'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 18th, 2010; 11 pm show
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Guest: Doug Heye, Thad Allen, Sen. Barbara Boxer>
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Are you having those like
election night sweats that I‘m having?
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Yes, but I‘ve got a topical that I
can use for that. It‘s available without a prescription.
MADDOW: I‘m like flashing back to primary season in 2008 and being on
with you guys and everything. I‘m just—I‘m vibrating off my seat at a
height of about six inches.
OLBERMANN: You‘re getting into Matthews territory here. Maybe you
just—just want to calm down a bit.
MADDOW: I appreciate that. Yes. Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: See you later.
MADDOW: See you later.
We do begin tonight with Decision 2010 -- primary night in
Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oregon.
In a massive upset in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania—Senator
Arlen Specter who has been in the United States Senate for 30 years since
1980, who left the Republican Party explicitly because he said he could not
win another Pennsylvania Republican primary has now lost a Pennsylvania
Democratic primary. He will lose his seat in the U.S. Senate.
The Democrat running for that seat in the fall will be congressman and
retired admiral, Joe Sestak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It‘s been a great privilege to
serve the people of Pennsylvania. It‘s been a great privilege to be in the
United States Senate. Thank you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Moments ago, the man who beat Senator Specter, Congressman
Joe Sestak, declared his victory to be a victory over the establishment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL NOMINEE: This is what
democracy looks like.
SESTAK: A win for the people, over the establishment, over the status
quo, even over Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: With 89 percent of precincts reporting, Congressman Sestak
pulling in 54 percent of the vote compared to Senator Specter‘s 46 percent
of the vote. Joe Sestak will be facing Pat Toomey in November. Pat Toomey
handily won the Republican primary in Pennsylvania tonight.
Also in Pennsylvania, more big news: the Democrat in the race has won
the special House election—election not primary—for Pennsylvania‘s
12th congressional district. Now, this is the district previously
represented by the late Congressman Jack Murtha. Democrat Mark Critz
elected to do that seat despite the district having gone for John McCain
over Barack Obama in 2008. Even as the entire state of Pennsylvania went
the other way—and despite the National Republican Congressional
Committee dumping on the order of $1 million into the race to support their
candidate, Republican Tim Burns.
Over to Kentucky, Rand Paul has won the Republican primarily for
retiring Senator Jim Bunning‘s seat. Rand Paul is, of course, the son of
Congressman Ron Paul. He ran with plenty of support from the movement that
supports his father nationwide, as well as from the tea party movement.
Right now, in Kentucky, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, Rand Paul
has a big 59 percent of the vote while the Republican establishment choice,
Kentucky secretary of state, Trey Grayson, has 35 percent of the vote.
In the Democratic primarily for that Senate seat in Kentucky, it has
been a fascinating race. The “Associated Press” is now projecting that
state Attorney General Jack Conway has beaten lieutenant governor and
former Senate candidate, Daniel Mongiardo. With 99 percent of precincts
reporting in Kentucky, we‘re looking at 44 percent of the vote for Jack
Conway to 43 percent of the vote for Daniel Mongiardo.
Mr. Conway is considered to be marginally the more progressive of the
two candidates; also the candidate with more support from the Democratic
establishment in Washington. He will face off against Rand Paul in
November. And that is instantly one of the most fascinating races to watch
Over to Arkansas—incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln has
encountered sturdy opposition to her re-nomination from the Democratic
lieutenant governor of Arkansas, Bill Halter. In Arkansas right now, with
just 42 percent of precincts reporting, we are looking at a very close
race, Blanche Lincoln with 44 percent of the vote, Bill Halter with 42
percent of the vote.
But keep in mind, again, a majority of precincts not yet reporting in
Arkansas. We will be watching that as it unfolds. It‘s all very exciting.
So far, no precise measurements of turnout in these races. That often
doesn‘t happen on election night, but when we get solid turnout numbers,
those may be the best bellwether of each party‘s chances for the November
But I got to say, these races from Arkansas to Kentucky to
Pennsylvania—admit it, they‘re fascinating on their own terms even if
they signify nothing larger than themselves.
Joining us now from Philadelphia, NBC News correspondent and
Pennsylvania news veteran, Andrea Mitchell, host of “ANDREA MITCHELL
REPORTS” which airs on MSNBC every weekday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
Andrea, thanks very much for being here again.
ANDREA MITCHELL, “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS” HOST: Thank you. My
pleasure. What a race.
MADDOW: How—it is an amazing race—how much of an upset is this,
this Arlen Specter/Joe Sestak result? Arlen Specter, obviously, in the
Senate for 30 years—but in Pennsylvania right now, how big of a surprise
does this feel like?
MITCHELL: It isn‘t that big of a surprise, because we saw this
coming, we saw how close this was, how—it was really difficult for
Democrats to accept Arlen Specter as a Democrat. There was a lot of
finger-pointing going on. White House officials here now are saying that
Joe Biden would have been here for him, and did everything that they asked,
did a lot of radio, did a lot of phone calls for him, would have campaigned
if they had asked.
