'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 8, 2013
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. A spectacular show tonight.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
Thanks to you at home --
SCHULTZ: You have them every night. I`m just trying to get there.
MADDOW: You have very kind.
All right. Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.
This is Eric Shinseki. Eric Shinseki went to West Point. He
graduated June 1965. Before that year was out, by December of that same
year, Second Lieutenant Eric Shinseki was on the ground in Vietnam. He was
on a one-year combat tour, but he did not make to it the end of that combat
tour before he got shipped home.
The first time he was wounded was in April. He had gotten there in
December. By April, he was wounded for the first time. Shrapnel from a
mortar round hit him in the shoulder and in the chest. Those injuries not
severe enough to have him flown out of Vietnam yet. He stayed on after
earning that first Purple Heart.
Then, it was not until five months later in September of that year
that he got wounded again. And this time it was bad enough for them to
have to send him home. He was in a helicopter crash. It left him with a
broken jaw and a broken arm. That`s on top of the shrapnel he had already
taken in the shoulder and in the chest.
They flew him home to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii to
recuperate. That was in 1966. By 1970, he was on his way back to the war.
He volunteered for another combat tour in Vietnam, despite his earlier
injuries. When he went back in 1970, he ended up stepping on a land mine
that blew off part of his right foot.
The Army wanted Eric Shinseki to retire at that point, but he
refused. Before he was done in Vietnam, Eric Shinseki would earn two
Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars.
This is John Kerry, who started his service in Vietnam on board this
rather large ship. It`s a guided missile cruiser called the USS Gridley.
He then applied to transfer from the Gridley to a much tinier ship. He
applied to transfer to duty on one of these little patrol boats.
That form of duty started for him in mid-November 1968. By the start
of December, he had been awarded his first Purple Heart. By mid-February,
he had been awarded his second Purple Heart. By the end of February, he
was involved in a river battle for which he was awarded the Silver Star.
Less than two weeks after that, it was another river battle for which he
was awarded the Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart.
This man is Chuck Hagel. Chuck Hagel enlisted in the army in 1967.
He was a sergeant in the infantry. In 1968 -- and this is an anomaly.
This is not true of very many other people, if any other people at all.
Chuck Hagel served in the same small patrol in the infantry as his brother.
He was 21 at the time. His brother Tom was 19.
In March 1968, Sergeant Hagel was on patrol when he was hit by
shrapnel from a mine. He still carries some of that shrapnel in his chest
But that day in 1968, it was his younger brother Tom who tore his
shirt open and wrapped the bandages around Chuck Hagel`s chest to stop the
bleeding. His brother saved him. His younger brother Tom had also been
hit by shrapnel in that same attack.
The two brothers spent time together recovering in a field hospital
after that incident. They didn`t stay in the hospital long, though,
because the following month, in April 1968, the two of them were back out
together. They were riding in the same armored personnel carrier when it
also was hit by a mine in an ambush.
Quoting from the book "Long Time Passing" here, "Chuck -- instantly
aflame, his left side burning, his face a mass of bubbles, concussed with
blood running from his ears, frantically tugged and pull turret gunner out
of his steel cage death trap. Quote, `With all the ammunition we had, it
would just blow,` remembers Chuck."
Now, the turret gunner who he`s trying to pull off that armored
personnel carrier was his younger brother.
He says, "I grabbed Tom and he was dead weight, blood pouring out of
his ears. I thought for sure he was dead."
"Chuck shoved Tom off of the APC and then fell on top of him to
protect him as the Vietcong opened fire. Flames from the burning vehicle
shielded him until the trucks up front turned back to save them."
Chuck Hagel, of course, went on to become a Republican senator from
Nebraska. He is now President Obama`s nominee to be secretary of defense.
John Kerry, of course, went on to become a Democratic senator from
Massachusetts. He is now President Obama`s nominee to be secretary of
Eric Shinseki went on to become an Army lifer. He went on to become
a four-star general. He was appointed secretary of Veterans Affairs by
President Obama, in President Obama`s first term. General Shinseki is
expected to stay on at Veterans Affairs in the second term.
If Senator Kerry and Senator Hagel are confirmed in the two positions
for which they are nominated, which especially in the case of Senator Hagel
is no sure bet, but if they are all confirm, this will be the first time
that there are three Vietnam combat veterans in the cabinet.
The expiration of Vietnam as an American political issue -- and the
expiration of the issue of Vietnam service for American political leaders,
that expiration date has been prematurely proclaimed for decades now.
