'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Tuesday, May 5, 2009
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Guest: Ricardo Sanchez, Michael Isikoff, Ron Paul, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Dr. Ron Paul will, indeed, be here this hour live. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez will also be joining us. The president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, will be here to talk about the improbable ascendance of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. We have a very big show planned tonight. There‘s lots to come.
But we start with the late-breaking news today about expected recommendations for disbarment but not prosecution for Bush administration lawyers who wrote the legal authorizations for torture. The Office of Professional Responsibility in the Justice Department has spent four-plus years investigating the creation and evolution of the torture memos, looking in part at the interaction between CIA officials seeking legal advice and the Justice Department lawyers who provided it.
But even though a draft of the report was finished in January, before President Bush even left office, this report has reportedly been stalled since then so that its three prime targets could respond to the report‘s criticism of their conduct. Those targets are former head of the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel and current federal judge, Jay Bybee, who, in 2002, authorized, quote, “attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in confinement box, and the waterboard.
Targets also include former acting assistant attorney general, Steven Bradbury, who concluded in 2005 that waterboarding wasn‘t torture because, quote, “use of the waterboard cannot be expected to cause severe physical suffering,” and because, quote, “prolonged mental harm would not be expected to occur.”
A third target of the report is former assistant attorney general in the legal counsel‘s office and current professor at U.C. Berkley, John Yoo, who wrote a memo in 2003 horrifically redefining torture which said, quote, “The victim must experience intense pain or suffering of the kind that is equivalent to the pain that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body functions will likely result.”
In the United States, both in U.S. law and in terms of our international treaty obligations, torture is a crime. When you yourself don‘t commit a crime but you scheme with other people to cause a crime to be committed, that‘s called criminal conspiracy. So, for example, if you didn‘t rob the bank yourself but you provided the robbers with security guard uniforms and an armored car so that their bank robbery would look like normal bank business and nobody would sound the alarm while they were making off with all the loot, you would go to prison same as the robbers, once you had been caught.
But in the case of the crime of torture, if you collaborated with other U.S. officials to devise a system in which torture would appear to be legal, so that it would be used, so that the people told to carry out the torture program would not balk at the instruction and sound the alarm—apparently, if the crime is torture and not bank robbery, no big whoop.
“The New York Times” is reporting and NBC News is confirming that the Department of Justice‘s internal ethics report, four years in the making, will conclude that the Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury and John Yoo, quote, “committed serious lapses of judgment but should not be criminally prosecuted.” According to “The Times,” the Justice Department is considering asking that, quote, “state bar associations consider possible disciplinary action, including reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions.”
Of course, the report is not yet final and it is only a recommendation to the attorney general, Eric Holder, and, of course, last I checked, torture is still technically a crime punishable by 20 years in jail.
Joining us now sort this out is Michael Isikoff, MSNBC contributor and investigative correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Mike, thanks very much for being here.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: This reporting today is about what this report will recommend when it is final. Do you think that we, the public, are ever going to get to see this report?
ISIKOFF: There is an expectation that we will. I think that the—in fact, the letter that was sent to senators Whitehouse and Durbin today did reference the unusual amount of public interest in this report. I think it‘s fair to say that this is probably the most eagerly anticipated report in legal circles in quite some time, and the consequences are huge.
Even if the recommendation is simply—and I don‘t mean that to be dismissive—but a recommendation for bar disciplinary procedures against these lawyers would be like a bombshell in legal circles. To have these lawyers face potential disciplinary proceedings and lose their law licenses would be something that would be unheard of.
Jay Bybee, the prime author of the 2002 memos, could be subject to impeachment. In fact, it would almost certainly fuel calls for his impeachment as a federal appellate court judge. And I think the ripples from that would be quite extensive.
MADDOW: We know that Judge Bybee and John Yoo and Steven Bradbury have had a chance to respond to the findings of this report even before it is made public. I also find it remarkable that Mr. Bradbury has to have participated in this investigation of himself in a way because he was head of the Office of Legal Counsel while that office was involved in the investigation. Is that not sort of a strange wrinkle in all of this?
ISIKOFF: It is a strange wrinkle, but if you remember, Rachel, we discussed this two months ago when I first reported on this upcoming report, that a draft had been presented to then Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the waning days of the Bush administration and he squelched it, he refused to allow it to go forward, objected to the findings and sent it back to have—sent it to be reviewed by the people who were being criticized.
