All In With Chris Hayes, Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
April 3, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: David Sirota, Hakeem Jeffries, Alicia Reece, Pedro Segarra, Spencer Ackerman, Mattia Kramer, Mattie Duppler, Sue Terry
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Today was a huge news day in the ongoing political
fight against gun violence in this country. The White House threw its most
precious and powerful resource, the time and attention of the president of
the United States, behind the issue today. The president traveled to
Denver, Colorado, where he was introduced by the local police chief and
planked by law enforcement officers to draw Washington`s attention, again,
to gun safety.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need parents, we
need teachers, we need police officers, we need pastors, we need hunters
and sportsmen, Americans of every background, to say, we`ve suffered too
much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue.
We`re not going to just wait for the next Newtown or the next Aurora before
And I -- I genuinely believe that`s what the overwhelming majority of
Americans, I don`t care what party they belong to, that`s what they want.
They want -- they just want to see some progress. Part of the reason it`s
so hard to get this done is because both sides of the debate sometimes
don`t listen to each other. The people who take absolute positions on
these issues on both sides sometimes aren`t willing to concede even an inch
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The president`s choice of location was, of course,
intentional, meant to send a message. Recognizing how difficult it is to
get anything done on the issue, the president flew to the state that
against the odds just did. Colorado, of course, just passed major new gun
Late last month, the state`s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, signed
new laws requiring background checks for private and online gun sales and
banning sales of ammunition clips that hold more than 15 rounds. In a
signing ceremony attended by family members of victims from the mass
shootings in Aurora and Columbine, as well as Newtown, Connecticut.
On Monday, the president travels to Connecticut to continue this same
campaign, and Connecticut is a symbolic stop on this particular road trip,
not just as the other state with a very recent nationally famous mass
shooting. It is also part of the very exclusive club of states that are
managing to take real, meaningful action on gun safety. A bipartisan task
force agreed yesterday on the details of a major overhaul of the state`s
gun laws and brought the legislation to the floor to the voted on tonight.
The measure would require background checks for private gun sales, it
would expand the existing assault weapons ban to include 100 new types of
military-style rifles as banned assault weapons, it would raise the age
required by certain rifles from 18 to 21. It would also ban ammunition
clips with more than 10 bullets.
If you already own those newly banned high capacity clips, you got to
keep them. But under the new law, you`ll have to register with the state
police. Judging from the local news interviews with folks who spent the
day touring the area`s ammo shops to stuck up on those clips, there will be
some people who already own them.
That legislation just passed the state`s Senate tonight by a vote of
26-10. It is expected to pass through the House, as well, and become law
in Connecticut. Of course, what the president is trying to do by making
these appearances in Colorado today and in Connecticut next week is push
Congress to move on this issue at the federal level. And right now,
Congress could use some pushing.
Last month, Harry Reid dumped the assault weapons ban from the main
gun safety bill the senate is set to take up, which leaves background
checks as the last remaining meaty, substantive measure that`s on the
table. If background checks end up getting gutted or cut out, then you`re
left with a bill that is basically symbolic.
But now, amazingly, even background checks, ones considered so
uncontroversial the NRA supported them, are being described as a stumbling
block in the stalling negotiations on guns on the Senate. The Senate gun
bill was originally set to take up next week when members get back from
Easter break, but now, it`s being delayed as Republicans start throwing
around predictable threats of a filibuster.
Everyone knows at this point that the American public supports
background checks by ridiculously laughably, comically huge margins. So
the political project for the president and advocates of gun safety is not
persuading Republicans not to filibuster and it`s certainly not about
persuading the American people to support gun control, they already do.
It is not a persuasion enterprise. It`s a matter of mobilization and
a matter of endurance. It is a matter of sustaining the attention of
lawmakers and their constituents and activists for long enough to get it
What we`re looking at right now is three different political systems,
three different policies, three different groups of citizens and
institutions all trying to act on guns -- Colorado, Connecticut, and the
United States Congress. Colorado has succeeded. Connecticut appears
poised to succeed.
But Congress -- Congress is not succeeding, and there is a lot to
learn in why Colorado and Connecticut are succeeding.
The most obvious reason why they succeeded was the immediacy of the
horror. Connecticut just lived through a mass shooting at an elementary
school and Colorado just lived through a mass shooting at a suburban movie
theater. But they also both passed things that were broadly popular.
Support for universal background checks is 93 percent in Connecticut. Even
in the more gun-friendly Colorado, support for background checks is 80
percent. Also, both Connecticut and Colorado kept attention on the issue
and moved quickly.