When Bill Clinton in 1992 won the presidency, despite having not
served in Vietnam, and his opponents trying to use that against him, it was
said at the time that the Vietnam era in American politics was finally
over. That, of course, came as news 12 years later when George W. Bush was
running against John Kerry in his reelection effort, and it was clear that
the Vietnam era was definitely not over.
In 2008, when we had a Vietnam prisoner of war hero running against a
Democrat who was too young to have served in Vietnam, even if he had wanted
to, we once again heard that the era of Vietnam and Vietnam`s relationship
to American political leadership was something that was over.
Hey, it`s not over. And we shouldn`t expect it to be over. And
that`s important right now for two reasons. The first reason is specific
to Vietnam. The first reason is about the unfinished business from that
era, which for a president who was too young to have served in that war,
nevertheless seems to be very close to his heart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So here today it must
be said, you have earned your place among the greatest generations. At
this time I would ask all our Vietnam veterans, those of you who can stand
to please stand. All those already standing, raise your hands as we say
those simple words which always greet our troops when they come home from
here on out -- welcome home!
Welcome home! Welcome home! Thank you! We appreciate you. Welcome
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking to Vietnam veterans last May. The
president there reflecting on the fact that it took this country more than
a decade to finally say welcome home to Vietnam veterans after they came
home from serving in that war.
Lack of respect and appreciation shown to Vietnam veterans by
civilians during the war and after that war is a mistake that the country I
think now is fairly unified in trying not to repeat.
But Vietnam is not so far in the past, though, that you can just fix
that problem by promising never to do it again and by promising to do it
better the next time. We`ve got long and unpopular wars under way like we
It is also a contemporaneous sign of respect for Vietnam service,
that veterans of that war are holding positions of leadership, and that
their combat experience is being heralded as part of what makes them
qualified as leaders and trustworthy as public servants. It`s not just
about not making that mistake again, it`s about trying to rectify that
mistake that stands in the lives of these people who lived through it,
But the second reason -- this is a really interesting dynamic right
now in our politics -- is that having an unprecedented number of Vietnam
combat veterans in the cabinet, again, if these two nominations do get
confirmed. One of the interesting things about it is not just what
happened back then and the treatment of Vietnam veterans after they came
home, but about what is happening right now in Washington.
Today on a conference call with reporters, the White House deputy
national security adviser Ben Rhodes said for the first time that at the
end of next year, the number of troops that we might be dropping down to in
Afghanistan might very well be zero.
Quoting from an "Associated Press" account, "Asked in a conference
call with reporters whether zero troops in Afghanistan was now an option,
Rhodes said, `That would be an option we would consider.`"
The 66,000 Americans in Afghanistan right now, the White House, this
new administration is currently preparing to negotiate with the Afghan
President Hamid Karzai. And among itself, right, decide internally, not
only how many Americans might be in Afghanistan on some indefinite
timetable after the end of the war at the end of next year, but
importantly, how many Americans are going to be there fighting between now
and then. In other words, how big is this war going to continue to be?
After Osama bin Laden was killed last May, Chuck Hagel, who might
very well be the next secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel told his hometown
newspaper in Nebraska that he thought the killing of bin Laden meant that
it was time to head for the exits in Afghanistan.
Chuck Hagel said also four months after that, in the fall of 2011, he
said that the Defense Department is, quote, "bloated." He said the
Pentagon needs to be pared down.
Senator Hagel also endorsed a report by the group Global Zero that
called for cutting the U.S. weapons arsenal by 80 percent. The overall
goal of Global Zero, as its name implies, Global Zero, is global zero
nuclear weapons. But this 80 percent cut in our arsenal is a way to get
there is something that Chuck Hagel has supported.
What`s the new face of the American military going to be after the
end of the longest war in American history, which is Afghanistan?
The second longest war in American history is Vietnam. To have three
Vietnam veterans in the cabinet running veterans, running state, running
defense is a remarkable milestone for veterans of that war, just as a
population group, and one that didn`t necessarily get treated right by this
country when their time at war ended.
But for all of us, for all of us, no matter how old we are -- for all
of us, whether or not we had any connection to the Vietnam politics the
first time around, for all of us, there is the question now of whether the
president`s decision to turn to these three Vietnam combat veterans for
these big, important, big ticket national security posts at this time in
Mr. Obama`s presidency -- does that tell us something about what this
president wants in terms of policy, and what he thinks are the right
lessons from our previous lives during wartime, for this particular life
during wartime that we are all in together?