Bradbury, at the time, was still the chief of the Office of Legal Counsel. He was Mukasey‘s chief legal adviser, as he was throughout the entire second term of George W. Bush, and he was the one who this internal ethics unit was finding may have violated professional standards and may have acted unethically in approving this.
So, the whole—that whole process was strange on its face that Mukasey turns to his own legal office, which is the same office that was being criticized in the report.
MADDOW: It is strange and there‘s so much—I mean, so much has come to light since Obama has taken office, so much is, I think, still in the process of coming to light. For example, “The Washington Post” reported today that Bush administration officials were lobbying the Justice Department to soften this report before it comes out.
Do we know anything about whether or not that has been effective? Have you been able to report anything on whether or not that pressure is indeed being placed on the Justice Department or how it‘s being received if it is—if they are being pressured?
ISIKOFF: I think we know that—we certainly know the concern of the former Bush administration officials. For one thing, a lot of them are still seeking jobs and this would have a huge impediment for at least some of the Bush lawyers still seeking jobs.
ISIKOFF: But, my guess is that that‘s not going have much of an impact. That the Office of Professional Responsibility is well aware of the consequences of this report, as is Eric Holder, the attorney general, who will ultimately make the decision to go forward. So, I would not expect that‘s a lobbying campaign that‘s going to bear a lot of fruit.
I think the important thing to watch—and, by the way, the criminal
no criminal prosecutions headline that is getting a lot of attention tonight—I‘m not sure that‘s quite as significant as people think, because the Office of Professional Responsibility is the ethics unit. It‘s not the criminal division of the Justice Department. They don‘t make decisions on criminal prosecutions and there‘s an entire separate track of potential criminal investigations flowing from this.
As we reported this week in “Newsweek,” there‘s an ongoing criminal investigation into the CIA destruction of tapes. The e-mails in this report could well shed light for the criminal division. So, I don‘t think this is, by any means, over yet.
MADDOW: Briefly, Michael, do we have any expectation of when the report is due on the CIA destroying those interrogation tapes? I know that investigation has been going on for a very long time now.
ISIKOFF: It‘s been—and it‘s been heating up. And as we reported in just the last few weeks, John Durham, the special counsel, has been bringing CIA officers back from overseas to testify before the grand jury. That‘s an indication he‘s ratcheting up and we could be coming to a climax, but no deadlines on that. And for this report, people are thinking, I‘ve been told, sometimes perhaps in the next month, but again, no deadlines.
MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, MSNBC contributor, investigative correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, and big part of the way that we are all able to keep up with all of these different tracks of all of these different investigations. Thanks for your reporting. Thanks for joining us tonight, Mike.
ISIKOFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, Bush administration lawyers who wrote the torture memos may—at least in criminal prosecution terms—get away with it. Why does accountability keep hitting a glass ceiling?
Coming up: Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Sanchez—lieutenant general, excuse me, Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, will be joining us to talk about who gets blamed for things when they go wrong in the U.S. military and in Washington and who should get blamed.
MADDOW: In the midst of a sort of heavy day in Washington today, President Obama and Vice President Biden surprised the White House press pool by unexpectedly summoning Cadillac One and driving over to Arlington, Virginia, at lunchtime. They parked outside a strip mall, hopped out of the limo, and then got in line with a bunch of other customers to buy cheeseburgers.
Biden bought his own burger, Obama bought his own as well and tipped five bucks plus the president bought burgers for the reporters in the press pool. The local joint that got the surprise presidential and vice presidential patronage today, it‘s the place named Ray‘s Hell Burger. Which means today‘s little trip is obviously going to cost them some votes with the religious right and, of course, with the vegans.
Today, “The Associate Press” and “The New York Times” reported that a long-awaited Justice Department investigation into three Bush administration lawyers who drafted legal justification for torture will not recommend that any of the three be referred for criminal prosecution.
The first of those memos that we know about was written in the fall of 2002. It detailed for the CIA a series of approved supposedly legal interrogation techniques that had apparently been reverse-engineered from the torture survival school called the SERE school that was attended by our own troops.
By the following spring, we know that the secretary of defense at that time, Donald Rumsfeld, had approved those SERE school-derived techniques for use at the military prison at Guantanamo. By the following fall, the commanding general at Guantanamo, where those techniques were being used, was sent to Iraq and he brought with him recommendations for running the U.S.-run prison system in Iraq.
