'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, March 28th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 28, 2013
Guests: Richard Blumenthal
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us
There are new developments in tonight in the murder of the Colorado
prisons chief, a second person has been arrested in conjunction with the
Now, the story here is this: last week, on Tuesday night, just hours
before Colorado`s governor was due to sign historic new gun legislation for
that state, just hours before that bill signing, the head of Colorado
prison, he was at home, someone rang his doorbell, he answered the door and
he was shot dead on his doorstep.
The following day, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado announced the
murder at an emotional press conference early in the morning and he went
ahead with the bill signing as planned. The following day, on Thursday,
600 miles away, in north central Texas, a sheriff`s deputy tried to pull
over for a routine traffic violation a car that matched the description of
the car that had been seen near prison chief Tom Clements` home in Colorado
the night of the murder.
When the sheriff`s deputy tried to pull him over for apparently
running a red light, the driver of the car pulled out a gun and shot the
deputy three times and then took off. There was a 100 mile-an-hour car
chase through Texas. It ended in a crash and then another shootout with
police. The driver of the car was shot and killed by police that day.
Now, we subsequently learned the shooter was this man, a parolee who
had been in and out of Colorado prisons for a decade and who was released
most recently from a stint that involved significant time in solitary
confinement this past January.
Texas law enforcement reports that there were also bomb making
materials in the suspect`s vehicle. So, obviously, Texas authorities are
very interested where this young man was going next with the bomb-making
materials. Crucially, authorities are also reporting that the ballistics
test they did on the governor recovered in Texas showed that the gun used
in the shootout with Texas police was the same gun, the same gun used to
kill Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements.
Now, though, a second person has been arrested in conjunction with
this murder. The arrest was made last night. The arraignment was today.
The "Denver Post" today ran this image of the arrestee`s lawyer trying to
himself avoid being photographed at the arraignment.
The person arrested in the case is this young woman, 22 years old,
reportedly lives with her parents in Commerce City, Colorado. Her
relationship with the dead suspect in the Tom Clements murder is as yet
unknown. But what she has been arrested for or charged with is getting him
Remember, he was only released from prison in January. He is a
convicted felon. Convicted felons are not legally allowed to get guns.
That`s what background checks are for, and that is the root of the argument
why background checks should apply to all gun sales, so convicted felons
will be blocked by the background check system no matter where they try to
buy themselves a gun.
Well, in this case, it is alleged the suspect, Evan Ebel, the way he
got around his background check problem, which he could not pass a
background check because he is a felon, the way he got around the problem
is he got her to buy the gun, he got her to buy the gun because she could
pass the background check and so then, once she had the gun, she passed it
on to him. If that is what happened and what`s alleged by this arrest,
what happened there is called a straw purchase.
A straw purchase is illegal. But it`s not very illegal. The "Denver
Post" called the head of the Denver division of the ATF to get some context
on this new arrest, this new development in the case. And he told them,
quote, "There`s little to no punishment for being a straw purchaser. Gang
members know it, drug trafficking organizations know it."
When Democrats move some elements of President Obama`s proposed gun
reforms through the Senate Judiciary Committee a couple of weeks ago, the
measure that would have increased in the penalties for straw purchasing
that would have made it a felony and a bigger deal, that measure passed out
of committee with all the Democratic votes on the committee but only one
Republican, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was the only one, all the other
Republican senators on the committee voted against strengthening the
penalties for straw purchases, penalties for people who buy a weapon
because they can pass the background check and then they knowingly pass the
weapon off to someone who cannot pass the background check.
These are the senators who voted against that in committee, Orrin
Hatch, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake and Jeff
Sessions. They all voted against toughening the penalties for straw
purchases. There`s that news today.
Also today, there has been a huge release of new information about the
elementary school shooting at Newtown, Connecticut -- information in some
cases different from what we thought we had known before.
In detailed, very long search warrant reports released by Connecticut
prosecutors today, we learned a lot of new information about Sandy Hook. We
learned about the large numbers of weapons of all kinds record from home to
of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, a lot of different knives and
swords and blades. A number of guns, including the gun the shooter used to
kill his mother before going to the school that morning, and a huge amount,
myriad of different kinds of ammunition -- a lot of shotgun ammunition,
some handgun ammunition and ammunition for the rifle with which the shooter
killed 20 1st graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary.
