Guests: Chris Hayes, Dr. David Kilcullen, Kent Jones
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now to discuss the conservative infighting over the BP disaster—ladies and gentlemen, here‘s quickly as possibly with Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening. That‘s a hard act to follow.
OLBERMANN: You betcha.
MADDOW: Yes. Cheers, friend.
OLBERMANN: Good luck.
MADDOW: Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. You know, it is a well worn historical axiom that the party out of power always gains seats in first midterm election of a new presidency. Only twice since the Civil War has the sitting president‘s party gained seats in Congress in the first election after that president was elected. In politics, this is just one of those things you can set your watch to.
And this year, this axiom—this historical truth—probably means very good things for Republicans come November. It means they are poised to gain lots of seats in the next election. Democrats know it, and so do Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP: We will take back the majority in the House. This country is very much desirous of a new direction.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: We got 100 seats in play. We have a real shot at winning the majority so that we can put a check on this administration and all the spending that‘s out of control here in Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One hundred seats in play. We‘re going to take back the majority. You know that could very well be true. History is very much on the Republican side. If you are the party out of power, as Republicans are now, you‘re sort of counting on buyer‘s remorse from voters in first midterm election.
I mean, as long as people aren‘t riding unicorns down a rainbow to work every day, as long as things aren‘t perfect in the country, any dissatisfaction about the way things are going is likely to be channeled into a loss in seats for the folks who are in charge—if the election is a referendum on the guy who just got elected on president and on his party.
Now on the other hand, what if the election isn‘t the referendum on the guy who just got elected president and his party? What if the election isn‘t a referendum but rather a choice—not just a thumbs up or thumbs down on Democrats, but a choice between what the Democrats are offering and what the Republicans have to offer. That seems to be possibility that is keeping Republicans and conservatives up nights right now.
Democrats, of course, are showing what they stand for, for better or for worse, by how they‘re governing. Republicans can show what they‘re against by voting no on Democratic ideas. But when it comes to Republicans showing what they‘re for—well, when you‘re in the minority, that is harder to get across. And right now, it seems harder for Republicans to figure out.
Republicans have made a bunch of efforts in the last year to nail down exactly what it is they want to tell the American people they stand for. Remember the pizza party that Eric Cantor and Mitt Romney hosted last year? That was supposed to be the kickoff for the Republican Party‘s new National Council for a New America. The plan was for Republicans to travel around the country, soliciting ideas from average Americans.
Eric Cantor pulled the plug on that big idea last month after holding just one pizza event in the whole year, one little pizza party.
And then there was this idea-soliciting effort from House Republicans:
Americaspeakingout.com, an online forum for Americans to provide new ideas for the Republican Party platform. As “The Associated Press” noted this weekend, that effort is also not bearing much fruit for Republicans.
If you go to the liberty and freedom page, for example, right now, you can see that the top suggested ideas are “Please protect my right to play poker,” and “Eliminate ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell.‘” Also, “Keep the Republicans out of our bedrooms” and “Ban handguns” and “Drop the idea that we‘re a Christian country.”
You think the Republican Party is ready to run with those ideas? From Americaspeakingout.com, their big ideas generator?
Then there was You Cut, the House Republican project to let the American people literally set the legislative agenda for Republicans. People would vote online on what federal spending programs should be cut, and then House Republicans would propose those cuts, thereby slashing federal spending by 0.017 percent.
The anti-spending Cato Institute here is ridiculing House Republican for their effort to exchange their own initiative, their own leadership, for a meaningless social media gimmick.
Then there was the Mount Vernon Statement, a grandiose fake parchmenty looking thing that conservatives signed on to as their statement of constitutional conservatism for the 21st century, endorsing things like the rule of law, and individual liberty, and opposing tyranny in the world, and the defense of family neighborhood community and faith.
In other words, such generic “I love my mama” platitudes that even a pinko, commie, liberal, elite infidel like me would be happy signing on to all but one paragraph of the whole Mount Vernon Statement. If I fit your definition of conservative, your definition of conservative is probably broken.
It‘s one thing to have the luxury to work out your principles in the abstract, to have your pizza parties and parchmenty statements that talk about love in America and feeding foreign aid or whatever. It‘s all well and good until what you want government to do actually gets put to the test, like say when a giant, totally unforeseen catastrophe happens, like what is happening right now in the Gulf—the biggest environmental disaster ever in our country, plainly and inarguably caused by an oil company screwing up. It‘s exposed its deep rifts and deep disagreements among conservatives, among Republicans, about what to do and why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE BARTON ®, TEXAS: I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The ranking Republican on the House Energy Committee, the face of energy policy for the Republican Party, Joe Barton. He later un-apologized, he retracted that apology. But his apology and then his un-apology set off kind of a rift within the Republican Party. Those who agree with Joe Barton that BP has gotten hosed, they‘re the aggrieved party here, and those who don‘t agree.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I couldn‘t disagree with Joe Barton more. BP doesn‘t need an apology. They need to apologize to us.
