THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
December 20, 2012
Guest: Bob Herbert
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Lots of news tonight. That is "THE
ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz.
For more let`s go to THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starting right now. Good
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed.
When it rains, it pours, right? Do you believe the amount of stuff
that happened tonight?
SCHULTZ: Well, it`s so much rain, it`s almost mud wrestling at this
MADDOW: Seriously. With better outfits. Yes, thanks, man. I
SCHULTZ: You bet.
MADDOW: An incredible night of news. Thanks to you at home for
staying with us for the next hour.
Do you want to know what just happened tonight in Washington? Do you
want to know what just happened, with Congress just unexpectedly imploding
and the Republicans in Congress dissolving into a huge internal fight,
including screaming matches within their own caucus and all of a sudden,
they`re just turning off the light and abandoning what they were doing and
nobody really knows why and nobody knows what happens next?
Do you want to know how we got here and why this just happened and why
it`s really important?
Let us start here. OK? This is Jim DeMint. Jim DeMint was re-
elected senator for South Carolina not this past election, 2012, but in
2010. You might remember he was the guy who had the good fortune in 2010
to be running against a young man named Alvin Green on the Democratic side.
It was not a hotly contested race. Mr. DeMint won by 34 points.
And that freed him up to spread a bunch of his own campaign cash and
his own energy that year on other campaigns and other candidates that he
favored. And that has been the way that Jim DeMint has built his influence
in politics. He has treated all of his time in the U.S. senate not as an
opportunity to get anything passed. He has no legislative record at all.
He spent his time in the senate trying to become a kingmaker, trying
to make the Republican Party over in his own image, trying to shape other
people`s races, to have more conservative litmus tests for Republican
So Jim DeMint was elected for the first time in `04. He was re-
elected in 2010. They serve six-year terms, right? So Jim DeMint doesn`t
have to face re-election again in South Carolina until 2016. But Jim
DeMint just quit, a couple of weeks ago. He just announced with no warning
that he was leaving the Senate right now, immediately, before his term was
And today, Jim DeMint gave his farewell speech, which including this
very telling and weird moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I hope that we can create more
common ground between the political parties by showing everyone that ideas
that work for their constituents and our constituents are right in front of
our faces if we`re willing to set aside the pressure groups, the special
interests, and just focus on what`s working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jim DeMint saying good-bye to the Senate today, pleading with
them on his way out the door that senators should stay focused on the
practical, stay focused on policy, keep their heads down and stop paying
attention, as he said, to these pressure groups. Jim DeMint is leaving the
Senate to go run a pressure group.
When I stopped doing talk radio to come work here, this would be like
me on my last talk radio show saying I really loved all my time here on
talk radio, but I`m going to go work on MSNBC now. My closing words to you
here on the radio as I leave this job to go work on cable, my closing words
to you are? Don`t watch cable. It`s a really weird way out the door,
He`s going to go run a pressure group. His closing words are, don`t
listen to these pressure groups. Doesn`t really make any sense, right?
So that`s Jim DeMint.
Consider also Dick Armey, former Republican congressman who also left
to go run a pressure group, a group called FreedomWorks that likes to be
known as a grassroots movement, just regular folks who are somehow able to
cough up an $8 million golden parachute for Dick Armey when he announced he
was leaving the group this year.
Dick Armey said he didn`t want to make the announcement that he was
leaving the group until after the election because he didn`t want to give
anybody the impression that his part of the conservative movement was in
any form of disarray. So he waited, like Jim DeMint, until after the
And actually since the election with Dick Armey on his way out the
door, FreedomWorks does appear to be in disarray but they are trying to
stay relevant. Yesterday, they posted this, cheering on House Speaker John
Boehner and his big high-stakes negotiations that he`s having with
President Obama right now.
They didn`t like everything John Boehner is proposing, but as you can
see in the headline there, they thought it was worth two cheers, two cheers
for John Boehner. They proclaimed it as good news that John Boehner was
announcing that he has pulled out of the fiscal cliff talks with President
Obama and is moving toward the approach that FreedomWorks has been urging.
Good news. Two cheers for John Boehner and his "Plan B".
They posted that yesterday morning. We know that because our friend
James Carter was able to access the old web archived version of it because
the current version of it doesn`t look like that anymore. They had to
They had to change it because apparently that isn`t really the
FreedomWorks position on John Boehner. At least they don`t think that`s
their position -- actually, you know, we`re not quite sure, because in the
morning, John Boehner`s plan was good news, two cheers from FreedomWorks.
By this afternoon, look what they added to their headline, "But Oppose It
They put up an update on their earlier announcement saying that
despite their earlier support, after further review FreedomWorks had
decided to oppose John Boehner`s "Plan B" thing.
So, they were for it yesterday morning. They were against it this
afternoon. So that`s Dick Armey`s group.