Others in the Democratic Party structure in Philadelphia, and in the
state say that if the White House let them down, particularly the
president, not so much Joe Biden who, of course, is long known as the third
senator from Pennsylvania because of his proximity in Wilmington and his
roots in Scranton. That said, he was a longtime friend of Arlen Specter,
and they couldn‘t pull him over the edge and they couldn‘t pull him over
He was a converted Democrat, and Rachel, the campaign advertisements
were terribly effective. Ironically, the same political consulting firm
that would long done—has long—has always been with Ed Rendell, the
governor who tried so hard to get Arlen Specter reelected, re-nominated so
he could compete in the fall, that same firm did those devastating
advertisements for Joe Sestak, the same firm that twice elected him to
Congress. So, they weren‘t new to him, but the fact is they portrayed
Arlen Specter as a turncoat, as a George W. Bush Republican.
He argued as recently as today, that they distorted his actual voting
record, and even though Ed Rendell tried to tell everyone who could listen
and so did Mayor Nutter, that Democratic mayor of Philadelphia, that
Specter had delivered over and over again for Democrats when they were
mayors and when they were governors that he never said no to anything, even
as a Republican, that the Democrats wanted for this city and for this
state, that was not persuasive. It really is a verdict, an indictment of
what party bosses, leaders from the White House on down can do.
People are angry. They‘re frustrated. They‘re scared and they‘re not
going to listen to people. They‘re going to vote their own instincts, even
when they did not know very much outside his own district, about Joe
Sestak. He presented himself in a positive way.
And I think a real game changer was also the Specter campaign‘s false
move, I think, a poorly thought out move to do a negative ad against Sestak
about his military record. That‘s just did not go over well.
MADDOW: Andrea, let me interject with some news that we just received
from Arkansas. We‘re just being told that essentially there‘s a big mixed
message here. Blanche Lincoln has won in the Democratic Senate primary in
Arkansas, but she has not crossed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid
a runoff with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. Right now with 43 percent
of precincts reporting, we‘re looking at a 44 percent-42 percent split with
Lincoln ahead of Halter.
But, again, what we‘re able to say is that it is looking like this is
going to a runoff election. Results at this point—I should be specific
are inconclusive at this point about this full-out win, but it looks
like there will be a runoff in Arkansas in that Democratic primary.
Back to the issue of Pennsylvania. We‘ll be talking about those
Arkansas results with Chuck Todd in just a moment.
Andrea, you talked about a little bit about the White House response,
some finger-pointing going on between forces in Pennsylvania and forces in
D.C. in terms of who did what and whether or not all the things that were
requested were actually delivered. Do you sense that the White House is
worried about its ability to deliver political help to endanger Democrats
MITCHELL: Well, they ought to be if they‘re not. And, in fact, we
looked at the results in Massachusetts, the results here. The bottom line
is that at 5:00 tonight, Chuck Todd, and we are going to talk to in a
minute, was on the air on “HARDBALL,” which is widely watched here in
Pennsylvania. It‘s widely watched, of course, across the country, but
Chris Matthews has a very special role to play in Pennsylvania.
And what Chuck was reporting is that the White House really was
washing its hands of Specter and was feeling that Sestak could be more
competitive against Toomey. Chuck can speak for himself to what his
information was from the White House, but we were hearing this for days
that from the Obama team in the White House—not from the vice president
but from the president‘s team of political advisers inside the White
House, that they thought that Sestak was a more competitive candidate and
that, in fact—they were telling people here, don‘t expect the president
to come back in and do some Hail Mary pass for Arlen Specter, which most
people here think might have been effective, might have turned up the vote
here in Philadelphia because he did not get a big enough margin in
Philadelphia to overcome the deficit in the rest of the state.
So, the popularity of Barack Obama, who is popular with Pennsylvania
voters, just did not translate. The endorsement didn‘t work and there is
going to be a lot of finger-pointing here, because this team is going to be
behind Sestak. They‘re going to go up against Toomey, and Sestak has said
he will, you know, work—rather Specter has said he will work against
Toomey for Sestak, because Toomey is such a conservative Republican and
would not be good in Specter‘s mind for the people of this state.
That said, this party is going to have a rough time coming together,
because there‘s a lot of bad blood here in Pennsylvania.
MADDOW: NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, joining us live from Philadelphia—
lemon, honey, and hot water would be my only advice here from New York.
Take care of that voice and thank you, Andrea.
MITCHELL: Thank you, Dr. Maddow.
MADDOW: Not that kind of doctor.
OK. Still ahead: our Decision 2010 coverage continues with the latest
from the Kentucky primary and the man who announced his candidacy on this
show, Rand Paul.
