'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Past transcripts by month
Guests: Diana DeGette, Dan Bongino
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW starts right now.
I won`t miss it. Even though there`s a football game on, I won`t miss the
Rachel, good evening.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Football? Is that a dog barking in the
distance? What is this football?
SCHULTZ: Never heard of it.
MADDOW: Thank you, Ed. Appreciate it, man.
Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well.
When President Obama presented his American Jobs Act to the country in
September, Congress reacted with all the urgency of a sleepy puppy lying in
a sunbeam on a soft pillow.
Some of the American people, however, took a slightly more active
In Houston, a group of demonstrators gathered at a federal building to
say to the world that they wanted an economy that works for everyone. They
were angry, they said, that their Republican senators voted against the
American Jobs Act. Eight people were arrested.
In Miami, protesters gathered at a congressman`s office, demanding
that he support the American Jobs Act.
In Bucks County, Pennsylvania again, same thing, local residents went
to their congressman`s office to vent their anger about a vote against the
American Jobs Act.
Those demonstrations were all roughly around that specific piece of
legislation, but they were framed, of course, to make a more basic and
broader point -- the point that we as a country ought to be doing public
We ought to be dealing with our infrastructure. We ought to be
building and repairing and reinforcing our way out of our economic mess.
We ought to be spending on roads and bridges. It`s something that everyone
would benefit from.
And in conjunction with the president making a pitch for that
politically, there were some public demonstrations around the country.
After the president`s big pitch for his jobs act to a joint session of
Congress, you may also remember that the president went to the Brent Spence
Bridge in Ohio right near the Kentucky border. So he was in the home state
of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, he was in Ohio, and he was
in sight of the home state of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch
So, President Obama went to the bridge is that straddles the home
states of two of the most powerful Republicans in Congress and said if
Congress passed the bill, the American Jobs Act would replace that bridge
and other structurally deficient bridges like it across the country.
One such structurally deficient bridge is the Charlestown Bridge in
Boston, where protesters tried and failed last month to march. They did
march to the bridge, but they failed to march on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: And you`re looking live again from Sky 5 at the Charlestown
Bridge. There is a bit of a standoff with police not allowing anybody on
the bridge. And part of the reason why they wanted to go to that bridge is
that many of the union protesters who are joining them at this hour believe
if we repaired bridges like that one, there would be more jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: "The Boston Globe" reported that week that the protesters had
wanted to hang a sign on the Charlestown Bridge that said "fix this bridge,
create jobs now." If you actually look here at that local footage, you can
actually see the big "fix this bridge" banner that they wanted to -- there
it is -- that they wanted to hang up there.
But like I said, the protesters and their banner failed to march onto
the bridge because according to the "Boston Herald" at the time police told
protesters that the aging structure, the bridge, would buckle if they all
walked onto it.
Point made, right? Marching onto the decrepit bridge to point out how
decrepit it is, is too dangerous because the bridge is so decrepit it might
not support the protesters` weight.
That scene on the Charlestown Bridge was last month. Today, in dozens
of cities across the country, protesters were back at their local
structurally deficient and otherwise bridges. Making essentially the same
argument, fix, rebuild, invest, and refurbish this country back into
prosperity -- enact public policy that benefits the many and not just the
rich few. Spend on infrastructure to put people to work building it and so
we can all benefit from it economically and otherwise.
And in the context of this Occupy Wall Street movement, this
leaderless, insistent, apparently resilient movement, the emphasis on
public investment is now part of a larger conversation about reconfiguring
our economy and our political system so it might serve people beyond just
the richest Americans.
It was a key moment for the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement
overall when protesters attempted to march across the Brooklyn Bridge for
the first time last month, 700 people were arrested that day -- 700. Those
arrests did not slow down the very young movement at that point. They in
fact seemed to accelerate it.
Police action against these demonstrations broadly speaking does
appear to be fortifying the protesters` resolved over these last six weeks.
Monday night into Tuesday morning of this week, New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg ordered the Occupy Wall Street protesters out of their encampment
spot at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Law enforcement destroyed tents
and cleared out the encampment.
Following that crackdown, today was a day of action in New York City
that`s bigger than anything else Occupy Wall Street has done. Protesters
staged a sit-in again at the Brooklyn Bridge. Here`s what you just saw
there was them projecting 99 percent onto buildings in downtown Manhattan.
They clashed with police at Zuccotti Park, the base camp of Occupy Wall
Street, where police had executed Mayor Bloomberg`s eviction orders earlier
There were reports of violence from Lower Manhattan today. One police
officer reportedly suffered a laceration on his hand after someone threw
something that was made of glass at him.
