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updated 11/20/2009 8:47:38 AM ET 2009-11-20T13:47:38

Guest: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Suhail Khan, Michael Grunwald, Phil Mellinger, Kent Jones

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you for that.

And thank you at home for staying with us.

A new strain of McCarthyism infesting American politics carried into the political arena by televangelist Pat Robertson.  Yes, he still exists.

The bombshell ruling that negligence was responsible for Hurricane Katrina‘s destruction of at least parts of New Orleans, a ruling raising as many questions as it answers.

And a moment of geek ahead tonight, featuring amazing CSI forensic science and Watergate.

We have a very big hour ahead.

But we begin tonight with an urgent call to action from the president.

“We should resolve now that the health of this nation is a national concern; that financial barriers in the way of attaining health shall be removed; that the health of all its citizens deserves the help of all the nation.”

Those words delivered to Congress by President Harry Truman 64 years ago today in 1945 -- President Truman calling on Congress then to overhaul this country‘s system.  Sixty-four years later to the day, Congress is on the verge of following through on that call to action.

This Saturday, the Senate is expected to vote on whether to begin debate on historic health reform legislation.  Better late than never, right?  Even if the bill in question is a pretty dramatically conservative approach to the problem at hand.  The bill unveiled by Senate Democrats last night was cobbled together in the hopes of attracting conservative Democrats who are still on the fence about voting for it.

Conservadems have been extremely vocal about their concerns.  And that approach appears to have paid off for them, politically, in the sense that they‘re getting most everything they wanted.  Conservatives have demanded, for example, a bill that doesn‘t add to the deficit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA:  If there are things that are in the bill that I think are just beyond the pale, for example, that would really explode the deficit in the out years—I just don‘t think that‘s even worth starting a discussion on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What we‘ve got now is a bill that‘s projected to cut the deficit by $127 billion over the next decade.  That‘s billion with a “B.”  Even more impressive, according to the same Congressional Budget Office report, in its second decade, the bill is expected to save an additional $650 billion.  So, score a big one for the conservadems, right?

Then, there‘s the public option.  Last month, conservative Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana proclaimed that she was against the public option, but she said she would, quote, “stay open to a principled compromise.”

What she got is a compromise in which the public option still technically exists but if you blink, you might miss it.  It‘s been so weakened as to essentially disappear and in any states that want to opt-out of the public option, it will disappear.

The CBO is projecting that maybe 1 percent of Americans will end up in the public option—a total of 3 million or 4 million people in the entire country.  And its premiums are expected to be higher than those for private insurance.  Since, again, in the name of compromise with the conservatives, the option was robbed of its ability to get the lowest possible rates.  Score another one for the conservadems.

Then, there‘s issue of insurance for illegal immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS:  No, absolutely we‘re not going to provide health insurance for illegal immigrants, illegal aliens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Despite its dubious public health implications, the conservatives won that one, too, a ban on anyone without legal immigration status buying insurance, even with their own money on the exchange.

Conservadems said they wanted a bill that would ban even a vague pass each other in the hallway relationship between federal funds and coverage for abortion.  They got that as well.

Conservadems said they wanted a bill that wouldn‘t raise taxes on the middle class.  The only tax hikes in this one are targeted at the top and for those pursuing elective cosmetic surgery.  So, apart from the unclear class implications of the nose job tax, they got what they wanted on that one, too.

You notice any trend here?  Steve Benen put it today at “The Washington Monthly,” quote, “As this point, they‘ve run out of excuses.  Are conservative Democrats really going to refuse to take “yes” for an answer?”  And the answer is: yes, of course they are.

The pressing question tonight is whether conservative Democrats are even going to allow a debate to go forward on this bill—this bill in which they got almost everything they asked for.  Senators Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Mark Pryor have committed to allowing debate.  Senators Mary Landrieu and Ben nelson have both made vaguely positive noises about the prospect of allowing debate.

Still holding out is Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.  We called her office today to find if she intends to allow debate to go forward, but her office did not respond to our request for comment.  It‘s amazing actually how many of these folks don‘t even bother to call you back.

If Democrats are able to get over the hurdle of their own members even allowing them to start debate on the bill, the next big hurdle will be getting their own members to not side with the Republican filibuster and thus allow a final vote on the bill.  The main obstacle there continues to be Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who has pledged many times to filibuster any bill that includes a public option.

Last night on this program, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, one of the point men in Congress on health reform told us that Senator Lieberman will not filibuster a final vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  We are going to have the 60 votes.

MADDOW:  Including Joe Lieberman?

HARKIN:  Including Joe Lieberman.  We‘re going to have the 60 votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  As promised, we called Senator Lieberman‘s office today to get a comment on Senator Harkin‘s confident prediction—Senator Lieberman‘s office told us they would have a response for us.  It is a response we have not yet received.

See what I mean about the “calling us back” thing?  We look forward to that response.