Also, we‘ll be talking about those results we have just had in from
Arkansas. It looks like it will be a runoff between incumbent Democratic
Senator Blanche Lincoln and her challenger, the Democratic lieutenant
governor of Arkansas, Bill Halter.
NBC and MSNBC political director, Chuck Todd, joins us next. Please
stay with us.
MADDOW: So, is the Rand Paul revolution part of the Ron Paul
revolution? If so, are national Republicans going to be as hostile to Ron
Paul‘s son as they have been to Ron Paul himself and his legions of
supporters? Rand Paul is the Republican Senate candidate now for the great
state of Mitch McConnell‘s Kentucky. Everybody freak out!
Chuck Todd joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RAND PAUL ®, WINNDER, KY SENATE PRIMARY: The tea party movement
is huge. The mandate of our victory tonight is huge. What you have done
and what we are doing can transform America. I think—I think America‘s
greatness hinges on us doing something to save the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That, of course, is Rand Paul, son of Texas Congressman Ron
Paul, declaring victory for both himself and for the tea party movement
which he describes as huge, after his win in the Kentucky Republican Senate
Joining us now for more on that race and the rest of tonight‘s very
exciting primaries: NBC and MSNBC political director, Chuck Todd.
Chuck, thanks again for your time.
CHUCK TODD, NBC & MSNBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It‘s primary night. It‘s
MADDOW: It‘s very exciting. I might possibly have been suffering
from a deficit of election news.
TODD: It is. In two weeks, it‘s another big one.
MADDOW: I know.
TODD: This is the biggest primarily night until the next one.
Remember those days?
MADDOW: That‘s exactly right. Well, I might—I‘m worried I‘m going
to build up antibodies with how excited I am tonight, but I‘ll try not to.
Looking at Rand Paul, it‘s hard for me to imagine how the Republican
establishment really closes ranks behind him and support him in November.
They say they‘re going to. Are they going to?
TODD: They have no choice. You know, I‘m scratching my head on a
number of things on this Rand Paul story in this respect. Let‘s just take
Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell. Rand Paul has done something tonight that
Mitch McConnell has never done. Rand Paul got more Republicans to turn out
on a Republican primarily than any Republican in the history of Kentucky.
This is Mitch McConnell, this is the Senate Republican leader, and
this is who Rand Paul essentially defeated. And, you know, you saw a
statement tonight by Jim DeMint, who‘s sort of become very much a king-
maker as far as the tea party movement is concerned and some other folks,
you know, really excited about Rand Paul. And I think you‘re going to
start hearing some whispers about Mitch McConnell, and that‘s on the Senate
And then you got what happened in the special election in Pennsylvania
12th, and you got hand wringing going on among House Republican leadership
going, yes, how did they—how did we blow this, they‘re saying. How is
it that this district, when John Kerry to John McCain, this—President
Obama‘s approval rating in the district according to polls we‘ve seen on
both sides in the 30s in this district—how is it that all of these the
wind at their back and they didn‘t come even that close? It would have
been one thing to lose a close election and say, well, hey, it‘s a Senate
Democratic race in Pennsylvania and that did it.
So, there‘s a lot of potential intra-party feuding that could go on
over the next couple of weeks, recriminations going, what‘s going on,
questioning on the Senate Republican side of Mitch McConnell‘s leadership
and then questioning on some of the House Republican leadership.
MADDOW: When you say there may be questioning of Mitch McConnell‘s
leadership on the Republican Senate side, whispers we‘re hearing now about
Mitch McConnell—do you mean that he may be in trouble in Kentucky in
terms of somebody challenging him or he maybe in trouble in the Capitol
building with another Republican senator challenging him?
TODD: I think he‘s got to—he‘s going to have to be more worried
about what‘s going on here in Washington, because you can look at
legislative strategy. What happened with financial regulatory reform? You
know, it was his strategy to say, you know what, we‘re going to skip the
amendment process and the committee thing. It‘s his political strategy—
we‘re going to go to the floor.
Well, guess what? If whatever their goals were, it ended up being a
bill they like even less, a lot of Republicans in the Senate Republican
Caucus, that‘s coming out of the Senate now than say they would have had
Bob Corker and some other Republicans who wanted to do some amendments in
the committee process.
So, he‘s going to get hit with political strategy, second-guessing
with what happened in Kentucky, and then, now, some legislative strategy
questioning with his leadership in the Senate. It‘s just—it‘s going to
be a tough time to be Mitch McConnell over the next couple weeks.
MADDOW: Chuck, briefly, let me get your take on Arkansas runoff
between Senator Blanche Lincoln and Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.
What‘s the most important takeaway there?
TODD: That the third candidate got double digits. This is not—I
think a lot of—the, quote/unquote, “conventional wisdom” was, look,
Blanche Lincoln is going to come just short. She‘s going to be sitting out
Well, right now, with about half the vote and we‘re seeing the third
candidate is getting double digits, you know, there‘s a lot of ways to read
that. Maybe he‘s the de facto none of the above. Maybe he didn‘t like all
the attack ads.