At the federal level, what proponents are pushing is also broadly
popular and they are also trying to move quickly. But in the U.S. Senate,
that`s like trying to swim through concrete, which means the biggest
outstanding question today, right now, is whether Democrats will be able to
maintain attention on the issue for long enough to get it done.
Attention is a precious resource in politics. It is, in fact, the
most precious resource in a political system. It`s literally the only
thing the president really, truly, and fully controls. You only get to
choose a very small set of things to put on the agenda when you`re the
president and President Obama has chosen this. He has chosen guns, and he
continues to choose it and choose it and choose it.
And the question is, will that choice pay off?
Joining me at the table: Hakeem Jeffries, Ohio State Representative
Alicia Reece, and the mayor of Hartford, Connecticut, Pedro Segarra.
Also, we have David Sirota, remote, of Salon.com. He is in
Connecticut this evening to tell us about John Hickenlooper`s somewhat
amazing conversion on the issue of guns.
And, David, I want to start with you. I think there`s a sense in
which the signing of the law in Colorado was not at all a done deal. If
you were betting on it, you would not have guessed about it. How did it
come into play?
DAVID SIROTA, CONTRIBUTOR, SALON.COM: Well, look, the governor of
Colorado, first, had said at the beginning after the Aurora shooting that
he wasn`t necessarily supportive of even having a discussion about gun
control. And then over the course of eight months, his position kind of
evolved, and his position kind of evolved because, I think, there was
There was constant reports about the consequences of gun violence in
Colorado on the front page of the newspaper, on the radio, on local
television every day. And essentially, he read the fact that the
population wanted something to get done. But that didn`t necessarily
guarantee it, as you allude to, in the legislature.
The Republicans in the legislature right now, as just an example of
how extreme they are on gun issues, they are opposing a piece of
legislation right now that would force law that bans gun ownership by
people who are convicted of domestic violence crimes.
So, that gives you a sense of how extreme the Republican Party is in
this state, and yet the Democratic Party, using its narrow majorities in
the legislature, managed to push through exactly the kind of gun
regulations that the president is pushing. And they essentially what I
think happened is, they bet that though the NRA is loud, and though the
Republican extremists are loud, that they do not have the support of most
people here in Colorado. They made the bet, they passed the legislation,
and I think that politically they are going to benefit from it.
The one thing I would add, though, and you heard President Obama say
that Colorado is a model, and I think legislatively it is a model, but the
problem is politically in Colorado and in other states, there`s no
filibuster. And so, the president has to deal with an obstacle that state
legislators don`t have to deal with.
HAYES: Which is that he can actually take majority support and
transform majority support into a piece of legislation.
SIROTA: That`s exactly right. So, the governor of Colorado can go
out and talk about gun control and the legislators can talk about gun
control, and they can pass something and they can pass it, and the
Republicans can put up a fight, but they can`t stop the institution from
The president doesn`t have that luxury. So the reason he`s going to
Colorado is exactly, as you put it in the beginning of this, is to try to
whip up public support to really embarrass and humiliate the Republicans in
Washington who are wielding that filibuster power, to embarrass them.
That`s the only thing the president can do with a filibuster, where 11
percent of the population has enough Senate representation to stop what 89
percent of Americans want.
HAYES: Mayor Segarra, tell me how this is played out in Connecticut.
Because, obviously, everybody in the country was devastated by Newtown, but
it also wasn`t necessarily a done deal on the day after Newtown that this
package, which we think is being voted on in the House right now, that this
would get passed.
MAYOR PEDRO SEGARRA (D), HARTFORD, CT: It wasn`t a done deal
afterwards. One would have expected that after the tragedy in Newtown
action would come and extremely quick. It took a while.
But in Connecticut we have bipartisan support. We went through the
process of clearly having the people of Connecticut demand action, the
people of Connecticut were very clear.
HAYES: What does that mean when you say demand action? What does
that actually mean in concrete terms?
SEGARRA: Well, I think the people of Connecticut were devastated.
This had hit really close to home for a lot of people. It was -- it was a
tragedy of horrific proportions.
You had mothers and fathers that were concerned about their children.
You had teachers concerned about school safety. You had people in the
mental health community concerned.
So you had concerns from all corners, and people were very closely
paying attention to what the elected leaders would do.
We, the mayors, are certainly mindful, most of the homicides in
Connecticut happen in our cities. So I`m glad, I`m very thrilled, very
thankful that we`ve been able to move beyond that, that the Senate has
already approved that. Hopefully, tonight, the House will vote. And
tomorrow, if all goes well, which I assume it will, we`ll have a bill
signing with the governor at 12:00.
