All In With Chris Hayes, Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
April 25, 2013
Guests: Lawrence Wilkerson, Barbara Lee, Dylan Glenn, Bobby Ghosh, Lisa Jackson
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
Thank you for joining us. Big stuff happening today, we will get to all of
Major news out of the State Department, the United States believes the
Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons against its people. We will
get into the serious implications of that story.
Also, President Obama spoke at the memorial in West, Texas, for those
killed in the explosion of a fertilizer plant. We`ll tell you what role
then-Senator Obama played seven years ago trying to prevent explosions
exactly like that one in Texas and why he couldn`t.
All that, plus, of course, #click3.
Let`s start in Dallas, Texas, where it was a day of pomp and
circumstance and, above all, bipartisan civility at the dedication of
George W. Bush`s Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist
And so much more than that. At its most fun, today was a wonderful
opportunity to observe the hilarious challenge of watching everyone who was
obligated to speak at the dedication to try to come up with positive things
to say about George W. Bush. President Obama tried complimenting some of
Bush`s more pleasant personal attributes like his self-confidence and sense
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To know the man is like
the man because he`s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is,
doesn`t put on any pretenses and he takes his job seriously, but he doesn`t
take himself too seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: President Carter went with a slightly awkward, semi self-
deprecating joke he anecdote about the contested 2000 election which was
uncomfortable because it meant that George W. Bush probably shouldn`t have
been president in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In 2000, as some of you may
remember there was a disputed election for several weeks. Finally, when
President Bush became president, they had the inauguration in Washington`s
own schedule. I think my wife and I were the only two volunteer Democrats
on the platform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: But it was left to Bill Clinton the political genius that he
is who seized upon what was probably the best possible way to thread the
needle. He went with the "I really like your paintings" approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Your mother showed me some
of your landscapes and animal paintings and I thought they were great!
Really great. I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a
portrait of me until I saw the results of your sister`s hacked e-mails.
Those bathroom sketches are wonderful but at my age, I think I should keep
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: If you`re an ex-president attending the library dedication of
another ex-president, you really are bound by the "if you don`t have
anything nice to say" axiom except if you can`t say anything nice at all
you`re called to the podium you have to say something and it has to be
Luckily, we here at ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES are not ex-presidents and
we are not speaking at the library dedication. We were speaking on cable
television. So we are under no such obligation to be nice for the sake of
So, we get to talk about what today`s event and the run-up to today`s
event really was, the official birth of the revived George W. Bush`s
reputation project, which is a project that should be smothered before it
can catch fire.
The strained niceties we heard from the podium in Dallas today were
nothing compared to the onslaught of Bush apologia that started trickling
in as today`s dedication approach. And trying to convince a country that
actually live through the Bush presidency, that its collective memories
about those eight years is totally wrong is necessarily something of a
There are two different ways to go about it. One way is to focus on
the personal. Don`t even bother trying to make an argument that George W.
Bush was a good president. Just talk about how he was a nice guy and hope
everyone`s forgotten the Iraq war and torture and Katrina and the financial
For example, he once gave Dana Perino part of his sandwich. In a
collection of favorite memories of George W. Bush published on FOX News Web
site this week, Perino recounted this story of a true humanitarian
endeavor, quote, "One night when I first took the deputy press secretary
job, I went with him on Marine One to an event in rural Virginia for the
Boy Scout`s jamboree. Weather it kept us in for two days, but on the third
night, we made it out before another storm rolled in. On the way home, he
insisted on sharing his peanut butter and honey sandwiches with me and the
chief of staff, Andy Card."
I mean, he split his sandwich three ways.
The image of George W. Bush going hungry on a flight from rural
Virginia all the way to Washington, D.C. in order to feed his top staffers
doesn`t convince you he was a good and great man after all, if you`re
thinking, hey, that`s nice but my fourth -- my best friend in fourth grade
shared a sandwich with me and he doesn`t get a library; and there`s
probably no convincing you -- at least not by way heartwarming personal
stories told by high level former aides.
But that is not the only approach being employed this week by Bush
apologists. Some conservative Bushes are trying to rehabilitate his image
through a careful project of omission. "Washington Post`s" Jennifer Rubin
is the best example of this approach. This is really great.
In her column this week, Ms. Rubin compared George Bush`s record as
president to that of Barack Obama, quote, "Unlike Obama`s tenure, there was
no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11."