There were disturbing images today of a bloodied protester, reportedly
bloodied by police at Zuccotti Park.
"The New York Times" reporting this evening that more than 200 people
were arrested in New York City today. Five people charged with felony
assault. Seven officers and 10 protesters reported to be injured.
One of the people arrested was, interestingly, a retired Philadelphia
police captain named Ray Lewis, leading to this striking photograph.
One of the other largest protests today was in Los Angeles, in that
city`s financial district. Protesters marched to the 4th Street Bridge in
L.A. It spans the Los Angeles River. It was built 80 years ago, that
bridge was. Two dozen protesters in Los Angeles were arrested.
Even as the context feels different and the relationship between
people protesting in the streets and police in the streets feels different
over time and it has a much different history for this protest movement
than it did a couple of months ago, what still stands in the middle of this
conversation are these bridges, including that Charlestown Bridge where
protesters marched to but not on last month. Protesters were back today at
least near the Charlestown Bridge.
According to organizers, quote, they planned it this way, "Protesters
will only march to the base of this bridge because it is so structurally
unsound -- rivets on it haven`t been used since the 1930s."
That`s what happened in the country today, in the streets today, in
the cities today.
In Washington, D.C. today, what happened is that Republicans declared
victory on the issue of infrastructure. Republicans in Congress declared
that they got what they wanted. They are celebrating that they think they
have brought down the administration`s plans to invest in high-speed rail.
You know, like what China already has tons of.
The big victory today for the Republicans in Washington, whoo-hoo, no
trains! We won! Now, everything`s going to be awesome!
The Occupy Wall Street protests are not particularly oriented toward
electoral politics -- at least not yet. This is not being run by some
political consultant, right? They`re not gearing up to be running
candidates in the primaries at this point. This does not seem to be that
type of transactional movement at this point.
If you`re a person who`s interested in American politics, American
politics of all kinds, we`re sort of left now trying to understand these
parallel tracks. Not train tracks. No, we`re having no trains. They`re
not train tracks, but they are parallel.
There is this rather unruly, ungoverned, almost protean expression of
disgust and desire for change that`s being expressed in the streets all the
across the country.
And then there`s the other track that is seemingly in parallel with
it, the big Washington celebration today of the big beautiful political
power of doing nothing, of doing nothing, of stopping something from
These are the two tracks in which people are expressing their
political will right now in the United States. When will these two parts
of American politics stop running parallel to one another and start either
running in conflict or at least talking to each other? Or are they
Joining us now is Melissa Harris Perry, professor of political science
at Tulane University and an MSNBC contributor.
Melissa, thanks for being here tonight.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Absolutely. Good to
MADDOW: Do we have totally separate political tracks in this country
right now, the sort of governing and electoral politics track and what`s
happening in the streets? Or do you see these things speaking to each
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, they are. And it`s all these bridges, right? As
you were introing and thinking about bridges, I keep thinking about the
fact that it`s the Edmund Pettis Bridge which is the moment, the turning
point moment in the civil rights movement where finally you get a majority
of the country on the side of civil rights protesters because as they`re
coming across that bridge they`re turned back by the violence of local
Now, in this case what`s been happening is that the occupiers are
connecting with these local municipalities, with the mayors or with the
police officers. And as fraught as that has been, as much as that has
energized the movement and I think gotten even more people on the side of
occupiers, it doesn`t address this, as you say, parallel track.
Those local officials are under some of the same constraints that the
99 percent are. They are trying to deliver more and more services with
fewer and fewer resources.
And so, that battle is insufficient. The real fight is this fight
that is about whether or not we`re going to actually govern in this country
on behalf of the majority.
MADDOW: How does that happen, though? How does that happen
historically? You`re making the analogy with the civil rights movement.
But I guess even if we can just try to understand it cognitively, how do
you get from a fight that in the moment is sometimes a literal fight and is
about the right to assemble and it`s about police behavior and it`s about
right to free speech and it`s about people getting arrested and going to
jail -- and that becomes this immediate concern.
How does that translate to larger support or larger rejection of the
broader thing that those people were assembling for in the first place?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, so here`s my hope. I`m hoping that what Occupy
has done here is to actually collectively bring together a set of ideas
that already existed but didn`t have an institutional or movement popular
base. So when you look at the past 50 years in kind of American political
thought, it is conservative dominated. And I don`t just mean the GOP, but
I mean, the notion that the market is the very first place where we should
always look for an answer.
And this, in fact, comes from a set of institutions, think tanks,
conservative universities, philosophers who are writing about this, who are
implementing it globally actually -- this kind of market-based individual
analysis that whenever it sees inequality it asks one question: what`s
wrong with poor people? Why are poor people poor?