Consider also Grover Norquist. Grover Norquist is the guy who founded
the pressure group, the Club for Growth. He`s the guy with the pledge that
make all the Republicans sign never raising taxes no matter what.
He has been telling Republicans this week that it is OK, it is OK by
him if Republicans support John Boehner`s latest proposal in his
negotiations with President Obama. This "Plan B" thing. "The L.A. Times",
Grover Norquist signs off on Boehner`s "Plan B" tax proposal. That was
And then yesterday afternoon, Grover Norquist came out and said he
does not want to be misconstrued as being in favor of John Boehner`s "Plan
B" tax proposal. Huh?
So Jim DeMint, leader of the conservatives in the Senate, on his way
out the door from the Senate to go run a pressure work that`s saying don`t
do what John Boehner wants. And on his way out the door to go run that
group Jim DeMint says, don`t listen to pressure groups.
Then you`ve got Dick Armey`s group saying what John Boehner`s doing is
good news and also, they`re against it.
Then you`ve got Grover Norquist saying it`s cool with him to support
John Boehner, and also, he does not want to be seen as supporting this John
What`s going on?
We liberals have spent a generation, we`ve spent all of this envious
time studying the strength and depth and singular focus of the conservative
movement like they have got themselves so together. And then days like
this, you know, you pull back the curtain and it turns out it`s just this
little tiny guy going, "I`m the big powerful Oz, I`m the big powerful Oz,
somebody find the curtain."
They are a complete mess. They are a complete mess. And I`m not
talking about the Republican Party. I`m talking about the conservative
And that`s more important, because the conservative movement is the
dog and the Republican Party is the tail, because the permanent
infrastructure of activists like these guys in the conservative movement is
what drives the Republican Party on policy way more than anything else in
the party itself.
You think Reince Priebus is calling the shots here? Yes, right. It`s
the conservative movement.
And because of the chaos right now in the conservative movement, in
their K Street, fake grassroots, big money, used to be a think tank,
revolving door, conservative influence lobbying and fund-raising machine,
because that is such a mess right now, Republicans trying to do policy work
now on Capitol Hill is also a mess. I mean, without any coherent guiding
structure to tell them what to do and what to think, Republican members of
Congress, their attempts to actually participate in policy on Capitol Hill
are turning out to be total chaos.
The starting point for these talks in Washington, right, was the
position that the president campaigned on. You might remember that he won
by 3 million votes. And that was the opening position in the negotiations,
what he campaigned on.
Last week, John Boehner made his opening offer in response to that.
And then two days later President Obama responded with a counteroffer. He
actually came quite some distance toward what Mr. Boehner had suggested,
which freaked the left out a bit, understandably.
But this is how a negotiation works, right? I mean, whether or not
you like the content of how exactly they are negotiating, it seemed like
they were making the right mechanical gestures at least. Here`s my start.
Well, here`s my start. Well, here`s another idea.
And now, it`s John Boehner`s turn. And now John Boehner`s done
nothing for basically a week, until tonight -- when he decided that rather
than making any further offer he would insist that the House, House
Republicans, the House of Representatives, would vote on something
basically totally unrelated to the entire discussion that he`s been having
with President Obama.
It`s not a counteroffer. It does not address any of the things
they`re supposed to be negotiating over. It was in effect just a
conservative wish list.
Tax Policy Center and the Center for American Progress looked at what
Speaker Boehner wanted the House to vote on tonight and said that
basically, bottom line, it was a way to lower taxes on rich people. Also,
it guts Obamacare, and it screws food stamps and it screws meals on wheels
for old people. It cuts Wall Street reform. It gives a pony as a going
away present to Jim DeMint and Dick Armey and Grover Norquist.
I mean, it`s just a random conservative wish list of stuff Republicans
like. And that`s what John Boehner had them doing in the House tonight.
It has nothing to do with what they thought was -- what we all thought was
being worked on in Washington. The president`s not going to sign this
thing. He`s not even going to have a chance to sign it because it would
have to go to the Senate and the Senate is never even going to look at
this, let alone pass it.
And it turns out that the House itself, John Boehner`s house, the
thing he is in charge of, couldn`t bring itself to vote on it because they
were going to lose their own wish list. I mean, with food being brought in
to the Capitol in anticipation of late-night votes tonight, the House
unexpectedly went into recess. This was unplanned.
They passed one conservative wish list bill with cuts for food stamps
and meals on wheels. They passed that, but not by much. And not by enough
to make John Boehner think that he could pass the rest of this supposed
"Plan B" thing that he was working on. Twenty-two Republicans voted no on
their own party`s plan.
And then the House Republicans just suddenly gave up, turned off the
lights, and announced they were going home for Christmas, they considered
themselves to be done. Nobody knew this was coming. The Republicans had
no idea this was coming.
Speaker Boehner issued this statement by way of explanation. He said,
"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have
sufficient support from our members to pass."
