'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, May 2, 2012
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Guests: Carl Reddix, Steve Coll
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Ghost Wars," Steve Coll, is
going to be here tonight for the interview. I`m really looking forward to
that. He has just put out something totally ground breaking and totally
And in the process of explaining what that thing is, we`re also going
to explain what the heck this thing is. This is a new thing on our earth
that never existed before, but now it does. That`s coming up later tonight
in the interview.
We also tonight have an update on whether or not Republicans are going
to allow armed protests at their Republican convention this year -- armed,
as in, people with loaded weapons.
That`s all ahead this hour.
But we start tonight with an exclusive story about the whole purpose
of politics in the first place. The reason to seek public office, the
reason to get elected in the first place, what your job is if you win an
election, is that you get to make policy. And the whole point of making
policy is supposedly to address problems in our country.
Here`s a sample problem -- Mississippi, the great state of
Mississippi, has health trouble. Heart disease is the number one cause of
death in the United States. Well, the highest rate of health disease death
in the country is in Mississippi.
Diabetes is also a massive American health problem. Alabama and
Mississippi, it turns out, are neck and neck on being the worst for
diabetes. The most recent nationwide stats put Alabama at 50 out of 50
states, and Mississippi at 49th.
The really astonishing number, though, in Mississippi, is infant
mortality. For every thousand kids born in the United States, how many of
those kids do not live to their first birthday? Overall, this is the rate
in the country for infant mortality. Here`s what it is in Mississippi.
Hmm. Mississippi has the worst infant death rate in the country. Not
only is Mississippi the worst in the country, if Mississippi were a
country, it would rank below Sri Lanka and below Botswana. It would be
83rd in the world in terms of infant mortality.
And if you look internally at what`s going on in Mississippi, what
explains that problem, you end up very quickly realizing that the issue is
in racial disparity. These are Mississippi`s own numbers. This is infant
mortality for white mothers in Mississippi. That`s the infant mortality
rate in Mississippi over time. And this is the infant mortality rate --
that red line there -- for African-American mothers in Mississippi.
So white mothers in Mississippi, they have roughly the same rate as
the rest of the country. But the reason Mississippi is the worst in the
country, the reason Mississippi has worst than Botswana`s infant mortality
rate, is because African-American women have more than doubled the infant
mortality rate of white women there. And it makes the state the worst in
This is a real problem. This is a life-and-death problem and it has
been bad in Mississippi for a long time.
Now, to Mississippi`s credit, they have decided to make this a
priority. They are working on this. The state health department has
elevated the issue, so that the state can work on it in a concentrated way.
The state epidemiologist, the chief nurse of the state, the office of
health data in the state, the health state officer -- they`re all putting
together reports, specifically on this problem, reports to the state
legislature, so the policy makers and the state legislature can try to fix
this the problem.
The most recent report shows that they believe they brought their
horrible infant mortality rate down. They say they`ve got it down below
10. It`s still awful. It`s still one of the worst in the country, but
when the next nationwide stats come out, Mississippi may no longer be the
worst in the country anymore, because they`re working on it. But they
still need to keep working on it.
And lucky for Mississippi, on their state board of health, which
decides policy direction for the state on health issues, it`s the board
that appoints that state health officer, that appoints the state`s overall
health plan, that approves the state`s overall health plan for its overall
health policies. Luckily, on that board, Mississippi is lucky enough to
have somebody uniquely qualified to understand and help the state address
this issue that the state really, really wants to address.
His name is Carl Reddix. He grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi. He went
to the Northeast for his education. He got his medical agree at Tufts. He
went to Harvard to get his masters in public health. So, he has a public
health background, which in this case maybe just as critical ass having an
M.D., as being a practicing doctor.
He also, though, went to Johns Hopkins, to the Johns Hopkins. He did
his residency there as an OB/GYN.
And then after all of that, God bless, Mississippi, luckily for his
home state, this incredibly talented, perfectly well-qualified, highly
educated, Harvard and Johns Hopkins-trained African-American son of
Mississippi OB/GYN, he decided to go home and practice in his home state.
He could have practiced anywhere in the country. He would have been a star
wherever he went with that kind of a background. He decided to go home and
practice in Jackson, Mississippi.
And then, yes, the state`s Republican governor, Haley Barbour, last
year appointed him, appointed Dr. Reddix to be on that state board of
Given the problems that Mississippi is facing and given what they are
trying to fix in terms of policy, somebody like Dr. Reddix has to be seen
by the state of Mississippi as just a Godsend. You`d think, right?
