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Editor, The Konformist
Randi Rhodes of Air America, No Holds Barred
Submitted by BuzzFlash on Tue, 05/29/2007
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
I was a woman and in the Air Force. ... I ... understood that the
reason why the American military is the proudest and the most fierce
fighting force on the planet is because we feel like we're doing a
legitimate job for a legitimate government. When you look at why
the Iraqis won't fight, they don't feel like they're legitimate, and
they don't feel they're fighting for a legitimate government. ...
Plus, I can't imagine being on foreign soil making thirteen hundred
dollars a month, with a family at home, car payments and house
payments and the whole nine yards, and serving next to a guy who's
getting eighty grand to pump gas. In my military experience, that
can't happen. You don't serve alongside somebody who's making eighty
grand to put the gas in the vehicle. I put the gas in the plane. I
put the jet fuel in the plane. I put the oxygen in the airplane. I
can't imagine having to serve with somebody who is making a fricking
fortune and is on the payroll of the company, not the country. That
screws up the entire camaraderie, the entire feeling that you are a
legitimate fighting force. All of a sudden, you see it's for profit,
and you don't feel legitimate anymore.
-- Randi Rhodes, Air America Radio Host
* * *
Yes, Randi Rhodes did serve in the military, so unlike Dick Cheney --
let's say -- she can tell you a thing or two about what it means to
be in the Armed Forces.
Randi is the second interview in our series of conversations with
progressive talk show hosts, because BuzzFlash is very supportive of
making sure progressive radio succeeds. (By the way, there is
nothing to read into the order that our interviews are posted. It
is random, although we are interviewing some of the top-rated
progressive hosts upfront.) Thom Hartmann was our first.
BuzzFlash, according to Randi, played a key role in getting her a
national program. You see, way back when, we interviewed her about
how the mainstream media wouldn't give a progressive radio host a
chance to go country wide, even though she was an enormous success
in the West Palm Beach, Florida, market. After the interview with
BuzzFlash, she got a flurry of phone calls, which led to her
contract with Air America -- and a move back to her native New York
(although she is quick to point out that she was raised in Brooklyn,
We listen to all of the progressive talk show hosts in this periodic
BuzzFlash series of conversations. They each have their different
Randi, as her fans know, gives an informed, passionate voice to the
outrage felt by patriotic Americans who think the nation has lost
its Constitutional anchor, and sailed far adrift of the vision
formed in 1776.
As you will see in the interview, we don't think Randi is a flaming
liberal at all. She's a gal from Brooklyn who just applies common
sense and the facts to what she sees. And applying common sense to
the blinded, destructive zealotry of the Bush cabal can infuriate a
You get the feeling that if George Bush had to spend five minutes
alone in a room with Randi Rhodes, he'd end up wimpering in the
corner and crying out for mercy.
* * *
BuzzFlash: First, I just want BuzzFlash readers to know what
stations you're on -- and at what times -- and where your show can
be accessed on the Internet.
Randi Rhodes: I would say go to AirAmerica.com, or
therandirhodesshow.com. And if you click on the left sidebar there,
the affiliates come up.
BuzzFlash: And you can downstream it on Air America?
Randi Rhodes: AirAmerica.com, yes. You click on "Listen Live."
BuzzFlash: All the progressive talk show hosts whom we're talking
to have a different style. How do you describe your style?
Randi Rhodes: It's fact-based scatological rants. The stuff is in
my head because I read everything in the morning. And of course, all
weekend long I'm watching C-span. So I have the facts. But it's
scatological. It just comes out. And one thing leads to another,
and another, and another. Sometimes I don't know how I got there,
you know? I need to follow my own train of thought. And then, a
caller can change the whole fricking show. Somebody calls in and
they have something on their mind that is just like wild, or wildly
wrong, or they fricking hate me. And it could change the whole
direction of the show.
BuzzFlash: Let me ask a Barbara Walters question here. If we were
at a bar, would it be the same Randi Rhodes that I hear on the air?
Randi Rhodes: Yeah, except drunk. Except drunk and really horny.
BuzzFlash: So it's safe to say you represent the rage that a lot of
people feel about what's going on politically.
Randi Rhodes: I don't even know that I'm raging. It's just beyond
belief because -- people take the oath and then you hear like
Gonzales lately, you just hear him lying his ass off. And you say,
how come I see him walking out of there not in handcuffs? I mean,
if you went into a courtroom and you told this crap, you'd be in
handcuffs. Or you look at their tax returns, and they're submitting
their assets as somewhere between 20 million and 120 million. And
you're thinking to yourself, let me try that. I'm going to put on
my tax returns that I made somewhere between $70,000 and 150,000.