Joining us now is Colonel Jack Jacobs. He is an MSNBC military
analyst. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam.
Colonel Jacobs, thanks for being here.
COLONEL JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, there is two questions here there is the policy question
which I want to get to. But there is also this question of whether a
cabinet with three wounded Vietnam veterans in it, is it important
milestone to veterans themselves? Is it significant together?
JACOBS: I think it is important to veterans. I`m not a fan of
single factor analysis. So, there are lots and lots of things going on
Part of it is a veneer. There is a certain amount of public
relations involved in having three combat veterans from that era, from my
era now in positions of tremendous authority and responsibility, working
for a president who, as you said, was too young to go into the service even
if he wanted. So there is a bit of public relations here.
The second thing that`s of significance is that there is a huge bulge
in the American population among my age group, Shinseki`s age group,
Hagel`s age group, an enormous bulge. Lots and lots of people are of our
age, and larger than our percentage, this percentage of us in the country
implies. And I think that`s significant, too, having these people in
positions of great authority.
MADDOW: So they`re at the age when they should be getting the
JACOBS: That`s right. They`re 70 years old and they should be
getting the biggest jobs. As a matter of fact, I`ll tell you, and maybe a
lot of people, including you, would argue, it`s long overdue.
I think people with that kind of responsibility and authority and
capability of doing that kind of job have been ignored for a long, long
time in favor of other people who did not serve, and at least partially
because they served.
We had a very different view of service back then. I think all the
time about how we think about people who are currently serving in the armed
forces. We love the troops. We adore the troops. Everybody loves them.
One of the reasons we love the troops, because we don`t have to be
JACOBS: We have no draft.
And when I was in the army, when I first came into the Army, there
was a draft. We were fighting an unpopular war then. We fought in the all
volunteer era, two and a half unpopular wars.
Trust me, if we had a draft during that period of time, there would
be riots in the streets, same as there was during Vietnam. And we`ve had
the luxury of being able to operate without a draft. And as a result we
feel very much differently about people who served than we did when these
three men were young and serving.
So, a lot of it has to do with the change in politics and how we do
MADDOW: The reason we don`t have a draft is after Vietnam when the
Army restructured itself, (INAUDIBLE), that the Army decided you know what?
Having a draft is not in our interest in terms of the kind of professional
force we want to be after this very long war.
And it certainly keeps coming up as a political issue. But it`s not
necessarily something that the military has favored. I have always been
struck by what the long-term political and security consequences were of
that decision that was made in the defense context after that long war.
Do you feel like there are other really important decisions like that
that are going to have to be made by the secretary of defense as
JACOBS: Well, yes. And I think that the idea that we`re actually
going to go down to zero or near zero, I think that`s accurate. I think
that`s what the president wants. I think that`s what the Congress wants to
do. There is a lot of money that has to be saved and so on.
And we frankly don`t have the people to scatter around the world of
the country, 310 million, 320 million people trying to defend it with a
very small number of people we can`t have a significant numbers of them in
a place like Afghanistan.
Now, this argument is strenuously not that we`re spread too thinly,
but that we have an insufficient number of people in order to satisfy the
requirements that we have of a country like ours that has worldwide
obligations. And that goes back to the whole question, the draft and
whether or not we`ve got enough people. And how do we get them in an
environment in which nobody wants to serve and we have a hard time making
national security decisions about what to do and make them honestly and
We`ve had a pretty lousy record of making intelligent decisions about
national security in the last few years.
MADDOW: I just think it`s fascinating that we`re now in a position
where we need to be transitioning from being a military that is making all
of its decisions about dwell time and how much time you got between
deployments and who is going to deploy where and when to instead thinking
about a mill they`re is not at war, that needs to decide what its strength
is going to be, what its training requirements are going to be, what its
weapons systems are going to be. And the last time we did this really was
after Vietnam and we`ve got all these Vietnam guys.
JACOBS: You`re absolutely right. If you talk to a guy like Marty
Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and you get him against the
corner and we`re inside the cone of silence and he`ll tell you honestly
what he believes, he will tell you that one of the major tasks of the
military establishment today is figure out how it fits in this national
JACOBS: When you have very few people, you have precision guided
munitions, you have responsibilities around the world, you have threats
that you haven`t figured how to satisfy, it`s a really big problem.
And Hagel`s got a lot on his plate. I`m not certain that he is
necessarily the guy to do it, but I do think he is going to get confirmed.