Right. If you don`t count the biggest terrorist attack ever in the
history of terrorist attacks on American soil that took place on George
Bush`s watch, there is still the anthrax attack of 2001, which remains
unsolved to this day. Maybe those also fall under this mysterious first
year immunity rule Bush apologists like us to operate on when it comes to
evaluating George Bush`s record on terrorism.
And when it comes to the economy, they would please like you to forget
that George W. Bush was still at the wheel in the back half of 2008 for
that whole worse crisis in 80 years thingy.
Jennifer Rubin for one, counting Bush`s 7 1/2 years of job growth and
prosperity, 7 1/2 years, you think yourself, that`s not quite how long he
was in office. She is not lying about his presidency, she is just
carefully editing out the bad parts.
But there is a third technique being employed by those seeking to
resurrect George W. Bush`s image this week and this particular defense by
George W. Bush`s own former staffers and loyalist might just be its most
damning indictment of his presidency yet. It is an argument and I am not
making this stuff. This is the argument they`re making. Not that he made
the right decisions, but that he made decisions, and that is what made him
a good president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY CARD, FORMER BUSH CHIEF OF STAFF: You go to the museum and you
get to say, wow, that was a compelling time. I didn`t realize how
compelling it was when the president had to face this impossibly difficult
decision. I`m glad he had the courage to make a decision.
ED GILLESPIE: He confronted some very difficult challenges.
DAN BARTLETT: You don`t get to have a do-over, as he said. And so,
he made decisions based on the best information he had at the time.
CARD: He had the courage to make decisions and they were presidential
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That is true. They were presidential decisions. He was
president. He made decisions because he was president. But that doesn`t
mean they were good decisions.
But this damning with faint praise idea George W. Bush`s big strength
as a president simply having made decisions regardless of the wisdom of
those decisions is amazingly embodied in the George W. Bush Library itself.
It`s called Decision Points Theater, described as being an interactive
choose your own adventure game of big decisions made by George W. Bush
during his presidency.
But in the game, an audience of up to 24 people at a time gets to say
what decision they would make.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: You can hear everything, the advice
that all the different advisors gave President Bush before each of these
decisions. You can hear the press sort of hounding you to say, make a
decision, what are you going to do? You don`t have much time.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It is a tough job. It also
gives people an understanding how decisions are made. One thing for
certain, not my presidency alone where the president has to make tough
decisions. Every president makes tough decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: This does not sound like the kind of thing that will make
everyone realize what a great President George W. Bush was.
In fact, it sounds to me like the world`s easiest video game. Invade
a country for no reason or don`t invade the country for no reason. Don`t
invade a country for no reason.
Celebrate John McCain`s birthday while a deadly storm hits New Orleans
or don`t celebrate John McCain`s while a deadly storm hits New Orleans.
Don`t celebrate John McCain`s birthday while a deadly storm hits New
Orleans. I could do this all day.
Torture people or don`t torture people. Don`t torture people.
Deregulate and tax cut the country into financial ruin or don`t tax
cut the country into financial ruin.
There is no reason, people, to over-think the Bush presidency. It was
just as bad as you thought. As Bush himself might advise, when you`re
considering his legacy, go with your gut.
Joining me tonight from Dallas, Texas, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson,
former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State Department, currently
professor of government and public policy at the College of William and
And you are down in Texas giving a speech, you`re down there right
now. What was your reaction to watching the pomp and circumstance and the
rehabilitation of the George W. Bush rehabilitation reputation today?
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER POWELL CHIEF OF STAFF: The biggest
thing that hit me, because torture was the issue that made me go public
back in 2005 was when he stood in front of the library and said, people
will be able to come to this library and see we stayed true to our
Well, this at the same time a week ago the Constitution Project on
Detainee Treatment released its report which answered two really big
questions. Did the United States torture? Yes. Resoundingly so. And did
it originate the decision there for at the top level? Vice president and
president. Yes, it did.
I don`t think that`s something that represents my convictions and I
hope to hell it doesn`t represent the convictions of most Americans. Yet
that`s what he said the library was going to represent.
HAYES: What is he the most important thing to having been inside the
administration, having watched these vaunted decisions unfold, what is the
most important thing for us to have learned or think about when we think
about the Bush legacy in terms of what we do going forward?
WILKERSON: You hit upon some of it. I teach presidential decision
making post-World War II. When you make decision, you make good decisions
or you make bad decisions, and making no decision can be one of those, too.
There were an awful lot of bad decisions in this administration. One
of the things Americans should take away from that is the apathy and
general lack of knowledge about those decisions made for the American
people is a contributing factor if not the overriding factor to those
decisions being made. So, if we continue to be apathetic as we were during
that time and I would submit we are now during President Obama`s tenure,
we`re going to get more of this, not less.