Let's see if I can get away with that? And you just wonder how are
they not in jail?
So it's frustration, not really anger. I know sometimes I come off
angry. I'm not really angry. I'm frustrated beyond belief. And
sometimes I'm just plain sickened. Katrina was sickening. The Iraq
war -- you just look at it and you just can't believe it. Every day
I look at the body counts and I hear them saying 60,000 Iraqis are
dead. And The Lancet, the British medical journal, has got the
number, oh, a little higher, at 655,000 or 650,000 if you want to be
conservative. And I'm like: Why are they not in jail?
BuzzFlash: When I listen to your show, a lot of what you say is
based on common sense. Bill O'Reilly would portray you as some
liberal, Islamo-fascist lover. But I'm listening to it, and it's
Randi Rhodes: Yes.
BuzzFlash: What sort of happened to common sense? Is that part of
Randi Rhodes: I think people wanted to believe that the government,
after 9/11, would never lie about what happened that day, because it
was just too awful. And they wanted to believe that we were going
to be protected and taken care of by this government. When they
found out that it was all a lot of bulls**t, I think they just
couldn't believe it.
It was almost like people had been stunned. Like when a car is
coming at you and instinct kicks in and, partly, it's what you've
been taught, an, partly, it's what your body tells you to do. Some
people innately know to fight. Some people innately know to flee.
Some people just freeze. They just freeze. And it's really no
fault of their own. It's just how they're hard-wired. A lot of
people froze. And a lot of people wanted to fight. And a lot of
people just wanted to flee from the truth. I don't think it's
really common sense. I think it's like prayer -- like the insides
dictated what they were going to do about this information that we
were attacked by an unfamiliar country.
BuzzFlash: On a daily basis you bring up common-sense things about
people. You'll say that this doesn't make sense. Or it doesn't
pass the smell test.
Randi Rhodes: I was just brought up to question authority. I was.
I was brought up to be curious, and to question authority. Of
course, when you grow up in a neighborhood that's rough, you find
survival skills. Mine was if I was funny, I could live. So I just
learned how to look at a situation and figure it out real quick, and
know what my place in it was.
A lot of people haven't figured out what their place in America is.
They just don't know where they belong. So they throw in with this
side or that side, or they don't. But nuance means figuring out
where your place is, you know? A lot of people don't want to do
that. They just don't want to figure it out. They talk a great
game about being citizens, but they don't really know what that
means. When they find out it means that you have to pay attention,
they're like, no, that's for somebody else. Their common sense
tells them that the government will take care of it, that the
President doesn't lie, that the people who stand in the pulpit on
Sunday are only asking for money so they could run a daycare
center. Their common sense -- the way they were nurtured -- tells
them one story, and the facts tell them another. And they can't
reconcile it, so they tend to just shut down.
BuzzFlash: Let's take one for instance -- the infamous visit by
then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and then Chief of Staff
Andrew Card to the hospital room of then not-for-the-moment Attorney
General John Ashcroft. It was about getting him to try to sign off
on whatever Draconian domestic spying program Bush was involved with
that we don't know the nature of. We only know it was bad enough
that John Ashcroft wouldn't sign off on it. In the White House,
Tony Snow said last week that, well, what's the big deal? If you
have an appendectomy, you still have a brain -- I believe that
paraphrases his comment.
What common sense says is, we had two guys go here. The Acting
Attorney General Comey indicates that Bush called to get Card and
Gonzales in, because Ashcroft's wife had put an FBI seal around the
room. Comey calls Mueller, the head of the FBI. And they both race
over to the hospital room, so there are witnesses to this
encounter. Card and Gonzales were actually talking to Ashcroft, who
did not have the legal authority to sign any papers, because Comey
was officially serving as the Attorney General. So common sense
would say, if you look at that situation, that this was an attempt
to illegally procure from a man who is highly medicated, and whose
wife felt he was in no condition to see anyone, and they were going
to force him, in essence, to sign this document that he had
originally and still objected to on Constitutional grounds. But he
wasn't even Attorney General at that moment because he was so ill.