By now, we‘re at the fall of 2003. And we all know and the world knows what happened in the fall of 2003. In October of 2003, in one of those U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, the scandal that we came to know the following spring as the Abu Ghraib scandal was actually taking place.
Here are some complicating facts for this story. Number one, these torture techniques dreamed up out of the old torture survival manuals were for interrogation purposes.
None of these Abu Ghraib prisoners that you‘re seeing in these photos here, these iconic photos that we‘ve all memorized, none of these prisoners were supposedly being interrogated while these things were being done to them. So, why were these things then being done to them?
Number two, the soldiers who went to jail and the officers whose careers ended after the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light were all members of the U.S. military. But the one image in all the horrific Abu Ghraib photos that included an image of a dead body.
And fair warning now, we‘re going to show a partially blurred vision of that image now. The man pictured in this image was a man who was alive when he was dropped off at the prison. He was alive when he was left at Abu Ghraib. He died during a CIA-led interrogation. And his Department of Defense autopsy said the cause of death was homicide. That‘s the one Abu Ghraib image of a corpse.
Did anybody at CIA ever face charges for that case?
With today‘s news, we are getting down to the nitty-gritty now of what will happen in this country to reckon with what was done to prisoners around the globe after President Bush walked away from the Geneva Conventions and after his administration implemented a lawless interrogation program that‘s only just now coming to light.
Joining us now is Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal happened during his tenure as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and he believes that ended his military career. His book, “Wiser in Battle: A Soldier Story” is out now in paperback.
General Sanchez, thank you so much for coming on the show.
LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, RET, AUTHOR, “WISER IN BATTLE”: Well, thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let‘s start with this news that we‘re just getting tonight that officials from the Bush administration who wrote these memos, who came up with legal justification for these torture techniques may not be held accountable in the criminal justice system. Do you have any reaction to that news?
SANCHEZ: Well, I think America needs to understand that I have tremendous faith in the judicial processes of this great country. They‘re focused on protecting in the individuals that are involved, and also protecting our society and our legal system. If the determinations that have been made are legally sufficient and, in fact, objective and not politically-driven, I think it‘s going to be hard for us to accept that we don‘t follow criminal prosecution actions.
But I think, in the end, the ethical violations that are possible and also the inherent damage to the reputations of these individuals involved will be substantial.
MADDOW: Your career, of course, suffered because of Abu Ghraib. You are forced to retire in 2006, at the time you would not otherwise have been retiring. General Geoffrey Miller‘s career suffered. General Janis Karpinski was demoted. Colonel Tom Pappas was fined. And, of course, a number of lower-ranking soldiers were convicted and imprisoned.
I wonder if you feel like, overall, if the right people have been called to account for what happened there. Certainly some people have been called to account in some ways, and you are one of those people because of what happened with your career. Did the right people end up getting in the line of fire here?
SANCHEZ: Well, I think America still does not have a grasp of the total scope of the problems that we encountered that led us down this path of torture. I think we‘re beginning to see what happened to us as a nation and what led us off the moral high ground.
But I think that the two key actions here that lead us down this path are, of course, the lifting of the conventions and then, in my assessment, the gross dereliction of duty that results when we don‘t implement any procedures or any guidance or any training or whatsoever, and allow this completely unconstrained interrogation environment to exist, in essence, for about three years as a nation. There were some efforts on the ground that try to contain it, which is what I do in September, but those are minimal and there‘s a much greater loose environment that creates abuse and in fact torture, and people knew it well before 2003.
MADDOW: On that issue, in reading—in reading your book, I felt like that theme, that the lack of supervision and lack of training soldiers in a situation which they were over their head, stressed, under-resourced, under-trained, that‘s all central to your explanation of how the prisoner abuse happened. But yet, it‘s hard to reconcile that explanation with what we now know about the deliberate effort to create an interrogation system based on these techniques that were reversed-engineered from the SERE school.
Do you really think there was no connection between the interrogation program and what they Lynndie England and Charles Graner all went to prison for?
SANCHEZ: Oh, no. Absolutely not. I believe that there is a clear connection that exists between the lifting of the Geneva Conventions, this unconstrained environment. In fact, the soldiers that are operating in Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003 were soldiers that have been operating in Afghanistan in this unconstrained environment.