We also learned more today and different details than we have been
told previously about how the shooter at Sandy Hook was able to do so much
damage, to kill so many kids, to shoot so many rounds into so many people
so quickly that it was over before police could arrive even though police
responded within minutes. We had previously been told that the killer shot
152 bullets in less than five minutes. We`re still told that it was less
than five minutes but now we`re told it was 154 bullets.
Quoting from the prosecutor today, "The shooter shot his way into the
building and killed 20 children and six adults with a Bushmaster .223
caliber model XM 15. One hundred and fifty-four spent .223 casings were
recovered from the scene. It`s currently estimated that the time for when
the shooter shot his way into the school until he took his own life was
less than five minutes.
Recovered from the person of the shooter were three 30-round magazines
for the Bushmaster, each containing 30 rounds, located in the area of the
shootings were six additional 30 round magazines containing zero rounds,
zero rounds, zero rounds, 10 rounds, 11 rounds and 13 rounds respectively."
So, this is the really new information here. The new and potentially
important information, about the masks not all being empty when they were
found. They were all 30-round magazines, extended magazines, the kind of
extend size magazines that used to be banned for sale under the assault
weapons ban that expired in 2004. Presuming that all the 30-round
magazines started full, that he put 30 bullets in each one, that means he
shot through all 30 bullets in the first magazine, all 30 bullets in the
seconds magazine, all 30 bullets in a third magazine, but with the other
three, he did not shoot all the way through them before he discarded them
and loaded in a new full one.
I mean, if there were 10 rounds and 11 rounds and 13 rounds left in
those magazines that he ejected that they found on the scene, that means he
didn`t shoot all the way through them, he didn`t shoot all 30. He shot 20
bullets, 19 bullets, 17 bullets, before popping out that magazine and
getting a fresh one.
There were also still rounds in the rifle when they found him. "The
Hartford Courant" reporting today that the shooter only stopped shooting
because the gun apparently jammed. "The Courant" also reporting today,
quote, "police have the theorized that the shooter may have been simulating
the video games that he loved to play by switching out the ammunition in
the bushmaster as he moved from room to room and before the magazine was
empty. It is a characteristic of hard core gamers to constantly switch
magazines so that they are never out of ammunition when entering a room."
Whether or not that is actually what he was doing -- remember that
"Courant" is subscribing that as police theorizing, whether or not that`s
actually what he was doing, we now know with certainty that the shooter
used only high capacity magazines at Sandy Hook and we know that was a
Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut noting today, we know he used 30-
round magazines to do it and they allowed him to do maximum damage in a
very short period of time and we now know that he left the lower capacity
magazines at home.
Remember, we`ve now got the search warrants and so now we know what
was there. Every bit of ammo, every firearm in the shooter`s home is
thought to have been purchased legally. His mother was not out there on
the black market buying illegal or illegally modified weapons.
She bought firearms and ammunition like a law abiding citizen. She
bought what was legal. She would have only been able to buy 10 round
magazines if the assault weapons ban had not been allowed to expire in 2004
or that had been brought back after it expired. She and her son did have
at least one of those not extended magazines lying around in their well-
But think about it, why bring that to the scene you want to kill as
many first graders as possible? Why bring it bring to the elementary
school? Why bring the little 10-round magazine? Why handicap yourself
with a 10-round magazine when you can instead kill so many more people so
much faster with the big magazines?
So leave that one at home but bring the 30-rounders.
Part of the Beltway common wisdom that nothing is going to happen, but
there is a Connecticut effect and it`s wearing off and people don`t care
anymore and so, the NRA will win again because nobody cares to insist on
even very popular policies that they opposed -- that the NRA opposes.
One of the constituent parts of that common wisdom is that presidents
cannot stay focused on issues like this for very long. Presidents don`t
stay focused on this stuff after the immediate impact wears off. A
president will not stick with it to fight the inertia the NRA is counting
This president has not been like that. This president has been pretty
much relentless on this issue for 100 straight days now. Today, President
Obama hosted families from Sandy Hook, from Newtown at the White House.
And he took on, head on that common wisdom if you just wait long enough, we
will all stop caring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I read an article in
the news just the other day wondering is Washington -- has Washington
missed its opportunity because as time goes on after Newtown, somehow
people start moving on and forgetting? Let me tell you -- the people here,
they don`t forget. Grace`s dad is not forgetting. Hadiya`s mom hasn`t
The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific
as what happened in Newtown happens and we`ve moved on to other things --
that`s not who we are. That`s not who we are.