This whole episode has been like watching a puppy having a frenetic
random action period before collapsing asleep in its own bowl. I mean, it
is adorable. It`s transfixing.
But it is motion without meaning. It is motion without mastery. It`s
chaos. It is chaos in the caucus that John Boehner is supposed to control.
And the thing they are doing, this motion without meaning, even this
is still controversial on their own side, making all their think tanks and
their activist groups and their pressure groups flip their positions even
within a single day, turn on themselves and fight it out. It made them
adjourn the House tonight and have a huge fight amongst themselves and then
ended with them walking out without voting on their own idea.
And while that is interesting to watch, the reason there are supposed
to be negotiations, really negotiations going on in Washington right now is
because something really does need to happen. I mean, the Bush tax cuts
expiring would not be the worst thing in the world for the country. All of
the Bush tax cuts expiring at the end of the year in terms of their
But Congress really did set up this big trap for themselves, so at the
same time as the Bush tax cuts expire, all of these automatic things start
happening -- some of which you might like, some of which you might not
like. But in total, they would have such a totally suddenly contractionary
effect on the economy. They would happen automatically and it would be
such a sudden contraction in spending, they would have a very serious
negative impact on the economy. All sides agree we would go into a
recession -- if they can`t get it together enough to do something.
I mean, Republicans right now are in a particularly thorny and dense
part of their own conservative wilderness. But it matters what they do.
Look at what Jared Bernstein put together today. You know they just
revised the number for economic growth for the country for the last
quarter. They just revised it today. And it was a good revision. It was
a revision upwards.
So the third quarter, this last quarter this year we were growing at a
rate of 3.1 percent. It`s up almost two points from the quarter before.
If they don`t get their act together and do something in the next
couple of days, this is what the Congressional Budget Office says is going
to happen to the economic growth rate this quarter, 2 percent. And look
what happens next quarter, the first three months of next year. That`s
Maybe as Howard Dean was saying with Ed tonight, maybe we can endure
that and we`ll come back stronger than ever. But that`s bad. That is an
economic catastrophe that will hurt a lot of Americans for a long time.
And maybe you want to bear that brunt. But maybe that happening
accidentally because of so much chaos on one side that they can`t tell
which way`s up, which way`s down and who`s on their own side is not the way
to get that.
This is like being wheeled in for heart surgery and looking up and
seeing that it is actually Edward Scissorhands leaning over you in a mask
and scrubs ready for this operation on which your life depends.
Joining us now is Jared Bernstein. He`s a senior fellow at the Center
on Budget and Policy Priorities. He`s a former economic policy adviser to
Vice President Joe Biden. And he`s an MSNBC and CNBC contributor.
Jared, it is always a pleasure to have you here. Thank you.
JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Let me ask your opinion as somebody with a background in
economics that you have about how big a deal it would be if we don`t do
anything. I refuse to use the word "cliff" on this show. So please try to
avoid using that, because I won`t say it out loud even if I`ll put it in a
MADDOW: But how big a deal do you think this would be? How much pain
are we talking about risking here?
BERNSTEIN: If we went over the thing and stayed over, it would be a
very big deal. The numbers that the CBO predicts -- you know, I`ve been
watching this kind of thing for a long time. I don`t recall the CBO ever
predicting that policy X would lead to recession Y. But they did in this
case because it`s such a huge fiscal contraction to all take in one year.
So if we go over and stay over, we`ll return to recession. And that
means that the gains that we`ve been making on the unemployment rate, too
slow, mind you, but gains that have been pushing the rate in the right
direction would reverse. And if we -- if we stay over the cliff, the
unemployment rate could go up as high as 9 percent by the end of next year.
This would be a disaster for people who are still struggling with the
residual of the great recession. I mean, if you look at middle incomes or
paychecks, people are still climbing back. And so, all that Alice down the
rabbit hole craziness that you just took us through with great aplomb over
the last few minutes really does end up in a place that matters to people
because it`s going to hurt the real economy and undermine a recovery that
has a little bit of momentum to it at this point.
MADDOW: Well, what does it say to you that the Republicans dissolved
essentially tonight and went home? I mean, Eric Cantor put out a statement
saying we are going home, good-bye, maybe we`ll see you after the holiday.
They`re essentially giving up. I mean, what we saw they were planning
to do tonight is they were planning to spin their wheels.
MADDOW: When they tried to spin their wheels, the engine wouldn`t
start. So they just left the thing sitting in mud and went home. Are you
unnerved by this? Did you expect this?
BERNSTEIN: No, I am completely unnerved by this because I figured
that if they had the theatrical vote on this "Plan B" -- which I thought
was already a really terrible idea -- but at least they wouldn`t have the
vote unless they had the votes to win it. So, this is political
dysfunction on steroids here.
I mean, the idea that we would even shift to this "Plan B" -- earlier
in the week, you actually saw leader Boehner working with President Obama
to come up with a compromise, more of a balance. And you described it very
well in your introduction. The president started at $1.6 trillion on
revenue. He came down to $1.2 trillion. John Boehner started at $800
billion on revenue. They weren`t that far apart.