HAYES: I saw amazing footage today of parents of the victims in
Aurora, who actually don`t live in Colorado, but flew up for the bill
signing last week. And, obviously, the testimony of victims and family
members of victims have had a real powerful effect. And I`m curious how
that`s played in Connecticut, particularly you, yourself, have experienced
firsthand gun violence, how that`s motivated your approach.
SEGARRA: Well, Connecticut is a small state, so even myself, of the
20 children that lost their lives, 20 angels that lost their lives, I had
met one of them months before, the daughter of a jazz musician and someone
who has close connections to our city, Marquez-Greene (ph) family.
So I think the community really rallied, really rallied. And I think
for the urban centers, we also have a lot of people in our cities that have
died of gun violence. Like you said, my father was a victim of gun
violence, father that I never got to know, and who I`ve always missed. So,
this was very close to us. I think the public made their case.
We had a marathon in Hartford, a run for Sandy Hook. Sixty thousand
people in our streets in an event put together in a week`s time and several
weeks` time. So, I think that the public was demanding action, and I think
we knew we had to act, no matter when we would act and I`m glad that we
HAYES: Is the NRA in Ohio, Representative, at the state level,
oftentimes I think conservative interest groups particularly have
disproportionate force at the state level, partly that`s a staffing issue,
partly that could be funding, partly that could be the political makeup of
the state. In your experience as a state legislator, how big does the NRA
play in the statehouse in Ohio?
STATE REP. ALICIA REECE (D), OHIO: Well, they play a big role. I
mean, you know, I`m from Ohio, and I think that`s why it`s so important for
this issue to, you know, go even national. I mean, it`s great that the
states are acting. But you can go from state to state, for example, in
Ohio we`ve got loopholes, major loopholes. We have more gun shows coming
to Ohio because of the loopholes regarding background checks.
From -- our Democratic Caucus has put forward legislation before the
issue had taken this big national stage, and we haven`t been able to get
anywhere. We`ve got a legislature that during the time when all this was
going on, they passed legislation to allow guns to be in the trunks of your
car in the statehouse.
So it clearly shows there`s a disconnect, but then when you get into
the communities, like in my district and around the state of Ohio, you see
the pastors marching, you`re at the funerals. These are people from our
community who have been gunned down. These are our babies, and I think
that what Newtown shows is that Newtown can be your town.
And so, I think --
HAYES: Do you think that -- is that, Newtown can be your town, does
that loom heavy in the minds of your constituents, of folks in Ohio? I
think what we`re seeing, right, is the immediacy of Aurora and the
immediacy of Newtown have spurred action in these two states, and the
question is, is it the case the further you get away from the immediacy of
that horror, that it doesn`t have that same political affect?
REECE: I think you`re right. We`ve got to act now, but I`ll tell
you, the longer we don`t act, every day, a child is getting, you know,
gunned down. There`s a murder, there`s a mom losing a daughter or a son.
There`s a father losing a daughter or a son.
So, every day we don`t act, this is going on. In Cincinnati, we have
a double issue. We have illegal guns that are on the streets and finding
out who are bringing these into the community, and there needs to be some
So I think this is the time, but I agree with the president that it
needs to be on a federal level, while we`re still working at the state
REECE: -- so you can`t change from state-to-state, because right now
you come to Ohio and there`s loopholes regarding background checks.
HAYES: Congressman, the federal level, of course, being you. I want
to talk about what your colleagues in the Senate are doing and what
Democrats in the House are doing and how you -- how you plan to sustain at
a legislative level the attention, right after we take this quick break.
HAYES: Sir, Congressman Jeffries, as you watch the senate take this
on, or not take it on, as you hear the news it`s going to be another week,
probably, that it`s going to be pushed back for consideration of a bill,
what is your reaction to that, and how do you think this momentum and the
attention can be sustained long enough for the sheer Democratic majority
preference to manage to work its way into law?
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Well, the progress in the Senate
to date is important. The fact that you had the universal background check
provision voted successfully out of committee, the federal anti-trafficking
gun statute proposal voted out of committee, even the assault weapons ban
voted out of committee, even though that may be tabled.
And so, that`s a significant step in the right direction. Now when
Congress returns, we have to sustain the intensity and understand that the
tactics that will be used by the NRA will probably be twofold, one,
distortion of the facts, and delay. You`ve got the real world and you`ve
got Wayne`s World.
And in Wayne`s World, Wayne LaPierre articulates the view, even though
the NRA was once for universal background checks, now they are against it,
that they are ineffective.
JEFFRIES: But the facts tell a very different story. Since 1994, I
believe, when background checks were first implemented on a wide scale,
more than -- or approximately 2 million people have been denied guns
because of felony convictions, domestic violence problems, in order of
protection, 2 million people.