So Card and Gonzales were going to have to pre-date the document or
something to make it legal. Yet the press hardly even picks up on
this. This was like a Mafia job. Fortunately, Comey was able to
get their fast enough, along with the head of the FBI, to prevent an
illegal act from being carried out -- and Ashcroft was conscious
enough not to sign the unConstitutional wiretapping authority for
Randi Rhodes: With Tony Snow, common sense says Tony Snow has colon
cancer. That would be like me saying: oh, Tony, why are you
whining because you have an enlarged prostate? That's how it
minimizes the condition that Ashcroft was in. So that was insulting
right there. And common sense would tell you that a guy who is
fighting cancer currently -- colon cancer -- would not want you to
say: oh, Tony, stop whining. It's an enlarged prostate, you know?
That's number one. Number two, the idea of going in there when
Ashcroft was was just out of surgery, the sixth day of intensive
care, with pancreatitis on top of the removed gall bladder 24 hours
earlier -- to make it real simple for people, it's like doing a
tattoo when you're drunk versus forcing your friend to get tattooed
while you are drunk. It doesn't happen. How does it happen that
the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States and the
counsel to the President of the United States go into an Attorney
General who's recused himself and passed power to a subordinate --
and they say you are going to sign off on this because we can't find
anybody else to. And we know that you think it's illegal, but
you're compromised now, so we're taking advantage of you. It's
BuzzFlash: A key point we keep pointing out on BuzzFlash, because
we really haven't seen it pointed out much elsewhere at all, is that
Ashcroft -- who was apparently lucid enough to recognize this --
did not have any legal authority at that time. He had turned the
Attorney General's position over to Comey, who was the Acting
Attorney General. So even if Ashcroft had signed it, technically it
would not be a legal document.
Randi Rhodes: There's a lot of law that needs to be brought out in
that scenario. First is that, yes, he had passed power to Comey, so
he wasn't legitimately able to sign anything as the Attorney General
of the United States. He had said I'm not the Attorney General --
there's the Attorney General [pointing to Comey].
BuzzFlash: He told this to Card and Gonzales in the hospital room
with the head of the FBI and Comey there as witnesses.
Randi Rhodes: Right. Second thing is, they're discussing issues of
national security -- something so secret that, to this day, because
of national security, we don't know what was in that program. We
don't know what was in the warrantless wiretapping program. Arlen
Spector was asked on "Meet the Press," does he know what was in it?
And he said, "No, no, I don't know what was in it." It's so secret
that no one knows what's in it. So that's the second. The counsel
to the President of the United States is well aware of where issues
of national security need to be discussed, and that, of course, is
in a protected environment -- either the Oval Office or a secret
situation hearing room. They're not supposed to be talking about
issues of national security in a public place, which a hospital is.
And, Comey keeps his mouth shut until this testimony, right? He
keeps his job, too. He threatened to resign, but he doesn't.
Ashcroft threatens to resign, but doesn't until after the election.
The real hero, believe it or not, is Mrs. Ashcroft, who knows to
call Comey. She knows to call. She knows why they're coming. And
she knows that they're trying to take advantage of her husband, who
is not the Attorney General at that moment, and who is in
excruciating pain, and is fresh out of surgery, and is in his sixth
day in intensive care. She knows that he's not supposed to have
phone calls from the White House. She knows that the orders were no
visitors. She calls Comey. She's the hero in this story, as
unlikely a hero as you might think. Mrs. Ashcroft is the one who
actually sent up the red flag.
America is desperate to hear the truth. Comey kept his job, did not
resign, he knew about this when the wiretapping program was
reauthorized without anybody in Justice signing off on it. Finally,
he is called to testify under oath, and only then he tells us the
bad news. So it's interesting who gets to be a hero in this
country, simply for telling a truth that should have been told, you
know, in 2003.
BuzzFlash: That's an example of where you apply common sense. You
come in as an outside observer, and you ask the questions. What's
going on here? There's an ill man. His wife has said no one should
come in. Yet they try to muscle in on an extremely ill man into
signing a document that he has determined prior to that, and they
know it, not to be legal. Common sense, to us and to you, is just,
well, this is an enforcement kind of hit man activity going on, not
a respectable Administration.
Randi Rhodes: It's way beyond Mafia. This is almost Abu Ghraib
stuff, where you take advantage of a guy with a tube, you know?
BuzzFlash: We should recall before we move on that the intention
was that only Gonzales and Card would have been in the room with
Ashcroft. And no one would have known what had gone on except for
the fact that Mrs. Ashcroft alerted Comey, and he then got Mueller
to come down with him to witness this and stifle their efforts.
Randi Rhodes: That's why Mrs. Ashcroft gets props for knowing that
something was wrong with that. I don't know what she knew, but she
knew something was wrong with that scenario.
