Guests: Harvey Weinstein, Christina Romer
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Michael. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
About 200 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado, there`s a tiny little
town called Paonia, Colorado. It`s a picturesque town of less than 2,000
people that sits on the banks of the Gunnison River. Every single year, on
July 4th, the residents of Paonia hold a parade through their little
This year`s parade earlier this week featured this float from a group
called Citizens for a Healthy Community. There was also this special ride
for Paonia`s citizen of the year, nice car, congratulations, ma`am.
And then there was this -- a column of imposing green tanks rolling
through the center of town. One of which was equipped with two mounted 40
millimeter anti-aircraft guns. These tanks, it turns out, (a), were not
props, and (b), were the parade contribution from the local zillionaire, a
fellow named Bill Koch.
You`ve heard of the Koch brothers. This is the other Koch brother.
Bill Koch decided he wanted to roll these military tanks through
downtown Paonia as his contribution to the parade this year. It`s a free
country. What are you going to do, right?
What one local Paonia resident who was, I guess, not fond of this
decision, what he decided to do was this. He staged his own personal
"Tiananmen comes to Paonia" protest. He walked into the middle of the
road, parked himself right in front of the approaching column of Koch
brother`s tanks and he refused to move.
The guy with the sign is a local resident named Sid, Sid Lewis. He`s
a hairdresser. He`s a former town councilman.
His sign said on one side, "Buying the planet or just taking it?"
And it said on the other, "Democracy bought and sold." Eventually, Mr.
Lewis was physically escorted out of the way of the tanks by one of the men
who was riding on top of the Koch tank. But not before he made his point.
And not before "The Denver Post" caught wind of the whole thing and
christened the local hairdresser "Tiananmen Sid" for his free speech act of
Now, the whole "democracy being bought and sold" idea there may be a
reference to Bill Koch specifically and his own outside influence as the
guy putting the column of tanks in the local parade as the owner of
multiple energy companies and huge swaths of not just Paonia but two
neighboring counties in Colorado as well. It may also by a reference to
what Bill Koch`s brothers are doing in national politics right now.
In total, Charles and David Koch have reportedly said they will spend
$400 million trying to defeat President Obama and congressional Democrats
this year -- $400 million, two guys. That`s more than the entire John
McCain campaign spent in 2008.
And it`s not just them. In addition to them, Karl Rove has already
announced his groups which appear to be mostly funded by very rich
conservative individuals, they plan to raise and spend somewhere in the
neighborhood of $300 million in this year`s elections. This doesn`t count
the Romney campaign itself or the Republican Party. And that`s all on top
of the Koch brothers` money.
How are the Democrats attempting to match that kind of fire power?
To understand that, it may be helpful to keep in mind this image of the
hairdresser in sandals against the column of tanks with the guns.
This weekend`s "New York Times" magazine has a long profile on what
might be the Democratic Party`s best hope for competing with this
juggernaut of right wing money that`s all aimed at defeating President
Obama. It`s the Democrat`s own super PAC run by President Obama`s former
deputy press secretary Bill Burton.
But look how they are getting outgunned thus far. This pro-Obama
super PAC -- an anecdote is told in "New York Times" this weekend -- is
super excited earlier this year. They worked their tails off. They put
together a whole bunch of donations from left-leaning donors. They put it
together piece by piece and they cobbled together $10 million in total for
a multi-state ad buy. It was a huge investment for them, a landmark
investment for them.
And then three days after they did that, they got one that one guy
alone on the other side, Republican Sheldon Adelson, was personally
contributing that much, $10 million, that day, to the Mitt Romney super
PAC. Oh, and he was donating another $10 million that day to Karl Rove`s
super PAC at the same time. Oh, and, by the way, he was now saying maybe
he`ll contribute ten times that much, $100 million, when push comes to
This is an optimistic profile of the Democratic side in the "New York
Times" magazine this weekend. But what it says is that the only Democratic
plan for trying to compete in terms of ad spending is to wage asymmetric
From "The Times" this weekend, having conceded the arms race before
it began, the Democratic super PAC team recognized that its only hope lay
in asymmetrical warfare, ruthless, relentless storytelling that could be
done on the cheap.
You would never know this was the party in power, right? They`re
talking about having to use guerilla tactics in order to compete with an
overwhelming force on the other side that they could never hope to match.