Senator Harkin made further news on this show last night by saying it would be a bad move for Democrats to use budget reconciliation.  It‘s a process by which they only need 51 instead of 60 to pass a bill.  Mr.  Harkin said that process would result in a bill becoming even more conservative than it already is.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today said that he will not use reconciliation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  I‘m not using reconciliation.  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Nope.  Not using reconciliation means that Democrats need 60 votes to start debate and 60 votes to get to a final vote.  In a party with this many conservatives comfortable with saying “no,” even after getting this much of what they have demanded, who on earth really thinks they are going to get those 60 votes?

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  Well, thank you.  That was such a nice introduction, so optimistic.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Well, that‘s me.

KLOBUCHAR:  I think I should give those—maybe I will promise to give them notes.  Please remember to call Rachel tomorrow.

MADDOW:  I know.  That‘s just me having my feelings hurt about them not calling us back.

KLOBUCHAR:  OK.

MADDOW:  But on the—on the policy matter, I am willing to put a dark cloud in any silver lining here, because I can‘t see a way this passes if you need 60 votes all the way along.

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, I just disagree.  I mean, first of all, remember about a year ago, you and I did this big football analogy with McCain and Obama on Halloween.  And this is where I see it.  We are at the 40 yard line, Rachel.  We are close to the goal line, right?

A field goal isn‘t good enough.  We need real comprehensive health care.  And that‘s why we are starting the game now.

And I believe, once we get to allow that debate to start, which is Saturday night at 8:00 p.m., the vote is forecast.  I see no reason why someone is suddenly going to decide not to at least allow the debate to continue on Saturday night.  Then we start moving down the field to that goal line.  And, in the end, Rachel, if a player gets injured on the field, they will have health care.

So, I am very positive about moving forward.  I think everyone in the Senate is going to want to see some changes to the bill.  I don‘t think that should surprise you.  We represent different states.

I, for one, am happy that there has been some significant cost reform in this bill, working toward making health care more affordable for the people of this country.  It offers stability, despite some of the things you were saying at the beginning.

This—I mean, think about this.  Finally, people in America, if your kid gets sick, you‘re not going to be thrown off your health care coverage.  If you‘ve got a kid that you want to keep on your health care coverage when they‘re in college, until they‘re 26 years old, they can stay on your own family‘s health care coverage.  You have all kinds of prevention provisions in there that really bring us to looking at health and not just health care and health insurance down the road.

So, I think the $127 billion saving on the deficit—you might say that‘s a conservadem issue, I think it should be an issue for everyone in this country; that we finally have a bill, over 20 years, that will save $650 billion.  We have a problem with debt in this country, that we have been able to put together a health care bill that brings us closer to bringing down the cost for health care, that will allow American companies to compete with companies in other countries, that allow small businesses who pay 20 percent more for their health care to finally be able to get some leverage so they can less expensive health care.  That‘s what this bill is about.

MADDOW:  I didn‘t mean to imply that the effect on the deficit was only a conservative Democrat issue.  What I meant was that‘s one of the things that they‘ve demanded in order to say that they will vote for the bill.  And they got it.  They really got it.

But that hasn‘t actually translated into them actually promising to vote for it.  And that‘s why I think I‘m skeptical about the 60.

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, you—you know, you have seen this before.  People will say, both parties, firmly declare they‘re against something, and then something changed that makes it easier to explain at home, an issue that‘s important to them, whether it‘s cost, whether it‘s stability, whether it‘s making sure Medicare is preserved, which this bill does.  In fact, it allows seniors to have less expensive prescription drugs when they reach that donor hall.  Those are things that people have been focusing on the last four or five months.

And I think it‘s no surprise that people aren‘t immediately going to say, “I support every provision in this bill.”

But the difference is—compared to, say, back in August—you now have a united party in the Senate that is basically saying, “We want to move ahead with this bill.  We may not agree with every single thing but we are ready to start debating it, we are ready to start voting on it,” and that there is consensus on some basic issues, to make health care more affordable, to make health care more stable, to keep high quality health care and fix what‘s broken.

Those are things people are agreeing on.

MADDOW:  Briefly, you think that you do have a unified offense.  Obviously, I‘m less optimistic about that.  But you‘re more—you‘re in a better position to know.

KLOBUCHAR:  There‘s a few people that go on the bench every so often that are brought back in.  Yes.  I do believe that in the end, people want to get something done.  We just can‘t put our heads in the sand.

MADDOW:  Well, briefly, let me just ask you about the defense.

KLOBUCHAR:  OK.

MADDOW:  Senator Coburn, planning on calling for the entire bill to be read aloud, Orrin Hatch—on the Republican side—saying he will wage “holy war” against it.  I mean, they‘re arguing against this bill by saying everything up to, and including the fact that it‘s just too long to be made into a law.

KLOBUCHAR:  You know.

MADDOW:  What‘s the strategy against the Republicans?