Now, that still means, though, however, given the loopholes, 40
percent of gun sales in the United States of America go without background
checks. And so this can have a significant impact moving forward.
HAYES: And we look at some research today, the literature, there`s
not a ton of literature, but there is published peer review literature
trying to ascertain the connection between background check legislation and
reductions in gun violence and there is a correlation between background
check legislation and reductions in gun violence. Some of it finds a
relatively small reduction, some finds it fairly significant.
But you`re right. Here`s Wayne LaPierre making the new case, not that
background checks are evil, but they are simply futile or meaningless.
This is the new line from the NRA. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: My problem with background checks is, you`re
never going to get criminals to go through universal background checks.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Mr. LaPierre, that`s the point. The
criminals won`t go to purchase the guns, because there will be a background
check. We`ll stop them from the original purchase. You miss that point
completely. I think it`s basic.
LAPIERRE: Senator, I think you missed it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let there be order!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: David, the background checks were part of the Colorado
legislation. Was it -- was it the same argument, more or less, in
Colorado, an argument of futility?
SIROTA: Absolutely. That`s the argument. The perfect is the enemy
of the good. Well, background checks won`t catch everybody, so that means
we shouldn`t have more background checks, a universal system. It`s a
And the way to understand how ridiculous it is, is to think about the
argument with other crimes. Well, if murderers won`t follow laws outlawing
murder, I guess we shouldn`t have laws outlawing murder. Nobody says that.
It`s a ridiculous argument, it makes no sense, and I think that`s why the
polls show that 90 percent of the public supports universal background
checks, because they understand that even if it won`t solve everything,
it`s a step that needs to be taken.
HAYES: I thought Governor Hickenlooper had a really fascinating take
on this, where he basically said, look, I was convinced of the utility of
background checks by looking at the actual research, obviously, it makes
sense to me at a common sense level. But when you look at the research,
there`s some research to support it. They really do work. Here`s
Hickenlooper saying that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: People kept telling me, well,
criminals aren`t stupid. And they`re not going to look for background
checks. Well, we went back and looked at the statistics, 38 people applied
to get a -- were trying to buy a gun who were either convicted or accused
of homicides, 600 burglars, 1,300 felonious assaults, there were 400 people
that had restraining orders from a judge, that tried to buy a gun and we
stopped them. And 236 showed up to pick up their gun and we arrested them
because they had a warrant for a violent felony out for them. I mean, this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You`re a mayor of a city, you deal with gun violence. Does
this -- I mean, is this persuasive to you, I imagine it is.
SEGARRA: Universal checks are absolutely necessary, and I think that
the American public is behind it. So, to me, it`s illogical that the
people we have as representatives would create this argument.
HAYES: But they`re behind it, this gets to the way Congress works.
They are behind it if you call them up on their cell phones on a polling
agency and say do you support universal background checks for criminals,
people say, yes, obviously, click. And then they go about their day.
The question is, are they behind it enough, you and I were talking
during the break, rallies in different cities in Connecticut to get this
legislation passed and big press events and calling and lobbying, right?
The question is, is that happening on Capitol Hill right now to
transform a 90 percent majority approval for something into actual
JEFFRIES: I think the key is going to get the Senate to pass the
bill, and if the Senate passes the bill, the spotlight is then shined on
the House of Representatives, and John Boehner and the house GOP will have
to confront reality, and at that point, the will of the American people
will need to be expressed in the most vociferous way, by lobbying their
members of Congress.
SIROTA: Can I ask a question?
JEFFRIES: By rallies and things of that nature.
HAYES: Yes, David, ask a question, quick.
SIROTA: My question to you, Congressman Jeffries, is how much do you
think gerrymandering plays into this? If the Republicans have
gerrymandered their district so much they have to fear mostly a primary
challenge from a pro-gun, pro-NRA challenger --
SIROTA: -- does public opinion really matter if the main thing on
their mind is I don`t want an NRA challenger in the primary, which ends up
being the general election?
JEFFRIES: Well, that certainly will be the case with some of the more
extreme members, those who are concerned about facing extreme right wing
primaries. But the one thing we have witnessed over the last several
months is that the speaker has been willing to bring bills to the floor of
the House of Representatives when pushed, and being handed a product,
finished product, from the Senate Democratic majority. It happened on
fiscal cliff --
HAYES: Fiscal cliff and the Sandy supplemental.
JEFFRIES: -- and supplemental to Sandy. And it happened on the
Violence Against Women`s Act --
HAYES: Yes, that`s three.
JEFFRIES: -- where there was reluctance.
So, it`s the trifecta that`s occurred already. I believe that if the
bill lands on the floor of the House of Representatives and there`s enough
pressure that`s brought to bear, to your point, it will not pass with a
majority of Republicans supporting it --
HAYES: But it will pass on the majority.
