updated 1/21/2011 1:05:53 PM ET 2011-01-21T18:05:53

Guests: Chris Hayes, Rep. Jim McDermott

           

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now to discuss whether it‘s not impossible to pass new gun control laws—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you for that.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

           

Today was the day that Republicans have been waiting for.  Today was the day that Republicans have been looking forward to for months now.  Winning all of those congressional seats in November‘s elections, that wasn‘t supposed to be the high point.  That was supposed to be a moderately high point on the way to the real high point, which is supposed to be today.

Because what was today?  Today was repeal day.  Today was “repeal Obamacare day.”  Whoo-hoo!

You go all the way back to August of 2009, the angry town halls against health reform, people showing up with guns at public events to show just how much they hated health reform, corporate funded coast-to-coast bus tours to stoke hatred of health reform, anti-health reform bus tour speakers comparing health reform to Hitler and to Pol Pot—all of that work, all of that hard work, all setting the stage for one day, for today.

Today—all of that anti-health care reform crusading finally politically paying off.

Are you ready?  Hope you‘re sitting down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This vote, they yeas are 245, the noes are 189.  The bill is passed.  And without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Woo!  Woo!  Woo-hoo!  Ha!  Woo!

Did anybody else think that was an anti-climax?  The Republicans finally got their big day today and, no, they‘re sort of ready to move on quietly.

Seriously, this is the headline in “Roll Call” newspaper today:

“Republicans Already Moving Past Health Repeal.”

This thing that Republicans have been building up to for more than a year now, this thing that they‘ve been campaigning on, they have been promising on, this thing that was supposed to be the big culmination of Republican opposition to that evil socialist Barack Obama—it came and went today.  And it does not seem like Republicans are exactly relishing their big moment in the sun.

The reason that Beltway common wisdom said repealing health care reform is going to be such a big political payoff for Republicans is because Republicans have supposedly turned the country against health reform, right?  Democrats who knew what was good for them would be falling all over themselves to join Republicans on their big day when they voted for repeal.

Republicans did succeed in getting some Democrats to vote against health reform when it originally passed.  People like Jason Altmire and John Barrow and Ben Chandler, Tim Holden, Larry Kissell, Dennis Kucinich, Jim Matheson, Colin Peterson, Health Shuler, all those Democrats did vote against health reform when it passed last year.  But then all those people voted against repealing health reform when they had the chance to today.

Even though the Democrats could not come to a consensus that passing health reform was a good idea, they‘re almost in total consensus that repealing it is an awful idea.  Republicans got precisely three Democrats to vote with them for repeal today—three.  Three.  And Democrats knew it was going to be like this heading into it.

Quoting from “Roll Call” today, “When asked Tuesday whether he was worried about mass defections during today‘s vote, Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer answered, ‘No.‘”  That‘s all he said, “No.”  Not worried.

In fact, Democrats appeared to be delighted that Republicans have given them this second opportunity to not only sell the virtues of health reform to the country, but to point out to the country that what the Republican Party most wants to do, now that it‘s taken power in Washington, is to vote for insurance companies to be able to kick you off your insurance, even after you‘ve paid your premiums because you have the temerity to get sick.

What Republicans wanted to do first, upon getting control in Congress, was to vote for insurance companies to deny coverage, to anybody who had a preexisting condition.  No matter how many millions of us there are, that $250 check that senior citizens on Medicare got to help them afford their prescription drugs, Republicans came to Washington and took control of the house because they want that $250 back, please, from those senior citizens.

Republicans were psyched to come to Washington to repeal Obamacare.  But doing so not only forced Democrats to get their act together, to name all of the parts of that law that are actually really popular, it also allowed Democrats to point out that every Republican in Washington would like to take those very popular things away now.

Even if Democrats had a hard time speaking up for health reform last year when they passed it, they‘ve got no problem at all slamming what it would mean to repeal it now.  Democrats have found their voice.  Thank you, John Boehner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. JOE CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK:  Does this legislation create one job? 

Not one single job will be created by this legislation.

Does this bill reduce the deficit?  This bill does not reduce the deficit by one penny.  In fact, if it became law, it would increase the deficit by $230 billion.

Does it strengthen our middle class?  No.  This bill will not strengthen the middle class.  This bill is clearly wrong for our economy and is clearly wrong for our country.  We cannot go backwards—no way, no how, not now, not ever.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  I would say to Americans watching at home: think which side you‘re on.  If you are in love with insurance companies, and want them to succeed and you don‘t care about anything else?  By all means—this is your team.  These are your guys.

