THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 18, 2014
Guest: Barton Gellman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
On December 19th, a United States Senate candidate was at his home minding
his own business when he heard a knock at his front door. He later
explained to the local newspaper, "the Lusk Herald," that when he peered
out the window of his house, he recognized the local police officers of the
Lusk police department. But he then noticed that the police officers had
others with them.
The candidate told the paper, quote, "at first I thought they were there to
take me to a FEMA concentration camp to kill me." The local police did not
take him to a FEMA concentration camp nor did they kill him. But it was
the local employment at the door, accompanied by officers from the United
States secret service. And that`s because what they were there to
investigate at the house of this candidate for the United States Senate was
an alleged stash of counterfeit $100 bills.
In the small town where the Senate candidate lives, people had apparently
found what sort of looked like hundred dollar bills, and they had actually
tried to use them around town. U.S. currency is a federal thing in this
country when you come across counterfeit bills. Criminal complaints about
that sort of thing do tend to go right to the feds. This is a federal
matter when you`re talking about money. So, the secret service took part
in that counterfeiting investigation.
Now, the Senate candidate in question, his name was Thomas Bleming, and he
was charged. Because when they went to his house, this past December, they
found something like $20,000 worth of fake currency and fake $100 bills in
his house. Ultimately, though, he was able to successfully claim that it
was all a big misunderstanding. About three months after they showed up at
his house, the charges were ultimately dropped. Mr. Bleming later
explained to the press, that those fake $100 bills that were found in his
house, they were not intended to look like real American money. He said
that money was just souvenir stuff that he brought home from some of the
time he spent working abroad in Cambodia and Vietnam as a soldier of
Because that is what he said his job was before he came back to Wyoming, to
run in the Republican primary for the United States Senate. He says he has
been a soldier of fortune fighting wars for money in Togo and Panama and
Burma and Indonesia. He told U.S. news last year quote "I assassinated a
guy one time. I can`t say where, but he had it coming to him."
And that`s kind of the way he`s been campaigning for the United States
Senate. And now that the whole counterfeit money thing is cleared up and
he did not have to go to the FEMA concentration camp and they did not kill
him, it looks like there`s no reason that Mr. Bleming will not be on the
ballot. Running against Wyoming senator Mike Enzi when the Wyoming Senate
primary happens in August.
I should tell you in a sort of remarkable twist, Mr. Bleming, the soldier
of fortune guy there with the rocket propelled grenade, the guy who says he
is an assassin, he now says that his campaign platform for Senate, I`m
quoting him. He says, "my campaign is all about the right to marry who you
want and to light up a joint." He says, quote, "there`s so much hate in
the world and a little bit of love won`t hurt anybody. I believe in total
freedom and having a good time. My campaign`s all about that, there`s been
so much stress and violence in this country. People are killing their
neighbors, kids are killing their kids. Maybe they need a little marijuana
cigarette, maybe that would help settle things down. Maybe. Take it from
me, the guy with the rocket propelled grenade in Burma. Chill out, smoke a
doobie, I`m an assassin."
And so yes, that is pretty much the competition for Mike Enzi, long time
incumbent Republican senator from Wyoming., who otherwise in this kind of a
year, in this kind of a republican climate, he might be expected to be
facing some kind of robust well funded challenge in his home state from his
right flank in the Republican primary, right?
I mean, how different is he from Thad Cochran, or from Mitch McConnell, any
of these old time guys who have been facing the tea party challengers this
year. I mean, this is Wyoming after all, it`s a conservative state?
Until a few months ago, I should tell you Mike Enzi did have a very big
named challenger who was going at him from his right, trying to take his
Senate seat from him in a Republican primary in Wyoming. Until a few
months ago, In January, Mike Enzi was going to have to run to hold on to
his Senate seat in the Republican primary against Dick Cheney`s daughter.
This is one of the weirder things that has happened in this election cycle
for these midterms this year. I mean, it was weird when the story started.
It was weird when it ended very badly. It`s now even weird in retrospect.
I mean, Liz Cheney has been living in the Washington, D.C. area, in
Virginia, for many, many, many years. But last year, unexpectedly, she
moved back to Wyoming, she made claims that she had actually been living
there all along. She declared she would run to unseat Republican incumbent
senator Mike Enzi. It was a surprise announcement. Everybody in Wyoming
politics, appeared to be pretty much blindsided.
Liz Cheney appeared to have lined up no support in the state at all,
really, before she made the announcement, that she was going to try to
topple the popular incumbent Republican senator, right out of the date
things went sort of poorly. Particularly her efforts to portray herself as
a regular down home Wyoming gal, who had always lived there.
