The Rachel Maddow Show | February 22, 2013
>>> i would be very interested to know, and i think the american people would be very interested to know whether a nominee for secretary of defense has received substantial funds directly or indirectly from foreign nations. i don't know if mr. hagel has received funds directly or indirectly from foreign sources, from extreme sources.
>> i don't know, but i demand that he explain anyway. jane mayer , the staff writer for the "new yorker" magazine wrote today that the same senator that you just saw there, ted cruz also a couple of years ago identified 12 law professors at harvard law school , 12 exactly who were marxists, who advocated a communist overthrow of the u.s. government . is this proper context for understanding what is going on with ted cruz and the chuck hagel nomination in the senate, indeed for the entire nomination of chuck hagel and the entire senate? thanks for joining us tonight. glad you're here.
>> glad to be with you.
>> what was the reaction in texas that the event that you attended that you reported on today when ted cruz made the allegation about the communist law professors wanting to overthrow the government?
>> well, the thing you have to know about ted cruz is he is a terrific speaker. and he is a really powerful orator. and he had the audience up on their feet and cheering by the end of that speech. it ended with a quote from -- a letter from the alamo where he was quoting saying "victory or death", and "we are going to win." and they were all up and cheering. so i think, you know, it was a speech that was throwing red meat to his crowd, and they loved it, absolutely.
>> is this one of those moments where it is sort of right-wing world and the rest of the world where it seems obviously mccarthyist and therefore problematic, just doesn't register that way in front of a more conservative audience, or does it register as something that joe mccarthy might say, but that's not seen as a bad thing?
>> well, i do think it's an interesting question about whether the things that he has been saying in texas that go over really well there are playing as well in the u.s. senate . because in a way, i think that what is acceptable in texas may be beyond the pale of what is acceptable inside congress, even though some people think the standards aren't all that high in congress. but he was chastised by -- in his own party for going after hagel with the sort of insinuation and innuendo about taking money from north korea without any facts to substantiate it. and so both senator john mccain and lindsey graham , republicans who are, you know, you would think -- who were also raising questions about hagel , turned on him at some point and basically said that he had gone beyond the pale . so i think you're right in wondering if there are some parts of this country where what's allowable is a different standard. i have to say i think you got it so right when you described what characterizes this kind of speech, though. when i was there, what so struck me was the specificity, the weird specificity of 12 professors on the harvard law who are communist and want to see the overthrow of the u.s. government . it seemed so on the face of it improbable to me, knowing harvard law school , which is basically turning out the men and women who are the pillars of the united states legal establishment, including many members of the united states supreme court . and so -- but it was that specificity that makes it sound like there must be something in it here. and -- but he never did name who they were. so when i wanted to follow up on this after there had been sort of allegations that, you know, some critics began to say doesn't he sound a little like joe mccarthy , i remembered gosh, i remember when he actually was accusing people of being communists and disloyal, trying to overturn the u.s. government . because i heard him say that. so i went back to my notes, and i sent a note to his spokeswoman and said can you name me, can you tell me who the communists are on the faculty at harvard law school ? and i never heard back from them. but then i did call harvard law school , and i spoke with one of his professors who is a well-known republican there, who worked in the reagan administration , and asked him if he thought there was any truth in it. and he said, you know, kind of in sorrow that he felt that ted cruz , who had been one of a very good student of his was really inaccurate in this, and that among other things, there was more than one republican. charles freed was not the only republican. he thought there was at least four others when ted cruz was in law school there and he doubted that there were any members of the faculty who were communists who wanted to see the communist overthrow of the united states government . i mean, among other things, there is something called the smith act that makes it illegal to belong to an organization that actively trying to overthrow the u.s. government .
>> so it would be kind of a big deal at harvard. we probably would have heard about it before that speech in texas .
>> it would be a big deal , yeah, it would be. and so, anyway, i thought that given the closer look that is being taken at ted cruz , it was the right time to share what i remembered of him.
>> well, that he would not answer your follow-up question, or at least hasn't answered yet about who the 12 are probably means that i won't be able to get an answer out of him on that subject either, but we will also follow up to see if he really does have a list, because boy, that really would be a story. jane mayer , staff writer for the "new yorker" magazine. thanks for joining us tonight. it's always really great to have you here.
>>> one man i would love to see grill joseph mccarthy is michael moore . the academy award -winning director is going to be joining us in just a minute. stay with us.