'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, April 11th, 2011
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Guests: Chris Hayes, Stephen Singular
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks a lot for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We do need to start with some news that is breaking at this hour.
Tomorrow morning in Japan, which is tonight our time, the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission and the Japanese government are expected to hold a news conference to announce that the nuclear reactor disaster at Fukushima is now rated a seven on the zero-to-seven scale of how bad nuclear accidents can be in the world. The only event that ever before rated a seven on that scale is the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union in 1986.
While the Japanese nuclear agency says that Fukushima has emitted less radioactive than the Chernobyl disaster, the Fukushima disaster is still ongoing. And it is not ongoing well.
The reactor owner is reporting a new fire today at the number four reactor at Fukushima. That fire was before the announcement about raising the severity assessment for the overall disaster. That fire, we are now told, has been put out.
But, again, we are awaiting a formal announcement from the Japanese government that the Fukushima disaster is now an international level seven disaster. On the international zero to seven scale, where zero is zero and seven is Chernobyl, Japan now says Fukushima is a seven. We will keep you posted tonight as we learn more.
Here at home in the United States, all eyes on politics, where no one quite knows how the balance of power will settle out after Washington very nearly avoided a government shutdown late on Friday night.
And in the midst of that uncertainty, behold the living definition of political opportunity. Republicans have proposed for next year‘s budget, reducing the tax rate paid by the richest people in this country to its lowest level since 1931. Whoo-hoo! Good news for the big guy.
If you think the economic inequality of the days of the Great Depression is something that Americans are yearning for, you are—alone. Or you are a Republican running for Congress.
The Republican Party‘s budget proposal wants to cut taxes on the richest people in the country by 29 percent. So, take whatever the budget deficit would have been otherwise and make it $2.9 trillion worse over the next 10 years. That‘s what the Republican plan would cost, according to Tax Policy Center.
Where does the political opportunity of this come in? Well, in the last NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll that asked Americans how they would cut the deficit, given a whole menu of options—the most popular thing on that menu, the most popular thing on that list, the thing described as acceptable by 81 percent of respondents was to low terrify deficit by putting an extra tax on people making more than a million bucks a year.
So, 81 percent of Americans say millionaires should pay more in taxes in order to close the deficit. Republicans want to cut taxes on millionaires to the tune of about $200,000 per millionaire.
That is the definition of political opportunity, the distance between those two things—something profligate and radical and wildly economically reckless that the entire country hates.
Your ancestors have to have been very, very good people in their lifetimes for you, in your lifetime, to have earned the luck of being the political opponent of the Republicans this year. Of all of the options for lowering the deficit offered to people in this poll, the most beloved idea was taxing millionaires. The most hated idea, the idea that people liked the least was the Republicans‘ exact proposal to kill Medicare by turning it into a coupon system.
So, the most popular idea, Republicans are doing the opposite. The least popular idea, Republicans are embracing. This is political opportunity. Will the Democrats take it?
Don‘t know. Unclear. Not promising. I wouldn‘t bet it on it.
On Friday night, we got this deal to keep the government running, right? When Republicans made their initial demand for what they wanted in order to keep the government running, do you remember what that initial demand was? Here‘s “The New York Times” headline from February 3rd: “$32 billion in budget cuts proposed.” That‘s what the Republicans were demanding -- $32 billion in cuts or the government gets it!
How did the Democrats respond at that time? Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is also responsible for messaging matters on stuff like this, he responded by saying, no freaking way, $32 billion is irresponsible. Quote, “The immediate spending cuts proposed today by house Republicans will harm the economy and put more people out of work.”
So, not just no, but, no, that is a horrible idea. No, that is bad for the country.
But that figure, that $32 billion kicked off the debate, right? Would Democrats give the Republicans the $32 billion in cuts they were demand? How close would Democrats have to get to that $32 billion demand? It turns out they gave them all that and then some.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The agreement trims $38.5 billion from this year‘s budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thirty-eight and a half. Not only did Democrats give Republicans more than they originally asked for, they also stopped saying that what Republicans wanted was a bad idea.
I mean, Chris Van Hollen was right in economic terms, taking $32 billion out of the demand side of the economy right now while we‘re still trying to recover from a great recession probably will slow down the economy. It probably will result in fewer jobs. It probably will result in the recovery taking longer and going slower and unemployment staying higher. That‘s the way this works, economically speaking.
So, even if the Democrats felt like they had to be the adults in the room, they had to stop the Republicans from shutting the government down, they could have done so while also saying, hey, we didn‘t really want to do this. What the Republicans want is wrong. It‘s bad for the economy. It‘s bad for the country. We had to give them this thing that‘s bad for the country in order to stop thing even worse that they wanted to do. But it‘s a bad idea.