JEFFRIES: -- but it will pass on the majority.
HAYES: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in New York, Ohio State
Representative Alicia Reece, Hartford, Connecticut, Mayor Pedro Segarra,
and David Sirota of Salon.com -- it`s really great to have you all here
tonight. Thank you so much.
SEGARRA: Thank you.
HAYES: Thanks, David.
SIROTA: Thank you.
HAYES: Is the new secretary defense the bumbling, capitulator of
right wing nightmares, or is he a radical reformer who will tame the
Defense Department? He gave us a big hint today. That`s coming up.
HAYES: An update to the story about Arkansas oil pipeline, which
spilled thousands of gallons of crude into a suburban subdivision.
Arkansas Republican Congressman Tim Griffin, who represents the
affected area, and who supports the keystone pipeline said in a radio
interview today, "Well, first of all, pipelines, despite this accident,
just like we have car accidents, despite this accident, pipelines are the
safest way to move oil, to move energy products. They are safer than
moving it in trucks and they are safer than putting them on a train. I
think some people are trying to say, `Well, if there`s a car crash, no more
cars. If there`s an accident with a pipeline, no more pipeline.` If we
follow that logic, we are all going to be riding bicycles."
Our invitation to Congressman Griffin to be a guest on our show
stands. We can talk about bicycles.
And now, as we say in this business for something completely
different. All right. This is a duck penis, and that is a fascinating
thing. The phalluses are corkscrew shaped, counterclockwise spirals, but
their female counterparts have clockwise spiraling vaginas. In fact,
quote, "The males and females are engaged in a genital arms race." I
learned all that from this fantastic piece written for sleep by a scientist
named Patricia Brennan defending her work from infantile attacks.
It turns out duck genitalia are part of an elaborate system whereby
the female duck is gaining control over the choice of per seasonal mate.
On a broader level, it`s an incredible artifact of evolution, how it works
and what it produces.
Brennan`s study of duck penises is funded by a government research
grant and Fox News predictably questioned whether it was an appropriate use
of taxpayer money, along with a poll in which, shockingly, 89 percent of
respondents said no.
As Brennan points out, there are two kinds of scientific research,
basic and applied. Brennan doesn`t claim her study is applied research
though she correctly notes that basic research is the natural predecessor
to applied research leading ultimately to practical results.
She also notes that investment in the National Science Foundation is
just over $20 per year per person, while it takes upward of $2,000 per year
per person to fund the military. The attack on Brennan`s work is just the
latest example of a tried and true tradition of right wing attacks on
Even though many conservative writers and Republican politicians and
conservative economists think the U.S. should invest more in basic
research, the conservative noise machine is obsessed and seems to genuinely
relish finding examples of research projects they can hold up for ignorant
To pluck just one example, here`s Governor Bobby Jindal GOP response
to President Obama`s 2009 address before Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL: And $140 million for something called volcano
monitoring. Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be
monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That guy. Of course, about a month and a half later, there
was a massive volcano eruption in Alaska, but the persistent and repetitive
attacks is idiotic as they seem have a real and destructive effect.
This is what`s happening to basic research funding. It`s getting cut.
The National Science Foundation National Institutes of Health and the
National Endowment for the Humanities are all suffering cuts from "The
Republicans, led by Senator Tom Coburn, even managed to smuggle an
outrageous piece of legislative language in the recently passed spending
bill that instructs the director of the National Science Foundation that
political science research can only be funded if it is certified to promote
national security or the economic interests of the United States.
In other words, a rank bit of micromanaging by a few committed
demagogues in the United States Senate of the research agenda of academics.
One of the things I admire and have truly learned from the conservative
intellectual tradition is a kind of emphasis of humility in their critics
of bureaucracy, government, central planning.
And some of the best and wisest conservative writing emphasizes how
little we know, how hard it is for institutions to predict the future. And
it is, in a way, out of that spirit that we fund and embark upon basic
research, because we do not know what we do not know.
Here`s a classic example from an article in the "New Yorke"r about the
worth of basic research. It`s a British lepidopterist, Chris Thomas, and
his study of butterflies. There`s one species of butterfly in his life`s
work, his life`s work, all he did was tracking where those butterflies
And you might think to yourself, that`s fun, I guess, but who cares?
Why does this matter? And as he did his work, he began to find the
butterflies` habitat was creeping ever northward and there`s a map of the
latitudes of where the butterflies live that is a perfect visual
representation of how climate change is altering the planet.
