'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
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Guests: John Harwood, Michael Waldman, P.J. Crowley
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
Good evening, Rachel. I never thought I`d see deer hunting be a
factor in an election. But I guess that`s what it`s going to be.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Not in this way. This is not the way that
anybody saw it coming in this one, Ed. Thank you. I appreciate it, man.
Thanks to you at home for staying with us.
At this hour, polls are closed in the great state of Texas where the
presidential primaries on the Republican and Democratic sides provide about
as much suspense as the question whether or not the sun will rise tomorrow.
But with Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison retiring from the Senate,
there is actually an interesting scramble in the primary today for a
candidate to replace her.
In terms of endorsements on the Republican side, it has been a battle
of the Republican also-runs. Ex-presidential candidate and still Texas
Governor Rick Perry has endorsed his lieutenant governor in the Senate race
in Texas today. By virtue of that endorsement, the lieutenant governor is
essentially the Republican establishment candidate for Kay Bailey
Hutchison`s Senate seat.
But it does have an insurgent challenger on the right, a former state
solicitor general, who has been endorsed by the artist formally known as
the Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
If neither the Perry-endorsed lieutenant governor nor the Palin-
endorsed ex-solicitor general gets 50 percent of the vote in the Senate
race in Texas tonight, those two candidates will be in a run off at the end
At this hour, here are the latest results that we have in that race.
In the Texas Senate race with 32 percent in, David Dewhurst, who is the
lieutenant governor endorsed by Governor Perry, is at 47 percent. Ted
Cruz, who is the Palin-endorsed closest challenger, at 29 percent.
Again, one of these candidates has to go above 50 percent to avoid a
runoff. We`ll be watching that tonight. This is the race to watch tonight
in Texas, although there`s some other down ballot action there.
At the tip top of the ticket, though, there`s some news even though
there`s not been much suspense.
NBC News is now projecting that Mitt Romney is the winner in Texas and
importantly, that he will win enough delegates in Texas tonight to clinch
the Republican nomination for president. Texas has ended up having a
really important role to play in the presidential race.
We will no longer after tonight have to call Mitt Romney the de facto
nominee, or the presumptive nominee. Thanks to Texas tonight, Mitt Romney
will be the Republican Party`s presidential projected nominee full stop.
Now, as I said, this is not a surprise. Once everybody else was
effectively out of the race and, frankly, before everybody was out of race,
you can do the math pretty easily. You can figure out Mitt Romney was
going to be clinching the nomination and that it was likely to happen
tonight. You can figure out in advance, well in advance, that Mitt Romney
was going to clinch in Texas. John McCain clinched the Republican
nomination in 2008 Texas as well.
This is the sort of readily evident milestone you can see coming from
a long way off. And so, given they knew this was going to happen, how did
the Romney campaign plan for it. How did they plan to mark this big day?
How did they plan to claim this historic win that locked up the nomination
for their candidate?
They arranged for him to be in Las Vegas for some reason. Romney was
in Las Vegas today, meeting with Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino
mogul, the world`s 14th richest man and the person who has given more money
this campaign cycle than anybody else in American politics.
You may remember, Mr. Adelson was the one who almost single-handedly
funded the quixotic Newt Gingrich campaign. On that and other anti-Obama
causes, Sheldon Adelson has already spent 25 million bucks this year. And
he has said he`s happy to spend 100 million bucks this year.
But importantly, Sheldon Adelson has been lukewarm so far on whether
he`s going to spend that sort of money on Mitt Romney specifically. When
conservatives were trying to decide on Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum as
the alternative to Mr. Romney, when conservatives were wondering if one
should be pressured to drop out in order to give conservatives a better
shot at displacing Mr. Romney as the nominee, Sheldon Adelson made it clear
that not only was Newt Gingrich his first choice, but he did not like Rick
Santorum at all. He made clear he would not support Rick Santorum became
the nominee. But he said he could ultimately support Mitt Romney.
When it later started to become clear that Mitt Romney was definitely
going to be the nominee, Mr. Adelson however started publicly criticizing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELDON ADELSON, CASINO MOGUL: The problem with Romney is -- and I`ve
talked to Romney many, many, many times -- he`s not the bold decision maker
like Newt Gingrich is. He doesn`t want to -- every time I talk to him, he
says, well, let me think about it. Everything I`ve said to Mitt, let me
look into it. So, he`s like Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He`s like Obama.
