THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 21, 2013
Guest: Paul Rieckhoff
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
for the next hour. I`m a little hoarse. I have a little cold, but I hope
that you will stick with me as if I were not any horse but rather your
favorite little pony.
There`s a lot to in the show tonight. This is a news day that had a
lot going on.
We left the show last night with news of a crime in Colorado, news of
the murder of the corrections chief in that state. He was shot dead in his
home just hours before the Colorado governor signed into law that state`s
historic new gun reform legislation.
There`s new information tonight about the investigation into that
killing of that state`s prison chief. We`re going to have those details
coming up, just ahead.
On President Obama`s trip to Israel -- today was big speech day. It
was highly anticipated. It was very warmly received, particularly the part
where he went off script and surprised everyone. We`re going to have
details on that coming up as well.
In Washington tonight, the Congress packed up and went home. They are
taking two weeks off as of tonight. Nice work if you can get it, right?
But before they left, they passed a spending bill that will avoid the
threat of a government shutdown next week. Not shutting down the whole
federal government used to be the kind of thing you just could reasonably
expect from your Congress. It`s the kind of thing they just get done as a
matter of course. But under House Speaker John Boehner, not shutting down
the government has become a notable achievement for this Congress. So,
mazel tov on that. It`s a low bar.
House Republicans also voted today again for the Paul Ryan budget.
And, of course, Democrats are very excited about that because they plan to
use that vote against Republicans in campaign ads for the next election.
We`ve got the one and only Ezra Klein here momentarily to help sort
out what is important about what they just voted on in Congress and whether
we just avoided one of the cliff/ceilings/crisis that Congress now
schedules for us every few weeks, and whether the way they avoided this
next one is itself important.
So, there`s a lot going on in the news. We`ve got a lot ahead.
But we begin tonight with late breaking and rather surprising news
from the Democratic leader in the Senate, Senator Harry Reid.
Following two days of angry response from California Senator Dianne
Feinstein, she had been very publicly disappointed and angry that Harry
Reid was not going move her assault weapons ban to the Senate floor as part
of the Democrats gun reform package. After two days of defiant reaction to
that decision from Senator Feinstein and from supporters of gun reform,
after Vice President Biden made an appearance with New York Mayor Michael
Bloomberg demanding the assault weapons ban gets a vote, saying that
neither he or the president will rest until these measures are pursued --
tonight, Senator Harry Reid responded.
He put out a statement saying, quote, "I will ensure a ban on assault
weapons and limits on high capacity magazines receive votes." He also
announced he would start the process of moving gun reform legislation to
the floor of the Senate as of tonight.
Now, the exact contours of the bill are still uncertain, including the
question of what`s going to end up in the base bill and what`s going to get
acted on in the form of amendments, and when the actual voting will begin
given he started the process tonight.
But the statement from Harry Reid tonight was very clear on one policy
change in particular. He said, quote, "Any bill that passes the Senate
must include background checks.
Now, universal background checks for gun buyers are not only among the
most popular proposed gun reforms in the country. With over 90 percent
support in many national polls, background checks for people buying guns
are among the most popular policies of any kind in the country. Gun
related or not. It is remarkable to think that something with 91 percent,
92 percent popular support might be too controversial to get any Republican
senators votes, but right now it is still an open question whether
Republicans will vote for it.
And then if it does pass the Senate, if it passes the Senate, there,
of course, is the question whether it can pass the House. The House, of
course, is controlled by Republicans. Do Republicans in the House support
universal background checks the way that 91 percent of the country does?
Do House Republicans Supreme Court background checks?
Maybe. Sort of. At least for a second, it seemed like they did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Do you think background check, improving background
checks might be part of that?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: They should actually
do a real background check on everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Holy cow. OMG, right?
That is the position held by 91 percent, 92 percent of the country.
So, it shouldn`t be that remarkable.
But learning that the Republican speaker of the House is in favor of
doing a real background check on everyone, as he said, that seems like
news, right? That seems like a breakthrough. That would mean if it does
pass the Senate, when it gets to the House under John Boehner, it might
pass. We might get real background checks for everyone who`s buying a gun.
That`s what he said he favors, right? A real background check on everyone.
Except right after he said that, then he said that`s not really what
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, what the speaker meant by that, I should say, because I
wanted to -- I had to go back to his office and say, is he coming out in
favor of an improved background system? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So, yes, that is what he said, but that`s not what he wants to have
said. So, he maybe forgot for a second there what his actual policy
position is supposed to be on this issue. His office had to clarify that
what he said when he said he wants background checks is not actually what
he believes. That`s not the policy he supports even though he said he did.