Whatever you want to say, this could be a much more of a really toss-
up and a coin flip come June 8th than say some of the Washington Democrats
are trying to spin about Blanche Lincoln. And it‘s going to encourage
Now, there‘s a lot of fighting inside the Democratic Party saying, you
know, is this really worth $5 million, $6 million of labor spending all
this money, to beat up another—you know, two Democrats beating each
other up, all of this money being spent on a seat that hey might not be
able to hold in the fall no matter which one of those Democrats gets the
MADDOW: NBC and MSNBC political director, Chuck Todd—thank you
very much for joining us tonight, Chuck, and for talking me down
TODD: All right.
MADDOW: See you soon.
So, were tonight‘s results a bellwether for Republicans running this
fall? A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee—finally—
joins us live, next, as our Decision 2010 coverage continues.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Coming in to today‘s primary races, most of the focus of the
national media was centered on the Democrats, mostly the Senate race in
Pennsylvania between Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak now won by Joe Sestak.
But it‘s not like stuff was boring on the Republican side. In
Kentucky‘s Republican Senate primary, Rand Paul, son of Republican
Congressman Ron Paul, easily defeated his main opponent, Trey Grayson, who
Senate minority leader, former Vice President Cheney, and who the Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the Republican Party establishment all
had lined up behind.
Then there was the Republican House primary in Kentucky‘s 3rd
district. The Republican Party establishment pick in that race was a
gentleman named Jeff Reetz. He was endorsed by the National Republican
In that race, Mr. Reetz not only didn‘t win, he wasn‘t even the
runner-up. He finished a distant third. What happened there?
But perhaps the most important result of the night for the Republican
Party was the race to fill the seat of the late Democratic Congressman Jack
Murtha in Pennsylvania. This is a seat that Republicans thought they could
pick up tonight. And they spent a lot of money trying to do so, but within
the last hour, that race was called for the Democrat in the race, Mark
A failure acknowledged by the defeated GOP candidate, Tim Burns, just
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM BURNS ®, PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is a
failure, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned here, OK? There are
a lot of lessons to be learned here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is a spokesman for the Republican National
Committee, Doug Heye.
Mr. Heye, thanks very much for joining us. Really looking forward to
having the chance to talk to you.
DOUG HEYE, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Absolutely. Thank you for
MADDOW: So, when Tim Burns said tonight there are lessons to be
learned from that Pennsylvania 12th race won by the Democrat tonight, do
you think he‘s right? Do you think there are obvious lessons there?
HEYE: I think win or lose on any election, there are lessons to be
learned. And, you know, one of things we learned was the real structural
advantage the Republicans had. And you have to tip your hat or I would
have to tip my hat if I were wearing one, to Ed Rendell, who‘s very smart
of him to schedule the special election on the same day as the Democratic
primary in the Senate and governor‘s race. You know, when Monty Hall
chooses, you know, what‘s behind curtain number three, it‘s because he
knows what‘s behind curtain three.
And Ed Rendell certainly knew what the turnout that would happen for
Democrats today, and I think it was a smart move politically for him, but
we‘ll be in this fight again in November. And I think our chances are
really good there.
MADDOW: Now, this loss in Pennsylvania is the seventh straight
competitive special House race that Republicans have lost since 2008. And
it can‘t all be blamed on Ed Rendell, although it would be fun to try to do
that, especially in person with him.
Are you concerned about House Republicans overall in their momentum
heading into November?
HEYE: No, not at all. You know, we got a special election in Hawaii.
That‘s coming up this weekend, with Charles Djou, who‘s a really strong
candidate, and, you know, it‘s not just House races. We got Senate races
and we got Senate special election.
Obviously, all of America knows who Scott Brown is because of his
amazing come from behind election in Massachusetts, which was a special
MADDOW: Scott Brown‘s endorsement is not doing any help, though, in
Pennsylvania 12th today. That said, though, a lot of excitement on the
Republican side for the Rand Paul win, just because, if for no other reason
that it was a decisive win in the Kentucky Senate primarily.
Now, I know there‘s a lot—everybody has been having this discussion
about Republican establishment versus the sort of tea party and Ron Paul
Movement-supported candidacy there, but I want to ask you about the
possibility of the Republican establishment really coming together behind
Rand Paul for the fall. It‘s hard for me to imagine that, because I feel
like I‘ve seen so much friction between the Republican Party and the Ron
Paul Movement in the past.
HEYE: Well, I can tell you, being at the RNC, there‘s no friction
with us with Ron Paul and his supporters. You know, we got a choice as a
party—we either grow or we die. And, really, Kentucky shows us a good
opportunity there with the decisive victory.
And I know I can‘t speak for Senator McConnell, but I know he wants to
win in November. And my guess is you‘ll see Senator McConnell and Rand
Paul at some kind of unity event in the next few days to emphasize that
they are campaigning together, and that this is a seat that we can win.