Inside of Abu Ghraib, you have intersection of three different entities: the CIA, the Special Forces, and my conventional forces that are operating under different rules. All of this comes together and all of these soldiers that are operating there are exposed to the different techniques that are being used by the different organizations. Of course, it all comes together there.
MADDOW: In that command—in that sort of a blended command environment, in which you‘re in charge of the conventional forces, but there are other personnel on site who are answering to different authority, who‘s ultimately responsible for what happens inside the walls of Abu Ghraib? Is there no single authority?
SANCHEZ: No, actually, that is, in fact, the case. So, when we were getting the indicators that there might be incidents—and you showed one of those clear incidents where an individual dies during the course of an interrogation—I can‘t call that anything other than torture. Those were notified to their respective headquarters, in Central Command and in Washington—for those headquarters to take the appropriate actions, and the results of those actions were never reported back to us.
MADDOW: In 2003, in September, as you alluded to, you wrote a memo
that authorized the use of stress positions, the use of military working
dogs against prisoners, and I—when I hear about that, I think about
those iconic images that we‘ve seen. Particularly, I‘m thinking about that
the prisoner standing with his arm outstretched, military dog handler with a dog barking at the prisoner who‘s terrified and on his knees in front of him. Was there a connection between what you authorized and what ended up in those pictures?
SANCHEZ: Well, I think—I think, in the end, there is a connection because the Colonel Pappas, in fact, issues orders and allows the use of dogs and that is established through the non-judicial punishment that is administered to him about a year later.
But I think what is not really recognized, that that those memorandums were in attempt by the command to bring some sort of order and constrained and oversight mechanisms to this completely unconstrained environment that existed in Abu Ghraib up until the September time frame. And when you look at it from permissive or a restrictive perspective, it appears as though we are, in fact, authorizing the use of those positions. In fact, none are ever approved for implementation. There are never any requests that come to my level seeking the use of any of those techniques.
MADDOW: Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, retired from the Army in 2006 after 33 years of military service, the U.S. commander in Iraq during 2003 and 2004; the book is called, “Wiser in Battle.” It is now out in paperback.
I will say, General Sanchez, that this was one of the most interesting and illuminating accounts of what happened between the U.S. military in particular and Coalition Provisional Authority and what was going on back home in Washington. Just an invaluable contribution to the historical record from this time period and I thank you for that.
SANCHEZ: Well, Rachel, thank you very much for the opportunity to be on your show.
All right. He was kicked out of the primary debates by his own party, ostracized to the point of holding his own competing political convention. Now, after four months in the political minority, Republicans are flocking to him. Dr. Ron Paul will join us live—next. Stay right there.
MADDOW: Coming up: Kent Jones‘ encyclopedic love of movies and my totally nerd core obsession with foreign policy come smashing together like chocolate and peanut butter.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
Speaking of foreign policy stuff that I‘m obsessed with, let‘s start with Yemen. Recently, a separatist movement in the nation of Yemen has been gaining strength. Demonstrations in the south of the country against the government this week actually turned violent, reportedly leaving eight people dead and dozens of people wounded.
How has the government responded to these demonstrations? They responded by shutting down all of the newspapers so there can‘t be reporting on those protests. That‘s getting to the heart of the matter.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the Yemeni information ministry banned the printing of Yemen‘s seven largest newspapers, accusing them of promoting separatism. The ministry announced yesterday that it was suspending publication of any paper that was, quote, “harming national unity.”
Security forces have also confiscated tens of thousands of newspapers, stealing trucks full of them and then setting the trucks on fire. The government also set up military checkpoints to keep newspapers from being shipped around the country. They‘ve also put the editor of a weekly called “The Street” on trial for his paper‘s coverage of the fighting between the government and another group of rebels.
What does this mean for us here at home? It means you‘re sort of patriotically obligated to feel thankful for our Constitution and to buy a reporter a drink sometime soon, and while you‘re doing that, say a toast to the First Amendment.
There is a fascinating fringe movement in American politics that is coming to be known as “The Birthers.” They are people who believe that Barack Obama is not really American, that he was born outside of the United States and that he is therefore not technically really president. Among their ranks is the conservative political activist and frequent and enthusiastic loser of elections, the great Alan Keyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN KEYES, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Is he president of the United States? According to the Constitution, in order to be eligible for president, you have to be a natural-born citizen. He has refused to provide proof that he is, in fact, a natural-born citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Except for the birth certificate that he provided that shows he was born in Hawaii. That‘s beside the point, right?