HAYES: There`s some news today from Dianne Feinstein. She`s talking
about calls for the administration to release prisoners in Guantanamo. And
Guantanamo is a perfect example of those decisions that was made in a
fairly ad hoc fashion. There were a lot of people captured on the
battlefield. They were scooped up. They were sent to Guantanamo and we`re
living with that decision now, today, still, all these years later, despite
the fact it was repudiated at the polls.
Dianne Feinstein saying that fact that "so many detainees have now
being held at Guantanamo for over a decade and they belief there is still
no end in sight for them is a reason there is a growing problem of more and
more detainees on a hunger strike. I`d like the administration to review
the status of the 86 detainees who were clear for transfer in the past and
let me know if there are suitable places to continue to hold or resettle
these detainees either in their home countries or third countries."
We are still living very much in the legacy of what decisions were
made in the Bush administration, particularly when it comes to Guantanamo
WILKERSON: Yes. And those people are still being tortured, some of
them force-fed at least twice day. And if you`ve never seen a
demonstration of force-feeding where you`re shackled to a chair and a tube
is stuck down your throat all the way to the stomach, you know that`s
So, it`s still going on. And the residue of these decisions are going
to be around for a long time. And what else has Guantanamo done? It`s
allowed the current administration to say, no, we`re not going to put
anymore there, what we`ll do is ship them to Bagram or we`ll ship them to
somewhere elsewhere where we know they`re not going to be taken care of at
HAYES: Colonel Lawrence Wilkinson, thank you so much for joining us
from Texas. I really appreciate it.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Chris.
HAYES: George W. Bush called himself the decider. Up next, I`ll talk
with one of the people who made a truly courageous, some would say
unpopular decision as the Bush administration beat the drums of war.
We`ll be right back.
HAYES: I will admit it is not exactly fair to kick around the Bush
administration all night without letting them get some defense. So, former
Bush aide Dylan Glenn will join us next. He`ll make his case. MSNBC`s Joy
Reid and Congresswoman Barbara Lee will make theirs as well.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I told President Obama that this was the latest, grandest
example of the eternal struggle of former presidents to rewrite history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: An uncomfortable truth spoken by former President Bill Clinton
today at the unveiling of the new George W. Bush Library.
Let`s bring in Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat from California.
Also joining me from Dallas, former special assistant to President George
W. Bush, Dylan Glenn. And here with me at the table, Joy Reid, MSNBC
contributing and managing editor of TheGrio.com.
Congresswoman Lee, I want to begin with you for two reasons. One,
talk about this difficult decisions, you made this remarkably difficult
decision to vote against the authorization for the use of military force
within just a few weeks after 9/11. You were the only member of Congress
in both houses to do so.
And so, I wonder what your reaction was to watching the celebration of
the Bush presidency today at the library and all this talk about difficult
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), LEE: Chris, first of all, that resolution that
came to Congress was three days after the horrific events of 9/11. It was
on 9/14, which tells you how much time the president and Congress had to
make decisions about a response to these very terrible events.
It was a blank check. It was a resolution written in a way that gave
any president, President Bush and now President Obama, the authority to go
to war forever. Of course, I could not vote for that. That gave the
Constitution -- our constitutional responsibility over to the president.
And so, while it may have been a hard, political decision, it was
clearly the right decision, based on our Constitution. Also based on what
I worried about and that was going to war for a time that we don`t know how
long we`re going to war for, you know? And we`re still in this state of
HAYES: Having lived through the Bush years and having had to vote on
things that were being fought out in the legislative branch during that
period of time, are you disposed to look on the bright side today and look
for the silver lining and say, you know, he was good on this, he was good
on -- I don`t know, funding for AIDS in Africa or something like that?
LEE: Let me tell you, the facts speak for themselves. First of all,
we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Iraq, just look at that. The facts were misleading, they were
manufactured. And they were wrong. And we took our country into war and
lost over 4,400 brave young men and women. You`re talking about $800
billion, could be a trillion dollars. And look what`s happened to our
country and our economy.
Now, I have to say, I worked with President Bush on the global
HIV/AIDS initiative. I`m hoping in his library, he has those documents
because I have to tell you, it was the Congressional Black Caucus that met
with President Bush and we laid out what could be a magnificent robust
response to save millions of lives.