Earlier this week, they were haggling over price. And some of us
thought maybe they`d get there. I never thought they could bring the House
Republicans along. But you know, at least they were in a place where a
deal maybe was taking shape.
Now, Boehner has gone exactly the other way. He was at $800 billion.
Now he`s down to something like $300 billion on revenue. But even that
couldn`t get over their transom.
So really what happens next -- I mean, unless some very weird
scenarios that I could spin out for you that are about as likely as the
president joining the Tea Party unfold, I think we have to put on our cliff
parachutes at this point.
MADDOW: Wow. This is a weird situation anyway, a self-designed
crisis. But to be failing in this way, careening into it, seemingly
totally out of control -- with the Republicans blaming each other, it`s a
very strange situation to be in.
BERNSTEIN: And remember, Rachel, this is -- I know you know this, but
we also have to remind ourselves, this is a completely artificial, self-
BERNSTEIN: A trap we set for ourselves with dysfunctional politics.
You know, our economy is very resilient. As you see, it is improving. You
showed the graph earlier.
But you have to ask yourself, how much policy abuse can this economy
take? And my judgment is not a whole lot more.
MADDOW: This was designed to be a big enough jolt to the economy to
be scary, and now we`re just taking it. Amazing.
Jared Bernstein of the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, we will
be talking to you more about this shortly, I`m sure. Thank you, Jared.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll have more on this breaking news, really
this amazing breaking political news coming out of Congress tonight where
the Republicans in the House have basically just decided to have a big
fight, scream at each other, blame each other, send out competing press
releases, turn out the lights, and go home saying they quit -- a night in
Washington that we did not expect.
A report live from Capitol Hill is next.
MADDOW: I want to talk about news from competing parallel universes
tonight, here`s two statements we`ve got tonight hot off the presses.
First from Eric Cantor`s office. "The House has concluded legislative
business for the week. Members are advised that the House will return for
legislative business after the Christmas holiday, when needed." That`s
from Eric Cantor.
Statement from the press secretary to President Obama tonight: "The
president`s main priorities is to ensure that taxes don`t go up on 98
percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses in just a few short
days. The president will work with Congress to get this done, and we are
hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that
protects the middle class and our economy."
The president saying, I`m looking forward to working with you guys.
Eric Cantor saying, we`re actually gone already.
It`s a weird night in Washington. More live from Capitol Hill when we
MADDOW: There is breaking news to report tonight out of Washington --
strange breaking news out of Washington. Within the last hour, Republican
House Speaker John Boehner appears to have completely lost control of his
own caucus. A dramatic turn of events as the White House and House
Republicans were trying to negotiate a plan to avert the across-the-board
tax increases and deep spending cuts looming on January 1st, which is just
12 days from now.
Mr. Boehner planned to hold a vote tonight on his own John Boehner
House Republican plan to avert the growth-killing taxes and cuts
combination that the CBO says will put us into recession again in the New
Year. His self-titled "Plan B", which has nothing to do with emergency
contraception but rather was basically just a wish list of conservative
ideas, his "Plan B" was a vote to preserve tax cuts for all income below $1
Passage of the plan was essentially supposed to be a sign of
Republican unity against President Obama. In other words, we have our
plan, we`ll just go ahead and pass that, and that`ll put you on the spot.
The burden to get something done is going to be laid in the lap of
President Obama and the Senate Democrats because look at how unified we
House Republicans are behind our speaker.
Well, just about an hour ago, John Boehner was forced to pull his own
plan off the floor because it turns out he did not have the votes from his
own side to pass it. He didn`t have enough Republican votes to pass the
After it was clear that he did not have the votes, Speaker Boehner
called an emergency Republican meeting to twist the arms of his own
members. At one point, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was called
in to help Mr. Boehner in the arm-twisting department. But it was
ultimately to no avail. He could not convince his own side.
John Boehner canceled the vote. Then he put out a statement saying
it`s now up to Democrats to figure it out. And then the House went into
recess and House Republicans started going home for Christmas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, you`re close to the speaker. You serve with
him on the Education Committee. Does this feel like defeat tonight, when
he could not cajole enough votes out of his caucus?
REP. BUCK MCKEON (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, yes. That`s exactly what it
is. And he understood it, and he said, have a merry Christmas. We`ll see
you after Christmas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ll see you after Christmas. Yes, this was a defeat.
This was not how it was supposed to go, but that is what happened in
just the past hour.
Joining us now is Luke Russert, NBC News congressional correspondent.
Luke, thanks for being here on short notice. Appreciate your time.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What a story,
Rachel. Happy to be here. I`ve never seen anything like this in my 3 1/2
years on Capitol Hill. Very rare moment.
And talking to people who have been here for a while, this doesn`t
happen very much.