The new Republican administration in Mississippi has just fired him.
He had been serving Mississippi on that health board since last July, but
the new Republican lieutenant governor in Mississippi has now blocked his
Senate confirmation process and insisted that he be taken off this state
board. The lieutenant governor, who you see there on the right, says he
wants the state to instead pick a, quote, "qualified doctor to help guide
state health policy."
Because being a born-and-bred Mississippian, Harvard and Johns
Hopkins-trained OB/GYN, with a Masters in public health means you`re not
Not anymore. Not in Mississippi. Not in 2012. Not in Republican
politics today -- at least not in this iteration of Republican politics
The reason Mississippi has taken this doctor out of the health policy
process, that rather desperately needs him in Mississippi, is because one
of the consultancies that Dr. Reddix has is with the Jackson Women`s Health
Organization. Dr. Reddix does not perform abortions. He is not paid by
the Jackson Women`s Health Organization.
But if a woman is having an abortion or any other kind of procedure at
that clinic and there is a complication and something goes wrong and that
woman needs to be admitted to the hospital, Dr. Reddix has agreed to take
over care of that woman when she gets to the hospital. Dr. Reddix says
this almost never happens.
But what this means in practical terms, if there ever is a
complication, a woman doesn`t just get dumped into the emergency room at a
local hospital, she gets admitted to the hospital under the care of this
qualified, experienced, highly-trained physician. That`s it. That`s the
And Mississippi`s governor and lieutenant governor have decided that
because of that, he cannot be on the board of health. He cannot
participate in health policy. His public service is not wanted by the
state of Mississippi. He has been fired.
And now, on the state board of health in Mississippi, which has the
worst infant mortality rate in the country among its may other problems,
which is a huge racial disparity specifically in its horrible infant
mortality problem -- now in the state of Mississippi, thanks to this year`s
garden variety anti-abortion Republican politics, there is now African-
American medical doctor and there is no OB/GYN on the state board of
And for the record, that one remaining clinic that provides abortion
services in the state of Mississippi is in danger of being shut down,
thanks to a new law signed by the state`s Republican governor, targeting
that clinic with new regulations that do not apply to any other clinic in
the state and that are designed specifically to shut that clinic down.
This is new. This is new. And nobody in the country has been able to
explain why this brand-new thing is happening. It`s not that the
Republican Party or even the whole state of Mississippi was not
conservative on these issues before.
I mean, Haley Barbour was a radically anti-abortion politician. He
always has been. But even he did not take it so far as to take a well-
qualified doctor who doesn`t do abortions and kick him out of public
service in Mississippi.
What happened in Republican politics between last year and this year
to put anti-abortion ideological fervency above all other policy goals in
the state and in other states? What happened in on year?
The Republican Party has long been on the right on this issue. But
there has been a drastic right-ward lurch just in this last election cycle,
which as we have been reporting on it for the last year, has yet to be
explained to me by anybody. And the partisan divide on this is right now
is that Democrats are starting to ask: why is this happening on the
Republican side? Why is it that the Republicans have lurched so suddenly
and so far on women`s issues? Democrats are starting to ask that.
And on the Republican side, in Republican politics, I think the reason
why we haven`t had an answer, we haven`t had an explanation is because
Republicans are still in the mode of denying that it is happening.
Here`s how that looked in presidential politics today. Notice
anything interesting about this picture? Mitt Romney, the Republican
presidential candidate, speaking today in Chantilly, Virginia, in what was
stage-managed to look like an all-female event -- blessed art thou among
women, Mr. Romney.
Mr. Romney also taking to doing many of his national media
availabilities now while seated next to his wife, as if she is his running
mate. The campaign plainly trying to create a stylistic image of Mitt
Romney as a person who is comfortable around persons of the female
But even as they are taking such great pains to bend over backwards to
put Mitt Romney on camera in the company of women, to show him as being a
person who is around females, even as they recognize plainly that they need
to be doing this, even as they recognize that they need to be doing this,
they are still not working on policy. They are still not working on
They are still -- even as they focus on issues relating to women and
the economy, they are, for example, refusing to say whether or not Mitt
Romney would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
They`re refusing to say whether or not he would have signed the
Paycheck Fairness Act. That`s another bill aimed at trying to ensure that
women get equal pay for equal work. It was blocked the last time it came
up in the Senate by the Republicans filibustering it. Mr. Romney`s
campaign apparently feeling no pressure at all to say whether he supports
They don`t feel any pressure. It`s just policy, after all. That`s
not what this is about.