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Has anybody, any family in America, any single mother, any spouse, any child, any grandparent met a more bureaucratic system than the American health insurance system?  There is no more bureaucratic system.

When you send in your premium, they tell you you sent it to the wrong place.  When you send in the bill, you send it to the wrong person.  When you send it to the right person, they say that person‘s left their job.

Nobody wants to go back there, ladies and gentlemen.  Nobody.  They‘ve been there for 50 years.  And health care costs have gone up faster than any other segment in our economy—faster than anything you can imagine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The gentleman‘s time has expired.

MILLER:  Faster than a speeding rocket, faster than a speeding airplane, faster than Superman.  Health care costs have gone up because of the insurance bureaucracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gentleman‘s time has expired.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  This was supposed to be a great political week for the other side, for Republicans.  This was billed as repeal Obamacare week in Washington.

How did that work out?  On Monday, you might recall we got this poll result.  Not even a majority of Republicans want to repeal health reform anymore.  On Tuesday, day two of the repeal Obamacare week, we got this poll result.  And the number of people want done what the Republicans just voted to do, repealing the whole thing, that‘s down to 18 percent support.

Then today, day three of repeal Obamacare week, the day that Obamacare was finally set to be repealed by Republicans, came this poll from NBC News and “The Wall Street Journal.”  The percentage of people who think health reform was a good idea is at its highest level since September 2009.  The percentage of people who think health reform was a bad idea is at its lowest level since June of 2009.

So, the positive view of health reform?  Way up.  The negative view of health reform?  Way down.  So, now Republicans want to repeal it?

Looking at the way the poll numbers are going, even though this was the Republicans‘ big idea, even though it was their big plan to spend their first big week making a big splash on repealing health reform, it seems like the longer the Republicans get their way, the longer they get to talk about their big priority of repealing health reform, the more Republicans get what they want, the worse it gets for them and the better it gets for Democrats.

Republicans, in the end, didn‘t even hold hearings on wanting to repeal health reform.  Democrats held hearings on that.  Democrats held hearings on what Republicans wanted to do, to highlight what Republicans are doing.

Health reform has now been repealed in the House, Republicans voted to repeal it.  And while Republicans in Washington appear ready to move on, let‘s get this over with, Democrats over in the Senate appear to want to stretch this thing out for the next few days if they can.  Democratic aides telling “Roll Call” that Democrats are looking forward to spending time, quote, “highlighting the small-business tax cuts, free wellness visits for seniors provided under Medicare and several other programs.”

How is this working out for you, Republicans?  You guys glad you put this on the agenda?

Joining us now is Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington state.  He‘s also a doctor.  He just had the distinct honor of being published in the “New England Journal of Medicine.”

Dr. McDermott, thank you very much for your time tonight.

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON:  It‘s good to be here.

MADDOW:  Does your sense of it accord with the polls?  That the longer this repeal health reform debate goes on, the more people learn about health reform and the more they like it?

MCDERMOTT:  It‘s always been my belief that as the bill came into existence and was really implemented, people would be more and more for it.  It‘s like building a house.  If you tell somebody you‘re going to build a house, they can‘t believe it until they see it.

But now, it‘s been built and people are beginning to move into it, they see that they no longer have preexisting exclusions, and they can have care for their kids and all this sort of thing.  And it has become a reality for people.  And that‘s why those numbers are going down.

It‘s almost funny today if it wasn‘t so sad, that they spent all that time on something that people have walked away from.  People do not want to repeal this bill.

MADDOW:  As a congressman, your experience of how this is being lobbied and how this is being argued over in Washington—how strong and active is the repeal health reform lobby?  Are you getting bombarded with calls from the insurance industry, and big business and pharmaceutical companies lobbying to repeal this, in a way we saw a lot of lobbying when it first passed?

MCDERMOTT:  I haven‘t heard a single thing on the telephone.  We‘ve had a few e-mails, sporadic, from around the country.  But generally, we have heard absolutely no one calling for the repeal of this bill.  They simply lost it totally today.

MADDOW:  I know that you have said in the past that there are parts of health reform that you yourself would like to consider changing.  You think there are ways this bill, that health reform could be improved.

Was this a—regardless of its partisan implications—was this a missed opportunity to have a constructive debate on improving the law?  As we‘ve just been through in Washington sort of shut down the possibility of working to improve it if it needs improvements?