As is often the case with wacky groups formed to champion exciting but fact-challenged conspiratorial causes, “The Birthers” are in the middle of a melodramatic internal feud. Their east coast leader, Phillip Berg, is now suing their west coast leader, Orly Taitz—I guess that‘s how you say her name. It‘s T-A-I-T-Z. The accusations include charges of libel and of Taitz calling Mr. Berg a, quote, “shyster.” And I‘m guessing no one was quoting Shakespeare.
I‘m not going to get in the middle of this civil war but my guess is that no matter which party is in the right here, the losing side will never admit that he or she was wrong despite mountains and mountains of evidence to the contrary—just a guess.
And finally, the best little booze house in Texas was never in the town of Lubbock. When the federal government repealed prohibition in 1933, the town of Lubbock chose to stay dry. Seventy-six years later, this Saturday, voters in Lubbock, Texas, will vote on the measure to finally legalize the sale of alcohol there.
For decades, you could purchase a single serving of liquor or beer or wine at a restaurant in Lubbock. At a bar, you could purchase something that was open that you could drink right there, but you could never buy anything with the cap on. You could never buy anything that would allow you to bring home the booze.
Those pushing for the change in Lubbock‘s laws organized under the name of Lubbock County Wins. Their single largest contributor is Wal-Mart. Last year, Wal-Mart gave their political action committee $25,000 plus another $50,000 for a petition drive.
Lubbock County Wins gathered 60,000 signatures, mostly outside various Wal-Mart locations. If the measure passes, its supporters say it will generate an additional $250 million of spending in Lubbock. Seems a little ambitious.
That said, might I suggest spending some of that $250 million on some nice bourbon. We have three superb bourbon-based cocktail recipes from master mixologist Dale DeGroff listed on our Web site right now, Rachel.MSNBC.com.
MADDOW: OK. Imagine the scene, a face-to-face meeting at the White House between congressional Republicans and President Obama. The issue at hand is healthcare. The agenda of the meeting is to find some common ground.
Here‘s how “Time” magazine‘s Karen Tumulty says it went down, quote, “The Republicans demanded, where was the bipartisanship the president had promised? So right there in the Cabinet Room, the president put a proposal on the table. Obama said he was willing to curb malpractice awards, a look sought by the Republicans and certain to bring strong opposition from the trial lawyers who fund the Democratic Party. What, Obama wanted to know, did the Republicans have to offer in return?” And the answer was, nothing. “Nothing, it turned out. Republicans were unprepared to make any concessions.”
We bring you nothing. The take home message here is that at this point in their rebuilding stage, congressional Republicans are not necessarily prioritizing participating in the act of governing and making policy alongside the Democrats who frankly are in charge which makes sense. The GOP is a very, very, very, very, very, very small minority in both houses of Congress right now.
And after two successive “wriggling bug on its back” performances in national elections, they are still trying to figure out how they‘re going to get themselves together and move forward. Inside the party itself, there are factions and divisions as new chairman Michael Steele fends out challenges to his authority from among the membership of the RNC.
Among some members of Congress and among its presidential hopefuls, frankly, we‘re starting to see Republican re-branding efforts like the National Council for a New America. Its GO pizza party took place in Virginia this weekend. That event pointedly did not include the chairman of the party, Michael Steele, who apparently was not invited.
The GO pizza party folks have had a yes-no, yes-no relationship with the party‘s last vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. The latest news is that she will now be involved with the group.
But one of the promoters of Palinism in the Republican party, talk show host Rush Limbaugh, is against the whole GO pizza party re-branding idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Look, folks, it‘s this simple. We do not need a listening tour. We need a teaching tour. That is what the Republican Party or the conservative movement needs to focus on. Listening tour is not it. Teaching tour is more apt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As 80 percent of Americans who don‘t identify as Republicans right now - they don‘t need to be listened to. They need to be talked to. What we‘re seeing right now is a Republican Party that is fragmented and probably still fragmenting and it will be that way for a while. This is early days in their rebuilding.
But one of the people who has seen his stature rise in this somewhat chaotic power vacuum is a man who was essentially disowned by his party during this past election cycle, Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who ran for president this past year.