MADDOW: I think the confirmation hearings are going to be
fascinating for this reason and for a million others.
All right. Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient, MSNBC
military analyst, it is always an honor to have you, sir.
JACOBS: Thanks for having me on the program. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. We got a best new thing in the world on tap. We`ve got
the first clarion call from new Senator Elizabeth Warren today on Capitol
Hill. This is a big news today. There`s lots ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Richard Mourdock wanted very badly to become a member of the
United States Senate. He beat out longtime incumbent Indiana Republican
Senator Dick Lugar to become the Republican Senate nominee in Indiana. He
got himself a Democratic opponent that everybody seemed to think that he
would beat handily.
And then Richard Mourdock said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R-IN), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: Life is that gift
from god, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of
rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you become pregnant from being raped, that is something
God intended to happen. That was sort of the end of Richard Mourdock. He
went on the lose a Senate race that he really should have one. And now,
the new senator from Indiana is a Democrat, Joe Donnelly.
Richard Mourdock`s view that the government should force rape victims
to give birth to their rapist child because God intervenes not to stop
rapes, but to make sure that certain rapes resulted in force impregnating
of the rape victim, that particular phantasmagoric bio theology was in the
end too much for the residents of Indiana to accept.
There was also Todd Akin. Todd Akin was a Republican from the great
state of Missouri who was chosen by Republicans in his state to take on
Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill. Claire McCaskill was
thought to be sort of easy picks for Republicans this past year. They
thought that was a seat for sure they could pick up. They picked
Republican congressman Todd Akin to go up against her.
And then, and then, Todd Akin said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD AKIN (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: If it`s a legitimate rape,
the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If it`s a legitimate rape, as opposed to all those
illegitimate rapes, the female body can prevent a pregnancy from happening.
Take it from me, Todd Akin. And that was pretty much the end of old Todd
Claire McCaskill went on the trounce him and held on to a seat that
Democrats had all but accept they`d were going to lose in Missouri. Todd
Akin`s view that you can`t get pregnant from a legitimate rape, and
therefore if you do get pregnant, you obviously wanted it, so the
government should force all victims of illegitimate rape to give birth to
their illegitimate rapist child, in the end that also did not fly with the
residents of Missouri.
The thing about Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, though, is that they
were not alone in the Republican Party in holding these views. The vice
presidential nominee of the Republican Party in fact shared their policy
views of what the federal government should force rape victims to do. The
government should monitor the pregnancies of rape victims to force them to
make sure that those pregnancies have the government`s chosen outcome, even
if it is against the rape victim`s will.
Part of the way that the White House was able to stack up an 11-point
lead among women voters nationwide and thereby beat Mitt Romney and Paul
Ryan in the race for the White House was by making a very big deal about
insensitive and alienating comments like these and policy positions like
these from Republican politicians famous and infamous. And that is one of
the reasons that it is of great political awkwardness right now, that the
latest high profile cabinet nominee from President Obama is somebody who
holds distinctly Akin and Mourdock-esque positions on this particular
Today, Andrew Kaczynski at the Web site BuzzFeed on defense secretary
nominee Chuck Hagel`s record on the issue of abortion form when he was a
member of the U.S. Senate. As a Senate candidate back in 1996, Chuck Hagel
said he, quote, "tightened his position on abortion after he discovered
that abortion in cases of rape and incest are, quote, `rare`." Well, it
never happens, so therefore we should ban it.
Even in the rare cases where a woman gets pregnant as a result of
rape, she should be forced by the government to give birth to that child,
so says Chuck Hagel.
In terms of the exceptions that the law allows for cases involving
rape or incest, Chuck Hagel offered this, quote, "I don`t think those two
exceptions are relevant."
Chuck Hagel is currently up for job of defense secretary, right? He
is not up for secretary of women`s health. We generally think of the
secretary of defense job adds being the kind of job that is uninflected by
social conservative hot button political issues.
I mean, running the Pentagon is about troop deployments and training
regimens and weapons procurement and strategic thing about things like
intercontinental ballistic missiles, right? It`s generally about guns.
But we don`t think about it having to do with God and gays, except it
really kind of does.
The last two things that President Obama signed into law at the New
Year were the fiscal cliff thing and the Pentagon bill. And the Pentagon
funding bill includes a big new hard-fought provision over whether women
who are in the military who are raped can have access to abortion. This is
a live policy issue being debated and hanged as a matter of policy right
now. In the defense bill that was just signed by President Obama, female
troops can now receive medical coverage for abortions that are the result
That is a change in policy. That is brand-new. Previously, the only
abortions that were covered for our military servicewomen were in cases
where her life was in danger. Not anymore.