This year, after decades of totally noncontroversial bipartisan
support, 31 male Republican senators voted against the Violence Against
Women Act, and it now faces an uncertain future in the Republican-
controlled House. And they keep going after abortion rights and
reproductive rights, specifically.
Last week, even in the midst of pounding the podium, literally, John
Boehner pounding the podium, saying that the idea that there`s a war on
women is a fabrication, even as that was happening, more than 60
Republicans in the House were introducing another federal anti-abortion
bill. Another one!
Republicans have also introduced a new 24-hour waiting period for
women seeking abortions nationwide. They`ve also introduced a new time
restriction on when you are allowed to get an abortion in Washington, D.C.,
over which congress has some jurisdiction. They also introduced a national
forced ultrasound bill.
So like the one in Virginia that made Bob McDonnell famous, except
this time House Republicans want it for the whole country.
They tried to block medical schools from being able to teach how to
perform an abortion to doctors in training. They threatened to shut down
the whole government over trying to defund Planned Parenthood. They
launched their whole witch hunt investigation of Planned Parenthood.
HR-3, the third thing they deal, their third bill. It was repeal
Obamacare, then something else, then, HR-3 -- the third thing they
introduced when day took over the House -- was an anti-abortion bill. It`s
policy -- policy, policy, policy.
It is not style. It`s not personnel. It`s not chromosomes. It`s
Republicans have always been conservatives on this issue, but this
fervency is new. This pushing it to the top of the agenda is new, and as
yet, unexplained. Even in Mississippi, in deeply, deeply conservative
Republican Mississippi, being against abortion rights is nothing new. But
being so fervently and urgently and desperately against abortion rights
that you would stretch that idea into blackballing a well-qualified
doctor`s public service to his state, this is new.
Why is this happening now? What is pushing this to happen now?
Joining us now is Dr. Carl Reddix. He is an OB/GYN practicing in
Jackson, Mississippi. He was an acting board member of the Mississippi
Board of Heath.
Dr. Reddix, thank you very much for being here tonight. I really
appreciate your time, sir.
DR. CARL REDDIX, OB-GYN: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: You were appointed to the state board of health by Governor
Haley Barbour. Can I ask how you found out that the new governor, Governor
Bryant, and the new lieutenant governor were having you removed from that
REDDIX: I had found out at the 11th hour, late Tuesday afternoon, a
week ago, while calling to try to ascertain when my confirmation hearing
was going to be. I`d been asking for over a month, such that I can
schedule and make sure that my time was available, and I was not out of
town, such that I would be available to present myself in front of our
state Senate and sit for confirmation.
Unfortunately, no one knew when that confirmation hearing was going to
be. They told me that, historically, they did it the last week of our
legislative session, which is this current week. So last Tuesday, I was
really trying hard to try and figure out when this hearing was going to be
and had the state health officer and her legislative liaison looking for
the date and time, getting in touch with the Senate chairman of the public
health committee, to no avail.
And so, I had my -- some politician friends that I know, both in the
Senate and the House, and, unfortunately for me, Representative Robert
Johnson, state representative from Natchez, informed me that he had talked
with the Senate chairman and that my confirmation was being pulled at the
11th hour by the lieutenant governor.
He had every -- he, the Senate chairman, had every intention on having
the confirmation hear this past Tuesday and he was told that my
confirmation hearing was pulled. And so, while on the phone with
Representative Johnson, I got a call from the "Associated Press" reporter,
asking me why my nomination had been pulled.
So, obviously, you`re dismayed and outraged at the prospect of a major
governmental institution not having enough decorum to allow a fairly simple
process to move forward. So, it was strictly the -- really, I got more
information from the reporter, because she had already interviewed folks in
the lieutenant governor`s office and the governor`s office. And from her
investigation, it seemed to have come from the 11th hour and by the
lieutenant governor and not by our governor.
MADDOW: As, obviously, you were appointed to this post by the
previous governor of Mississippi, by Governor Haley Barbour, himself a
Republican, somebody who is not in favor of abortion rights, as a
politician. This was your -- your association with this clinic in
Mississippi was not an issue for Haley Barbour, but it became an issue all
of a sudden for the current administration in this state.