A week ago tonight from Air Force One, President Obama convened a
conference call with many of his top campaign donors and in that call, he
reportedly sounded the alarm. According to reporting by Lloyd Grove at
"The Daily Beast" who said he heard a recording from that call, the
president told his donors, quote, "We are going to see more money spend on
negative ads through the super PAC and anonymous outside groups than ever
before. And if things continue as they have so far, I will be first
sitting president in modern history to be outspent in his reelection
The president appears to be right in that assessment, at least so
far. In May, President Obama was outraised by the Romney campaign by a
lot. Mitt Romney managed to outraise Mr. Obama that month by nearly $17
For this past month, for June, the Romney campaign has just happily
announced that they`ve improved on their big number from May. They raised
more than $100 million. And again, this is in addition to all of the
We still don`t know what it`s going to be in terms of the numbers for
President Obama in June. But his campaign is already telegraphing that it
is not nearly as much as what the Romney campaign raised.
So, that`s where things stand right now both for the campaign and
these outside groups in terms of head-to-head Obama versus Obama fund-
raising. But the overall picture speaks worse than that in terms of
"The Boston Globe" reporting this week that overall, the super PACs
supporting Republicans overall in the country have thus far for this
election cycle raised more than triple, more than three times as much as
the super PAC supporting the Democrats.
I mean, this isn`t just for the presidency. This is for everything.
Look at that. Republics have 3 bucks for every 1 buck Democrats have.
Whether or not President Obama is able to beat Mitt Romney as -- what
do we call him now? An underdog incumbent, an outspend underdog incumbent?
Whether or not President Obama is able to overcome that, that great
disparity, that great disparity benefitting the Republicans is also going
to have implications down the ticket in the congressional races.
Who controls Congress? The money makes a really big difference. In
2010, whenever else was going on in the country, when the Republicans took
back control of the House of Representatives in 2010, it is not incidental
to note that the Republicans also outspend the Democrats that year by a two
to one margin. It matters.
If Republicans can repeat the feat this year, then the sky is the
limit for them in terms of Congress. They likely win control of Congress,
I would venture a guess. Regardless of what happens in the presidential
This was not always an inherently partisan structural problem. I
mean, in some ways now, it is, right? If you think about specifically what
Citizens United did, that cleared the way for unlimited corporate
donations. So, that does tilt the playing field in favor of corporate
interests and therefore in favor of Republican interest.
But in terms of individual rich people in America making a difference
in politics, that doesn`t necessarily have to lean inherently right. In
2004, as a matter of fact, it leans left.
The great conservative man, George Soros, liberal zillionaire, he
gave more than $23 million to Democratic groups in 2004. Peter Lewis from
Progressive Insurance, he gave just about the same amount, a little bit
less. Film producer/business Steven Bing gave nearly $14 million to
Democratic leaning groups in that same year, 2004.
Democrats -- in terms of rich Democratic donors in 2004, way outpaced
the Republicans. But this time around, for whatever reason, those wealthy
Democratic donors are sitting on the sidelines. George Soros has given
about $2 million so far compared with $24 million before. Peter Lewis,
$200,000 this time around compared with $23 million. Steve Bing, $425,000
compared to $14 million before.
So why aren`t big dollar Democratic campaign donors, the people who
can really make a difference in terms of their personal decisions of what
to do on campaign spending as individuals or campaign-related spending as
individuals, why are they sitting on their hands on the Democratic side so
far? Are they waiting for something and they`re going to get it later?
Do they want some kind of attention they`re not getting from the
president? Do they think it`s hopeless because, yes, maybe they`re rich
guys but they`re not the Koch brothers and they never will be and they`ll
be outspent no matter what they do?
Is the post-Citizens United political zillionaire thunderdome that`s
been created by the Supreme Court now so inherently distasteful to people
who have Democratic politics, they just don`t want to play in that dirty
For those of us of who are watching this from the outside, reporting
on it, observing on it, thinking about what it means for our country, the
likely outcome of the election, it seems like an important question, an
important part of the process. But for the people who are inside making
these decisions, how do they view their role in it? And what do they --
what do they think of this really big, really obvious disparity this year
between the two sides that just keeps getting worse and worse no matter how
much the Democrats and the president himself sound the alarm about it?
Joining us now is one of the country`s major fund-raisers for
President Obama. He is a bundler of donations to president, which we know
because President Obama`s campaign discloses that, even though Mr. Romney
does not. You know him better as the cofounder of Miramax Films, the co-
chairman of the Weinstein Company. One of America`s best known and most
accomplished film producers, Harvey Weinstein.
Thank you for joining us.
HARVEY WEINSTEIN, FILM PRODUCER: Hi, Rachel. Nice to be here.
MADDOW: It`s nice to be here, too. We had drama with the microphone
and the person falling down at the top of the segment. You handled it
WEINSTEIN: Thanks. It reminded me of one of my movies, one of my
MADDOW: If it ends up in a thriller, I want to cut it.