She got into some trouble with that right away, when she tried to buy a
Wyoming resident fishing license, even though she had been living in
Virginia, until about five minutes before, and so she didn`t actually meet
the residency requirements to get a resident fishing license. And if you
live in a big city, or you know, like fishing, this may sound like a sort
of picky you matter, Liz Cheney`s fishing license.
But in a hunting and fishing state like Wyoming, where basically official
responsibilities of the state`s governor every year go on a one-shot
antelope hunt, screwing up the fishing license thing, specifically around
your residency requirement, when nobody believes you are a resident in
Wyoming, that was a very bad first step. And the fishing license thing,
got a ton of publicity in Wyoming, right after Liz Cheney announced she was
running for Senate.
And it only bolstered the existing presumption that she really did not know
much about Wyoming, she had never really previously cared much about
Wyoming, and she was looking for some state, somewhere in the country where
she could run for office, get the maximum help from her very famous family
And then it also did not help that her very famous family could not keep
themselves out of the news about her campaign or what turned out to be its
many weird and melodramatic plot developments, like, say, take this
headline from the Casper star tribune.
Former Wyoming U.S. senator Alan Simpson says Lynne Cheney told me to shut
up. Lynne Cheney, of course, is Liz Cheney`s mom, Dick Cheney`s wife.
This story made the national press too. Lynne Cheney told me to shut up.
Summarize this, there was some sort of dispute between Wyoming U.S. senator
Alan Simpson, and Liz Cheney`s mom, at a Liz Cheney campaign event sort of,
Regardless of the details, a shut up was allegedly thrown. Alan Simpson
later said it was three shut ups that was denied by the Cheney`s side, but
later confirmed by witnesses who say they heard the shut ups.
Then the Cody Enterprise newspaper posted a photo of the alleged shut up
happening at the event. And then after Liz`s mom denied she really did say
shut up, Alan Simpson wrote a statement to the Cody Enterprise newspaper
saying that Lynne Cheney was telling, in his words, a bold faced lie. This
is Alan Simpson talking.
That`s twisted comment is one damn bald-faced lie. And I have a belly full
of it. I`ve never been called a liar before and it sure as hell won`t work
this time. Now, I know folks can get into the old pitch of he said she
said, and so, I`ll just leave it to l the good people of Wyoming to know
who is telling the truth here. I lay my reputation flat on the line before
my fellow Wyomingites who know me. But I sure don`t have to take that guff
from anyone, whatever, whoever, ever! The exclamation point is in the
He goes on to say, in public life, I have been called everything, and that
goes with the territory. It`s a contact sport. I`ve been called fool,
idiot, boob, bonehead, dink, slob, greeny, soot-covered slob and all the
rest. And that is fair, believe it or not, in politics. But what is not
fair -- seriously, it goes on and on and on and on and on for more than a
dozen paragraphs, and this is in the paper in Wyoming.
This was the character of the Liz Cheney Senate campaign in Wyoming.
Wyoming`s not that big, mom, did you have to? Apparently mom had to, and
it went on and on and on, and then it was time for more drama. Liz Cheney
has a sister, her sister Mary, is openly gay. And as conservative as Dick
Cheney has been on everything else in the world, Dick Cheney has always
been fairly progressive on gay rights. And he has cited his daughter
coming out, and his daughter`s life living an openly gay life when
defending his position on gay rights matters.
Liz Cheney, though, when Liz Cheney announced that she was running for
Senate in Wyoming, she apparently decided broadly, in terms of a broad
strategy, that the only way to win that Senate seat would be to position
herself far to the right of the incumbent. Far to the right of Mike Enzi.
And one of the things she decided to attack him on was that he was too soft
on the issue of gay rights.
Liz Cheney herself went on the FOX News Sunday TV show and apparently for
the first time ever in public she said, after she had started this
campaign, that she herself was against gay marriage, she thought it was
wrong, apparently she did not give her gay married sister a head`s up
before making that announcement, and then it went like this.
Quote "things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney and her wife were at home
watching FOX News Sunday, their usual weekend ritual. Sister Liz Cheney
appeared on the show and said that she opposed same sex marriage. Taken
aback and hurt, Mary Cheney immediately took to her facebook page to blast
back. Liz, this isn`t just an issue in which we agree. You`re wrong and
on the wrong side of history.
Then Mary Cheney`s wife went further, touching on Liz Cheney`s relocation
from northern Virginia to Wyoming to seek office. Liz Cheney is already
battling accusations of carpet bagging. He quote from her facebook page
I can`t help but wonder how Liz would feel if she move from state to state,
she found out her family was protected in one state but not the other.
Yes, Liz, she adds, in 15 states and the District of Columbia, you are my
sister-in-law. I am your father.