Mitt Romney, according to Sheldon Adelson, is like Obama and he
doesn`t mean it in a good way. Sheldon Adelson who`s given more money than
anybody else this campaign season, he says he`s got at least another $75
million that he would like to donate. But he has been lukewarm on Mitt
So, today, even before clinching the nomination, today was a big deal
for Mitt Romney. His one-on-one meeting with Sheldon Adelson. If he could
be sufficiently charming in this Vegas meeting today with the biggest
campaign donor of all, it could result in a very large Mitt Romney payday.
But that very important meeting, that very important prospect was
overshadowed by other Mitt Romney news. The other rich guy that Romney met
with in Las Vegas today. Picture is worth a thousands words, right?
The second major Las Vegas event that Mitt Romney is doing today, on
the day that he clinches the Republican nomination is this fund-raiser with
a man named Donald Trump. Donald Trump who Mitt Romney has made a
centerpiece of his campaign.
Less than a year ago, Donald Trump was considering a run for
president. He was campaigning for the job largely by intimating or
outright alleging that the president of the United States was not really
the president of the United States. Mr. Trump intimating that President
Obama is secretly foreign. That was the basis of the Donald Trump flash in
the pan presidential candidacy a year ago. That`s the reason he wanted to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Why doesn`t he show his birth
certificate? And you know what? I wish he should because I think it`s a
terrible pall that`s hanging over him. He should show his birth
Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this
country and now I really have a much bigger doubt than I did before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But based on what?
TRUMP: And you know what? His grandmother in Kenya said he was born
in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth, OK? He doesn`t have a
birth certificate or he hasn`t shown it.
If you are going to be the president of the United States you have to
be born in this country and there`s a doubt as to whether or not he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That little brain, curdling, wallow, nihilistic, nativistic
celebrity-driven verbal up chuck came to an abrupt end just about one year
ago when on a Wednesday afternoon, the president of the United States held
a press conference at the White House to release his freaking birth
certificate, to put that nonsense to rest. That was on a Wednesday
Three days later on Saturday, it was the White House Correspondents`
dinner where the president devoted a significant portion of his remarks to
making fun of Donald Trump for the birth certificate nonsense. It was not
until the following day on Sunday that we learned while the president was
holding that birth certificate press concerns and delivering the jokes at
Donald Trump`s expense, the other thing that was going on on the
presidential schedule at that moment was that he was overseeing the
operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which made the whole birth
certificate thing seemed a little crazy in retrospect.
And so, no, Donald Trump would not be running for president and Donald
Trump`s little birther moment was not only a humiliation for him but for
anybody who wasted a single fire of neuron listening to him about that
Donald Trump as a Republican political figure was over. But quietly
and very soon thereafter, it was Mitt Romney who brought him back. We got
the announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed on May 1st.
By September, Mitt Romney was meeting in Manhattan with Donald Trump,
seeking what? Advice, endorsement? You would want an endorsement from
Donald Trump? Yes, in turns out you would. In February, Mitt Romney flies
out to one of Donald Trump`s hotels in Las Vegas to accept in person an
official endorsement from Mr. Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some things that
you just can`t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them --
being in Donald Trump`s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a
delight. So, I want to say thank you to Donald Trump for his endorsement.
It means a great deal to me to have the endorsement of Mr. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was February of this year. And two months after that,
in April, Donald Trump threw a 63rd birthday for Ann Romney, for Mrs.
Romney, at Trump Tower. A birthday bash complete with this edible, sugar-
coated depiction of Mrs. Romney atop a horse. That was the cake that Mr.
Trump prepared for the birthday event.
Donald Trump was such a big part of the Romney that by then, ABC News
was able to report at the time, quote, "All told, the Donald has recorded
more than 30 robocalls for the campaign and participated in more than 50
radio interviews in every state holding primaries over the past two
You got the September meeting. You got the February endorsement. You
got the April birthday party. You`ve got dozens of calls, dozens of
And now, today, the day he clinches the nomination, Mitt Romney and
Donald Trump jointly hosting a Romney campaign fund-raiser in Las Vegas.
Mr. Trump is not a random support of the Romney campaign. He is a center
piece of the Romney campaign.
And with the credibility and platform and Republican Party`s
presidential nominee seal of approval that that gives him, Donald Trump is
busy advancing his main and, dare I say, only political message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Is it is most important thing? In a way it is because, you
know, you`re not allowed to be president if you`re not born in the country.
But let`s see what happens. A lot of people are questioning his birth
certificate. They are questioning the authenticity of his birth
There are some major questions here and that press doesn`t want to
cover it. The press refuses to cover it.
A lot of people do not think it was authentic certificate.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: How can you say that --
TRUMP: Now, you won`t report it, Wolf. But many people do not think
it was authentic. His mother was not in the hospital. There are many
other things that came out.