I want to make sure every American is listening today. Less than 100
days ago that happened and the entire country was shocked. The entire
country pledged we would do something about it and this time would be
Shame on us if we`ve forgotten.
I haven`t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we`ve forgotten.
Tears aren`t enough, expressions of sympathy aren`t enough. Speeches
We`ve cried enough, we`ve known enough heartbreak. What we`re
proposing is not radical. It`s not taking way anybody`s gun rights. It`s
something that if we are serious, we will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal, senior senator
from the state of Connecticut.
Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for being here tonight. I
really appreciate your time, sir.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you. Great to be
with you again.
MADDOW: President Obama said today if we are serious we will get
something done on gun safety. You and I have talked a hot about whether or
not that`s going to happen. Hundred days in, at over 100 days in now,
what`s your assessment of the trajectory that we`re on?
BLUMENTHAL: We are going to have votes. The president called for
votes for the sake of the victims and their families for all Americans and
those votes will be in April. We have a critical task during these next
few weeks which the president described very, very eloquently and
powerfully, which is to mobilize that majority of Americans, the 90
percent, and 80 percent, that are for common sense and sensible measures on
gun violence and make sure that their voices are heard.
The president said very movingly, nothing is more powerful than
millions of voices calling for change. But those voices are a silent
majority that needs to be vocal and need to be galvanized and organized.
So, I think the votes can be there for a ban on illegal trafficking. The
instance you described earlier involving Evan Ebel who killed Tom Clement,
the correction officer in Colorado, and killed another person on his way to
shooting the police officer who tried to apprehend him.
Classic straw purchase and should be banned, would be banned under the
Senate bill. Background checks to prevent him from having weapons,
deranged people like Adam Lanza from having access.
You know, the sheer volume of bullets and ammunition and rounds in
that war arsenal is absolutely stunning. And we need to make sure that we
keep those ammunition and firearms out of the hands of dangerous people.
And, finally, school safety and mental health issues, those core provisions
I think have a lot of support. We need Americans to remind my colleagues
in the Senate their voices have to be heard.
MADDOW: It struck me today that we`ve been chronicling on this show
the relentless political activism on this issue, that the Beltway common
wisdom implies that people are going to forget about it because people are
just going to stop talking about it. And people haven`t stop talking about
it, in part because there has been so much organized political pressure.
At a grassroots level, people are not letting this go. But it struck
me today in following these new revelations, both from the Newtown shooting
but also from Colorado corrections police shooting, part of the reason the
pressure doesn`t feel like it`s letting up is because everyday, there`s a
new revelation about a new horrific national implications piece of gun
violence. And it seems like the mere prevalence of the amount of gun
violence in the country is enough to keep this in the headlines provided
that we see those as having political consequences.
I wonder if you see it that way.
BLUMENTHAL: I think that these kinds of rampant violent acts. And,
remember, it`s 2,500 more people have been killed since Newtown alone.
Thirty thousand, I think, a year are killed as a result of gun violence.
This problem afflicts our neighborhoods and streets throughout the country
in urban environments and suburban. All across the country, everybody has
a stake in it.
And the repeated acts, I think, do have a political impact. But the
revelation`s also about the Newtown search warrants drive home the fact
that the size of the magazines makes a real difference. As you put it very
well, Adam Lanza left at home the small capacity magazine because he knew
the more bullets he could fire more rapidly more lethally, the more
destructive he could be.
And the same is true of the AR-15. So, that`s why I am going to be
helping to lead a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines that
will be offered as amendment. It may not be part of the core bill that
goes to the floor of the Senate, but it will offered and I`m hopeful there
will be votes on it.
MADDOW: Senator Richard Blumenthal, senior senator from Connecticut,
member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- thank you for being here
tonight, sir. I really appreciate your willingness to coming back. Thank
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: People in the gun reform debate who say there`s no functional
difference between assault rifles and other kinds of rifles, between
extended magazines and normal magazines and the people who commit mass
shootings think there`s a difference. The shooter in Newtown left his 10-
round magazine at home and took the 30s when he went to that school. He
also left a bolt action rifle at home and took the semi-automatic assault
They make these decisions when they`re being strategic wanting to kill
a lot of people all at once.