And this is a huge deal in the U.S. military, because it turns out
this is a huge problem in the U.S. military. In 2011, a little more than
2,000 cases of sexual assault were reported by female service members. The
actual number when you include cases that go unreported is estimated by the
Pentagon to be more like 19,000 -- 19,000 cases of rape and sexual assault
in the military every year. And now, these women will have access to
abortion under their insurance coverage in the military.
The current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has made rape and sexual
assault one of his major issues as defense secretary. Last year, he told
NBC News, quote, "This is an issue that I as secretary of defense am
committed to making sure we confront."
Where does defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel stand on this issue
that Leon Panetta thinks is so important? As a senator, Hagel repeatedly
voted against amendments to allow servicewomen even to pay for abortion
services at military hospitals out of their own pockets.
So not only will your insurance not be allowed to cover it, according
to Chuck Hagel, you shouldn`t even have access to it in military hospitals.
What, go find a local service provider, deployed servicewoman?
So, again, on the surface, a nominee`s sensitivity and politics on
issues like sexual assault and abortion would seem quite irrelevant to a
job like secretary of defense. But it is right in the middle of the kinds
of things the secretary of defense has to deal with now -- so too the issue
of respect for gay people.
Part of the consternation over Chuck Hagel`s anti-gay comments about
an ambassadorial nominee in 1998 was because he made very overt anti-gay
comments about somebody as late as 1998. But part of the consternation as
voiced by OutServe, the group that currently represents serving LGBT
members of the military, is that whoever the next secretary of defense is,
that person is going to be the first one taking office after the full
repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell." And there is very live, very sensitive
very contested policy decisions that have to be made about how openly guy
service members are going to be allowed to serve.
And specifically, how their family members are or are not going to be
recognized by a Defense Department that recognizes the family members of
straight service members.
If the Defense of Marriage Act fails at the Supreme Court, for
example, yes, that`s going to affect whether there are same-sex marriage
rights in various states all around the country, right? But one of the
very first things it`s going to affect is day to day life for members of
the military there is a whole list of very specific things that other
family members get in the military that family members of gay service
members right now are banned from getting specifically because of the
Defense of Marriage Act.
So if the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act
that`s banning these policies, it may very well be Chuck Hagel deciding the
very sensitive issue of whether a gay service member`s family gets this
kind of equal treatment that he or she would never have had before.
So Chuck Hagel`s position on gay rights, which on the surface would
seem totally irrelevant to a job running the military, actually could not
be more central to the most sensitive things that he might have to make a
decision on personally right away if he gets this gig.
I`m telling you, these confirmation hearings are going to be amazing.
MADDOW: There is a place in California called Dana Point. It`s a
very, very pretty part of that state, and there is a very swanky resort
there called the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort. See what, with the fancy
golf course? It`s very fancy, very pricey.
In the fall of 2008, the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort was chosen as
the executive retreat for the top execs at a ginormous insurance company
called AIG. Remember AIG?
In the process of just about sinking the American economy with its
exponentially risky behavior, AIG also just about sunk itself. And as part
of trying to save the economy, AIG got a mammoth bailout from U.S.
taxpayers. Eighty-five billion dollars into that bailout, it was revealed
that AIG spent more than $440,000 on this retreat at the golf place, its
reward for executives who had sunk the largest economy on earth, 23 large
on spa treatments alone. Yes, cue the justifiable national outrage.
Well, today there were headlines about AIG that brought all that old
outrage right back to the surface. Today, AIG got back into the headlines
for something that had people rummaging around in the attic, looking for
the old torches and pitchforks that they hadn`t used in the streets since
the last time a story like this broke about AIG back in 2008.
The difference today is that today, there was a brand-newly minted
United States senator on Capitol Hill enunciating our national disgust for
that company in a way that was not only satisfying, but powerful. Can you
guess which new senator I`m talking about? Would it help if I told you her
initials were Elizabeth Warren? That`s coming up.
MADDOW: It was two years ago today that then-Congresswoman Gabrielle
Giffords was shot and very nearly killed outside a grocery store at a Meet
Your Congresswoman event in Tucson, Arizona. Today, on the two-year
anniversary of the assassination attempt that nearly did kill her and that
did kill six other people and that wounded 12 other people, today, Gabby
Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, launched a new political
action committee. It`s called Americans for Responsible Solutions.