And he didn`t know when he started tracking butterflies that he was
going to create this incredible piece of useful of knowledge. He just went
at it because he loved knowledge and he was curious about the world and he
loved butterflies, and that`s the beauty and genius of research.
You do not know what benefits it will provide. And so we do not know
right now just what breathtaking vistas of knowledge we are losing with
each cut. We`ll be right back with click three.
HAYES: Chuck Hagel was nominated because he looked like a man who
could change the Pentagon. He was attacked relentlessly and ridiculously
because of that same apparent independence of mind. Today, we got to see
if he escaped from the Senate hazing with his will intact. That`s coming
But first, I want to share the three awesomest things I saw on the
internet today. First up is a series of incredible never before seen
videotapes just released online by the Shelby County Registrar`s Office in
The tapes document the extradition, incarceration and court
proceedings of the man who murdered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Earl
Ray. Lots of fascinating stuff to sort through here, Ray can be seen
following his arrest in London having his rights being read to him on the
Cross Atlantic flight back to Memphis.
Also his arrival at the Shelby County Jail, where he was searched,
examined by a doctor, and placed into a cell. Newly restored footage has
been released to mark the 45th anniversary of King`s death, which is
tomorrow. You can find the videos and read more about the discovery of the
tapes on the Shelby County Registrar`s web site.
This fascinating, maddening, and hilarious article is the second
awesomest thing on the internet today. "Foreign Policy" magazine published
it last month. I just had the good fortune to stumble upon it today.
It is a fantastic takedown by a little noticed move by the Pentagon to
spend a billion dollars on 14 new ground-based missile defense systems in
response to North Korea`s increasing provocations.
And it makes a convincing case even if we assume the worst about North
Korea, that defense system won`t even protect us. This is an in-depth look
at the fine print of military spending that goes on without anyone
While everyone focuses on cuts to social programs in "The Sequester,"
there`s a billion bucks getting dropped without a second look. It`s a
great read. Check it out at foreignpolicy.com.
And the third awesomest thing on the internet today, by far, Bob
Costas quoting Ludacris rapping about Bob Costas. Go --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids, this is just the lyric, and I`m quoting it.
It`s Ludacris talking about himself. I`d be rolling torpedoes, get blunted
with Rastas and for a hefty fee I`m on your record like Bob Costas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: If I can manage a long enough career in TV, I am personally
hoping for Kendrick Lamar lyric about me some day. You can find all the
links for tonight`s click free on our web site, allin.msnbc.com. We`ll be
HAYES: A huge day for the U.S. defense establishment, the entity that
25 percent of every income tax dollar goes to. Today, Secretary of Defense
Chuck Hagel gave his first major speech since he assumed the post in
It`s his first opportunity after a very rocky confirmation process to
lay out his grand vision for the Pentagon, one that focused largely on
promises of change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Change that involves not just
tweaking or chipping away at existing structures and practices, but where
necessary, fashioning entirely new ones that are better suited to 21st
Century realities and challenges. Deep political and institutional
obstacles through necessary reforms will need to be engaged and overcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYERS: Former Republican senator from Nebraska has been known
throughout his career as a heterodox thinker, was a leading critic of the
Iraq surge, spoke out forcibly against Israel`s bombing campaign against
Lebanon in 2006, and has worked maybe more accurately had a penchant for
speaking frankly about cuts to the Pentagon. Here`s Hagel in 2011.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGEL: Our Defense Department budget is not a jobs program. It`s not
an economic development program for my state or district.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Hagel`s reputation someone who could and would take on the
taboos of the defense establishment was likely what made him attractive to
the president? It was also likely what elicited a genuinely hysterical
response to his nomination from all corners of the neo-con right who
claimed he was everything from indifferent on the nuclear program to
During his testimony in front of the Senate earlier this year, Hagel
did not inspire confidence. He struggled to explain many of his previous
and often laudable positions under interrogation from hostile senators and
outright disowned a couple of them.
So, the big, crucial, defining question for the second term of Barack
Obama and the multibillion fate of the world`s largest defense apparatus
is, is Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense the radical reformer those on
the right feared and many on the left hoped for or has he already been co-
opted by pressures and norms of the defense establishment that he promised
today to take on?
Joining me at the table is Mattea Kramer of the National Priorities
Project, a tax policy research group, Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter for
Wired`s national security blog "The Danger Room," and Mattie Dupler, policy
director at Americans for Tax Reform.
I feel like being the head of the Pentagon is like being the pope.
It`s like when there`s a new -- when there`s a vacancy, well, this next
one`s really going to have to deal with reforming the institution. They
need reform inside the curium.
There`s a lot of rot in there. Then you go in, and guess what, you
get co-opted by the institution. What is your feeling about where Chuck
Hagel will fit into that trajectory?
