'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, November 30th, 2012
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
November 30, 2012
Guests: Ron Suskind, Maria Cantwell
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Have a great weekend, my
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: You, too. I will. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for being with us on this fine Friday night.
Do you remember the color-coded alert system we used to have?
Tom Ridge announced the existence of our national color-coded "be
afraid" alert chart about a decade ago, in March 2002, so we could tell at
a glance how alert we were supposed to feel. And if you didn`t feel like
glancing at the be alert chart, at least a at the airport, they would read
periodic recorded statements over the intercom telling you out loud that
today`s threat level was orange. The threat level was always orange at the
airport no matter what else was going on in the country.
We don`t do that anymore. We don`t do that. We got rid of the color
coded chart thing last year and nobody complained.
We also no longer have this. This is the Google Street View of one of
the secret prisons we used to have in Romania. "The Associated Press" did
an overhead satellite view of it so you could see how snagged up our secret
prison was against the railway lines in a really densely populated part of
Bucharest. But, yes, that little thing there, that was ours.
We are a country with 2 million people in prison or jail on any given
day. America has thousands of prisons and jails here at home, but we
decided to open up a little something in Romania, too, in secret.
Also in Poland and a bunch of other places, we had secret overseas
prisons. We don`t do that anymore either. They said they emptied them out
in 2006. And then in 2009, it became official policy that we don`t do that
For years, do you remember there was a ban on taking photos at Dover?
A ban on taking photos of flag-draped coffins of Americans killed in war
having their bodies brought back home to the United States. We the public
were banned from seeing those pictures for years.
But that ban is over now. We do not have that ban anymore. We don`t
do that anymore. We are now allowed to see.
For awhile, top level U.S. policymakers approved torturing people.
And Americans did torture people based on cockamamie policy advice that it
was legal for them to do so. But the current president, President Obama,
put a stop to that right when he took office. We do not do that anymore.
Some things we stop doing. Some things that we were told, yes, maybe
this is unprecedented, maybe this doesn`t only seem like the kind of thing
America does, but we have to do it. Some of those things from the past
decade, what was really hard to get our heads around the fact that we were
doing those things, some of those things are things that we have stopped
That said, some of the things we still are doing are still pretty hard
to get your head around. We`re still fighting the longest war in U.S.
history and it apparently still has two-plus years on the clock, unless the
president spends up his withdrawal plan. It`s the longest war in U.S.
history and for most of that war, we were fighting it at the same time as
another one of the longest wars in U.S. history.
If you had told anybody in advance of that plan, that that`s how our
country would spend the first decade plus of the 21st century, you would
have been laughed at.
Before we started doing it, you probably could not have convinced
anyone that after we closed our secret prisons in places like Romania and
Poland, we would still keep one in a nearby communist country which doesn`t
want us there.
In advance of us starting to do this stuff, how would you have
convinced somebody -- how would you have convinced somebody we were going
to do these things? How would you convince somebody that the United States
would consider it legal to find a wanted American citizen living abroad,
track him down in that other country, and then for the U.S. government to
kill him with a missile in that other country?
The man`s father went to court in advance of our government doing that
to try to stop the U.S. government from doing it. The father sued to say
in advance that his son should be arrested instead of killed on the spot if
he was found, but he was found and he was just killed on the spot with a
missile, U.S. citizen. Then a month later, we killed his 16-year-old son
too, also an American citizen. Same cause of death.
We have done things in the past decade or so that if you asked anybody
in advance of us starting to behave this way, whether the United States of
America would ever be a country that behaved this way, there`s no way you
could have convinced anyone. We granted ourselves permission to act this
way when we said our response to being the victim of massive terrorist
attack in 2001 is going to be that we were going to declare that we were at
war. Congress passed an authorization of military force against the group
that attacked us and associated forces.
And the power granted by that authorization to use force undergirds a
lot of the things we have done over the past decade, in this administration
and in the previous one -- things that constitute unimaginable behavior for
the United States of America. We`re on a war footing. And is that war
footing forever? That`s the question, right? When does it end?
It`s not a philosophical question. It is an empirical question
because this is not a war that we ever planned on winning. We planned on
just fighting it for awhile and eventually stopping, maybe. I`m not just
saying that because that`s my take on it and I`m a commie, pinko liberal,
although I am.