Why are -- why have you been a fund-raiser, a bundler for President
Obama? And what`s your reaction to that sort of disparity I was talking
about between the two sides?
WEINSTEIN: You know, when you talk about spending money, I`ll give
you an example of two movies that I distribute. I spent the exact same
amount on both movies.
One movie was called "The King`s Speech." It grossed $140 million,
won a few Oscars, including best picture and did sensational based on its
The other was called "Our Idiot Brother." We spent the same amount
of money and the movie grossed $25 million. Not bad for what we paid for
it -- you know, OK, a little bit of profit.
To me, Romney is "Our Idiot Brother" and Obama is "The King`s
Speech." You can spend all the money in the world, if you`ve got a bad
product, it doesn`t matter.
Ask anybody on Madison Avenue, don`t ask the Wall Street guys, bring
the advertising guys on. If I have a defective product, I could spend $5
billion, I`m not going to sell anything. The Edsel spend more money on the
Ford than any car in history and it was the egg -- the bomb of the
lifetime. We could go through product after product.
But let`s make it more fun. I`m happy if the Koch brothers would
come on the show and I could get Jeffrey Katzenberg and some of the other
guys. And we can just talk about their politics.
MADDOW: Why do you think we`re seeing this change over time from
people who have Democratic politics who do support this president, having
been willing to give a lot of money on the Democratic side in the past,
just giving less this year?
WEINSTEIN: I think people are confident on the Democratic side.
MADDOW: Oh, really (ph)?
WEINSTEIN: I think you see, you know, Romney and you hear even
conservatives, Rupert Murdoch criticizing Mitt Romney. There`s so much
dissention, and, you know, somebody Mike Lupica wrote a column in "The
Daily News" calling him a mute Romney. He doesn`t say anything. Maybe
that`s why they have to raise that money and have advertising.
We have a president who speaks and speaks to the issues. They have a
candidate who says nothing. And they also have a campaign strategy which
is say nothing.
At a certain point, the American public will get tired of it. If the
Democrats need money, people will raise more. Right now, I think everybody
is sitting back and saying, why spend it if we don`t have to? If we have
to, they will.
MADDOW: Is the Congress argument compelling to donors or are donors
really motivated, pretty good when you talk to other people and you`re
trying to get out to people donate, people really motivated by the top of
the ticket. That report from the "Boston Globe" where it`s more than three
to one Republicans versus Democrats, and that`s not just for the
presidential race, it`s for everything, that looks like a Republican
Congress to me, which Democratic minded people can`t be -- have to be a
little bothered by.
WEINSTEIN: You know, the other thing about the way they (INAUDIBLE),
that wish fulfillment that their candidate will win and then they`ll get a
tax cut. It`s the same ridiculous thing. They`ll spend $300 million and
they expect it on their multibillion dollar companies, they`ll get $400
million back and make a profit on their donation. Maybe they will if a
Republican gets in, but (a), it will hurt the country and we`ll be back in
It`s amazing that Sheldon Adelson is spending $10 million and $10
million and $10 million. In 2008 and 2007, when we have a Republican
administration, and George Bush was the president, he was on his knees. I
mean, his company was two seconds away from being bankrupt.
He probably owes more to President Obama for being able to write
those checks because Obama righted the country from the impending disaster
that wasn`t caused by him at all. But Sheldon Adelson was two seconds away
from going bankrupt.
MADDOW: In terms of your politics, not just thinking about this
election but the last term and what has happened with Congress going from
Democrat control to Republican control and all this -- are there things
that you want to be happening that aren`t happening? Are there things you
want the president to be doing in policy or in politics that you`re urging
him to do or think he should do that he`s not doing?
WEINSTEIN: I think the president is doing a fantastic job. It`s
just trying to communicate it. And it`s always hard when you`re the
incumbent because you inherit all of the problems and people think even if
you fix it, it`s never fast enough.
So I`m very happy with what the president is doing. And when I think
of the competition, I get happier every minute. I`m thrilled. And I have
voted Republican in the past. It`s not fair to say, oh, Harvey Weinstein,
Democrat. I voted for Governor Pataki, and I raised funds for Governor
Pataki. I took Governor Pataki out to meet some of the most prominent
Democrats, raised money for him. I voted for Rudy Giuliani as well and did
the same. When there`s a good man, there`s a good man.
With all due respect to Governor Romney, he`s not capable to run the
MADDOW: Can I ask you a movie question?
WEINSTEIN: Much better for me.
WEINSTEIN: I know I have to pay my dues and answer these political
MADDOW: You`re pretty good. Here`s the thing -- I`m the least pop
culture aware person in the world, but I know what I like. And you I`m
sure, by your design, but from my perspective and it`s kind of creepy
coincidence happen to be the producer of most of the movies that I like, so
that`s a compliment that I don`t understand. It`s just that I share your
taste and I think you`re good at what you do.
WEINSTEIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: And you`re bringing over this movie that is the top grossing
film in France ever?
WEINSTEIN: It`s the number two and around the world, and it`s the
number one French movie ever released.
MADDOW: So we have a little clip of it that I want to show and then
I have a question about why you think -- how you decide whether or not
Americans like something that French people like. Hold on. We`ll play the
clip, hold on.
(MOVIE CLIP PLAYS, "THE INTOUCHABLES"/THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY)
MADDOW: Main character is paralyzed from the neck down. He`s
persuading his terrified personnel aide to go paragliding with him.
How do you know when something is going to -- when something works in
another country, whether or not Americans are going to like it?
WEINSTEIN: Well, in this situation, I read the script.
WEINSTEIN: A young man in my office, Peter, you know, came to us and
said I just read this great script. So, I read the script, too. And it
was amazing. I just felt something about this movie worked. And I don`t
know, I got lucky with the artists and people say it`s a bump-up for me. I
went from a silent movie to actually even though it`s in French, it`s got
sound this time.
And you know, it`s just -- I have never had an experience where
people see a movie in a theater like this, this movie, "The Intouchables":
and they walk out of it sky high. It`s a true story, and I think you feel
elated watching this movie.
MADDOW: The opening car chase scene has the same effect.
It`s called the "The Intouchables," new film from Weinstein Company.
Harvey Weinstein, it`s great to have you here. It`s nice to be able to
talk really candidly with you.
WEINSTEIN: Can I ask you a question?
WEINSTEIN: I saw a poster for "Scary Movie". My brother and David
Zucker who made all the "Scary Movies" are about to go into production.
How did you know the cast we had? We have not even announced them, and you
have that story first. That`s breaking news.
MADDOW: Remember how I said it was -- yes, I think it`s creepy that
you`re in my head about what movies to make. Now, you`re in my head, too.
It`s a deal, man.
WEINSTEIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: "Debunktion Junction," what`s my function?
All right. True or false -- Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee
for president? It`s a done deal. According to Republican Party rules,
there`s no other candidate with enough delegates to be the nominee. Mr.
Romney clinched the nomination in May, in the Texas primary, where he won
more than 100 delegates
So, now, Mitt Romney is the undisputed Republican nominee for
president in the 2012 election. Is that true or is that false?
False. Remember Congressman Ron Paul? Congressman Paul has actively
-- has stopped actively campaigning for president, but his supporters have
not actively supporting him, including fighting it out in the states to win
for Ron Paul those states` delegates to the Republican National Convention
in Tampa, where the nominee of the party actually gets chosen.
Ron Paul has won a majority of delegates from Iowa, from Maine, from
Minnesota, and Louisiana. That`s four states. And according to Republican
Party rules, order to be eligible to be nominated at the convention, you
only need to win five states.
Quote, "Each candidate four nominations shall demonstrate the
plurality of a delegates from each of the five or more states." Ron Paul
has already got four states. He`s only one state away for meeting the
nominating requirement to be able to be nominated at the convention. In
turns out he could get that one more state a week from tomorrow, when the
Nebraska state Republican Party holds its state convention to pick its
delegates to go to the national convention in Tampa.
So here`s the rub. Even though Mitt Romney won the Nebraska primary,
Ron Paul delegates have proven themselves to be really good at taking over
the state conventions and getting themselves picked to be the delegates.
Nebraska Republican Party officials say they are so worried about this
prospect that they told us today they are hiring extra security for their
convention. Quote, "For the purposes of maintaining an orderly
So depending on what happens in Nebraska next weekend, a week from
tomorrow, hey, it`s possible that Ron Paul is also going to be nominated at
the convention in Tampa. Along with Mitt Romney, which means dueling
speeches from both nominees, and votes and a floor fight and something
really, really specific and rules based for those really specific rules-
based Ron Paul delegates to do at the convention instead of just cheer for
things related to the fed.
So, yes, Mitt Romney is probably going to be the Republican
presidential nominee, but it is not a done deal. All eyes on Nebraska next
MADDOW: If you`re looking at the news online and you`re looking not
just at the national papers and the wires and the political sites. But
you`re looking at regional papers, local news sources. One thing that you
will find right now almost everywhere in the country are front page stories
and local news coverage about Americans living through hot weather in a way
we do not think of Americans as living right now. Namely, I`m talking
about Americans living without electric power.