And I`m very proud of the fact and pleased with President Bush that he
really moved forward and worked with us and signed the first Global AIDS,
well, really the second Global AIDS bill into law. There were many things
I think hopefully were in the library that showed the relationship between
the Congressional Black Caucus and our global HIV/AIDS response.
HAYES: Dylan, can I ask you? Conservatives have had an interesting
relationship to the Bush presidency. Obviously, during his presidency, he
was remarkably popular with conservatives. He became to be less so in the
second term. He has been essentially written out of history in a weird
way. He hasn`t appeared in the last two conventions. His name never
And now, it seems like a moment of re-embrace for conservatives of
George W. Bush.
Is that how you understand the trajectory?
DYLAN GLENN, FORMER AIDE TO PRES. BUSH: Well, first, Chris, I will
say I wish you could be here in Dallas. It`s been a great day here with
all the five living presidents and, of course, a wonderful way to honor
George Bush and his family and it`s been a wonderful homecoming and reunion
for all of us who have the privilege of serving with him.
To your question, I guess I`d say, you know, this president has been a
person that sort of shunned politics since he`s left office. You know,
he`s not a political leader today, he`s a public servant, which is
something I think he and his family, that`s been a tradition he`s lived his
And I think what you`re going to see coming out of this library and
over the course of the next hopefully many years, you`re going to see a
president leads by example working on those issues that the library stands
for, education, freedom around the globe --
HAYES: Right. He`s the last two term -- the last Republican
president. He had a huge legacy. And how he relates -- how conservatives
view themselves in relationship to him seems to have a really big effect on
what conservatives are going to do. It seems like there was a period
conservatives really want to reject him and now it seems like they`re
GLENN: Well, I think you can err on both sides. I`m not sure they
ever rejected him, I`m not sure embracing him that much today versus how
they always handled the president. This is a guy that ran his first
campaign on being a compassionate conservative. He governed center right.
I think he`s been respected from the conservatives and I hope to think
across the American (INAUDIBLE) governing that way.
But I don`t think there`s a rift before and I don`t think that it`s
being healed now. I think this day and looking forward is about stepping
back and letting historians take a look at the record and having American
citizens drawing their own conclusions. You know, the sort of the day-to-
day pettiness of politics, I think he`s going to try to stay out of.
JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Well, I mean, I think the problem with that
analysis is that the major movements within Republicanism in the last few
years have seemed to be a negative reaction to Bush. You have that sort of
Tea Party movement that was about bailouts. Well, who instituted those
bailouts, TARP, et cetera, the bailout, the first bailout of the auto
industry, that would be George W. Bush. The revulsion that was attached to
that got placed on Barack Obama but it was Bush who started those policies.
And then the other big movement you`re seeing within the Republican
Party, the libertarian sort of wing of the party that is more isolationist,
that is more skeptical of foreign wars, well, that would seem to be a
direct repudiation of the kind of neoconservative policies Bush didn`t run
on in 2000, but that he fully embraced, I think pushed by Dick Cheney,
pushed by the neocons in the Pentagon.
So, I think that George W. Bush got taken off the trajectory of being
the kind of Republican he was before he was president. He got pulled into
this neoconservative wing of the party that even made him a disappointment
to the third part of the party, which is evangelicals, to whom he seemed to
promise a lot. He never delivered on the federal ban on abortion, things
like that. So, Bush was a disappointment to so much of the party that he
was pushed away.
But the one way he was embraced, the idea that the media and culture
disrespected Bush is a lot of the reasons the right despise Obama.
HAYES: Conservatives on Twitter -- and I understand, if I were a
conservative and I watched my opening, I would not like it either. I
understand. That`s fine.
But, people, like -- what`s interesting is that there is a degree to
which he has been distanced from a conservative movement. But if you
attack George W. Bush, conservatives get incredibly upset.
Congresswoman, I want to ask you a subsequent question and, Dylan, I
want to ask you about this legacy question.
But, Congresswoman, one of the things President Obama said today I
thought was very interesting was he gave props to George Bush for trying to
get comprehensive immigration reform done. And one of the things I thought
that was interesting and clever about that, is that it pointed out the fact
as Joy was just saying, in some ways, the Republican Party has moved to the
right after George W. Bush, right?
I mean, in certain ways, the House Republican Caucus, your colleagues,
is the most conservative part of any major party we have seen in a very
long time, and that`s more conservative than George W. Bush.
Is that how you understand the trajectory since then?