We can be strategic about that, too. I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Today was the day the group formed out of the Obama-Biden
reelection, the group Organizing for Action, today was the day they did gun
reform events all over the country. Across the country today, people from
West Palm Beach, Florida, to Norristown, Pennsylvania, to Indianapolis, to
Phoenix to lots of other cities around the country, rallies and events
reportedly more than 100 of them, planned by Organizing for Actions and
Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns also released this rather powerful new ad.
Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We dropped Jesse off in the morning December 14th,
gave me a hug and kiss and said, I love you dad and I love mom, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our daughter, Grace, was 7 years old. She
couldn`t wait to go to school. She would skip down the driveway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister loved teaching at Sandy Hook. Every
student would say, I hope I get Ms. Soto next year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lauren loved children and she always wanted to
be a teacher.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a 911 call there was a shooting at Sandy
Hook Elementary School.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to remember the 26 victims who lost
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just wanted to teach little kids. That was
her goal and she died doing it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the last day I ever saw Jesse alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to prevent any other family from having to
go through what we`re going through.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don`t let the memory of Newtown fade without
doing something real.
ANNOUNCER: Demand action now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That ad is supposed to air on cable TV and on broadcast TV,
specifically in Connecticut. It`s targeted at the Connecticut state
legislature. It`s meant to get them to enact gun reforms like
comprehensive background checks and ban on high capacity magazines in their
state, in the state where Newtown happened. New York state and Colorado
have taken those kinds of actions since Newtown but Connecticut has not.
Connecticut Democrats say they planned to but yet to pass any new
legislation since Newtown. Mayors Against Illegal Guns frankly not just
with this ad but everything they`re doing are kind of in overdrive right
In addition to these ads and 100 events today around the country with
OFA, they also earlier this week announced a $12 million ad buy, which is a
huge buy particularly we`re not at an election, right, a $12 million ad buy
for ads to run in states where the group says they think they can most
influence, the upcoming Senate vote on gun control efforts.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns have timed this huge ad buy specifically
to the congressional recess that is happening right now. The House and
Senate are not in session right now. They`re on break. And the idea with
running the ads now is that senators are home in their districts and they
will see this ad airing in their hometown media, and so will their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, guns are for hunting and protecting my
family. I believe in the Second Amendment and I`ll fight to protect it.
But with rights come responsibilities. That`s why I support comprehensive
background checks so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can`t buy
guns. That protects my rights and my family.
ANNOUNCER: Tell Congress don`t protect criminals, vote to protect gun
rights and our families with comprehensive background checks. Demand
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the ad with the $12 million buy. It`s targeted
specifically at 15 senators, 10 Republicans and five Democrats. One of
those five Democrats, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, has now come out this week
to say he supports background checks.
If you`re wondering if this strategy is likely to be more broadly
effective, well, one metric there is the right thinks it`s going to be
effective. It seems they`re worried enough about it potentially being
effective that they`re freaking out about it.
The FOX News Channel, our friends across the street, have taken to
denouncing the ad as fake -- as obviously, fake because obviously no real
responsible gun owner would advocate for background checks for gun
purchases. They have decided on FOX dayside now and on FOX`s morning show
now that the reason you can tell this ad cannot possibly depict an
authentic, actual gun owner, is because as you can see in the ad, he`s
pointing his gun at the children.
Seriously, that is the argument FOX News Channel is making to assure
its viewers in these states who are going to be seeing $12 million worth of
this ad that it cannot possibly be an authentic gun owner would support
background checks. FOX says you can see in this ad isn`t a real
responsible gun owner who owns a shotgun because as you can see in the ad
he`s pointing the ad at the children. That`s the way it`s being described
on FOX News now.
And that is a great argument for the blind people who watch FOX News,
who cannot actually see the ad themselves and have it described to them by
someone who will not lie to them about what the ad actually shows, the way
that FOX News will lie to them. Kind of makes you think it`s getting under
their skin, doesn`t it?
MADDOW: My guest coming up on the show tonight is Mr. Eight O`clock,
Chris Hayes, 8:00. Chris Hayes, 8:00. Chris Hayes, 8:00. Just keep
MADDOW: March 29th, 1973 was a chaotic day in this exact building I
sit right now. And I know it was chaotic not because I was here on March
29th, 1973. I was a couple of days away from being born. I know it was
chaotic here that night because of what happened on the air that night from
this building which broadcast to NBC News.