Mary Cheney, then actually did a follow-up interview with politico.com,
about her sister`s which she describe as apparently politically motivated
change of heart on this gay rights issue, and how she explains how there
would be no Cheney family holidays this year. She explained how she would
not be supporting her sister`s candidacy for the senate. And they were not
Then dad, Dick Cheney, and mom, Lynne Cheney, decided to further the matter
by coming out publicly to take sides between their two fighting daughters
on this issue. They decided that they would publicly side with Liz Cheney,
the one who after all is running for office. Trying to appear to be more
anti-gay than the incumbent Republican senator she was trying to topple.
In this fight between their daughters, they came out to support the anti-
gay one who was running for office.
Are we having fun yet? This was the Liz Cheney Senate campaign in Wyoming.
She declared it all over in January. Liz Cheney withdrew, thus clearing
the way for the guy with the RPG who thinks she might need a joint and we
all need a little more love.
So Liz Cheney`s last foray into politics. Indeed, the last foray of any
Cheney family member into a political effort was basically a short lived
comedy of errors masquerading as a Wyoming Senate race.
But Liz Cheney has been around a little bit, in her other forays in public
life, have also been honestly pretty poorly received. When her father was
vice president, she did get a job at the state department. And then in
2006, so in the second Bush term, where vice president Cheney`s influence
particularly on foreign policy issues started to wane, part of the
government seminal the biography about Dick Cheney, angler, goes into great
detail about how vice president Cheney`s efforts to start a new war against
Iran, were thwarted as he lost influence in the second term.
While he was still trying to hold on to that influence and advance that
idea of bombing Iran in the second Bush term, Liz Cheney at the state
department was in 2006 appointed to head up a secretive group called the
Iran/Syria policy and operations group which was widely seen as basically
the starter war with Iran planning cell inside the state department. It
was a secretive group, the most information that was ever published about
it, was after it had quietly been shut down, even though there had been no
contemporaneous announcement about it being shut down at all. The Bush
administration broadly and the state department, in particular, really
didn`t seem to want to talk about it until it was gone.
Liz Cheney`s Iran/Syria policy and operations group existed for a year, and
then they did away with it, not only did they not get the war they wanted
with Iran, they also got pretty publicly and embarrassingly disowned by the
Bush administration. The Bush administration actually sort of made a half
serious effort at trying to make the thing go away without ever really
acknowledging that it existed in the first place.
Incidentally, Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state at the time that was
happening, she was back at the state department today having her official
portrait unveiled. No Cheneys were in attendance for that.
But after Liz Cheney`s unpleasantness with the Iraq war planning group at
the state department and getting shut down, after that unpleasantness at
the state department, once President Obama was elected, Liz Cheney then
formed another group, called keep America safe, the group founded in 2009
basically to advocate for war with Iran, war with Syria, war with North
Korea, more war with Iraq, more war with Afghanistan, even at one point a
fake gesture toward a potentially at a war with China.
Keep America safe was the group that tried to stoke the ground zero mosque
controversy, right? I went to CPAC, the conservative political action
conference in 2010. I picked up a bumper sticker at the keep America safe
booth. I was looking for Liz Cheney to ask if she`d let me interview her.
I didn`t find her, but I did find their bumper sticker that said Guantanamo
saves lives. That was kind of their politics.
They were also the group that tried to advance this me, which they called
the al Qaeda seven. They were trying to event the idea that lawyers in the
justice department who had worked on terrorism and detention cases after
9/11, those lawyers themselves must be al Qaeda terrorist sympathizers if
they ever worked on terrorism cases. That was even a step too far for many
Liz Cheney`s group got denounced for that by people like Bush attorney
general Michael Mukasey and Kenneth Starr, remember him from the Starr
report? Chief counsel of the national security council under George W.
Bush. All these former Bush administration officials, all these very
conservative lawyers who might otherwise be on the Cheney side of things on
national security issues.
They were verbally and vocally disgusted by Liz Cheney`s group keep America
safe. Their Al Qaeda seven stuff. And that keep America safe group ended
up as host not found. The group ended up quietly dissolving.
Interestingly they never announced it was shutting down. They never
announced it was going anywhere. You can still find their You Tube clips
around, but their Web site now just goes into redirect nowhere land. They
just evaporated without saying a word. They never said good-bye.
Think Progress went looking for them sometime last summer, noticing that
their e-mail and their voice mail links appeared to just be dead. I mean,
the Think Progress folks tried to find the Liz Cheney group physically,
quote, "an attempt to visit keep America safe`s offices to discern whether
the organization is still active resulted in an expected trip to a UPS
store in downtown Washington, D.C. It`s a very safe UPS store, though.