And one thing that really has been ignored over the past few weeks as
the Democrats really had that tough primary in Kentucky, is that Rand Paul
polled against both of them, whether it was Mongiardo or Jack Tough from
the old YouTube, Jack Conway, that he‘s polled ahead of them.
And so, he‘s in a strong position to win. Our party is enthusiastic.
And whether you talk about Pennsylvania, Kentucky or Arkansas, or even my
home state of North Carolina, Democrats are divided. They have runoffs and
primaries that just get right down the middle. And that‘s not good a
position for them to be in.
MADDOW: What was—what was the name that you just called Jack
HEYE: Jack Tough. If you go to YouTube and look up Jack Conway, Jack
Tough, somebody put out a pretty good web ad out there that I think your
viewers would probably enjoy. I know I sure did.
MADDOW: Are you endorsing that for the RNC?
HEYE: It‘s not ours. I‘d love to know who did it because I thought
it was funny. And, you know, there were a lot of these—Lee Fisher just
had one of these videos come out that I think your network showed pretty
strongly. But Jack Tough is a good one that people should see.
MADDOW: You are the communications director for the RNC using that
nickname against him repeatedly on TV. I give you one last chance to
disown it, if you want to.
HEYE: No. I‘m not disowning anything.
MADDOW: All right.
HEYE: It‘s a good web ad, and we think people should see it.
But I‘ll tell you one thing that I think is really important, and you
were mentioning this with Andrea earlier. We saw the White House really go
out of their way in the last day or two to distance themselves and really
trash Arlen Specter‘s campaign.
And as a Yankees fan, I‘ll tell you, it was deja vu all over again for
me. We saw them do it with Martha Coakley. We saw them do it to Craig
Deeds in Virginia. We saw them do it in New Jersey with Jon Corzine.
You know, in Washington, you sometimes say that the most dangerous
place to be is between a politician and a camera. But really, it appears
that it might be between Barack Obama and a bus if you‘re a Democrat
because he‘ll throw you under that bus if you‘re losing. And that sends a
strong message to candidates and their donors.
MADDOW: Well, linking about the splits between the parties. I think
everybody‘s looking forward to seeing what happens between Rand Paul and
Mitch McConnell. If there is going to be a unity event, I will owe you—
sometime in the next couple of days, I will owe you a beer and look forward
to buying it for you in person, Doug.
MADDOW: Thank you very much for your time.
HEYE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Doug Heye is communications director for the Republican
National Committee. We finally got somebody from the RNC to come on the
Still ahead, more election results. But first, “The Interview.” The
man in charges of the government‘s response to the BP oil disaster in the
gulf, U.S. Coast Guard commandant—commandant, excuse me—Admiral Thad
Allen, will be joining us. We‘ll be talking about whether or not the
pictures that we have just started to see today, like this, of oil coming
ashore, are the first of many pictures like this, or whether there is an
end in sight. Please do stay with us. This is a remarkable interview.
MADDOW: The man overseeing the government‘s response to the BP oil
disaster, Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, has called this, quote,
“the hardest problem I‘ve had to face.” Coming from anybody else, that
would not raise an eyebrow. Coming from him, given what he‘s faced in the
past, eyebrows raised.
Joining is now is Admiral Thad Allen, the commandant of the U.S. Coast
Guard. He is Best known nationally for having taken over responsibility
for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina after the initial response
Admiral Allen, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir.
ADM. THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: The images that we saw from South Pass today of oil on
marshland, pretty hard to stomach. Do you expect that more oil will make
landfall any time soon?
ALLEN: Rachel, I think it‘s likely. One of the difficult things
about the spill is it‘s not a large, monolithic spill. The oil has come to
the surface. Sometimes it‘s been treated with dispersants or in situ
burning or was mechanically recovered by skimmers. So rather than having a
very large, homogeneous spill, what we have is a very large perimeter with
concentrations of oil. That‘s bad in that it‘s a wide perimeter. It may
be good in that when it comes ashore, it‘s coming ashore in much smaller
quantities than a large spill would represent.
MADDOW: I know that BP is responsible for the spill in the first
instance, but you are the National Incident Commander for the federal
government here. You‘re overseeing the federal government‘s response and
BP‘s response. Do you feel like there is more that could be done that
hasn‘t been done? Are there any other resources or techniques that would
have a reasonable chance of containing this thing that haven‘t been tried
ALLEN: Well, I kind of divide the problem into two parts, Rachel.
The oil on the surface is something we know how to deal with and we‘ve done
before. There‘ve been a massive amount of resources that have been
gathered to deal with that. And they extend from central southwest
Louisiana all the way around now to Pensacola, Florida, and our planning is
extending clear down to Key West, as you noted earlier.
