'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Past transcripts by month
Guests: Robert Greenstein, David Bullock, Spencer Ackerman
EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: And thanks to you at home for sticking around
for the next hour. Rachel has the night off.
We have a ton of news in the show tonight including the latest state
legislature to move towards allowing fewer voters in the fall.
The exact number of drone bases that occur in the United States of
America. Not sure if you folks knew that.
The actual news about Luke Skywalker`s home planet. You heard me
right about that.
But we begin tonight with Mitt Romney`s latest stump speech. On
Tuesday, Mr. Romney gave a speech in Orlando, Florida, outlining his plan
to repeal and replace President Obama`s health care law.
And I swear to you nothing could have made me happier -- because you
want to know why favorite things? It`s not rain drops and roses and
whiskers on kittens and all that. It is presidential candidate health care
plans. There is nothing I love more than a good presidential candidate
health care plan.
So I was excited, I was stoked to walk you all through Mitt Romney`s
health care plan tonight. The only problem is I can`t because as of now,
Mitt Romney it turns out doesn`t really have a health care plan. He`s got,
I don`t know, cliff notes toward a health care plan.
In April 2008, John McCain laid out his health care plan. At its core
was a major change to the way we tax health care. Right now, employers
don`t pay a dime of taxes on health care benefits.
This tax break is fundamentally the foundation of our entire health
care system. It`s why so many of us get health care through our employers.
A lot of people, myself included, think it is a cracked bad foundation, in
McCain proposed to eliminate it and replace it with a $2,500 tax
credit for individuals and for families irrespective of employment status.
He got killed. Independent experts noted the plan would make health care
more expensive for employers which would make them likely to drop health
care coverage for their employees.
But it was the Obama campaign that made McCain pay. They attacked it
as -- wait for it -- a tax increase.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: John McCain talks about a $5,000 tax credit for health
care. But here`s what he`s not telling you: McCain would make you pay
income tax on your health insurance benefits. Taxing health benefits for
the first time ever.
And that tax credit? McCain`s own Web site says it goes straight to
the insurance companies. Not to you. Leaving you on your own to pay
McCain`s health insurance tax.
Taxing health care instead of fixing it. We can`t afford John McCain.
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Barack Obama and I
approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: McCain was in that fall perhaps the first Republican in a
generation to lose to a Democrat on the tax issue. And Obama`s attacks
were somewhat disingenuous. The Affordable Care Act ended up including a
smaller version of the tax increase. That is the downside of putting
forward a plan.
When you tell people the tough choices you`re going to make, they
attack you for them. Sometimes a little bit unfairly. That is politics.
But it`s a necessary part of politics because if you don`t put forward a
plan, no one knows what you`re going to do.
Republicans in particular believe this very strongly. In fact, one of
their main criticisms of President Obama is he doesn`t put forward enough
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They either don`t have a plan or they simply do
not want their fingerprints on one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The silence on my question today has been
deafening because they don`t have a plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama doesn`t have a plan.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Where`s the president`s plan? We
haven`t seen it.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: The president doesn`t have a plan.
Never has had a plan.
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: The White House has even admitted
they don`t have a plan. You know what? They don`t think they need one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president doesn`t have a plan.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Democrats don`t have
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Hoping nobody would
notice they don`t have a plan of their own.
RUBIO: If someone has seen the president`s plan, please send it to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Got it? They like plans. Mitt Romney does not like plans
quite so much. He told the "Weekly Standard" that his 1994 Senate campaign
taught him to keep it good and vague.
Quote, "One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted
Kennedy is when I said for instance I wanted to eliminate the Department of
Education, that was used to subject I don`t care about education. So will
there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes. I`m not
going to give you a list right now."
So shorter Mitt Romney -- I`m not going to tell you what I`ll do as
president because you might not like it very much.
And that`s basically how Romney is running some of his policy in this
campaign. Almost no matter which policy area you look at, Romney has
followed the same basic pattern. Not enough detail to say there`s a plan,
but enough detail so that plan can be attacked. But that also means not
enough detail for the plan to be understood.
Take tax reform. Romney has got a plan. He wants a, quote,
"permanent across the board 20 percent cut in marginal rates."
He wants to eliminate the estate tax. He wants to repeal the
alternative minimum tax. All this will cost trillions of dollars on its
face according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
How will Romney pay for it? He hasn`t said. We don`t know.
The plan is so vague Romney, himself, told CNBC it couldn`t be scored.
Which means tax experts can`t say what it will mean for ordinary families.
Or take spending. Romney`s got a plan. The goal is to cut the
federal budget by $500 billion in 2016 alone. And he has released some
specifics. He said he`ll cut Medicaid quite substantially, for instance.