I`m saying that because it`s been the understanding all along from the
people who declared this war in the first place that this was never
something we were going to know it was over because we had a winner. It
was never planned that way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: You said to me a second ago, one of the things
you will lay out in your vision for the next four years is how to go about
winning the war on terror. That phrase strikes me a little bit. Do you
really think we can win this war on terror? For example, in the next four
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have never said we can win
in four years.
LAUER: No, I`m just saying, can we win it? Do you see that?
BUSH: I don`t think you can win it.
LAUER: Your daughters are how old now?
LAUER: Twenty-two years old. They are approaching the age, President
Bush, they`re going to have their own children. When their kids are
teenagers, are they going to -- those kids, your grandchildren -- be
reading about al Qaeda in the newspaper every day?
BUSH: You know, I think if -- I know if we`re steadfast, strong and
resolute and I say those words very seriously, it`s less likely that your
kids are going to live under the threat of al Qaeda for a long period of
time. I can`t tell you, I don`t have a definite end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Definite end. I don`t think you can win it.
Our country has used the idea that we are at war. Not just in Iraq.
Not just in Afghanistan, but all over the globe. We have used the idea we
are in this global war as the justification for us doing all kinds of
things, and exerting all kinds of power that would otherwise be not just
indefensible for a country with a Constitution like ours, not just
indefensible, but almost unimaginable.
In this global war of ours, they said from the beginning would not end
because there was going to be a winner declared. There couldn`t be. It is
not that kind of war.
So, if that`s the case, and being in a war footing is what justifies
all this behavior that we wouldn`t otherwise be participating in, when does
this war end? When do we say that the global war that we declared more
than 11 years ago is now over?
Well, today, for the first time, a U.S. government official started
talking about how this ends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEH JOHNSON, DEFENSE DEPT. GENERAL COUNSEL: Now that efforts by the
U.S. military against al Qaeda are in their 12th year, we must also ask
ourselves, how will this conflict end?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is the top lawyer at the Pentagon. The general counsel
of the Defense Department, Jeh Johnson, speaking today at Oxford University
in Britain, broaching a subject that, as far as I know, nobody at a high
level of government has been willing to officially broach since 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: How will this conflict end?
It is an unconventional conflict against an unconventional enemy and
will not end in conventional terms. We cannot, and should not, expect al
Qaeda and its associated forces to all surrender, all lay down their
weapons in an old field or to sign a peace treaty with us. They are
terrorist organizations. Nor can we capture or kill every last terrorist
who claims an affiliation with al Qaeda.
I can offer no prediction about when this conflict will end. Or
whether we are as Winston Churchill once described it near the, quote,
"beginning of the end," end quote.
I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping
point -- a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of
al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured and the group is
no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United
States, such that al Qaeda, as we know it, the organization that our
Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Approaching a tipping point. I just want to jump in for a
second to say that this part here -- this is the unprecedented part. This
is the part that we have been waiting for. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our
efforts should no longer be considered a, quote, "armed conflict against al
Qaeda and its associated forces." Rather a counterterrorism effort against
individuals who are the remnants of al Qaeda or are part of groups
unaffiliated with al Qaeda for which the law enforcement and intelligent
resources of our government are principally responsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It will, at some point, stop being war and will go back to
being police work and intelligence work against terrorism as a threat that
we fight, but we do not say we are at war with it anymore.
How much would it change us back as a country to hit that point? Can
we go back? Have we irredeemably and irreversibly changed ourselves by
being at war for 12 years now? And is this first word on how we might do
it enough to reasonably expect that we really are ever actually going to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: War violates the natural order of things in which children
bury their parents. In war, parents bury their children. In its 12th
year, we must not accept the current conflict and all that it entails as
the, quote, "new normal."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is my friend, John Suskind. He`s Pulitzer
Prize-wining journalist, senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics. He`s
the author of many bestselling books, including "The One Percent Doctrine."
Mr. Suskind, thank you very much for being here.
RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is there a window of political opportunity right now in
Washington after this election to maybe change some of the very basic
footing that we decided on after 9/11? Some of the stuff the president
carried over from the previous president?
SUSKIND: Indisputably. And that`s what people are hopeful about,
working on this comment. It`s being pulled apart word by word right now,
tonight, is this going to be a predicate, an opportunity for the president
now that he doesn`t have to stand for reelection? To do some things people
hoped he would have done in his first term. Certainly shut down Guantanamo
was a big promise. He couldn`t manage it. He pulled back from that.