You tell me really, you analyzed the birth certificate. There are
many people that don`t agree with that birth certificate. They don`t think
it`s authentic, Wolf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was not stuff from last year when Donald Trump was fake
running for president in order to get himself some attention. That`s
what`s happening now, while Mitt Romney is holding this fund-raiser with
Asked how he can stomach raising money with and campaign with and co-
hosting events with somebody who`s promoting that kind of nonsense about
the president, Mr. Romney last night displayed this profile in courage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I don`t agree with all the people who support me. And my
guess is they don`t all agree with everything I believe in. And I need to
get 50.1 percent or more and I`m appreciative to have the help of a lot of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I need to get 50.1 percent or more, whatever it takes.
This fund-raiser tonight with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump is expected
to raise $2 million for the Romney campaign -- $2 million is $2 million.
Mr. Romney is in the business of chasing campaign money around the country
right now. His two stops in Las Vegas, after all, are with a casino
billionaire and with Donald Trump, this fund-raiser. He`s chasing money
But even though $2 million is a lot of money, $2 million for somebody
like Mitt Romney is actually not all that much money. He dropped more than
$40 million of his own money on his failed campaign back in 2008. This
time around, he`s only spent about $150,000 of his own money so far.
Two million dollars is nothing to Mitt Romney. Two million dollars is
the kind of money Mitt Romney might conceivably have in his wallet at any
one moment or maybe in his wallet and under the mattress at the La Hoya
mansion, right? Is the $2 million that he is raising at the fund-raiser
really worth for his campaign and for the Republican Party and the country
for him to be endorsing this nonsense?
Because Mitt Romney has punted this to us now by taking Donald Trump`s
side, now, we have to figure out about ourselves, whether we are the kind
of country where you gain more votes than you lose by associating yourself
with an insane conspiracy theory like this. If you are Mitt Romney,
apparently, you really think you`re the kind of country where this is going
to earn you votes. Earn you more than you lose.
So, you do the Donald Trump fund-raiser, you in fact play right into
it by releasing your own birth certificate on the day of your Donald Trump
birther fund-raiser which Mitt Romney did today? And you come up with some
way to look in the mirror and hope that history forgives you.
Joining us now is John Harwood, CNBC`s chief Washington correspondent
and the author of "The Political Memo," political column for "The New York
John, it is great to see you. Thank you for being here.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Great to be here.
MADDOW: There were no cameras at the -- there`s no tape of Mitt
Romney and Donald Trump together at this fundraiser tonight. Do we know
anything about whether or not Mr. Romney commented on the birth certificate
thing at the event?
HARWOOD: Well, we know that this evening, Mitt Romney has joked about
the birth place requirement in the Constitution, the age requirement by --
in the service of saying, well, I think there ought to be a business
What that tells me, the fact that he`s willing to joke about that, the
fact that he releases a birth certificate today, while the campaign says
that was in response to a reporter`s question from last week, released
yesterday, tells me that they are not scared about the backlash here, and
that they have decided to adopt a posture of we`re not going to knuckle
under to Rachel and to MSNBC and to other people who might be associated
with the left or the Obama campaign who want us to apologize and run away
from Donald Trump. So, I think that appears to be a calculation that they
And I have to say, in one sense I think it may be justified. Donald
Trump is such a well-known clown on his own, right? People don`t take him
seriously for reasons that preceded Mitt Romney that had to do with Donald
Trump`s persona and what he did when he`s exploring a race for the
nomination. I think it`s possible that voters out there who might be
casually absorbing this aren`t really going to associate it with Romney as
with Trump himself.
MADDOW: Don`t -- do they see they are mainstreaming him and his one
stated political view by doing this?
HARWOOD: I think they -- to some degree, they are generating blowback
for themselves. But I think the universe in which that blowback associated
with the mainstreaming that you mentioned is fairly small and may not be
determinative in the places they most care about and with the voters they
most want to animate.
MADDOW: In Republican circles and in the Romney campaign and the way
that I guess Beltway politico`s talk about what happened in 2008, is it
becoming the retrospective history of the John McCain campaign he would
have done better against Obama and Biden had he gone more with the Muslim
stuff, with the birther stuff, with this conspiracy theory stuff that
Romney seems more comfortable with now?
HARWOOD: It would appear to be some consultants who make that
argument. I think they`re wrong. I think John McCain had a very bad hand
in 2008. That hand might had been worse had he gone to Jeremiah Wright and
gone to the birther stuff.
The one other thing I would say, Rachel, is in terms of the
mainstreams of this, I`m not sure that Donald Trump has the capacity to
mainstream anything, because as I mentioned, the guy is a clown.