And what we see here is for the first time, a mass-based movement that
brings together a set of progressive ideas that has been asking the
question when they see inequality, how did rich people get rich? Why are
these rich people rich?
This can`t all be merit. These people can`t be that much more
meritorious than poor people. And that`s a shift of the question.
And if what they`re doing is collecting on something that exists in
these institutions, then maybe it lights the fire under the institutions to
do the kind of insider work.
MADDOW: If that -- if that shift in dynamics that we`re talking
about, the unnatural thing being the 1 percent having such a concentration
of wealth and power in this country, rather than the unnatural thing being
the rest of the country not having it, what does it matter and how does it
matter if Zuccotti Park is never overnight occupied again? If these people
lose their physical space that they have been occupying. They haven`t just
been marching and rallying. They`ve been willing themselves to stay out
overnight in uncomfortable circumstances and take up space.
What happens if they lose those spaces?
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not convinced that this is the worst thing that can
happen. I think it`s bad, and I think it`s particularly bad for our right
to assemble, kind of constitutionally bad for us as a country. But I`m not
sure it`s the worst thing that could happen to the movement because there`s
a way in which it has become a bit of a tourist spot.
Now, I don`t mean for the occupiers themselves. But there`s a way
that once it truly a -- almost a permanent or semi-permanent residence,
then it can lose some of the fire behind it. Today was in part emblazed by
the having been pushed out. So --
MADDOW: Today they became occupy everywhere.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I`m not prepared yet to write the requiem of the
occupy movement even if they can`t camp anymore.
MADDOW: I think the occupy everywhere feeling of today was felt not
only routine country, but even in New York City around the city was an
important theoretical point for where this moves forward. But we`re going
to have to see.
MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Perry, professor at Tulane, MSNBC contributor,
it`s always nice to have you here. Thanks a lot, Melissa.
MADDOW: All right. The Herman Cain as performance art project
analysis here continues. Just when you think his most prolific period as
an artist is over, he tops himself -- same medium, different day. A
curated tour of the Herman Cain art project`s latest gallery installation
MADDOW: We`ve got the latest details on the young man who`s in
custody now who has been charged with attempted assassination of the
president. That`s coming up in just a moment.
MADDOW: Every four years, every presidential campaign season we have
come to expect unscripted moments on the campaign trail -- unscripted
moments that stick with a candidate throughout their time in the race.
They`re usually off the cuff, usually unplanned, but they do leave an
One of the categories for this type of thing tends to be cultural
references -- candidates making cultural references or sometimes missing
them. So, like, there was Walter Mondale with where`s the beef? Or Poppy
Bush not knowing what a bar code scanner was at a grocery store.
Cultural references can work in a good way to humanize a candidate, or
they can make them seem elitist and weird.
Sometimes, though, a cultural reference moment does not necessarily
help or hurt the candidate. It just sticks with you anyway because it
seems telling in some way about the candidate as a person.
In that category, consider Newt Gingrich`s cell phone ring tone.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Can you hear what he`s playing there? I love that we had the
subtitle showing music.
It`s "Dancing Queen." Newt Gingrich having as his cell phone ring
tone Abba`s "Dancing Queen" has been reported in the past. But this is
actually the first audio confirmation we have had of "Dancing Queen" going
off in his pocket and him having to take his phone out and turn it off.
Newt Gingrich`s cell phone ring tone is "Dancing Queen" by Abba.
Jon Huntsman, however, should be thought of less as Swedish disco and
more as Pacific Northwest genius grunge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To hear these two go at it
over here it`s almost incredible. You`ve got Governor Romney who called it
a fraud in his book "No Apology." I don`t know if that was written by Kurt
Cobain or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There it is. Kurt Cobain, "All Apologies." A Nirvana
reference. Apparently totally lost on that Republican debate audience in
Florida. Judge your audience, sir.
Mr. Huntsman may be wizard, but that was not a magic moment.
Mitt Romney, in trying to humanize his rather stick figury persona --
Mitt Romney has tried to drop some pop cultural knowledge on his peeps.
Last time around he blew it with a "who let the dogs out" thing. He`s with
a group of African-American youngsters -- do we have the "who let the dogs
out" tape? Do we still have that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who`s got your camera,
though? Who let the dogs out? Who, who?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Still awkward after all these years.
Mitt Romney`s cultural references -- who, who -- this time around have
not been as embarrassing or bordering on scandalous as that one. They`ve
more just been kind of confirming him as seeming stiff and out of date.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: There`s something special about lakes where you don`t get
salt on you after you`ve been swimming. Where there`s no seaweed. Where
you don`t have to worry about things eating you in the water, right?