There are clear issues here of the presidency hopefully snapping back
into the shape it had prior to 9/11. That`s the hope of lots of
constitutional scholars. It has not done that up to now.
Most of the powers granted or obtained by the Bush administration have
conveyed, if you will, to the Obama administration, with some caveats that
So the question is, is this the beginning of the president creating I
guess a new normal, as Johnson says, in which we are not in a state of war
and the president is not executing war powers in a consistent and endless
MADDOW: Ron, you are a student of leadership, both a student of good
leadership and bad leadership. I feel like leaders good and bad can
generally be counted on to never give up power that they have been granted.
If this president does draw a hard line under the war, the war on terror
and say the war is over and the powers that I have that were associated
with this war are no longer the powers of this office -- I mean, is that --
is that a fantasy? Is this something you can imagine this president doing?
Can you imagine any president doing it?
SUSKIND: Well, you know, if he`s going to do it, this constitutional
law president, it will be in this term. You know, it might be toward the
end of his term.
The issues, no matter what happens on some of these sort of legal sort
of standards, the issues in a way don`t change. Small groups of people can
get their hands on weapons that were once powerful and reserved for
nations. That doesn`t change. That`s carried by technology and it`s one
of the great perils of the modern age.
Having said that, it`s clear that this president has thought a lot
about how to establish that crucial principle. Rule of law dually
designated to shape the U.S. policies.
Now, here, let`s be clear on what`s at stake here. It`s not so much
drone strikes. I think that`s been misinterpreted. The president under
the powers -- the Article II powers of the president, can continue with
essentially the kind of global war on terror, call it whatever you will,
that he`s been conducting, especially with the drone strikes. What he can
do is he can kill, but he can`t capture, interestingly enough under Article
The big issue is Guantanamo, is that this particular pronouncement by
Jeh Johnson really is about Guantanamo. Under the current legal framework
that we`re looking at, Guantanamo, that won`t work if we`re not at war.
They`ll have to come up with a different legal structure to make that
Now, certainly, Congress can do that at some point. But Guantanamo is
the question mark based on what Johnson said. Maybe Johnson auditions for
attorney general. You know, he`s out there in January. But it may be more
than that, a predicate, a little bit of groundwork by this administration
to say we`re thinking about this and this may be up ahead now that the
president doesn`t have to stand for reelection.
MADDOW: In terms of that as a predicate, maybe even a political
predicate either for Jeh Johnson or for the administration as a whole, is
there any significance in particular of him delivering this speech not in
the United States? I mean, he did this speech at Oxford and did it right
after the election. Do you see that as important?
SUSKIND: Yes. You know, I think time and place is always important.
The British have a bit of a different position than some of these things
than we do. Actually, they are a little bit ahead of us, you might say, on
some of the issues of detainees, of how we conduct ourselves globally.
You know, look, I think we don`t really know here, Rachel, until we
hear from the administration. This is raising a question. People are
going to be pressing the administration saying can you give us specifics?
Is this the start of a new way of thinking of policies that will be
unfolding in the next couple months, let`s say? Or is this a trial balloon
and you`re seeing how it looks and how people react to it and it may fall
under the category of we`re trying, and here, you`re catching us trying,
but not much is going to happen.
Look, the fact is if there`s another terrorist attack in the United
States, many of these issues go right back to where we were back to the
restart button. And be clear, under the Article II powers of the
presidency, this president can do a great, great deal, pretty much
everything he does now and then some.
The key issue is Guantanamo. Those prisoners, 166 prisoners including
50 hard-core, the president said we don`t know what we`re going to do with
those people. They would be sitting without a legal framework if we pull
back from this War Powers declaration from 2001. That`s a big issue.
That`s a complex one.
MADDOW: Ron Suskind, senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics,
author of "The One Percent Doctrine" and many other books -- Ron, thank
you. It`s great to have you here. Appreciate it.
SUSKIND: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. If you want to have a further gander of that
speech from Jeh Johnson today, we`re posting clips from it at
MaddowBlog.com, if you want to check that out.
All right. So, you know the shady trickery from this year`s election
about who would get to vote and how hard certain states were going to make
it to vote this year -- all of that shady trickery is still paying
dividends today, still. That story is next.