As a born and bred Mississippian, as someone as an OB/GYN, has seen
these politics firsthand, do you feel like you`ve seen anything that
explains this sudden change, this sort, this newfound militancy in state
politics on this issue, that seems to have cost you this seat on this
REDDIX: Well, I`ve never had the opportunity to sit for confirmation,
so I can`t honestly answer that question. Although, I can say that the --
you know, obviously, this is -- we`ve got new statewide elected officers,
both in all the top five state offices. So you would think that part of it
is just because it`s new to them, and our lieutenant governor has not spent
anytime in the Senate. He was not -- his previous office was state
So, you know, the issue is, you know, how much control that one person
has. If the state senator who`s charged with the committee of oversight
for confirmation, my background had already been checked by the state
legislature. So, everything was cleared -- and for the lieutenant governor
to independently just pull, you know, do a pocket veto on my nomination,
I`m not sure that if it has happened before or not.
Certainly, no one that I knew had ever gone through that. And as I
was preparing to be at a hearing this week to find out that it had been
pulled, a week with ago, and nobody from the state capitol or the
governor`s office have made any contact with me to offer any explanation
for why this has happened. And so, it is total dismay and outrage on my
part at the process.
MADDOW: Dr. Carl Reddix, member of the Mississippi State Board of
Health, being ousted now by the Republican governor there -- thank you for
joining us tonight. I feel like it has run its course, but to the extent
that this continues in the state, I hope you`ll stay in touch with us and
let us know how this pans out, sir. Thank you very much for your time
REDDIX: Thank you for the opportunity.
MADDOW: All right.
OK. Do you know this game? This is an -- you know -- I believe in
arcade parlance, this is called, the claw. I`m really, really bad at this.
I can never get anything.
This person doing this is obviously very good at it. You know who
else is very good at a version of the claw? Oil companies. ExxonMobil,
for example, could totally get that pink pig, no problem, even though I
couldn`t. Why do oil companies love the claw, and what does that have to
do with spilling millions of barrels of oil into the ocean? That`s coming
MADDOW: Just after midnight, in the early morning hours of March
24th, 1989, a giant oil tanker, a 200,000-ton oil tanker found itself in
just about the worst kind of trouble that an oil tanker can possibly find
itself. It had just set sail from its home port. It was on its way to its
destination, and then, boom, this giant tanker hit a reef in the open water
and started spewing crude oil uncontrollably, all over the place.
The tanker had only made it about 25 miles from where it left from, a
tiny port city called Valdez, Alaska. The "Exxon Valdez" oil spill was at
the time the worst oil spill in U.S. history. In all, about 11 million
gallons of crude oil released into Prince William Sound.
Well, when it came to cleaning up all that oil, something very telling
happened. The president at the time, George H.W. Bush, Poppy Bush, sent
the commandant of the coast guard up to Alaska to run that cleanup effort.
And, in the course, of running that cleanup effort, the commandant of the
Coast Guard told Exxon that he was going to need 5,000 workers to help
clean up the beaches up there.
Exxon said, 5,000 workers? No way. Exxon told the highest ranking
member of the United States Coast Guard, no.
Now, the commandant of the Coast Guard, knowing that he had been sent
up there by the White House told Exxon that maybe they would have to take
it up with the White House. Exxon said, well, that`s no problem. And a
short time later, after receiving a call from Exxon, the White House
informed the commandant of the coast guard that actually, yes, he was not
getting those 5,000 cleanup workers that he had requested.
Fast forward to 2001, the state-owned oil company of India wants in on
a giant oil drilling project happening off the coast of Russia. India`s
state-owned oil company get to sign off from Russia. But there`s a little
problem, the company that`s operating the project is ExxonMobil. And
ExxonMobil is not so sure about the Indians getting in on this thing.
In a meeting at the White House that year, India`s prime minister
tries to lobby then President George W. Bush, Bush the Jr., to push Exxon
along on this issue, saying, why don`t you just tell them what to do?
President Bush`s response, quote, "Nobody tells those guys what to do."
For ExxonMobil, one of the largest corporations in the whole world,
pleasing a U.S. president, whether it`s George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush
or any other president, has just never been necessary. Exxon, after all,
is going to be around a lot longer than any U.S. president, than any Indian
prime minister, than any lowly U.S. Coast Guard commandant.