And -- I don`t worry about sharks. But somehow in the back of my
mind, after seeing that movie "Jaws," you know, it just -- it just makes
In some respects this is the -- the Obama economy is a where`s Waldo
economy. It is -- finding a job, a good-paying job in this economy is
harder than finding Waldo in one of his books.
I mean, this is -- the Obama economy is a where`s Waldo economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not a clip of Mitt Romney from the `90s. That was last
month. Where`s Waldo?
So every four years we get treated to inadvertent and ill-advised and
weirdly telling cultural references from the presidential candidates. It
happens every time.
We also, of course, learn something about these people from their
gaffes. Gaffes like Rick Perry`s brain freeze "oops" thing at last week`s
CNBC debate. Or Newt Gingrich demanding politicians who took money from
Freddie Mac give that money back even though his own lobbying firm took
something like $1.6 million from Freddie Mac.
Gaffes happen. People screw up.
Newt Gingrich also insisting at one point this year that he did not
believe what he himself had said about Paul Ryan`s Medicare-killing budget.
He said anybody quoting him saying that was lying. Don`t quote me. If you
quote me, it`s a lie.
But there`s one candidate in the race this year who is different. The
art project formerly known as Herman Cain is giving us a whole different
way of looking at stuff like this on the campaign trail this year. Herman
Cain is purportedly a presidential candidate, but he has essentially no
campaign staff to speak of. He also continually makes what are treated as
gaffes, but even though the media treats them as gaffes, they are frankly
too perfect to actually just be mistakes.
More often than not, what he does that gets covered as a mistake, as a
gaffe is really a sort of genius, obscure, has to be deliberate cultural
reference. It`s art referencing art.
And we have a rich tradition of this, right? I mean, you can`t
understand the genius of what these muppets are doing here to explain the
letter G unless you know that they haven`t just come up with this whole
competitive school singing conceit out of nowhere, they are making
reference to another cultural product that is the TV show "Glee." Art
You cannot truly appreciate, for example, the subtle glory of Lou
Barlow from Dinosaur Jr. doing a soft-spoken acoustic emo version of the
song "Round and Round" unless you know that the song was made famous by
this hair band.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: You can`t get the genius unless you know that the band that
originally did this is a hair band called Ratt, with two Ts.
It`s art referencing art. Or at least art referencing hair band.
It`s an internal cultural reference.
And in order to understand the Herman Cain art project, you not only
have to understand modern Republican presidential politics, you also have
to understand what he is doing as his art project. You have to understand
the breadth of cultural genius that he is drawing upon to make his art.
Herman Cain is begging us, all of us, to please get in on the joke.
So, in chronological order, when Herman Cain finished that Iowa debate and
randomly started talking about a great poet in his closing statement, what
was the great bit of poetry that he was referencing? It was the theme song
to the "Pokemon" movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONG: Life can be a challenge.
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Life can be a challenge.
SONG: Life can seem impossible.
CAIN: Life can seem impossible.
SONG: But it`s never easy --
CAIN: But it`s never easy when there`s so much on the line.
SONG: -- when so much is on the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Herman Cain quoting the "Pokemon" movie during a presidential
Then there was Herman Cain`s 9-9-9 tax plan. Where was the only other
place in nature that a 9-9-9 tax plan already existed? The video game
called "Sim City." "Sim City" is not just a video game. It is an old
school awesome video game about urban planning. The makers of "Sim City"
clearly in on the joke at this point even launched their own attack ad
against Herman Cain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: My 9-9 economic jobs plan --
VOICE: That`s why my 9-9-9 -- my 9-9 --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: "Sim City" clearly realizing what`s going on here and getting
the genius of it.
With video games like "Sim City" and songs like the theme from the
"Pokemon" movie checked off his list, Herman Cain`s art project has since
decided to move on to other movies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: I`m proud to know the Koch brothers. I`m very proud to know
the Koch brothers.
I am the Koch brothers` brother from another mother.
CAIN: Yes. I`m their brother from another mother!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, you have heard the brother from another mother thing
before. Somewhere. Before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have nothing. Just like me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t say nothing. He has me. His brother
from another mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That would be "Rush Hour 3."
When you are pulling quotes from the third film in a trilogy like
"Rush Hour," I submit to you that you are trying to tell the people
something. And at this point it should have been clear to everybody
involved what exactly was going on here.