MADDOW: But the question of whether he can be mainstreamed? I mean,
when you`re doing a named, you`re not just a supporter. You`re doing a
named fund-raiser, making robocalls. The campaign is saying for $3 chance,
you can have dinner and x clown -- aren`t you raising that clown to much
more seriousness than they otherwise be given?
HARWOOD: I guess but how serious can Donald Trump become? People
have seen the bluster, the baloney, the silly television show. All of that
stuff I think doesn`t lend itself to people considering Donald Trump as a
serious political figure.
He is somebody who -- he has a business profile. There may be some
tiny sliver of voters who assign some credibility to that.
But I think Donald Trump is about money. Today is about money. Mitt
Romney is raising money. He met with Sheldon Adelson. He might get more
money from Sheldon Adelson, who as you mentioned, has given $25 million
So, to me that`s what the central purpose of Romney campaign is about
MADDOW: Wow. This is the sort of development in a presidential race
that having lived with Mitt Romney as my governor, feeling that I know him
pretty well, I never would have seen this coming, never would have seen it.
Thank you, John. It`s nice to have you here.
HARWOOD: You bet. Good to see you.
MADDOW: John Harwood, of course, is CNBC`s chief Washington
correspondent and his political column for the "New York Times` is called
"The Political Memo."
OK, the odds are getting sharply better that we will watch election
returns in November when something really funky like change the results of
whole thing funky happens in the great state of Florida. Florida
shenanigans, this year`s version. That`s next.
MADDOW: Memo to all candidates who have both English and Spanish
language Web sites, some of your constituents will be able to read both.
Warning, warning, warning. That`s ahead.
MADDOW: In the year 2000, in the run up to the presidential election
year, that year, 2000, the state of Florida undertook a massive purge of
the state`s voter rolls. It was led by candidate George W. Bush`s brother,
Florida`s Republican governor that year, and by Florida`s Republican
secretary of state, Katherine Harris.
The stated goal of the Florida voter purge was to make sure that
felons who lost their right to vote in Florida would not be permitted to
vote by mistake in that year`s election. The goal is to remove the
ineligible names from the voter registration list.
Here`s how that went. The private company that Florida contracted to
purge its voter registration rolls gave state officials a list supposedly
of 8,000 ex-felons to remove from the voter rolls. Not a single one of
those 8,000 voters had actually been convicted of felonies, only
misdemeanors. So, legally, they were people who could still vote.
But lists based on that, list like that were nevertheless used all
over Florida, as part of how they came up with the big purge list. So, in
Duval County, Florida, for example, more than half of the voters on a list
of probable felons to be purged from the voter rolls were not, in fact,
In Clay County, Florida, 71 percent of the voters on a list of
ineligible felons should not have been on that list. In Leon County, the
only county in the state to independently research every name on its purge
list, they were only able to verify that 5 percent of the voters they were
told to scrub off their registration sheets actually had criminal records.
In all, under the leadership of George W. Bush`s brother, the
governor, Florida officials targeted 173,000 names for removal from the
state`s voter rolls ahead of the 2000 election.
Democrats argued at that time that the list disproportionately
affected African-American voters who were voting for Al Gore in that
election at rate of about 90 percent. George W. Bush won the state of
Florida in the final vote count by 537 votes. That is what gave us as a
country, President George W. Bush. A 537 vote margin in a state that had
just implemented a really sketchy purge of more than 170,000 people off its
Now, here we are in another election year and, hey, right on time,
Florida Republicans are purging voter rolls in the state again. Florida`s
Republican Governor Rick Scott has started a push this election cycle to
remove potential noncitizens from Florida`s voter registration rolls. Over
the last several weeks, the state sent local election supervisors a list of
more than 2.600 registered voters who they said are not U.S. citizens and
therefore are not eligible to vote. The "Associated Press" reports that
local elections supervisors have responded wearily to the list and have
already pointed out inaccuracies.
One county election supervisor, a Republican, tweeted this photo of
himself with a real live U.S. citizen and registered Florida voter who was
incorrectly targeted by the state of Florida as a noncitizen. So, the
voter is the guy on the left there holding up his passport. That`s his
U.S. passport. He is a citizen. He was purged from the rolls.
The folks at Think Progress have been writing up the stories of other
U.S. citizens wrongly targeted by this year`s voter roll purge in Florida,
like Maureen Russo who was born in Akron, Ohio, who`s operated a dog
boarding ands grooming business in Florida for the last four decades.