After being excluded from some of the Republican primary debates, Ron Paul held his own Ron Paul convention at the same time as the Republican National Convention, which drew 10,000 supporters in Minneapolis. It was not an adjunct event for the Republican Convention. It was a competing event.
The first sign that Congressman Paul might be being brought back into the fold may have been the Republican embrace of the Tax Day tea parties last month. Tax Day protests in the theme of a tea party are very much associated with Ron Paul supporters, some of whom were slightly miffed to see that message being co-opted by national Republican figures.
And now, Dr. Paul himself seems to be getting more attention on the Hill personally and in terms of policy. Consider his recent bill to audit the Federal Reserve. It‘s called the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009. It now has 124 co-sponsors in Congress and counting.
By comparison, “The Washington Independent” notes today that Dr. Paul‘s Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act just two years ago, attracted a grand total of zero co-sponsors. What a difference political exile makes.
Joining us is the man himself. Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Dr. Paul, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight. It‘s a real pleasure to have you here.
REP. RON PAUL ®, CONGRESSMAN FROM TEXAS: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: First of all, I should admit that my introductory remarks were not the most flattering portrait of your party. I want to give you a chance to say what you think of the Republican Party‘s fortunes right now. Do you think this is a rebuilding time?
PAUL: Well, something has to be done if they want to stay in existence. I don‘t think they can‘t continue to do what they‘ve been doing. You know, they sort of didn‘t accept what I was talking about during the campaign. But you know, I talked about and defended - I never voted for an unbalanced budget, never raised taxes.
But you know, I had this other silly idea that you shouldn‘t fight wars unless the Congress declared them. And I had this notion that you shouldn‘t print money when you need it. And these ideas struck a cord with a lot of people but so far, not a whole lot in the leadership have come to me and said, lead the charge.
But hopefully some of these ideas will stick because all I know is that campuses are very attuned to this and will listen. And I can get still a large number of young people out to listen to a different type of Republican Party where they deal with civil liberties and they deal with a foreign policy that used to not be that strange to Republicans, you know, where we had a strong national offense but we didn‘t go warmongering.
And that used to be - you know, always the Democrats that did that. But now, it looks like both parties endorse these things. So if you truly want to be interested in civil liberties protection - protection of civil liberties, if you want a foreign policy built on common sense and not telling people what to do and bombing them if they don‘t do what we want, and having come up with common sense to say, “We just can‘t print money when you need it,” all of a sudden these things do make a lot of sense whether they‘re Republican or Democrat.
I think there is a revolution going on in ideas. But a true revolution has to be pervasive enough to infiltrate into both political parties. And I‘m very proud that I have about 14, at least, Democrats who are on that bill dealing with the Federal Reserve. And I think I‘m going to get a lot more.
MADDOW: Dr. Paul, when I - in asking you about the Republican Party, you‘re pointedly using the word “they” to talk about them. I imagine that‘s not an accident. Do you think about - you obviously have been a part of the libertarian movement in this country. You‘ve run as a libertarian for public office before.
Do you think, now, about the prospect, the likelihood that a third party really could be having its moment right now? Something like only 20 percent of people identify as Republicans. The party does seem to be in chaos. Is this a time for the - either libertarian party or some other party to break off from the Republicans?
PAUL: Well, I think politically speaking in terms of the need for one, yes, it exists. But the bias is so much against it, there‘s no competition. You know, we go and die overseas claiming we‘re spreading democracy. But you know, if you come to the conclusion which I have and many others have in this country that you elect Republicans to balance the budget and it doesn‘t happen. You elect Democrats to change foreign policy and it doesn‘t happen.
We only have one party and they write all of the rules. So it‘s very hard to get on the ballot. You spend most of the money trying to get on the ballot. And do you think anybody would have noticed me last year if I had been running third party? No. I had to do it within a larger structure.
But even though I used the word “they,” I have been elected all these times as a Republican. And I was out of the party for one year. But nevertheless, it is very difficult. It‘s not going to happen unless the laws get changed. And unfortunately, we don‘t have a very good democratic process here in this country because of that.
MADDOW: Dr. Paul, I wanted to ask you about one figure specifically who is trying to be part of the Republican rebuilding, re-branding effort right now and that‘s Newt Gingrich. And he‘s somebody who has actively worked against you in the past. He supported a challenge to you in your district in Texas.
If he makes a bid to replace Michael Steele or if he even makes a bid to run for president, to run for the Republican nomination, would you support him? Do you two see eye to eye these days?