And, you know, John Boehner is not alone, in having this specific kind
of problem in public. You may have also seen today the Republican governor
of Ohio just came out in favor of civil unions for gay people. He did do
that. He said he was in favor of civil unions for gay people.
But just as Republican House Speaker John Boehner came out in favor of
background checks for a second and he had to take it back. Today, when
Ohio Governor John Kasich came out in favor of civil unions, it was only
for a second and then he took it back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: You know, if people want to have civil
unions and have some way to transfer their resources, I`m for that. I just
think marriage is between a man and woman. And -- but if you want to have
a civil union, that`s fine with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you want to have a civil union, that`s fine with me.
That`s the ABC affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio, Interviewing John Kasich about
his views on gay rights.
This is a very relevant issue in Ohio Republican politics right now
because Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman just changed his position to be
in favor of gay marriage now because he has a gay son.
Governor John Kasich told this interviewer today that he has talked to
Senator Portman about the issue, he does not share Senator Portman`s view
that gay people ought to have equal marriage rights but he said -- clear as
day there -- he is fine with civil unions, except he is apparently not fine
with civil unions.
He forgot he is actually against them. His office later followed up
with a written statement to reporters that said the governor does not
actually mean it when he said about civil unions. Quote, "He may have used
the term `civil union` loosely in this instance." Quote, "The governor`s
position is unchanged. He opposes gay marriage and opposes changing Ohio`s
constitution to allow for civil unions."
Ohio Republicans banned civil unions for gay people in 2004 and John
Kasich supports that ban. When he said today, quote, "If you want to have
a civil union that`s fine with me," he did not mean it. He forgot that he
doesn`t actually believe that. So, his office had to clean it up and
remind him that he is actually way more anti-gay than he thinks he is. He
had to take back his statement.
This happens in Republican politics a lot. Remember in the
presidential campaign, this used to happen to Mitt Romney all the time.
The worst one was probably that CBS interview he did with Scott Pelley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My position has been
clear throughout this campaign. I`m in favor of abortion being legal in
the case of rape and incest and the health and life of the mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rape and incest and health and life of the mother -- except
that`s not supposed to be his position. He forgot what his actual position
was. And then, his campaign had to clean it up for him.
This is just amazing, look at this. The Romney campaign will not say
the candidate misspoke but a spokeswoman does say he does not actually
support an exception for the health of the woman.
So, Mr. Romney did not misspeak, he just speaks something that missed
what the he actually meant.
It was also the time when the Blunt amendment came up at a town hall
debate and Mr. Romney was publicly horrified by the whole idea there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they
should have contraceptive care or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At the time, seemed like quite a relief. All these
Republicans support it. But Mitt Romney does not support the Blunt
amendment to let your employer decide whether you can provide
contraceptives. The problem is he forgot he actually supports the Blunt
Amendment. He just couldn`t remember that that was supposed to be his
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Of course, I support the Blunt Amendment.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right. Don`t forget.
It reminds me of "The Pink Panther" remake, where Steve Martin says,
he is not pushing up daisies, he is dead.
Your employer deciding whether or not you can get contraceptives --
that is the Blunt Amendment. It`s terrible, right? Yes, it turns out
that`s what you support. It sounds awful when you put it that way, doesn`t
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is right in the middle of one of these
screw-ups himself right now. Senator Paul wants to be seen as a
libertarian but he also wants to be taken seriously in Republican politics
and Republic politics are rather extremely anti-abortion right now.
So Rand Paul wants to be seen as small government guy, but he also
wants a government that is big enough to monitor every single pregnancy in
the country, to force all American women into the government`s chosen
outcome for their pregnancy. You do not get to decide about your
pregnancy, the government gets to decide.
Rand Paul has introduced personhood legislation that would ban all
abortions in America federally. It would also likely ban some forms of
hormonal birth control, like the pill and even in vitro fertilization.
So, under his bill, you would have no choice, no exception, you get no
say, it`s the government decides, Rand Paul is going to decide for you.
But then when Rand Paul was America was asked about that policy of his
this week in an interview, he reacted by saying essentially, that sounds
horrible. I don`t believe that.
Yes, senator, yes, actually you do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Sir, just to be precise, if you believe life
begins at conception, which I suspect you do believe that, you would have
no exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother, is that right?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, I think that once again puts
things in too small of a box. What I would say is there are thousands of
exceptions. There are a lot of decisions that are made privately by
families and their doctors that really won`t -- the law won`t apply to.
