would have been good for us.
And I think, you don`t want to talk about Santorum, but Santorum is a
lawyer. And he was a lawyer before he ran. He knows better than what he
And that`s what sad, is Lugar is the best in the Republican Party, is
a great leader, a great principled person who made the entire world safe.
Nunn-Lugar dismantling and disabling nuclear weapons and materials have
been so vital.
But I tell you, the United States is in a fragile place in the rest of
the world, because a lot of our allies doubt our ability to stand with them
when they are in trouble, when we have these things. We need to
communicate to them we are going to be there.
And, right now, when you look at the cast of cards and the cast of
characters, it looks doubtful.
MADDOW: Yes. And those conspiracy theories, the fact that they are
not new tells you something. They are always out there ready to be tapped
by politicians who don`t have the better angels of our nature in mind. And
the fact that that`s where they are going after this election is find
Steve Clemons, New America Foundation, editor of "The Washington Note"
and "The Atlantic" -- we`re lucky to have you. Thanks.
CLEMONS: Thank you. Thanks, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So it turns out the fake grassroots on the right have been
concealing some really astonishingly expensive infighting that we`re just
getting the details of tonight. Brand new stuff, that`s coming up. Hold
MADDOW: Do you remember school picture day in junior high? It turns
out we subject our elected officials to that humiliation as well.
And just like your photos put those awkward photos of you in seventh
grade on the fridge where they remain today, feathered hair and all, the
U.S. Government Printing Office hopefully keeps a record of our elected
officials` official class pictures. These are from 1999, President Clinton
and Al Gore and Harry Reid and every member of the 106th Congress.
This is Dick Armey`s official portrait that year, his class picture.
When "Mother Jones" broke the story yesterday about Dick Armey`s
contentious break-up with the fake grassroots Koch brothers funded
conservative group FreedomWorks, they reported that, quote, "Armey demanded
that he`d be paid until his contract ended on December 31st. That
FreedomWorks remove his name, image, or signature from all its letters,
print media, postings, Web sites, videos, testimonials, endorsements,
fundraising materials and social media and that he demanded, that
FreedomWorks deliver the copy of his official congressional portrait to his
home in Texas."
Someone at FreedomWorks -- I mean, is there somebody who is bummed? I
don`t want to part with my official portrait of Dick Armey. It looks so
great in the office!
Is this even the portrait in question? Or is there an even fancier
portrait that Dick Armey is demanding that FreedomWorks send to his home
following their big acrimonious break-up?
Well, now, we know that it turns out, FreedomWorks will be sending
home to Texas more than just Dick Armey`s congressional portrait.
The "Associated Press" reporting today that they acquired a
confidential contract that shows that Dick Armey agreed to quit
FreedomWorks back in September in exchange for -- $8 million. Holy
grassroots, Batman. It was worth $8 million to FreedomWorks to make Dick
Armey go away.
For Mr. Armey`s part, he says that really his departure from
FreedomWorks is just a matter of principle. That was the quote from him.
"My differences with FreedomWorks are a matter of principle." Which means
on the $8 million check that you write to me, please put principle in the
memo line, because that`s why I`m leaving -- principle.
There are few aspects of this story that could do with a little more
reporting. And tonight, Politico.com has added some details to this
mystery. They`re reporting that the entire Dick Armey/FreedomWorks break
up was over the issue of who would get to profit financially from a book
deal the organization was involved in. It was a book that was ultimately
published earlier this year.
"Politico" also have some details on the $8 million payout to old
grassroots Dick Armey that was apparently conditioned upon Mr. Armey`s
staying at FreedomWorks through the presidential election.
Mr. Armey told "Politico" that if he left before the election, quote,
"The concern was that the story in the press -- that the story the press
would write is that the whole Tea Party movement was in a state of
disarray. That was probably a fairly reality based concern to have, and we
wanted the organization to survive and do well and the movement to survive
and do well. So, that was one of the reasons why we were concerned about
me leaving before the election."
Why would anybody think the Tea Party movement is in disarray?
The right seems to be imploding since the election, which we expected.
It turns out though that the unexpected thing is that the implosion is
going to happen very, very slowly, day by day by day, with new acrimonious
details dripping out in every news cycle.
MADDOW: About a week after the election, President Obama met with
CEOs. CEOs from G.E. -- hi, former bosses -- American Express and Aetna
and Xerox and Wal-Mart and Dow Chemical and Ford and Pepsi and IBM and
Chevron and Honeywell and Procter & Gamble.
Two weeks after that, a second meeting with CEOs -- Home Depot,
Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Merck, Coca-Cola, Macy`s, Yahoo, Caterpillar,
Pfizer, Comcast -- hi, current boss -- State Farm, Marriott, AT&T, Archer
It`s is not quite the entire Fortune 500 but it`s close. And it`s
about to get closer. Tomorrow, there is a third meeting. The president
speaking to another 100 or so CEOs in Washington. That makes three
meetings with CEOs in four weeks.
This personal attention from the president has led to lots of positive
statements from business leaders. For example, the head of Marriott
calling the president, quote, "Resoundingly reasonable." And yes, that is
same Marriott Corporation that just put Mitt Romney back on the board of
directors after his loss in the presidential election to that resoundingly
reasonable President Obama.
Mr. Romney may have lost African-Americans and Latinos and women and
young people and gay people and single people and independents and
everybody in the country who makes 50 grand a year or less, but you know,
Mitt Romney did do awesome with business guys.
When you look back at 2008 and these were some of Barack Obama`s top
contributors in 2008. As you can see, lots of financial company and banks,
Wall Street guys.
When you look, fast forward to 2012, they all fled to become Mitt
Romney`s top contributors. And after those guys lost with Mitt Romney,
since the election, the outreach from the president to the business world
has frankly been a lot. It has been early, frequent, repeated, intense.
From the friendly response from the business leaders after these
meetings, even from the ones who supported Mitt Romney, it does not seem
like the president is calling these business leaders to the White House to
read them the Riot Act. It does not seem like he is trying to exact
political revenge. It seems like he`s trying to get them on board with his
agenda, particularly for his side of the negotiations with congressional
Republicans over the Bush tax cuts and the stimulus and the deficit.
This president seems to have a thick skin if letting bygones be
bygones does not come naturally to him as a man, he is doing a convincing
job of seeming that way as a president.
And it is probably, honestly, a good strategy for getting his way on
policy, getting the business community to be message multipliers and
supporters of his on basic economic issues. It makes sense.
But what about accountability? And here`s what I mean. The big
business guys who really, really, really wanted President Mitt Romney --
they spent through the roof to get president Mitt Romney and they lost.
They did not get a President Romney. They still have a President Obama.
But now, they`re at the President Obama White House almost every week
meeting with President Obama. And I understand that he wants them to help
him get his general accomplished. I understand that.
But what about the other direction? The fact that they`re getting all
this face time with the president, does that mean they`re getting their
Well, you can judge for yourself in small ways. We`re told that a
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is about to get a seat on the
Senate Banking Committee. It`s not official yet but one Democratic aide
tells NBC News it is, quote, "likely".
This, of course, has the banking world, the financial industry in a
tizzy. This is not what they wanted. They did not want a new sheriff on
One Democratic aide describing them as, quote, "going nuts over this."
But going nuts does not necessarily mean you get what you want, especially
not when the horse you bet on so boldly lost so badly. It also means that
working together on some things doesn`t mean you have to work together on
And it also means that elections have consequences.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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