They say their goal is to, quote, "encourage elected officials to
stand up for solutions that will prevent gun violence." It`s a new
political pressure group, in other words.
Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband launched this today in a
high profile well done media blitz. They sat through a moving interview
with Diane Sawyer. They published a joint op-ed in "USA Today", where they
demanded change from Washington. But they also pointed to their own unique
role in this fight, not just with the former congresswoman as a victim of
gun violence, but with her having been a member of Congress who was a
staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.
Gabby Giffords was a very pro-gun rights Democratic member of
Congress. She and her husband are not commie, liberal, pinkos coming to
confiscate yours guns. They are both gun owners themselves.
They said today in the op-ed, quote, "Forget the boogie man of big
bad government coming to dispose you of your firearms. As a Western woman
and Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised her Second Amendment
rights, we do not want to take away your guns any more than we want to give
up the two guns that we have locked in safe at home. What we do want is
what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want, responsible
changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun
Taking the argument beyond gun owners versus non-gun owner, taking
the argument beyond absolutist gun anarchy versus a complete gun ban, this
turn away from that kind of binary nonsense is the kind of turn in the
conversation that typically signifies that there might be movement ahead,
that people are getting real about maybe actually getting something done.
At the same time on the same day, on the same anniversary, another
overture today from Roxanna Green. She`s the mother of 9-year-old
Christina Taylor Green who was killed in the Tucson shooting two years ago.
She appears in an ad that appeared in seven cities today including
Washington, D.C., and in Tucson.
This ad which I`m going to show you in a second, it`s paid for by the
Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, which is co-chaired by New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But the thing about it that I find striking about it is that it is
not just an issue ad to try to get people riled up or even just to get
people thinking about this as an issue area, as a subject, this is a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROXANNA GREEN, TUCSON, AZ: Twenty heartbroken families lost a child
in the Sandy Hook School shooting. I know how much it hurts. My 9-year-
old daughter was murdered in the Tucson shooting.
I have one question for our political leaders. When will you find
the courage to stand up to the gun lobby? Whose child has to die next?
To every mother, we cannot wait. We have to demand a plan.
Go to demandaplan.org and add your name.
ANNOUNCER: Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund is responsible
for the content in this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We have to demand a plan, concrete action. That message
today from the mother of the youngest victim of the Tucson mass shooting,
which was two years ago today.
This is kind of an amazing detail about this. That ad was scheduled
to air today in Tucson at precisely 10:10 local time, to coincide exactly
with the exact time that the shooter in that incident opened fire two years
This is serious political pressure. This is not just about raising
awareness or something, or seeking donations for groups that will work on
this in a generic way. This is about using awareness and concern that
really already exists to make some kind of concrete public policy change in
President Obama last month tapped Vice President Biden to lead an
effort to put together national proposals for public policy reforms that
could curb mass violence in the United States, including potentially
reforming gun laws and regulations.
And this week, the vice president is getting started. Tomorrow, he
will meet with gun control groups and groups for victims of gun violence.
But then the next day, on Thursday, he is going to be meeting with gun
owners groups, including the National Rifle Association.
And that one detail about the NRA being invited to meet with the vice
president and RSVP-ing that they would attend the meeting, that is sucking
up all of the Beltway`s attention on this effort so far. It`s not
surprising given that the NRA has already offered that their solution to
the gun violence problem in this country is more guns in more places where
we don`t have them already. And that is not really where we expect the
White House effort to be headed.
But what is more interesting this time, what is more interesting
about this effort is how many other people besides the NRA are at the table
with some political weight behind them. The kind of political capital that
they have and are bringing to bear to compete with the gun lobby whose
political power has long been feared, but who this year, frankly, has
devolved into a nationally reviled political punch line.
Joining us now is my pal Steve Schmidt. He is a Republican political
strategist, senior strategist from the McCain/Palin ticket in `08, and an
Steve, thank you for being here. It`s nice to see you.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Rachel. Happy
MADDOW: You too.
I know you are a supporter of gun rights, Steve. I know you are also
a political realist.
How do you assess the strength of the effort to try to come up with
some form of reform agenda after Newtown and after Tucson?
SCHMIDT: Look, I think that the ad that you showed is obviously
enormously compelling. It`s emotional. The whole country was traumatized
by this unspeakable tragedy that took place in Newtown, and the tragedies
that took place before it. And sadly, the tragedies that are going to take
place next. And we don`t know where those will be.
