Skip navigation

'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 18th, 2010; 11 pm show

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

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.

(CHEERING)

SESTAK:  A win for the people, over the establishment, over the status

quo, even over Washington, D.C.

(CHEERING)

(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

for November.

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

midterms.

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

the top.

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

come November?

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(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

primary tonight.

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

very exciting.

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

Republican side.

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

there.

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

labor.

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

nomination?

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Congressional Committee.

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

Critz.

A failure acknowledged by the defeated GOP candidate, Tim Burns, just

moments ago.

(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

having me.

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

election.

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

Conway?

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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

show!  Yes!

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. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

fell short.

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

yet?

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

employed.

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

pipes.

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

target.

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

saw.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

it.

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.

MADDOW:  OK.

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...

BOXER:  Yes.

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

now.

MADDOW:  Democratic senator Barbara Boxer of California, thank you for

joining us on this utterly infuriating issue tonight.  I really appreciate

it.

BOXER:  Thanks.

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

this.

(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. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Democratic.

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2010 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>


  MORE FROM RACHEL MADDOW SHOW  
  
Rachel Maddow Show Section Front
 
Add Rachel Maddow Show headlines to your news reader:
 

Sponsored links

Resource guide