So, here on the front page of the "Columbus Dispatch", an American
woman hanging her laundry to dry on a chain-link fence and hitting up some
soup on an outdoor grill. Here on Columbus TV station`s front page, a
story about residents suffering through a seventh day without electricity.
Here at the "Charleston, West Virginia Gazette", you have linemen
working 16 hour days to try to restore power that has been out also for
Here in a Ft. Wayne, Indiana local TV station`s front page, you`ve
got news that 36,000 households are still without power since last Friday.
Here in "The Richmond Times-Dispatch" in Virginia, you have an
elderly woman who has to turn out every light in the house to be able to
run the medical device that she needs off of a generator because her
electricity has been out for eight days now. It`s a great reminder, right,
that technological advances do not all proceed at the same pace.
So, while we have had electrical power delivered to most homes in
America since the 1930s, in 2012, when those power lines come down in
totally predictable annual weather events, we cannot get those lines back
up for a week, maybe longer, who knows?
But meanwhile, we can use the Internet and our lightning fast iPhone
apps to identify every up to the minute detail in infinitely zoomable, full
color satellite map, overlaying live interactive infographics, precise
information about where our 20th century power lines are not connecting to
our houses to give us electricity anymore. We can be very precise in a
very technologically adept way about our very, very low tech problem.
This is one of those issues at the man on the street level aggravates
everybody the same way. I have had staunch Republican friends tell me
after a long power outage at their home with a new baby that they would
vote for any Democrat. They would cross party lines for the first time in
their lines and vote for a Democrat even if it was the Democrat who would
promise to bury the freakin` power lines so they don`t come down in every
The dyspeptic easily offended former George W. Bush speechwriter,
David Frum, on the right, wrote a column this week for CNN.com with stars
in his eyes for the power grid in Germany which has an average rate of 21
minutes per year. They lose power in Germany for less than a half an hour
over the course of a year.
If you told that to this woman in Columbus, she would probably learn
German and move to Dusseldorf before the soup was hot.
But beyond just individual voices ignoring party lines, to saying
that we ought to do something about our lousy infrastructure, saying we
ought to do something to be able to keep the lights on in a way that makes
us seem at least 20th century if not 21st century.
There`s also one aspect of our current national failure on this issue
that could ultimately improve the chances that we might get something done
on it moving forward. That is some that some of the most numerous and most
devastating power outages in the country right now, for this past week at
least, have been in the Washington, D.C. area.
Here`s a map of D.C. area power outages. Look at that. Because even
if we can`t keep the lights on, we do have awesome online interfaces
telling us exactly how and where we can`t keep the lights on.
You can zoom in and get the status of each of these zillion power
outages and the expected restoration time for all these places. And this
is just a Google map that somebody has put together. There`s also the
official power outage map from the same region, from the utility company,
which is pretty well done, too.
See that color there, the orange? That means between 1,000 and 5,000
households in that shaded area are still without power. The storms that
caused this power outage were seven days ago, June 29th, and every single
day since then has been above 95 degrees in the Washington, D.C. area --
with all those people with no power.
Of course, not everything that afflicts Washington, D.C. as a place
gets fixed because politicians live there. If that were the case, the
Washington, D.C. license plates would not say taxation without
But still, when stuff happens to D.C., when politicians and the
political chattering classes are among those who are affected by something
that is fundamentally, elementally disruptive to our lives and also
humiliating to us as citizens, when it`s something you expect the richest
country on Earth to do, that we for some reason cannot do and that thing
affects you and your family`s life personally, that can create the lasting
impression that can lead to political momentum -- sometimes. At least you
There`s news on that front today that`s kind of encouraging, and
we`ll be back to talk about with President Obama`s former top economic
adviser, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any of you who
believes your voice could make a difference, I want to reaffirm your
belief. You made this happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama giving a shout out to people who wrote or
called or e-mails or tweeted their member of Congress about a big piece of
legislation that he just signed, the transportation bill.
He brought two main groups of people with him other than elected
officials for the signing. He brought college students because it was this
transportation bill that included the language about the student loans,
keeping people`s student loan rates from doubling this week. The other
group of people he brought him besides elected officials and college
students were construction workers, because this is the transportation bill
so it involves funding for lots and lots of construction products --
rebuilding roads and bridges and highways all across the country.
And you know what? This is that you`re looking at with the president
putting pen to paper, this is kind of a miracle because in order to get to
the point where President Obama could sign this thing and have this photo-
op today, the United States Congress had to pass something. This Congress.
And not just a resolution about hating bad things and loving good things
like they usually do, and not just some other new anti-abortion thing they
have come up, with big actual policy for the whole country.