KLOBUCHAR:  OK.  Could I say this, first of all?  My favorite length of a bill was the original Bush TARP bill, which was three pages long—a lot of good that did, without any of the accountability measures.

OK.  So, length, short bill isn‘t always the best.  Secondly, I think this was Claire McCaskill‘s line.  If you really put it in the right font size, this bill is actually shorter than Sarah Palin‘s book.  So, you know, let‘s look at it realistically.  If you can read the book, then you can read this bill.

MADDOW:  All right.  Fewer pictures.

(CROSSTALK)

KLOBUCHAR:  I think, the other thing, Rachel, this is 17 percent of the economy.  This is going to affect so many people in their lives.  So many people have been just trying to hold on to their businesses.  People have been trying to hold on to their kids‘ health care.

The fact that it is complicated when we‘re dealing with an industry, an insurance industry, that has found so many loopholes and ways to turn things around, I don‘t think it‘s a surprise that you have a complicated bill.  I think the American people would demand no less than that, if you had a tiny little bill, how are you going to be able to take this major subject on.

So, I don‘t really buy that argument.  I think that you‘re going to see all kinds of things thrown out there, as you did in the summer—all the death panels and the rationing and all those things.  I think the American people have started learning more about this.  They still have questions.  That‘s why you interview people like me and you have people on to talk about it.  That‘s why you‘re going to have a very vigorous debate in the home states as well as in Congress.

But, in the end, what I found in our state, especially through the last few months, is that there is consensus, especially in Minnesota where you‘ve got this health care that‘s so high quality that we want to try to promote that kind of health care and that we want to bring stability to the people of this country when it comes to their health care.

MADDOW:  Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota—thank you for a very rich in metaphors discussion tonight.  Good to talk to you about this.

KLOBUCHAR:  I know you‘d like it.

MADDOW:  Of course, I do.

KLOBUCHAR:  Goodbye.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

All right.  The Bush administration long gone, but the paranoid, xenophobic politics which we recall about it so unfondly are having a bit of a resurgence lately.  And guess what, it‘s really bad for national security, just like it was in the first round of McCarthyism.

That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Tonight, a moment of geek that answers the question: what happens when CSI meets librarians, meets the great mystery of Watergate?  I would not promise what I cannot deliver.  That is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST:  Islam is a violent—I was going to say religion but it‘s not a religion.  It‘s a political system.  It‘s a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination.  And I think we should treat it as such and treat its adherence as such as we would members of the communist party or members of some fascist groups.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson putting his own patented “Pat Robertson” exploitive spin on the mass murder at Fort Hood earlier this month.

A graduate of Pat Robertson‘s law school, a politician to whom Pat Robertson has been a great benefactor over the years was elected governor of Virginia this month.  He is Bob McDonnell.  He‘s received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Pat Robertson.  He‘s appeared on Mr.  Robertson‘s televangelist TV show, “The 700 Club.”

And when Mr. McDonnell was asked this week if he thought it was appropriate for Pat Robertson to state—as you just heard—that Islam is not a religion but, rather, a violent political system, Mr. McDonnell said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MCDONNELL ®, VIRGINIA GOVERNOR-ELECT:  You know, I‘ve got probably 15,000 donors to the campaign, and I can‘t—I can‘t stand and defend or support every comment that any donor might make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes, and that profile in courage from Mr. McDonnell this week.  There‘s also comments from Republican Congressman Don Manzullo of Illinois, who was forced to clarify statements that he made about Islam this week after his objections to the potential transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to his home state included this little gem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DON MANZULLO ®, ILLINOIS:  These are really, really mean people whose job it is to kill people, driven by some savage religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Some savage religion.  Congressman Manzullo later said that he wasn‘t referring to all of Islam.  He apologized for any misunderstanding.

Mr. McDonnell and Congressman Manzullo joined in the religious misunderstanding fest this week buy the biggest celebrity of all in conservative and Republican circles, Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  And I think it was quite unfortunate that, to me, it was a fear of being politically incorrect to not—I‘m going to use the word—profile this guy, profile in the sense of finding out what his radical beliefs were.  But I say, profiling in the context of doing whatever we can to save innocent American lives, I‘m all for it then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Pity the poor CIA in the middle of all this.  Pity the poor CIA, which in the midst of that political climate is unveiling its new campaign to try to recruit Arab Americans as CIA officers—Arab Americans whose language skills alone are considered a vital tool for America fighting terrorism.  The CIA has just previewed in Michigan a new TV ad targeting Arab Americans for recruitment, which it plans to air nationwide in coming months.

That recruitment effort made all the more difficult by the fact that Republicans in Congress have kept as their top member of the intelligence committee a Michigan congressman who is accused—excuse me—who has accused the CIA of harboring al Qaeda sympathizers.