Democrats could have said that. Instead, they said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This agreement between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have an enormous Labrador. He turns 4 this summer. He‘s really big. And he‘s sort of tough looking, but Susan and I call him the “Giant Baby,” because even though he is a big, tough-looking dog, he whines like a baby.
When he wants to go out, he whines. When he wants to come in, he whines. When he wants to eat dinner, he whines. When dinner‘s over—he‘s a whiner. He constantly whines.
And why is that? It‘s my fault. I hate the sound of him whining, so I do what it is that he wants me to do in order to get him to stop the blessed whining. And I have thereby trained him to whine in order to get what he wants from me. He controls me with his whining, the “Giant Baby.”
So, I understand how this happens. We all understand how this happens. In December, in the first big conflict after the 2010 elections, Republicans said they were willing to raise taxes on everybody in the country unless rich people got their tax cuts. They were also willing to kill unemployment benefits unless rich people got big tax cuts.
Killing unemployment, raising the taxes on everyone in the country including middle class people, the president did not want those things. So Republicans got what they wanted, got those tax cuts for the rich, cannot stand the sound of that whining. Don‘t want to reward it, but, still, can‘t stand it.
And the Republicans have just done it again -- $32 billion in cuts or the government gets it. When it becomes clear that the Democrats are going to roll over and give them that, they then demanded more. By Friday, it was “kill Planned Parenthood funding or the government gets get.” And the Democratic concessions became even grander and more humiliating.
Before they had even voted on the deal they had agreed to on Friday, John Boehner had already written an op-ed in “USA Today” proclaiming the Republicans were going to take the exact same strategy the next time too. They were going to do the same thing on the debt ceiling vote.
They threatened unemployment benefits and raising everybody‘s taxes before. They threatened shutting down the government this past week. Now, they are going to threaten a global financial crisis, another one, by letting the United States default on its debt in order to get some other list of things that they want, that they haven‘t even come up with yet.
If you care about not killing unemployment benefits, and not shutting down the government, and not having another global financial catastrophe, how do you win in negotiations like this?
I personally really cannot abide the sound of my enormous dog crying over his food dish, I just—I can‘t. But I haven‘t tried to turn my weakness into a virtue. I‘m not bragging about what a good idea that my dog gets to decide when he gets fed and when he goes out rather than me deciding it. That is not how the Democrats are dealing with think, though.
The president is not great at negotiating with Republicans. And every confrontation, they prove themselves to be willing to do something that‘s bad for the country, and in order to prevent that from happening, the president gives them mostly everything they want and then some. They are being rewarded for it every time they do it.
Democrats on the left right now are having a principled and pretty rollicking fight among themselves about whether or not the president should just let the metaphorical dog whine. Where the Republicans looked so bad on Friday when they were willing to shut down the government in order to de-fund Planned Parenthood that President Obama should have just let them do it, show their colors to the world.
Should the president have just let unemployment benefits die in order to kill the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans? Should he have vetoed any health reform bill that didn‘t have the public option in it?
The Beltway media is not very interested in what happens on the left, substantively, so you‘re probably not reading any interesting mainstream Beltway journalism about this fight on the left, but it is a fascinating fight. And if the left that it works out is that the left does decide to take a harder line with President Obama, it will be really interesting to see whether liberals are capable of dragging the Democrats to a harder negotiating position. If that happens, it will be a surprise to everybody in Washington, because nobody in the Beltway media pays any attention to the left.
The more media question, though, for the White House is whether or not they‘re going to give up on the big argument, whether or not they‘re going to give up on making the case that the Republican ideas about the budget are bad ideas.
The Republicans have proposed rolling tax rates for the richest people in this country back to where they were in 1931. 1931. We‘ve already got this giant deficit, right? When Americans desperately want to tax the rich in order to close the deficit—you‘re going to leave that one hanging right there over the plate and not hit it? Are you going to try to win the argument when you have the chance on something as easy as this?
Or are you going to keep making the other sides‘ points for them.
There is a presidential address on the economy on Wednesday night. I cannot wait to find out what he will say.
Joining us now is the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, MSNBC contributor, Christopher Hayes.
Good to see you, Mr. Hayes, as always.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Miss Maddow. I think I‘m both a beltway journalist and I care about the left. So, I‘m in the slim part of the Venn diagram.
MADDOW: Well, you are Beltway in the sense that our geographically located inside that freeway.
