'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, May 9th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
May 9, 2013
Guests: Jose Antonio Vargas, Mark Barden
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
for the next hour.
Today, Minnesota took a big step toward becoming the 12th state in the
country to recognize marriage equality for same sex couples. The bill
passed the Minnesota House by 16 votes and now heads to the Senate.
Two states down the Mississippi River, though, today was a very
different day. The Republican-controlled House in Missouri, all at once,
all in a rush, passed a whole slew of bills last night, banning Sharia law,
outlawing the nefarious black helicopter U.N. conspiracy agenda 21.
They passed a bill that would ban all federal gun laws in Missouri?
No, you can`t really do that but they passed a law that would do it.
And they passed a bill that says, if you are a teacher in Missouri
schools and you are told to bring a gun to school with you, you can be
fired if you the teacher do not show up with that gun.
So, wow, yes, how do you do, Missouri Republicans? It`s been a big 24
There was a new heist exposed by federal prosecutors today, a heist in
which hackers figured out how to hack into bank ATM networks and they made
off with millions of dollars in cash, big backpacks full of cash and
simultaneously emptied dens of ATMs all on the same day, that hit more than
two dozen countries at once, $45 million stolen in cash.
Today, President Obama went to Texas. He gave two big speeches on the
economy. We`ll have a little more on that in a second.
Today, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Massachusetts denied he
was ever part of the swift boating group that attacked President Obama over
the killing of Osama bin Laden. Gabriel Gomez is the candidate. And he
told reporters today, "I was never associated with the group. I was not
part of the group."
He was in fact the national spokesman for the group in public and on
TV and everything. But now, he is trying to convince all the reporters in
Massachusetts that that isn`t true. Don`t believe your lying eyes.
Mistaken identity or something? I don`t know.
That Massachusetts Senate race is getting weird. The latest polls out
today showed that the Democrat in the race, Ed Markey, is out way, way
So, there`s lots going on in today`s news. But we have to start
tonight in Montana, at the headquarters of an organization that likes to
think of itself as America`s think tank for the white nationalist movement.
They don`t like to say white supremacist apparently. They like to
say, white nationalist. They think it sounds better. You can judge for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who stands for us?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever wondered, why isn`t there an
organization that works for us? From African-Americans to illegal
immigrants, from lesbians to left-handers, every ethnic and interest group
has its own lobby or cultural foundation.
The exception, of course, is white Americans. Our country`s historic
majority and founding population, the people that bears the unique heritage
of Europe, Christianity, cultural excellence and the scientific awakening.
There also are peculiar folk ways, holidays, traditions and customs that
make us both uniquely European and uniquely American.
Only we are who we are. So, again, why isn`t there an organization
that has our interests at heart?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Our. So, this is the white supremacist -- sorry, the white
nationalist think tank group. They call themselves the National Policy
Institute. Their slogan, you can see at the top there, for our people, our
culture, our future. And when they say "our", they are being really,
really specific about who they mean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as whites continue to avoid and deny their
own racial identity, at a time when almost every other racial and ethnic
category is rediscovering and asserting its own, whites will have no chance
to resist their dispossession.
This is our challenge. This is our calling. Won`t you join us?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So if you poke around on the Web site of the white
supremacist -- white nationalist think tank, you can kind of see how
they`re trying to update the whole racist image. So, yes, some of them are
still kind of skinhead looking guys. But they wear suits, you know, and
some of them have hair.
But this is an old school kind of thing. No interbreeding, protect
the sanctity of whiteness from the inferior races. It is exactly what you
think it is with somewhat improved haircuts. If you dig into the fine
prints in their online web presence, you`ll find they`re not just an online
group. They do hold physical conferences and events and things.
They also maintain a P.O. box in Whitefish, Montana. And it turns out
that is the exact same address and exact same P.O. box for this online
racist forum. I saw a bunch of links to this today were all the way back
machine. I thought maybe it was down -- but no, it`s all still there.