BuzzFlash: Let's get back to your kind of radio personality and
style. You've got a comic edge to you. You're very open about
yourself, and self-deprecatory. You tell wonderfully comic
anecdotes. Where does that side of you come from? And do you think
ahead about how to integrate these comic elements into your program,
or do they just sort of emerge?
Randi Rhodes: Like I say, it's scatological, fact-based chaos in my
head. Yes, I give thought to it -- to how I can make it accessible.
I mean, you watch C-Span and suddenly your eyes glaze over. But I
sit there and go: ooh, good TV. So I have got to make it
accessible, and entertaining.
Maybe it just comes easy because I really want people to know. I
really want them to wrap their brains around it. And why should it
be work? Everybody's got a job. So my job is to do it so that you
can see how simple it all is. There's no reason you can't make this
understandable to somebody with a little bit of comedy. I can say,
I've gotten drunk and gotten tattooed, but I don't remember taking
my mother with me. Or when someone says things like obesity is a
disease, I might say, well, what's the disease? Is it everything
tastes good? Is that a disease now? An idea gets elevated into the
political discourse, and it becomes almost unrecognizable, when it's
really very basic stuff, like obesity as a disease. I'm like, well,
what is the disease? You can't stop eating fries? If government is
going to decide a lot of things about your life, and if it can come
from me, then people might understand how stupid it all is -- that
this is what they're concentrated on.
BuzzFlash: You don't have any compunction talking about yourself or
some comic situations you've been in -- involving girdles, for
Randi Rhodes: Believe me, I'm picking and choosing what I'm going
to share with you. I'm not telling you everything. All talk show
hosts pick and choose.
BuzzFlash: Obviously you enjoy your program. It's not just, sort
of like, oh, I'm glad when I'm going to be able to retire. What
would you be doing if you weren't doing radio? That's my Barbara
Walters second question.
Randi Rhodes: I told you. I'm serious as a heart attack about
this. Right now, it sounds ridiculous, I know. But I'm a woman,
first and foremost. And I got to tell you that the idea of girdles
and making them gorgeous, and helping women smooth out underneath
those dress -- I want to do that so bad!
BuzzFlash: Well, you're in New York. The garment district is
Randi Rhodes: I have been trying so hard to find out how you get
things manufactured, because I really want to do it. And I won't be
happy until I'm on QVC. That is really what I want to do. I know --
everybody laughs. A girl's got to have a dream, and that's mine.
BuzzFlash: You aren't living your dream? Because it certainly
seems like you're living your dream.
Randi Rhodes: Well, I'm lucky. I wanted to do this more than
anything -- for a really long time. And then I started doing it,
and, you know, you helped me. You know that you did at the
beginning. I was sitting in the 47th market in the country. My
God, it was like, I'm defending this program `til my fricking spleen
came out of my nose, and nobody cared. It was a tiny little place.
I was very happy there, though. I had a wonderful, wonderful
situation and I had great people. I worked there for a long time.
Had friends at work that were just irreplaceable. Had a family, a
house. My kid was young. Things were good. But when she got
accepted into college, then I realized I could focus on my career
again. And I wanted to be national more than anything. And you
guys totally helped put me on the radar screen to the point where
people said, oh, who's this girl? So I got the shot and made the
most of it. But now that I'm doing that -- you got to have another
dream, and you've got to keep dreaming and dreaming big. So girdles
are huge now. I'm serious -- I really want to do this. You'll
laugh. But when everybody's wearing Randi Wear, you'll say, oh, my
God! When I'm on Oprah, and she's declaring me the manufacturer of
the best -- I mean, she does bra shows -- Oprah's obsessed with
I will never be on Oprah for my politics, because she doesn't do
politics. We'll be on Oprah for body wear, for shape wear.
BuzzFlash: From my Mom, who shops at QVC and sends us automatic
sealers and many other things -- I'm expecting a supply of Randi
Rhodes girdles. What I will do with them, I don't know.
Randi Rhodes: I want to do this. That's my next thing.
BuzzFlash: Okay, but now while you're on this show, you've got this
audience. I just feel, listening to you, that you are totally into
Randi Rhodes: I am into the show. But the situation I'm in is a
difficult one. It's the most difficult one that I've ever been in.
The three hours I'm on are mine, and I protect the content from any
interference so I can do with it what I want. Nobody has input into
the show at all as far as management or owners or whatever. But
it's been a really, really difficult three years.
BuzzFlash: Nonetheless, you are gaining market share.