But he`s increasing defense spending by $1 trillion. So, his numbers
aren`t close to adding up. He`s not offered nearly enough spending cuts to
get down to his $500 billion cut in 2016. That means no one really knows
what the spending cuts will mean for them.
Which brings us to health care. Romney`s been very specific on his
attention to repeal the Affordable Care Act and laid out broad goals for
the health care system he`d like to build in its place.
He wants to turn Medicaid over to the states, to let insurers sell
insurance from whichever state has the lightest regulations, much as credit
card companies do now. That`s why your credit bills tend to come from
South Dakota or Delaware. He`d also like to cap medical malpractice
Like with McCain, the core of his plan is, quote, "o end tax
discrimination against the individual purchase of insurance." To make it
such that getting insurance through your employer and on your own are
treated the same by the tax code.
How will he do that? He hasn`t said.
The most comprehensive document the campaign has produced in this May
fact sheet. The part explaining what Romney would do expands 330 words. I
know people don`t like how long Obama`s health care bill was, but 340 words
is a wee bit on the short side.
To give you an idea how short it is, I`ve said more than twice as many
words already in this broadcast. I`m not trying to reform the American
health care system.
Romney`s political calculation here is clear, and it might even be
correct. He wants to run against Barack Obama. He does not want to run on
his specific plans.
But the American people need to know what he actually intends to do if
he`s elected president. Imagine if back at Bain, Romney has been
interviewing a perspective CEO for company takeover and he said more plans,
higher cost and more customer satisfaction, and Romney said, well, how are
you going to achieve that trifecta? The perspective CEO refused to give
real details on how he`d get any of that done. I doubt Mitt Romney would
have hired him for the job.
Now, we in the media need to do a better job pushing Romney on
specifics. For now here`s what we can see about the choice between the two
candidates on health care.
The Affordable Care Act, Obama`s health care bill, is expected to
insure 30 million Americans. Romney`s plan to repeal the Affordable Care
Act means those folks won`t get health insurance. And his proposal to cut
Medicaid spending means that Medicaid is likely to cut many, many people
off the Medicaid rolls. So even fewer people will have health care
insurance than currently do.
Romney says he wants to make health insurance work more like a market
but health insurance is not like a normal market. In a normal market, if I
can`t afford the product I don`t buy it, I walk out of the store. In
health insurance, if I can`t afford the product, I potentially die.
Moreover, in a normal market, if I can`t afford the product if the
store doesn`t give it to me. Health insurance if I can`t afford the
product, any hospital that wants to participate in the Medicare program,
that`s pretty much all of them, has to treat me by law if I show up in
their emergency room.
These considerations are why in Massachusetts Romney ended up passing
a bill that gave poor residents of his state more money to help them afford
insurance and included an individual mandate to make sure everyone was
covered before they got sick or hurt. The Affordable Care Act, the bill he
wants to repeal, is based firmly on those ideas.
Now, until we have more details on Romney`s new health care ideas,
particularly his tax ideas, it`s impossible to say exactly what effect his
plan would have on total coverage. But what it looks like, as of now, is
that health care coverage would go way up under Obama due to the Affordable
Care Act and down under Romney due to the cuts to Medicaid.
As for costs either to the government or to most Americans, that
depends primarily on details Romney hasn`t offered us yet.
Joining us now, I`m excited about this, actually is Robert Greenstein,
the president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Literally
nobody in Washington knows the numbers on this stuff better than he does.
So, I`m glad to have you here.
ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: Glad to be
KLEIN: I want to talk first about Romney`s plan in terms of health
care insurance coverage. What do you expect? Because I know you guys have
tried to run simulations on this. What do you expect if it passes will
happen to the population of the insured in this country versus implementing
the Affordable Care Act?
GREENSTEIN: I think what you said was exactly right. The
Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the Affordable Care Act,
33 million people who otherwise would be uninsured will have coverage. The
one specific we know on Romney`s plan is that his Medicaid proposal to turn
it over to the states with much less money, he has previously put out more
detail on it. And it`s virtually identical to Paul Ryan`s proposal to cut
Medicaid, turn it over to the states, same reduction in money.
The Urban Institute, nonpartisan institution, analyzed the Ryan
Medicaid proposal and said between 14 million and 27 million low-income
people would lose coverage under Medicaid as a result of it. Now, there
are lots of other factors, but if you just take -- you don`t have 33
million and lose 14 million to 27 million, you have the potential for 50
million or more fewer people covered here.
The other thing that I think is interesting is when Romney says, I`m
going to give the same tax break, if you go buy coverage of your own in the
individual market, through an employer -- that would likely weaken employer
coverage. Probably over time, fewer employers would provide coverage.