BLITZER: Well, it sounds like you believe in some exceptions?
PAUL: Well, there`s going to be, like I say, thousands of extraneous
situations, where the life of the mother is involved and other things that
are involved, so I would say that each individual case would have to be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Each individual case decided privately by families and their
doctors, instead of a government imposed policy that gives you no choice in
the matter and doesn`t take into account your individual circumstances.
You know, people who support that are called pro-choice. That`s what
most Americans believe.
You, Senator, on the other hand, your policy is the opposite of that.
Did you forget? I know it sounds awful but it is what you are doing. It`s
what all of you guys are doing.
Rand Paul, you are for banning abortion without exceptions federally.
Mitt Romney, you`re for the Blunt Amendment.
John Kasich, you`re actually against civil unions.
John Boehner, you don`t want background checks for gun buyers after
all -- even though none of you really seem to believe that`s what you`re
supposed to believe.
Why does this happen so much in Republican politics and how does the
other party or country at large argue policy with a party that so often
does not seem to know what their policy positions are let alone actually
believe in them?
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, the leader of the excellent "Wonk Blog"
at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC policy analyst.
Ezra, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Occasionally, Republicans do not just talk about policy and
get confused therein. Occasionally they make policy the case with a big
spending bill to avert a government shutdown that they left for the
president to sign today.
Is there something evident in the policies that they do enact that
shows that they do understand those policies and believe in them more than
this other stuff that they seem to not even really understand?
KLEIN: There are a couple of constants. Lower taxes on rich people,
not lower taxes for everybody, right? They don`t like taxes, but letting
the payroll tax cut expire was in fact their policy. But lower taxes in
general, lower taxes in particular on richer wealthier Americans, cutting
social programs, entitlements they go back and forth. Medicare, in
particular, they go back and forth.
You remember Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan ran in the election as they
were going to stop the Democrats terrible intention to cut Medicare, then
Paul Ryan got back into the House and writing a budget he kept all those
cuts and added new ones and, of course, in the long run, had more added
into this is program.
But what actually I think has been the real shock in recent weeks or
real frustration trying to covers these budget debates is Republicans
articulate five goals on these issues. They say they want to cut the
budget deficits. They say they want to social spending primarily,
entitlements spending. They say they want to protect defense spending.
They want to simplify the tax code and to lower tax rates.
In a deal with President Obama, they could get the first four of those
things. They get more deficit reduction, they could protect defense, the
Democratic president would get some cover in cutting Medicare and Social
Security, and they could simplify the tax code by taking out expenditures.
They are now saying they want none of that. They want none of those
things and they`re also not going to get the tax rates and they`re just
going to keep the sequester and so not have a deal. And I`ve asked a lot
of them to walk me through the reasoning here and I honestly just never
come to an answer that I understand even a little bit.
MADDOW: Does that mean that they`re post-policy, that the policy
actually -- even some things that seem like constants don`t actually a
matter them, that it`s pure politics, just positioning themselves vis-a-vis
the president and they`re not actually invested in any particular outcome
for the country?
KLEIN: I would like to have an answer where that isn`t true. I
really would. And I`ve tried -- I`ve been trying to find it. I`m sure
part is I`m not smart enough to do so, that I`ve not found the right people
to have spoken to them. But it is hard to come up with one.
We can go back today, earlier today, of course, Michele Bachmann on
the floor of the House saying Obamacare is going to kill women and children
and seniors. The individual mandate, which has become in many Republican
quarters, the central problem with the bill, the real assault on the
Constitution was, of course, created by Republicans.
The Heritage Foundation in `89 brought in the Senate alternative to
Bill Clinton passed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, endorsed by Jim DeMint
when he endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008. And as soon as President Obama, they
all turned on it like that.
The power of where the president is has, in deciding where Republicans
will be that next day, that next week, that next month, is enormous and
MADDOW: I feel like looking at some of the sort of Freudian slips on
some of these more social policies or policies that aren`t as central to
their agenda in Washington is actually an important window into them not
really being invested into policy at all. I feel like the Republican Party
is going to really reinvent itself, messaging isn`t the key part of it. It
has to be about being rooted in policies for the country.
Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post", "Wonk Blog," MSNBC policy analyst
-- Ezra, it is always great to have you here. Thank you.
KLEIN: Great to see you. Thank you.
All right. President Obama gave a big, very highly anticipated speech
in Jerusalem today. While he was in Jerusalem, he got a major award. The
way the American news media covered that moment will be the most amazing
picture you see today. And that is next.