But the NRA is a fearsome political lobby. Members particularly in
the Republican Party are terrified of being primaried. This issue is often
covered through a partisan prism when it should be looked at through a
If you talk about Democrats in the South, in the Mountain West, and
places like North Dakota, and you saw the new Senator Heidi Heitkamp come
out and say that she thinks that some of the proposals that are coming out,
at least preliminary out of the White House are way too extreme for her.
So, you`ll have Republican senators like Mark Kirk in Illinois who have
been open in the past on issues like assault weapons bans, and you`ll have
Democrats in the West, the Mountain West and the rural South that will be
absolutely opposed to it.
And as you said earlier, though it is nonsense, and I`m certainly a
person who believes that you can be a Second Amendment supporter, and also
have sensible regulations on guns, but this issue plays out on the
extremes, on the absurd binary choice that has defined the issue for so
MADDOW: And that -- and that analysis, what you said there at the
end, that we`ve spent so much time fighting about extreme positions that
nobody is actually trying to advance, that we`ve left the -- we`ve left the
whole middle ground of responsible, reasonable, respectful reform
essentially untilled politically, that argument which you`re getting from
people like Gabby Giffords, which you`re getting in some cases from other
victims, gun violence victims groups, I think potentially is new grounds.
Let me give you a hypothetical. Let`s pick a hypothetical reform
that even a pro-gun rights Republican like you might see as wise and
compatible of the Second Amendment. Something like strengthening the
background check system so nobody can buy a gun if they`re on the terrorist
watch list, right?
If you hypothetically wanted to put together a political effort to
try to get just something narrow like that passed, how would you do it?
SCHMIDT: Well, you`d have to obviously put together a bipartisan
coalition of Republicans and Democrats. And it would be made up of the
middle ideologically of the Congress. But it would also be
disproportionately heavy Republican in the Northeast. Democrats obviously
in the Northeast and urban areas will have one sensibility.
You know, it is a -- it is a very tough issue. It`s an issue where
on something like this, the chances of it being -- even something that is
common sense as that, making it all the way through the process and having
it be presented to the president as cleanly as you said, I think is a very
difficult thing to envision, as absurd as that sounds.
Because the -- on the right, you have people who say that any type of
regulation, any attempt to regulate is a step towards confiscation. And
then on the left, you have, for example, the Gawker Web site today
publishing the names of all the gun owners in New York. And actions like
that seem to a lot of people evidence of the confiscation argument.
So, it`s a -- it`s a discussion that is held captive by the extremes
on both sides. And it`s an issue where when members of Congress get ready
for elections, they know the NRA is potent, that it`s been potent in the
And the NRA is organized for the long haul on this fight. These
other groups that there might be new energy behind it, there might be new
passion behind it, but they don`t have the resources that the NRA does.
And it will be interesting to see over the next six months to a year
are they able to build resources? Are they able to project political
power, are they able to take this issue and to beat people on the wrong
side of the issue in swing districts? And until they do that, it`s going
to be tough to move forward.
MADDOW: Seeing them try to move all the political capital they`ve
got right now, all the sort of aspirational capital they have right now
into really resource-driven political muscle I think is going to be the
real test here, too.
Steve Schmidt, former McCain/Palin senior strategist, MSNBC
contributor, I miss seeing you. I`m looking forward to spending more time
with you again in the New Year, Steve.
SCHMIDT: Good to see you, Rachel.
All right. Best new thing in the world today features some poll
results that are way outside the margin of error of awesomeness. That`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re now leaner and focused on what we do
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have repaid every dollar America lent us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything, plus a profit of more than $22
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the American people --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: AIG, we turned it around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, America, for the freedom to ensure a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, thank you.
That`s the insurance company, AIG, thanking America for the taxpayer-
funded $182 billion bailout, in an ad that it started running on New Year`s
Day, after the Treasury sold off its final stake in the insurance company
Thank you, America. That ad has been running during college football
games, during NFL playoff games, on news networks, presumably including
The company says it has even bought air time during this upcoming
weekend`s Golden Globe Awards. It`s a two-week TV campaign for the
insurance giant to not only show gratitude but maybe rebuild their image a
bit, after one of the biggest and most wildly unpopular bailouts of all
So how is it going so far?
Well, half way into AIG`s big public relations effort to assure the
country that they`re back on track and indebted to us all for saving them
from financial ruin, well, this is how it is going.