PAUL: No, not really. His policies are very much opposite of mine. I mean, he‘s very much of an internationalist when it comes to foreign policy. He believes in a lot of that. He‘s never had an interest in monetary policy. And I remember early in his career, he took a more sensible approach about allowing the dismal use of marijuana and letting states make these decisions.
But now, his attitude is not that way. And these are the kind of issues that young people are interested in and that‘s why the Republican Party can‘t reach the college kids with the current status quo of the party.
They need to change their attitude about personal liberties. If they‘re talking about personal freedoms, they have to believe in it. You know, if they talk about, you know, not policing the world and no nation building, you just can‘t get in office and do exactly the opposite.
But no. Newt and I are, you know, friendly. We talk to each other. And I‘d be pleased to debate him on foreign policy or something. But no, he wouldn‘t be my candidate for the presidency. It would be more of the same. He‘s had his chance.
And you know, there was no Republican revolution from ‘94 on. There wasn‘t any after the year 2000. So that is the shame. The Republicans had good rhetoric about limiting government. Nothing happened. That‘s how they loss their credibility.
But now, they said, “Well, we didn‘t act like Democrats. And now, so we have to be like Democrats.” Democrats get in and they say, “We‘ve got to appease the right wing of the Republican Party,” so they start acting like Republicans. So I would say they ought to live up to true beliefs, just believe in freedom and believe in the Constitution.
Believe me, this country would be a lot better off if we just dealt with it in a simple fashion as that. Believe in freedom. That‘s what built this country. We don‘t have to decide which country to invade next. I mean, that‘s preposterous. Or which new welfare program that we have to have.
But I just don‘t think that either party right now offers a whole lot to the American people who want to see some really serious changes.
MADDOW: Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who more than any other sitting Republican politician right now has galvanized and inspired a broad based movement of young people. Congratulations on your success, sir. And thanks for your time tonight.
PAUL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Coming up, the president of the NCAAP joins us to discuss the really quite remarkable fact that Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is about to become the top Republican on the committee that will judge President Obama‘s first Supreme Court nominee. Do you remember the history of Sen. Sessions in the NAACP?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): The comments that you could say about commie organization or something - I may have said something like that in a general way, and that was probably was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ben Jealous from that aforementioned commie organization joins us next.
MADDOW: It‘s official. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III today became the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. That makes his hostility to civil rights laws the face of the GOP on justice and legal matters including the upcoming battle over President Obama‘s pick replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
Last night, on this show, we uncovered some of the scathing testimony that helped defeat Mr. Sessions‘ nomination to be a federal judge 23 years ago. Tonight, with a special thank you to the Senate library, we now have the full transcripts of those nomination hearings from 1986.
Back in 1986, Jeff Sessions was a U.S. attorney who testified that he was joking when he said that he didn‘t think the Ku Klux Klan was all that bad until he found out some of them smoked marijuana.
Here is then Senator Joe Biden speaking, quote, “Do you not think it was insensitive to say that in front of a black man, after a black man had just been brutally beaten and hanged?”
Mr. Sessions‘ response? “Senator, my impression of the situation was that it was so ludicrous that anybody would think that it was supporting the Klan that he would not be offended by it.”
What did one of Sessions‘ assistant U.S. attorneys think of the comment? Well, Thomas Figures, an African-American lawyer in Sessions‘ office, told senators quote, “Whatever Mr. Sessions‘ view of the Klan may be today, the remark he made was not made in a joking manner.”
What about the reports he called the NAACP un-American? Well, here‘s the testimony from the assistant U.S. attorney who worked for him, quote, “He spoke as a man gravely concerned by the threat which he believed these organizations posed to American values. He was, without question, describing his personal and manifestly deeply felt position.”
Later in his testimony Mr. Figures said, quote, “There was no doubt in my mind, senator, that he meant what he was saying and he wanted me to get the message, and I got it.”
Rejected by the Senate then but elected and re-elected twice by the people of Alabama, Jeff Sessions is now the Republican‘s choice to lead them in all matters of justice and civil rights in the United States Senate.
Joining us now is Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP.
Mr. Jealous, thanks very much for coming on the show.
BENJAMIN TODD JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT AND CEO: Thank you for having me. It‘s great to be here.