But just in case it wasn`t clear enough, today, Herman Cain tied a
nice little bow on top during a campaign stop in Nashua, New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: We`ve got plenty of experts. And a leader knows how to use
those experts. We need a leader, not a reader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We need a leader, not a reader. Ladies and gentlemen, I
present to you the "Simpsons" movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTOON CHARACTER: I`ve narrowed your choices down to five
unthinkable options. Each will cause untold misery --
CARTOON CHARACTER: I pick number 3.
CARTOON CHARACTER: You don`t even want to read them first?
CARTOON CHARACTER: I was elected to lead, not to read. Number 3.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hot tip to the Web site Talking Points Memo for flagging that
as the cultural reference, the cultural source today for the Herman Cain
art project`s latest not a gaffe.
The Herman Cain campaign is an art project about running for
president. That much is clear. But the thing that is underappreciated,
the thing that I think deserves some attention, even maybe from the art
world, is that this is not just an art project, this is a really good art
It is complicated. It is widely sourced. It is pulling from movies
and songs and video games and even TV shows that were turned into movies.
The 2012 election will likely be remembered for many things, right?
But Herman Cain pulling off really quite good political performance art for
months at a time right in the middle of it is something we will all be able
to tell our grand kids about. I am dying to see the next act.
MADDOW: Our "Moment of Geek" tonight involves the world hula. But I
want to tell you so you are not disappointed that it has nothing to do with
this. I`m sorry.
It also has nothing to do with this either.
I should also say that the word "disco" will also make an appearance
in our "Moment of Geek" tonight.
But while we will be talking about disco, there will be none of this.
There are people on the show who have Abba ring tones like Newt Gingrich.
At least one of us who shall remain nameless but whose initials are
executive producer Bill Wolff is known to listen to the Bee Gees while he
works. I`m right on the other side of that wall, Bill.
We are pro-disco on this show. We do not have an anti-disco bias.
But in the "Moment of Geek" tonight we have to discuss a whole new meaning
for the word "disco" that has nothing to do with these beautiful, beautiful
Also, a whole new meaning for the world hula apparently that has
nothing to do with hula dancing or hula hoops.
So that`s your warning. Disco and hula but not what you expect.
That`s what`s coming up on tonight`s "Moment of Geek."
MADDOW: The pope has a financial reform plan, sort of. And it is
sort of radical. It was released by the pope`s Council for Justice and
Peace last month. It calls for a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions
-- a tiny tax on financial transactions in order to shift money out of Wall
Street, global Wall Street, and take that money and use it instead for
development programs, for fighting poverty.
Here in the United States, the Catholic hierarchy was not, as far as
we know, out at the Brooklyn Bridge with the Occupy Wall Street protesters
today. Instead of buckling down and getting to work on the pope`s Robin
Hood tax and justice idea, America`s Catholic bishops this year are instead
re-upping their anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-birth control
agenda. That is apparently what America`s Catholic bishops have decided to
focus on politically this year.
And you know, it is a good year for it. Republican politicians have
really been focused on that stuff this year as well. Republican Governor
Scott Walker of Wisconsin, for example -- you`d think he would have other
things on his mind. After all, he is the focus of an attempted recall
effort in his state. A new poll out this week on Governor Walker`s
prospects shows that 58 percent of Wisconsinites want him to be recalled
from office. That`s not good for him.
Also, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin is at 7.7 percent, which is
up a third of a point since he took office. So, Governor Walker called a
special legislative session on jobs in Wisconsin, and at their special jobs
session, Governor Walker and Wisconsin`s Republicans decided to focus on
jobs by removing all discussion of contraception from the sex ed curriculum
for Wisconsin school kids.
We`ve been reporting on this for a while. Kate Sheppard had a great
piece on it this week in "Mother Jones," noting that pro-life Wisconsin has
been agitating for this. Pro-life Wisconsin also says birth control
encourages sexual promiscuity and with it a host of social pathologies.
Contraception also prevents unwanted pregnancy. Is that a good thing?
Pro-life Wisconsin, we also found them on this familiar Web site. Remember
these guys? The pill kills?
Pro-life Wisconsin was a 2011 the pill kills sponsor. These are the
anti-birth control activists.
Also, mark Pro-life Wisconsin down for a yes on the Mississippi
personhood amendment, which would have banned all abortions in Mississippi
with no exceptions, as well as possibly banning hormonal birth control and
some fertility treatments. This is the thing that was promoted by FOX News
celebrity Mike Huckabee and which I guess, sort of, also has the support of
Mitt Romney, the Republicans` leading candidate for president.
Mitt Romney kind of half flipped back on that issue after it lost in
Mississippi. He`s still on the record saying he absolutely supports it.