MADDOW: For the interview tonight, we`re going to set an all-time
attendance record on this show for the most guests in one segment. You
made need a bigger TV. Hold on.
MADDOW: Day two of President Obama`s trip to the Middle East was
dramatic day today. President Obama gave a rousing speech in Jerusalem, a
speech in which he was heckled, a speech he went off-script and made some
rather blunt and surprising comments. He did not speak the way politicians
usually speak, particularly in that part of the world. We`ll have more in
President Obama also received the Israeli Medal of Distinction, which
is the highest honor the Israeli government bestows upon civilians. It was
a dignified and serious occasion.
We will have for you a side note to that dignified and serious
occasion we will show you in a moment that will make you stare at your
television, put your head in your hands and swear to yourself quietly.
The day began today with President Obama visiting the Dead Sea scrolls
with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The president also visited a tech show where Israeli engineers showed
them a creepy snake-like contraption that they invented. It`s for use
after disasters, to get into small spaces and relay to the outside world
information about what is going on in those small spaces. They get the
idea to invent it after 9/11.
That was the morning in Jerusalem.
The president then traveled Ramallah, which is the de facto
headquarters in the Palestinian Authority where he met with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas and took questions from the press. That was all by
And then the afternoon, President Obama spoke at the Jerusalem
Convention Center before an audience of more than 2,000 Israelis. Most of
the audience was made up of college students but there were also government
officials and civil leaders in the audience.
Shortly after beginning his remarks, the president as I mentioned was
heckled. He responded by saying the heckler made him feel right at home.
One advantage of having, "you lie", screamed at you during a speech during
Congress is that heckling probably never really rattles you again. The
crowd gave him standing ovation in response to the heckler.
They also cheered with approval at this point in the speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, those
who adhere to the ideologically of rejecting Israel`s right to exist, they
might as well reject the Earth beneath them or sky above because Israel`s
not going anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It makes sense that these young Israelis would be so
appreciative of America`s president making such strong statements in
support of their state. Israel is surrounded by hostile regimes. Israelis
and Palestinians have been engaged in a half century of conflict and
fighting and violence. It makes sense this audience would want to hear the
president of the most powerful nation on Earth pledge support to Israel
security in such, such certain terms.
But the moment in the speech that really stood out not just because of
what the president said but because of how the crowd reacted to what he
said, the moment that really stood out I think will most be remembered was
this one. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m going off script her for a second, but before I -- before
I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to
22. And talking to them, they weren`t that different from my daughters.
They weren`t that different from your daughters, or sons.
I honestly believe that if -- if any Israel parent sat down with those
kids, they`d say, I want these kids to succeed. I want them to prosper. I
want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. I believe that`s
what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had chance to listen
to them and talk to them. I believe that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama asking Israelis to put themselves in
Palestinians` shoes, look at the world through their eyes. That is not an
easy ask for either side of the conflict, right? Those were the words he
used. He said it was not fair on point today that a Palestinian child
cannot grow up in a state of his or her own.
He called for peace as a means toward not just political stability but
And the Israeli audience cheered and applauded throughout those
remarks and gave him a giant sustained standing ovation at the end. Do you
ever feel the conversation over there about the conflict they`re living
through is more nuanced and even more sane than the conversation over here
about what they`re live through.
On days like today, you are correct in that assessment, which brings
us to this. After that big speech that was so well-received by that huge
Israeli audience in Jerusalem, President Obama was honored at state dinner.
He was awarded the Israeli Medal of Distinction, which is the highest honor
a civilian can receive in Israel. He is the first sitting president to
ever receive this award.
Israel President Shimon Peres said to President Obama, quote, "The
people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution
to their security. He called the President Obama, "Dear Barack."
So, that was what was happening live in Israel.
Here at home, this is what the coverage of that event looked like in
the cable news-a-sphere. CNN and MSNBC are carrying it live, showing the
president of the United States receiving this medal at a big state dinner
in a foreign country.
The FOX News Channel, however, is pretending like it is not happening.
They`re talking about repealing Obamacare instead.
So, this is what the three cable news networks looked like in snapshot
at 2:24 p.m. I know that because this news meeting for this show was going
on and on the wall there was the live feed of the three networks at
precisely 2:24 p.m. this afternoon.
We`re all watching as the Israel president is trying President Obama,
"I know that you will never stop striving for a better world." And as he
was speaking those very words live, as seen on MSNBC and CNN, what was
running on FOX News instead was a commercial for their new special on
President Obama as an enemy of Israel.