MADDOW: During Mr. Sessions‘ field nomination hearings to be a judge, two lawyers testified that he called the NAACP un-American. Given that, I have to ask your reaction to Sen. Sessions‘ becoming the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee now.
JEALOUS: You know, it‘s deeply - it‘s deeply disturbing. You know, he has an opportunity. He has an opportunity to, you know, go to China, if you will, to prove that he is a bridge-builder, that he really wants to move into the 21st century.
But so many things that he said across the years are a reminder of the 19th century, and that‘s - you know, that‘s the real concern. I mean, you sit there, you have a conversation as I do often with the widow of Medgar Evers.
And then you turn on your TV and you see a U.S. senator who‘s leading the Republican party on the Judiciary Committee, you know, who has said - suggested men like Medgar were communists, when they fought and, you know, were beaten, died, were killed so that people like him would hold up the Constitution.
You know, I think Ron Paul had it right. We need more leaders who believe in freedom, who believe in the Constitution. We don‘t need folks who make jokes, even if it‘s a joke, that the KKK is OK except that they‘re a bunch of potheads or that we‘re a bunch of communists, you know. And that‘s - it‘s deeply disturbing.
MADDOW: Ben, I know a lot of southern white politicians of a certain age have had troubling racist associations in their past. Some of them have gone to great lengths to try to make that right, to try to at least make symbolic gestures toward clearing that up.
Is Jeff Sessions one of those people who‘s ever sort of tried to make good after all these things came to light about his past and his associations and previous comments that he had made during those 1986 confirmation hearings?
JEALOUS: You know, he always qualifies it. I mean, you saw it there on the tape when he said, you know, it probably was a joke or it probably was wrong. Just come out, senator. Be courageous and unequivocally state that what you said was wrong, that you moved on, that you‘ve grown up, that you‘ve learned something.
You know, I mean, that‘s what we need to hear to have faith. I mean, right now, the Republican Party has an opportunity to say it‘s a party about the 21st century. It‘s a party of trying to define an inclusive future for this country.
But when you see somebody like Jeff Sessions up there and you know what he‘s said time and time again, and you‘ve heard him offer this kind of mishy-mashy wishy-washy sort of halfway denials, and you know what that‘s usually worth from a politician, it‘s hard to have faith. I mean, it‘s hard to see him as anything but a throwback, you know, somebody you feel if he had a problem with Jefferson Davis he would say, “Yes, he wasn‘t a Republican.” So, that‘s the - you know, that‘s the concern.
MADDOW: Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP, thank you so much for your time tonight. It was too short. Ben, next time you‘re out in New York, I hope you‘ll come see us here in the studio.
JEALOUS: Absolutely. Great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You, too. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith takes a ringside seat as Obama‘s campaign manager smacks down Karl Rove comparing his advice on bipartisanship to Sarah Palin‘s advice on interview technique. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Mr. Kent Jones, what have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Movies, foreign policy, like this.
JONES: Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over) Aside from “Dr. Strangelove,” what are the best movies ever made about international relations? Two writers from “Slate.com,” Stephen Walt and Daniel Drezner each made a list. High on both lists was “Casablanca,” which makes the radical claim that America is just one part of the rest of the world.
HUMPHREY BOGART, ACTOR (as Rick Blaine): I came to Casablanca for the waters.
CLAUDE RAINS, ACTOR (as Capt. Renault): The waters? What waters?
We‘re in the desert.
BOGART: I was misinformed.
JONES: Also on the list is “Independence Day” about the world joining together to fight a war on terror against alien evil orders doers.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Axis of evil.
JONES: Also noted the 1997 film, “Wag the Dog” in which the government and media team up to invent a completely fictitious rationale for starting a war. Like that would ever happen.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Mushroom cloud -
JONES: All good choices. May I add a couple of my own? “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” a vivid examination of the struggles and triumphs of communal socialism, hi-ho, comrades. Hi-ho.
And, of course, “Animal House,” a devastating expose about the formative years of American policymakers.
JOHN BELUSHI, ACTOR (as Bluto Blutarsky): Was it over when Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no.
TIM MATHESON, ACTOR, (as Otter Stratton): Germans?
JONES: Shock and awe starts -
BELUSHI: Let‘s go.
JONES: Right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I want to put “Hud” on the list but I can‘t come up with a good excuse. Can I do that tomorrow?
MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Kent. Thank you for watching tonight.
“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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