The other issue is the source of the discharge. That‘s what makes
this spill very, very unique. There‘s no human access at the point of
discharge. Everything we know comes back through remotely operated
vehicles and remote sensing. It‘s two-dimensional. Therefore, things like
trying to establish the flow rate become problematic. That doesn‘t mean we
can‘t or shouldn‘t do it, it just means it‘s a very different operating
environment from what—anything we‘ve dealt before in spill response.
MADDOW: In terms of that flow rate, there has been some controversy
as scientists have said that there is—there may be more that could be
done to determine how much oil is leaking every day. BP has resisted
trying to put too many resources toward that, saying it wouldn‘t make that
big of a difference in terms of the response, anyway. It would essentially
be a distraction. What‘s your view about how important it is to understand
how much oil we‘re dealing with quantitatively?
ALLEN: Well, again, I think it‘s important to make a distinction
between the flow rate as it relates to the response and the need to
understand the flow rate and the overall magnitude of the spill. We
mobilized far more resources than the flow rate would indicate right now
because we are prepared for a worst-case discharge. So in that case, the
flow rate is not consequential to the amount of resources we‘ve mustered or
However, in the long run, we start looking at natural resource damage
assessments, long-term impacts. We need to know how much total oil has
been discharged. And to do that, we have to have a better way of
understanding what is coming out through those leaks. To that end, we‘ve
actually established a technical group with a peer review that‘s going on
right now. I‘ve been consulting with Lisa Jackson and Jane Lopinko (ph),
other members of the administration, and we‘re bringing all best minds to
bear on how we can get a better estimate of what‘s coming out of those
MADDOW: When you were first appointed national incident commander
here, sir, you estimated the capping process, shutting down the point of
origin of the spill, would maybe take 45 to 90 days. You said that about
two weeks ago. Do you think that‘s an appropriate estimate? You think
that‘s what we‘re looking at in terms of getting that thing capped?
ALLEN: Yes, I believe the target date that‘s been established by P
(ph) is the 14th of August. And they have what they call a depth-to-time
chart where they plan out where they need to be to at a certain time to
meet that milestone. And right now, they are on target with their depth-
to-time chart. They are taking a pause right now because they have to
build casing on the way down to support the pipe before they go through
another section, and they‘re just below 4,000 feet below the sea floor
right now. But as they get further down, it becomes more difficult due to
the rock formations. But so far, against their timeline, they‘re on
MADDOW: In terms of the overall responsibility here and the direction
of the response, if BP wasn‘t doing something that you thought could
improve the situation—I‘m not accusing them of doing that, but if that
were the case, could you compel them to do it?
ALLEN: That‘s a great question, Rachel, and the answer is yes. Under
the law, the federal on-scene coordinator—in this case, it‘s Rear
Admiral Mary Landry, who runs the area unified command down in Robert,
Louisiana, who reports directly to me. We have the authority to direct BP
to provide information. That is how the video was released today that you
MADDOW: Have you had any other issues of conflict with BP that you
can tell us about in terms of things that you‘d like them to do that
they‘ve been reluctant to do?
ALLEN: I think there‘s generally concurrence on the large-scale
issues. I think sometimes, the logistics of moving boats around—there‘s
so much activity going on on the surface and on the bottom with remotely-
operated vehicles, trying to get everybody cued up and do what you need to
do simultaneously has presented some logistics challenges. And I think
we‘ve had to kind of centralize our approach to boom acquisition. I‘d say
other than those two things, which are more coordination challenges, on the
big issues, they‘ve been responsive.
MADDOW: Admiral Allen, your presence here and your role here is
something that has inspired a lot of confidence in a lot of Americans,
mostly because of what—we know the confidence that our leaders have put
you in you both after Hurricane Katrina and in this instance. I also know
that you are due to retire as commandant of the Coast Guard a week from
today, on May 25th. Are you planning on continuing your role in this
relief effort, even after the date which you‘re supposed to be able to
finally take a rest?
ALLEN: Well, Rachel, the 25th of May is actually the change of
command date for the commandant of the Coast Guard, and I‘ll be relieved as
commandant by Admiral Robert Papp (ph). My actual retirement date is 1
July because I was going to take leave. But that‘s under active discussion
right now, and I serve at the pleasure of the president and the secretary.
MADDOW: Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, thank
you for your service. Thank you for joining us tonight, sir. And best of
luck. We‘re all counting on you.
ALLEN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
As crude oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and tar balls
start washing up on Florida beaches, guess who‘s stepping up now to make
sure that oil companies don‘t have to pay too much in terms of their legal
liability for this disaster? It‘s the same senator who called global
warming the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.
Joining us to talk oil culpability and the inimitable James Mountain
(ph) Inhofe is California senator Barbara Boxer. She‘s with us next.
Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: Imagine you‘re a shareholder in the giant oil drilling
company Transocean. Say it‘s April 19th. Transocean‘s the largest
offshore drilling company in the world. It‘s turning out billions of
dollars in profits every year. They‘ve just finished drilling this gold
mine of an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Happy days for Transocean
shareholders as of about April 19th, right? Then April 20th happens.