In 2006, Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan co-wrote an op-ed in “The Wall Street Journal” with former Senator Rick Santorum.  The op-ed argued that there were people inside the U.S. intelligence community trying to help al Qaeda.  When given the chance to back away from that accusation, Congressman Hoekstra told “The New Republic” at the time, quote, “to rule out the possibility that there are people in the intelligence community that are doing this to help al Qaeda, I think, would be naive.”

If you think Congressman Hoekstra maxed out on modern McCarthyism back in 2006 when he accused the CIA of harboring al Qaeda sympathizers, take a look at what he said today on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA ®, MICHIGAN:  I‘m not only worried about these types of people potentially being in the military, I‘m concerned about these folks being everyday Americans around America, living among us, who may have become or are in the process of becoming radicalized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s the top Republican on intelligence.  And if you‘re enjoying this side of McCarthyism with your “Muslims are evil politicizing of terrorism,” you will enjoy what the attorney general was up against this week in the Senate.  He was momentarily rendered speechless, in fact, by Republican accusations that there may be terrorist sympathizers now in the U.S. Justice Department.

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA:  On Guantanamo, the decisions to bring detainees to the United States and afford them civilian trials is highly questionable.  I want to know more about who is advising you on these decisions.  There are attorneys at the Justice Department working on this issue who either represented Guantanamo detainees or work for groups who advocated for them.

SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA:  The principal reason there were so few military trials is the tireless campaign conducted by leftist lawyers to derail military tribunals by challenging them in the courts.  Many of those lawyers are now working for the Obama Justice Department, that includes Holder, whose firm, Covington & Burling, volunteered its services to at least 18 of America‘s enemies in lawsuits they brought against the American people.

The witness can surely respond to what I said.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I don‘t even know where to begin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I don‘t either, and I didn‘t burst out laughing in the middle of it like you did, but I was tempted.

Joining us now is Suhail Khan, a fellow for Christian-Muslim understanding at the Institute for Global Engagement.  He‘s a former senior political appointee in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Mr. Khan, thanks for joining us again.

SUHAIL KHAN, INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  There are two insinuations being made now pursuant to issues of terrorism: one, that Muslims generally can‘t be trusted, and, two, that al Qaeda sympathizers are some kind of fifth column inside the U.S.  government right now.

Do you see these two times of insinuations as separate issues, or do you think that they spring from the same place?

KHAN:  They unfortunately spring from the same place.  We‘re just reeling from the tragedy at Fort Hood.  We all remember what happened on 9/11.  Instead of pulling together as Americans regardless of our faith, there are some, unfortunately, that are exploiting these tragedies for their own either political or sometimes really hate-filled end.  It really is sad and disgusting.

MADDOW:  As a Muslim who served at a high level in the U.S.  government, I know that you were faced with people who questioned your loyalties, questioned the fact that you were there.

What did you go through in that regard?  And do you think that it affords any lessons for us in terms of the way the issue is being brought up again now in the context of the Obama administration and terrorism?

KHAN:  Well, I do—I did.  After 9/11, I was serving in the White House, and I felt some were attacking me.  And it was actually bipartisan.  But I‘ve got to say, the vast majority of Americans are fair and they knew the truth and they stood by me both here in Washington, D.C., and around the country.  And that‘s what made all the difference.

But it‘s so important that we stand up and say “no” when people try to exploit these tragedies for their own political or hate-filled end.  It just—we can‘t—we‘ve done this before during the communist era.  Jews were the victims oftentimes, gone after Catholics in the past.

And now, unfortunately, it‘s fair game to go after honest, law-abiding Muslims around the country.  And it‘s just not right.  And good, honest people need to stand up against it.

MADDOW:  When I look at ambitious—in some cases, accomplished politicians like Mr. Manzullo, like Mr. McDonnell, like Ms. Palin, like Pete Hoekstra, when I look at these folks—again, who are very ambitious members of their party, very ambitious politicians, and I see them say things like this and get away with these comments about Muslims with really no political price to pay at least in their own party—the question I‘m answering—I want answered is whether there‘s something wrong in our politics, not just is there something wrong with them individually but whether our politics are sort of—are too tolerant of smears against Muslims?

KHAN:  Well, it‘s unfortunate.  Right now, it is fair game to go after Muslim Americans, honest Muslim Americans, and I work really hard and my friends to try to remind people that Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have served in uniform since the revolutionary war, in every war.  Thousands have served.  Thousands serve today.  And I remember those heroes that have served in the past and continue to serve.

People like Specialist Karim Sultan Khan, who at age 16 on 9/11, resolved that he was going to join the military as soon as he was of age, enlisted in the Army, went to Iraq, served honorably, earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  And, unfortunately, as President Lincoln said, gave that last full measure of devotion by being killed in the line of duty in Iraq and is buried at Arlington.  Those are the heroes that I want to remember.