MADDOW: What are your sources telling you about what happened inside
that emergency Republican caucus meeting? What happened in there?
RUSSERT: So it`s interesting. It was a meeting that we were all told
was to try and corral votes, but what it ended up being is John Boehner, in
a very somber manner went before his conference and said I don`t have the
votes. He made a plea, sort of saying we really need this, we need this to
keep our negotiating power with President Obama. Folks inside the meeting
just shook their heads.
At one point, Representative Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania got up,
stood in front of the entire House GOP conference, and started screaming,
saying they need to rally around the speaker, they needed to stay unified,
this was their moment, and folks just shook their head and they
acknowledged they didn`t have the votes -- at which time John Boehner said,
well, all right, hopefully, we`ll see you after Christmas.
And, Rachel, I can just tell you that the last time anything close to
this happened was during the debt limit. Boehner had a Thursday vote. He
had to scrap it. But it wasn`t one that had this much significance. And
it wasn`t one that was deemed -- it was more controversial than this one.
I mean, you have to understand, there were sweeteners put in for this
bill to get that conservative support, aside from the ones you mentioned
that preserved -- eliminated cuts to defense and preserved DOD, you had the
ones you mentioned about the food stamps and the meals on wheels, but also
the tax rate a million or above.
What we learned tonight is it doesn`t seem to have any effect on the
House GOP conference, that inaction means tax cuts go up for everybody.
That message has been completely lost. It`s been diluted by folks on the
real right, the Heritage Action people simply saying you cannot support
this because it`s a bad deal and it amounts to a tax increase.
It`s really something wild in all the history I think when we look
back on this in terms of the growth of the Republican Party and just very
much who`s in charge right now.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of who is in charge right now, is that what`s
going on here, Luke? I mean, we saw a statement issued by one of the
conservative members who got booted off his committee assignments earlier
this month by Speaker Boehner, essentially crowing that this was a
conservative victory, that there has been this failure.
I just got a note about Congressman Steve LaTourette from Ohio saying
tonight, "We`re not going to be here until after Christmas, maybe we don`t
come back at all this year. It`s unbelievable. This is horrible. I`m
angry. I`m sad for my friend, the speaker. I`m sorry for the country."
It seems like there`s a schism going on within the conference. Is
speaker -- is John Boehner`s speakership at risk?
RUSSERT: We don`t know. I would say that probably not. That what
you often see is when you have moments like this, the real conservatives
like to gloat. But what you do see is a real problem in him being able to
get together a coalition that can deal with this very large problem that`s
on the horizon, this big drop-off -- we won`t say the word you don`t like.
But here`s one thing that I find very fascinating. I spoke to some
members who are walking out of there. And they said, well, if this was
really the last possible deal we could get, maybe we would have supported
it. But they did not want to go along with this sort of Kabuki Theater, if
you will. This sort of dancing around the issue when they knew the Senate
was going to reject it.
So that leads me to believe that there still is some faith in John
Boehner. But make no mistake. The question about whether or not he can
retain his speakership will certainly be asked amongst a lot of his
colleagues because this was deeply embarrassing.
And the question now moving forward is if, in fact, you`re going to
let Harry Reid and President Obama come up with some sort of compromise and
you`re essentially removing yourself from these negotiations, removing
yourself in the Republican point of view, what happens in this? Does John
Boehner have to violate the Hastert Rule, which is you have a majority of
the majority for anything you put on the floor. Does he put something on
the floor that can only get 45 GOP votes and depend on Nancy Pelosi to
bring it across the finish line? That would be something that I think a
lot of conservatives would find extremely troubling.
MADDOW: This is just -- imagining what might happen, every potential
eventuality from here, is really, really weird. But what just happened
tonight tops it all in pure unexpected weirdness.
RUSSERT: Absolutely. And watch out for the Dow future markets. A
lot of the economic Republicans, those establishment guys who are the Wall
Street guys, they are very worried tonight. They think they this could
have a very dismal effect on the markets tomorrow.
So, an absolutely wild night, Rachel. You don`t see too many of
MADDOW: Luke Russert, NBC News congressional correspondent -- Luke,
it`s great to have you here tonight. Thank you so much.
RUSSERT: Thanks so much. Take care.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
You know, you think about how the Republicans must be thinking about
whether or not John Boehner can stay as their speaker. Think about this --
you`re President Obama. You`ve got to negotiate with somebody in congress
in order to get this done. Yes, he`ll work on something with Harry Reid
now and try to take over from the Senate.
But in terms of negotiating with the house to get something passed
there, who do you talk to? When you work something out with John Boehner,
it does not manifest as the House doing what John Boehner says they`re
going to do. Why would you keep negotiating with a guy who can`t deliver
what he is negotiating for? Why would you keep talking to him? I don`t
know what happens next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: `Tis the season to be careful what you say about certain
seasonal icons. So just in case the little ones are gathered around the TV
machine right now, let it be known that the official stance of THE RACHEL
MADDOW SHOW is that there is a person named S-A-N-T-A who is working hard
right now with elves checking lists and preparing a sleigh to drop off a
lot of chimney-deliverable toys.