MCDERMOTT:  I hope not.  I hope that we can go back to our committees and now take a look at the law and look at those pieces that we don‘t think will work just right and make some improvements in it.

There has never been a bill passed in the Congress that, in history, that has not been amended in the next year or two or three.  You never can get it right at the beginning.

So, there‘s plenty of things that we can adjust and make it much better.  We can control the costs much better.  We can talk about how we provide more primary care physicians.  There‘s a lot of things in this bill that can be improved.

And I hope that the Republicans are willing to sit down and sort of forget about what they did today.  And get serious about what‘s good for the American people.

MADDOW:  Dr. McDermott, let me ask you about one substantive element of health reform in which you have particular expertise.  I know you are a child psychiatrist.

Health—mental health issues in particular are getting a lot of attention in this country, all of a sudden, because of the horrible incident that happened in Tucson.  What would the repeal of health reform do to mental health issues in this country?  Nancy Pelosi raised that issue with me yesterday, when I did an extended interview with her about it.  And I was looking forward to getting your perspective on this given your expertise in the subject.

MCDERMOTT:  Well, one of the things, Rachel, that you have to remember is, this young man in Tucson was 22 years old.  He could be covered by his parents‘ health insurance from this day forward.

And many of these young people who are disturbed in one way or another are so dysfunctional that they do not have a job, they do not have health care benefits, and therefore, cannot have access to health care for their mental health problems.  That‘s one thing.

The second thing is, this bill takes away mental illness as a preexisting condition.  It says if you‘ve been depressed in the past, you can get insurance again.  There are many ways in which this makes mental health coverage much more available for the American public and will in the long run be better for all of us in the society.

MADDOW:  Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington state—thank you very much for your time tonight, sir.  I appreciate it.

MCDERMOTT:  You‘re welcome.

MADDOW:  OK.  Dick Cheney, gun control advocate; the president of China taking questions from the press; a serious and barely thwarted terrorist attack that nobody appears to have noticed; and I think the best thing shown on television since the BBC‘s shagging parrot of 2009.  That is all due to come up on this show this hour.  We are very busy here tonight.

First, we have “One More Thing” about the Republicans‘ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in health reform repeal, do you remember how Republicans for a couple of days stop calling health reform job-killing?  In the wake of Tucson, they took killing out of the way they were talking about this.  They started calling it job-destroying instead of job-killing.

Now apparently, though, that‘s over.  Today, they went back to saying killing all the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. JOHN KLINE ®, MINNESOTA:  We find that incredible that repealing this job-killing legislation is actually going to cost us money.  They support repeal of this job-killing legislation.

REP. JOE PITTS ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  The costs of this job-killing health care law in effect are much too high.

REP. LYNN JENKINS ®, KANSAS:  Additional job killing taxes, it was irresponsible to pass this massive job-killing plan.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Not to be outdone by all the killing talk, Congressman Mike Pence of wants to be presidents-ville decided today not only was it too soon to bring back all the killing talk in Congress, he decided it was also not too soon for this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  Today, House Republicans are going to stand with the American people and vote to repeal their government takeover of health care lock, stock and barrel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Congressman Mike Pence, everybody.  Congressman Mike Pence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  A rather astonishing update in the news today from Tucson.  KVOA in Tucson reporting that a week and a half after she was shot in the head in an apparent assassination attempt, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood up from her hospital bed today.  The station describing her as able to stand, with help, to look out her hospital room window.

A statement today from the congresswoman‘s office is saying she is expected to leave the hospital for a rehabilitation center on Friday.  An e-mail from the congresswoman‘s mother reported by “The New York Times” today as describing Ms. Giffords looking at “get-well” cards and even scrolling through photos on her husband‘s iPhone.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is still, of course, facing a tremendously difficult recovery from this very serious injury.  But she is making progress and her recovery so far—progress that sometimes just does not seem humanly feasible.

There‘s also an update on the justice system‘s response to the Tucson shootings.  Jared Loughner was federally indicted today for shooting Congresswoman Giffords and two of the congresswoman‘s staffers.  The other murders and attempted murders are expected to be handled in further federal indictments or with state level indictments.  But in terms of a political response, legislative response to the Tucson shootings, we have an update on that, that may surprise you.  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Everybody says there is no point in even having an argument about whether we can change the laws in this country that deal with guns.  Everybody says, don‘t even bother having the argument because people who are against having any restrictions on guns, people who are against changing any of the laws about guns, those people will win the argument no matter what.  It‘s not even worth having the argument.  Everybody says that.