MADDOW: In the 2010 midterm elections, and all the excitement over
Republicans taking over Congress that year, speaker of the House changing
from Nancy Pelosi to being John Boehner instead. In the face of that big
deal changeover after the 2010 elections, it was sort of overlooked for
awhile that that election brought about an even bigger change outside of
In the states, Republicans swept the power in state legislatures that
year in a way they hadn`t done in ages. Republicans took control of more
seats at the state level in that election than at any time since 1928.
Their sweep in 2010 ushered in two years of Republican governance in
the states that as much as anything else defined the Republican Party and
what being a Republican stood for.
So it was two years of rolling back abortion rights and stripping
union rights and passing really hard line immigration laws and making it
harder for people to vote, making it harder for people to register to vote.
It was two aggressive, coast to coast years of Republican governance in the
dates defining what it meant to be a Republican, in the way that the
Republican Party`s national candidates sometimes tried to run away from.
But ultimately, it ended being inescapable.
The proof is in the pudding, right? We know what you will be like in
power. We know what your party will be like in power because of how you
have comported yourself with the power that you have already got.
What happens in the states matters across the country, even in
national elections. That was the legacy of 2010.
This year, in 2012, overshadowed by the presidential election and the
congressional results once again, this year again, something amazing
happens in the states. In 2012, this past election, an avalanche of states
that are previously been under divided government, with Democrats
controlling one part of the government, Republicans controlling the other,
those states have now moved to one party controlling everything.
So, North Carolina, for example, the Republicans winning back the
governor`s mansion there this year means that Republicans there will
control the House and the Senate and the governor`s seat.
In Minnesota, other direction. Democrats won back control of the
House in Minnesota and the Senate there. And because they already held the
governor`s mansion that means one party, Democratic control throughout that
state next year.
And so, it went across the country. In 2012, the parties consolidated
powers at the state level in a way that is sort of without precedent in
modern American history. Red states got really, really red; blue states
got really, really blue.
And it goes even further than that, because it`s not just one party
rule, one party majority. It`s one party mega rule in a lot of states.
Like take a look at California. Democrats don`t just have a majority
in the California legislature now. They are going to have a super
majority. Meaning that Republicans essentially don`t have enough minority
power to stop anything the Democrats want to do.
The same story in Indiana, but for the Republicans. Indiana
Republicans will have a super majority in the House and in the Senate and
they hold the governor`s mansion.
Ditto Oklahoma. Republicans took a super majority and they turned it
into a bigger super majority.
This is what happened in 2012. Not just the disappearance of divided
rule in the states, split rule between two parties, but the rise of super
majority, one party rule.
That is a position of immense power for whichever party it is that`s
in control. They get to do what they want.
If you think about it, you better trust those people because there`s
no bulwark against them in these states.
One state on the precipice of getting that sort of super majority
status is the great state of Ohio. Heading into this year`s elections,
Republicans in Ohio controlled the governor`s mansion, they controlled the
House, they controlled the Senate. And in the Senate, Republicans
currently have the super majority status.
In the Ohio Senate, it is the Democrats -- there are Democrats there,
but they are essentially powerless.
And the Ohio House, Republicans are definitely in control there. They
have the majority, but will they have a super majority there too? A
reviewable, uncheckable mega majority that lets them rule at will? They
might. They are one seat away from that in the Ohio House -- one seat away
from giving Republicans total unobstructed control, rendering the
Democratic Party and state government there essentially moot. They only
need one House seat in order to get that.
And right now in Ohio, there are two House seats that have not been
called, that are too close and have gone to a recount. If Republicans win
both seats, Republicans will have, what`s a nicer way to say a death grip
on power in that state? How are those races going to be decided in Ohio?
Remember this guy? Yes, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted of
Ohio. Jon Husted you may recall worked tirelessly leading up to this
year`s election to try to limit the number of days with early voting in the
state. Early voting, of course, tends to favor Democrats.
He attempted at one point to make it so Republican-leading parts of
the state would have more of an opportunity to early vote than Democratic-
leaning parts of the state.
But the other thing Jon Husted did was fought up until Election Day to
make it easier for him to throw out provisional ballots. Provisional
ballots basically ballots that are put aside because there`s so question
about that voter`s eligibility or where they are voting.