Randi Rhodes: I'm number one in New York City. But people don't
know how radio ratings work. We can't tell people how to vote for
us, which always just amused me. It's like, let's have an election
and not tell anybody how to vote. That's something that makes radio
a frustrating enterprise.
But in New York, I'm number one in this crowded radio market, in
time spent listening, which is my job. A host's job time you keep
them listening to you. Are you compelling? If you're interesting
or if you're funny, can you keep them listening to you through the
commercials for the longest period of time possible? I'm number one
in time spent listening in New York City, but I'm number 33 in how
many people are listening to. That's the company's job. The
company's job is to market it, and to bring the people in. Your job
is to entertain them once they're in the seats. I'm succeeding at
BuzzFlash: Well, and deservedly so. Technically, how do you decide
when to break -- how to build up to a break and get people to keep
listening through the break?
Randi Rhodes: Well, I have some fundamental problems with doing
radio that I will always have. When I throw in with you, I'm really
throwing in with you to have a conversation with you. I swear to
God, when people meet me, they shake. Now it's really overwhelming,
because I'm nervous anyway. I get very star-struck, and I shake
when I meet famous people. I wish I could be at ease, but I'm one of
those babbling idiots that doesn't know what to say. I shake and
sweat. So when people do it when they meet me, it makes me feel
like I have to help them, because I know how that feels.
So I don't know how to move on and walk away, and meet the next
person. And it's the same thing on the radio. I don't know how to
take the break. I never did. I don't tease the next segment
properly -- tease what you have coming up, promote your guests, give
the phone number. I have a hard time giving out the phone number
because my mother raised me that a grown woman does not give out her
number, and that's engrained in me. It's amazing. I succeed in
spite of myself. It's really weird. I break all the rules. I
don't know how I do it.
BuzzFlash: That reminds me of Eric Bogosian in the film, Talk
Radio. He did a tremendous job conveying the sense of intimacy that
radio involves. Without the visual element that you have on
television, it's the person's voice, and your trust in that person's
voice, and your relationship with them that carries the program.
Randi Rhodes: Right.
BuzzFlash: So if they're listening, if they're a Randi Rhodes fan --
they're feeling a trust in you and a comfort level with you that
they can follow you on your path and your journey, particularly
because of the nature of your show. And radio is an intimate
Randi Rhodes: It is. Because you're almost always talking to one
person. You know, listening to talk radio is a very solitary
experience. You're alone in your car or you're in your house late
at night. It's a real one-on-one thing. That's why I look at it as
meeting somebody or a conversation with them. But it also has
anonymity. The more public I become, the less I have anonymity, but
I still have some. And people can't see what I'm gesturing to my
producer to do, or when I'm rolling my eyes at a caller, or writing
down something so that I can revisit what they said. They can't see
what you're doing. And you can't see them. And half the time, they
don' use their real name. It's almost like going on an Internet
dating site. You're posting a picture that's thirty years old. It's
all a big surprise when you finally meet.
But with television you're watching with somebody else -- your kids,
your husband, your wife. You watch sports in a group. Radio is a
more solitary thing. But I will say, the power of radio is that it
gets under your skin, it gets in your soul. The power of TV is the
visuals get in your head, and it's the same thing with the
government. People trust TV entirely too much. They think that the
news media is credible, and that they'll never lie, they'll never
distort, they'll never put something on the TV that isn't 100%
untrue, like there's no doubt that Saddam Hussein's reconstituted
nuclear weapons. They just can't believe it would be on TV and be
And I don't get that. I don't know why people aren't more skeptical
of the media that they ingest, whether it's radio or TV. And I'm
always telling people: I know what company I keep on talk radio.
Don't believe a word you hear, including me. Don't believe me. Go
look it up. And I provide the links that I relied on to make that
show. I tell them, you've got homework. If they go to read one
article, read this one.
BuzzFlash: Let's talk about how you handle callers. I would say,
if I can, that you don't suffer fools gladly.
Randi Rhodes: No.
BuzzFlash: Sometimes someone is calling you, and there's a pause.
Are you basically saying, so what's your point?
Randi Rhodes: Like I said, people don't have to show themselves or
use their real names. So sometimes they take the opportunity to
tell me their personal story, or to get caught up in minutia, or to
argue based on somebody else's talking point, or something somebody
said which is wholly untrue. And there are people who get the facts
wrong. As long as they're asking the question -- is this right? --
I have no problem with them. But when they're insisting that
they're right, it drives me crazy. Like I said, I don't think it's
anger as much as frustration.