Nonetheless, Mr. Russo got this letter in the mail telling her, quote,
"The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office has received information
from the state of Florida that you`re not a United States citizen. If you
believe this information is false, you may request a hearing with the
supervisor of elections for the purpose of providing proof that you are, in
fact, a United States citizen."
So, the state of Florida is essentially saying to this woman, Ms.
Russo, papers please. If she doesn`t prove that she`s a citizen, the state
is going to take away her right to vote. Why? Who knows?
There`s also this gentleman. His name is Bill Internicola. He is a
91-year-old World War II veteran. He was born in Brooklyn.
He earned a Bronze Star for bravery in the Battle of the Bulge. He`s
lived in Florida for 14 years. He`s never had trouble voting.
But now, this year, the state of Florida is demanding he prove his
citizenship in order to maintain his right to vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL INTERNICOLA, TARGETED BY FL VOTER PURGE: I have voted her for
the last almost 15 years. I voted in Brooklyn when I lived in Brooklyn. I
really don`t understand it. To me, it`s like an insult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As it happens, there`s pattern emerging among the Florida
voters. The state is trying to remove from the voters rolls this election
"The Miami Herald" has been studying the purge list. They have found,
quote, "Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most
likely to be targeted by the state`s purge. Only 13 percent of the
potential non-citizen list is white, even though 68 percent of Florida
voters is white.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the big voter purge going on in
Florida right now in addition to being just riddled with flat out errors is
disproportionately targeting at least two groups that are shaping up to be
key constituencies for President Obama in this year`s presidential race,
Democrats, obviously, and Latinos among whom President Obama holds a 34-
point nationwide lead.
That`s who is being purged from Florida`s voter rolls right now. From
the state that gave us a 537-margin vote victory in the year 2000 and is
now trying to revoke voting rights from thousands of mostly Latinos,
Democrats and independents ahead of this year`s election. What could
possibly go wrong?
Joining us now is Michael Waldman. He`s president of the Brennan
Center for Justice in NYU School of Law.
Mr. Waldman, thanks very much for your time. It`s nice to have you
MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Having studied voting rights cases all around the country and
over time, what do you think is the motivation for what`s going on in
Florida right now, and what do you think is its mostly outcome?
WALDMAN: Well, you know, it is true that for election fiasco buffs,
the question always is, what`s going to be the next Florida? And the
answer turns out to be, what do you know, Florida.
This comes on top of many other problems with the way we run elections
and things that have sought to kick people off the rolls or make it harder
for people to vote. The problem with this kind of massive purge -- and as
you said it`s 180,000 people -- when you do something like this, this close
to the election and do it in secret and do it without double checking,
there is no choice but to have errors, to have legitimate people kicked off
And, you know, it`s kind of a microcosm of the many problems with the
way we elect people. Look, nobody wants people to be voting who shouldn`t
be able to vote. But this is not a way to run a real -- this is a not way
to make our elections secure and safe.
MADDOW: I think you note that important point about the timing on
this. It`s so close to the election. And it`s by a process where the
problems don`t seem to be able to be headed off before they`re effectuated,
before people are actually told you`re not going to be able to vote or
they`re at least intimidated from trying.
Given that, given the way this is essentially running up toward the
election, is there way to stop this sort of thing. Is there way to fix it?
WALDMAN: Well, I mean, there`s one way, which is that the Justice
Department which has the obligation to pre-clear things under section five
of the Voting Rights Act could look at this and say that this affects the
voting rights of minorities. But it`s public opinion, public attention and
the reaction of local officials, some of whom you showed who are not in
this really to make partisan points but try to do a difficult job of
running elections. Those kinds of push backs can make a difference.
And already, the state of Florida just recently said, you know, maybe
we ought to double check this before we start purging people. So, the more
people yell, maybe the more impact it will have.
But, Rachel, the real answer is, once we`re done with the partisan
shenanigans which we`re seeing in Florida so much this year and elsewhere,
we really ought to modernize our voter registration system. If we put
aside these fights and said, you know, let`s make sure that everybody who
is eligible to vote, that the government has an obligation to put them on
the roll and keep them there and use computer records, instead of this
paper record, that`s the kind of thing that could add tens of millions of
people to the rolls nationwide and curb fraud for people who are worried
about fraud, because, you know, Mickey Mouse doesn`t have a Social Security
number even in Orlando where he lives.
So, you know, we could get past this easily. But this does look like
little more than -- it raises a lot of questions of the very least about
whether it`s politically motivated.