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA: I think Joe Barton was spot on when he called it a shakedown. I think the leverage brought on Joe Barton by, I‘ll say the conference, was unjust. I think he should have been able to stand there and let his remarks stand.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI ®, ALASKA: Couldn‘t be more wrong—couldn‘t be more wrong. The statement that Representative Barton made was wrong, absolutely wrong. He has since apologized for it.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: It seems to me there is a misreading of a Constitution and a misunderstanding of jurisdictional limits from this White House. Now, it seems that it‘s all about extortion.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Republicans at war with each other right now over whether or not BP has been treated unfairly—and more broadly, on what counts as a conservative response to this environmental disaster. On the one happened, you have Republicans like Adam Putnam of Florida and Aaron Schock of Illinois, introducing legislation they say to toughen up government regulation of the oil industry.
On the other hand, you have Republicans like candidate Randy Brogdon, he‘s running for governor in Oklahoma. He tells “The Associated Press,” quote, “This oil spill is a perfect example of why government should never be involved in the private sector. Government is not the solution. It‘s the problem. The more government tries to get in and regulate the free market, the worse things become.”
Mr. Brogdon is trying toe get elected on the “don‘t blame BP” platform, set the oil companies free. Leave BP alone.
This is a moment when Republicans ought to be sailing toward huge political victory. They are poised to win lots of congressional seats this year. But in a year when they had enough trouble trying to get people to turn to them for answers in the abstract, now looking to them for answers on this very specific deadly, pressing, ongoing problem may have changed the whole course of politics for this midterm year.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.
Chris, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, as Republicans try to figure out if they‘re with BP or against them, is one faction within the party winning? Is somebody gaining the upper hand?
HAYES: Well, I think it‘s going to be interesting how it shakes out. I mean, basically, you had the Barton apology, then you had this tremendous amount of, quote, “leverage” as King put it, brought to bear by the congressional leadership of the Republican Party, and then you had a backlash to that from the kind of the talkers. I mean, you had Mark Levin on his radio show going after Bill O‘Reilly because Bill O‘Reilly has been on the kind of BP bashing side of this equation.
And then you had—you had a lot of stuff I‘ve been reading all day on the Internet saying, you know, stick up for BP, and this is overreach by the president. So, I don‘t think it‘s shaken out yet.
I think, to the extent there‘s a divide, it‘s between the people that are the core center of the partisan power, right, the Republican congressional leadership, who are worried about midterm results. They need to elect Republicans and the people who are clearly part of the conservative movement who are not as invested in picking up seats the way that, say, you know, the Republican committee is.
MADDOW: Well, as people like Rush Limbaugh and other movement conservatives like you‘re describing, as they—I mean, for lack of a better construction, as they take BP‘s side here, you know, the White House are thugs for cracking down on them and all that, it makes me wonder: are there any important recent instances of the Republican leadership really siding against the Rush Limbaughs, really saying, “Actually, no, Rush is wrong here”?
HAYES: No, and, in fact, what we see is quite the opposite, right? There‘s this long run. I mean, there‘s a series of events that last year where people would criticize Rush and then would be marched out in a kind of, sort of, Stalinist manner before the cameras to offer their official recantations for going against the party line literally.
So, no one—no one tends to cross them because the power of the conservative movement is in the media infrastructure, I think as much as it is in the actual elected leadership. This is, I think, possibly a breaking point because it‘s just such terrible politics. And that‘s—I mean, the knee jerk reaction of Mitch McConnell and Murkowski and the leadership in the Hill was right. I mean, they realized that Barton, you know, postured himself before British Petroleum after they‘re, you know, spilling out maybe 100,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf is just crazy, crazy, terrible optics for them.
So, its might be a breaking point, but there is no precedent for it up until now.
MADDOW: Well, at this point, this far out from the election, it seems like what Democrats ought to be trying to do is to split conservatives from Republicans, to split Republicans from their own base. At this point, you‘re not worried about targeting independents who don‘t follow politics that closely. That sort of comes later.
At this point, you‘re trying to sort of fracture their base. And so, isn‘t it sort of obvious that every Republican in the country should be asked: Do you agree with Rush that BP is being treated unfairly here?