Of course, don`t get too excited about the miraculous return of the
spirit of constructive bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. In order to get to
this point today, the president did have to sign a one-week long
transportation and student loan bill last week because the bill miracle
bill had not yet made its way to his desk and the deadlines had hit.
Student loan rates were going to go up, construction workers were going to
be laid off until they could get this done. So, they have to sort of week-
long bubbling of the issue, unable to get their act together.
But they did get their act together. Big picture here, the bill got
signed, and the whole country -- left, right, and center, frankly, is livid
about the fact our power indefinitely, sometimes for weeks at a time,
because there was a thunderstorm somewhere, because the thunderstorms are
apparently something we ever, ever thought about having before, every
summer when it happens. It`s a complete shot. And in the winter, we`re
equally unprepared for the cold kinds of storms.
Infrastructure is something that people care about, right, on both
sides of the aisle. If you look at the policy statements of both
candidates running for president right now, they both at least say they
want infrastructure investment. President Obama is proposing it. Mitt
Romney is saying that he likes it in theory, in practice he has been
deriding it as wasteful stimulus that does not work.
But Congress did pass this bill that has good infrastructure
investment in this transportation thing today. If you turn the frown
upside down and you try to look at the possibility of doing something here,
look at the country`s needs in terms of keeping the lights on and in terms
of the economy and putting people to work, don`t we, in fact, have a way
forward on this one issue?
Couldn`t more infrastructure stuff get done? Even now, even people
calling it names, even this year, even with this Congress, even with this
I feel hopeful about this.
Christina Romer is the former chair of President Obama`s counsel of
economic advisers. She`s now a professor of economics at the University of
California at Berkeley.
Christina Romer, thank you so much for your time. It`s nice to have
CHRISTINA ROMER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY: It`s great to be
MADDOW: You are an expert on the economic side of this, about what
types of policies the government can pursue to try to right the economy
when it`s in a bad way and to try to get maximize employment to the extent
we can. How important is infrastructure investment in the universe of
different spending policies and fiscal policies that the government can
ROMER: It`s incredibly important. I think if you were to say what
is the one small silver lining to this horrible recession that we have been
through is that it has at least generated a lot of new research on what can
fiscal policy do, what can government spending do?
And the overwhelming conclusion of all of that research is that
government spending absolutely can help you recover from a recession, and
among the kinds of government spending that`s the most useful, it`s
It`s important to define it infrastructure pretty broadly. So, of
course, it`s roads and bridges and it is absolutely power lines like you
described. But I`d also put in human infrastructure -- so things like
education make human beings more productive and more efficient over time.
And likewise, money spent for research and development and basic science --
those are things that both put people to work right now and make us more
productive over time. And it`s incredibly viable and incredibly useful.
MADDOW: I feel like what we`re up against here with this
infrastructure discussion is sort of we`re stuck between two prongs that
are going in the same direction, but they feel like they`re competing. And
one of them is that everybody talks about the need to improve our
infrastructure. Everybody talks about how that is something that`s good
for the country economically, that`s something that is good for the country
in terms of what that infrastructure, the needs that that infrastructure
serves in an immediate way. But the kind of things that you described on
the right, those get derided not as investment, not as infrastructure --
fixing the infrastructure, but just as spending.
How do you engage with that qualitative argument on the right, that
spending itself is so toxic that even when it`s spending on stuff that we
like, now is not the time to do it?
ROMBER: I think, I`m a great believer in evidence-based policy
making. I just have to believe that if you keep showing Republicans the
studies, the evidence, that say, you know, the returns to government
spending to basic science are so enormous in terms of what they do for
patents down the road, for what they do for our productivity down the road
that eventually you have to break through.
And I think, you know, that`s the only way I know to do it is to just
keep showing them the evidence, trying to build the case. And you made the
important point, you know, the average person in the street understands
this, they see what their school means for their kids. They see what the
power lines mean for their own lives.
Businesses understand it. They`re the ones screaming for better
ports and better roads and bridges that aren`t falling down. You -- there
ought to be, as you have described, a way to have a national consensus on
The other thing to point out is this is a uniquely good time to be
doing this, right? So, borrowing costs are at historic lows. So the
government can borrow to do these things. And we have so many unemployed
construction workers and electrical workers and all those things, it`s an
excellent time to be doing this. It`s a win-win. It`s good for the
economy now and jobs, it`s good for the economy in the future because we`re
MADDOW: In terms of the overall jobs picture, today`s job`s report
showed the economy adding just 80,000 jobs last month. The unemployment
rate stuck at 8.2 percent.
As a former top advisor to the president who is now back in the
academic world, what`s your case to the administration given this election
year about what can be done now to create jobs, to do the kinds of things
you`re talking about, maybe without even having to go to Congress?