But there is a—I feel like there is this super interesting fight going on among the Democrats and their Democratic base. And part of it is whether or not the issues, the economic populist issues of the states are going to become national issues, and part of it is whether or not President Obama should start being bad cop or start, at least, saying no to the Republicans instead of giving in.
Do you have a sense that these fights are going to be—are going to be determinative of what happens in Washington?
HAYES: I think—here‘s what I think: I think there‘s an asymmetry of zealotry between both sides, which is to that there are more zealots and they are more zealous on the right, right now.
If you looked at what people wanted in the polling before this deal went through, a majority of Democrats polled and a majority of independents wanted—I forget the phrasing of the poll was—a compromise to avoid a government shutdown, even if it means giving up things you want, something like that.
And the majority of Republicans wanted a shutdown. And that was true of the representatives they sent to Congress and everyone knew that. And so, when Boehner was negotiating, he was negotiating with the added leverage of the fact that he had a caucus that was willing to shut it down and that caucus was supported by a base that wanted to see the government shut down.
In the polling out today, two-thirds of Democrats and two-thirds of independents approve of the deal struck on Friday, whereas the Republicans who ate everyone else‘s cake, they‘re divided on it because they didn‘t get enough. So, I think it comes down to where actually people‘s opinions are in the two camps.
MADDOW: Well, what—could the Democratic base, could the liberals among the Democratic Party‘s base provide that same kind of leverage to President Obama? Could they say to him, listen, very publicly, we are not going to accept it if you let the Bush tax cuts go again, or if you touch a hair on Medicare‘s head? And then the—that would allow the president to say, listen, it‘s these crazy liberals over here. I just can‘t go anywhere on Medicare.
HAYES: Yes. I think that is where the force sort of has to come. And it has to come, if liberals do care about this, you know, making that demand felt. And remember, this doesn‘t all happen in the negotiations in the two weeks. There is precedent here in the dreaded primary that every Republican member of the House and the Senate is terrified of, a Tea Party primary.
So they have already been kind of kept in check prospectively by the round of primaries that happened in 2010. So, you can‘t do this overnight. This is a sort of long-standing thing that‘s built up that has ceded more and more power to the ultraconservative, ultra-reactionary right wing of the party.
That‘s something that you can put in place on the liberal side, but it takes time. It‘s not an instant thing. You can‘t show up tomorrow and say, now we‘re going to break you—because that threat has to be credible.
MADDOW: What do you think is going to happen on Wednesday night when the president gives this speech on the economy? They were obviously priming the pump this weekend, trying to get people used to the idea that he‘s going to talk about Medicare and Medicaid. And when people do that in cases like this, they‘re not usually just talking about defending it from the people who want to cut it, they are talking about their own cuts.
HAYES: Yes. So I‘m terrified of that, frankly. I mean, I think everyone is on tenterhooks about exactly what that‘s going to look like. I think, one thing is clear, the austerity or investment argument has been conceded to austerity side.
The brand that the president is shooting for is austerity with the heart, right? Smart austerity. Plouffe said on this Sunday, we‘re going to use a scalpel and not an ax.
So, it‘s going to be the moderate version of whatever, you know, nuttiness Paul Ryan throws out there.
But, of course, as many people have pointed out, that moves the center of this debate way over to the right. We have unbelievable amounts of physical and human resources lying fallow, rotting away, wasting in this country, with almost 9 percent unemployment, with houses in foreclosure—all of this just sitting there idle, not doing anything, not living up to its productive capacity.
And we‘re not having a discussion about how we get that moving again.
We‘re having a discussion about how we cut. And frankly, it‘s madness. It‘s madness for the recovery and it‘s madness for what it really means for real people‘s lives at the bottom of the social pyramid, where representation is the thinnest.
MADDOW: And it is al political mad tons take something like the other side wants to kill Medicare—
MADDOW: -- and to walk away from that or to join them on that side rather than using it as a cudgel.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, MSNBC contributor—Chris, let me just that you were guest hosting for Ed on Friday and handling all that breaking news, I was riveted, you did a great job.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: There are lots of reasons to live in Washington, D.C. One of them being that you might see Chris Hayes on the street.
But having your political will represented in the federal government is not one of the reasons it is a good reason to live in D.C. President Obama gave away the rights of D.C. citizens to John Boehner last week and he reportedly said as he was doing it that he didn‘t like the fact that he was doing it. Think how the citizens of D.C. felt. The president, the Republicans, radical and conservatives, and the various ways, violent and otherwise, that existing rights are under assault in America. That is also coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One more thing to report about that budget deal that Republicans and Democrats came to on Friday night to avoid a shutdown of the federal government. Even as Democrats gave Republicans more than they had initially asked for, as Democrats met Republicans not just halfway, not just all the way, but then some, the one thing Democrats wanted to make sure their base knew they were standing firm on, the one place where Democrats said, nope, no way, no how, never, nah-uh, we will not compromise was on women‘s health, right? Harry Reid stood on the floor and made the case for his daughters and his nine granddaughters and how importantly he believed it was for them and women all over the country to be able to go health centers, including Planned Parenthood, to get necessary medical care.