LEE: Yes, indeed. There is no way I can say I have ever seen a more
conservative Congress. I`ve been here now 15 years. I am telling you,
when we have an economy now with double-digit unemployment for example in
the African-American community and Latino community, not to be able to even
bring up a jobs bill, a bill to create jobs to reduce unemployment, we
can`t even get this Congress to talk about and move forward to create jobs.
I don`t believe a more moderate Congress, more moderate Democratic caucus
would be obstructionist as these Tea Party are.
I mean, this is really very serious, Chris. I`m telling you. This is
-- they`re dug in. I think they came here to dismantle government, to --
HAYES: Dylan -- I`m sorry, Congresswoman, I wanted to get Dylan in
here because he`s sitting there and I wanted to give him a chance to
respond to this. Because you just said, you know, people are going to
figure this out. History is going to be left to this.
My question is to you, as someone who worked in the administration, is
he a great president? Are you proud of what he did? Did you stand by the
GLENN: I`m very proud of how he`s governed. I`m very proud of what
he tried to do. You know, this is a president that tried to reform Social
Security, tough decisions. Certainly, we`re not going to re-litigate the
wars, people will make their own decisions about that.
But he improved education in this country. We lower tax rates for --
we created a lower tax rate for the lowest income people in America and
reduced taxes for millions of Americans and we got the economy moving.
Certainly, the economy hit speed bumps, but listen.
This is an imperfect science governing this great nation which is what
makes us great. I think President Bush is someone who will be remembered
as not afraid to put his principles first and stand behind his principles.
HAYES: Dylan Glenn, thank you so much for that defense. That is the
defense that I`ve heard.
Congresswoman, I`m sorry to cut you off, I did want to give Dylan
But I want to talk to you again about repealing the authorization to
use the military force. But you voted against and I are in agreement on
this issue. So, we`re going to go back and talk about that, because that`s
really important. And Joy Reid, of course, of TheGrio.com, thank you all
so much. I really, really appreciate it.
Thank you, Dylan, for standing out there with the truck. I really
All right. Were chemical weapons used in Syria? The Department of
Defense is now saying the tentative answer is yes. What that means and how
the United States will respond. That`s coming up.
HAYES: Here was the news today. U.S. believes Syrian regime used
chemical weapons. Now, this is big news and especially unnerving because
of the red line the president described just last August.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we
start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being
utilized. We have put together a range of contingency plans. We have
communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that
that`s a red line for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confirmed the contents
of a letter sent from the White House to a bipartisan group of senators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It states that the U.S.
intelligence community assesses with some degree a varying confidence that
the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria,
specifically the chemical agent Serin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: But the headlines have been a little confusing about what this
all means, which is why it`s important to understand how we got to this
point and the role played by John McCain, a very vocal advocate of U.S.
military involvement in Syria, in getting us here. Two days ago, Israel`s
top military intelligence analyst, Brigadier General Itai Brun (ph), told
an Israel security conference that Syria had used chemical weapons against
rebel fighters there. He cited photographic evidence of people foaming
from the mouth and other symptoms apparently consistent with the nerve gas
The Pentagon responded the U.S. was continuing to assess the
situation. But Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, both of whom have
urged more aggressive action in Syria, asked the White House for its
response to the Israeli intelligence revelation. The aforementioned letter
from the White House was the official response to those senators. Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel, traveling in the Middle East, then basically read
the letter to reporters. And he added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGEL: The decision to reach this conclusion was made within the past
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham responded to the news
today in separate interviews. Senator McCain, "I think it`s pretty obvious
that a red line has been crossed." Senator Graham, "it`s a red line that
has been crossed."
Of course, if the red line has been crossed, the next question is,
what the heck does that mean for U.S. involvement.
Joining me from Washington, Bobby Ghosh, Time International editor.
Bobby, can we start with this phrase, "some degrees of varying confidence,"
because having gone through Iraq WMD, I think all of us are extremely
attuned to the intelligence problems here. What should we make of the
phrase "we have determined with some degree of varying confidence that
chemical weapons were used?"
BOBBY GHOSH, TIME INTERNATIONAL EDITOR: We have to conclude that
we`re not 100 percent sure. Chemical weapons are not very subtle. Serin
in particular is not very subtle. The fact that that kind of language has
been used suggests to me, anyway, that very small amounts were used. This
is not Halabja (ph). This is not even something as bad as the Tokyo Subway
Serin gas release.
HAYES: Halabja was when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against
Kurds during his reign in the 1980s?