ROMER: That is what is so hard, right, because the kinds of things
we`re talking about -- so infrastructure spending, or even tax changes like
giving small businesses a tax cut if they hire people, those things require
government, you know, require Congress` approval. What the president can
do is very limited.
You know, he has been trying lots of things. So, you know, things
like our trade policy, the president does have a lot of leeway there, and
he`s worked very hard to say, well, if we don`t have demand for American
products here in America, let`s try to get some foreign demand. That will
at least put -- you know, if we export more, that will put more of our
workers back to work.
The president has pushed very hard. We saw just today, he was
bringing in another enforcement action against China to try to open up that
market for American firms. So that`s certainly important.
You know, the main entity here that could do something without
Congress is the Federal Reserve. And that`s obviously something that the
president can`t control, but, gosh, I wish they would do something because
they`re the one agency that maybe could help to move the dial without
Congress doing anything and I`m so frustrated that they`re sitting on the
MADDOW: I don`t think they watch, but if I run into them, I`ll pass
on your frustration.
MADDOW: Christina Romer, former chair of President Obama`s Council
of Economic Advisers now at Berkeley economics adviser, thank you so much
for your time tonight. It`s really nice for us to have you here.
ROMER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Hands down the most gobsmacking stories about
traditions, sports, and trees that you will ever hear, ever. It`s our
close of the show tonight. Please stay tuned for it. We`re very happy
MADDOW: Breaking news, this just crossed a moment ago. We have just
been informed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has touched down in
Kabul, in Afghanistan. This is a previously unannounced visit. This
happens a lot with senior administration officials and sometimes even with
officials as senior as the president.
We did not know she was going to Kabul before. We just learned that
She will apparently be having a meeting and doing a press
availability with President Karzai in Afghanistan. She`ll also be at some
point at the U.S. embassy. Again, we do not know if she`s there to
announce something specific or what`s going to happen exactly at the press
avail, but she`s with President Karzai coming up in Kabul.
Again, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an unannounced trip to
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Our nation`s capital got a little less strange today. If
you`re like me and like a little strange in your politics, you may feel
sadness about this or some Thad-ness, at least.
Thaddeus McCotter, Republican congressman, son of Michigan, guitar
hero, has resigned from Congress. Already, Mr. McCotter has said he would
not run to hold on to his seat this year after he failed to make the ballot
for the Republican primary. His campaign turned in only a fraction of the
valid signatures required to get him on the ballot, along with page after
page of clumsily cut and pasted obviously fraudulent signatures.
Mr. McCotter says he still doesn`t know how that happened and he says
he supports the Michigan criminal investigation into that. But him failing
to qualify for the ballot, that has long meant that this guy, a reindeer
herder named Kerry Bentivolio is going to be the only candidate on the
ballot in the Republican primary for that congressional seat tat the
Republicans now hold in Michigan.
Mr. McCotter briefly considered a write-in bid, but he gave that up.
All that plus his failed presidential campaign last year, plus a really
weird revelation this week about an unhinged sexist TV show he was writing
scripts for, somehow it all proved too much for Congressman Thaddeus
McCotter. He announced this evening that he will not be finishing his
He says, quote, "The recent events totally of calumnies, indignities
and deceits have weighed most heavily upon my family. Thus, acutely aware
one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S.
House office., for the sake of loved ones, I must strike another match, go
start anew by embracing the promotion back from public servants to
Thaddeus McCotter, with the help of lyrics from "It`s All Over Now,
Baby Blue", promoting himself today from congressman to sovereign citizen.
Sovereign citizen -- you are free to Google that if the chair in
front of your computer comes with a seat belt.
Good luck, Thaddeus McCotter. He resigned as you served, weirdly.
But I do not mean that in a bad way.
MADDOW: The other day in Opelika, Alabama, they tried to pick a jury
for the trial of this man. He`s a University of Alabama football fan. He
stands accused of criminal mischief and desecrating a venerable object.
The venerable object in this case is a pair of live oak trees on the campus
of auburn university nearby.
The man accused is an Alabama fan. Auburn and Alabama are rivals.
These two oak trees are where generations of Auburn students and fans have
gone to celebrate wins by the Auburn football team, particularly those over
These are Toomer`s trees, they are called. And team loyalty aside,
they are pretty much as venerable an object as you could find in the state
In the first round of questioning in this case about the desecration
of these trees, nearly half the potential jurors in the case said they
personally had celebrated something about Auburn under those Toomer Oaks.
So, that`s a big deal. What an institution Toomer`s trees are.