But that is not true.  Here, for example, is somebody because people who are against changing our laws about guns.  Here‘s somebody who‘s against that, losing that argument really badly, really quickly, and live on TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST:  Congressman, don‘t you wish Jared Loughner had a smaller capacity ammunition clip when he went to Gabby Giffords‘ event in Tucson?

REP. TRENT FRANKS ®, ARIZONA:  Lawrence, I wish that Jared Loughner had the capacity to have a moral impulse toward his fellow human beings, and a commitment to protect them as children of God.  That‘s the real issue here.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Franks, I‘ll try again.  Do you wish that his gun held 10 bullets instead of 31 bullets?

FRANKS:  I wish he had not had a gun at all.  He shouldn‘t have had a gun at all.  He was, I think, mentally ill, and we have laws against that in many places.  And I think to focus on the clip is like saying that, you know, well, we‘ll combat drunk driving by limiting the size of fuel tanks.

O‘DONNELL:  Imagine this event occurred in 2003, when Jared Loughner, by federal law, enacted by the Democrats 10 years earlier, would not have been allowed to get his hands on a magazine that held 30 bullets.  He only would have been able to fire 10 and then he would have had to reload.  And those heroes who stopped him when he tried to reload would have stopped him after firing 10.  And more citizens of Arizona would be alive today in your state if that magazine held only 10 bullets.

I‘ll ask you again, do you wish Jared Loughner‘s magazine only held 10 bullets instead of the 31 that he fired?

FRANKS:  And I will tell you again, sir, that I wish he had not had a gun at all.

O‘DONNELL:  Your constituents in Arizona would have been better off if Jared Loughner, by law, could only fire 10 bullets.

FRANKS:  See, I think that that pre-supposes that he couldn‘t have changed clips or all kinds of things.

O‘DONNELL:  He couldn‘t change clippings because the colonel was there to stop him, because those heroes in that parking lot were there to stop him.  We saw him try to change clips and he couldn‘t do it.  That‘s what stopped him.

FRANKS:  Well, I give every credit to those who stopped him.  But I will say to you again, that to blame the gun rather than the individual is why we continue to have these kinds of problems.

O‘DONNELL:  I blame the individual for the first 10 bullets.  I blame the law for the next 21 bullets that he fired.

FRANKS:  Well, you know, you‘re suggesting that there wouldn‘t be other ways he could have done it.  What if he had brought a bomb?  There‘s all kinds of things.

O‘DONNELL:  We know what happened.  We know what stopped him—when he had to reload, it was over.  We know the facts, Congressman.  We know exactly how it ended.

Don‘t pre tend that you don‘t know how it ended, and who ended it.  He couldn‘t reload.  And the heroes there on the scene stopped him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The common wisdom is we can‘t reform any laws that relate to guns at all.  Why is that the common wisdom again?  Because people like Congressman Trent Franks there are so great of arguing against it?

The facile common wisdom on this issue right now is not just common, it is essentially unanimous.  There‘s not even an argument behind it.  There‘s just this assertion that the NRA is against us about changing laws about guns, so therefore, we can‘t change laws about guns, period.

In the wake of the Tucson shootings, the NRA did exactly what everybody expected it to.  The group denounced an effort to ban high capacity ammunition clips like Lawrence was describing with the congressman.  To ban just those extended clips that like the one that Jared Loughner had that held 30 bullets.  The NRA denounced that very specific proposal saying people who wanted to change that law just really wanted to ban all guns.

And, of course, they said that.  Anytime anybody other than the NRA even so much as talks about guns in any capacity, the NRA accuses that person of wanting to ban all guns.  That‘s what the NRA does.

That‘s what they said about the assault weapons ban.  That‘s what the NRA said about the Brady bill, too.  The NRA has said that about every gun control measure of any kind that has ever been proposed or passed in my entire lifetime.

But things like the assault weapons ban, things like the Brady bill, things like other gun control measures that have passed in this country, they passed even though the NRA was against them.

The NRA rattles their proverbial sword.  They tout their own power. 

And everybody in the Beltway touts it for them, too.

But the NRA doesn‘t always get everything it wants.  Sometimes, there‘s a national consensus that there ought to be some policy made that affects guns.  And that consensus happens to exclude the NRA and people like Congressman Trent Franks and policy about guns gets made even though the NRA and the Trent Frankses of the world are against it.