GHOSH: That is correct. So it seems that John Kerry said there were
a couple of instances where it looks like the gas was used. The president,
in his letter, also talks about sending -- asking the United Nations to
investigate. So it suggest that there is enough circumstantial evidence
this was used, but not quite yet conclusive proof that, A, it was used, and
B, who used it? Was it the rebels against the government? The government
against the rebels? Was it an independent commander gone rogue? Was it
There`s still a lot of gray in this mix before we get to red lines.
HAYES: The president and the White House, unnamed officials have been
very careful talking about it that way. One unnamed official, "given our
history of intelligence assessments, including intelligence assessments
related to weapons of mass destruction, it`s very important we are able to
establish this with certainty and that we are able to present information
in a way that is air tight."
My next question is, what does red line mean? I`ve been trying to
figure this out all day. The use of chemical weapons is a red line. What
is on the other side of the red line?
GHOSH: That`s the multi-billion dollar question. For the Obama
administration, it is very clear that there are no good outcomes to any
kind of military involvement by the United States, not even of the nature
that we saw in Libya, not even imposing a no-fly zone. The administration
has gamed every scenario out, our reporting suggests, and none of those
scenarios leads to a conclusion that is satisfactory from the American
point of view, from the point of view protecting American interests.
So John McCain would like the creation of some kind of a safe zone
protected by American or international arms, where rebels can -- from where
rebels can launch against Bashar Assad, but many military strategists have
said that that doesn`t make a lot of sense. So the language of red lines,
really if you look at it very closely, doesn`t add up to much, because
until there is international consensus and international action, nothing
really can be done.
And there`s not international consensus. The Russians and the Chinese
have said repeatedly that they will not allow an international military
action. Will the Russians care that gas was used maybe once or twice?
Maybe, may not be. I`m not sure.
HAYES: Yes. I should note, a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving
around or being utilized was the actual quote from the president.
GHOSH: Whole bunch was the crucial --
HAYES: Bobby Ghosh of Time International, thank you. We`ll be right
back with Click Three.
HAYES: That`s President Obama today at the memorial service for those
who lost their lives at the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. And
behind me is Senator Obama in 2006, a man who is trying to prevent
explosions like the one in West from happening. We`ll tell you who stopped
him and why. That`s coming up.
But first, I want to share the three awesomest things on the Internet
today, beginning with a pitch from our Twitter fan John Fogarty, who tells
us that the website TheyDontWorkForYou.org is well worth a look. I could
not agree more. Two Brooklyn based designers were so frustrated by the
Senate`s failure on the background checks on guns, they felt compelled to
do something about it.
This is a result of that anger, a powerful interactive slide show
depicting the faces of gun violence and the 45 senators who voted against
doing something to stop it. Following the opening slides are 45 separate
screens, pairing each no vote with a child killed by gun violence within
the past year. A stark personalized message accompanies each slide.
"Senator Cruz doesn`t work for kids like Jesse." "Senator Heitkamp doesn`t
work for kids like Katherine."
The feature ends with Wayne LaPierre and the words, "these senators
don`t work for you. They work for the NRA. They work for the gun
industry, whose sole purpose is to sell more guns."
The designers aren`t political advocates. But as Fom Champon (ph)
tells the Company -- the website That Company, "every once in a while we
get really engaged and we get really anger, and we try to do something that
makes a difference." Amen to that.
The second awesomest thing on the Internet today, another powerful
example of resilience from the city of Boston. "Boston Magazine" released
its May cover in a Tweet earlier and the image went viral. The cover
features sneakers donated by Boston Marathoners, color coordinated to form
the shape of a heart. The headline, simply a powerful "we will finish the
The back story is just as amazing. The May issue was just days away
from being shipped out when terror struck the city. Quickly, staffers came
up with a new cover idea and sent out Tweets and Facebook posts asking
runners to submit their shoes. They received about 150 pairs and then
interviewed each runner who donated. Some interviews will be in the
magazine itself, while most will be featured online in a special section
that will go live next week.
As one hopeful who submitted his shoes told "Runners World," "the
Boston Marathon will be back and so will I."
And the third awesomest thing on Internet today, switching gears a bit
here, this man claims his sheer handsomeness got him kicked out of Saudi
Arabia. Meet Omar Borkan al Gala (ph). He is a Dubai based fashion
photographer, actor and poet. In other words, a real catch.
Now news broke last week that three men were deported -- deported from
Saudi Arabia after being deemed too good looking by the religious police.
Mr. Al Gala posted a link to the story on Facebook along with a smiley
faced emoticon. That was enough for several media outlets to report that
Mr. Al Gala was, indeed, one of the hunky heartbreakers deported. Though I
would definitely characterize him as deportably handsome, we will never
know the truth since there is no photographic evidence of the three men.