How does a stand like this read to the base? Well, Democrats stood up for abortion rights.
Now, here is the giant neon asterisk on that message. While the Democrats did stand up for Planned Parenthood funding nationwide, one of the things they did let Republicans do was they let them big-foot abortion rights in the District of Columbia, in the city of Washington, D.C., the city ultimately legally ruled by Congress, despite having no voting power in Congress.
Republicans for all of their talk about limiting the power of the federal government and local decision making and all of that, as part of this deal, they agreed to on Friday night, Republicans are reaching into the city government of D.C. as the federal government and blocking the city from spending its own local city funds on abortion services for poor women in D.C., not federal funds, local funds, the Republicans are stopping them from spending their own money where they want to spend it.
Republicans had demanded the defunding of Planned Parenthood nationwide, Democrats stopped that. But D.C. was thrown under the bus once again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: By the way, the only other rider in this resolution is that the District of Columbia may not spend its own local taxpayer-raised funds on abortions for its own low-income women. It‘s time that the District of Columbia to tell the Congress to go straight to hell.
The district residents are being treated as covetous of the Congress of the United States, and we‘re absolutely outraged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Eleanor Holmes Norton speaking passionately from the Capitol on Thursday. She is the district‘s delegate in Congress. She is not allowed to vote.
This is the footage we got today of the protest taking place over these issues at the United States Senate. These are hundreds of Washington, D.C. residents, including city officials, and including the mayor of Washington, D.C. who got arrested in protest of what the federal government just did to the city once again.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: Nearly two years after he was murdered, the “Associated Press” has obtained the FBI files that detailed the myriad threats to the life of Wichita doctor, George Tiller, in the years before an anti-abortion extremist finally killed him in 2009.
According to the “Associated Press,” the documents mostly cover cases that were not prosecuted or cases where federal investigators couldn‘t identify suspects. They include claims in November 1996 that an anti-abortion activist told an inmate at a women‘s prison in Topeka that he planned to kill Tiller, a 1994 incident in which a grenade was left in a paper sack outside Tiller‘s clinic, a suspicious package made to look like a bomb in 1998, and anthrax hoax letter sent in 2002. Also, a woman with a history of threatening Dr. Tiller who told a nurse at a Wichita hospital in 2000 that she planned to finish the job on the doctor.
We knew that Dr. Tiller‘s clinic was bombed in 1996. We knew that thousands of protesters converged on his clinic in 1991 to physically blockade its entrance. We know that Dr. Tiller was shot in both arm in 1993, and, of course, that he was murdered, gunned down in his church in 2009 by the anti-abortion extremist, Scott Roeder.
But now we know when there wasn‘t actual violence in Dr. Tiller‘s life, there were threats of violence, and lots of them, because apparently, if you are a doctor and you want to provide this legal, supposedly constitutionally protected service to women in this country, this is the kind of life you‘re forced to have—a life of violence or threats of violence or both.
Anti-abortion activists used to circulate “wanted” posters of Dr. Tiller. It‘s believed this one went around just before he was shot, the first time in 1993. We‘re told that these “wanted” posters targeting doctors in North Carolina started circulating there just before Dr. Tiller was murdered in 2009. One of the doctors featured in these posters told us he believed the poster was a call for his murder.
We unfortunately have another wanted-style poster to report on tonight. No one has been able to provide abortion services in Wichita since Dr. Tiller was murdered almost two years ago, but this woman, Dr. Mila Means, is trying. She is training to become an abortion provider. She‘s looking for a new office in Wichita. She has not actually started providing abortion services yet.
But this poster targeting Dr. Mean‘s office manager has already been circulating in the neighborhood where this woman lives. It has a picture, a home phone number, and a home address for the officer manager. It instructs people to contact her and ask her to stop participating in the violent destruction of little baby boys and girls for a buck.
We‘ve talked on the show before about the threats and intimidation Dr. Means herself is facing. One threat we specifically called out back in January was this letter, allegedly from an anti-abortion activist named Angel Dillard. It is addressed to Dr. Means.