In the wake of the Tucson shooting, there is a very, very, very, very, very wide range of people who are saying that maybe legalizing those extended capacity ammunition clips six years ago, maybe that was a bad idea.  Maybe it doesn‘t make sense that the alleged shooter in Arizona was able to buy an extended capacity ammunition clip for that handgun that allowed him to fire 31 times before stopping.

When I say there are a wide range of people who are conceding that specific point now about the extended capacity ammo clips, when I say it is a wide range of people, I mean it is a really, really, really wide range of people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think that this incident, that there is something that you would support measures in gun control that should be changed that could help avoid this in the future?

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I‘m not sure exactly what they would be.  I‘d certainly be willing to listen to ideas.  I‘ve always been a gun advocate, obviously.  I had a strong voting record on behalf of the Second Amendment.  That‘s just what I believe.

And whether or not there‘s some major there of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with a semiautomatic weapon, we‘ve had that in place before.  You know, maybe it‘s appropriate to reestablish that kind of thing.  But I think you have to be careful, obviously, that the Supreme Court‘s ruled on the Second Amendment.  It‘s an important part of our historic legacy.

And we‘re looking for ways to make sure this never happens again.  But you‘ve still got to go back to the fact that it looks like the cause of this particular tragedy was this one individual who apparently has a very serious mental problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was his full comments on the subject, and complete context with no editing.  Just to be clear.  What was that middle part again?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Some major there in terms of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with a semiautomatic weapon.  We‘ve had that in place before.  You know, maybe it‘s appropriate to reestablish that kind of thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  When the consensus on a matter like this involves Dick Cheney, maybe everybody saying it‘s impossible to do something like this is being lazy.

Dick Cheney is not just a conservative and a Republican and pro-gun guy who incidentally shot somebody while he was vice president, Dick Cheney is so out there in pro-gun territory that in 1985, he was only one of 21 members of the House who voted against banning so-called “cop killer bullets,” bullets designed to penetrate bulletproof vests.  In 1988, Dick Cheney was one of only four votes against a ban in the House on plastic guns designed to get past X-ray machines and metal detectors.

The guy who was not even against plastic guns and cop killer bullets, Dick Cheney—that Dick Cheney—now says, “Yes, maybe we ought to look at banning those high-capacity magazines again.”

You know who else is saying that same thing?  The man who argued the case before the Supreme Court that established that the Second Amendment protects an individual‘s right to bear arms, is the chair of the board of the libertarian Cato Institute.  His name is Robert Levy.

He told NBC‘s Michael Isikoff last week that not only does he not see any constitutional barrier to banning extended ammunition clips for guns, he thinks it would probably be a good idea.  This is the man who argued the Second Amendment case before the Supreme Court.  In his words, these are his words, not my words, so do not send me hate mail.  In Mr. Levy‘s words, quote, “It may stop a few of these loony tunes to ban the extended magazines,” while saying he saw the issue as a close call.  Mr. Levy said a restriction for magazine size to 10 to 15 rounds—he described that as something that, quote, “makes sense” to him.

So, yes, the NRA is against it.  Also, puppies are cute.  Also, sunburns hurt.  Who cares?

What the NRA thinks is not the last word on whether or not change is possible in the nation‘s laws that relate to guns.  It is not the last word on whether this change is possible.  At least it never has been before.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Michael Steele may no longer be chair of the Republican National Committee, but he has not lost his ability to provide the awesome.  Today‘s gold nugget quote from Mr. Steele, “I know how Caesar felt.”  That topped an interview he gave to the conservative Web site “Frum Forum.”

In that interview, Mr. Steele compared himself to the Roman emperor/Shakespearean tragic hero, erstwhile Mr. Cleopatra, aka, Julius Caesar.  And he cast as the literal and historical backstabber Brutus, he casts as Brutus, Reince Priebus, the new chair of the RNC, the former RNC staffer who ran against Mr. Steele last week and he won Mr. Steele‘s job.

Et tu, Reince!  I guess you‘d say, Et tu Reince.

What headlines will Mr. Steele generate tomorrow?  Whatever they are, they are likely to be made right here.  After a dogged two-year pursuit, Mr. Michael Steele will be a guest on this very program tomorrow night.  We are very excited about that.

Please tune in at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.  If he insists, I‘ll tell you right now, I will wear a toga.  I am not above it.  I‘m not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Here‘s the overlap of neato and awkward in today‘s news about patriotism.  If you go to the gift shop at Smithsonian National Museum of American History, you can have your own personal bust of an American president.  You can choose from any of the presidents, from George Washington all the way to Barack Obama.  You could buy Warren G. Harding if so inclined.  Whatever float your boat.