HAYES: That‘s exactly right. And that‘s why—and that‘s precisely why. I mean, the speed with which both the Democratic National Committee, the White House, the entire structure, jumped on the Barton comments shows that they understand exactly this, that this is the sort of thing that gives them the opportunity to kind of cleave the base from the establishment Republicans, but also to put distance between themselves and BP.
I mean, that‘s the other problem the White House has had until now is that they‘re kind of yoked to BP. You know, I get e-mails every day from the joint operations center that‘s, you know, the National Guard and Thad Allen and BP working together to tell us what‘s going on there. They need to distance themselves from BP. And so, it works to their advantage as well to have Barton and these Republicans foiled because that‘s a political imperative for them.
MADDOW: Let me ask you one last thing here which is a Beltway thing which I don‘t understand, Chris.
HAYES: I thought I don‘t understand it either.
MADDOW: You‘re physically within the Beltway right now. So, I feel like that‘s as close as I can get to trying to figure it out.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has been downplaying the spill in every way possible, saying that it‘s no big deal, saying you don‘t want to wash your face in it, but it‘s OK to swim in it. I mean, he‘s really, really, downplaying it, now saying a moratorium on drilling will be worse than the oil spill—the biggest environmental catastrophe in American history. That has earned him Beltway compliments. The response to that behavior by Haley Barbour is, maybe Haley Barbour is running for president.
Can you please explain how that logic works to me?
HAYES: You know, it would take the rest of the show for me to try to wade through it. There‘s a sort of cheap contrarianism that folks in the Beltway like. And for some reason, they love Haley Barbour because he used to be one of the racketeers hanging out on Capitol Hill basically, laundering money through Congress and the Keynestrian (ph) operation. So, he‘s one of the good old boys.
MADDOW: Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation” magazine—thank you for your time tonight. I‘m glad that you are there to explain it all to all of us who are not there. Appreciate it.
HAYES: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the scientists at NASA are experimenting with a way to combine—get this, ready—to combine sewage and algae to make clean water and clean energy. Ew, yay, ew, yea. Mostly yay, less oil, right?
But who‘s not so sure it‘s a good experiment for the space agency?
The NASA administrator, who happens to own a ton of oil company stock.
That very strange story is coming up next.
And rest assured tonight that some of our country‘s finest are hard at work, brainstorming solutions for the BP oil disaster, like, for example, why not just blow the thing up? Why not just blow it up? Why not to blow the thing up?
Another clear thought about bad ideas—coming up later.
MADDOW: This probably should have happened around the time that the Minerals Management Service got famous for its employees shtooping oil industry lobbyists and snorting crystal meth off a toaster ovens—but, hey, better late than never. They have finally renamed the Minerals Management Service. It‘s now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement. If you‘re trying to spell that out, it is BOEMRE—BOEMRE or something.
Apparently, they just want us to call the agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy for short, BOE. BOE, so we‘ll just call it BOE. And this presumably will be BOE‘s new logo. Oh!
MADDOW: Say you‘re applying for a job at McDonald‘s. You have to fill this out. It‘s, of course, a job application and on it, you are responsible to give your name and your Social Security number and, oh, look, your employment history—just in case, say, you‘d been a big wig at Arby‘s and you still have a lot of Arby‘s stock McDonalds probably wouldn‘t want you on their roastbeef sandwich development team, right?
At NASA, it appears that someone has slipped through that conflict of interest job application crack. “The Orlando Sentinel” reports NASA is currently undertaking a $10 million experiment called Project OMEGA. Project OMEGA, of course, is an awesome mission impossible style project name, but OMEGA in this case is just an acronym. It stands for Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae—growing algae as a clean energy project and as a waste water treatment plan.
The way it works is pretty fascinating. NASA would fill these offshore membrane enclosures, basically super high-tech plastic bags, out in the ocean, and then they fill them up with algae. Then the algae in the giant plastic bags would be fed waste water. The algae would do what algae does, which, in this case, would be to clean that waste water, naturally—producing clean water.
And the clean water would be leeched into the ocean through the big plastic bags. The big plastic bags have a one way membrane so the clean water could get out. So the waste from algae processing waste water is essentially clean water—clean water that would go back into the ocean.
Here‘s the kicker, though, in that process: in the process of cleaning the waste water, the algae, in addition to cleaning the water, it also produces fat soluble molecules called lipids. And lipids can be harvested for fuel—lots and lots of fuel. So that‘s the Project OMEGA idea: clean water and clean energy out of sewage, slime and plastic bags. Awesome.