The other day, I got something wrong, and a woman called me up. In
a very easy-to-follow, easy-to-research manner, she told me how I
was getting it wrong. And I said to her, "I didn't know that. This
is a good day. I learned something." So I don't care if I'm
wrong. I just care when people are wrong and insist that they're
not. I can't take it.
BuzzFlash: How do you end a call?
Randi Rhodes: If I have to hang up on someone, I do it in an
obvious way -- like, no, I will not have this on my show. Or, I
make it clear that you don't start a conversation with an insult,
because you're not going to last very long. I will tell them that
and hang up on them.
Unfortunately, in national radio, there are hard breaks, which means
the computer is going to cut you off, and there is nothing you can
do about it. And it's so specific. It's like at 27 minutes and 40
seconds, you're getting cut off. And it happens again at 57
minutes -- I think 57 minutes and 10 seconds, you're getting cut
off. So sometimes, I have to let somebody go as soon as they finish
their point, and I have to drop the call and finish it up so I can
do a time check or whatever. It's one of the things I don't like
about being on a national feed. You've got to break at certain
times, and everybody has to be on the same page, so there's no
BuzzFlash: I recall a few months ago -- I think this was a day when
some birdbrain proposed that people who are of the Islamic faith go
in separate lines at airports for security. You had two or three
callers who actually supported this idea. And you were becoming
more frustrated and upset with each caller.
Randi Rhodes: Well, what do you want to do? Do you want people to
drop their drawers and see if they're circumcised or not?
BuzzFlash: A woman called in, and she was just as hot as blazing
nails about this. You know -- Randi, I know people who died in 9/11
and so on. And you just kept coming back to the question. Well,
but how would you know? As a practical matter -- we're talking
common sense again. I mean, even if you accepted this very racist
sort of approach, how would you enforce it?
Randi Rhodes: Syrians have red hair and green eyes. Indonesians are
Asian-looking -- and Malaysians, too. It's one of the largest
religions in the world. There are people who think every Muslim is
Arab. It's just not true, and it plays into the stereotype. But,
you know, the Bush Administration is very keen on having your think
that Muslims look the same. I don't get it. I don't understand.
BuzzFlash: And only Muslims are terrorists. And that most of them
Randi Rhodes: How do you know who is and who is not Islamic? Why
do you think that the only terrorists on this planet are Islamic?
Does anybody in America know about Northern Ireland?
BuzzFlash: The feeling that I get in listening to a call like that,
the one that I'm recalling, is that this woman just believed they're
going to kill all of us. She was just a totally unhinged. When
people have a real strong opinion, and they're kind of slugging it
out, how are you feeling in a moment like that?
Randi Rhodes: Frustrated. The frustration with a call like that
is, how can you possibly have lived through 9/11 and still be so
ignorant? How can you just sit there and think that there's no
reason that we were attacked, but that they hate us for our
freedoms? Does anybody realize the kind of crap we pulled in the
Arab countries? Does anybody understand what's happened in our
I mean, when 15 hijackers were flying into the World Trade Center,
we weren't in Iraq. We were in Saudi Arabia. I don't understand how
people don't think -- they hear a sound bite, and it sounds good
enough for them. We're talking about the largest attack on American
soil since the Civil War -- to me, not knowing the facts is just a
BuzzFlash: Let me ask how your service in the military, which you
occasionally speak about, reflects or relates to your empathy for
what is happening to our service people in Iraq, and how the Bush
Administration is betraying them by under equipping them,
Randi Rhodes: Well, I never fought. I wasn't asked to fight. I
was a woman and in the Air Force. We're not usually ground-
pounders. So it's limited. I can't speak for everyone who joins the
military, but I can speak for a lot of people that joined. People
like me join because there was no future. There was no college
ahead. There was no great job. In my case, my father said, "You
know, you're smart and you're not pretty. Men don't like that.
You're not going to marry well. You need to get a job."
And women's jobs -- it was secretarial work. That was all I could
get. So I drove over to Fort Hamilton and signed up for the Air
Force. I thought, if I have to go to war, I'll be in an airplane.
I'll probably be taking the dead people out -- that kind of thing.
So I understand why some people enlist. I understand why they join,
and why they're willing to surrender their civil rights -- because
you do. You literally surrender your civil rights. You can't
question authority. You will wear the same clothes. Your buttons
will all be in a row. You will make your bed, and get dressed, and
be downstairs in two minutes flat. You will stand at attention.