So, that was the last thing Liz Cheney did before her Senate race. That
one just folded up and slithered away. And now, there`s today and look,
you`re still here. Dick Cheney in a cowboy hat and Liz Cheney together
today decided to bless us by launching a new organization to advance the
Cheney way in American politics and presumably to give Liz something to do.
The group is called Alliance for a strong America, they launched today with
this op-ed in "the Wall Street Journal" with a press release that was
published basically as a column at the "Washington Post." Also, they
published this web video featuring the mentioned cowboy hat. And they also
posted this web page.
And you know, Dick Cheney is a former vice president of the United States
and as such, stuff he does inherently has some heft and get some attention.
But I have to tell you, there is sort of a slap to hash minor league field
to this new thing that they`re doing. They do misspell their own family
name on the Web site. No apostrophe, unless what we`re about to learn is
something about something you possess. You don`t need to -- they also seem
to have been in a real hurry with the Web site planning over all. The
group is called alliance for a strong America, but if you type it in
allianceforastrongAmerica.org, what you get is this, a white page that says
page ok. If you go to alliance for a strong America, again, that`s the
name of the group, if you go to alliance for a strong America dot com what
you get is this, it was just set up today apparently in response to Dick
and Liz Cheney. A strong America.com tells a strong America means not
listening to Dick Cheney.
Dick Cheney wrong on Iraq since 2002 when he pushed for war, why listen to
him now. You can click the video there and hear Dick Cheney in a night
music explaining why it would be a such a terrible idea to invade Iraq and
topple Saddam. They have this big nice list of Dick Cheney quotes from
before the Iraq war. The things he lied about, or that he was at least
very disastrously wrong about, Mr. Cheney`s quote "it`s been pretty well
confirmed that the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with a senior official
of Iraqi intelligence service in Prague last April. That did not happen.
Dick Cheney in 2002, there`s no doubt Saddam Hussein now has weapons of
mass destruction, that was not true.
Dick Cheney in 2003, my belief is, we will in fact be greeted as
liberators, I think it will go relatively quickly in weeks rather than
Dick Cheney claiming repeatedly that Iraq was behind 9/11.
Dick Cheney claiming repeatedly that al Qaeda and Iraq were working
Dick Cheney saying in 2005 that Iraq was in his view, in the last throws of
Really? 2005? That`s what you`ll find at allianceforastrongAmerica.com on
the day that Dick and Liz Cheney launched alliance for a strong America.
Again, the dot org is just nothing. AllianceforastrongAmerica.net, I
should let you know this breaking news here, AllianceforstrongAmerica.net,
we actually bought is that one today as a favor to the Cheney family, so as
to make sure it doesn`t fall into nefarious hands, we are keeping that Web
site safe for the Cheney family.
Right now, if you go to AllianceforstrongAmerica.net, you will find that we
have made it redirect to what I thought might be just a convenient place
holder for the Cheneys. It`s the place where you would go online in the
Wyoming state government to get your fishing license if you wanted to do it
the legal way. It`s very easy, it turns out. They`re very clear about
what the rules are.
The actual Web site that they did set up today without buying any of their
other domain names, it is strongerAmerica.com. If you forget that and you
typed in stronger America.org, you end up at a Web site of a totally
unrelated Pac. I don`t know what this is. StrongerAmerica.net goes to a
blank page. Stronger America doesn`t even sound like anything in the name
of the group they found today. But if you remember it enough to try to
find them online, you are likely to end up at this guy`s web site instead -
- instead of Dick and Liz Cheneys.
Lots of Iraq war architects are circulating in the press right now. And
the print press on TV, lots of Iraq war cheerleaders who made false
statements and wrong predictions to get us into the Iraq war in 2003, all
now still around being quoted again. Insisting on expressing their opinion
about questions over U.S. military intervention in Iraq now. And all of
these folks from John McCain to Lindsey Graham to Paul (INAUDIBLE) to Paul
Bremer to Kenneth (INAUDIBLE), Bill Crystal, Judy Miller, and all of them,
they`re all really testing the limits of whether they are really are no
consequences for foreign policy disgrace and failure, as long as you`re pro
war in this country.
When the country honestly, a significant portion of the country is
convulsing at the sight of these people as we try to have a reasonable and
informed debate now about what to do in Iraq now, and they continue to
pollute it with their unapologetic presence.
But the Cheneys? For them, for Dick Cheney in particular, for Dick Cheney
and his daughter, it`s almost at a different level. It`s almost at a level
that approaches parody. I mean, the Cheneys op-ed in the wall street
journal today is about war in Iraq and it accuses the Obama administration
of misleading rhetoric about Iraq. Really?