It reads in part, quote, “If Dr. Tiller could speak from hell, he would tell you what a soulless existence you‘re purposefully considering all in the name of greed. Thousands of people are already looking into your background, not just from Wichita but from all over the U.S. They will know your habits and routines.
They know where you shop, who your friends live, what you drive, where you live. You‘ll be checking under your car every day because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it. People will be picketing your home, your office. You will come under greater scrutiny than you‘ve ever known, legally and professionally.
We will not let this abomination continue without doing everything we can to stop it.”
Now, the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the alleged author of that letter. The lawsuit is for writing that letter, charging that it was meant to intimidate Dr. Means.
In the summer of 2009, just over a month after Dr. Tiller‘s murder, Angel Dillard, the alleged author of that letter, told the “Associated Press” that since Scott Roeder was arrested for killing Dr. Tiller, she and her husband have exchanged several letters with Mr. Roeder and they have spoken to him by phone and that she planned to visit him in jail.
You may recall that after Shelley Shannon shot Dr. Tiller the first time in 1993, investigators dug up a booklet in her backyard. “The Army of God Manual,” a user‘s guide to bombing, burning and vandalizing abortion clinics.
The group calling itself Army of God believes that killing abortion providers is justifiable homicide. It promotes that idea. When Shelley Shannon went to prison for shooting Dr. Tiller and for other clinic attacks, Scott Roeder visited her in prison. According to our next guest‘s reporting, during those visits, Scott Roeder came to consider himself to be a member of these groups, the Army of God.
The Army of God published several editions of this manual—instructions on terrorizing abortion providers, exhortations to kill abortion providers. Members of the Army of God also signed on to a defensive action statement, defending people who had killed abortion providers and pledging themselves to the same tactics.
The Army of God is out there. It is a group way, way, way on the violent fringes of the anti-abortion movement. Or, at least it was.
At the end of his term as attorney general of the great state of Kansas, Republican Phill Kline appointed a special prosecutor to investigator George Tiller. This special prosecutor appointed by Mr. Kline was a man who had not just protested Dr. Tiller‘s clinic during the Summer of Mercy protest in 1991, according to our next guest‘s new book, for the 10th anniversary of those protests in 2001, he hosted at his home one of the Army of God guys, who had signed that defensive action statement proclaiming that murdering abortion doctors was justified and who called Shelley Shannon a hero for her 1993 attempted murder of Dr. Tiller.
And suddenly, law enforcement in the state of Kansas is one degree of separation from the fringiest of the fringe, the violent fringe.
And that is how extremism is mainstreamed. We almost just had the entire federal government shut down over Republicans‘ crusade to defund Planned Parenthood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to hold up this entire budget over defunding Planned Parenthood?
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: Well, of course, I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This weekend, would-be Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, spoke at an event at Liberty University where he was co-billed alongside a panel discussion called “Abortion: Ending the Holocaust.”
This is the way you construct a national mainstream Republican candidacy now. You stand alongside abortion as the Holocaust events, you advocate shutting down the federal government rather than allowing funding for pap smears at Planned Parenthood.
That‘s the Republican mainstream and you want to be hard-core in your anti-abortion views—where does the mainstream stop and the fringe begin anymore? Where is the line?
Joining us now for “The Interview” tonight is Stephen Singular. He is author of the new book “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion.”
Mr. Singular, I have been looking forward to meeting you for a long time. Thank you for writing the book. Thanks for coming in.
STEPHEN SINGULAR, “THE WICHITA DIVIDE” AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: You write about the fight over abortion in this country as not just a fight, not just a debate, but you describe it as a civil war. Why do you choose that term?
SINGULAR: Well, I think that it‘s just entered so many lives and so many families. In this particular book, I took two families and wanted to show how that war had played out in the lives of the Tiller family and the lives of the Scott Roeder family.
And I didn‘t want to just write a diatribe about abortion, but I wanted to tell a story about it and how this kind of hateful rhetoric or this kind of demonization filters down into individual lives. Neither one of these men intended to be involved in this war, or any kind of combat like this.
Dr. Tiller was going to be a dermatologist, that was his plan, but his father died in the early 1970s and he took over his office after a while. And these women came in and told their stories, and he learned that he had been performing—his father had been performing illegal abortions or abortions under the table with these women for many, many years. And they told him their stories and they told him what a good doctor he was, and they told him how they needed this service and what a good thing it was to have in Wichita so women could be safe and healthy in these procedures.
And eventually, it sunk in to him. And he decided to follow in his father‘s footsteps. Roe v. Wade had already been passed. It was a legal service, and he took it over. And he, you know, provided this service for many, many women, and they were very grateful for it.