These lovely statues you can buy at the Smithsonian for not very much money.  What is awkward about the bronze-colored statues is that when you get home and you put your beautiful bronze-looking Warren G. Harding or Barack Obama bust on your mantle, if you flip it over, you will see in the fine print that our commemorative American presidents on sale at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, they are made in China.

Senator Bernie Sanders today criticizing this fact as extraordinary and pathetic symbolism—a small insult, but an important one.

Tonight, at the state dinner for President Hu Jintao of China, he‘s visiting Washington, and the administration in preparing for this visit seems to be keenly attuned to avoiding the types of small but symbolically important insults that marred President Hu‘s last visit back in 2006.  In 2006, an announcer at an official event attended by Mr. Hu accidentally said Taiwan when he meant to say China.  And, boy, is that a touchy subject with the president of China.

Also, military ceremony with the—a military ceremony with the two presidents, with President Bush and President Hu, was interrupted by a Falun Gong protester, also a touchy subject.  Not to mention the fact that the two countries did not even see eye-to-eye on what that visit would be called.  The Bush administration called it an official visit.  China insisted on calling it a state visit, which it technically was not.

This time around, it is a state visit.  And the Obama administration seems to have avoided the protocol awkwardness of the last time this was tried.  You see people here arriving for tonight‘s state visit.

No matter how smoothly everything goes, even if everything works as planned, used as directed, at the heart of this visit, there is one giant awkwardness, which is that essentially at the heart of this visit, you‘ve got last year‘s Nobel Peace Prize winner honoring and hosting the man who‘s got this year‘s Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison.

How do you get around that elephant in the room?  Apparently, you get around that one if you are the Obama administration by addressing the issue head-on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Beyond just saying that to President Hu‘s face today, there was the almost surreal scene today of President Obama having a press conference, talking to reporters—of course, a normal thing for an American president.  But while he was doing it, he was standing next to the president of China—also at a press conference, also talking to reporters.

That is totally not normal.  In China, that does not happen.  If Chinese leaders can count on one thing, it is not having to stand there and answer questions from a free press.  But today, in the United States of America, in our capital, he had to.

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and an MSNBC contributor.

Chris, thank you very much for being here.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  I know you were in China when President Obama traveled to China.  Looking at this visit with President Hu coming here—what do you think the U.S. is looking to accomplish with this big state visit?  Is it the kind of thing about which you can sort of keep diplomatic score?

HAYES:  You know, it‘s funny, because when you go back to the visit in 2009, and I was in Shanghai at the time, and Beijing, the American press was so obsessed with whether Barack Obama was scoring enough points, and like, you know, dunking the ball and whether he was like showing China how awesome America was.

I think that the coverage of this has been a bit better.  They put out this joint statement today which is hilarious if you read it today because it is so detailed.  And the one thing that it reveals to you is this has to be possibly the most complicated bilateral relationship that exists in the world right now.

I mean, if you look at the quantity of goods and services and capital that flows between the two places, the amount of massive major global challenges, among them climate change, possibly at the top, that both have to work together.  It‘s hard to kind of consider what makes a successful visit because the relationship is so sort of dynamic and long-standing.

MADDOW:  When the U.S. press comments on something big and lavish and ornate, with lots of spotlights on it, like a state visit, when the U.S.  press dives into this, and even getting the press covering it that doesn‘t usually cover China—do you think that the U.S. press gets it right, in terms of the fundamental nature of the relationship between the U.S. and China?  Or do you think there are big myths out there that are appearing now?

HAYES:  I think there are big myths.  Jim Fallows who writes with “The Atlantic” who spent a lot of time in China is a great person to read on this, and there‘s a few.  One of which is, there‘s a tremendous amount of sort of China anxiety in the American body politic right now.  And it‘s reflected in the American press.  And in some ways, it kind of recapitulates the notion we had during the Cold War that Russia was beating us.  They sent up an astronaut before we did, et cetera, et cetera.  That China, the future belongs to China.

And I think what that does is it overplays the strengths of China and the Chinese political, economic model and underplays the weaknesses.  I mean, when you go to China and you talk to Chinese leaders, they‘re super panicked about a million different things, not the least of they have to deliver 8 percent to 10 percent GDP growth every year to retain stability.  And that is not an easy to do during a global contraction.