That is what is happening at the North Pole right now. For the record
that`s our official position and we are sticking with it.
Also, there is a best new thing in the world tonight concerning a
certain kind of deer. And it is a best new thing in the world that should
make it much easier to convince yourself about the whole thing with the guy
in the red suit and the sleigh and the chimneys. If you do not already
believe it, I have reason that you should.
That`s coming up. Best new thing, for real.
MADDOW: OK. When Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 students
and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, they used
these four guns -- two shotguns, a semi-automatic handgun and a rifle.
These are the actual weapons that they used in that massacre.
That shooting rampage took place on Tuesday, April 20th, 1999. It was
in Littleton, Colorado.
One of the tragic ironies of the timing of the Columbine massacre, it
was just a sad coincidence, was that the National Rifle Association, the
NRA, was holding their annual convention a week later in Colorado, in
Denver, Colorado -- only about a 20-minute drive from where the Columbine
The NRA said they would not cancel their conference because of
Columbine, but they did scale it down to a one-day event. It had been
planned to be a three-day thing.
And in response to the tragedy at Columbine and the awful coincidence
of the NRA conference that was being planned for just a few days after the
shooting, the NRA put out a statement in the form of a letter to its
members that said, "Our spirits must endure this terrible suffering
together and so must the freedoms that bring us together. We must stand in
unshakable unity, even in this time of anguish."
About a week after that an NRA spokesman said it really was "Not the
most appropriate time and place to debate public policy." So, not a good
time to talk about policy, that was the NRA`s response to Columbine.
Fast-forward almost exactly eight years to April 16th, 2007. A
student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, shoots and kills 32
people before killing himself.
A day after that shooting another statement from the NRA expressing
their sadness, saying they join the entire country in expressing deepest
condolences to the families of Virginia Tech University.
Then, a few days later, another NRA statement, "This is not a time for
political discussions or public policy debates." So not the time for
policy debate, not after Virginia Tech either.
Fast-forward to January 8, 2011. Jared Lee Loughner kills people and
injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was holding a "Congress on
Your Corner" event at a grocery store parking lot near Tucson.
A 9-year-old girl was among those killed that day.
The NRA statement that day, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the
victims of this senseless tragedy. We join the rest of the country in
praying for the quick recovery of those injured."
And then four days later, the at this point requisite follow-up
statement from them. Quote, "At this time anything other than prayers for
the victims and their families would be inappropriate."
So still not appropriate to broach the topic of policy in this
country. Not the right time after Tucson. Not the right time after
Virginia Tech. Not the right time after Columbine. Tucson was January
Fast-forward to this past summer, July 20th, a midnight screening of
the Batman movie "Dark Knight Rises", at a movie theater in Aurora,
Colorado. Gunman opens fire, he kills 12 people and injured 58.
On the day of the attack, the NRA`s official comment on the Aurora
shooting is, "Our thoughts and prayers with the victims, their families,
and the community." But four days after that, "The NRA believes now is the
time for families to grieve and the community to heal. There will be an
appropriate time down the road to engage in political and policy
That appropriate time will come but it will be down the road. And
down the road came Newtown, Connecticut -- 20 children dead, all 6 and 7-
year-olds, six staff members of Sandy Hook Elementary School dead, the
alleged gunman`s mother also dead. But for anybody waiting for that
initial NRA statement that seems to come every time something like this
happens the immediate statement about their sadness for the tragedy and
then a statement a couple days later about how this isn`t the time to talk
about policy, it did not happen that way this time.
They`re breaking pattern. This time the NRA went completely dark
online for several days. Various NRA news personalities, they sponsor like
news shows that`s just talk radio that`s pro NRA. They spouted their
beliefs about gun control. But nobody paid attention to that.
In terms of an official statement from the group, the NRA as an
organization did not put out a statement of any kind until four days after
the Newtown attack. And at first, it seemed to follow the NRA pattern.
They`re just going to express their sadness, right? And say this isn`t the
time that talk about policy.
But this statement actually was different. Quote, "The NRA is
prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never
happens again." The NRA`s planning to hold a major news conference in the
Washington, D.C. area on Friday, December 21st. A major news conference
planned for tomorrow in response to that mass shooting.
As far as we can tell, the NRA has never reacted to a mass shooting in
the way that they are very proudly promoting this news conference for
tomorrow. They`ve certainly never said anything like they said in this
statement about being prepared to offer meaningful contributions to make
sure this doesn`t happen again. It`s -- they are touting this thing as big
as they can. They would like as many media outlets as possible to report
on this. They will probably get their wish.