When he was put on trial in 2009, about two months before he was killed, the state of Kansas tried to bring charges against him, and what is called an inquisition. I think it‘s a wonderful word to use in the 21st century. I thought that was the 15th or 16th century.
But we‘ve brought it back into this time so they could finally get him in court and try him and use due process. And the citizens of Wichita acquitted him of 19 charges in 25 minutes. And after it was over, they went to the judge and they said, we would like to express an opinion to him or our feelings to him after the verdict, which was highly unusual in any criminal case. And they wrote a letter and said, thank you for doing this for the city of Wichita.
This is a man who had been shot and bombed and everything else. So, he had carried on this tradition and he had provided this service. So, that‘s his story. That‘s one part of the book.
He was sucked into this war. He never wanted to be demonized or targeted or hated or any of that. He just wanted to be a physician practicing his trade.
Scott Roeder was going to be a salesman or, you know, work in that area. But he started—he got connected with the anti-tax movement. That‘s how he was sucked into all this. And that eventually led to, you know, getting into anti-abortion groups and other groups. He became more and more fanatical in that.
So, it‘s really the story of how these two families were trapped in this war.
MADDOW: One of the things that I found fascinating, I feel like I‘ve read a lot about this story, we‘ve done a lot of reporting about this, just the show and the staff, but your reporting specifically on where Scott Roeder sort of came from, and I think what you learned by covering so many other different types of extremists in your career as an author and a journalist was some of the most fascinating stuff.
Do you mind if we take a quick break and we come back and talk about that stuff?
MADDOW: Great. Stephen Singular is our guest. The book is called “The Wichita Divide.” It‘s really good. It comes out tomorrow.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: In 1984, a man named Alan Berg, this man. He was a radio talk show host in Denver, he was Jewish. In 1984, he was murdered. He was shot in his driveway.
Alan Berg‘s murder was planned and carried out by a neo-Nazi group called The Order.
Our next guest wrote a book about that murder. For his trouble, his own life was threatened. The book about the assassination of Alan Berg by white supremacist was called “Talked to Death.” It was Stephen Singular‘s first book.
His latest book 25 years later is about the assassination of Dr.
George Tiller by the anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder in 2009.
Mr. Singular says he thinks the book about Dr. Tiller murder as a sequel of sorts to the book about Alan Berg‘s murder, saying in the book, quote, “The overwhelming difference in the United States between 1984 when Alan Berg was shot in an act of domestic terrorism, and 2009 was that extremism was no longer extreme. The sense of victimization that had once fueled The Order was now broadcast 24 hours a day on talk radio, on cable television, and was encouraged in countless other respectable venues.”
Joining us now once again is Stephen Singular, author of the new book, “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle Over Abortion.”
Stephen, you talk a lot in this book about the mainstreaming of what used to be fringe ideas. Do you see parallels in the motivation of these different fringe figures who committed these two murders 25 years apart?
SINGULAR: Well, there‘s no question about it. I mean, Scott Roeder was very familiar with “The Turner Diaries,” which was the novel that the order used to carry out their 240 crimes that they committed in 1983 and 1984. This was a violently anti-Semitic fantasy novel that was sold at gun shows. Timothy McVeigh was involved in that as well.
So, there‘s a thread that runs through the whole story. The people that killed Berg were familiar with that. McVeigh was very familiar with it. He blew up a building, you know, at 9:00 in the morning, which was a scene in the novel. And then Roeder traveled in some of the same circles and was around, you know, the same literature.
They also have this strange idea that Roeder did that he was one of the actual Jews in the Old Testament. I mean, this is one of the most unusual ideas that runs through this whole mentality, that they are the actual chosen people of God, or the Jewish of the Old Testament.
The people who killed Berg felt that way. Roeder bought into that. And it‘s one of these streams that runs through the whole thing. And apparently when you get to that level, you know, all you have to obey is God‘s law, not man‘s law. That‘s always the rationalization for this kind of violence.
MADDOW: And that man‘s law is in effect—obedience to man‘s law would actually be a sin, because it would be discounting your own divine inspiration and instruction, right?
SINGULAR: Well, yes, more it is, I think that it just overrides the rule of law, which is one of the foundations of our society.
So, in the state of Kansas, you have someone like Phill Kline, who is the attorney general, who is the highest elected official in the state, using the power of law to go after Dr. Tiller in every possible way you can, when this is a legal activity that‘s being carried out, he uses the resources of the state, he uses the people of the state, he takes women‘s medical records and hides them and scurries them around the state and does whatever he wants with them, after a judge has told him he cannot do that. He‘s bending the law and that‘s the point of the whole book.