It is called the "Alternative Right". And it`s an online racist
forum. It describes itself as being founded by the "won`t you join us"
white power guy you just saw in the think tank video. It says it is
dedicated to heretical perspectives, particularly those with a nationalist
outlook. And it`s still around. It`s still up and kicking.
This, for example, is their post on Holocaust Remembrance Day this
year, this past January. They call it Holocaust amnesia day, and under a
picture of a pile of dead bodies from the Holocaust that says, "I can`t
believe it`s crept up on me again. Today, I discover today is Holocaust
Memorial Day and I`m fresh out of onions."
The author goes on to describe his decidedly mixed feelings about
commemorating a supposed historical event and then he goes to magnanimously
propose that we leave aside for the moment the question of whether or not
this whole Holocaust thing actually happened. So, this is the real deal,
right? This is alternative right, which lives in the same White Fish,
Montana P.O. box as the white supremacist think tank.
The think tank guy still posts at "Alternative Right" as well. He
wrote there during the Republican convention last summer, trying to set
people`s minds at ease about the prospect of maybe a Condoleezza Rice
presidency, whoo, that did not happen. But he warned the Republican Party
of, quote, "becoming a party of pinatas, burritos and "Forget the Alamo",
lamenting, quote, "every penny spent by the Republican Party on
This treasonous (ph), filthy, dank, racist little corner of the
Internet is relevant and it`s top of the news today because it is,
suddenly, front and center in super mainstream American politics. This
Aryan Nation, supremacist of the nations crock is directly linked to the
legislation that finally started getting its big mark-up in the United
States today, after months of build-up -- the highest profile legislation
in the country, the legislation that if it passes will be as big a deal as
health reform, actually probably bigger.
Starting immediately after the presidential election, there was all
this talk that the Republican Party was finally going to be go along, they
were finally going to help see into law reform of our nation`s royally
screwed up immigration system. The writing was on the law, right?
After losing the presidency again and losing seats in the house and
losing seats in the Senate, the writing was on the wall, the Republican
Party had to get right with Latinos at least, with Latino voters. And the
way it was going to do it was by supporting immigration reform finally.
The day after the election, conservative hosts on the FOX News Channel
and conservative radio began announcing their personal conversion. Yes,
yes. OK, immigration, fine, we`ll support it. After years of saying no,
now, they`re all on board.
As of today, as of today, that legislation has now finally been
introduced and started its progress through the Senate today. Democrats,
of course, support it. The only question is whether or not Republicans are
going to let it pass.
And even though the Beltway narrative is Republicans see the light and
support this now, it is really not clear enough Republicans do support it
that it`s going to pass.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama introduced 49 separate
amendments to the bill today, and that is not because he`s trying to help
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa who`s the ranking Republican on the
committee that`s considering the bill, he introduced 77 amendments to the
bill. Again, that`s not because he likes it, but because a lot of
Republicans are doing everything they can to stop immigration from
And they`ve got a lot of cover. I mean, no Republican senators who
were previously, vocally against immigration reform are coming out now and
saying that they are for it. They may soften their language about it, but
there`s no commitment. There`s been real effort institutionally to
consolidate the party on this issue despite all the Beltway rhetoric.
And the most conservative think tank in the country is really, really
against it. The Heritage Foundation is leading the conservative opposition
to anything getting done to fix the immigration system, and this is where
the white supremacist problem party comes in.
So, yesterday, it was Dillon Matthews (ph) at "The Washington Post"
who looked up the credentials of the people who wrote the anti-immigration
reform study for the Heritage and they found out that one of the co-authors
for the big Heritage study on this issue, did his doctoral dissertation on
American immigration policy and specifically on the question of how we
should shape our immigration policy to account for the fact that Latinos
are so dumb as a race. I`m only barely paraphrasing.
The dissertation describes Latino immigrants as generally having an IQ
that is, quote, "substantially lower than that of the white native
population." Quote, "Immigrants living in the U.S. today do not have the
same level of cognitive ability as natives." Quote, "No one knows whether
Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that
new Hispanic immigrants will have low IQ children and grandchildren is
difficult to argue against."