And in the two House races that have yet to be decided, guess what
it`s coming down to. Look at this one, in one of the races, it`s 14 votes
that separate the two candidates -- 14 votes between them. And in that
race, the number of provisional ballots that Secretary Jon Husted has
ordered be thrown away is 114. That might make a difference.
And in the other House race that has gone to a recount, the candidates
are separated just by this tiny margin of 119 votes. Guess how many
provisional ballots Jon Husted wants thrown out? More than double the
In those two races, Ohio Democrats are now alleging that those
provisional ballots, which could decide these two races and thereby decide
whether or not the Ohio Republicans have a super majority rendering
Democrats moot in the state, Ohio Democrats are alleging that those
provisional ballots are being thrown out illegally by Secretary of State
Jon Husted. Democrats say the ballots are being thrown out, quote, "in
violation of federal law".
These races are so close right now their outcomes will determine the
balance of power. They will determine if Republicans in that state have a
veto-proof super majority that renders Democrats irrelevant. And that
question is hanging on those provisional ballots that Democrats say the
Republican secretary of state is having thrown out illegally.
Ohio Democrats are now suggesting they are going to sue over what`s
going on there right now and you can understand why they might. Any power
they hope to have in the state depends on it. Watch this space.
MADDOW: The 80th Congress of the United States did very little. It
got very little done. Little enough that when President Truman called it
the do-nothing Congress, everybody agreed and decided to call it that
Look up do-nothing Congress. It`s in the index of your high school
history book. I swear. It starts with a "D."
The 80th Congress, which changed the course of American political
history by famously doing nothing, was like an auto plant working at full
capacity boom economy, three-shift capacity, compared with the current
Congress which is just now sputtering to its end.
And wait until you see what the new incoming Congress has in store for
itself. What we have just learned about what the new Congress plans for
itself will make you want to be in Congress, even if nothing else in your
whole blessed life has ever made you want to be in Congress before. That`s
MADDOW: There`s a school of not so much political science, as sort of
political pseudoscience, that says what the price of gas is determined what
happens in our national elections. Now, it is not necessarily true. It`s
the kind of correlation that sounds really compelling but the more facts
you look at the correlation is not really borne out over time.
Still, everyone says, sometimes that it`s true, it`s one of those
things that gets passed on as if it`s a political science truth that people
like to believe in, whether or not it is true.
And in Newt Gingrich`s slow run at the presidency this year, it seems
like Mr. Gingrich maybe got enamored with the fake political science wise
tale. I think he thought he could reverse-engineer it by making his
presidential campaign about gas prices for a while, thereby creating the
impression nothing voters that gas prices might go down under him if he
were elected president. That Mr. Gingrich`s planned road to the White
House for awhile.
That road did not lead to the White House. It didn`t even lead to a
FOX News gig, apparently. What is Newt Gingrich doing now anyway?
Gas prices are not just politically salient because of his cockamamie
theories. Gas prices are politically salient because they are so salient
to our economy. More than any traded commodity, the price of gas has a
direct impact on how much pocket change Americans have to save or spend on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: People are not happy this morning that gas prices are going
up once again. In fact, many people are flocking to places like this
(INAUDIBLE) here in Davis to find the cheapest gas prices around. Right
now, a gallon of unleaded is going to cost you $4.13. Last week, gas
jumped as much as 16 cents at many gas stations in California. And prices
are expected to go up another 20 cents in the next few days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Gas prices go up and down, right? There`s supply and demand.
But every once in awhile, like you saw in that report there, there`s really
The weird thing about that particular gas price spike in May that
sparked that news report was that that gas price spike was really isolated.
Gas prices went way up in California, even as gas prices everywhere else
were going down. And at the same time that gas prices were going way up in
California, crude oil prices were going down.
And even weirder, gas inventories were plentiful. Gas inventories
were going up. There was more supply. There was a lot of gas around.
So, then why would it be getting more expensive? We were told is that
it was refineries -- refineries were the problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Last week, gas jumped as much as 16 cents at many gas
stations in California. And prices are expected to go up another 20 cents
in the next few days. A petroleum analyst says refineries are at its
lowest level in 20 years in several of California facilities that make
clean burning gas. We`re also dealing with repairs and maintenance issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Repairs and maintenance issues at the refineries.