MADDOW: That type of reform would imply that people both want people
to vote and don`t want to be able to gain the system by selectively purging
people who might vote against their chosen candidates, and that is
something that I`m nowhere near getting over, in terms of not being an
Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice, we
consult your work a lot in trying to understand the context for the voting
changes that have come up so frequently in the last couple of years --
thanks for your work at the Brennan Center and thanks for joining us here
WALDMAN: Thank you.
All right. When something happens in the world that puts Russia on
the same side of matters as the United States, that is often genuine news
and that is some genuine news coming up tonight.
Plus, the United States senator has crossed an important line between
your standard political pandering and flat out lying about himself. The
good news is he`s been caught. I can explain. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: A particularly vulnerable U.S. senator has made a bet. The
bet is that all the voters in his state speak only English or only Spanish.
He`s betting that there`s no single person in his state who speaks both
languages. That was a bet by a sitting U.S. senator. That obviously was a
bad bet in English and in Spanish.
Details ahead. Stay tuned por solo un momento.
MADDOW: Three years ago, Iranians protesting a rather obviously
rigged presidential election in their country were met in the streets by
these guys. Obviously, some kind of coordinated force, the unmark
motorcycle, one of their hallmarks. But they are not wearing uniforms.
They are the Basij, the kind of militia operating at the behest of the
They are equipped and obviously directed to be beating and going after
and in some cases killing protesters. Because they are out of uniform the
government doesn`t have to answer for their actions. They are deniable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: With clubs, tear gas and axes, witnesses say Iran today
crushed demonstrators who dared to take on the streets. Multiple witnesses
claiming to be at the scene consistently described a savage crackdown on a
few hundred protesters, outnumbered by several thousands security forces,
included the feared Basij militia, the militia often in plain clothing and
loyal to Iran`s supreme leader has used crude weapons, including sticks,
axes, chains and machetes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One year ago, after that in Iran three years ago, one year
ago, we got the same deal in a different country. Same deal, different
country, same idea.
The protesters in Egypt, in Cairo, in Tahrir Square, were chased and
beaten in one of the more surreal sites of that revolution. Cairo`s big,
modern cosmopolitan city, people do not generally ride around on camels in
a city of 7 million people. But one of the ways Basij-style militiamen
attacked opposition forces in Cairo was been riding horses and camels into
the crowd in Tahrir Square to terrify, trample and beat people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Egypt ordered crackdown against anti-government
demonstrators but not with troops, tanks or uniformed police. Instead, it
sent in goon squads disguised as supporters of President Mubarak. It was
immediately clear these were not demonstrators.
Thousands of Mubarak supporters charge into Cairo`s Tahrir Square.
The protesters unarmed were caught off guard by the surprise attack. The
pro-Mubarak demonstrators rushed the protesters on horse back and with
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As in Iran two years before Tahrir Square, these militias
were an important part of the way the government was using force against
its own people. They try to use the military in these cases. They
definitely use police and other uniform forces.
But to be able to use out of uniform force s way to employ violence
against your own people in ways you do not want to have to defend or
explain. As a despot fighting your own citizen, you can direct these
militias to do anything you want and you can deny responsibility for
everything they do. That is what the U.S. government says is happening now
in yet another country, in Syria, where a 15-month uprising is blamed for
between 9,000 and 12,000 deaths already. More than 100 of those deaths
occurred at once on Friday, in a town called Houla, 108 people killed, 83
of them women and children.
A U.N. investigation of the massacre says many of the deaths appear to
have just been summary executions. Whole families shot inside their
houses, just wiped out. The U.N. report doesn`t say who committed the
killings. But witnesses to the massacre, including at least one survivor
who was wounded, and only survived, thanks to being left for dead, said
that most of the killings were committed by militias, by pro-government
militiamen acting for the government but while not wearing uniforms.
True to type, the Syrian government says it is not responsibility for
what happened in Houla this weekend. They are blaming the massacre there
The U.S. government says it was the Syrian militia and that the Syrian
militia is being aided and abetted by, frankly, Syria`s last stone ally in
the world, the Iranians. Russia had been something close to an ally for
Syria, for all of this time. But the Houla massacre appears to be even too
much for Russia. Russia joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council in
And then today, a dramatic coordinated action, France, Britain,
Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Bulgaria, and us, the government
of the United States, all announcing simultaneously that they are kicking
out Syria`s top diplomats as a protest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEP. SPOKESPERSON: This morning, we called in
Syrian charge d`affaires, Zuheir Jabbour, and informed him that he`s no
longer welcome in the United States and gave him 72 hours to depart.