All we have are these pictures and Mr. Al Gala`s devastatingly perfect
You can find all the links for tonight`s Click Three on our website,
AllInWithChris.com. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We may not all live here in Texas but we`re neighbors, too.
OBAMA: We`re Americans, Too. And we stand with you and we do not
OBAMA: And we`ll be there even after the cameras leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was President Obama in his second Texas speaking
engagement of the day. First, he was in Dallas to muster some nice words
about the legacy of President Bush at the opening of the Bush Library.
Then he traveled to Waco for the memorial of the victims at the West
Fertilizer Company. These two speaking engagements are not just
geographically related. There`s a thread that runs through, an amazing and
I think until now untold story of the Bush administration and how it went
about defeating the kind of regulation that would have strengthened federal
oversight for the plant that blew up.
We pieced together this story. Here`s what happened. In the wake of
9/11, there was tremendous concern about the vulnerability of chemical
plants, including plants that stored fertilizer. The EPA knew these
chemical plants posed a legitimate risk for the lives of hundreds of
thousands of people. The vulnerability of chemical plants made headlines
across the country, "2.4 Million People Could Be Killed or Injured in a
Chemical Attack Against a U.S. Chemical Plant in a Densely Populated Areas.
A reporter could easily enter more than 60 plants storing catastrophic
amounts of chemicals in Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, western Pennsylvania."
"U.S. Chemical Plants represent the third highest risk of fatalities
from possible terrorist attacks."
To Bush administration officials, Christine Todd Whitman, who was head
of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Tom Ridge, who was secretary of
Homeland Security, came up with a plan to deal with the vulnerability.
Whitman believed the EPA was already empowed to expand her agency`s
oversight of chemical plants under a section of the Clean Air Act. And she
and Ridge worked out a deal to do so.
That is until the son-in-law of former Vice President Dick Cheney
walked into the room, a guy by the name of Phillip Perry, who was at the
time the general council of the White House Office of Management and
Budget. And he made it clear the Bush administration was not going to
support granting regulatory authority over chemical security to the EPA.
According to reports, Perry claimed that their proposal was tantamount
to overreach and they would need Congress to specifically authorize it.
OK, Christine Todd Whitman and Tom Ridge rebuffed, figured out the obvious
thing to do was to go up to the Hill and ask Congress for the authority
necessary. But as Whitman writes in her book, "It`s My Party, Too, the
Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America," "although both
Tom and I agreed such legislation was necessary, strong Congressional
opposition, led by some Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee to giving EPA
even the modest additional statutory authority made it difficult to secure
administration support for a meaningful bill."
Basically, the Bush administration, from above, pulled support for
that bill because the chemical industry does not want to be regulated by
the EPA. Fast forward a few years to 2007, and Phil Perry, again Dick
Cheney`s son-in-law, is now over at the Department of Homeland Security as
the department`s general council. And what he manages to do, in an
uncontroversial bill, an appropriations rider, is slip in industry friendly
language into the bill that moves the task of regulating chemical plants
from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Homeland
But DHS is given none of the tools it would need to actually do that.
"The Washington Monthly" wrote a great piece on this back in 2007, "Perry
reworked the language and helped to get it added to the spending bill in a
conference committee. Under the new amendment, the DHS would have nominal
authority to regulate the chemical industry, but also have its hands tied
So let`s recap. The Bush administration`s own cabinet secretaries
come up with a plan to regulate these chemical plants. It is stymied by
Phil Perry once. The Bush administration sides with the chemical industry
when it`s brought before Congress. And then basically in a back room
maneuver, Perry does the chemical agency`s bidding by moving the oversight
of this from the EPA, which the chemical industry hates, to DHS, which the
chemical industry thinks they can more easily manipulate.
Now, go ahead to six years. The West Fertilizer Company is storing
more than 1,300 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally
trigger safety oversight by DHS. It does appear now that not only did DHS
literally have no idea that the West Fertilizer Company was storing
ammonium nitrate, but according to Congresswoman Betty Thompson, a Democrat
from Mississippi, DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up.
Now here`s what makes this all the more incredible. In 2006, when a
bill was introduced in the Senate to make chemical plants safer, a bill
that was blocked by Republicans, the young senator who introduced that bill
was this man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: That chemical plant security is another, where the chemical
industry has been resistant to mandates when it comes to hardening their
sights. There has been resistance from the chemical industry. And it is
this, again, an ideological predisposition that says regulation is always
bad. So stay out of the marketplace.