In the—with The Order, you have nine guys out in the woods who are fanatic and pretty obviously crazy and have no level of success in our society. Now, you have the head legal official in Kansas going after people in a similar way. I mean, the demonization, the hatred and the whole thing, it‘s gone from the fringes into the mainstream, and there are consequences for that because while those people are not violent themselves, that stuff filters down.
And the other parallel in the Berg case and the Tiller case is that it affects people who are not emotionally stable. We see this over and over again. The guy who killed Berg was not emotionally stable. Scott Roeder was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager. The guy who shoots Gabrielle Giffords, the same thing.
So, you need to have a sense of responsibility when you‘re doing this kind of demonization. When you‘re saying “Tiller the killer” over and over again, you‘re not just saying it to two people who might be somewhat stable. You‘re saying it to a lot of other people. And that filters down and that has consequences.
MADDOW: Is it substantively important that the Justice Department has apparently opened an investigation into whether or not Scott Roeder acted alone?
SINGULAR: I think it‘s extremely important. They tried to do this in the 80s. People wanted them to carry out an investigation, when clinics were being bombed and Tiller‘s clinic was being bombed.
They didn‘t want to do it. They talked about it in the ‘90s. They didn‘t want to do it. And finally, now, there is a grand jury in Kansas City saying, what are the connections? Who financed Roeder? Were there other sources of revenue that were supporting him?
We know that he was involved financially with Operation Rescue. But after these events happened, people always say, no, we don‘t know who he was. We don‘t know anything about him.
That‘s simply not true. It‘s factually untrue. The federal government needs to look into that to see what the roots and branches are, and to see if other people should be indicted.
MADDOW: Stephen Singular is author of the book “The Wichita Divide:
The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle Over Abortion.” The book comes out tomorrow.
I really appreciate you being here the night before it‘s released. And I have to say—just as somebody who‘s done a lot of reporting on this, you both deepened and really widened the scope of what we know about this murder in a way that I think is going to be really helpful to understanding its impact. So, I think it‘s a really service to the country. Thanks for having done that.
SINGULAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: To his great credit, Michael Bromwich, the government‘s man in charge of issuing deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico agreed to appear on our show last Thursday after several weeks of very unfaltering coverage on the show about his agency. The results of him appearing here, however, were not reassuring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One of the things they found was that an oil rig worker was four times more likely to be killed working in U.S. waters than in European waters, even though many of the same companies operate in both areas. Do you have any explanation for that?
MICHAEL BROMWICH, BUREAU OF OCEAN ENERGY MANAGEMENT REGULATION AND
ENFORCEMENT: Do I have any explanation for what? For the higher incidence of fatalities here?
MADDOW: Yes. Even for --
BROMWICH: No, I don‘t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “No, I don‘t.” That‘s it? Oh, I wish that was it.
Please stay with us. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Today, the clawing, keening, desperation ballad that is Mitt Romney‘s permanent campaign for president dragged itself upright once again and declared itself alive—once again. Today is the five-year anniversary of Mitt Romney‘s Massachusetts state health reform law.
Now, that Republicans hate health reform, Mr. Romney heroically disowns that law anytime anyone mentions it.
So, as Massachusetts Democrats celebrated their state‘s five-year health reform anniversary today with a “Thank you, Mitt Romney” celebration, which they knew would drive him nuts, Mr. Romney tried to create a distraction, a distraction from his own awkward health reform public regret. He made a surprise announcement he is running for president this year, too.
Yes, surprise. Mitt Romney running for president, again.
He made the announcement by tweet today the biggest impact seeming to have been the—ooh ah reaction to his new Mitt Romney logo. “The Huffington Post‘s” Capitol Hill correspondent noting that if you turned the logo on its side it would make a good logo for toothpaste, presumably Aquafresh.
Our own RACHEL MADDOW SHOW intern, Henry Melcher, noting more presciently, I think, that if you greened up Mr. Romney‘s new logo, it is just about exactly the same as the logo of the Girl Scouts of America which could have the interesting subliminal effect of making people crave cookies whenever they see his campaign materials. Since the new slogan, Mr. Romney also unveiled today is the same one that John Kerry used when he ran for president in 2004.
I think ripping off the Girl Scout logo might actually have been a good move by Mitt Romney. If you want to steal John Kerry‘s presidential slogan from not even eight years ago, you better come up with something delicious and compelling to block thoughts of Senator John Kerry from the minds of Republican primary voters.
Cookies are probably as good a move to do that as anything—or Aquafresh, either way.