SPENCER ACKERMAN, SENIOR REPORTER, "WIRED": There`s a joke among
defense reporters --
HAYES: My favorite genre of joke.
ACKERMAN: Naturally. Outside of papacy jokes. A joke that in order
to be defense secretary, you have to give this speech that Hagel gave, that
you come in, you`re going to make sure acquisitions are going to get
cleaned up, personnel policies are going to be aligned with what`s actually
in the national interest, costs are going to come under control.
You also can`t get out of the Pentagon before you renege on all of
that and the building has ground you down into a fine powder. In terms of
everything Hagel said today, there`s a lot for reformers to get excited
about. Implementation is what this is all about.
HAYES: Since you tee this up, I want to play this incredible bit of
sound that one of our second producers found, which is a speech that has
been lost to history. But was given by Donald Rumsfeld on September 10,
2001 vowing in much sharper terms, vowing to take on the Pentagon
establishment. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Let`s make no mistake,
the modernization of the Department of Defense is a matter of some urgency.
In fact, it could be said that it`s a matter of life and death, ultimately,
every American. A new idea ignored may be the next threat overlooked.
A person employed in a redundant task is one that could be countering
terrorism or nuclear proliferation. Every dollar squandered on waste is
one denied to the war fighter that`s why we`re here today, challenging us
all to wage an all-out campaign to shift Pentagon`s resources from
bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tale to the tip.
Some might ask how in the world could the secretary of defense attack
the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to
attack the Pentagon, I want to liberate it. We need to save it from
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, I`m now confused, because what I want to say is, well,
Hagel didn`t sound Rumsfeldian, but then is that a good or bad thing?
MATTEA KRAMER, NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT: Hard to tell, hard to
tell. This year in so-called austerity climate, we`re going to spend $630
billion on defense, and here`s the thing, they can`t even tell us where all
that money`s going, because the Pentagon can`t pass an audit.
Those are big numbers. Hagel put out some big stuff today. There`s a
lot to be excited about. He said, we can`t just tweak, now the question
is, we`ve heard that before. Are we now going to see tweaks or are we
going to see the real change he just gestured at?
HAYES: The reason I wanted to have you here, Mattie, was because
you`ve been on "up" before, but I think it`s fair to say skeptical about
the size of the defense budget.
I was sort of amazed, I have to say, you guys won a victory, which was
I thought Republicans were going to blanch at "The Sequester," and the
reason they were going to blanch at the sequester, in fact, the design of
the sequester was put something in to make them blanch, which was the fact
that of the $85 billion in cuts in this first year.
Half of them are on the defense side, which it`s a big budget, but
that`s still a big chunk, that`s going to take a bite and somehow
Republicans got themselves to being OK with this. The question is, will
that create political space for Chuck Hagel to do something more than
MATTIE DUPLER, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Right. This is what we
talked about last time I was on, that sequester was supposed to be the nerf
ball, one of those things Republicans didn`t blink, and I think it does
make it a lot easier to do some of the things we hope for.
The kind of reform that we talk about all the time because now
Republicans can`t be impediment to the left or the right that they were
before because look, they`ve done it once before, what`s to say the second
time this is different? You can`t so say, no, I would never touch defense
spending if you`ve already done it.
HAYES: Does that scan to you?
ACKERMAN: There`s a line in the speech that risks getting overlooked
in which he actually gives Republican defense hawks an out, in which he
says, if you want us to not have these cuts be so drastic, so dramatic, not
maybe put everything on the table, to go a little slower about this or not
cut as deeper, give us some kind of certainty in terms of what our budgets
are going to be going forward. Translated from the politician, it means
you have to raise taxes.
HAYES: That`s interesting.
ACKERMAN: I don`t know where that goes.
HAYES: One of the things I think is interesting is we now have, you
know, on my monitor today, the Hagel speech was here and North Korea news
stacking up on the other screen.
And, of course, there`s a connection between the North Korea news and
how hard it is to cut the Pentagon budget, right? Because when the North
Korea stuff is in the news, all of a sudden we`re sending a missile defense
system to Guam, right, because when security`s on the line, the money gets
I want to talk about that and talk about the nexus between those two
and what to make of what`s going on in North Korea and South Korea right
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGEL: North Korea has been a problem for not just the region, for
many years. We, as you know, are undergoing joint exercises with the South
Koreans now. We are doing everything we can. It only takes being wrong
once and I don`t want to be the secretary of defense who was wrong once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Let`s welcome to the conversation Sue Mi Terry, senior
research scholar at Columbia University, expert in North Korean foreign
policy. It`s great to have you here.