So, I think this kind of blight sense that it‘s always communicated that somehow the U.S. is on the decline and China on the rise really fails to kind of give full credence to the complexities of both where the U.S. is at and where China is at.  And you see this all the time.  There‘s this obsession, somehow we‘re locked in this kind of geopolitical Olympics with China, and we‘re going to take the silver and they‘re going to take the gold.

MADDOW:  Do you think that some of the human rights issues that the president, for example, raised, that are raised implicitly by the Nobel Peace Prize issue here with President Obama having been the last winner, and President Hu having the current winner in jail in China—do you think those rights issues should be seen as a sign of Chinese weakness, Chinese insecurity, Chinese paranoia about their own political grip on power?

HAYES:  Right.  I mean, I think—I think there‘s like—I think that‘s a very interesting and good way to think about it.  Because I think there‘s a tendency to think like somehow their authoritarianism or their strongness makes this sort of like undefeatable behemoth.

And the fact of the matter is, there are all sorts of internal tensions in China that Chinese leaders are very worried about, and that‘s the reason why that they‘ve ratcheted up the oppression so much, particularly on the Internet.  You know, the press conference you referred today, of course, was not broadcast live in China.  They never are.  Because they want to make sure it doesn‘t get out.

And there‘s a certain degree to which I think Chinese leaders feel like they‘re trying to keep the kind of lid of the kettle on while everything is boiling.  And that ultimately is going to be a problem long run for China.  I think we should have more confidence in the fundamental long-term sort of prospects of liberal democracy.

MADDOW:  End scene.  Spectacularly done.

Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation,” MSNBC contributor—and as always, a chest-thumping, USA jingoist—

HAYES:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  -- pat on your back.

HAYES:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  Thanks a lot, Chris.

HAYES:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  Still ahead on THE LAST WORD at the top of the hour, Lawrence O‘Donnell talks with one of the newest 2012 presidential candidates.  I, of course, am talking about Roseanne Barr.  Yes, I am.

Coming up on this show—yodeling, ventriloquism and something you do not already know about yodeling and ventriloquism.  If you didn‘t ask for it, America, you should have it.  Anyway, you‘ve got it—next.

(COMEMRCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Updates from the Spokane, Washington, attempted bombing that is still inexplicably not a national news story.  Those updates coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS:  Police in Washington are now investigating a suspicious package outside of a postal facility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The FBI‘s national capital response squad is investigating a report of a suspicious package at a mail facility in northeastern D.C.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS:  We have some news breaking.  We‘ve gotten word of a suspicious package.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Breaking news from here in New York City with the reports of a suspicious package and the evacuation of a bank.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What we‘re learning from New York City police is that there was a suspicious package call about an hour ago.  We need not look any further than our backyard, there‘s another one in New York City.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN:  I know that Allan Chernoff is getting more information on exactly what this letter contained, if it really was a letter bomb.  Supposedly, he‘s reporting that they have X-rayed it and it looks suspicious.  But we don‘t know any more than that.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  It happens a lot.  All news media, especially cable news channels, stop and pay attention when some sort of suspicious package or suspicious device gets law enforcement attention.  In all the instances that we just excerpted there, whatever it was that caused the police activity and traffic re routing and, thus, the news coverage turns out to not be an actual bomb.

But this week in Washington state, it was not a false alarm.  It was a

real bomb.  The “Associated Press” quoting an unnamed law enforcement

source as saying the bomb discovered at a Martin Luther King parade in

Spokane, Washington, on Monday was remarkably sophisticated.  Quote, “‘They

haven‘t seen anything like this in this country,‘ the official said.  ‘This

is the worst device and most intentional device I have ever seen.‘”

Here‘s what we‘ve learned since this Spokane incident yesterday.  The FBI says it has received a number of fruitful leads from the information the bureau released yesterday to the public, saying further that they had no foreshadowing or warning, no written communications explaining the bomb.  Also, no one has claimed credit for the bomb.

The FBI special agent in charge of the Spokane office telling the “Spokesman Review” newspaper, quote, “Definitely, this falls into the category of a thwarted attack.”  Also saying, quote, “It is clear there was a significant risk of death and injury for multiple people.”

Law enforcement is so far not saying how the device was constructed, but beyond describing it as a sophisticated device meant to be remotely detonated.  The FBI are describing some apparently lethal expertise in the placement of the bomb.  The bomb was placed on a metal bench with a brick wall behind it, that would have directed shrapnel from the device toward main street in Spokane, where the MLK Day marchers were expected to pass.

I still do not know why this is not a national story.  This was not a theoretical bomb invented by law enforcement, that some would-be terrorists thought was real but never posed an actual threat.  This was not an intended bomb poorly-constructed that would not have caused extensive damage.  This was the real deal.