Well, if you get coverage through your employer, healthy employees,
sicker employees who work for the same employer, you`re all treated the
same. If they all have to go buy coverage on their own in the individual
market, and you get rid of the insurance exchanges the Affordable Care Act
sets up and you get rid of the subsidies the Affordable Care Act sets up --
GREENSTEIN: -- the healthy person who loses the employer coverage
maybe can afford to buy coverage in the individual market. The sick person
gets charged an arm and a leg and is uninsured.
KLEIN: Right now, we should say Romney does not have a plan for what
to do about pre-existing conditions.
I want to go to another part of the plan. Republican health care
policy proposals all the time, this idea they`re going to let people buy
insurance across state lines. On the other side, you see in proposals a
lot of rhetoric about giving states more power.
So, there`s a real tension here. If California wants to regulate --
if it wants to regulate its health care as it currently does, health
insurance options, and yet we have now passed a federal law saying insurers
can go to South Dakota where they have fewer regulations and sell to
Californians, it doesn`t seem that California can actually do much to take
control of its own health care destiny. It seems in effect we`re all
essentially hostage to whichever state wants to offer health care insurance
the sweetest deal so they will locate there, pay taxes there, create jobs
there, which is my understanding of the credit card market works.
GREENSTEIN: And I`m even more concerned about it than that. The key
to health insurance is to have healthier people and sicker people all
pulled together. If you have to buy insurance based on your medical
conditions, if you have medical conditions, if you`re sick or can`t afford
it, it costs a fortune.
The risk here is that you would get states in which the insurance
industry is the most powerful, that were able to set up insurance plans
that were targeted just to the healthiest people. And healthy people all
across the country maybe could get inexpensive insurance there. The less
healthy people, there wouldn`t be healthy people left to pool with. They`d
be hung out to dry. They either couldn`t afford insurance or they could
pay $20,000, $30,000 for a policy.
So that whole approach -- the them underneath the Romney proposals,
that this should be like buying tires or autos. When you go and buy a car
or tires, they`re the same price. Whether you`re short, tall, skinny,
obese, healthy, not healthy.
That`s not how health insurance works, unless you set up the markets
and the regulations to do that. That`s what the Affordable Care Act and
employer coverage tried to do and those are the two elements Romney seeks
to eliminate or weaken.
KLEIN: Which when Romney was in Massachusetts, he knew.
Bob Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities -- thank you as always for being here and going through the
numbers so carefully.
GREENSTEIN: My pleasure.
KLEIN: Democracy has been caught on tape -- or at least the
infringing upon democracy. Anyway, there is tape and we have all the tape.
You`re going to see it here first.
Plus, a magnificently nerdy best new thing in the world. Stick
KLEIN: As we`ve told you on the show previously, there`s still
unbelievably some real debate in this country about whether we should say
global warming or climate change or rising sea levels or recurring flooding
when we want to talk about the fact it`s getting warmer on our planet as
time goes by. This is what we`re discussing.
We here are going to blissfully ignore that dumb debate for a minute
and examine the data. In the last 100 years, the average temperature in
the continental United States has risen 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Since
1970, the rate of warming has increased dramatically. Again, this is the
data. This is the temperature readings.
As it turns out the rate as which temperatures have been rising across
the lower 48 has varied state to state. Want to see how much warmer your
state has gotten in the last 41 years?
Thanks to the work of the good people at Climate Central, there`s a
map for that. Here it is. It`s like the scariest ever map on the back of
the blue section of "USA Today." Enjoy your flight, Arizona. Dry as your
heat may be now, it`s gotten hotter faster in Arizona than in any of the 47
other contiguous states.
And, Florida, while it has many issues as a state, warming is one
category which it is right where it wants to be. It is the slowest warming
state in the Union.
Now, you can gaze endlessly at this map at "Wonk Blog" at
Washingtonpost.com. The people who work there, my colleagues are
incredibly cool and awesome and they love to post maps. My colleague Brad
Plumer is actually the one who discovered this one. You`ll want to come
back for more often.
KLEIN: Here`s a number for you: 180. That is the number of bills to
restrict voting rights that have been introduced in state legislatures
since the beginning of 2011, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center
for Justice: 180. Here`s another number, 14. That is how many states have
actually passed laws to make voting harder. Not just proposed to them but
Together those 14 states represent 70 percent of the electoral votes
you need to win the presidential election this year. If you`ve been
following the show`s coverage of the campaign to make voting harder, you
will not be surprised to hear these laws are generally proposed by
Republicans and passed by Republican controlled states and then signed by
When you make voting harder, you tend to siphon off votes from poor
folks and students and minorities and the elderly. Groups that tend to
vote Democratic although with the exception of the elderly.
So, it makes sense the Republicans would like to tighten the
restrictions on voting if they possibly can, especially with the
presidential election coming up. And it is coming up. It`s coming up kind
of fast really.