That is the ad they`re running instead of the live feed of the
government of Israel giving President Obama the highest honor a civilian
can receive from the Israeli government. Seriously! You want to see what
they were running? You know you do. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The state of Israel will have no greater friend than the
ANNOUNCER: But with a friend like Obama, are Israel`s enemies gaining
strength? Sean gets expert insight on a special "Hannity".
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Aah! That is what FOX News was telling its audience of
American conservatives instead of showing this happening in Israel, in real
life, in the actual world, at that very moment. They report, you decide.
Just amazing. Amazing.
MADDOW: We`ve got the interview coming up.
And among the more disturbing gun crimes in our country recently was
the murder of Colorado`s head of Department of Corrections. He was shot in
cold blood when he answered his front door Tuesday night.
At the moment, no known motive for this killing but the political
backdrop in Colorado and crime story incidental to the murder have made
this both a fascinating and important story right now. And we have new
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Are you familiar with the fine art of dog shaming? Dogs do
naughty dog things and their owners who love them write out their crime on
placard of some kind and make their dog pose with it.
Doggie crimes run the gamut of eating a forbidden food, to making a
mess with food, to eating another animal`s food, to hiding things. I hid
meat in the couch.
Also, destroying something of value, that`s a popular one. Far and
away the most popular reason dogs get shamed on the internet is pop-related
-- either popping where they`re not supposed to or -- yes, that.
The whole idea of dog shaming is adorable to the extent that dogs are
adorable, right? But the idea overall is to make their malfeasance known,
to make it into a visual thing. The images are easy to remember. They
have a way of sticking in your head. It is a useful tactic, dog-wise.
Right now, as we speak, veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
are using a very similar tactic for a much bigger deal reason. They`re not
dog shaming, they are V.A. shaming. Shaming the Veterans Administration
for the jaw dropping number of days that the they, our veterans, personally
or having to wait for their benefits claims to be processed.
And the wait is very, very long. Look at this. Deployment to Iraq:
341 days. V.A. claim, 1,099 days. That`s more than three years.
Look at this one: 642 days. That`s how long this veteran has been
waiting for his benefits, almost two years.
Or this one, 584 days.
Or this one, 366 days.
These experiences that these veterans and families are having are not
outliers. The average wait time is nine months to hear back, that`s the
average. Nine months to clear through the V.A. And actually, it`s even
longer for our newest veterans, specifically if you fought in Afghanistan
and Iraq. The even more worrying problem about this backlog is that over
the last few years, instead of getting better, this problem has gotten
worst. It is trending in the wrong direction.
This is the woman in charge of -- sorry. This is a hearing at which
the V.A.`s backlog is being described. The woman who is in charge of
managing benefits claims at the V.A. is the person who runs the Veteran`s
Benefits Administration, the VBA.
This week, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs called on the head
of the VBA to testify about the insane backlog. The woman who heads the
VBA is called Allison Hickey. She said her department has a plan to fix it
by transitioning to an all electronic system for processing claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLISON HICKEY, VA UNDERSECRETARY FOR BENEFITS: The Veterans Benefit
Management System is our Web-based, electronic claims processing solution.
With the integration of VBMS and the online portal benefits, we`ve achieved
an end to end digital filing capability, veterans can now file a claim
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The goal overall is to fix the problem in two years.
Although some veterans organizations say the V.A. is doing the best it can,
others are not feeling optimistic or satisfied. This person here, the
chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs this week called on
Allison Hickey to resign her job.
The largest organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, IAVA, Iraq
and Afghanistan Veterans of America, they have now publicly announced they
want President Obama to intervene, to personally take charge of this
problem, to appoint a presidential commission to figure out how to fix this
Veterans with IAVA have spent the week this week in D.C. as part of a
lobbying effort they call "Storm the Hill". Their efforts this year are
dedicated to just one issue, ending the V.A. backlog.
While a lot of Americans have spent the week this week recognizing it
has been 10 years since the start of the war in Iraq, the people who fought
that war in our name, they have had to spend this week on Capitol Hill,
storming Capitol Hill, as they say, to try to get the things we as a
country already promised them, the things we are failing miserably to
Joining us now for the interview is Paul Rieckhoff, executive director
of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, along with former Air Force
special agent, Will Simmons (ph).
As you can see here, they are flanked by their fellow vets, and one
service dog. These guys spent the day in D.C. today lobbying Congress and
the White House to end the V.A. backlog. I want to thank you all for being
It`s good to see you all here.
Paul, thank you in particular for pulling this together. I really
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IAVA: Rachel, thank you for having our platoon and
thanks for the bus to get us here.