Transocean‘s $650 million Deepwater Horizon oil rig explodes. Eleven rig
workers are killed. Two days later, the rig sinks to the bottom of the
Gulf of Mexico with the well still spewing oil out of control.
Not good times to be a shareholder now, right? Actually, not right.
On Friday, this past Friday, Transocean held its annual shareholders
meeting in their corporate tax haven in Switzerland. You might remember we
fake-moved our show to Switzerland for the occasion. After that meeting
was over, Transocean made this announcement, an update for its
shareholders. Quote, “Shareholders authorized the board of directors to
make a cash distribution to shareholders of approximately $1.0 billion U.S.
dollars -- $1 billion to Transocean shareholders. Happy days indeed.
That was this past Friday, 22 days after the Deepwater Horizon rig
sunk. As Transocean is busy handing out a billion dollars to its
shareholders in the wake of this enormous disaster, the company has
simultaneously been in court in Texas, arguing that its liability for the
disaster should be limited to $27 million. They need more cash to hand out
to the shareholders.
In Washington, Congress and the administration are still trying to
figure out, A, how this disaster happened, and B, how to make sure the
companies involved are not able to wiggle out of their responsibilities in
dealing with it. On the “How did it happen” front, today Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar testified before the Senate for the first time since
that April 20th rig explosion. It was the Interior Department‘s Minerals
Management Service, the MMS, that was supposed to be overseeing the
drilling. Secretary Salazar acknowledged today that MMS apparently was not
up to the task of doing that regulating, of making sure that all of the
rig‘s safety systems were working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Do you believe that Minerals Management
has adequately regulated blow-out preventers?
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: No. The answer is no. I don‘t—I
think that there is additional work that should have been done with respect
to blow-out prevention mechanisms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Obama administration now taking steps to break up the
Minerals Management Service, something that maybe should have happened a
long time ago, like, I don‘t know, maybe when the whole MMS oil industry
regulators shtupping oil industry lobbyists scandal came to light? Maybe
that would have been a good time for the break-up?
In terms of the financial responsibility for the disaster, Democratic
senator Bob Menendez tried to move ahead on legislation that would raise
the financial liability for oil companies when spills happen. It would
raise the cap on their liability from $75 million—that‘s it? -- to $10
billion. Mr. Menendez tried to pass that for a second time today. You
might recall the first time he tried it, it was blocked by Republican
senator Lisa Murkowski. Today, it was blocked by Republican senator James
Inhofe of Oklahoma. Mr. Inhofe‘s reason for objecting? He said that
passing this legislation would give big oil what they want?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: Big oil would love to have these
caps up there so they can shut out all the independents. If you raise the
caps right now precipitously to this height, you‘re going to help the five
big oil companies, including BP.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Big oil wants their liability raised, and if we pass this
legislation, it will prevent little mom-and-pop oil companies from getting
into the biz because, you know, they might be financially responsible for
these spills, and we couldn‘t have that! Taxpayers have to take care of
This is argument is so weird! I‘m sorry! It‘s not all that
professional to note that, but it‘s weird. Mom-and-pop oil companies need
to get in there in order to compete with the big companies, and in order to
keep that room available to the mom-and-pop companies, we have to make sure
if they create giant spills that they don‘t have to pay for them? Really?
That‘s your argument? Really?
Companies that can afford to pay for these spills are companies like,
oh, say BP, and it now looks like the financial burden of this cleanup may
be the least of BP‘s concerns. Yesterday, eight U.S. senators, led by
Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, wrote to the attorney general, asking
him to open a criminal investigation into BP‘s actions. The letter to
Attorney General Holder reads in part, quote, “We request that you review
this matter with respect to civil and criminal laws related to false
statements made by BP to the federal government.”
Joining us is Democratic senator Barbara Boxer of California. She is
chair of the Senate committee on environment and public works. Chairman
Boxer, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
CHAIR: Thank you very much for having me on the show, Rachel.
MADDOW: Senator, what makes you think that BP might have potentially
violated even criminal laws here? What are the false statements that
you‘re worried about?
BOXER: Well, with your permission, I want to be very precise here, so
I have them on this chart.
BOXER: What they said when they applied for the permit to the federal
government was, “In the event of an unanticipated blowout resulting in an
oil spill, it is unlikely to have an impact based on the industry-wide
standards for using proven equipment and technology for such responses.”
So it was very soothing, and they basically said, No problem, we know how
to deal with it.
Then after the spill, listen to what they said. “All of the
techniques being attempted or evaluated to contain the flow of oil on the
seabed involve significant uncertainties because they have not been tested
in these conditions before.”
So it‘s amazing. They were so sure of themselves. And then after the
fact, they admitted they weren‘t ready at all. So it seems to me we‘re
looking at a company that‘s already pled guilty to a couple felonies in the
past, one involving a situation in Texas where people were killed, and
another one in the Arctic. And now it seems to me that they made false
statements, and I think we need to go after that.