Mohammed Atta and (INAUDIBLE), pretty well confirmed did you say? And that
guy is very upset about misleading rhetoric when it comes to Iraq? The
Cheneys reemerging today is the biggest story in Republican foreign policy
today. I think Republicans are starting to feel nudge about having been so
wrong about Iraq and having nobody who has got tinted by the Iraq fiasco.
And then he sort of leadership position in Republican foreign policy
discussions when we have those as a nation.
Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney with this foray today, they are telling the
Republican party to not be embarrassed about what happened. Embrace it,
run with it, demand everyone listen to you again on this subject.
Is this just an effort at political and public rehabilitation for Liz
Cheney, because she has nothing to do now, and she has just suffered
through a string of really embarrassing failures in trying to become a
public figure? Is this about advancing a new generation of Cheney
leadership for the nation?
Or is this not about the future? Is this about the past? Is this part of
a larger project to vindicate the Cheney legacy, especially on war to try
to put a shine on Dick Cheney`s very unpopular tenure as vice president.
Most importantly, though, who listens to this stuff? I mean, from the
outside, it`s ridiculous, right? Seeing Dick Cheney in a cowboy hat and
Liz Cheney at their misspelled website telling us that they know what to do
in Iraq. It is like watching a particularly humorless hand-handed lefty
satire in a student theater production at hemp state in 2004. I mean,
nobody would accuse the Cheney family of something this on the nose, this
brazenly obnoxious, unless they did it themselves. But they did it
themselves, there they are, and from outside, it`s crazy, it is laugh out
But from the inside, does it work? Does it work inside the conservative
movement? Do they have an audience? Is there a wing of Republicanism even
today, that is a Cheney-ite wing, where something like this is reviewed as
a bizarre family craft project?
MADDOW: These are reporters and photographers rushing into the oval office
today to snap some very non-candid pictures of President Obama and the four
congressional leaders from both houses. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry
Reid, Mitch McConnell, before they had a closed door meeting today with
President Obama about the absolutely terrible situation in Iraq.
Iraq has requested U.S. air strikes to help in its ongoing struggle against
Sunni militants there. The United States has agreed to send 275 troops who
will be combat equipped to protect American assets and lives in the region.
The president updated the leaders today on the administration`s views on
Iraq. The president also quote "asked each of the leaders for their view
of the current situation, and pledged to continue consulting closely with
Whether or not the president or Congress decides to take any sort of
military action, those decisions right now, that`s all happening in
Washington now against the backdrop of a lot of Republicans, political
backdrop of the reemergence of the essentially, the Iraq war cheerleading
team from 2002 and 2003.
And specifically, Dick and Liz Cheney today, former vice president and his
daughter today announcing themselves back on the scene with an op-ed, a
press release, a new Web site and a video, announcing they would be forming
a new organization to try to keep alive the Cheney-ite faction of
republican politics about war.
How is that going to affect things in Washington now during this debate?
Joining us now is Barton Gellman, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, author
of angler, the Cheney vice presidency.
Mr. Gellman, thank you very much for being here.
BARTON GELLMAN, AUTHOR, ANGLER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me ask the most -- I guess the most present question first,
which is, whether or not there is a strong and willing audience now for
Dick Cheney and his efforts to not just keep his ideas alive, but to sort
of put a shine on his legacy as vice president.
GELLMAN: You know, there`s so many levels to what Cheney did today. It
could be, let`s blame someone else for this strategic catastrophe that Iraq
became. He always said that history would judge him. He might like to
influence that. But he really does want to affect current policy, current
politics. And this could be seen as a shot across the bow of Rand Paul,
for example, and other parts of the multifaceted civil war inside the
Republican party, one of its dimension is on any dimension as foreign
policy. And Cheney doesn`t actually won in Iraq war 3.0, I don`t think.
But he wants the sort of muscular policy that he saw himself leading behind
that, to carry on.
MADDOW: The -- as somebody looking in on this from the outside, the lack
of self-awareness for what it takes for somebody with Vice President
Cheney`s record on Iraq, to accuse somebody else of misleading rhetoric on
the subject of Iraq, it`s -- I talk a lot, but it renders me speechless.
Is that -- is that self-conscious? Does the vice president, in your view,
in your reporting on him, do you think he recognizes or can see at all the
way that he is seen by other people? Does he know why he had a 13 percent
approval rating when he left office?