It`s a big deal they are doing this. One word of caution, I would
say. If what you hear at this news conference is an NRA leader lamenting
violent video games or calling for us to study mental health issues in this
country, be aware that while those may be things that we should do as a
country, they are also ways for the NRA to avoid just talking about guns.
If the NRA is prepared to make meaningful contributions to make sure
elementary school children are not massacred again in our country in their
classrooms, they will need to talk about guns. That`s where they are
powerful. They will need to talk about the work they do to keep gun laws
the way they are.
If they do not talk about guns tomorrow, then this news conference
tomorrow is a sideshow, it is a distraction from a policy debate that we
need to start having many, many years ago.
Joining us now is Bob Herbert. He`s a distinguished senior fellow at
Demos and he`s a contributor at policyshop.net.
Bob, it`s great to see you. Thank you.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: Hi, Rachel. How are you doing?
MADDOW: Good. What do you expect tomorrow?
HERBERT: Not much. I think that the NRA has spent the last several
days deep in public relations mode. I do think that they`re worried that
their brand has really been damaged. I think they`ve been thrown by the
tremendous outrage in the country since Newtown.
I mean, this has been an extraordinary outpouring of grief but also
outrage at what has happened. And so they seem to feel that they have to
respond. But the whole raison d`etre of the NRA and the gun manufacturers
who are their allies is to get as many guns into as many hands as possible,
and it would just -- not just surprise me, I mean, it would shock me if
they did anything that would be counter to that.
So I don`t expect them to say or propose anything significant in terms
of gun control.
MADDOW: You know, I went back and looked at transcripts of NRA
officials doing public appearances, press appearances after those previous
horrible incidents that I just listed there. And an NRA executive went on
an MSNBC show the night of the Littleton -- the night after the Columbine
massacre. It was an MSNBC show that was hosted in part by Oliver North,
who was an NRA board member at the time. So he knew he was in friendly
And what he did was he got on that show and he talked about how
violent our videos are and how violent our culture is and how this isn`t a
gun problem, America needs to change its culture.
I find myself believing that`s what`s going to happen tomorrow, that
they`re trying to make it a debate that they seem responsive to, that they
want to be part of the solution to, but it has nothing to do with their
HERBERT: It has nothing to do with guns.
You know, there`s -- the president of Smith & Wesson, a fellow who
took over last year, before that he basically sold garbage bags, now he`s
selling guns, but he put out a statement, I believe it was in the fall,
where he said he gets excited over the social acceptance that he sees now
for guns in this society. And that`s what really is going to have to
change, in addition to significant gun control if you want to bring down
the number of gun deaths in this society. We have to change the culture so
that it`s not socially acceptable for everyone to willy-nilly have guns.
And this is not a position that I can imagine the NRA or any of the
large gun manufacturers taking.
MADDOW: What do you think about the policy impact but also the
cultural impact of gun buybacks?
We talked on the show last night and showed a lot of visuals about
some of the surprising numbers that have come in for gun buybacks since
this shooting. And we know there`s a community in Connecticut very near
Newtown that`s going to have -- has just scheduled a gun buyback and a
number of other communities that hadn`t had them scheduled, have put them
on the schedule right away to try to take advantage of this moment. What
do you think the impact of that is?
HERBERT: I saw a story that said just in the past couple days that
Camden, New Jersey, a very tough town, that there had been a huge gun
HERBERT: I`m very much in favor of that. What you want to do is get
guns out of people`s hands. You know, in any way that you can do that.
There`s a range of ways. And the gun buyback issues, very often these
guns are in the hands of people that really, really should not have guns.
For whatever reasons they decide, you know, they`re going to turn these
guns in. So I`m very much in favor of that.
MADDOW: Yes, it`s one of these things that -- talk about everybody`s
looking for low-hanging fruit, what can be done, if only to prove that
something can be done. On a voluntary basis because it can happen with no
action at the federal level, any community can organize it. You can talk
to your sheriff and do it.
HERBERT: Exactly. You don`t need legislation. It`s not a
constitutional issue. It`s a great tool.
MADDOW: Yes. Bob Herbert, it`s great to have you here. Nice to see
HERBERT: Take care.
MADDOW: All right. Historically, a president`s cabinet is at its
most effective when it isn`t full of holes. President Obama, when are you
going to have a second-term cabinet? That`s coming up next.
MADDOW: I talked at the top of the show tonight about how Republican
Senator Jim DeMint is leaving the Senate to go run a conservative pressure
group instead. South Carolina`s governor has said that she will name
Congressman Tim Scott to take over Jim DeMint`s seat in the senate since
DeMint is leaving. That frees up Tim Scott`s seat in the House.
Do you want to know what`s going to happen to Tim Scott`s seat in the
house? NBC News can confirm that former South Carolina Governor Mark
Sanford is planning to run for that House seat. It does not include part
of the Appalachian Trail, as far as I know. But I`m going to look it up.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: President Ronald Reagan was elected for the first time in
1980. And he was reelected in 1984. And when a president is reelected,
the most hotly anticipated thing that he does next is announce who he wants
to be in his cabinet for the second term.