So, if you haven`t tied in restrictions on voting already, you got to
hurry up. Oh, hey, Michigan.
Michigan, where the Republicans control the governorship and both
chambers of the legislature and where the House yesterday passed three
bills -- count them, three, aimed at making voting harder. The bills
require you to show ID you never had to show before. They make it harder
for groups like the league of women voters to hold registration drives to
sign up new voters. Legislation makes it harder for you to remain a voter
if you fail to respond to an inquiry from your local clerk and go a while
As in so many states, Michigan Republicans say the purpose of this
legislation is to stop voter fraud. You put new requirements on voting,
new restrictions for casting a ballot and you get less voter fraud. That`s
the argument that seems to make sense.
Except as in so many states where lawmakers fulminate about voter
fraud, there does not appear to be much voter fraud in Michigan. Last
month the Republican secretary of state`s office reported more than 1,000
dead people and 100 prisoners appear to have cast ballots in Michigan
between October 2008 and June 2011.
But the audit showed these were not cases of voter fraud. They were
clerical errors. Quote, "In every instance where it appears a deceased
person or incarcerated person voted and local records were available, a
clerical error was established as the reason. If you want to find evidence
of election fraud in Michigan, you might actually start with some of the
Michigan Republicans -- specifically Republican Congressman Thaddeus
Mr. McCotter dropped out of the race this month after his campaign
filed nominating petitions filed clumsily with cut and past pages of
signatures. What`s state election officials, to quote, "unprecedented
level of fraud." In fact, obvious fraud. He did not, in fact, have enough
ballot signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Mr. McCotter feels terrible about the state of his petitions. He
doesn`t know how it happened. He wants state investigators to find whoever
betrayed his campaign by filing such obviously fraudulent nominating
So, Michigan has some clerical errors and a congressman whose
nominating petitions are a wreck. What it does not seem to have is much
voter fraud, people who are not supposed to vote will be stopped by these
Regardless, Michigan has gotten closer to making voting harder after
the House approved three bills yesterday tightening requirements for
casting a ballot. The bills passed along party lines, the one with new
requirements for voter registration drives passed with 66 votes. That is
important because under the Michigan state constitution, you need a two-
thirds majority for a bill to become law right away. That`s 73 votes. Not
If you have 73 votes, the constitution says you can put the law into
effect immediately. Otherwise, you wait until the following year. In this
case, until 2013. And then the presidential election is already over.
Putting laws into immediate effect is not unusual in Michigan. Both
parties are done it for some time. But lately, Michigan Democrats in the
House have begun asking Republicans to prove they have sufficient votes for
immediate effect, which is something that Michigan Democrats are empowered
to do under the state constitution.
Yesterday, Michigan Democrats looked at the 66 votes for this
legislation they firmly oppose. When Republicans made a motion for
immediate effect, the Democrats immediately objected. Under the Michigan
constitution, you can get a recorded roll call vote to count the votes if
enough lawmakers request one. In the House, 22 lawmakers have to ask for
that vote in order to get it.
The problem, according to Democrats, is that Republicans are ignoring
their requests. They deny them that vote. Check out this tape, House
Democrats sent over from yesterday`s vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Immediate effect is in order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: So, what you`re seeing there, Republicans move for immediate
effect, Democrats run up to ask for a record roll call vote. Republicans
gavel in immediate effect.
When the Republican speaker does that, he`s saying in his personal
judgment 73 lawmakers stood to support immediate effect in those few
seconds, so that`s a quick count he made. Even though the measure only
passed with 66 votes and the chamber is filled with Democrats crying out
After the voting, 22 lawmakers read their objection into the official
record, 22 again being the number you needed to require the roll call vote
the Democrats wanted. Today, the Michigan Senate finished approving the
bills. Republicans of that chamber used the actual two-thirds majority
they have to agree the bill should take effect immediately.
And now the bills are on their way to the Republican governor`s desk.
If he signs the legislation, it will take effect immediately.
All this comes just when Mitt Romney, native Michigander, sees a
little room to actually run in Michigan. No Republican for president has
won the state for almost a quarter century, but Mitt Romney plans to
campaign there beginning next week with a bus tour his team is calling
every town counts.
Mr. Romney has, in fact, gotten a little bit of good news in the polls
lately in Michigan. A survey out last week found him in a statistical tie
with Barack Obama.
So, it`s true. Every vote does count in a race like this.
The question is whether every voter will actually get to vote.
Joining us now is Reverend David Bullock, pastor of the greater St.
Matthew Baptist Church, president of the Detroit chapter of Rainbow PUSH
Coalition and Highland Park chapter of NAACP.
Reverend Bullock, it`s great to see you.