And I remind politicians on both sides of the aisle that these are Americans.  Regardless of our faith, we need to honor their memory and honor those that are serving today by upholding our values of fairness and justice for all people, regardless of their race or their religion.  That‘s just the bottom line, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Suhail Khan is a former senior political appointee under President George W. Bush.  He is now the fellow for Christian Muslim understanding at the Institute for Global Engagement—we‘re very happy to have you have on the show, Suhail.  Thanks for joining us.

KHAN:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  A federal judge has made a bombshell ruling.  Hurricane Katrina‘s devastation of New Orleans was a manmade will disaster.  “Time” magazine‘s Michael Grunwald is the interview tonight.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  For the first time, a federal court has ruled that at least some of the massive damage left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana was the direct fault of the federal government, specifically, the Army Corps of Engineers.  No one disputes that the levees that were supposed to protect the city from a storm the size of Katrina did not do so.  Those levees were built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

But a federal law passed way back in the ‘20s says that the Corps can‘t be sued for flood control measures that it built not working.  What federal Judge Stanwood Duval, Jr. ruled last night was that other things that the Corps did caused the levees to fail and New Orleans to flood.  Specifically, back in the ‘60s, the corps built a navigation channel called the Mississippi River-gulf outlet to shorten the shipping route from the port of New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico. 

The way the corps maintained that channel, including repeated dredging - it widened it.  It eroded the levees around it.  And it funneled saltwater way, way, way inland, killing the marshes and wetlands and cypress forests that, all over the globe, since time immemorial, have served the very fine purpose of sucking the power out of hurricanes and thereby protecting drier land from hurricane‘s seaborne wrath. 

The government will appeal Judge Duval‘s ruling.  But if it stands, the 80,000 people in New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish who live in that area that was flooded - this ruling says because of the Army Corps of Engineers, negligence, insouciance, myopia and shortsightedness, they will have a claim to be compensated by the guilty party - in this case, the federal government - for their loss. 

Even if the ruling doesn‘t stand, you can count this as a full-power roundhouse punch to the basic philosophy how we have approached the coast, the environment and the problem of arrogance in the face of physics. 

Joining us now is Michael Grunwald.  He‘s a senior national correspondent for “Time” magazine.  He was kind enough to join us on very short notice last night when we first heard about this ruling.  He wrote the cover story for “Time” magazine on the Army Corps of Engineers‘ role in the disaster in 2007.  He also covered the hurricane itself for “The Washington Post.”  Mr. Grunwald, thanks for joining us. 

MICHAEL GRUNWALD, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  My

pleasure. 

MADDOW:  First of all, let me ask you if I‘ve just got the essentials right.  I mean, this is history and law and science.  And I don‘t pretend that I totally understand all of this.  Have I misstated anything? 

GRUNWALD:  I think you got the basics, Rachel.  I think, you know, Hurricane Katrina was a manmade disaster.  And some of us have been screaming about that for several years. 

Now, unfortunately, the main problems that the Army Corps had involved this sort of the way they built the levees, the way they designed them, the way they engineered them.  The levees were a mess.  But you can‘t sue them over the levees.

It is true that this Mississippi River gulf outlet did sort of intensify and amplify and increase the velocity of the storm surge.  Everybody always knew that this was really kind of a hurricane highway pointed at the city‘s gut. 

So that sort of provided a loophole for this judge to say, “Hey, the Army Corps - you‘re allowed legally to screw up your flood protection, but you can‘t build a navigation channel.”  It‘s like if, you know, a Navy cruiser bumped into these levees and broke them, you know, the Navy would be responsible. 

MADDOW:  Well, as you say, the narrowness of this ruling is mostly because of the legal constraints here and the legal precedence and the laws that prohibit you from suing them for some other specific things. 

But despite that narrowness, do you see this as having a bigger political impact than just the potential for people being paid compensation? 

GRUNWALD:  well, it‘s interesting.  I mean, you could sort of sense in the judge‘s anger at the army corps, which he felt was misleading him, you know, was sort of cooking the books to try to make the case that the gulf outlet didn‘t matter, which has really been a pattern with the Army Corps. 

And of course, you know, those of us who have followed this - you know, we‘re angry about the Army Corps killing 1,000 people.  Now, that said, it‘s really hard to make the case that the Mississippi River gulf outlet is the - you know, the best example or even, you know, a primary example of the way that the corps screwed up. 

But you know, I think this will provide a hook for people to say, “Hey, you know, the federal government did this.  You know, this wasn‘t the fault of people living in harm‘s way.  They were put in harm‘s way.  Now, what can we do about it?”

MADDOW:  One of the things that struck me when I read your cover story in 2007 was you were talking about how, when the city of New Orleans was founded, it was inland and on high ground.  And the thing that has happened since then, since it was founded in the 18th century, is that the Gulf of Mexico has moved inland 20 miles because of engineering - bad engineering decisions and bad environmental decisions that we‘ve made. 