However, as “The Orlando Sentinel” reports today, the NASA administrator, Charles Bolden, does not believe in Project OMEGA necessarily—or at least he had sought to slow down the enterprise—where his hesitation about Project OMEGA developed all by himself in a vacuum, Mr. Bolden would not be in the news tonight and he wouldn‘t be the subject of an investigation by NASA‘s inspector general.
But it appears that NASA administrator Charles Bolden‘s feeling that OMEGA is, quote, “not a good investment in research dollars at this time” may have to do with some counsel he received from an oil company—from Marathon Oil Corporation.
As NASA might have known from his job application, Charles Bolden was on the board of directors of the Marathon Oil Corporation from 2003 until last year. He left the board last year to become NASA administrator and when he left the board, he was given Marathon stock or stock equivalents valued at between half a million and $1 million—stock which Mr. Bolden confirms he still owns.
Now, how do we know his ties to Marathon Oil are influencing his opinion on this Project OMEGA idea? It‘s not conjecture, actually. It‘s because he said so, in writing.
In an e-mail sent to top NASA officials on May 2nd, Charles Bolden said this, quote, “I continue to have doubts about the viability of this project, especially after discussions with representatives of Marathon Oil Corporation.”
Marathon Oil, it should be noted, has its own clean energy projects in the works that could conceivably compete with any technological breakthrough that came from algae.
Charles Bolden told “The Orlando Sentinel” that he does not think there was any conflict of interest in his reaching out to Marathon Oil for advice on Project OMEGA, and a NASA spokesperson told us this afternoon that the agency stands by its statement to “The Orlando Sentinel,” that its general counsel, quote, “has reviewed the matter and determined there is no conflict of interest.”
In related news, apparently, the phrase conflict of interest doesn‘t mean what it used to.
Joining us is Jim Oberg, NBC consultant and space engineer.
Jim, thank you so much for being here tonight and helping us understand this.
JAMES OBERG, NBC NEWS SPACE CONSULTANT: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: Why is NASA in the biofuels from algae business?
OBERG: Well, NASA is doing the algae growing business for a long time, because algae can be used for life support systems in space. The idea of making energy from it isn‘t—wasn‘t in its charter and still isn‘t because it has other sources of energy. But algae maintenance, algae control, algae growth and cleanliness is something NASA scientists have been working on for decades.
MADDOW: I understand that these magical giant algae bags also may have derived from technology that was created for astronauts in terms of dealing with their own astronaut waste in space.
OBERG: Yes. Rachel, these membranes have to let moisture out, whether it‘s in your diapers, your so-called fecal containment garments, which is the NASA for diaper, or other kind of things. But there are a lot of these developments been going on for life support that are also—that overlap. So, seeing how they operate in different areas, in different applications, gives you more insight into the technology. It‘s not entirely a wild idea.
MADDOW: It‘s clear why an oil company would maybe not be so interested in saying somebody else‘s biofuel project is any good, if they‘re working on their own biofuel projects, their own clean energy projects. The Marathon interest in this not going forward seems to me conceivable. Isn‘t it therefore strange that Mr. Bolden reached out to this oil company he was tied to for advice on this project?
OBERG: Well, that‘s a pile of questions. The Marathon interest, as in any petrochemical company is interested in biofuels, potential biofuels, because they‘re going to have to refine them. So, they‘re interested in what they have to have in their own shop, if someone else comes up with a process that creates raw oil, just the crude oil. And they‘ll have to then handle it.
So, it‘s a defensive measure, entirely reasonable. I don‘t think—I have not heard—pardon me, I‘m using the earpiece here—I have not heard that marathon is trying to stop this. In fact, it was news to me that Bolden tried to stop it. He said he‘s not—he wasn‘t sure why the project was on NASA‘s agenda because it is at the limit of the kind of things NASA is interested in.
MADDOW: Is it expected, though, that somebody in the position that Charles Bolden is in, as NASA administrator, that he would divest his stock in an oil company if he‘s going to keep running NASA while NASA is doing energy projects?
OBERG: I don‘t think that NASA has a whole lot of contracts with oil companies because the technologies are beyond the edge of NASA‘s central aviation. Now, it‘s interested in fuels, in jet fuels, but it appears that what Mr. Bolden did that has raised eyebrows, is talking directly to Marathon. He made no secret of it. He just talked to them because he knew people there.
And perhaps there would have been a better way or more legitimate way to stay within the bounds of the regulations if he had been—if he had someone else make this inquiry, rather than him make a personal call apparently which did tread across the line. And these days, things within NASA are kind of—are kind of tense.