This is how "NBC Nightly News" started that night broadcast. Now, as
a general rule of thumb in television, keep in mind that a black screen
with no pictures on it is not a good thing, particularly during "The
Nightly News." But that`s what they had that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: This day will go down in history on the 29th of March,
1973, any United States ended its active involvement in the Vietnam war,
the day Americans had prayed for has finally come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A complete lack of pictures. The visuals all fell through
for the lead story on the "Nightly News". But that was not enough reason
to kill the lead story because the lead story was a huge historic harry
March 29th, 1973, 40 years ago tomorrow, the very last American combat
troops left Vietnam, nine years after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which
we were told that a North Vietnamese boat fired on an American destroyer
unprovoked and for no reason at all. After nearly 60,000 Americans were
killed in that war, the last of our combat troops left Vietnam 40 years ago
We think of the Vietnam War as having fundamentally changed us as a
country. It really did. I mean, it changed us in a bunch of different
ways, even for people who did not fight in the war. The movement to stop
the war ended up having a profound social impact on our country, defined a
decade or more for people in the anti-war movement and people who weren`t
in the movement but who saw our nation`s politics changed by it.
In foreign policy terms, Vietnam changed us to the extent that
something like a Gulf of Tonkin disaster was not supposed to happen. We
weren`t supposed to get into another war in which our leaders were not
honest with us about why we were getting into it in the first place. We
were not supposed to do that again.
We did, of course, do that again but we at least thought that was not
supposed to happen.
The other way that Vietnam changed us was supposed to have changed us
as a country, specifically about the Americans who fought there -- long,
very bloody, guerrilla conflict fought significantly by men conscripted to
go there, who did not want to fight it, but who were made to. And then
after our troops got home from the war that we sent them to fight, too
often with too much regularity, we failed to separate the men who had no
choice to fight or the men who chose to fight from the fact that the war
they fought was an unpopular war.
The more than 2.5 million veterans of the war in Vietnam were not
welcomed home the way they should have been. And that translated too much
of the time into them also not getting medical care and benefits and policy
attention they deserved and been promised when they went over there.
After Vietnam, however else it did or did not change us as a country,
we vowed that the way that Vietnam veterans were treated when they came
home, we vowed that would not happen again. We would not make that mistake
again. We will no longer and never again compound the impact of war itself
on veterans by disrespecting their war-time service, even if we didn`t like
The aftermath of the Vietnam War made that a nonpartisan commitment in
our country. And yet right now, with the war in Iraq over and with the end
of the war in Afghanistan, at least in sight, we are screwing some stuff up
when it comes to how we`re treating our veterans, coming home from our
generation`s long wars. It`s not at all like it was after Vietnam. It has
very different contours, there is still a problem.
When our veterans return home with disabilities and they cannot work
because of their service connected disabilities, they file for disability
benefits. Those new first-time claims are taking nine months on average to
process, for some people taking years.
There`s a benefits backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs that
is embarrassing. The problem did not start under President Obama but it
also did not get better over the course of his administration and thus far.
It`s gotten worse.
And part of the problem is that in the last few years, we have had way
more veterans who are eligible for all sorts of benefits. But those were
policy changes that were made. And so, they are made overtly and we knew
that the consequences would be way more veterans in the system. We`ve also
had way more veterans returning from war than any time in the last decade.
But, again, that was foreseeable.
The Obama`s administration`s V.A. just has more claims to process.
That is true, but also on purpose. And it`s true that the V.A. knew that
more veterans would be coming home and filing disability claims but they
didn`t come up with a system that could handle it.
And now, in terms of the coverage of the story and national awareness
of the story, it may seem a little bit silly, but I think it`s actually
really important as to how many people know about this story and can repeat
to you the basics of it.
I think it`s important with the story that last night, Comedy Central
did it. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" picked up on this story and as
they always do over there, they did an amazing job with it. And because of
that, tons more people know about this than otherwise would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, COMEDY CENTRAL: The Defense Department uses a medical
tracking program called AHLTA, while the V.A. uses a generally superior
program called VistA. Those two programs are unable -- I swear to you,
this is true -- those two programs are unable to communicate with each
How insane is this complication? Even the analogy explaining why the
two computer systems can`t work together is fundamentally flawed.