You'll salute garbage cans. I understand what it is to be
brainwashed. I understood I was being brainwashed.
I understood why I was being brainwashed, which most people don't.
But I understood that I had to fold my t-shirts in little four-inch
squares because, God forbid, one day I had to pack a parachute, I'd
have to really be a good folder. I understood it was paying
attention to detail. I understood that you were only as good as the
weakest among you because that person could get you killed. I
understood why I was going through it, and what they were trying to
But I also understood that the reason why the American military is
the proudest and the most fierce fighting force on the planet is
because we feel like we're doing a legitimate job for a legitimate
government. When you look at why the Iraqis won't fight, they don't
feel like they're legitimate, and they don't feel they're fighting
for a legitimate government. So it helps me understand the
problems. It helps me understand the underfunding of the troops --
that they're not giving them the best equipment in the world.
They're not giving them what they need to do their job. I
understand because I was in the Air Force. And if they give you a
sick plane, you could die. If the plane wasn't fixed by a mechanic
who knew what he was doing, you could die. When they are giving
them substandard vehicles -- they're dying. So I have insight into
it in that way.
BuzzFlash: You've expressed on your show the sense of betrayal.
Randi Rhodes: Oh, there's insidious betrayal. Plus, I can't
imagine being on foreign soil making thirteen hundred dollars a
month, with a family at home, car payments and house payments and
the whole nine yards, and serving next to a guy who's getting eighty
grand to pump gas. In my military experience, that can't happen.
You don't serve alongside somebody who's making eighty grand to put
the gas in the vehicle. I put the gas in the plane. I put the jet
fuel in the plane. I put the oxygen in the airplane. I can't
imagine having to serve with somebody who is making a fricking
fortune and is on the payroll of the company, not the country. That
screws up the entire camaraderie, the entire feeling that you are a
legitimate fighting force. All of a sudden, you see it's for profit,
and you don't feel legitimate anymore.
BuzzFlash: Well, it is, to a great extent, a war for profit. Much
of the hundreds of billions has gone to the private contractors.
Randi Rhodes: When people of good faith and common sense call me
and say why don't we cut off the money for the contractors, they're
absolutely right. I went up to the Senate -- I get to talk to the
senators every once in awhile privately -- just the Democrats and
me -- or a couple talk-show hosts and the Democrats only. And I
posed this question: Why don't you just cut off the money to the
contractors? This war will end tomorrow. The President will stop
it tomorrow if there's no profit in it. And you get this look, like
you don't understand how politics works. This is why they don't
want to come on my show, too.
Because if I interview -- like today, there's a canned interview
with John Kerry. I was trying to be nonconfrontational, because I
was under orders not to be confrontational with these canned
interviews, which really just blew my mind. So I asked him in a
nonconfrontational way: What regrets do you have from the 2004
election. I was thinking and hoping that, with all this information
about the U.S. attorneys and that it was all for election rigging,
and to make sure swing states swung in the right direction, you
know, he would have an opinion. When I asked him that, he said, "I
don't look backwards. I only look forward." And you can hear that
I wanted to start something,, but I was in the room with somebody
who was like shaking their head no -- don't go there. It really
cast a shadow over this what I do and what I do best.
I understand that that limits my access to senators. But why do I
want to waste my listeners' time with a senator -- and it's
typically the senators, not the congressmen -- the House is much
more open and honest and upfront. I can only conclude it's because
they don't need as much money to run as senators do. But they don't
want to talk about anything, so why do I want to waste my time
talking to them? I'd rather not waste my listeners' time with
interviewing somebody who's going to talk in sound bites.
He literally says to me, "I don't look backwards. I look forwards.
I'm thinking today about global warming and this war in Iraq." And
I'm like: this is bulls**t, you know? If you don't look at 2004,
it's going to happen in 2008. I don't get it. I mean, I do get
it. I understand what that is. But why do we let them get away
with it? Why are the people who are in control of interviewing
these politicians agreeing to these ground rules? They say, oh, she
won't be confrontational with you -- she's not going to press you.
What the hell's that?
BuzzFlash: You occasionally have a mutual colleague who we also
love, Greg Palast, on your show. What do you find so interesting
about Greg? We certainly find him to be invaluable.
Randi Rhodes: I love him that he doesn't stay in the Beltway. He
does not stay there. He lives in New York. He's a BBC reporter.