People have been using technical terms. They‘ve been using other legalisms to shut down projects, and it may be that some folks are feeling they were going to cut Mr. Bolden slack before, but he‘s not cutting them slack, so this could be a reaction from other people in NASA about entirely different issues at NASA.
MADDOW: I hear you. Jim Oberg, NBC consultant and space engineer—thank you very much for helping us understand this tonight, Jim. Thanks.
OBERG: All right.
MADDOW: Among the not very helpful ideas springing forth from Congress about the BP oil disaster is: why don‘t we just stick some dynamite down there and blow the thing up? That will stop her. The engineering stylings of Congressman/Obstetrician Phil Gingrey, plus other helpful suggestions—coming up.
MADDOW: Arizona Republican Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth is not the kind of guy you‘d expect to hear inviting you to come dine at the taxpayer-funded trough. Not like these people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was able to get a grant for $13,000 for my roof, for the electrical work. I don‘t have to take any of this money back.
DAVE MORGAN: We award this grant for up to $1.3 million. The greatest thing about that is we don‘t have to pay any of that back.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Those folks are in a 2007 infomercial from National Grants Conferences, which reportedly lures people to spend up to 1,200 bucks in pursuit of government grants that aren‘t really available to them.
Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth says he wants less federal spending, more tax cuts. What would J.D. Hayworth be doing in this clip right after the guy who got up to $1.3 million?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds too good to be true. Congressman, is it for real?
FMR. REP. JOHN DAVID HAYWORTH (R-AZ): It is for real. Now, what - I understand the skepticism and partly because President Reagan used to say, the greatest contradiction ever uttered is, “I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Maybe the greatest contradiction ever uttered might be offering free government money in between leaving Congress under something of a cloud of Abramoff-y ethics questions and running for John McCain‘s Senate seat as a big government-hating, tea-partying fiscal conservative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: J.D. Hayworth authored tax cut measures to grow our economy, voted to cut wasteful spending and earned an 89 percent rating from Citizens Against Government Waste.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And cue the greatest contradiction. Go!
HAYWORTH: Let me remind you, it is not free money. It‘s your money.
It is money you already surrendered to the government in terms of taxation. But the government has a chance and you have a chance to make an investment in yourself, and in fact, improve not only your personal economic situation, but put people to work, and really help rebuild the economy on your block in your neighborhood, on Main Street instead of Wall Street.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: J.D. Hayworth, the get-free-money-from-the-government, self-described fiscal conservative and the red, white and blue tie who was apparently invented by John McCain to make his re-election campaign this year more fun.
MADDOW: Here‘s the thing I always forget about al-Qaeda. For all their murderous intent and demonstrated capacity for all their global plotting, for all the deadly serious implications of them getting access to even more deadly means of targeting us than they have already figured out, for all the truly scary things we have already figured out about al-Qaeda, it is easy to forget that on their own terms, they‘re often freaking ridiculous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Barack, be honest for once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s not from “The Onion” doing a satire of a dorky American kid making a fake jihad video. This is actually the new al-Qaeda video. It‘s in English. It stars Adam Gadahn, who is a kid who grew up on a goat farm in California. He was apparently a pretty serious dork and a pretty serious heavy metal fan when he was growing up.
Now, he‘s ended up living the dream of his inner super anti-hero, who he calls Azzam the American, Azzam al-Amriki, a.k.a. Adam the goat farm dork. And he runs the al-Qaeda AV Club.
The new al-Qaeda AV Club video starts with this disclaimer, “Attention, we do not permit musical accompaniment with our productions.” I‘m guessing that‘s because they are religiously opposed to music.
But they know they‘re competing with all sorts of slick, “fight the infidel videos” from all over now, many of which could pass for bad rap videos, like this one from Somalia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It all started out in Afghanistan when we wiped oppressors straight off the land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What is incredible about the new al-Qaeda video, though, is just how low-brow and lame it is, I guess. It is sort of like cable access punditry. I mean, this is al-Qaeda, mighty al-Qaeda, supposedly, and the dude is like making jokes about the Salahis crashing the state dinner, making jokes about Scott Brown. It is very strange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GADAHN: Honestly, Barack, as a president who has proven himself to be incapable of keeping intruders out of his own executive mansion, do you really expect anyone to believe that you will be successful in your attempts to keep the Mujahideen away from an entire continent?
MADDOW: The Salahis did it.
GADAHN: As the recent loss of your party‘s traditional Massachusetts Senate seat shows, and as even you yourself have admitted, a large number of Americans are quickly losing their patience.