MADDOW: I know you guys met with members of Congress and Secretary
Hagel, the defense secretary. I know you met with the White House chief of
I have to ask if you have anything concrete, anything satisfying, what
has the response been like, so far?
RIECKHOFF: No, we haven`t gotten anything concrete. What we`re
really looking for is a pretty simple solution. These veterans standing
behind me represent our national membership that cares deeply about this
issue. They have come from 22 states to be here. They left their
families, jobs, school to spend the week volunteering on Capitol Hill to
send a very clear message to the president and the V.A. backlog.
This has gone in long enough. In cities like New York, the wait is
over 600 days. In Los Angeles, it`s over 600 days. In Reno, Nevada, it`s
close to 600 days.
We think that`s unacceptable. We know the American people when they
hear about this are going to find it`s unacceptable, too. So, that`s why
we`ve got a petition. That`s why we`ve been rallying all week and we`re
not going to stop until that number gets to zero.
MADDOW: Will Simmons, former Air Force special agent, can you
describe to us -- put a face us to, tell us your personal experience having
to wait this long. What were you waiting for and what were the
consequences of you having to go through this wait?
WILL SIMMONS, AIR FORCE SPECIAL AGENT: Absolutely. Thank you again
for having me. I will come out publicly and say I have PTSD. Something I
had to come through and share my story and admit that. It`s been a long
hard road to come to that.
When I finally came through to that and came from a very dark spot
sometimes I really thought it wasn`t worth living, I went to get help at
the V.A., and was met with nothing but resistance. I cannot get the V.A.
to even call me back so I can file my claim and I can`t even be part of the
backlog, because I can`t get anybody to respond to me.
My mental health appointments take four to five weeks to get
scheduled. And when they`re scheduled and broken by the V.A., it takes
another six weeks to get this. But I`m fortunate. I have an amazing
family and amazing wife that supports me and gets me through.
But there`s 22 veterans everyday showing the system is not working
then killing themselves. That`s something we need to stop. Again, I`m the
fortunate one and there`s a backlog that has to be ended.
MADDOW: Paul, let me ask you about the political response thus far.
There`s nobody in American politics and nobody in the press and comments on
this at all who said this is OK, they think they`re satisfied with the
situation. Everybody says something has to be done. We hear that from
Congress. We hear that from the Senate. We hear that from the V.A.
Why are you now calling on President Obama personally to get involved?
You`re calling for a presidential commission. Why do you think that would
RIECKHOFF: Because we`re tired of the rhetoric. We need results.
The only thing that matters is whether or not our veterans are getting the
benefits they deserve. And we don`t think we should have to wait until the
end of 2015 to have this system cleaned up. It`s clear the V.A. can`t
handle it. The backlog and disability and number of claims waiting
continues to go up.
The DOD is also a part of this. So, we need the president to step in
and fix it. Put the full creativity and intelligence and power of the
American public and White House behind it. You know, we`re not asking to
put somebody on Mars. We`re asking to fix a broken paperwork process.
Right now, 97 percent of these claims are still on paper. Let`s go
above the V.A., let`s go above the DOD, let`s go to the commander in chief
and get him involved. We need him to fix it. That`s what we told the
White House this and that`s what we need the American people to tell him.
We`ve got a petition on our Web site, at IAVAI.org. Sign that
petition and let`s altogether as a nation send a message to the president
we`re going to end this V.A. backlog.
MADDOW: In thinking about how we get from the widespread outrage on
this now, Will, let me ask you this as well, toward the kind of aim that
Paul is talking about there, toward fixing it -- Will, when you were up on
Capitol Hill, and you`re able to meet face to face and eye-to-eye
policymakers and talk to them about this, do you feel veterans being able
to tell these stories personally, you being able to tell your personal
story is reaching these policymakers in a way they have not been reached
before? Are you guys able to actually impart the necessary urgency?
Did it feel that way this week?
SIMMONS: There were some meetings this week that yes, I felt my story
opened some eyes and I became a face with an actual problems. There was
others that gladly took the meeting, yes, but I don`t feel I connected with
them. That`s very frustrating, because I`m here representing the face you
read about, that you hear about. I`m the neighbor, I`m the constituent.
I`m the constituent. I`m the person right next door that now has a problem
calling on you to do something.
So, for the most part we did get a lot of good reception but not
enough. We need 100 percent backing us and ending this backlog.
MADDOW: Will Simmons, former Air Force special agent, Iraq war
veteran, Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan
Veterans of America, also an Iraq war veteran. All of you guys, I know you
don`t have ear pieces in. I`m sure you can hear me from there. Thank you
all for doing this and thank you for being with us tonight.