We took this action in response to the massacre in the village of
Houla -- absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against
innocent children, women, shot at point-blank range by regime thugs, the
Shabiha, that should be aided and abetted by the Iranians who were actually
bragging about it over the weekend. And again the fact that Assad has to
call in these Shabiha thugs, has to hire thugs to go do his dirty bidding
and has to get outside aid from his only friend left, the Iranians, speaks
to his desperation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us is P.J. Crowley. He`s a former assistant
secretary and spokesman at the State Department, who`s currently Omar
Bradley chair on strategic leadership at Penn State, Dickenson College and
the Army of War College. Mr. Crowley is also a retired colonel who served
26 years in the Air Force.
P.J. Crowley, thank you for being here.
P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: A pleasure,
MADDOW: The details of the Houla massacre are awful enough without
knowing who did it. The State Department very strongly emphasizing today,
not just that it was just militia, but that it was Syrian militia aided by
Iran. Is that the thing that is in exclamation point should be on here?
Is that most important part of this?
CROWLEY: It`s one of two. And the report highlighted the other which
is where does Russia go since Syria is its most significant remaining
client state in the Middle East. It`s entry into influence in the region.
If Russia shifts, a lot of things that have not been possible over the past
year become possible.
MADDOW: In terms of the Iranian involvement and the fact this may
have been, we can`t say for sure but signs and witnesses say it may have
been carried out by government supported militia -- does that change the
accountability for the Syrian government, in terms of whether or not they
feel like they have to answer for this sort of thing? Why they bothered to
deny responsibility for it? What are they sensitive to at this point?
CROWLEY: Well, it allows them to hide the ball. Ostensibly, Syria
has agreed to a six-point plan promoted by Kofi Annan, former U.N.
secretary general and an envoy for the U.N. and the Arab League. So, by
shifting from the military, which has carried much of the burden of firing
on its own people in the past year, now to this non-uniformed personnel,
he`s able to listen to Kofi Annan say that Syria`s reached a sipping point
and not admit he`s the one that`s actually brought Syria to this tipping
point where you could see very significant sectarian violence develop.
MADDOW: Does it apply that Assad has worries about the loyalty of his
own military? I mean, if you are -- he has been using the military to
attack his own people, to devastating affect for all of this time. Doesn`t
seem like that`s stopping although there`s some impetus to make it at least
look like it is stopping. The turn to non-uniform forces, could that
indicate that there might be some sort of rift there?
CROWLEY: Not necessarily. And, unfortunately, you know, what is true
of Syria is also true of Iran. Iran has for the moment, on its own
suppression of its own people, held onto the loyalty of the Iranian
security forces. And so far, notwithstanding some defections to the Free
Syrian Army, Assad has held on for now.
The other group that`s pivotal here are the elites, the business
elites that have developed in Syria over the past 10 to 20 years. And
that`s one of challenges of the national community to pull these elites
away from the regime. Some minorities that are hedging their bet and still
backing Assad. If you se that political front splinter, then the Syrian
security forces might recalculate, much as the Egyptian military did, that
their interest lies separate from Bashar al-Assad.
MADDOW: How do you feel that the U.S. and the international community
at large is doing at trying to drive those wedges? At trying to turn some
of the Syrian elite against Assad and that maybe trying to exploit any
fissures between the regime and the military?
CROWLEY: That`s Russia becomes pivotal. They have provided political
protection for Assad. There`s been no Security Council resolution in
Syria, as there was in Libya. And they provided economic and military
support. Syria remains one of Russia`s primary, if not most significant
markets for arms in the Middle East.
So, if Russia, now recalculates based on Houla, and I use an analogy
to Bosnia, several -- you know, at last -- you know, in the `90s, where
unfortunately you had the tragedy of Srebrenica to be a catalyzing moment,
maybe Houla will. But I think this is perhaps the beginning of a process
where Russia will recalculate and make more clear while it supports the
Syria regime, it may or may not continue to support Bashar al Assad.
MADDOW: The fact that Russia took this one step is very important.
But the thing to watch is what Russia does next, do they revert to their
old position, or do they stick with this new one.
P.J. Crowley, thank you so much. It`s really great to have you here
to help understand this.
CROWLEY: A pleasure.
MADDOW: Thank you.
P.J. Crowley is a former assistant secretary for public affairs at the
OK. When trying to get a message across the voters, there`s English,
there`s Spanish and then there`s lying. A United States senator gets
caught today trying numero tres. That`s next.
MADDOW: Those pesky Internets are making it harder and harder and
harder to completely mislead the voting public. Darn you Internet machine.
A telltale story of bilingual obfuscation and pre-verification coming up.
MADDOW: Nevada`s U.S. Senator Dean Heller got his seat the easy way.