And so far, it has barely made a national ripple.  Page A15 of “The New York Times” today, one wire service report.

As the country is still consuming a ton of information about the Tucson shootings, this happened nine days after that, this happened on Monday.  FBI agents have been careful to say they do not have a suspect.  They say they‘re pursuing what they call fruitful leads.

In terms of forensics, we know the device has been sent to the FBI‘s lab in Quantico, Virginia.

But in terms of explaining this event and understanding its

importance, we are left with not much to go on.  First, there‘s how the

people investigating this crime are characterizing it so far.  Secondly, we

what we are guessing could conceivably be local context here.

           

I mean, first, what the FBI says about it is this, quote, “Clearly, the confluence of the parade route, the timing, the fact that the device was likely placed on that route roughly an hour before the parade falls squarely within the realm of domestic terrorism.”  That‘s what the FBI says.

What kind of domestic terrorism would target an MLK march?  We do not know.  Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of would-be terrorist bombers.  We are left to guess at what would count as relevant context.

In terms of previous bombings that could be construed as domestic terrorism.  Spokane, the city, does have a recent history.  In 1996, a white supremacist group went on what‘s described as a four-month crime spree in Spokane.  It included bank robberies and bombing the offices of the local newspaper and of Planned Parenthood.  Three men affiliated with this group, they called themselves Phineas Priests.  They were convicted of that string of attacks.

During that same time period, a pipe bomb was detonated at Spokane City Hall.  News of it at “The Times” described it as hurling three-inch nails more than a block away into a park.  The two men you see here were indicted for that bombing.  It was part of a sprawling indictment in which prosecutors described what they said was a plot to overthrow the government and set up a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.  Ultimately, these two were convicted of a triple murder in Arkansas.  It was all part of the same indictment.

Last night, a current white supremacist group that is also hoping to set up the Pacific Northwest as an Aryan homeland, last night, they linked on their Web site last night to our coverage of this new bombing attempt at Spokane‘s Martin Luther King Day parade.  They filed the link to our story under a section of their white supremacist Web site that they labeled “activism.”  They put it right above a statement about what they called the Arizona Jew-shooting, describing the Tucson shootings last weekend as the “plugging of a Jew congresswoman and a federal judge.”

Right above that, they posted a link to our coverage that was just titled “Bomb in Spokane.”  They just posted the link, and no further comment.

On one level, I continue to be surprised at the lack of national coverage of this story.  On another level, I do not care.  We will continue to update you on this story as more information becomes available.  No matter who else is covering it, or isn‘t.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  And now, for something completely different.  You have probably seen the clip by now from this weekend‘s Miss America pageant.  The clip that made me personally sorry I had not watched the show.  I‘m sorry about that, because I think I might have gone to TV heaven if this had happened live on my TV screen with no warning, instead of on YouTube in my office when I got back to work after everybody I know already told me it would be the most amazing thing I would see all week.  The people who gave me the advice about this clip were right.

All hail Miss Arkansas, seriously.  After seeing this, I‘m not kidding, I want us to be a monarchy so she can be a real queen.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  Me, I watched that clip on the Internet later this week, along with everybody else who slacked off and missed the pageant the first time around this past weekend.  But then I saw in the news that Miss Arkansas, Alyse Eady, got up there in front of God (ph) and Las Vegas and performed that act, which I totally dare any of you to do.  And she still finished as the runner-up.

What does it take to win anymore in America?  It‘s not enough to be a beauty queen singing ventriloquist who can ventriloquist yodel with one dummy while singing with the other?  No, that‘s not enough in America now?  Now, you have to go all the way to impossible?  Now, you have to be a beauty queen singing ventriloquist who can ventriloquist yodel with one dummy while singing with the other and who also dances in clogs?

Because we can tell you tonight, possibly exclusively that when, Alyse Eady was still just Miss Teen Arkansas, she pulled off that impossible level, too.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  Clearly, there‘s more to the story.  We don‘t know why she took the clogging out of her act for the grown-up pageant.  We don‘t know if it‘s like a B.B. King thing, can‘t play and can‘t sing but can‘t play and sing at the same time, or maybe this is some kind of Aristotelian dramatic unity thing.  We do not know.

But we do know you can count on us to bring this next level of news—the news behind the news, behind the news, behind the other news.  We are here for you.

That does it for us tonight.  We‘ll see you again tomorrow night. 

Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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