REP. JEFF MILLER (R), FLORIDA: Let me use this analogy. An Xbox and
a PlayStation can play the same game on the same TV screen but they don`t
STEWART: Right. That makes sense.
Here`s the thing: an Xbox and PlayStation don`t talk because they`re
competitors. Their mission is to destroy each other, which is not the
relationship we expect from the part of government that takes care of our
disabled veterans and the part of government that creates them.
STEWART: So while I guess you could spin the thing there, so I guess
you could spend a billion dollars over four years, trying to get one kid`s
Xbox games to work with another kid`s PlayStation games, or as the family`s
parent or commander-in-chief, you could just command we`re going to use the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The V.A. knows it has a problem. The V.A. does not defend
the backlog or say it`s not a problem, but they do say it`s going to get
better even though so far, they`ve been saying that for a long time and
there`s no evidence that that`s true. It`s not getting better, it`s
getting worse still.
A couple of days ago on the show from the V.A. to talk about it after
covering his for a very long time. Tommy Sowers, himself an Iraq war
veteran, now an assistant secretary at the V.A., he came here to talk to us
about the backlog. I`m grateful he did it, because that has not been the
V.A.`s way of dealing with this problem. For a very long time, they have
very unwilling to talk to national press.
So, as happy to have Dr. Sowers to talk about it instead of me just
screaming into the ether about it for 12 more months. But I have to say,
there is now a stitch from that interview that we need to pick up. On
Tuesday might, I asked Dr. Sowers what would the typical new veteran coming
back from Afghanistan, say a new veteran coping with PTSD unable to work
because of it, what could that hypothetical new veteran expect from the
V.A.`s disability claims process.
And here`s what Tommy Sowers said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOWERS: When it comes to actual treatment, there`s immediate
assistance out there. So, we`ve got a veterans crisis line, 1-800-273-
TALK. And over 700,000 veterans, active duty service members and their
families have called this number. They can walk into any of our 1,300
points of care.
Here in New York, there`s five vet centers. This is for veterans,
their families to help with readjustments.
So I want to make sure that`s clear they can get the help they need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I want to make sure it`s clear they can get the help they
need. The version of this voiced by the secretary of the veterans affairs,
General Eric Shinseki is, we are open for business.
The implications that veterans can just walk into any V.A. hospital or
clinic and get health care, immediately, particularly new veterans coming,
I have to make clear that is not always the case. In fact, according to
the V.A.`s own numbers, under half, just under half of new veterans get to
see a doctor within the time period that the V.A. itself says is acceptable
within two weeks. That`s according to the V.A.
You ask the Government Accountability Office, they actually have no
idea how long they`re waiting to see doctors, quote, "The bottom line is it
is unclear how long veterans are waiting to receive care in V.A. medical
facilities because the reported data from the V.A. are unreliable." That`s
from the Government Accountability Office.
We`ve contacted the V.A. today and they reemphasized that they do
offer emergency services for veterans at vet centers and that calling
crisis line that Tommy mentioned, 1-800-273-TALK, that is a way to get
immediate emergency crisis care, and that is great.
Beyond emergencies, though, it is not at all clear people are getting
the help they need or that the V.A. itself says they ought to be getting,
nor is it true they`re getting their benefits any time near they should be
getting their benefits.
This is a screwed up situation and it is one we promised as a nation
to never screw up again. How does this get fixed?
Joining us now is the smartest guy I know, Chris Hayes. Chris Hayes`
new show has a name. It`s called "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES." It premieres
Monday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC.
Mr. Hayes, congratulations.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Are you completely swamped with preparations?
HAYES: Yes, yes. I`m swamped. I was going to say overwhelmed. Not
quite overwhelmed, but there`s a lot of work.
MADDOW: You were planning an ambitious show that is unlike anything
else, anybody has ever done in cable. And it`s a lot like what you do in
the weekends but not exactly the same.
HAYES: That`s right. Yes, I think -- with some adjustments made for
the timeliness of the news of the day and also the necessary logistical
exigencies of being on nightly.
HAYES: In terms of how many people we can book, and how far ahead we
can book them. But the kind of multi-vocal and conversational, a lot of
different voices and a lot of curiosity together and kind of finding areas
of tension and disagreement and conflict that are surprising or new or
aren`t the ones that we rehearse everyday in our national politics.