When I first talked to him, it was years ago. It was probably when
I first talked to you. It was like right around 2000, after the
election. Greg was the only guy who knew what happened to us in
I voted in Palm Beach County, and I remember that day. I'll never
forget that day. I went and I voted. I came back, and was a known,
trusted person in the community. I came back and the first thing I
said was something's wrong. I had trouble voting today. What the
hell were those punch cards? I couldn't figure out who I voted
for. The phone lines lit up like a Christmas tree, one after the
other, after the other. And then the voters spoke up -- the people
who were suppressed from voting. And then the stories about they
never got the registration card. And the stories about the
polling ... And I didn't understand the story. It was a big, big,
huge, detailed multi-faceted voter suppression story that had so
many angles. They thought of everything.
And I just remember the weeks leading up to the actual vote -- the
news media said it's all going to come down to Palm Beach County. I
kept thinking: Why Palm Beach County? I knew I was in a special
place, but I didn't know why. And then I went and voted. So then I
called the first person. I called Joe Lieberman's office, because I
had interviewed his wife Hadassah. I was at a level of broadcasting
where you didn't get to talk to the candidates, but you could talk
to their wives, grudgingly. Hadassah was on my show complaining
about the Port-A-Potties on the campaign trail. She hated them.
And she hated campaigning, and she hated the bus, and she hated the
Port-A-Potties. And so I had their number. My producer had their
number, and it was a cell phone. So I said, get me Joe Lieberman.
Call his wife, because we have her cell phone. And get me Joe
Lieberman now, because they're about to lose this election, and it's
going to be for nefarious reasons.
I get him on the air and he says, "Oh, it's all going to be fine.
Everything's fine." And of course, it wasn't fine. And at one
o'clock in the morning they switched who got what. And it was just
so bizarre. And I couldn't figure out the story. I tried and tried
and tried. And I looked everywhere. And I became a Florida State
election law maven. And I thought, you know, the contest period,
and the protest period -- and then I came across Palast on the BBC
because I was reading BuzzFlash.
I found him. I called him up. I talked to him. And he told
me, "You don't know what happened to you?" And I said no. And he
started telling me what happened. I put him on the air. And I
remember the first time I ever heard his voice -- I thought he'd be
British like everybody there, right? He said, no, I have to come
here [to Britain] to report the truth. [Palast now lives in New
York.] And I realized we are in for a really strange time. This
Bush Administration thing is going to be a really strange time. So
he was my lifeline. He was like my umbilical cord, really. He kept
me breathing. He says he had information that no American hears.
BuzzFlash: And he's a statistician from the University of Chicago
by background, so I'm sure you've seen his laptop presentation.
Randi Rhodes: He is a shameless self-promoter. I wish I had half
of what he's got. I don't know how he does it. He's a great public
speaker, and I get stage fright. I really, really freeze. My brain
locks up when I have to look at people. It's funny. He says to me,
you talk to millions of people every day, which still to me is just
amazing. I can't even process that, so I don't think of it like
BuzzFlash: When you're sitting there, doing the program, and light
goes on. You have your cue to begin. Who are you talking to in
Randi Rhodes: Well, I'm actually talking to the control room, you
know? So I get my reaction from them. I'm actually talking to a
person. For all these years, I've been talking to whoever is sitting
in that producer chair. I can actually see if they're laughing. I
can get real-time reaction from a real human being. It's not like I
have to sit there and rely on my sick fantasy, because I'd probably
be talking to some ultimate dungeon master.
BuzzFlash: Randi, thanks so much.
Randi Rhodes: And here's part of this cool story that I wanted to
Randi Rhodes: I was at a big, big New York AIDS walk. I mean it's
huge. There's hundreds of thousands of people. And so I'm out
there at a table with no banner, by the way. When I would say, I'm
from Air America, they go: Oh, my God, you're Randi. And I was
hunched over a table because they forgot to bring me a chair. So
I'm sitting at the card table signing autographs, and trying to do
it as fast as possible because the line was long. But people always
want to know what do you read? What do you read? How do you do
I can't tell you how many people I talked to said: I love
BuzzFlash -- first thing I do in the morning is I go to BuzzFlash.
It was amazing because, you know, there's a lot of competition now.
And when you first started, you were uniquely available. It was
just like this little tiny piece of diamond in the middle of the
sand. There was something there that you could get -- a compilation
of news from every newspaper. I loved BuzzFlash. Every day, I use
it. But I was stunned because I can't tell you how many people said
BuzzFlash to me -- so you should be really excited.
BuzzFlash: Thank you, Randi.
* * *
BuzzFlash Interview conducted by Mark Karlin.