Thank you, America -- now we might sue you to try to squeeze some
more cash out of you. The board of AIG planning to meet tomorrow to
decided whether to join a lawsuit being brought by its former CEO on behalf
of shareholders. The lawsuit contends the taxpayers` rescue of the company
cheated shareholders and violated their rights.
In a statement today, AIG said the board will make a decision in the
next several weeks. The White House so far is declining to comment on the
issue, saying that the lawsuit is still pending.
But we do have this. We do have a comment from the person President
Obama tasked with inventing an entirely new government agency to protect us
all from predators and negligent companies in the financial sector, outside
who last week became a United States senator.
Senator Elizabeth Warren today issuing a statement saying, quote,
"Beginning in 2008, the federal government poured billions into AIG to save
it from bankruptcy. AIG`s reckless bets nearly crashed our entire economy.
Taxpayers across the country saved AIG from ruin, and it would be
outrageous for this company to turn around and sue the federal government
because they think the deal wasn`t generous enough. Even today, the
government an ongoing stealth bailout, propping up AIG with special tax
breaks -- tax breaks that Congress should stop. AIG should thank American
taxpayers for their help, not biting the hand that fed them for helping out
in a crisis."
Right. As satisfying as Senator Warren`s statement is for its
smackdown nature, it is even better as a reminder that the AIG bailout and
the financial crisis as a whole didn`t just happen because of some act of
God. The meltdown was caused by the recklessness of AIG and all other
companies on Wall Street that played fast and loose with the rules, and
that nevertheless now would prefer even fewer rules to regulate their
actions, because their actions are always so responsible.
Senator Warren`s opponent in the recent election was Scott Brown, who
was the top beneficiary of Wall Street political donations in the Senate.
But Scott Brown lost, and he lost to Elizabeth Warren. And so, today it
was Elizabeth Warren and not Scott Brown, opening up her new little local
office in western Massachusetts, in Springfield. A new senator who
represents the state of Massachusetts, who is not Wall Street`s favorite
senator, like Scott Brown was, and who has a seat on the Senate Banking
Committee, a perch from which she can offer the other side of the argument
that the titans of the American financial colossus would probably rather
Elections, consequences. Tada!
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today, the 2012 presidential
election was notoriously tough on pollsters, but the Democratic leaning
firm, Public Policy Polling, did better than most. PPP correctly
predicting the presidential outcome in all 50 states.
So, one important thing to know about PPP is that they are accurate.
We know that from experience.
But the other important thing to know about PPP is that they are the
only sound political polling firm in America that regularly are laugh out
loud funny. Por ejemplo, PPP once asked Pennsylvanians, do you have enough
Santorum in your life or not? They once asked Michigan voters, do you
think the trees are high enough here in Michigan?
And their first national poll after the 2012 election, PPP asked, do
you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the presidential election this
year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him? Forty-nine percent said
ACORN stole the election -- ACORN which does not exist anymore.
For Presidents Day last year, PPP asked for favorability ratings for
all 44 U.S. presidents, including the ones almost nobody who`s not on
jeopardy remembers. Millard Fillmore`s approval numbers topping out at 7
percent, less than half of Zachary Taylor`s approval rating.
Why is that? Who knows? But they proved it.
In July 2011, a PPP national poll turned from questions about
Congress to this. Quote, "If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of
its performance"? It turns out god`s approval rating is not that bad, 52
percent of people approve of God`s godliness.
So, whatever reason, PPP clearly loves their job and they are good at
it. And that combination of being willing to ask weird, funny questions
and doing it in a scientifically sound way, led today to PPP`s latest
national poll, testing the favorability rating of Congress.
But because they are PPP, they didn`t just asked getting the
abstract, they asked people to rate Congress alongside 26 other things,
Congress versus cockroaches, cockroaches won.
Head lice -- head lice won big against Congress.
They tested Congress against gonorrhea. Gonorrhea turns out to be
less popular Congress. Good job, Congress.
Also telemarketers, they are less popular than Congress is.
Congress is almost as popular as Brussels sprouts, which I love,
which I love.
PPP tested Congress against root canals, against being stuck in
traffic. They tested Congress against carnies. Carnies are more popular
They also tested Congress against the Canadian rock band, Nickelback.
What does all of this tell us about Congress? Exactly what you think
it tell us. But having scientifically sound polling from a firm that loves
its job and have to do its job this way, is the best new thing in the world
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Thanks
for being with us tonight. Have a good one.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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