In all the press, which has all been good press, I would say, knock on
wood, about your launch, everybody says that you and I are so much alike,
that we`re peas in a pod, or that, you know, you be -- you having this 8:00
show, shows this.
We think -- we approach how to do this work very, very differently.
MADDOW: And our shows are going to be very different. And I -- one
of the reasons I like talking to you about big difficult problems that
don`t have easy answers like this, is I feel like you have a good multi
multi-variant approach toward difficult things.
When -- as -- when you look at the V.A. backlog, you look at getting
all this renewed attention, you look at the fact that there`s no bipartisan
disagreement on this whatsoever and yet it is getting worse, what do you
think is the way out of it?
HAYES: So, I think there`s a few fascinating things here. One is it
makes us think what is the actual political power that veterans in our
society have because in some ways the proof is in the pudding, right? So,
there`s the rhetorical honor they are granted and then there`s the actual
power that they have, right? And the way you look at power in a political
system like ours is outcomes. And this says something about the power and
the stature that veterans actually have in American society as opposed to
the society -- the amount of power or stature we tell ourselves they have.
MADDOW: All the lip service we pay and all the emotional comfort we
gain from entertaining ourselves from the idea we are treating veterans
well is worth very little to someone who can`t get in the V.A. to get a
first mental health appointment.
HAYES: The proof is in the pudding.
HAYES: The proof is in the pudding.
The other thing I think it says is there are institutional limitations
that we are bumping up against because of the sheer volume. This is not to
excuse it. But it massively changes the bureaucracy and that bureaucracy`s
operation to scale it at the scale that we are right now asking the V.A. to
scale. It doesn`t matter what institution it is and what it`s processing,
whether it`s a factory making widgets, whether it`s a court docket that
goes from having 1,000 cases to 10,000 cases. In all of those cases, there
are institutional limits you`re going to run up against in trying to scale
And that goes back to the sort of original sin here, right, which are
the wars themselves. I mean, we were able to marshal a level of social
consensus and marshal a level of resources on the front end. And we told
ourselves we wouldn`t forget about it on the back end again.
But there`s something fundamental and deep about the way a nation goes
to war and its kind of politics when it`s going into a war and when it`s
coming out that is being revealed here, I think.
What we are able to marshal in the frenzy of the nation getting
together to go to war is -- it looks very different on the other side of
that war no matter how committed individuals are or citizens are which I
think they are. I mean, politicians are committed. I think citizens are
committed to this, right?
MADDOW: Yes, the feeling is real.
HAYES: Yes, it`s not faked. But it is a very different thing on the
front end than it is on the back end.
MADDOW: So, how -- in terms of veterans` political power, veterans I
think know -- when you talk to veterans` groups, they realize that the -- I
mean, lip service ,and I say and it sounds cynical, but the emotional
appeal that they can engender, the way they can get people to feel about
their service, the fact we marketed in commercials to make people feel good
about homecomings and all these things when they are the ones trying to
turn that into something that is more concrete, that is more policy based,
are there any examples? Is there anything that we know from social
movements in America or from balance of power in America about how best to
make those things work?
HAYES: I think, look, I mean, I think, (a), marshaling shame, right?
HAYES: Our shame, the shame of the country for failing in the sort of
photos we`ve seen has been effective in the past, right?
I also think what we`ve seen is -- and this is something you`ve
covered a lot -- a lot of veterans coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan have
organized as a political force and done the things that organizing any
constituency in American politics does to organize, which is to put direct
pressure on elected officials to join your voices together in coalition.
And there have been many effective interventions by IAVA among others
on discrete policy issues to do that. It`s just the fact there`s no solved
problem at the end of it, right?
HAYES: No one is going to -- I mean, the way the hydraulics of
American democracy work is they come to rest in a place of either apathy or
more for the people in power. And you just have to keep working against
HAYES: No amount of conceptual rhetorical or emotional commitment by
our leaders or citizens is going to permanently secure for veterans what
MADDOW: Yes. And hearing them speak for themselves as articulately
and forcefully as they have been through groups like IAVA is the thing that
gives me hope that we`ll get solved, not all the platitudes.
MADDOW: Chris Hayes, see you. I like talking to you about this
stuff. I can`t wait for your new show. We`re also excited. Really, the
whole building is a thrum (ph). We`re very excited.