When we think now about responding to Katrina, rebuilding, trying to protect the city for the next inevitable storm, are we still making the same mistakes? 

GRUNWALD:  Well, unfortunately, there‘s a sort of obvious human instinct to, when something like this happens, you know, the problem must be that the walls weren‘t big enough.  And that‘s certainly true around New Orleans.  It‘s a national scandal that it was supposed to have strong hurricane protection and Katrina was maybe a weak category 2 in New Orleans and this stuff - you know, it really played matador defense. 

But that said, it doesn‘t mean that you can put high walls everywhere.  And that‘s really what Congress and the Army Corps is trying to do right now.  They‘re talking about a great wall of Louisiana, which would unfortunately cost billions of dollars and would ultimately increase the problems. 

You‘re going to destroy tens of thousands of more acres of wetlands and you‘re going to, again, sort of concentrate the storm surge instead of letting Mother Nature spread out in places where she won‘t cause harm rather than kind of focusing her fury and putting everybody in danger. 

MADDOW:  Ultimately, we may find out if what we need is wetlands instead of a wall.  It might be cheaper to do the right thing.  It‘s fascinating stuff.  Michael Grunwald, senior national correspondent for “Time” magazine.  Thanks for helping us understand this.  I really appreciate your time. 

GRUNWALD:  Anytime, Rachel.

MADDOW:  We are mere minutes away from a veritable Reese‘s peanut butter cup of news, an information combo tantamount to chocolate and peanut butter.  Take super I-spy with my little eye forensics and add the last remaining mystery of Watergate.  You got Watergate in my forensics.  You got forensics in my Watergate.  It‘s an incredible tasty “Moment of Geek.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Our first ever moment of geek involving Watergate, coming up.  And Kent Jones will be along with TMI about deacon/ob-gyn/Senator TOM COBURN.  Promises to be both interesting and upsetting. 

But first, a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  Sarah Palin‘s book tour is taking a break from its long hard slog through nearly the entire primetime lineup of the Fox News Channel and the radio shows of Fox News contributors to go to actual book stores. 

Today‘s stop - at Ft. Wayne, Indiana as the book and factual denials of the book by people accused of things in the book continue to make news.  One of the things that has been bedeviling those who want to research or comment on “Going Rogue” is its lack of an index. 

Palin‘s publisher says in the speed-it-up release date meant there was just no time to put an index together.  Since publication, however, that little problem has been solved by the Internet.  No fewer than five online indices of “Going Rogue” have now been created.  “The Washington Post” Web site, “Slate.com,” “Huffington Post” and the “New Republic” have combed all through Palin‘s book, organizing, alphabetizing and otherwise sorting the proper nouns into handy lists. 

These are not parodies.  They are real.  You really will find Baldwin, Alec, preference for Stephen over on 314.  Thank you, “Slate.com.”  There‘s also a proper name index for the book that appears to be independently produced.  At least, it has its very own Web site. 

And if you go to “GoingRogueIndex.com,” you will find that this happens.  You don‘t even have to click anything.  This song just starts right up inexplicably as you browse the index. 

We looked into it.  The song is by a guy named Udo Jurgens(ph).  It‘s German and its title translates roughly to “Madonna in Hell.”  As I really like my job, I do not care to lose it.  I will allow you to make your own joke about that here. 

OK.  Ready to move on?  Good.  All right.  And today, in “invoking God to make your own creepy political point” news, earlier this week, we reported on how Psalm 109:8 has been merchandised recently by particularly virulent haters of the president. 

Psalm 109:8 reads, quote, “Let his days be few and let another take his office.”  The psalm then continues, “Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.  Let his children continually be vagabonds and beg.  Let them seek their bread also from their desolate places.  Let the creditor seize all that he has and let strangers plunder his labor.  Let there be none to extend mercy to him nor let there be any favor to his fatherless children.” 

We reported two days ago that the opening verse of that sentiment is being promoted as a prayer for Obama on bumper stickers, mouse pads, teddy bears, aprons, frame tiles, keepsake boxes and t-shirts. 

Those items from “CafePress.com” as of today are no longer available for sale there.  But some other mugs and shirts and cards with the same message still are.  After initially pulling down some of these items, Cafe Press issued a statement saying they would allow them in the interest of free speech.  We posted the full statement about the merchandise from Cafe Press at “Rachel.MSNBC.com” if you‘d like to read it. 

Another company that, like Cafe Press, allows you to buy and sell personalized clothing and gear reached the opposite conclusion when they looked into the Psalm 109 controversy.  “Zazzle.com” told us today, quote, “We have determined that these products may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest physical harm to the president of the United States.”