SUE MI TERRY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
HAYES: So I think it is very hard to make sense of why tensions seem
to ratchet up when they do. I mean, people sort of know about the Korean
Peninsula and they know that there`s longstanding tension and they know a
little bit about the North Korean regime, but then it seems every two years
or every March in the spring around the joint exercises.
TERRY: Holiday, they love to ruin all holidays.
HAYES: What is accounting right now, why are tensions so high right
TERRY: Well, I think for two reasons. First of all, let me just say
that I never thought I`d say this, but Kim Jong-Un Jr. is really making me
nostalgic for his father. He was more of a known entity.
But right now, two reasons, because he`s still trying to consolidate
his internal support, and second reason is because Obama administration is
not playing ball like previous administrations. Meaning that this patience
thing, we`re not responding to North Korea`s provocations, we`re not going
back to the negotiating table.
HAYES: Explain that, explain that. The strategy from North Korea has
been they provoke and we negotiate.
TERRY: We concede. We start to, you know, from us. This has been a
negotiating strategy. This is what North Koreans love to do, and they`ve
been doing this for decades now, except the Obama administration this time
said since he came in from the first six months when he came into office.
Look what North Koreans did, they responded by this is how they
greeted this administration by this launch nuclear tests, withdrawing from
the six party talks, pursuing uranium enrichment program. The Obama
administration said we`re not going to play ball, we`re not going to talk
to you guys for talking. You have to denuclearize.
HAYES: Here`s my question. So, I came upon this op-ed today, which
is written in 2006 by Ashton Carter, who is a very high-ranking Pentagon
official. In fact, probably the highest ranking pentagon official with
real Korea expertise, and I was kind of amazed by this and think it might
account for the defiant posture of the Obama administration towards North
This is Ashton Carter while he was out of the government advocating
for a strike on North Korea in a 2006 joint op-ed. If North Korea persists
in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear
its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean taepodong missile
before it can be launched.
This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched
from a submarine carrying a high explosive warhead. The blast would be
similar to one that killed terrorist leader (inaudible) in Iraq. The
effect would be devastating. Is Ashton Carter a powerful influence inside
ACKERMAN: You saw who he co-wrote the op-ed with, former Defense
Secretary Bill Perry. They wrote a lot about trying to deter and contain
North Korea. I remember that op-ed very well. The idea was before they
get to a preliminary stage where they perhaps get something into space that
could be a precursor, just blow it up on the launch pad.
The amount that can go wrong when you do that is tremendous, and
you`re not gambling with American lives, you`re gambling with South Korean
and Japanese lives if something goes wrong there.
HAYES: Here`s what I`m hearing and learning in real time, which is
fascinating, the way we think about what changed in the equation that`s
creating this movement is the changes on the North Korean side, but what
I`m hearing from both of you is there`s changes on American side, changes
in the American policy and the way America has dealt with North Korea is
part of what`s bringing about this moment of tension.
DUPLER: Well, it makes me wonder, too, this discussion we had earlier
about how this is just posturing. We`ve heard this before from our
secretaries of defense, maybe the rest of the world doesn`t think so.
Maybe they are taking it seriously. Are we just too jaded from what we`ve
heard before? Maybe this is a turning point for us.
HAYES: It does seem like the U.S. is mobilizing in ways it hasn`t in
other moments of heightened tension.
TERRY: Let`s put it in context, it`s not like we are going to do any
kind of pre-emptive strike, let`s also put into context, North Koreans are
not going to attack us. This is a lot of posturing, I know it sounds
scary, they look scary and sound a little bit crazy, but they are not
crazy, they are not suicidal.
HAYES: That`s what I wanted to hear as I ended my night here. I
didn`t want the surprise of tonight`s segment would be actually we should
be preparing --
TERRY: They are not suicidal. Their utmost priority is preservation.
HAYES: Spencer Ackerman, the other thing I wanted to end my night on
was an amazing statistic you had on defense cost overruns.
ACKERMAN: This is an example of what chuck Hagel was talking about in
his speech today, if you just tally up one year`s worth of cost overruns
for the 96 most important defense programs, in one year, that`s $74
billion, which, if that was its own country, would be the third largest
defense budget in the world, more than Russia spends.
HAYES: Sue Terry of Columbia University, Mattia Kramer of National
Priority Project, Spencer Ackerman of Wired, Mattie Duppler of Americans
for Tax Reform, that is "ALL IN" for this evening. Rachel, I`m sorry I`m
throwing you late, but I know how much you love stats about defense
overruns. So I thought you would be OK with it.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Seriously, if you`re going to be five seconds
late because we have to learn that our cost overruns alone are the third
largest defense budget in the world and we learn it from Spencer, I`m with
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