As the author and journalist Steve Coll puts it in his new book about
ExxonMobil which is called "Private Empire," quote, "The time horizons for
Exxon`s investments stretched out longer than those of almost any
government it lobbied." Quote, "We see governments come and go," Exxon CEO
Lee Raymond once remarked.
Exxon could afford to carry themselves with this type of bravado,
because, as Steve Coll writes, quote, "In effect, Exxon was America`s
energy policy. Certainly, there was no governmental policy of comparable
Exxon has been able to maintain that sort of staying power, not just
because of its multiple presidential administrations long-time horizons on
its money-making plans, but also because of its single mindedness, on its
single-minded focus. I mean, the oil industry is the most profitable
venture that human kind has ever known.
ExxonMobil can essentially think of itself as its own country. In
practical terms, it is its own country. Exxon`s annual revenues are larger
than the annual GDP of all these countries that you see zooming up the
screen right now. Exxon has a bigger economic footprint than about 150
So if you`re a giant oil company like Exxon, what exactly do you spend
all that money on? Well, obviously, you spend it on making yourself even
This week in Houston, Texas, the oil industry got together to show off
its latest breakthrough technological achievements. Most of these
achievements have to do with allowing oil companies to drill for oil
further and faster and in riskier environments than has ever been done
Earlier this week, engineers announced plans to drill the deepest
undersea well ever drilled, ever, on earth, 12,000 feet deep. They say it
will make it possible for companies to drill into the mantel of the earth.
The big draw today in Houston was this contraption. Look, appropriately
named the Claw.
The Claw is an incredible technological feat that allows oil companies
to recover oil platforms that have sunk -- platforms that have sunk to the
bottom of the ocean after some horrible drilling accident. You send the
Claw down, you scoop up your damaged oil platform, and then, of course, you
can see what you can salvage so you can move on to the next project. A
little oil in the water, well, that`s the cost of doing business.
All of the big technological advancements in the incredibly wealthy
oil industry right now, the thing that the oil industry appears to be
spending all of its money on right now, to the extent they`re spending it
on anything other than themselves and joy, all the things they`re investing
in are ways to drill further. Not necessarily ways to drill safer and
certainly not ways to clean that sort of thing up when it goes wrong.
Well, the profits for that sort of drilling end up being private.
While the profits may allow a single company to be, say, wealthier than 150
separate countries, the cost of pursuing those profits, well, that very
often ends up being public. We are the ones who pay for that -- you know,
us and the otters. We pay for that, even if our own president appears to
be taking orders sometimes not from us, but from the only person more
powerful than an American president, an oil company CEO.
Joining us next for the interview is Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Steve Coll, who just wrote the book, really, the only book ever, on Exxon,
and the amazing ways in which they wield their private empire of power.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Broad strokes, big picture. If you had to say what the 1990s
were about, economically and in terms of the grand big picture changes in
American priorities and outlook, what we were focused on, what changed us
as a country, what was new and important about that decade, for the `90s,
you might say, tech? Technology, right? The Internet.
The `80s ended with the end of the Cold War, the end of the bipolar
superpower universe and that sort of division of labor and division of
power and priorities in the country and in the universe, right? The `90s
ended up after that being about tech. And then after the `90s, the 2000s
ended up being about non-nation state powers, about terrorism, about war.
The 2010s, where we are now, sort of still to be determined, right?
But if I had to bet on something here, if I had to bet on one big idea
that`s ultimately in retrospect going to define this decade, I`d bet on
Joining us now for the interview is Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist, author of the new book, "Private Empire: ExxonMobil, an
American Power," which I think -- in my opinion, I think, is sort of the
defining book at least so far about power and energy and the future.
Steve, congratulations on this.
STEVE COLL, AUTHOR, "PRIVATE EMPIRE": Thank you.
MADDOW: You date a lot of the important changes not just in energy,
but in power, and in the division between companies and countries to 1989,
to the collapse of the Soviet Union. That`s sort of an important frame of
reference for you in talking about why ExxonMobil is so important in the
Did the rise of corporate power of the kind you document here become
possible because of the collapse of the superpowers?
COLL: Yes, it did. Globalization meant that corporations like
ExxonMobil could work in so many more places than before. And so, their
sense of themselves changed. During the Cold War, they were part of a
national system that was fighting an existential contest against another
system. And so, companies were much more rooted in their own states, in
their home countries.
And then after the Cold War, one of the things that happened was that
these corporations, especially oil corporations, became dispersed, all over
the world. And they became more sovereign unto themselves and less
tethered to their home countries.