Mr. Heller is a Republican. He was already serving in Congress when
Nevada`s U.S. senator at the time, John Ensign, called it quits rather than
sticking around to deal with the aftermath of his affair with his staffer
and a $96,000 check written to that staffer from his parents.
In the midst of an ethics inquiry over his affair and his handling of
it, Senator John Ensign of Nevada left the Senate a year ago. And so,
Nevada`s Republican governor got to make an appointment to replace Senator
Ensign. The governor appointed Senator Heller to the seat. And that`s how
Dean Heller got to be a senator.
However easily he got the seat here, Senator Heller now does have to
compete to keep it. That means getting people to vote for him in November.
And that is not sure thing. President Obama beat John McCain in
Nevada by 13 points in 2008. In 2010, Democratic Senator Harry Reid`s poll
numbers were so awful everybody thought anyone Republican with a pulse
could beat him in Nevada. But Harry Reid held on to his state.
It may have been a cake walk for Dean Heller to become a senator. It
is not going to be a cake walk for him to stay one this fall.
On this campaign Web site, Mr. Heller has listed the issues the thinks
are important for Nevada voters. Growing the economy, he says cut the
deficit, cut regulations, also creating jobs, this he lists as a separate
category and he says for this he wants to cuts energy spending. He`s got
energy independence, health care reform and foreclosures. He`s got
independence up there and Israel, and also in the I-section, he`s got
Now, Nevada`s electorate is 15 percent Latino. That`s enough to make
a huge difference in any general election. "The Las Vegas Sun" wrote about
how Dean Heller`s record as a U.S. senator is going to make him a real hard
sell to the state`s Latino voters.
Quote, "Heller has consistently supported limiting or eliminating the
ability to conduct government business in any language other than English.
Heller has sponsored to limit election ballots to English only, to mandate
that the free application for federal student aid only be filled out in
English, and to make English the official national language. Dean Heller
has also supported a bill to end birth right citizenship."
So no matter how he tries to craft his appeal to Nevada`s Latino
voters back home, it`s going to be hard to escape the fact that Dean Heller
has spent his time in Washington trying to make it harder for Spanish-
speaking families to vote, to get drivers licenses, to send their kids to
college. And even tried to erase the constitutionality guarantee that if
you are born in America, you are an American.
It`s going to be hard to get away from that record to try win over
Latino voters in Nevada. You want to see how he`s trying to do it? This
If you look at the bottom of Dean Heller`s campaign Web site, you will
see there`s this tiny little tile, see there? Juntos con Heller, basically
together with Heller. Click there and you get Dean Heller on Espanol.
Remember the list of issues back there on his Web site when it was
just the main Dean Heller Web site, not Dean Heller in Espanol like you see
here. Dean Heller in English had all those positions, right? Foreclosure,
Israel, creating jobs, immigration.
Here`s Dean Heller in the English section of his campaign Web site on
immigration. He says businesses who knowingly hire illegal immigrants
should be held accountable. Dean also believes border patrol must also
have the resources necessary to end the flow of illegal immigrants into the
United States. He opposes amnesty for those who enter America illegally.
Fearless hold the line conservatism, right? How does that translate
for the special Dean Heller on Espanol section of his Web site? It`s going
to look great on Espanol, see?
In Spanish language part of his Web site, there is none of that stuff,
none of that I oppose amnesty crackdown on anybody who hires an illegal
immigrant stuff. No. Dean Heller decided that that stuff that`s on his
English language Web site, did not translate to the Spanish language part
of his Web site.
Instead, Dean Heller in Spanish talks about his compassion for Nevada
students. Nevada students trying to learn English along with their regular
studies. Dean Heller in Spanish writes, quote, "Nevada is a state of
opportunity. We are proudly a state and a nation of immigrants." That`s
what he says in Spanish. In English, not so much.
With the record like that, I am not sure that Latino voters are ever
going to get behind Dean Heller for Senate. But now, Dean Heller for
Senate has managed to insult every Spanish-speaking person in the state of
Nevada, and every English-speaking person in the state of Nevada by
assuming that there`s no overlap whatsoever among you. And not a single
one of you is capable of clicking the Google translate button that
automatically populates when you visit Dean Heller`s two-faced bilingual
MADDOW: This hour, NBC News can project that Mitt Romney has won the
presidential primary in Texas and that he has thereby clinched the
delegates he needs to secure the Republican nomination for president. And
on a day he clinched the nomination, history will show forever that he
spent the evening with Donald Trump, amid Mr. Trump`s deepening and very
commitment to a conspiracy theory about the president of the United States
being secretly foreign. That is history now forever, Mitt Romney. It is
your history forever.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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