So, as with most things with Mitt Romney, who`s to say what his position is
Nearly 40 percent of House Republicans have signed on to what is
essentially a federal version of the Mississippi personhood thing. So
again, not just against abortion but against the most prevalent forms of
birth control in the country.
And now, there`s an effort under way to essentially overturn, to
create a really big exception to the part of health reform that requires
insurance companies to provide contraception in the same way they provide
all other preventive care, which is to say for free, without a co-pay.
There`s been widespread concern this week around Capitol Hill over
rumors that the White House could be considering scaling back that part of
health reform, scaling back that requirement, that insurance companies have
to cover birth control, that regulation, and worries that the White House
might be thinking about scaling it back was the subjective a Planned
Parenthood alert and petition that`s being circulated online right now.
We`ve also spoken to multiple Democratic aides today on Capitol Hill
who say that their bosses, members of Congress, are concerned.
The White House told us today that no decision has been made on
scaling back this regulation about birth control -- of course, no decision
being made is not the same as we`re definitely not changing this. Which
might be why Democrats on the Hill are worried about this in the first
place. But clearly, the White House is trying to be reassuring -- at least
in terms of what they told us this afternoon.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado. She`s co-
chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus.
Congressman DeGette, thanks very much for joining us. It`s nice to
have you here.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: It`s good to be back, Rachel.
MADDOW: Why do you think this provision in the health reform act is
important, this provision relating to birth control? And are you very
worried that it might really be at risk?
DEGETTE: Well, in August what happened was the administration said
that part of the required coverage of insurance companies under the
Affordable Health Care Act is birth control. And that makes sense because
that`s preventative care. We`re trying to shift the health care system to
And now, the final regulation is about to be adopted. And there`s
been a hard push by religious institutions to say that Catholic hospitals,
Catholic universities, other institutions should be able to refuse to cover
birth control for their employees, for students at Catholic universities
and so on. And we think that`s a terrible mistake because we think that
the people who have the conscience clause who can make their decisions
about whether they want birth control are the women themselves and they
should be exercising this.
This would affect millions of Americans. And so, we just want to make
sure we`re concerned, the Pro-Choice Caucus, is concerned that the
Affordable Health Care Act continue to cover birth control just like it
does any other preventative care.
MADDOW: To be clear, right now, there is an existing exemption from
this, which as I understand it is pretty narrowly targeted to religious
institutions that are -- that is to say, churches. And what is being
considered, at least what religious groups, what Catholic bishops in
particular are pushing for is that that exemption apply to all institutions
remotely affiliated with the Catholic Church, which as you know, would
affect millions of people largely through institutions like Catholic
hospitals, Catholic charities, and Catholic hospitals -- and Catholic
Is that -- is that a fair assessment?
DEGETTE: That`s right. Many states right now under state law say
that you have to cover -- insurance companies have to pay for birth
control. And they have a very narrow exception for actual churches. So,
the theory is if someone goes to work at a church, they are likely to share
the same precepts. But -- so that right now is in the draft regulation
What we`re concerned about is if you expand that to Catholic
universities and to hospitals, number one, you`re covering a whole lot of
people who may not share those same -- those same religious objections.
And number two, even most Catholics these days use birth control, just like
the rest of the population, and an overwhelming amount of Americans,
including Catholics, support mandatory coverage for birth control in
MADDOW: When we spoke with the White House today, Congresswoman, they
did really seem to be trying to calm things down here. I think it`s fair
to characterize their reaction to this as, you know, listen, people may be
upset but there`s nothing to be upset about, we haven`t done anything.
There is a -- there are a lot of worries, though, and there are a lot of
people who are concerned about this.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in
particular, has been raising the prospect that this rule could be changed.
Do you -- from what you know of the White House and from what you know
of them in working with them on this particular issue, is it possible that
this is a misunderstanding and the White House is really not inclined to
change this rule at all? Or do you think there is concern among women`s
health advocates on something like this because they are concerned more
broadly that they don`t know that the White House has a commitment to
standing up for women`s rights on an issue like this?
DEGETTE: Well, look, I was the co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus when
we passed the Affordable Health Care Act, and we saw what the bishops are
willing to do with the Stupak Amendment that would restrict a woman`s right
to choose and other things. And we think it`s much better to get this out
in the open right now to raise the issues, to let the White House know as
they promulgate this final regulation that the vast number of pro-choice
members -- well, all of the pro-choice members of Congress and the vast
number of Americans support this kind of coverage under their insurance
We`d rather -- we`d rather bring this out now because the concerns
have been -- have been voiced than after a rule is promulgated. It`s
easier to do it now than after the horse has left the barn.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado -- thanks very much
for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you here, ma`am.