MADDOW: Also, I love that truck.
GADAHN: Stop wasting your time, Barack, and start making some serious moves. Come on, Barack, be honest for once. What is it that is stopping you from doing the right thing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I know al-Qaeda is al-Qaeda, right? But is it OK to point out that they‘re ridiculous, that their propaganda is inadvertently funny as in, “Ha-ha, I‘m laughing at you”? These guys are like the reject pile at talk radio tryouts.
And this is their stuff in English. This is supposed to be appealing to us. So that‘s the good news, I guess, about al-Qaeda. The other good news about al-Qaeda is this - this was Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I‘m just trying to get a baseline of where we‘re at in June 2010. How many al-Qaeda members do we think reside in Afghanistan today?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Probably very small numbers, certainly perhaps in the double-digit numbers - that small, if any.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Gen. Petraeus stating that the number al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan today is very small, double digits max, if any, which just makes it hard to explain that we‘re about to go up to 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in order, supposedly, to fight al-Qaeda, which Gen. Petraeus says isn‘t really in Afghanistan in any significant numbers.
What is cited as justification for staying in Afghanistan and for upscaling the number of our troops there is the doctrine of counterinsurgency. We‘re not just beating this elusive enemy in combat there. We‘re supposedly preventing them from ever coming back in Afghanistan via counterinsurgency. How‘s it going?
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Dr. David Kilcullen who advises Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan and who formerly advised Gen. Petraeus in Iraq. He‘s a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins. He‘s himself a combat veteran and he‘s perhaps the world-leading authority on counterinsurgency. His latest book is called “Counterinsurgency,” just out from OUP. Dr.
Kilcullen, thanks very much for coming back on the show.
DR. DAVID KILCULLEN, FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY:
Thanks, Rachel. Nice to be here. And just a point of clarification, I don‘t actually advise Gen. McChrystal.
MADDOW: Oh, very good. Sorry to have said that.
KILCULLEN: That‘s OK.
MADDOW: If al-Qaeda is not physically present in any great numbers in Afghanistan, does it make sense to be fighting a war, supposedly, to destroy that organization with 100,000 troops in Afghanistan?
KILCULLEN: I think you‘ve got to distinguish between the requirement to destroy al-Qaeda as a network and the need to stabilize Afghanistan. The two are linked. But I think they‘re quite separate endeavors. And I think that was a broader point that Gen. Petraeus made in his testimony.
I‘ve always thought that one of the smartest things about this that has ever been said was actually by Osama Bin Laden in November of 2004 where he said, “Look, all I have to do is send two Mujahideen to a given location and the Americans will panic and send an army there. And it is very expensive for you and it‘s very cheap for me. And I can keep doing it and you will run out of resources before I run out of places to send jihadists.”
And I think that kind of describes, to some extent, the al-Qaeda strategy and also a broader reality of counterinsurgency. It is just very cheap to run an insurgency compared to building a country and suppressing an insurgency.
MADDOW: Is there a cheaper and less-deadly-to-Americans way to be pursuing the destruction of al-Qaeda than trying to stabilize Afghanistan?
KILCULLEN: Well, again, I think the two are actually quite separate, even though I know that the two issues have been linked in the way that the president has spoken about the issues. And I think there is - you know, there is some kind of conceptual link.
In practical terms, the problem in Afghanistan is not al-Qaeda. It is instability and the instability results from the government of Afghanistan, from corruption, from all sorts of factors as well as the Taliban. So it is a pretty complex picture. Al-Qaeda is in there, but it‘s not the dominant feature in my view.
MADDOW: The march offensive back in February was seen as a big test of doctrine and practice. Secure that town from the insurgents. Establish legitimate government authority. It hasn‘t gone great.
Reports today of gunfire at Richard Holbrooke‘s helicopter on his visit to Marjah, attempted suicide bombings on the occasion of that visit. If Marjah was a test case, was it a failure?
KILCULLEN: Well, I think the gunfire today and the attempt to hit Richard Holbrooke is more evidence, yet more evidence, of the political smarts of the Taliban. They are certainly the most agile political opponent that we have dealt with, far better, in fact, than al-Qaeda at building support from a local population.
And I think that the second thing that you said about Marjah was the most important one. You said secure the city and then build legitimate government. And that‘s where the problems have resided. And it continues to be the biggest challenge in Afghanistan.
One of the harsh and inescapable realities about counterinsurgency that I write about in my book is that you can only be as good as the government you‘re supporting. And you can be perfect at counterinsurgency as a set of tactics and we‘re not.