So crude oil prices are down, plenty of gas in the inventories, but
these refineries -- California refineries were not working at capacity
because of repairs and maintenance issues. And so, California was getting
a giant price spike. The biggest gasoline market in the nation had its
prices going way up.
They`re going down everywhere else, but up in California. That`s what
we were told. It`s the refineries.
But there was no real reason to question it when we were told, right,
because this sort of thing has happened before.
A Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, caught fire in 1989.
Flames shot 100 feet in the air. Seven people were injured. Gas prices in
the area spiked right away.
And people blamed the fire. The fire slowed supplies to retailers by
25 percent. Gas prices in California went up. Refinery goes down, prices
March 1999, same refinery, another huge explosion. It was the second
refinery fire in the state that month. You guessed it. After that
conflagration, gas prices went up in California. Of course, they did.
Just this past August, this August, same refinery in Richmond,
California, caught on fire. Nobody was killed, thank goodness. But people
in the area were told to stay in their homes with their doors and their
windows closed. Drivers were told to close their windows, too. Four train
stations were shut down. And you guessed it -- gas prices went up.
You notice a trend here? That one refinery, that Chevron refinery in
Richmond that has spent the last 25 years catching on fire over and over
and over again, that`s one of the refineries we were told in May with that
mysterious price spike, we were told in May that that refinery was offline.
So, oh, that`s why we had the price spike.
The other one was this one, the Royal Dutch Shell refinery in
Martinez, California. We were told they were offline for maintenance.
So these two refineries being down, well obviously then your prices
are going to go up. That`s what drove up the gas prices in California,
despite all the other factors saying that prices shouldn`t have gone up.
That was in May.
And people in California were obviously prepared to accept that
explanation. History had prepared us to accept that explanation.
However, check this out. Earlier this month, McClatchy news service
got its hand on a report that looked at environmental documents, thousands
of environmental documents from a point in time when those refineries were
supposedly offline. Down for maintenance work, right?
Well, here`s out McClatchy describes the reports` findings. This is
amazing. Quote, "In May, a time when Royal Dutch Shell`s plan was reported
to be down for maintenance for two weeks, it appears to have been making
gasoline for at least half that time. State environmental records show.
Nitrogen oxide emissions have returned to normal at the refinery, a full
week before it was reported to have come back on line." Really?
"Similarly, Chevron`s Richmond refinery was reported down for
maintenance for two weeks in May, right, that`s what we were told, but
emissions data suggests the refinery never ceased operation."
Shell`s refinery in Martinez and Chevron`s in Richmond, they were
supposedly offline not making anything. So, gas prices had to go up, but
at least one report concludes actually they were up and running. What,
they just didn`t want to say so?
Everybody knows how supply and demand works. But in this case, if
supply and demand do not explain what was going on here, that`s a scandal
that had a huge economic impact.
Were the companies lying about this just to boost prices up and pocket
the difference? Does this happen all over the country? What`s going on
here? And what tools do we have to figure it out if we`re being suckered?
It turns out we do have a tool. It lives in the Department of
Justice. Six Western senators are calling on the Department of Justice to
conduct a refinery by refinery investigation of what happened during that
gas price spike in May. And another one that happened in October.
Is the energy industry snookering us and will they get caught if they
Joining us for the interview is Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington
state. She`s chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy. She`s been
leading the charge for calling for this investigation here.
Senator Cantwell, it`s nice to have you here. Thank you for joining
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask in my layman`s summary of that discussion, both
the supply and demand factors at work, but also what might have happened
around may they get the basics of that right? Is that basically the
CANTWELL: Rachel, I`m convinced that Maddow matters, that you drill
down on the substance of these issues and that`s exactly what we need the
Department of Justice to do.
MADDOW: What was it about the price spike in May and then again in
October that seemed suspicious to you? Is there something that tipped you
off to start questioning whether or not that was a legitimate price spike
just explained by supply and demand?
CANTWELL: Well, my constituents tipped me off that they were
frustrated gas was going towards $5. What they knew is that one refinery
went down, but why was everybody else saying that they were offline or a
lot of the market response basically saying the price spike was caused by a
Well, you outlined how inventories and supply were there. So, supply
and demand didn`t seem to really be the issue.
So our question is this: did these entities create the perception of
an artificial shortage and thereby drive up the price of gasoline? That`s
what we want the Department of Justice to investigate. We want the FTC and
the Department of Justice to be the policeman on the beat on something so
important as gas.