I know it`s been a very long week and very long day and finishing it
tonight with us in this way, it means the world to me. So, thank you.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you, Rachel. It means the world to us. Thank you
from all of us. We appreciate it very much.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: New details emerge today on the killing of Colorado`s prison
chief on Tuesday. That`s coming up.
Plus, an emotionally salient programming note for all of us here on
MSNBC. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: Updates tonight on the strange and worrying case of a cabinet
official in the state of Colorado, who was murdered in his home on Tuesday
night. The killing happens here at Tom Clements home in Monument,
Colorado, just before 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday night. A witnesses described
possibly seeing a black Lincoln or a blank Cadillac idling outside the
victim`s home, about 15 minutes before the shooting.
Authorities thereby called it a vehicle of interest.
Late this morning, at about 11:00 a.m. Central Time, more than 500
miles away in Texas, a deputy tried to pull over a man heading south in a
black Cadillac, with Colorado license plates. It was just a routine
traffic violation. But the driver of the car responded by opening fire on
the deputy, shooting and hitting him three times before taking off.
He then sped in and out of traffic at 100 miles an hour, shooting out
the window of his car at the officers who are following him in the high
speed chase. Ultimately he crashed the car into an 18-wheeler. He got out
of the car again, fired on the officers again, the officers returned fire,
and he was hit.
Well, tonight, Colorado investigators are on their way to Texas to
determine whether that man in the high speed chase might be linked to the
killing of Tom Clements, the Colorado prisons chief.
Law enforcement officials say the man is still unidentified. He`s in
a Fort Worth hospital tonight where they have finger-printed him, but he is
in their words, quote, "basically legally dead." He has been kept alive on
life support machines after reportedly being shot in the head in that
The deputy who he shot was wearing a bullet proof vest and was also
shot in the head, but the deputy`s wound is described only as a grazing
wound and he is certainly expected to survive.
Colorado investigators will now be working alongside the Texas Rangers
in the investigation, but because Tom Clements was the prisons chief in
Colorado, the Texas state division that investigates anything that happens
within Texas` prison systems is also going to be involved in the
investigation now, and law enforcement official say the FBI was on-scene
this afternoon as well, making phone calls.
Colorado`s governor has reacted to all this by saying, quote, "We
don`t know yet exactly whether this is the guy. There is some indication.
I hope it is."
Of course, the overall story here is still that we do not know what
the motive might be for the killing of Tom Clements, whether it was related
to his job running the prisons or to Colorado state politics more broadly,
or to neither of those issues. Tuesday night`s shooting, of course,
happened just hours before the Colorado governor was due to sign into law
the hotly contested new gun reform legislation that state lawmakers passed
last week. Governor Hickenlooper announced the details of the murder, of
the state`s prison director at 8:30 a.m. local time yesterday, and then
went on as scheduled later that morning to sign into law his state`s new
background checks legislation and a new state limit on extended magazines
for ammunition and semiautomatic rifles and handguns.
Law enforcement sources have said there -- have not said there is any
reason to connect the killing of states prisons chief to his work in the
prisons or broader political issues in Colorado. Still, though, in
response to the murder, security has been upped, both for the governor
himself and for other members of the state`s cabinet.
Now, one possible connection between Tom Clements` work and
potentially -- a potential motive for his murder, one potential connection,
at least, that is getting a lot of attention in the Colorado press is Tom
Clements` direct involvement in the case of a man named Homaidan al-Turki,
who`s now serving at a prison sentence ion Colorado. It was almost seven
years ago that Mr. Al-Turki was convicted of keeping a woman as a virtual
slave in his house, sexually assaulting her.
Last week, Tom Clements wrote to Mr. Al-Turki personally to let him
know that he, Tom Clements, was denying his request to serve out the
remainder of his sentence in Saudi Arabia, which is Mr. Al-Turki`s home
Today, prison officials moved Mr. Al-Turki to solitary confinement,
they said, for his own protection because of all the media attention on his
case after Mr. Clements` murder.
Officials stress that the decision was not directly related to the
Clements murder investigation, they say that Mr. Al-Turki was not being
punished. They say it is simply because of the publicity.
It is very disturbing to have a public official murdered ever. Even
more unsettling, when it happens so inexplicably, when you don`t know why.
There is also the possibility the killing was entirely unrelated to
his status as a public official. It could just have been either personal
or completely random. We learned today that Colorado deputies, for
example, are looking into a possible link to a Craigslist ad that Tom
Clements posted on the day of the killing. They`re investigating whether
the person who shot him might have gone to his home on the pretense of
buying the bicycle that was posted in the ad.