But even if we were, we can‘t be any better than government we‘re working for. And that‘s where the problem now in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: When do you know if a counterinsurgency campaign isn‘t going to work? Is it just an assessment your government partner is helpless? Is it a recognition that you‘ll never be tactically accurate enough?
KILCULLEN: No, I think, actually, it has to do with a drawn-down. And if you look at the broad sweep of history, and in the book I go into about 380 examples of counterinsurgency since the early 19th century, it turns out that you really don‘t know if it‘s worked or not until you start to draw down and you discover whether the legitimate government or the structure you have built is strong enough to deal with the insurgents that remain.
You never destroy an insurgency. All you do is drive it down and build up the local government to the point where the locals can handle the problem. And unfortunately, you don‘t really know if they can handle it until you start to pull out and you see whether they can do it on their own. That‘s something we‘ll see - we‘ll get to see in the next year or two based on current U.S. policy.
MADDOW: David Kilcullen, author of the new book “Counterinsurgency,” just out from Oxford University Press. Mr. Kilcullen, I just - I would say today obviously a very bad day for Australians in Afghanistan. And as an Australian and as a vet yourself, I know it must be a tough day. So thanks.
KILCULLEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. North Korean athletes have certain advantages, primarily they are that - their dear leader Kim Jong-Il sends powerful, invisible mental energy in their general direction while the athletes compete.
Later on, we have today‘s update on the sort of advantage those autocratic, megalomaniacal brain waves gave North Korea at the World Cup this week. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Most of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff gathered to watch the United States-Slovenia World Cup soccer match last Friday morning. There was a lot of yelling and screaming and lots of controversy over the results.
One of the people screaming right next to me really, really loudly was Kent Jones who is here now with an update on this disputed match. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. Sorry about the noise.
MADDOW: That‘s OK.
JONES: I‘m like that. You know, there is no justice in sports, but it was nice that there was some acknowledgement that all was not hunky-dory during that U.S.-Slovenia match.
MADDOW: It sure wasn‘t.
JONES: It wasn‘t.
(voice-over): Wasn‘t it cool when the United States beat Slovenia three-two on that goal in the 85th minute? Yes, only it wasn‘t a goal. And why not?
Well, according to the referee, Koman Coulibaly, “Because I said so.” Just like that, the USA joins the international fraternity of World Cup sides getting knee-capped by the officials. Welcome, brother.
The outrage reached a point where soccer‘s governing body, FIFA, is relieving Coulibaly of his officiating duties for this week. Enjoy your time off, sir. Kick back, maybe watch some wrestling.
For Wednesday‘s all important U.S.-Algeria match, Coulibaly is being replaced by a veteran Belgian referee who says he intends to prepare for the match this way, quote, “I don‘t look at reputation or anything that has gone before. I will watch the previous games of USA and Algeria to help me understand their tactics and work on my positioning. But I will watch ‘Gladiator‘ first.”
“Gladiator,” of course. Aside from the armor, and the swords and the tigers, that will be just like a World Cup match. Elsewhere in the Cup today, Portugal took on North Korea. As we‘ve reported before, North Korea‘s Kim Jong-Il takes a special interest in his team.
According to “CBS.com,” quote, “His representative in the coaching area Kim Jong-Hun says his leader transmits tactics just by facing South Africa and emitting his thought waves in that direction.”
Well, apparently dear leader transmitted some really bad tactics today. Portugal scored not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven goals against his minions who scored zero.
For you, soccer neophytes, seven goals is like 176 American in football. A little advice, dear leader - before the next match, maybe you should watch this.
MADDOW: When I saw that it was seven-nothing, I was like, “Oh, see.
We did conquer the world.”
MADDOW: They just scored a touchdown.
JONES: He‘s brave balloons. Very weak.
MADDOW: Very weak. Thank you very much, Kent. Appreciate that.
Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith talks with Robert Redford about the chance that the BP oil disaster could push the country toward actual energy independence, as in independence from oil.
Next on this show, Republicans in Congress offer their ideas about what to do now to fix the problem. The word “doozy” comes to mind. Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: Republican Congressman Joe Barton‘s apology to BP last week was a big deal for a couple reasons. First, because it was an apology to an oil company, to the oil company that has been poisoning and continues to poison the Gulf of Mexico and the whole gulf region with tens of thousands of barrels of sticky, sickening oil every day. All day, every day. All of it, still spewing from a well they dug so far down in the water, you practically need a lunar module to reach it.