Lee Raymond, who you quote saying, "We see governments come and go."
He also said at one point, "I`m not a U.S. company. I have to think about
my shareholders and my breadth across 180 different countries."
So I do think that was an important moment. The other thing that
happened, and your terrific piece points this out, was that they got driven
more and more, into risky frontiers, geopolitical frontiers and
During the `60s and `70s, during the Cold War, they were able to own
all kinds of oil and gas in big pools of it in the Middle East. They had a
chunk of Saudi Arabia, they had a chunk of Iraq, they had a chunk of Iran.
And after nationalism rose in the Middle East and all these corporations
got thrown out, they were driven basically to two places. To weak states
that were too weak to do it themselves, so Chad, equatorial New Guinea or
Angola, Nigeria, or to new technological frontiers where the risks were so
great that only the very richest corporations could afford to develop
technologies to drill in deep water or under the ice or in those types of
MADDOW: In terms of that last point about technological advancement
and risk, did you feel like -- one of the things that`s very interesting is
defining like the presidents of the company, the people that are running
the companies in the way their personality and their overall approach to
things defines a way a huge company like this operates. Lee Raymond
himself becomes such a fascinating character in this.
But do you feel like institutionally, when you`re dealing with oil
companies with which much money and this much power and the kind of time
horizons that they`ve got, there is any way that, you know, small factors
like the United States government, say, little players, compared to them,
can get them to take risk more seriously? To invest more in disaster
preparedness and in making things safer as their economic imperative pushes
them to drill deeper and faster and riskier all the time.
COLL: Well, you know, the record isn`t very encouraging about that.
And it was really exposed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, where,
obviously, it was a BP platform that blue up, but all of the oil companies,
including ExxonMobil, had been required by the department of energy to file
detail plans about how they were prepared to meet a disaster of that type.
This is, you know, two plus decades after the Valdez, when you think these
lessons would have been inculcated.
They -- all the corporations filed the exact same plan, they had the
same consultant. They talked about remediating mammals that had never
lived in the Gulf or eons. In ExxonMobil`s case, they had a 48 page annex
about how to deal with the media. More paper about media relations about
actual disaster response.
MADDOW: One of their cited experts had been dead quite for some time.
COLL: Yes. And the chairman testifying before Congress having that
pointed out said, yes, but his work lives on.
MADDOW: So we can call him, using a Ouija board.
You know, on that point, though, of the media appendix, I did not
before I read about it in your book, about -- I mean, I knew all the
companies had this boiler plate disaster response plan, including the
walruses and the Gulf and all of this stuff. I did not know that Exxon`s
special sauce that they had added to the boiler plate was a 40-page long
media annex. And I think you point out that it`s a multiple of times
longer, this annex, than it is their plan for dealing with cleaning up the
But why does a company, as big and as powerful, and as dominant as
Exxon, care about the media? Can`t they afford not to?
COLL: They don`t. They generally have a media reconciliations policy
of saying no comment in about 50 different languages. And they -- I do
think that they feel that they can succeed from a strategic posture of a
defensive crouch and basically a high wall. They have a straight forward
policy of really not cooperating with the media in the way that many other
And, you know, to go back to this sort of idea about risk and
regulation, whether the U.S. government can hold a corporation of that
scale accountable, it`s sort of a paradox, because on the one hand, a
company like ExxonMobil is very conservative about the way it operates in
the Gulf, because the Deepwater Horizon proves, you`re betting the company
every day you`re out there. And if you blow up, you`re going to pay a very
high price. So there`s a bias towards, well, let`s be very careful, let`s
be very careful.
But as your piece pointed out, the actual business drives them more
and more into risk.
COLL: So there`s this constant tension every day. And to some
extent, the regulators are incidental to that struggle. It really happens
inside the corporation separately. Now, the national commission that
investigated the Gulf spill in 2010, a partisan, very kind of blue ribbon
sort of commission, they concluded very emphatically that the industry has
been underestimating the risks it takes every day in these kinds of waters.
And they said the government also was so captured by industry that its
regulations were patently, you know, inadequate.
MADDOW: You describe it as a slothenly embrace, I think, between the
regulators and the regulated in this case.
Steve Coll, this is -- this is an encyclopedic work about a very big
and important company, but it`s also the kind of reporting about an
institution that shapes the decisions that we think we are allowed to make
that I think ends up being a total game changer in terms of the way we
think about power in our country and in the world. This is great. Thanks
so much for being here.