So, not only are Latinos intellectually inferior to whites, but, of
course, they breed. It`s disgusting, right?
After that was reported the Heritage Foundation, which is now run by
former Republican Senator Republican Jim DeMint, the Heritage Foundation
tried to distance themselves from this guy who they had write their
immigration report. They lamented that people were focusing on this guy`s
dissertation instead of on this new study from him. It said that the
dissertation was, quote, "not a work product of the Heritage Foundation.
Its findings do not reflect the positions of the Heritage Foundation or the
conclusions of our study."
They further dismissed the guy who wrote the Latino`s equal dumb thing
by saying, quote, "he did not shape the methodology or the policy
recommendations in the Heritage policy paper, semicolon, he provided
quantitative support for the lead author." So, basically, he was just a
temp. He was good with a calculator. That`s all we hired him for.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
FERNANDO ESPUELAS, UNIVISION: So, yesterday, you put out a statement,
one of the authors of this study, as you know, Jason Richwine, has now been
found to have written some rather explosive anti-Hispanic statements. In
your statement, you basically just said he provides the numbers. Is that
MIKE GONZALEZ, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Yes, he`s the number cruncher.
ESPUELAS: Let me just finish, if I could -- that`s fine. So, you`re
telling me that you`re using the numbers from a man who has written that
Hispanics have a low IQ and will have a low IQ for generations.
So, what makes you think -- unless you agree with that premise, what
makes you think his numbers are sufficiently good in order for them to be
included in your study?
GONZALEZ: Will I be able to answer?
ESPUELAS: Go for it.
GONZALEZ: He did his dissertation at Harvard before he got here.
ESPUELAS: That was not my question, right. My question was if he did
the numbers and his premise is that Hispanics have low IQ, what makes you
confident his numbers in your study you just cited are actual good numbers?
GONZALEZ: He -- listen, what he studied at Harvard, his dissertation
has nothing to do --
ESPUELAS: Are you standing by his premise that Hispanics have low IQ?
GONZALEZ: No. That`s not our position. That`s not my position
ESPUELAS: Why is he an author in your study?
GONZALEZ: He did the number crunching, as I said.
ESPUELAS: So you have someone who is a racist, obviously, right? Who
is part of your study, you`re accepting his work, therefore you`re
accepting his intellectual framework, right?
GONZALEZ: We need did not accept the work he did before arriving
ESPUELAS: Are you going to fire him or standing by him?
GONZALEZ: We really -- you know, I don`t want to comment on that.
ESPUELAS: Why not?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: To be clear, this guy with the thesis that white people are
naturally smarter, he isn`t some temp the Heritage Foundation just bumped
into and turns out he has this embarrassing past. He has a titled position
at the Heritage Foundation. He`s a senior policy analyst for the Heritage
And even as they tried to disavow his dissertation, that`s in his
student past, that`s one problem with him, today we learn, thanks to some
digging by Chris Moody (ph) at Yahoo News, that this guy`s whole record of
public output is this same kind of stuff.
I mean, here`s another byline article from him. This on from March
2010, model minority question mark, it`s kind of rhetorical question, you
get the implication, right? Quote, "Hispanics are, in fact, substantially
more likely than whites to commit serious crimes. These findings are not
due to age differences or immigration violations or other statistical
artifacts, the reality of Hispanic crimes should be one of the many factors
we consider when setting immigration policy."
That`s not from dissertation somebody had to dig out of the Harvard
Library. That`s on the online machine. Specifically, that`s on the online
machine at alternativeright.com. The place they`re cutting up onions to
make fake cries over the fake Holocaust, where Republicans are becoming the
parties of misspelled burritos, where the White Fish, Montana, post office
box lives with this guy and where the Heritage Foundation`s author of its
immigration study is expounding on the inherent criminality of these brown
people who we really ought to consider keeping out of this country.
And when the Heritage Foundation, when the nation`s leading
conservative think tank, was considering hiring him, his most recent public
output, the thing he was doing online before Heritage hired him was writing
about the racial inferiority and criminality of Latinos as a group. This
is the world the Heritage Foundation went to, to find an author for their
study of immigration reform.