GELLMAN: Well, he thinks he had a 13 percent approval rating because the
American people didn`t understand what it takes to protect them. He`s
quite convinced of his rightness. He thinks the public is fickle and not
very well informed. And he, therefore, uses a fairly sort of blunt hammer
in trying to form public opinion. Not as blunt as other members of his
family. I mean, in the Cheney family, he is the moderate, he is the sort
of subtle nuanced guy, and so, although this "Wall Street Journal" op-ed
today skated right up to the line of some of the emotional power of
accusing the president of treason, it`s always hedged.
He seems to be indifferent to America`s enemy. He`s either blind or
indifferent. He`s -- he seems to be ushering in Iran into Iraq. There`s
always some little bit of a hedge, I mean, Liz Cheney were writing that on
her own, or if Lynn Cheney were writing it, all that stuff would be gone.
MADDOW: In terms of the substantive legacy of the Cheney vice presidency,
and especially with regard to war, as the president and Congress grapple
with whether or not the United States is going to do something else
militarily in Iraq now, are there -- is there a substantive legacy of the
way that Cheney changed the approach to war as American policy? That the
United States now has to decide whether to walk back or continue with?
GELLMAN: Well, one of Cheney`s big strategic objectives was what -- the
people in his office, internally called the demonstration effect. That by
coming in and squashing Saddam Hussein, the United States would demonstrate
its power and deter other enemies. The -- that sort of depends on the
outcome. And, you know, $2 trillion later and 4400 American dead, well
over 100,000 Iraqi dead, I mean, no one can see what happened as a victory.
I mean, the Bush administration did not hand over to the incoming president
use of Iraq all sort of nicely wrapped up in a bow, problem solved, mission
accomplished. They left with a big mess on their hands, and it was
Cheney`s idea in the first place, he did not want a long-term occupation.
He wanted to, as he called it, stand up a government, to stand up security
forces and get the heck out.
And it is he who made the bed with the sort of -- with the Shiite dominated
government, he hoped it (INAUDIBLE). But he settled for Maliki when that
didn`t work out. And so, you know, they`re reaping the fruits of the
policy that he created.
MADDOW: Which outrages him greatly. It`s a remarkable time we`re having,
I feel like I`ve got my binoculars on backwards right now.
Barton Gellman, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author.
Barton, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here.
GELLMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back, stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold, the single greatest photo caption in the whole
photographic history of American political campaigning in the 1990s. The
best. The photo is from 1996, it`s from the Associated Press. It`s not
dancing. It`s what seems to be a photo of a giant cigarette getting a
friendly patdown from a police officer.
This is what the caption says, best caption ever, "Buttman protesting
against Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole`s book signing in the
Westwood section of Los Angeles Wednesday gets a gentle shove from a Los
Angeles police officer who`s trying to keep him and fellow protesters
across the street from the event."
A gentle shove for Buttman. Not Batman, Buttman.
In 1996, this giant cigarette, name of Buttman, he popped up everywhere
that Bob Dole went to -- on his "I want to run for president" book tour.
Buttman. There he is. He was played by different Democratic Party
staffers, and the idea of having Buttman follow Bob Dole around was
basically a political stunt by which the Bill Clinton campaign could accuse
Bob Dole of being too cozy with big tobacco.
Get it? A giant cigarette, big tobacco?
After a while the Bob Dole people started getting annoyed at the big
cigarette guy turning up at all their events, they apparently floated the
idea of having not a Buttman but a Joint Man follow Bill Clinton around
everywhere that he went. Basically to say that Bill Clinton`s a stoner.
Joint Man never happened, sad to say. But political campaigns do regularly
do these kind of stunts where people dress up in funny suits. Before they
ran against Bob Dole in 1996, it was 1992 when Bill Clinton was up against
George H.W. Bush, and the Clinton folks sent a guy in a chicken suit to all
of the Bush campaign stops as a way of calling President Bush too chicken
to debate Bill Clinton.
President Bush apparently did not love this and he and his campaign ended
up getting in a few well publicized fights with the chicken.
This has just become a thing that campaigns do to try to get under the skin
of the rival candidate, right? Ruffle some feathers. Maybe use the great
visual of the person in the funny suit to get the metaphor of the
allegation you`re trying to make into the paper or on to TV.
In 2008 the GOP got a hold of a squirrel suit and they sent one of their
staffers out in a squirrel suit to follow Barack Obama. Their idea in L.A.
was to try to link candidate Barack Obama to the voter registration group
ACORN, which Republicans are trying to turn into a scandal. The name of
the group was ACORN, squirrels arguably like acorns so at least it made
some visual sense to have the squirrels visibly bother the Obama campaign,
thereby getting the ACORN issue at least visually into the coverage of his
The squirrel had a blog and a Twitter feed, the squirrel seemed to have a
good time on the campaign randomly. Here`s the anti-ACORN squirrel for
Richard Simmons for no good reason. The squirrel claimed to fire up the
squirrel community against Barack Obama. The whole thing was king of so
fused with a bit of humor. 2008. Right?