As you said, it`s like the lifeline of an economy. If you affect it
by that price spike, it really does affect day to day consumers and our
economy and jobs and everything else.
MADDOW: Do you believe that the Department of Justice is capable of
mounting this investigation in a rigorous way? That they have the tools
that they need? Do they have a track record of investigating stuff like
CANTWELL: Do they have the tools they need. Why we`re asking the
Department of Justice to be involved now, in addition to the FTC, is that
the investigative arm of the Department of Justice can marry up with the
regulatory authorities in agencies like the Commodities Future Trading
Commission have or other agencies and do a comprehensive approach to get
all the data.
And, yes, this task force existed before when it tried to tackle the
Enron problem. Another area of energy, electricity, but an area where we
saw a lot of the same schemes being perpetrated on the public, you know, by
people moving supply around or creating images about supply that really
And in this case, it appears that there`s some evidence that we want
them to investigate. The fact that while they said they were down,
emissions were coming out of these facilities, which would lead you to
believe they were actually producing supply.
MADDOW: We contacted the Western States Petroleum Association today
to get their response to this, to the McClatchy report and also to this
call for the investigation. They told us, "If the Department of Justice or
any other agency elects to investigate gas markets on the West Coast, we`re
confident the investigation will reach the same conclusion that dozens of
other investigations over the past few decades have reached that gasoline
and diesel prices in the West Coast are determined principally by supply
They also said the author of the report, who I cited here, they said
that he is not an expert in the oil industry and clearly does not
understand refinery operations. His report contains many suspicions and
theories, but doesn`t prove anything.
Let me get your response to that remark from the Western States
CANTWELL: Well, there`s a lot to cover there and let me just say this
-- that there is a new law on the books of the last few years that
basically says that it is against the law to have any manipulative devices
or contrivances as it relates to moving oil supply.
This is a relatively new statute. It`s not the issue of whether the
oil companies got together in an antitrust conspiracy to set pricing. This
is about whether somebody, as I was saying before, created the image of an
artificial shortage just to drive up price.
And the reason why that law was passed is because we saw too much
going on in our energy markets -- something that`s so critical to our
economy -- that we wanted to have a tougher regulation on the books.
So this authority has been used in electricity and natural gas and a
federal agency overseeing those entities have instigated over 100 -- I
think 107 cases and have had hundreds of millions of dollars of fines
against companies who have had bad practices.
So, we`re asking that the FTC and DOJ use the power that`s in statute,
although relatively new to do that kind of policing in these energy
And to Mr. McCullough in Oregon, we couldn`t thank him enough in the
Northwest, because when the federal entities in charge of electricity
failed to investigate fully the Enron case, Mr. McCullough provided crucial
evidence by investigating tapes and documentation on behalf of our
utilities in the Northwest that proved successful in saving our consumers
over $1 billion.
So I could tell you, he`s done great work before. And he`s a first to
admit that what we really need now is the Department of Justice to use
their full power and get to the bottom of this.
MADDOW: Senator Cantwell from Washington state, chair of the Senate
Subcommittee on Energy -- thank you for helping us to understand this.
Please keep us apprised as this goes forward. I really appreciate it.
CANTWELL: Thank you, Rachel.
I should also say, manipulative devices or contrivances was the name
of my band in high school. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, TV HOST: Tell me if this is a problem. Here are the GOP
committee chairs. Show that picture. Every one is a middle aged white
guy. OK. Is there a diversity problem in the Republican Party?
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: The fact is, that picture by
definition, is not helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Gingrich, I agree. That picture is not helpful if you
are a member of the Republican Party. A party that just got shellacked in
the most recent election, among any voters who were not, themselves,
middle-aged white guys. It turns out there`s a whole bunch of those
It is not helpful for the Republicans for the country to see a picture
of the 19 Republican congressmen elected to chair all of the Republicans`
congressional committees this next year -- 19 committees, 19 white guys,
some of whom defeated Republican women members of Congress who wanted those
chairmanships. But Republicans gave it to the guy instead.
Like for example, Congresswoman Candice Miller. She`s a
representative from Michigan`s tenth district. She`s a Republican. She
wanted to be picked to chair the House Homeland Security Committee. She
was a member of that committee.