And wouldn`t you know it, it turns out their study concludes that it
is a terrible idea to reform immigration because these immigrants and you
know who we mean, these immigrants and their children and inevitably their
grandchildren, everybody in their bloodline, they are low achieving
parasites who will feed on the native born population and that will be very
expensive, it`s not at all fiscally responsible.
And we learned all of this today about the character of the opposition
to immigration reform in this country. We learned about who is leading the
Republican charge against immigration reform on the day that immigration
reform finally gets introduced in the Senate.
What do those revelations tell us about what happens next on this
very, very important issue?
Joining us now Jose Antonio Vargas. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist. He`s an immigration activist. He`s lived in the U.S. since he
was 12 years old. Jose did not know he was here without documentation
until he tried to get a driver`s license as a teenager and that`s how he
found out he was undocumented.
After winning a Pulitzer Prize, he came out about his immigration
status. He wrote about it in "The New York Times" and "Time" magazine. He
has since travelled the country, talking about immigration. He testified
in front of the Judiciary Committee in February.
Jose Antonio Vargas, it is great to have you here.
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, IMMIGRATION ACTIVIST: Thank you so much for
MADDOW: Sorry to like unload the creep.
VARGAS: You know, I`m trying to look at this as an opportunity.
VARGAS: I`m trying to look at it as an opportunity where every
conservative and every Republican in this country will say, we do not agree
with that. We do not stand by that report.
We want an actual fair common sense solution to a problem. So I
actually hope that the Heritage Foundation keeps him. I hope they keep him
and I hope every Republican and conservative person says that does not
MADDOW: Do you think the Heritage Foundation has been playing an
actual leading role in the opposition to reform? They`ve been trying to.
VARGAS: Well -- they`ve been trying to. And, again, you know,
numbers hide as much as they reveal. I`m all for people having their
You know, this is America, that`s wonderful. But you are not entitled
to your own facts. I read that $6.3 trillion. Not in that report was the
Immigration Policy Center right here that said people like me paid $11.2
billion in state and local taxes in 2010.
MADDOW: Yes. Their math does not include the idea there`s any
economic contribution from immigrants at all. It`s just -- they don`t put
that part of the ledger into the equation.
VARGAS: And again, that is -- we are not -- this is a time for an
honest constructive conversation on this issue, not for distractions, not
for hateful racist distractions. This is exactly what this is.
MADDOW: One of the reasons that I wanted to talk to you about this,
Jose, because you have been traveling around the country, written -- you`re
a very eloquent writer.
VARGAS: Thank you.
MADDOW: One of the things you`ve written about is coming up against
the counter argument and a lot of sort of outre, racist arguments in the
counter argument against immigration. Do you feel like this is breaking in
a high profile way because it`s the Heritage Foundation because of the
timing but this strain has always run through the other side of this issue?
VARGAS: It has and also, it feeds this idea immigration is the most
fundamentally misunderstood issue. I`ve been to Alabama three times in the
past year and half, where Jeff Sessions is from. The first time I was
there, actually, I was on your show 2011. It was interesting us having
people tell me, oh, so you`re not Mexican.
VARGAS: Because, you know, people use --
MADDOW: But you`re an immigrant, how can you not be Mexican?
VARGAS: I`m from the Philippines. Oh. But you speak English so
good. I would like to think as a product of the public education system of
this country, I thank my teachers for teaching English and speaking it very
There`s this narrative, right, not only are we, quote-unquote, "low IQ
people", we`re just taking, taking and taking. Not bringing into mind not
only the billions of dollars that we provide economically to this country,
but also the cultural contributions that we bring to this country.
And, again, I think what we have here is a sideshow distraction that
has gone mainstream and it`s time for every conservative and every
Republican person in this country to say we do not stand with that.
MADDOW: Do you think it can be clarifying. You`re saying you see it
as an opportunity maybe it could happen, people could say, like, actually,
the Heritage Foundation analysis we`re not going that direction. Now, that
we see the tree from which this poison fruit has fallen.