So “Zazzle.com” pulled this merchandise.  Whether or not these things violate individual user agreements is up to the companies, of course, to decide.  Whether or not they violate one‘s basic sense of decency - well, that decision is up to you.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I know, I know.  Oprah is quitting her TV show.  I know, I know.  But did you hear about the totally awesomely geeky investigation into the last mystery of Watergate?  It‘s our “Moment of Geek.”  It‘s coming right up.  Stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NEWS ANCHOR:  The experts who have been studying the 18 ½ minute gap on one of the president‘s tapes made their final report today. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NEWS ANCHOR:  The report, the size of a telephone book, had but one implication.  And that was that someone, some human being, erased the 18 minutes and probably did so on the U.R. tape recorder. 

Both the White House and the court experts agree that the famous “Rose Mary Stretch” could not have happened, that she didn‘t accidentally cause the buzz by hitting the food pedal. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  This was how Nixon‘s secretary Rose Mary Woods claims she inadvertently erased 18 ½ minutes of a taped conversation between President Nixon and his chief-of-staff three days after the Watergate break-in. 

Ms. Woods said she must have inadvertently hit the foot pedal eraser on the tape machine while she was answering the phone.  This is before everyone did yoga, keep in mind. 

Six years ago the National Archives tried to figure out if, with new technology, the sound on the erased tape could be recovered.  It could not.  But it‘s possible that there was one other record of what was going on in the Oval Office during that 18 ½-minute gap. 

Nixon was meeting with his chief-of-staff, right - Bob Haldeman.  Haldeman was known to take detailed notes during meetings.  In this case, he was taking them on a yellow-lined notepad with ball point pen. 

But from what‘s known to have been a 79-minute long one-on-one meeting with the president that day, Mr. Haldeman apparently only took a couple of pages of notes.  The National Archives has his notes and they are about the very beginning of the 79-minute meeting and the very end. 

There‘s no notes on the middle, including the 18 ½ minutes that was erased from that tape.  Are there missing Haldeman notes?  Could missing notes be reconstructed from the couple of pages of Haldeman notes that we do have? 

We are about to find out.  The National Archives has announced that it‘s assembled a forensic document examination team from experts at the Library of Congress, the Treasury and ATF. 

They‘re going to use hyperspectral imaging, videospectral comparison and electrostatic detection analysis to try to determine if Haldeman‘s existing notes might reveal Haldeman‘s lost notes which might be about what‘s on that lost 18 ½ minutes of audio buzz, buzz that Rose Mary Woods definitely didn‘t accidentally cause. 

Joining us now is the man whose research led to the National Archives‘ decision to pursue this line of research.  He‘s an intelligence veteran of both the NSA and the Air Force and amateur historian on Watergate, Phil Mellinger.  Mr. Mellinger, thanks very much for joining us. 

PHIL MELLINGER, INTELLIGENCE VETERAN AND AMATEUR HISTORIAN:  Thanks so much for having me, Rachel.  Very glad to be here. 

MADDOW:  Am I right that you suggested to the archives that they might try to find Haldeman‘s missing notes by analyzing these existing notes? 

MELLINGER:  Yes, absolutely.  What had happened was I had actually put together a theory of how the erasures were made.  My belief and my findings are that Rose Mary Woods did erase the initial 4 ½ minutes of the tape and she did erase the last minute of the tape.  But she didn‘t erase the 13 minutes in the middle.  Somebody else did that. 

And as I got more and more into a detailed analysis of what had happened, people kept asking me, “Well, how do you know this was the person who actually erased the middle part of the tape?”  So I went to try to find how can I recover evidence to find on what was discussed in the middle of that, knowing that I couldn‘t get the tapes. 

When I looked at the notes at National Archives, they were kind

enough to show them to me.  And I realized very quickly there were pages

missing.  That were -

MADDOW:  And you could tell there were pages missing how? 

MELLINGER:  Well, what I did was I actually was put pages of the notes aside of the sequence of the 79-minute conversation.  So you could actually see the notes.  Here are the notes corresponding to this part here, the notes corresponding to the next part where there‘s a tape erasure. 

Here‘s the part that Rose Mary Woods erased, the first 4 ½ minutes.  And when you put it all together, you realize that the only part of Haldeman‘s notes that remains today from the Watergate part of that meeting is the last minute of the meeting.  So there‘s about 17 ½ minutes‘ worth of notes that are missing. 

MADDOW:  How do - these techniques that they‘re going to use on the existing documents that you‘ve seen firsthand ...

MELLINGER:  Yes.

MADDOW:  ... is there any risk to these original documents from subjecting them to these types of forensic techniques? 

MELLINGER:  Well, the archivists were very - I mean, everyone wants to preserve history.  The archivists were very clear and I was very clear in my request that I wanted to use only techniques that would not, in any way, harm or destroy the documents. 

And so the technique that I had suggested to the National Archives, electrostatic detection analysis, actually doesn‘t harm the document in any way. 

MADDOW:  Is this a technique like we‘ve seen in, like, Hitchcock movies where you‘re looking at impressions from other pages that have essentially been pushed through onto the page you do have? 