Chris Hayes` new show is "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES." It premieres here
on MSNBC, Monday, at 8:00 Eastern.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Last week in the Texas Panhandle, this happened. We are the
first news organization to show you these pictures. Look at this.
Oil and gas workers were fracking in Hemphill County, Texas. That is,
they were forcing water and other chemicals down a pipe into the ground, at
very high pressure to get at oil they otherwise could not get at.
But in this case, this happened last week, something went wrong, and
the casing failed. A seven-inch-wide pipe failed catastrophically,
basically explosively, and that launched what they call the frac stack into
the air. Javelining it into a nearby truck, as you can see in this
picture. Amazingly, nobody was killed. There was only one injury
associated with this accident, one concussion.
Oil industry veteran Bob Cavnar who blogs at "This Small Planet" is
the one who put us on to in this week. These pictures are just incredible.
That frac stack which went applying which Hemphill County now is
purposively part of that nearby truck, the frac stack is sort of like a
blowout preventer. You might remember blowout preventers from the
Deepwater Horizon disaster, right? For onshore drilling like this, the
frac stack is supposed to function sort of like that, to keep the wellhead
under control if something goes wrong.
Well, this is the hole where the wellhead used to be after this
kerfuffle in Hemphill County.
A spectacular and very visible failure in the world`s most profitable
industry is often a very, very visible form of failure. And in that
regard, I see you Hemphill, Texas, fracking accident and I raise you the
career of one very senior Shell oil executive. It`s a very weird story.
That`s coming up.
MADDOW: America, meet David Lawrence. David Lawrence, meet America.
David Lawrence has been a high-level executive for the Shell Oil
Corporation for 29 long glorious and profitable years. He is the executive
vice president of exploration and commercial for Shell`s upstream Americas
division, which is a fancy way of saying that he drills the Americas for
Last year, Shell`s drilling operations in the Americas got a big boost
when the federal government gave Shell specifically the OK to start
drilling in the Arctic. Lots of oil companies wanted that, but Shell is
the one who got the go ahead. And it was David Lawrence who was put in
charge of that.
As Shell was gearing up to start drilling in the Arctic, Mr. Lawrence
gave an interview to Dow Jones, in which he predicted drilling in the
arctic would be, quote, "relatively easy."
That turned out to be relatively wrong. After getting the permits to
start drilling, Shell just made a hash of it. These are the two rigs they
sent up there to start drilling. The one on of the left is called the
Discoverer, the one on the right called the Kulluk.
Last summer, the Discoverer ran aground after dragging its anchor
through the Aleutian Islands. Four months after that, it had a fire break
out in its engine room. Then, the U.S. Coast Guard boarded it and found
more than a dozen violations involving the rig`s safety and pollution
For example, the main engine pistons cooling water was contaminated
with sludge and oil. The crew was dealing with it by skimming off the oil
in a ladle in a bucket. That`s nice. Nice.
Safety violations led the Coast Guard to essentially detain that rig
in port. And then they referred it to the Justice Department to see if
Shell was guilty of criminal violations there, too. So that was the
The other Shell drilling rig is the Kulluk. And the Kulluk did not
just almost run aground. It did run aground. Earlier this year, the
Kulluk lost power, went to drift and eventually crashed into an island off
the coast of southern Alaska, stranded there for days before they were
finally able to drag it away.
Well, there`s new news to report tonight on the Kulluk. The news is
that it too is now facing a federal criminal investigation. Coast guard
officials saying today they have completed their investigation into the
Kulluk. They`ve now asked the Justice Department to review potential
violations they turned up.
So both of Shell`s two arctic drilling rigs, the only two they sent up
there, now find themselves under the eye of the United States Justice
Department. But remember, drilling in the Alaskan Arctic is relatively
This is probably a good time to tell you that earlier this week, Mr.
"Don`t worry we`ve got this/Arctic drilling is going to be easy peasy"
announced he is stepping down from Shell after 29 years with the company.
There has long been an effort in this country to open up the Arctic
for drilling. Let`s let the oil companies run wild up there. Nobody knows
how to deal with the stuff better than they do.
So far, one company has been allowed to do it. Both of its rigs are
facing federal investigations. The executive in charge is out of a job.
And Shell has announced that it is calling off all of its drilling
operations in the Arctic for the rest of the year.
Why is this not a bigger story?
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Thanks so much for being with us tonight. Have a great night.
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