MADDOW: We‘ve been covering a story for a few weeks now that I think is very important. It‘s about whether it is really safe to drill again for oil in the Gulf of Mexico now that the government is allowing it again. Call us obsessive, call us nerdy, call us obsessive and nerdy, I cop to both.
But when the government posts a report that says the safety equipment for deepwater drilling is flawed by design, that our back-up plan is unreliable even when we execute it perfectly, and then the government keeps handing out new drilling permits to people using that technology, one permit every four days, and when we know what happens when that technology goes wrong—given all of that it has seemed worth it to us, worth it to me at least to swim upstream on this one, to cover the story of the flawed blowout preventers even though nobody else in national print or TV news seems to care much about it yet.
We are anadromous around here. We swim upstream by nature, and sometimes, I‘m glad we do.
Thursday night, finally, after weeks of reporting and asking for comment from the federal agency that hands out the oil permits, we finally got an interview with the agency director. His name is Michael Bromwich. And while it is worth noting that this was a tense and at times even frustrating interview, we really did learn a bunch—which is why I think it‘s worth it to go back to it right now for a second right now.
We got new information from Mr. Bromwich about deepwater drilling, about the government‘s position on the safety of it, how that is changing and also, just the nature of who‘s in charge of it.
The first thing I‘d say that we learned is that the guy the government has in charge of permits for drilling, Mr. Bromwich, does not think the report about blowout preventers being so flawed is any big deal. He says his agency has known for years that the darned thing shouldn‘t be counted on, that they don‘t always work. BP‘s disaster he said is just the latest proof and the report about it was really no great revelation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROMWICH: It added some new information to the store house of knowledge we had but not a lot, and it certainly didn‘t change the way we were thinking about whether things had changed sufficiently so that we could feel comfortable granting deepwater drilling permits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “It certainly didn‘t change the way we were thinking.”
In fact, Mr. Bromwich is superior at the Department of Interior, Secretary Ken Salazar, said last week that the standards that blowout preventers have to meet to get your drilling permit are now going to be toughened.
So, the government is changing its thinking. The government does think the permits or standards are too lax now given this report on the blowout preventers. They have just decided that between now and the time the new standards can be put in place, they‘re going to keep handing out permits under the old standard, under that old standard that they know is too lax.
Under that old standard that they know is too lax.
What else did we learn in our conversation with Mr. Bromwich is just how tolerant we are expected to be of a giant ecological mess. BP‘s disaster well poured oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days, oil by the thousands of barrels, by the millions. In all of the press releases for the new drilling permits now, even in the president‘s own big energy speech about this issue, much is being made of just how tough the new standards are for containment, for containing a blown out well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you‘re going to drill in deep water, you‘ve got to prove before you start drilling that you can actually contain an underwater spill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, Thursday night, Michael Bromwich confirmed for us that companies are getting new drilling permits when their proof that they can contain an underwater spill is that they have a contract with the company that says it can contain the spill in 17 days. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Gulf of Mexico 17 days into the BP oil disaster, the day oil washed ashore on the Chandeleur Islands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROMWICH: You‘re right. Seventeen days is not fabulous. But 17 days is a lot better than 87 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wow. And that‘s the new standard. Mr. Bromwich says things are better now with containment systems that can stop an emergency blowout in 17 days. Not fabulous in his words he says but better.
One last thing, I have not played a ton of tape from this Thursday‘s interview because it did keep me up for a couple nights. It will continue to I imagine especially this part where I asked Michael Bromwich about the safety of the workers on our deep water rigs here in America. Eleven people died that first night of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. When BP‘s well blew up, 11 people who shipped out to work on that rig never came home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president‘s oil spill commission released its report on the BP disaster. One of the things they found was that an oil rig worker was four times more likely to be killed working in U.S. waters than in European waters even though many of the same companies operate in both areas. Do you have any explanation for that?
BROMWICH: Do I have any explanation for what? For the higher incidence of fatalities here?
MADDOW: Yes. Even for --
BROMWICH: No, I don‘t.
MADDOW: And that hasn‘t been figured out and—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No. Last May in the middle of BP‘s disaster, the president stopped all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico until we could figure out what went wrong and how to drill more safely. And when the president declared that drilling could begin again, a new guy was put in charge of deciding who would get a permit and who wouldn‘t. This is the guy, Michael Bromwich. This is what he thinks. This is how he thinks. This is how he is approaching this issue.
The 10th new drilling permit, we can now report, was issued by Mr.
Bromwich‘s agency on Friday.
We will keep watching for relevant changes in this story, even if nobody else covers it, and we will keep trying to fathom how expectations got so low that there is not a national freak out about what we have learned in this story so far.
Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Have a good night.
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