Her party said, no, she was not picked. They picked a guy instead.
And not picking of women set off a kind of amazing attempt at damage
control in the House, much of which was conducted by Republican
congresswomen themselves. And ultimately, they set their hopes on the fact
that there were still two committee chairs to be doled out. Nineteen
committees had been assigned to 19 Republican men, but there were two more
committees where the chairmanships were doled out by the speaker of the
So maybe he`d pick a woman for those committees, right?
The problem of course is that in this upcoming Congress, there are
zero Republican women serving on either of those two remaining committees
that are still looking for a chair. So how could you put the chair to the
committee when there`s nobody in the membership -- who`s Speaker Boehner
going to put in charge if there are no Republican women on those
I mean, has that ever been done? Has the speaker ever taken somebody
who is not a member of the committee and made them the chair of that
committee? Has that ever happened?
We have been digging around for an answer to that all day. And the
answer appears to be, never, at least not since the 19th century when
committees were assembled in a very different way than they are today.
That`s what makes today`s news so interesting because House Speaker John
Boehner announced today that he did find a gal, Congresswoman Candice
Miller, he`s decided to put in charge of not the Homeland Security
Committee -- no, the House Administration Committee.
So the woman who wanted to chair Homeland Security and was on that
committee, instead, got a consolation prize. She`s going to be chair of a
committee she hasn`t been on before, a committee that among other things
oversees the House cafeterias. So, this not helpful picture is now, if I
have done the math right -- suddenly 105 percent more helpful. Look,
And Speaker Boehner has one more chairmanship to bestow yet. There
could be more unprecedented diversity to come.
MADDOW: Harry Truman`s 1948 reelection campaign had all of the
hallmarks of failure. Two years earlier, his Democratic Party lost house
of both parties of Congress. His legislative agenda was stalled.
One of the guys who used to serve in his cabinet announced he`d run
against his former boss as a third party candidate. Truman`s approval
ratings were bottom of the barrel low. Things were not looking good. He
expected to lose his bid for reelection.
The Chicago "Daily Tribune" went so far as to print a headline saying
he did lose his bid for re-election. But Truman won, and Truman won in
part he`d run his campaign not just against his Republican challenger but
also against that Republican Congress.
At his nominating convention that year, President Truman delivered one
of his most fiery speeches ever. He called the Republican-controlled
Congress the do-nothing Congress and he called on that do-nothing Congress
to return to Washington to a special session to finally do its job and pass
legislation -- thank you very much.
After that fiery convention speech, Congress did come back for a
special session and they still did nothing. And President Truman,
therefore, continued to call them the do-nothing Congress. And he railed
on them about it on the campaign trail. And that campaign trail led him
all the way back to the White House for a second term.
1948, Harry Truman talking about and criticizing the 80th Congress.
This Congress, the one in Washington today is the 112th Congress.
Here -- that is Truman`s Congress with the red arrow there. That`s
the one they couldn`t get anything done. That was terrible and hapless and
unpopular that Truman was able to run an otherwise hopeless campaign
against them and win.
The graph shows how much legislation was passed by that Congress,
right? That was history`s do-nothing Congress.
Here`s our current Congress, the good old 112th. Here`s our current
Republican-led Congress. Truman`s Congress passed a meager 900 or so
bills. Our Congress passed fewer than 100 -- the weakest most anemic
record on record for any Congress ever.
Since the congressional clerk started counting the number of bills
passed, no Congress has accomplished less than John Boehner`s Congress.
You know what? It turns out people still care, just like they did in
Truman`s time. The esteem the American people have for Congress right now
is mired in the low double digits.
So there are still a few more days left in the 112th Congress. But
they have set a new mark for congressional uselessness.
The good news is nowhere to go but up, right? Maybe not. Today, the
Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor released the new House
calendar for next year for the next Congress. And if you`re hoping for a
little more production next year, compared with this year, look -- 365 days
on the calendar next year.
Republicans have decided to give themselves 239 days off including the
weekends. They`ll only be in session for 126 days, roughly a third of the
year. That`s it. The other two-thirds of the year is reserved for time
not spent at work.
There are three months next year when the House will be in session for
a grand total of eight days.
So if you liked the do-less than the do-nothing Congress we`ve got
this past year, you are going to love the next Congress, next year. Don`t
blink because you might miss them.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD".
Have a great weekend.
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