REV. DAVID BULLOCK, NAACP: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
KLEIN: So, voter fraud sounds to folk, fairly it is if you`re having
it like a real problem. People often hear about bills like this and, look,
I have ID at home, I`m legally registered to vote, what`s the problem if
there are a few more hoops to jump?
So, what is the problem? Why isn`t this, it`s a hassle but no big
BULLOCK: The problem is there isn`t a problem. There is no voter
fraud in Michigan. There`s hypocrisy in the Republican Party, passing
these bills, sending them to the governor to sign them, to restrict voting
behavior, 1.2 million voters voted in the last election cycle.
There were zero cases of verified of dead people voting. There were
four cases of undocumented citizens voting. There`s no voter fraud in
So, we`re wrestling with voter suppression by this legislation, voter
suspension because of emergency managers. There`s an all-out assault on
the right to vote in Michigan.
Michigan is ground zero for tyranny and state occupation. And we must
KLEIN: Let me ask you, why do these bills actually need voter
suppression? I mean, yes, you have to show more ID. But why does that
actually suppress the vote? What is the mechanism by which that keeps
people from voting? I mean, don`t folks have ID?
BULLOCK: Well, actually, a lot of people don`t have ID. For
instance, seniors would be required to purchase ID. This amounts to a sort
of a poll tax, seniors on fixed income have to acquire a birth certificate,
have to acquire a secondary ID. A lot of minorities, African-Americans and
other minorities don`t have ID, and so they`d have to go through extra
hoops to require ID.
Also, this legislation will impede voter registration. Over 500,000
African-Americans in Michigan aren`t registered to vote and now folks like
the League of Women Voters and other groups are saying they won`t register
people to vote because of the new law changes and because of the
legislation attaches a penalty, I think a felony, if people fill out the
paperwork wrong. So this legislation restricts voter behavior.
We should be making it easier for people to vote, easier for people to
participate in the process, not harder for them to exercise their rights.
KLEIN: One of the odd things about the election bills is that they
add a box to the ballot where you have to put a little check mark. You
have to affirm you`re a U.S. citizen. Presumably, if you`re not a U.S.
citizen and you want to lie your way into the vote, you`ll check the box
So, what is the thinking behind adding that in? What is the purpose
there of that little box?
BULLOCK: I have no idea what the thinking is. I think it`s
ludicrous. If I have ID, why do I need ID? When I register to vote, when
I get my voter registration card, I already have to check a box that says
I`m a citizen.
Also, the signature is a surefire way to determine people`s identity.
Again, these bills are the height of hypocrisy. This is partisan politics
with a capital "P."
This will not stand in Michigan. I cannot believe that in 2012, in
the United States of America, the land of the free, the home of the brave,
that democracy is under attack, the right to vote is being restricted,
emergency managers in the land, voter suspension and voter suppression.
Something has got to change in the state of Michigan and around the
I believe someone is trying to steal the vote by shaving the points.
KLEIN: Reverend David Bullock, pastor of the Greater St. Matthew
Baptist Church, president of the Detroit chapter of the Rainbow PUSH
Coalition and Highland Park chapter of the NAACP -- thank you very much for
being here this evening.
BULLOCK: Thank you so much.
KLEIN: They are called Shadow and Raven and Wasp and Predator. And
they`re everywhere. They can see you even if you cannot see them. What
they are and where they are, just ahead.
KLEIN: I may surprise, maybe even shock, many of you to learn that I,
Ezra Klein, I sort of like the "Star Wars" movies. Well, the original
three, anyway. And to be honest, my feelings about "Return of the Jedi"
are somewhat complicated. But still, "Star Wars," generally thumbs up.
Now, as a "Star Wars" fan, I can throw in words like (INAUDIBLE) Darth
mal. Darth mal? Some of you would know what I mean. But I won`t.
This is a news program for everyone. Also I will not talk like Yoda,
even though I can. And sometimes maybe I do.
What I will say is today`s best new thing in the world contained some
awesome news concerning Luke Skywalker`s home planet of Tatooine. The best
new thing, "Star Wars" edition, coming up.
Oh, and one last thing, (INAUDIBLE).
KLEIN: On the issue of killer spy drones, America is not like other
countries. For one thing, we have them. I mean, other countries have some
of them but we have a lot of them. We have way more of them and we`re
really, really good at making them.
America`s drone supremacy is unrivaled. We`re number one. We`re
number one. And it will probably stay that way until we begin selling our
drone technology to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Until then we`re on top.
Yesterday, a U.S. drone reportedly killed more than two dozen
suspected militants in Yemen.
Today in Pakistan, our great ally, Pakistan, NBC reports that a U.S.
drone reportedly shot two missiles into an inn. Four militants hiding
there on the second floor were reportedly killed. It was the second deadly
U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in two days.