But now, somewhat randomly, something weird has happened about the
squirrel. Because the Republican Party has apparently decided to revive
the exact same squirrel, except this time they don`t have a squirrel
related metaphor to push, you know, ACORN or something, which kind of made
the squirrel make sense. Now this time they just appear to still have that
squirrel costume laying around, and so they`ve decided to use it again for
Look. Look. It`s the same squirrel costume they used for the ACORN gag,
which kind of made sense for the ACORN gag, but now they`re using it to
attack Hillary Clinton.
What does Hillary Clinton have to do with squirrels? Precisely nothing.
It`s just the same costume, recently used for a totally different and
unrelated political attack, this time appearing at a different candidate`s
events but the squirrel now makes no sense.
At Maddow Blog today we tried to figure it out. I mean, what`s the point
here? Is Secretary Clinton supposed to be squirrely? Does she steal from
bird feeders? Is she prone to chewing on electrical cables and maybe
shorting out your stereo? I mean, what`s the allegation here? What`s the
connection between a squirrel and Hillary Clinton?
There`s no sense in which the squirrel-chasing Hillary Clinton makes any
sense. It`s not even related to any allegation whatsoever, unless you get
close enough to the squirrel to notice that the squirrel is wearing a
squirrel T-shirt which says, "It would be nuts to elect another Clinton to
the White House."
That`s it. That`s the connection that`s justifying recycling the squirrel
The world of bizarre and inane politics of the arrayed forces against Bill
and Hillary Clinton has always been at some level inexplicable. But right
now, is the rights` Hillary Clinton obsession and her potential
presidential candidacy, and the rights` obsession with Benghazi about to
foretell the next big dumb thing all of our politics is going to revolve
That story is next.
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton has a book out, you might have heard. Last night
she did an book interview on the FOX News Channel, and guess how that went?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Madam Secretary, obviously the big news today
is on Benghazi, and the capture of Abu Khatalla. I heard you earlier today
say by way of context that it took more than 10 years to pinpoint Osama bin
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Right.
BAIER: Isn`t there a difference in this case in that Abu Khattala was
hiding in plain sight, openly giving interviews to reporters like our own
Gregg Palkot? Should Khattala be read his Miranda rights and be tried in
U.S. civilian court? As for more specific Benghazi question you may have
had imagined that.
BAIER: Did you talk to Charlene Lamb that evening? Did you talk to
Secretary Panetta that night?
Madame Secretary, in your testimony before the Senate on Benghazi on
January 2013, you stated this, quote, "I certainly did not know of any
reports that contradicted the intelligence community talking points at the
time that Ambassador Rice went on the TV shows, the Sunday shows."
Do you stand by that statement?
In the Benghazi chapter, you acknowledged that on the night of the attacks
you received a State Department Operations Center bulletin in which in the
book you say it`s a report, that Ansar al-Sharia has claimed
responsibility. How did that report come to you?
(INAUDIBLE) suggested President Obama, you had a conversation on the phone.
Roughly around 10:00 p.m.
BAIER: Did you talk to him before you put out a statement or after? Do
you know where the president was during the attack? Did you talk about the
video with President Obama?
Two quick follow-ups on Benghazi then I want to move to something else.
Why is the State Department telling the Libyans, the Libyan ambassador it
was Ansar al-Sharia, and yet telling the American people at the same time
it was this video? What exactly are you taking responsibility for?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s pretty much how it went. Former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton did a book tour interview on the Benghazi news channel yesterday,
and wouldn`t you know it, the interview was pretty much all about Benghazi.
Yesterday when the news broke that the alleged leader of the Benghazi
attack was in U.S. custody after a U.S. Special Forces and FBI raid in
Libya, the reaction on the FOX News Channel when the news came in was to
suggest that the arrest was a conspiracy, that it had been timed
specifically to coincide with Hillary Clinton`s book release. The timing
was just too perfect.
The right is obsessed with Benghazi, the right is obsessed with Hillary
Clinton. Now President Obama says he intends to have the alleged Benghazi
attack leader tried here in the United States in a regular court. He will
not be delivered to Guantanamo, he will be brought back to the United
States and tried on terrorism related charges here in a federal criminal
court and will face imprisonment in a U.S. federal prison if he is
Does the craziness of the relevant political orbit here around Hillary
Clinton and around Benghazi and around freaking out about terrorism in our
country mean we are about to have our next round of fighting about whether
or not terrorism suspects actually get tried?