You don`t wait for the inauguration, you don`t wait for the second
term to get started, you get on it both to give yourself time to get those
nominees confirmed, but also because, frankly, the country just voted for
you for a second time, the country just gave you a big national endorsement
by re-electing you.
So, particularly, if any of your nominees is going to be a heavy
political lift, you would like to name that nominee quickly after the
election, so you can use your momentum from the election, your political
capital from the election to try to get the cabinet officials that you
So, Ronald Reagan got reelected in November 1984 by a lot. Within 23
days, he had named his first nominees for his second term cabinet.
And in November 1996, it was President Bill Clinton who got reelected.
He was naming his new nominees for his second term cabinet within 30 days.
Then, in November 2004, it was President George W. Bush who was
getting reelected, and he wasted no time at all. He was naming his new
nominees for his second term cabinet within eight days of being re-elected.
So, eight days for President Bush, 23 days for President Reagan, 30
days for President Clinton.
President Obama, the 44th president? So far 44 days, and counting.
It has been 44 days since the election and President Obama has not named a
single nominee for his second term cabinet.
Why is that? Nobody knows.
But Republicans appear to be psyched about it. Or maybe the term you
are looking for is emboldened.
Susan Rice as a potential replacement for Hillary Clinton, as
secretary of state was only a rumor, nothing official, right? But
Republican criticism forced her to take her name out of consideration for
the secretary of state job. They were able to stop that nomination before
it even happened.
Now, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is the latest rumor wafting
the halls of Congress as potential nominee for secretary of defense. And
Republicans are trying to shut that down as well before it even happens,
even though Chuck Hagel is himself a former Republican senator.
It was up to the White House who hasn`t nominated him yet to start to
defend him today. They had to defend, maybe, sort of, could be, might be a
nominee even before they have named him.
This president has already waited longer than any president in living
memory to name anybody to his second term cabinet. And even without making
any actual nominations, Republicans clearly think that they are the ones
who are in control of who President Obama gets to put in his second term
What is the president going to do to disabuse Republicans of that
notion, if anything?
For some perspective here, it is not like previous presidents` first
nominees to their cabinets, their second term cabinets were easy picks. It
is not like they picked shoo-ins who the president wouldn`t have to fight
George W. Bush, I told you it only took him eight days. His first two
cabinet nominees were Alberto Gonzalez for attorney general and Condoleezza
Rice to the State Department. Those two had more political baggage than
Dulles Airport. And it only took George W. Bush eight days to get around
to nominating them.
We are at 44 days now for President Obama and if the behavior for the
potential nomination of Chuck Hagel is any current sign, the Republicans
are taking this delay as a sign of weakness in the White House.
I don`t think that`s how the White House sees it. But I would love to
know how they do see it.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world. This is a reindeer. And this
is where that kind of animal lives. Down here in the lower 48, we have
this kind of deer, but up north, they have these guys, adapted to live in
cold climates. That is reindeer.
Now, drunks. One of the things that alcohol does to your body is it
dilates your capillaries. Capillaries are the tiniest of you blood
vessels. They pass oxygen and other stuff between your blood and
surrounding tissues. If you drink too much alcohol, your cells release a
chemical called histamine which causes those little fragile capillary
vessels to dilate, which causes a telltale red flush.
So, the health and perform and performance of your capillaries can
cause a change or redness in your physical appearance.
OK, now, armed with that knowledge, let`s go back to the reindeer.
Some reindeer, as a cold weather adaptation, have evolved so they have a
dense concentration of capillaries in the part of their face that expose to
the wind, otherwise known as the snash (ph). They have a big concentration
of capillaries in their nose.
So they have red noses. Not every reindeer has one, but a subset a
reindeer has one but a subset of reindeer have red noses.
And now, Norwegian and Dutch researchers are looking into how it a
dense concentration of capillaries in the nose actually functions in regard
to regulating temperature. So, they took a bunch of reindeer, not kidding.
They got them all sweaty on a treadmill, as you do, and then they filmed
the hot sweaty reindeer with an infrared camera to see how they were
handling the heat.
And this is the image that was produced. The red parts are the body
parts sending off the most body heat into the air. And yes, the living,
breathing, shiny red noses of these red-nosed reindeer is functions as a
body temperature control devices that go into overdrive when the going gets
tough, like for example if this reindeer was having to tow a heavy burden.
Perhaps one that had jingling bells.
It`s not a myth. Science has proved it.
Also, I have to say, the arrow is pointing at the nose. So, science
chose to take this picture from kind of a weird angle. But we are going to
stay focused on the nose end of things. Dutch scientists and Norwegian
scientists proving the scientific necessity of Rudolph actually being a
red-nosed reindeer -- absolutely the best new thing in the world today.
And now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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