It is the cultural importance of those trees to Auburn University and
Alabama as a state that made so surreal this phone call to a local radio
show last year. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CALLER: The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Alabama,
because I live 30 miles away and I poisoned the two Toomer`s trees. I put
Spike 80DF in them.
PAUL FINEBAUN: Did they die?
CALLER: Do what?
FINEBAUN: Did they die?
CALLER: They`re not dead yet, but they definitely will die.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The man calling into a radio station saying he killed the
Toomer oaks with tree poison, with an herbicide. And he did do it or
somebody did it at least. It was not an idle boost.
Ever since they learned of the poisoning, Auburn has been trying to
save their beloved trees. We reported a year ago on some of their efforts.
They removed and replaced the contaminated soil from around the roots.
They added activated liquid charcoal to neutralize the effect of the
poison. They coated the leaves of the trees with what`s called an anti-
transferent (ph) in an effort to keep the trees from drinking in more
This spring, they injected the trees with sugar, trying to feed the
trees, since the trees are now too sick to feed themselves.
A former producer for this show, Tina Cone, is on a worldwide walk
about right now. And every once in awhile sends us something from her
travels. Her travels took her to Auburn, Alabama. And while she was
there, she checked in on the rescue for us.
The Auburn horticulturist, Gary Keever, says the trees have been as
low as 5 percent of their usual foliage. Professor Keever says they are
painfully bare, they are in trouble. And if these were any other trees on
campus, they would have been cut down already.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY KEEVER, AUBURN UNIVERSITY HORTICULTURIST: Very likely by this
fall, you know, they`re going to be if they continue at the rate they`re
going, they`re going to be at a point where they`re aesthetically dead, you
know, that we`re going to recognize that we need to replace these trees.
These two fissures appeared sometime between late fall and mid winter
last year, early part of this year. And since then, the bark around these
fissures has loosened; you can see the movement in it. This is not normal
We`ve got some decay in the base on this side here. You can see by
the darkened wood. We`re definitely going to lose some of the bark on this
side of the try and the decay is not a good sign.
These shoots at the base of one of the Toomer`s oaks are called
rhizomic shoots, or most people called them suckers. These appear healthy,
but not all of these rhizomic shoots are healthy.
If you move over here, you see classic signs of the herbicide. This
is what we saw for much of last year. You see the herbicide oftentimes
will accumulate along the margins of the leaves. The leaves will yellow,
brown and then they typically would drop off.
We`ve already lost leaves along some of the stems. Some leaves are
persisting. But this is very evident of the herbicide injury.
We`ve done many things to try to save these trees but if you look at
the trees, it`s very clear that we haven`t been completely successful. And
based on the decline that we continue to see, it`s very likely that these
trees are not going to survive in spite of our efforts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tree murder. So that`s the deal with Auburn`s venerable
objects, Toomer`s trees. Gary Keever says they`ve shown no sign of
responding to these latest treatments, those injections with sugar. He
says he`s not giving up yet, but he`s also too much of a scientist to avoid
seeing the obvious outcome here.
Meanwhile, the man who is accused of poisoning the trees has now
pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. He told the
Auburn student newspaper that the trial was already sapping his strength.
That he thought he was going to pass out the first morning of jury
selection. He said he lost 62 pounds since being arrested and he`s taking
18 kinds of medicine.
His wife says he won`t make it through the trial without something
happening -- whatever that means.
Not incidentally in that same Auburn student newspaper article, the
paper`s reporter says the accused tree killer admitted his crime, that he
told the student newspaper reporter that he had, in fact, poisoned the
The man`s defense says the man did no such thing, admitted no such
thing. But the paper is standing by its story and what its reporter says
the suspect told them.
The defense also says they want this trial move away from Auburn,
Alabama, and they may get their wish. Last month, just two days into jury
selection, the jury in the case suspended the trial after it interviewed
perspective jurors and found at least 10 of them who had seen the front
page of Auburn student newspaper story quoting the suspect as saying he had
done it, he had poisoned the trees, which his defense attorney says he
The judge ruled that the jury pool is too tainted to continue and the
case may have to leave is the whole district of Alabama altogether. The
trial is set to start again in the fall.
It is a case of tree murder. Where it may be impossible to find a
jury of 12 people who have not been in love with the murder victim, in love
with those trees or at least who do not already believe in their hearts
they know who killed those trees.
This is a sports story. This is an Alabama story, may be a crazy old
guy story or even a crime story. But what is it is turning into now is a
story of profound human attachment beyond what we usually admit to and
beyond what makes sense on paper -- which is why I am ending this now with
pictures of the Toomer`s oaks in Alabama in much happier times.
And with that uplifting story in mind, there`s really only one place
you can go now. At least we`re all going together, though. Three, two,
one -- prison.
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