MADDOW: When the government received that application for drilling
that described proven equipment and technology, as you just said, for
responding to any disaster...
MADDOW: ... shouldn‘t the government have looked into it and said,
Proven? Is it proven? Drilling at this depth, has it been proven to work
at this depth? Isn‘t this also a disastrous failure on the part of the
Minerals Management Service at the Department of the Interior to have had a
lot of skepticism about that initial application?
BOXER: Oh, I think it‘s a nightmare. And all you have to do is go
back to some of the exposes that some of the press have done on the very
cozy relationship that you‘ve talked about a lot between the Mineral
Management Service and the very companies that they‘re supposed to oversee.
It‘s a nightmare. I mean, there were stories about parties and drugs and
everything else going along with it, that the oil companies were inviting
all of the people that oversaw them to these parties.
Now, it seems to me very clear that we have to separate out the
permitting process from the safety process. It cannot be in the same
agency. And I spoke with—today, when we had Secretary Salazar there,
who is really struggling, trying to get this thing right—he has stated
that there ought to be a separation of those two functions and have a
separate agency for the safety. But he talked about originally putting at
the MMS, the Mineral Management Service. I think it needs to be completely
separate. So we‘ll work together on that, he and I and others.
MADDOW: Should there be permits for deep water drilling at all? I
found myself thinking about this, not only in hearing that second admission
that you just read from BP, talking about how none of the spill response
technologies are proven at this depth, but also looking at Shell Oil
getting their final approval or trying to get their final approval to go
ahead with deep water drilling or—excuse me—with underwater drilling
off Alaska. They‘ve been bragging about how they‘re going to pre-stage one
of those domes that didn‘t work in the gulf in case there‘s a spill up
there. They‘re going to pre-stage a response ship, which wouldn‘t have
helped with what happened in the gulf, and we wouldn‘t know if it would
work in the Arctic.
Should there not just be a moratorium on this until we feel more
confident in the technological response that the industry has been bragging
about until they‘re proven wrong?
BOXER: Rachel, in my mind, it‘s a pretty straightforward call. We
need a pause right now. And not only that, but members of my committee
were saying to the Council on Environmental Quality today, Nancy Suttly
(ph) -- it‘s a very good person there—saying we don‘t even know how many
of these wells are out there right now that got the expedited procedure and
didn‘t have to do detailed environmental reports.
So I think there needs to be a pause in this area. And the truth of
the matter is, what we are putting at risk here is enormous in the Gulf
Coast region, more than 300,000 jobs, Rachel, related to fishing, tourism,
recreation. I can tell you, in my home state, where we have fought hard
for a moratorium—and thank goodness, we have one at the moment—if you
look at the number of jobs created by the oil companies versus the number
of jobs created in the tourism industry, recreation and fishing, there are
so many more in those other areas, rather than the oil companies that it‘s
very clear we need a time out.
Too much is at risk here. And I simply cannot believe some of the
comments that were made today by BP that they already were predicting this
wouldn‘t be a big deal. This is a big deal. Right now, there‘s an area
the size of Pennsylvania that is off-limits for fishing in the gulf. Right
MADDOW: Democratic senator Barbara Boxer of California, thank you for
joining us on this utterly infuriating issue tonight. I really appreciate
MADDOW: As we‘re going out here, control room, do you guys have a
sound bite from—that we were going to use—that we have available and
we were going to use earlier about Hayward? I just want to go out with
this. This is BP‘s CEO doing an interview with Sky News today in Britain,
talking about his perception of the impact of this disaster. Listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: The environmental impacts of this disaster is
like to have been very, very modest. It‘s impossible to say, and we will
mount as part of the aftermath a very detailed environmental assessment as
we go forward. But everything we can see at the moment suggests that the
overall environmental impacts of this will be very, very modest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Very, very modest. Just like all that technology for dealing
with the response was proven and tested. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Wow. A handful of primaries and a special election, and
boom, action! Tonight, we saw Arlen Specter lose the Democratic primary
for November‘s election, effectively ending his five-term Senate career
which dates back to 1980. Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln faces a runoff
in her Democratic primary for Senate. Ron Paul‘s son, Rand Paul, wallops
the Republican establishment candidate in Kentucky‘s Senate primary. And
the special election for Jack Murtha‘s old House seat in Pennsylvania stays
Vice President, Joe Biden long deeply connected in Pennsylvania
politics, his office telling us tonight that Vice President Biden spoke
with his old friend, Arlen Specter, tonight after supporting him through
his race against Joe Sestak, the vice president also speaking also speaking
with the new Democratic congressman Mark Critz from Pennsylvania‘s 12
tonight, telling Mr. Critz he is ready to help him again when he has to
defend that seat in November.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night at
9:00 PM Eastern. A live edition of “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts
right now. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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