He apologized to them. But it wasn‘t just the content of Congressman Barton‘s apology that made this a big political deal. It was also a big political because of Congressman Barton‘s position relative to the country‘s energy policy.
Congressman Barton, of course, is a former oil industry guy. He worked for Arco which is now part of BP. That was the job he had before he got elected to Congress. He‘s also the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
So the thinking has gone that if Republicans win back the House this November, Congressman Joe “I‘m sorry, BP” Barton would get back that Energy Committee chairmanship. It turns out to be not quite the case because Republicans rotate their chairmanships in the house.
Joe Barton was chairman of the committee the last time around, so next time around, the seat would probably go to a different Republican on the committee.
Among those being considered, Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois or, say, representative Fred Upton of Michigan. Neither of whom is particularly famous, either one of whom could end up potentially being Republican Energy Chairman if Republicans won the House, which is itself a little bit unlikely.
But if Republicans did win the house, there is a slight chance that the chairmanship could also go to Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia. Congressman Gingrey is on the committee. He‘s not a former oil industry guy. He‘s a doctor of obstetrics, which of course doesn‘t automatically make him a dicey possibility for chairmanship of the Energy Committee.
However, I might suggest that this recent radio interview he did about the BP oil disaster could make him a dicey choice.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): For the life of me, I can‘t understand why BP couldn‘t go in at the ocean floor, maybe 10 feet lateral to the - around the periphery, drill a few holes and put a little ammonium nitrate, some dynamite, in those holes and detonate that dynamite and seal that - seal that leak. And seal it permanently.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Spoken like a really impressive congressional obstetrician. I mean, come on. What‘s the holdup? Put some dynamite in there. Blow the sucker up. Blow it up. You see, I saw this on a roadrunner cartoon just one time. I didn‘t exactly catch the end how it worked out.
I don‘t know exactly how it worked out for the coyote but when I left to go do something else I don‘t remember, it looked like things were going to work out awesome for the coyote. So I‘m pretty sure it went OK.
So if we just use Acme brand dynamite, I‘m pretty sure this would go great. Congressman Gingrey‘s blow-up-the-leak-plan is unfortunately not alone in the hallowed halls of dumb ideas being floated to deal with this thing.
It‘s just one of a lot of dumb ideas that‘s been floated, ideas that conform to the perspective that when science takes too long, brute force is the smart, appropriate substitute.
So in addition to the dynamite plan, there was also this infinitely stupider idea - the idea of nuking the well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s a crazy last resort kind of idea. But what if it works? What if nuking the well finally stops the oil from surging into the gulf?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Why don‘t we just try it and see? Bad plan. I mean, it‘s really, really brute force-y. It‘s a very tough-sounding plan. I‘m sorry we‘ve tried everything. This is a desperate situation. The gulf coast needs us. Do you have a spare minute, man?
Yes. Really, really brute force-y idea but really, really bad idea. For one thing, there are some pretty significant technical risks here. We don‘t know how to use a nuclear weapon as a sealant. Also, there‘s the whole devastating life-killing levels of radiation thing that even if all you‘ve ever looked into about nuclear weapons is that movie “The Day After,” you have a pretty good idea about.
Plus, there‘s the simple fact that setting off a nuclear weapon would violate a number of arms treaties the United States has signed and advocated for over the years. And that‘s the kind of thing that, you know, hippies care about.
So now with all - I‘m being sarcastic. Hold your hate mail. But now, with all the batty, real-life options for sealing the BP well exhausted, it may be time to turn to fiction. Sometimes, some of the best ideas come from fiction.
But you know, who spends enough time in fantasy land to come up with a fictional idea for dealing with this, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, HOST, “THE GLENN BECK SHOW”: How about we get some real engineers? How about we - I mean, have you seen the movie - what was that one where they wrote that stupid movie with Clint Eastwood where they got on to the asteroid. They got people working on oil rigs. Do you think we can get some of those guys together?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. That was just ridiculous. That‘s absurd. That‘s insane. First of all, it wasn‘t a Clint Eastwood movie where they sent oil rig workers to blow up the meteor with the bomb. That was Bruce Willis in “Armageddon.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Imagine a firecracker in the palm of your hand. You set it off. What happens? Burn your hand, right? You close your fist around the same firecracker and set it off. Your wife‘s going to be opening your ketchup bottles the rest of your life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So we‘re going to swim to that broken oil well with a nuclear device, implant it and get off before it blows. What could possibly go wrong? Let‘s face it. It‘s all going to be fine if we just follow the plot of “Armageddon.”
“HARDBALL” is next. Good night.
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