DEGETTE: Good to be with you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: All right. "Moment of Geek" -- missing amphibian edition now
with more disco and more hula, just ahead.
MADDOW: Federal authorities today charged this man, Oscar Ramiro
Ortega-Hernandez, with attempting to assassinate President Obama. Mr.
Ortega-Hernandez was arrested yesterday in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where
police say he fled after shooting at the White House from several hundred
yards away -- shooting at the White House with a semi-automatic rifle last
One bullet, which may have been from that incident on Friday,
reportedly cracked a window in the residential wing of the White House in
what`s called the Yellow Oval Room on the same floor as the president`s
bedroom. The bullet was stopped by bulletproof glass.
Now, this happened on Friday night. The president and first lady were
away. They`re traveling.
According to the official complaint in this case today, Mr. Ortega-
Hernandez was actually stopped by police before the shooting happened. He
was stopped in Arlington, Virginia, which is quite near D.C., at about
11:00 on Friday morning. Someone had called him in as a suspicious person
apparently, and police pulled him over.
The complaint says he refused to let officers search his car, a black
1998 Honda Accord with Idaho plates, but police did take his picture. They
noted he was wearing a black hoodie that had L.A. logos on it.
It was later that night when witnesses reported hearing multiple shots
fired near the White House and then they saw a car speeding away. A few
minutes after people heard the shots fired, somebody spotted a black 1998
Honda Accord parked on the lawn of the U.S. Institute of Peace on
The U.S. Institute of Peace, incidentally, is a conflict management
center that was created by Congress.
A witness that night says that they saw the driver on the lawn of the
institute trying to restart the car and then the driver got out and ran
away. Investigators searched the vehicle. They say they found a Romanian
semi-automatic assault rifle with a large scope on it. It would be sort of
a knockoff, poor man`s AK-47. They also found three ammunition magazines
loaded with 39-millimeter bullets, several more boxes of bullets, nine
spent shell casings, an aluminum baseball bat, a set of brass knuckles, a
receipt from a Fairfax, Virginia, Wal-Mart dated that afternoon, as well as
a black hoodie printed with L.A. logos.
Now, we don`t know what was on the Wal-Mart receipt. The FBI said
tonight they couldn`t comment on that yet.
The FBI does say that Mr. Ortega-Hernandez was one of two owners
listed on the title of the abandoned car. His family back in Idaho where
he`s from had reported him as a missing person last month. Witnesses in
Idaho told investigators that he owned a gun like the one found in his car
and that he had become obsessed with the federal government.
Again, according to the criminal complaint filed today he wanted to
"hurt President Obama," that he considered President Obama to be the anti-
Christ and that he "need to kill him."
This young man`s father told NBC`s Spanish language network Telemundo
that his son had also become obsessed with the notion that the world would
end on November 11th, on 11-11-11, which is the day the shooting happened.
When the young man was arrested yesterday, it was reported that one
bullet had cracked a White House window and another was found on the White
House grounds outside the building. That`s what we reported on this show
But in the court papers today we learned that the FBI, in fact, found
several bullet impact points on the White House, including specifically on
the second story of the White House and higher, which is where the first
Now, again, nobody was hurt. President Obama and the first lady were
not home when the shooting happened. The White House has not said whether
the Obamas` daughters, Sasha and Malia, were there at the time.
But law enforcement is taking this case very, very seriously. Today,
they charged Mr. Ortega-Hernandez with attempting to assassinate the
president or a member of his staff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: All that matters is what is
in the mind of the criminal. Not if the president there or not. He very
well may have thought that the president was at home. And in that case,
he, in fact, committed a crime, whether he was home or not is irrelevant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The charge has come with a potential sentence of life in
The last time someone shot at the White House was and was prosecuted
for attempted assassination was in 1994, during the Clinton administration.
The person who fired those shot was a named Francisco Duran. He was in his
mid-20s at the time of the shooting. Mr. Duran was convicted of attempting
assassination and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The man arrested yesterday and charged today, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-
Hernandez, we should say, is 21 years old. At his hearing in Pittsburgh,
he is reported to have sat quietly with his feet shackled and his hands
free. The judged asked if he understood he would be sent back to
Washington for trial and he is reportedly said only, "Yes, ma`am."
Joining us now is Dan Bongino, a 12-year veteran of the Secret Service
who we just heard from in that case. Mr. Bongino recently helped protect
Incidentally, I should also say he is now running for Republican
nomination for the United States Senate in the great state of Maryland.
Mr. Bongino, thanks very much for joining us tonight. Appreciate it,
BONGINO: Yes, ma`am. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: As a former Secret Service agent, how unsettling is it for
that bullets apparently reached and struck the White House?