Our Air Force says it wants to send more drones to its forces in the
Pacific and South America, once the war in Afghanistan wraps up, wouldn`t
want to let a good drone go to waste.
The point is America has more drones than anyone else and we use more
drones than anyone else. We also like drones more than anyone else.
In this new global survey, a solid majority of people in more than
three quarters of the countries polled disapproved of the way America uses
its drones. America`s drone policy is not OK, that`s the majority opinion
almost everywhere. Almost everywhere except America.
In the U.S., almost two-thirds of people think the opposite. They
approve of the Obama administration`s use of drones. So for the time
being, drones, those flying, spying killing machines really are an American
thing. An American thing we`re all used to seeing in other countries, in
We`re not used to seeing them stateside here in America. Maybe we
A drone belonging to the U.S. Navy crashed on Monday. A crash
occurred around noon. There were no injuries which is sort of the point of
unmanned aerial vehicles, which is what drones are.
This particular unmanned aerial vehicle was a Global Hawk drone. It
is a surveillance drone, the kind that spies, not kills. It has an
extremely sensitive camera on it that can see through inclement weather and
survey tens of thousands of square miles in a single day. It is huge. 44
feet long with 116 foot wingspan weighing in at over 25,000 pounds. Thus
the large craft site.
Another thing about the large craft site, it wasn`t in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Somalia or Yemen or any of the places you think of drones
flying. This Global Hawk drone was in Maryland -- to be exact, a marsh in
Maryland on Monday.
The Global Hawk drone was in Maryland because that is here the Global
Hawk drone lives on an American base in Maryland.
This is our new normal. We are now a country that has droned
stationed all over the country. There are 64 American drone bases, 64. A
non-profit group that promotes public access to information put this map
together showing where they are.
Now, it`s true military drones cannot legally spy on Americans. But
there are about 60 organizations, mostly police departments and government
agencies that have licenses to operate surveillance drones here in the U.S.
Drone proliferation isn`t only disconcerting if the technology spreads
to other countries. It`s a little freaky if it spreads too quickly here,
too. Or at least maybe it should be. What happens when domestic
surveillance and spying go from expensive and time-consuming and requiring
lots of people and being very difficult, to cheap and quick and easy?
A country that can use drones so easily might make a different
calculation about what it`s worth doing because the costs of doing it are
now so low.
Joining us now, Spencer Ackerman who reports on national security for
Wired.com`s excellent "Danger Room", and has written much on this subject.
Spencer, it`s great to have you.
SPENCER ACKERMAN, WIRED.COM: Thanks for having me.
KLEIN: So, you guys reported today there are 64 drone sites in the
U.S. What should we take from that? Is it just where we store them? Is
there implications to it? It sounds like a big number. But maybe it is.
ACKERMAN: That`s right. These are places that have the drones.
They`re hangars. They`re runways. They`re places where you train remote
pilots how to fly these things from air-conditioned boxes with lots of
computer screens and IM windows and that sort of thing.
The bigger concern for drones in the United States isn`t just the
military. It`s in police shops that are increasingly getting FAA licenses
to use these things in law enforcement contexts.
KLEIN: And so there`s a law that drones cannot spy here. And as you
say, but they can be in law enforcement. So how is that distinction dealt
with? What does it mean for a drone not to be able to spy but be able to
do surveillance for a police department?
ACKERMAN: So here`s an example. Basically what we`re talking about
is something called incidental collection, usually. Imagine if there`s a
hostage situation in a building downtown and the police is called in and
the negotiators are running around. There`s a SWAT team trying to figure
out areas of entry and egress.
You can put a drone up in the air, the theory goes, in order to get a
better 360 degree aerial view of a potential crisis situation. That was
actually a scenario described to me by a sergeant in Miami-Dade`s police
KLEIN: So that seems like something we would want to do.
One of the questions I think that sort of arises, we have, my
understanding, is very much ramped up how many of these we have during the
war on terror. It`s been an exponential increase. What happens as we pull
out of Afghanistan, as we leave Iraq, as we have all these sitting around
with nothing to do? There`s been talk about moving some of them to South
What is going to happen to our sort of drone fleet?
ACKERMAN: Well, some of them are going to be, if you pardon the term,
sniffing drugs. They`re going to be flying over --
KLEIN: How smart are these you said?
ACKERMAN: That`s right. Well, they`re not smart enough to make these
kinds of decisions which we don`t endorse.
But they`ll be over Navy boats that are going to be scouting out.
Or some of them increasingly are going to go toward civilian, law
enforcement use. That`s where the market for drones is going to go as the
war in Afghanistan sort of winds down.
KLEIN: So we`ve been talking primarily here about spying drones. The
kind of look and see drones. Obviously a lot of them are killing drones
for lack of a better term.