MELLINGER:  Yes, absolutely.  Like when you‘re a kid maybe, you might have taken a pad that somebody had written on and traced it over with a lead pencil.  And you could see the writing come back up. 

This is a more scientific, a more technical way to do the same thing so that you actually see the impressions from the writing that somebody made on the page that is now missing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Sorry, go ahead.

MELLINGER:  So these two pages, the second page - my belief was when I looked at it, I had the end of the Watergate meeting.  But my thought was that there are impressions from the previous two or three pages of notes and that we could actually go back and recover the notes that I think were missing that were taken during the 17 ½ minutes or so. 

MADDOW:  Oh, this is so cool.  It‘s a cool idea.  Yes.

MADDOW:  So instead of recovering the tape, which I thought was impossible, you actually recover the notes that nobody thought to - nobody even realized were missing. 

MADDOW:  Phil Mellinger is a former systems analyst for the National Security Agency and a Watergate historian who may have just stumbled on a pot of gold here.  Thank you very much for joining us, sir.  I can‘t wait to hear the results of the investigation.  I hope you‘ll come back. 

MELLINGER:  Very good.  Thank you so much.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Hard put TMI in which Kent Jones investigates for us the people now in political headlines who no one had really heard of until recently when, say, they started demanding that roughly 2,000 pages of the Senate health bill be read out loud on the Senate floor.  Hey, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma - yes.  He is, as they say, a piece of work.  Check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK):  It‘s called a thimble.  In Oklahoma, we have a statement for that kind of thinking.  It‘s called, “There‘s not any more common sense than what can fit in a thimble. 

JONES (voice-over):  You can never fit Tom Coburn into a thimble.  There‘s at least a bucket-load of undiluted conservative common sense sloshing around inside the junior senator from the Sooner State.  Sometimes it spills out, like when he was addressing America‘s first Latino Supreme Court nominee.  

COBURN:  You have a lot of explaining to do. 

JONES:  Elected to the House in 1994 as part of Newt Gingrich‘s Republican revolution, and then to the Senate in 2004, Coburn makes all the other pro-gun, anti-choice fiscal social conservatives look positively Kucinich-ian. 

COBURN:  Anything that sends chills down the spine of the big spenders in Congress should warm the heart of every American taxpayer. 

JONES:  Such talk also warms the heart of his fundamentalist brethren at C Street where Coburn lives with fellow Family members such as former roommate John Ensign.  Coburn allegedly knew all about the Nevada governor‘s sordid extramarital activities and even helped broker a cash settlement with Ensign‘s mistress.  But he said that information is privileged because he is a deacon and a doctor. 

COBURN:  Either they‘ve got an esophageal spasm or the esophagus is irritated.  Or they have terrible reflux where the fluid from the stomach is coming up and burning their esophagus.  Or they‘re having angina. 

JONES:  Oh, yes.  He‘s a real-life ob-gyn, so anything having to do with sex is a ticking bomb.  Every year, Coburn delivers a safe sex presentation to congressional staffers, featuring a crowd-pleasing slideshow of diseased organs ravaged by STDs.  He even supplies the pizza. 

COBURN:  I‘ve got to think that the American people are sick of what they‘ve been hearing. 

JONES:  Needless to say, health reform is also a disaster.  Why don‘t we listen to the experts? 

COBURN:  You can take CBO having half the information or you can take the Lewin Group, which says 119 million people are going to lose the insurance that they have today that they want to keep.  Both of those, we rely on them.  They‘re fairly reputable.  They don‘t have a pig in this football game.  

JONES:  You mean the Lewin Group that‘s owned by united health care?  Forgive me, doctor, but I think they do have a pig in this football game and it‘s squealing.  No matter.  Coburn opposes health reform so much that he wrote an article slamming it in “The Advocate,” the leading gay magazine. 

This from the same man who once warned his fellow Republicans that, quote, “The gay agenda is the greatest threat to freedom that we face today.”  Coburn is also responsible for saying this, “Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they‘ll only let one girl go to the bathroom.” 

So we can only wonder how Coburn felt when, to honor a bed after his beloved Oklahoma Sooners lost to Florida in the national championship football game, he had to sing “Rocket Man” by that international threat to freedom, Elton John. 

(MUSIC)

So is Tom Coburn finally loosening up?  I think it‘s going to be a long, long time. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  I want to know who the one lucky girl is in southeastern Oklahoma who gets to go to the bathroom. 

JONES:  I don‘t know.  They have to draw straws or something.  It‘s a lottery.

MADDOW:  There are so many lesbians in Oklahoma that only one girl is allowed to go to Oklahoma, you know.

JONES:  Shoo!  Shoo!  They‘re everywhere! 

MADDOW:  Thank You, Kent.  Appreciate it. 

JONES:  Sure.

MADDOW:  Thank you for watching tonight.  We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.  Until then, you can E-mail us, rachel@msnbc.com.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Good night.

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