COLL: Thank you so much, Rachel. Appreciate it. Thank you.
MADDOW: Steve Coll is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. The new
book is called "Private Empire: ExxonMobil, an American Power." It`s
really a big deal.
All right. Right after this show, in "THE LAST WORD," Lawrence
O`Donnell bids a hearty farewell to the presidential hopes of Newt
And here, we`ve got "Debunktion Junction" and new chart-piphany.
That`s coming up.
MADDOW: Newt Gingrich officially, finally get out of the race for the
Republican presidential nomination today. And in so doing, he told all
Republicans to support Mitt Romney for president. Of course, he`d spent
the last few months viciously and harshly, even for politics, explaining
why Mr. Romney was with categorically unsuited to be president.
With that in mind, here`s how Mr. Gingrich`s stepping aside was
reported today by the great Shepard Smith of FOX News Channel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: Mitt Romney has released a statement on the
departure of Newt Gingrich from the campaign. It reads, in part, "Ann and
I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends. We look forward to working
with them in the months and years ahead." That from Mitt Romney.
Politics is weird and creepy. And now, I know lacks even the loosest
attachment to anything like reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Shep Smith, if you ever run for anything, I will quit what I
am doing to go work for you. I will quit what I am doing to work for you,
so you win whatever it is you want to win. I`m with you.
MADDOW: All right. "Debunktion Junction," what`s my function?
First up, true or false? President Obama finally admitted today that
an important thing in his autobiography was made up. As reported in all
caps with an ominous picture making it look like he lives in the gates of
hell and only peeps out when he needs to lie to the country about
something, as you can see here, President Obama`s 1995 memoir, "Dreams from
My Father," President Obama has now admitted -- as you can see here on the
"Drudge Report," President Obama has admitted making up a character in his
memoir called his New York girlfriend. Is that true or is that false?
False. Shocker, I know. Even though it`s on the "Drudge Report" and
it`s something bad about President Obama, it turns out to be false. Crazy,
I know, right?
Well, today, at "Vanity Fair" magazine published an online excerpt of
an upcoming biography of the president by David Maraniss. The book draws
on sources that include diaries from a woman named Genevieve Cook. She is
a person that President Obama dated while he lived in New York as a young
man and attended Columbia University.
The excerpt of the book notes that some of the events in President
Obama`s memoir, "Dreams From My Father" which are described in the book as
taking place with this character he calls his New York girlfriend, some of
those events, in fact, were not things in which Genevieve Cook took part.
What`s the explanation for that? Well, according to a Politico.com
reporter today, it`s obviously a scandal. The president made something up
in his memoir. The president lied!
Quote, "Obama admits New York girlfriend was composite, a fact not
noted in "Dreams From My Father." And then that tweet links to a
Politico.com article making the same claim, President Obama lied in his
memoir. And that, of course, was picked right up by the drudge report,
which gave the scandal the banner headline, "Obama admits fabricating
girlfriend in memoir." Flashing red lights, bells and missiles, turn on
This New York girlfriend in the book is actually multiple people, it`s
a composite, and he never says that in the book! Except -- look at that,
he does say that, right in the book. It`s right there in the introduction
of the book. The introduction, Page XVII, which might be 17 or might be a
communist code, how do we know?
Quote, "For the sake of compression, some of the characters that
appear are composites of people I`ve known, and some events appear out of
precise chronology." So, yes, he said exactly what he did, no scandal.
Once they were made aware of their error today, Politico.com corrected
their story, as they should. "The Drudge Report," however, kept the
headline up. They made it a little smaller but they didn`t make it any
Next up, guns -- guns that the Republicans National Convention this
summer. After a national outcry, or rather after a rare combination of
national worry and national laughter, the city of Tampa, Florida, has
decided that not just squirt guns, not just sticks, but also real guns,
loaded weapons, will be banned from the Republican National Convention this
summer. Tampa has realized it`s a little weird to not ban something that
might use as a weapon, but not to ban actual weapons, right? And they have
decided to ban loaded firearms from the Republican convention.
Is that true or is that false? True. The mayor of the city of Tampa,
himself a holder of a concealed gun permit, has written to the governor of
Florida and asked for a temporary override of the Florida state laws so
that you can - -so that Tampa would be allowed to ban the carrying of guns
in downtown Tampa during the convention.