Rachel has written an enormous amount about drift in American military
policy, how certain decisions we`ve made in the political system has made
it easier to go to war and easier to stay in war because there`s simply
less of a cost of doing so.
But there`s this idea of technological drift, too, now we don`t have
to send as many men. We don`t have to -- you know, we can do this from
here. It`s easier. We have less risk involved.
How does this change the cost/benefit calculation going forward about
what kind of military and I think the term is kinetic excursions are worth
ACKERMAN: It`s a tremendous temptation. You don`t all of a sudden
have to amass the same kind of equipment. You don`t have to do the
politically difficult work of building support for a war. You don`t even
have to declare war.
What you can do instead is basically move a very small unit with a few
remotely piloted aircraft into a place like Yemen, into a place like
Pakistan, into a place like Somalia and have that substitute for really
much more weighty considerations about the wisdom of a war, about the
efficacy of the war.
It`s very rare you hear the president of the United States really
talking about what are really very hot battlefields all over the world that
really marginally declared would be a generous way of putting it.
KLEIN: And real quick -- is it an issue in Congress at all? You
don`t hear the president talking about it. But is it at all partisan or
even at all a question in relevant committees in Congress?
ACKERMAN: You really get silence over it. If there`s any discussion
of the wisdom of using drones increasingly for remotely piloted war, it`s
in terms of enthusiasm, in terms of what the things can do, in terms of
what greater battlefield situational awareness they can provide. Not
really much in way of criticism, very little in the way of questioning the
wisdom of this sort of development.
KLEIN: Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter for Wired.com`s "Danger
Room" -- it`s always great to see you. Thank you for not droning on.
ACKERMAN: I try not.
KLEIN: You see how I did that?
Coming up: election results, including the latest in the contest
between a Mr. Kreep and a Mr. Peed. Mr. Kreep versus Mr. Peed. Soon
enough, that will be Judge Kreep or Judge Peed to you. Find out which,
KLEIN: As many of you may remember, Rachel Maddow is a Jedi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: Highlighter is not a prop. I keep the
highlighter here because if you put two highlighters together, it makes a
light saber. It`s not a prop. It`s my light saber.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: I have got to get two highlighters.
In that spirit, we have a best new thing in the star wars galaxy
coming up not so far, far away.
KLEIN: The single best part about filling in for Rachel, the single
best part hands down, is being able to do this.
KLEIN: The election music. I love it. It never, never, never gets
I know it sort of feels like there are big elections every single week
now, but last night was yet another big election night across the country
and we have got the results.
First off in the great state of Arizona, voters in the eighth
congressional district held a special election yesterday to replace
Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Gabby Giffords threw her
support behind her former congressional aide Ron Barber who was injured
alongside her last January.
Now with all of the votes counted, voters in this Republican leaning
district decided to send the Democrat Ron Barber to Washington. Mr. Barber
repeated his Republican challenger Jesse Kelly last night by a margin of
six points. Ron Barber will serve out the final six months of Gabby
Giffords` term. But these two will likely face off again this coming
So, Barber-Kelly I goes to Barber. But the fans won`t have to wait
until Barber-Kelly II, the rematch, assuming Republicans in Arizona want to
give Mr. Kelly another chance. That remains to be seen. Either way, I`m
sure we`ll break out the awesome election music again.
Up in North Dakota voters took to the polls yesterday to decide on a
number of headline grabbing ballot measures. Among them a ballot measure
to abolish the state`s property tax. North Dakota has the lowest
unemployment rate in the country. The state government is awash in cash
thanks to the oil boom there.
And voters were asked yesterday, do you want to get rid of your
property tax? And by an overwhelming margin, North Dakotan voters said,
no. We do not want to get rid of our property tax. The "eliminate the
property tax" ballot measure failed yesterday 77 percent to 23 percent. If
it had been approved, North Dakota would become the first state in the
country without a property tax. But North Dakotans yesterday voted to keep
paying property tax.
Also, on the ballot yesterday, the ballot yesterday, North Dakota was
a very controversial measure to add a religious liberty amendment to the
state`s constitution. Critics of the measure argued that this would give
essentially carte blanche for people to claim religious liberty in order to
deny abortion rights or to discriminate against gays and lesbians solely on
the basis that the gays and lesbians offended them for religious reasons.
This is an issue that gained attention at the national level earlier
this year as congressional Republicans tried to pass a religious liberty
exemption when it came to providing contraception coverage to women.
Last night, voters in North Dakota had a chance to vote on their
version of that and they said no. They said no in great numbers. The
religious liberty amendment was defeated in North Dakota last night by a
margin of 64 percent to 36 percent.
North Dakota is not generally considered a bastion of liberalism.