BONGINO: That is disturbing. During my time in the Secret Service,
especially on the presidential protection division, I have never had an
event that I lived through or worked through. So, it`s very disturbing
development, no question.
MADDOW: In your time in the service, I don`t know how much you can
tell us, but can you describe how frequently you get what you describe as
credible threats against the president -- something more than joking or
ranting? Are credible threats common?
BONGINO: No. They`re actually not very common, especially with the
advent of the Internet technology over the last 20 years. It enables you
to be anonymous online or what they think is anonymous.
So, no. Fortunately, not many of the threats they receive are
actually credible threats. But they investigate every one. There`s no
room for error here, Ms. Maddow. As you well know, they only have to be
lucky once. The Secret Service has to be lucky every day. So, there`s no
room for error on that.
MADDOW: Was there anything -- anything in the external world in
which, I guess, threats would correlate, where there are times where it
seems like threats would peak or recede either because of who was in the
White House or other things going on, either in the politics or in the
country at large?
BONGINO: Sure. I get that question a lot. And, no, not from I saw.
I was not a protective intelligence agent. I was on the presidential
protection division. There is a difference.
But my experience working with those agents, no, and that surprises
some folks. You would think there would be a correlation between -- I`ve
gotten the question frequently was there an uptick with President Obama and
again, not any information I was privy to. No, not that I saw in my time.
MADDOW: Today, we learned the Secret Service is protecting one of the
presidential candidates, Herman Cain. Mr. Cain reportedly asked for
protection after he says he received death threats. He`s the first
Republican presidential candidate to get a Secret Service detail this year
and, of course, we are months away from even the convention.
Does that seem like a trend to you? That candidates are sensing a
need or the Secret Service is sensing a need to provide protection earlier
BONGINO: They have a specific formula, excuse me, that they go
through in conjunction with members of Congress. It depends on funds
raised, a threat environment. What the specific threat was to Mr. Cain, I
don`t know. Again, having resigned in May, unfortunately, I`m not privy to
a lot of the inside baseball anymore.
But I`m sure there was something that they were aware of, or some kind
of a threat environment they were uncomfortable with, or else they wouldn`t
have made that decision.
MADDOW: Dan Bongino, veteran of the U.S. Secret Service, Republican
hopeful for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, I really appreciate you joining us
tonight and helping us understand this and get some context on it. Thanks
very much, sir.
BONGINO: Yes, ma`am. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We have a "Moment of Geek" ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right. Tonight`s "Moment of Geek" starts with a picture
of a cannibal. So, please brace yourselves.
That`s it. A little frog cannibal. This is the first-known example
collected in 1940 of the hula painted frog. Scientific name, which itself
is awesome, Discoglossus nigriventer.
If I was in charge of re-etymologizing Latin, I would declare it comes
from the cute little belly spots. Look, that kind of look like the lights
from a disco ball.
In reality though, it got its name because Discoglossus means disk-
shaped tongue. And apparently, it has a disk-shaped tongue. You are
welcome for that.
Only a handful of these frogs have ever been collected. Four of them
were collected in the `40s when the species was first discovered and one of
those four little frogs, one of the four ever collected, ate one of the
other ones. Thus, reducing the world`s known population of hula painted
frogs by 25 percent in a single meal.
The fifth painted hula frog ever collected, they got in 1955, around
the time when the swamp where these little cannibals lived, a swamp near
Lake Hula in northern Israel, that swamp was going to be drained to prevent
Draining the swamp not always just a metaphor in Washington.
Apparently, the draining the swamp action also prevented the hula painted
frogs because in 1955, that was the last time anyone ever saw one of these
guys they were declared extinct in 1996. Psych!
Israel`s Nature and Parks Authority unveiled this little amphibian
today -- yes, a hula painted frog found by a genius park ranger at a nature
preserve who noticed this little guy because he had never seen a frog with
this particular strange jumping technique before. So, he decided they
would check out that frog and viola, yes, it`s him. Look at that little
Come on. Yes, that`s a Discoglossus nigriventer right there. Israeli
authorities credit the recovery of the species to a new program they
started to divert water back into those swamps that they drained 60 years
ago. Proceed with caution here, right, Israel. I mean, the last time you
found these guys, they ate each other and you dried up the habitat. Now,
you`re putting water back in. Make sure you don`t drown them this time.
Incidentally, there is an international amphibian hunt going on right
now for more species. So, if you happen run across a gastric brooding
frog, and seriously, it has that name, or real Piscatto (ph) stub-footed
toad, or a Mesopotamian beaked toad, please call a park ranger -- and then
That does it for us tonight. Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with
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