Well, look, I am a strong believer in the free market. I am a strong
believer in capitalism. But I am also a strong believer that there are
certain common goods, our air, our water, making sure that people are safe,
that require us to have some regulation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So given that the Bush-backed legislation that moved oversight
of big places storing fertilizer from EPA to DHS -- given that`s the law of
the land and given that Republicans in Congress are not going to change it,
the administration has been considering just recently granting the EPA the
original authority that Christine Todd Whitman wanted way back in the first
place. Of course, the chemical industry lobby hates this.
So look at this. In February, 10 Republicans and one Democrat teamed
up with a bunch of chemical industry groups to fight this proposal tooth
and nail. Here`s a letter from the group to members of Congress. It reads
in part "we have concerned about EPA`s arbitrary application of the general
duty clause," which is what this authority would be called, "as well as the
potential for future expansion of the general duty clause to regulate the
security of chemical facilities."
And here`s the best part. Check out the signatories on the bottom.
We highlighted two of them for you. The Fertilizer Institute and the
International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration. We`ll be right back with
the person who inherited the mess that was the Bush EPA. Lisa Jackson
joins me next.
HAYES: Let`s bring in Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama. And Lisa, I want to
begin with this question about who should being regulating these kinds of
plants? Does it matter if it`s EPA or the Department of Homeland Security?
Should we as citizens have a stake in that kind of battle?
LISA JACKSON, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: First, Chris, let me express
sympathy to the 14 families who are mourning dead today, and the over 200
folks who have been injured.
To answer your question, it absolutely matters. First off on the
whole, this is about the role of government, something that we`ve spent now
years hearing conservatives, Republicans in the House say we need to get
rid of the EPA because it`s stymieing. But the role of government is to
step in when private sector failures like this happen. And the role of the
Environmental Protection Agency is to monitor and regulate toxic chemical
I mean, I started my career at EPA 22 years ago working on toxic
chemical clean up as a young chemical engineer. There`s expertise there
that isn`t being used for the people of the country.
HAYES: That is what is so surprising about the aftermath of West,
Texas, when I heard about how much the Department of Homeland Security was
now supposed to be looking after this. But there`s not an institutional
memory inside the Department of Homeland Security of doing this kind of
thing. That is something that you would expect the EPA, which is a really
tremendously important bureaucracy, to have the capacity to do.
JACKSON: Not only is it a bureaucracy, but EPA has environmental
scientists and engineers. We have the highest percentage -- EPA has the
highest percentage of environmental scientists and engineers of any agency
except for NASA. So there`s lots of talent there.
I just want to be really clear, though. Christie Whitman, when she
was administrator, worked with her counterpart in the cabinet, Tom Ridge.
And there was no problem working with the Department of Homeland Security
and Secretary Janet Napolitano. What needs to happen is that we need to
use the authority that we have now, because I`m afraid that just like gun
control, there`s going to be a lot of nodding and gnashing of teeth, but no
one is going to change anything.
And although this appears to have been a tragic industrial accident,
what if it wasn`t? What about the plants out there that are so susceptible
to terrorism that would be very similar to this?
HAYES: That, I think, is a really important point, right, there is --
it`s like in the aftermath of Newtown. People say, well, a background
check wouldn`t have prevented Newtown necessarily, but there`s lots of
other gun violence in America. And the same thing here in West, Texas, is
this is an opportunity for us to actually look at how do we oversee
chemical plants. I have learned in following this story that we maybe
don`t oversee them in the most optimal way because the chemical industry
fought very hard to make it that way.
JACKSON: Listen, they use two things against the people. This isn`t
about EPA or Department of Homeland Security. This are the American
people. These are people who didn`t realize, because they didn`t have
access to information, what they were living next to, where their children
were going to school. So there`s two things that the industry does.
First is they sort of piece around regulation so that no one sees the
full picture. That`s clearly part of what happened here. EPA had some
information, Homeland Security had some, I`m sure the state had some
amount, and not enough resources. But they also keep information from the
public. You know, they say, well, we can`t give this information out
because then terrorists will use it. And right after this accident, the
industry started to make sure that EPA didn`t release information on what
kind of chemicals were at this plant. And they hid it behind Homeland
Security. When people have information, they protect themselves.
HAYES: Yes. Lisa Jackson, former EPA administrator, who did an
incredible job, if you don`t mind my saying, at the EPA, it`s really great
to have you with us tonight.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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