Joining us now is Jennifer Rodgers. She`s a former assistant U.S. attorney
in the southern district of New York and the executive director for the
Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity of Columbia Law School.
Mrs. Rodgers, thanks very much for being here.
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I think that we are going to have a big fight about this because
of the overlapping political spheres and interest here. With this suspect
Abu Khattala reportedly being held on an American ship outside of Libya,
being interrogated by FBI officials, we don`t know a lot of confirmed
details. But from your experience, what do you think we should expect to
happen next upon his arrival in the U.S.?
RODGERS: Well, as soon as he arrives, he will be presented in court on the
complaint that`s been presented against him which contains three charges.
He will receive a lawyer and at that time after the presentment, the
assistant United States attorney prosecuting the case will have usually its
30 days in order to present the case to a grand jury and then bring an
MADDOW: In terms of the intelligence value associated with his capture,
what are things that cannot be done and that might produce some useful
intelligence from this man that can`t be done because he`s being tried in
this way, rather than being shipped off to Guantanamo?
RODGERS: Well, putting aside the torture and things that we are now
passed, he can`t be held indefinitely for intelligence related questioning.
There is a charge against him now. But they still can use the public
safety exceptions to the Miranda rule to question him about ongoing
threats, things that are currently out there. So they will probably -- as
we speak, they probably are asking him about what does he know in terms of
plots that are currently in place, who`s doing it, where are they going to
be, that sort of thing.
So they`re doing all of that intelligence related questioning now, and they
can do that, and then later they will provide him with his Miranda rights
and try to get a statement from him that can be used in court.
MADDOW: In terms of a track record of prosecuting terrorism cases through
the military commission system setup intended to Guantanamo versus
prosecuting people in the typical American court system, what`s the record
RODGERS: Well, that`s a softball. So there`s been literally hundreds and
hundreds of prosecutions, successful prosecutions in the civilian courts of
terrorism suspects and as you probably know, very, very few completed
actions in military tribunals. Federal courts are great at this, the best
prosecutors in the world. So there`s no question that he can be
successfully tried in civilian court.
MADDOW: Do you think -- not necessarily as a practitioner but just as a
citizen, do you think that there are powerful people who are in a position
to know who will be seen as experts in this field who are -- will credibly
argue military commissions is a better idea? That`s what we ought to do,
we`ve had a better experience with them?
RODGERS: The only I think argument that makes any sense to me for the
commissions is that there is a lower standard of proof there on some of the
evidentiary issues. So, for example, the hearsay rules are more lenient
and you only need 2/3 of the -- well, there`s military folks but the jury
to convict as opposed to unanimous jury in the civilian system. So if you
hypothetically had a case where it was a very close call you weren`t sure
whether your evidence was up to snuff, then, you know, you can see going
with the commissions because otherwise the persons would not be prosecuted.
But in a case where the evidence is strong and I don`t have any inside
information on this, but what I`m reading seems like there`s fairly strong
evidence, then you should definitely go with the civilian court.
MADDOW: Particularly given that softball question about the record.
This is helpful to understand the substantive matters that are going to
underline what I bet is going to be a very dumb debate.
Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of the Center for Advancement of
Public Integrity, thank you very much for being with us. That really
helped. That really helped so thank you.
RODGERS: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A watch this space alert for you for tomorrow. Tomorrow
afternoon, House Republicans are going to vote on the successor to Eric
Cantor as the House majority leader after he lost his seat in a Republican
primary two weeks ago. The leadership is all expected to shift in that
afternoon vote in the House tomorrow. That is going to provide a vivid
window for all of us into whether or not the Tea Party has been able to
turn that victory over Eric Cantor into a wholesale takeover of their party
and its leadership in Congress.
We`re going to have full coverage of that closed door vote tomorrow night
after it happens. It`s going to be really fascinating. So please plan to
be here for that. In the meantime, "Best New Thing" in the world is coming
up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here are some scenes of the fan celebration after the L.A. Lakers
won the NBA championships in 2010. Yes, that`s fire. After the UConn
men`s basketball team won March Madness this year at least 30 people had to
be arrested for how they celebrated there. Here`s how Detroit celebrates
whenever one of their teams wins.
But in its first day of the World Cup this year, the Japanese World Cup
team lost 2-1 to the team from the Ivory Coast. In their moment of great
disappointment, the Japanese soccer fans decided to respond to the loss not
overturning cars or lighting couches on fire, but by cleaning up the
stadium in which the game had just been played.
Look, these are fans. The Japanese team saluted its fans as they picked up
trash among the thousands of seats when the game was over. The sports
ideal is to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. The fans of the
Japanese World Cup team are the greatest manifestation of that in a long,
long while. And that is the "Best New Thing" in the world tonight."
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