That happened. That is true.
But then the governor of Florida looked at the request and said no.
Quoting Governor Rick Scott of Florida, he said, "Like, you, I share
the concern that violent, anti-government protests or other civil unrest
can pose dangers, but it is unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens
would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who
would flout the law. It is as just such times that the constitutional
rights to self defense is most precious and must be protected from
So, yes, it is true that city government in Tampa asked if they could
please ban guns in downtown Tampa during the convention. Governor Rick
Scott said no.
So, all you people who might have an interest in protesting at the
Republican National Convention, you can feel safer now knowing that there
might be guns all around you that you cannot see, and that the police were
there. Feel better?
MADDOW: Chart imitates life. Here we go.
Last night, the interview here on this show was with Krugman, Nobel
Prize-winning economists. And in reading Dr. Krugman`s book prepping for
that interview, I had a chart-based epiphany -- a chart-piphany, if you
What this shows is two things that track each other really closely.
The blue line is income inequality in the United States. So, when you have
a lot of very rich people and a lot of very poor people, but nobody in the
middle that means that your economic inequality is high. And our economic
inequality is high and rising. That`s the blue line there.
But what goes up with income and equality, and this is kind of freaky,
is the polarization in Congress. That`s the other line on this graph.
That`s the red line.
So, as income inequality gets worse, the divide between the two sides
in Congress gets worse and worse, too. And in the case of our current
politics, what this political science found is that as income inequality
gets worse, polarization in Congress gets worse, specifically because the
Republican Party goes further and further and further away from the center.
They go further to the right. The Democrats stay relatively still and the
Republicans sprint right as the rich get richer.
It`s crazy, right? I mean, we know that money and politics are
linked, but rarely do you get as clear an explanation of exactly how they
are linked. That the implication is, of course, that if you fix income
inequality, good luck doing through Congress, right? That kind of chart
breeds a certain hopelessness about what money does in politics.
But in today`s news, we have also discovered a sort of antidote to any
hopelessness you may feel about money in politics. Watch this. Chart
This is about Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin,
facing being recalled from office on June 5th, thanks to Wisconsinites
being very annoyed with the way he stripped union rights in the state and
basically turned Wisconsin`s civic and political life upside down and had
the worst jobs record in the country. The Scott Walker is the second most
important political contest in the country this year, other than the
Scott Walker has become a Republican poster child. He`s been
campaigning with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie frequently, for
example. And thanks to being a Republican poster child, and thanks to a
quirk in the Wisconsin election law, Scott Walker was able to raise
unlimited money for most of this year, unlimited. He can raise any amount
And in so doing, Scott Walker has raised gobs of money. He`s also
spent gobs of money from mid-January to mid-April trying to fend off the
recall. Scott Walker spent $10,988,910.68, all on TV ads and mailers and
so on. In Wisconsin, that is a huge, huge amount of money.
So what did Governor Scott Walker get for his $11 million in campaign
spending to try to save himself from being recalled before the end of his
first term in office? What did he get for 11 million bucks, for all of
Well, in January, just over half of Wisconsin voters approved of the
job Governor Walker was doing. In January, 51 percent said they approved
Now, after the Walker campaign spent all of that money, the number of
voters who disapprove of the job that Governor Walker is doing is 51
percent. That went in the wrong direction for him.
Also, back in January, half the voters in the state said they like
Governor Walker. Half, 50 percent like him. The proportion who didn`t
like them back in January was 45 percent. But now, after $11 million
spent, now Scott Walker`s giant, unheard of for Wisconsin, gazillion of
dollars in spending, his favorable ratings are down a couple of points, and
his unfavorable ratings are up three points.
And so money and politics -- in some ways, money renders politics
mute. Whoever has the money uses to get political outcomes that get them
more money, which they use to get even more of those political outcomes,
which even gets even more money and so on and so on, until there is one
Daddy Warbucks and all the rest of us are red-haired orphans, hoping that
he takes a shine to us.
In some big picture ways, money trumps politics and renders politics
almost pointless. But just because it mostly works like that doesn`t mean
it always does. And in Wisconsin, this is what an unheard of, $11 million
in campaign spending has bought soon-to-be recalled Republican Governor
Scott Walker. It`s bought him pretty much nothing.
Today`s chart epiphany, today`s chart-piphany, in way too much of our
world, money trumps politics. But not this year. Not in Wisconsin. Chart
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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