There are no jokes about the people`s republic of North Dakota, for
So, North Dakota residents rejecting this religious liberty measure
and also rejecting the opportunity to abolish their state`s property tax
may give us some indication about how far is too far on the right these
days. Or maybe it doesn`t. If you want to see how far can be too far,
look no further than San Diego, California, proved that in some areas
there`s actually no far as too far.
San Diego County is still counting the ballots tonight in their
superior court judge race -- hey, the music again -- where voters have this
close to sending a real-life birther to the state bench.
Gary Kreep, who you may remember as the star of one of the greatest
birther infomercials of all time, is now holding a slight lead over veteran
San Diego prosecutor Garland Peed in the race for that superior court
Now, you might be saying, OK, Mr. Kreep appeared in a birther
commercial a few years ago, that doesn`t mean he`s still a birther
insistence President Obama furnished his long-form birth certificate. If
you`re thinking that, you would be wrong, as evidenced by this interview
with Gary Kreep on San Diego television, just two days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY KREEP: Mr. Obama`s spending of over $2 million, according to
published reports, to keep people from seeing his real birth certificate,
which no one has yet seen. We`ve seen copies -- purported copies of it.
We`ve seen computer compilations of various documents that are supposed to
be the real birth certificate, but no one`s ever seen the real one.
And in fact, the governor of the state of Hawaii earlier this year
said they didn`t have Mr. Obama`s birth certificate in Hawaii official
records. Almost three months later, all of a sudden they found it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Barack Obama is a citizen of the
KREEP: I have sincere doubts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: "Sincere doubts." That`s the guy, Mr. Sincere doubts, that
San Diego voters may be about to elect as a superior court judge, the
Again, Mr. Kreep now leads Mr. Peed by -- hey, there it is -- by 216
votes, although there are still more than 13,000 absentee ballots that have
yet to be counted. So, as I say, anything could happen. Kreep versus Peed
are neck and neck.
Stay tuned for the final results tonight. Aren`t elections grand?
KLEIN: We all know the word "fan" derives from the word "fanatic."
But the best new thing in the world today shows the good side of
fanaticism. When fans love something so much, their efforts to show their
devotion actually brings something good into the world, even into a world
far, far away.
(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, fine. Let`s go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Luke! Luke?! Luke, tell your uncle if he gets
a translator, be sure it speeches bocce.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn`t look like we have much of a choice, but
I`ll remind him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Remember, no translators that don`t speak bocce.
For those of you not familiar with "Star Wars," I don`t know what to
say about that exactly, but we`ll catch you up here. This is the first
time we meet Luke Skywalker, as he`s about to help his uncle purchase a
couple of droids to put to use on the family moisture farm, on the desert
planet of Tatooine. Yes, I said moisture farm.
These scenes in a few others were filmed on location in Tunisia, where
the barren desert landscape and the amazing architecture screamed a long,
long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away to director George Lucas. And if
you are the kind of fan that`s not satisfied just to watch the film, to get
a little deeper into the experience by visiting the actual sets, most of
which are actually still standing.
Dedicated "Star Wars" fans have tracked almost all of them down. This
is Mos Isley, that (INAUDIBLE) villainy.
This is Obi Wan Kenobi`s little hut. In real life, it`s a storage hut
This is Tosche Station. You probably can`t pick up any power
converters there. Those films were cut from the film anyway.
And this is the old Sky Walker place, a little igloo known to "Star
Wars" fans as the Lars homestead. One big "Star Wars" fan, really big
"Star Wars" fan, a Belgian man named Mark Dermul was one of the first to
track down the film sets and about two years ago became concerned that the
condition of the Lars homestead was deteriorating in the harsh desert
So he did what anyone would do. He embarked on a two-year campaign to
save it. Dermul and a band of loyal followers raised more than $10,000 and
are working with the Tunisian government to get all the necessary permits,
when all of a sudden the Tunisian government did not exist anymore. It was
the first regime to fall in what later became known as the Arab spring.
But the project did not die. And this May with the blessing of the
new regime, Mark Dermul and five die-hard fans around the world hopped
planes to North Africa and set to work. And they did this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Lars homestead is saved. Yes, we did it!
Look how beautiful she`s come out. We did it in under a week and within
the budget. You can see that we put a lot of stack into details. We tried
to recreate it as it was scene in the movie. The entry corridor, the
doorway, everything has been restored to its full movie glory.
Gentleman, take a bow. This is for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: It`s one thing to love a movie so much you watch it over and
over and over, sometimes in costume. I`m just saying. Not that I do that.
It`s another to try to experience a movie by seeing where it was made.
But to make the extraordinary effort of saving a piece of film history, and
thus becoming part of the film you love, arguably even a small hero in it,
that`s incredible -- and the best new thing in the world today.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.
Until then, you can check out my work at wonkblog.com at "The Washington
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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