The El Paso County sheriff`s office is reportedly checking Mr.
Clements` cell phone records to see who he had been speaking to in the days
before his death.
As yet, this remains an absolutely open question. The significance of
what happened hire in terms of its broader connection to politics and
public policy and also just the tragedy of this death. No suspects in
custody, and no word yet on a motive. But we will keep you posted.
MADDOW: Tomorrow night, right here at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, instead of a
normal edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, we`re going to be re-airing the
MSNBC documentary "Hubris" about the selling of the Iraq war. Hubris is
going to air at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and the, right afterwards at 10:00 p.m.,
it`s a post "Hubris" special, essentially, hosted by our own Chris Hayes.
So 9:00 p.m. tomorrow, "Hubris"; 10:00 p.m. is the "Hubris" post-show,
including new clips that were not included in the documentary and that have
never been seen before.
Now, we originally aired this documentary last month. It got a ton of
eyeballs when we did for which we are all very grateful. It`s actually the
most-watched documentary on MSNBC in a decade. We specifically timed the
debut of the film to coincide not with the invasion of Iraq, but with the
selling of that invasion, the lying to the American people. That`s why
"Hubris" originally aired last month, and not this week, on the anniversary
of the invasion.
But it turns out that "Hubris", having its re-air tomorrow really
could not have come at a better time, because something remarkable has
happened this week as the country marked the tenth anniversary of the war.
This week at the 10-year mark, the folks whose idea that war was in the
first place have started coming out of the woodwork to tell their side of
things. Not to apologize for their role in arguably the worst foreign
policy disaster and deception in a century, but to say actually it wasn`t a
disaster or a deception, it was a great idea and they`re not sorry and
everything worked out great.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: You try to do everything you
can diplomatically, without resort to force, but our history is replete
with examples where ultimately we had to use force.
INTERVIEWER: And the argument that this was a war you wanted?
CHENEY: Wanted? Why, because we like war?
I did what I did. It`s all on the public record. And I feel very
good about it.
If I had to do it over again, I would do it in a minute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I feel very good about it. What`s there to feel bad about?
One of Dick Cheney`s main cohorts in selling the Iraq war to the American
people was this guy, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
Here was his contribution to the discussion this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FORMER DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: It`s democratic
maybe by a very low standard. But it`s night and day in improvement over
how these people were suffering under Saddam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That argument, that the war was worth it, because the Iraqi
people are now free. That argument, which was not at all the argument for
invading in the first place, that was also advanced this week by Paul
Wolfowitz` old bass, a man named Donald Rumsfeld. Donald Rumsfeld tweeted
on the morning of the Iraq invasion anniversary, quote, "Ten years ago
began the long, difficult work of liberating 25 million Iraqis, all who
played a role in history, deserve our respect and appreciation."
Yes, remember that war of Iraqi liberation that we were asked to sign
up for as a country? You don`t remember that? It`s because that`s not
what they sold us. That`s not what they told us that war was for. They`re
retroactively defining it that way.
This is Richard Perle. Richard Perle is one of the neocons pushing
the discredited evidence of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear and
biological weapons labs in Iraq. Richard Perle also reemerged this week to
share this bit of self reflection.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NPR HOST: Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead,
thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or
wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?
RICHARD PERLE: I`ve got to say, I think that is not a reasonable
question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was
necessary to protect this nation. You can`t a decade later go back and say
we shouldn`t have done that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even asking whether or not it was worth it is not a
What happened this week was honestly sort of jaw-dropping. I did not
foresee this kind of lack of self reflection and even pride among these
folks ahead of it happening this week. It was a parade of former Bush
administration officials to say not only did they personally do nothing
wrong, but the Iraq war turned out great. It was the right decision to
liberate those people and how dare we try to second-guess them all these
I did not expect such bald revisionist history. And it makes me very
happy we have decided to re-air our documentary on what they did wrong on
the selling of that war tomorrow night. Even though it has been 10 years
since the war was sold to the American public, the folks who did the
selling, you know what, they did it all on tape, and the tape still exists.
And now, the people involved in those decisions are coming forward to talk
about it, to say it didn`t happen at all the way it really did.
"Hubris" airs 9:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night, followed directly
after by "Talking Hubris, hosted by Chris Hayes. If you saw it the first
time, please check it out again. Certainly check out the Chris Hayes
special thereafter. If you have not seen it, I promise, it will be worth
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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