Do you -- I know you hope that will happen. Do you think that will
VARGAS: You know, I don`t know. I don`t think so.
But here`s the thing. All I know is I`ve been to the Heritage
Foundation. I actually spoke there in 2008 I think when I was a
"Washington Post" reporter. I would love to go back to the Heritage
Foundation. I think the Heritage Foundation owes undocumented people like
me a platform.
I think we should go to the Heritage Foundation and talk to them about
MADDOW: I like it.
VARGAS: I think that`s what we should do.
MADDOW: I`d cover it if it happens.
VARGAS: Oh, please, please, Jim DeMint, I would love to come.
MADDOW: He never returns my calls, but if he`s seeing you right now,
I will hook you up.
Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration
activist -- Jose, thank you so much.
VARGAS: Thank you.
MADDOW: It`s great to have you here.
VARGAS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead, including the best new thing in
the world today, which you can own and fly around and impress everybody.
That`s coming up.
MADDOW: President Obama was in Texas today. He was in Austin, Texas,
where he spoke at the Manor New Tech High School. He was there promoting
his economic agenda and his jobs agenda, when he said today that we have
cleared away the rubble of the worst economic crisis in our lifetime.
When the president arrived in Texas, he was greeted on the tarmac by
the governor of Texas, Governor Rick Perry. It`s always nice to see
members of opposing parties physically interacting with one another. Of
course, it`s also awkward, since it was not that long ago that Rick Perry
was trying to take President Obama`s job for himself.
Governor Perry`s term in trying to become the Republican nominee for
president did not last long and it did not go well. Everyone thought he
was going to be a formidable candidate. On paper, he was a formidable
candidate. In the flesh, though, not so much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I will tell you three agencies when I get
there are gone. Commerce, Education, the -- the -- what`s the third one
there? Let`s see.
FORMER REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Five.
PERRY: Oh, five, OK. Commerce, Education and the --
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: EPA?
PERRY: EPA. There you go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rick Perry never did remember that third agency during that
debate even though he definitely would have gotten rid of it as president
whatever it was.
It turns out he wasn`t talking about EPA, but the person who was
hopefully suggesting to him was that the EPA you want to get rid off, that
was Mitt Romney who as the Republican nominee did go on to run for
president on an "I hate the EPA" platform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I think the EPA has gotten completely out of control for a
very simple reason. It is a tool in the hands of the president to crush
the private enterprise system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Luckily for us, this president is terrible at crushing the
private enterprise system. He sucks at it.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average today closed above 15,000 for the
third straight day. It had never been above 15,000 before. Now, now we`ve
been there all week.
President Obama sucks at crushing the private enterprise system. But
still, the point is his tool for doing the crushing is the dreaded
Environmental Protection Agency. Republicans just hate the EPA. Yes,
sure, maybe it was created by a Republican but still, regardless, now, they
One of the ways to demonstrate hatred for that agency to try to get
rid of it is try to elect somebody president who`s running on the platform
that the EPA is a horrible tool to crush private enterprise. Republicans
tried that with Mitt Romney. He lost, so that did not work.
You might also try denouncing the EPA as the Gestapo, hoping that
language like might turn the country against the EPA so they would rise up
to demand it be abolished. That`s the kind of language that Tom DeLay used
to use when he was what the whip in the House before he was sentenced to
prison for money-laundering.
Quote, "The EPA, the Gestapo of government, has been one of the major
claw hooks that the government maintains on the backs of our constituents."
So, run somebody for president who could get rid of the EPA if he`s
elected, have your congressional leadership call it the Gestapo, or you can
do what Republicans did today in Washington, D.C.
The new nominee to run the EPA is Gina McCarthy, seen here with the
president. She has been the top ranking official at the agency for four
years -- a top ranking official at the agency for four years, I should say.
Today, we learned their new strategy to stop her nomination to run the
agency, their new strategy to stop that nomination is to question it to
death. The Senate gets to ask all the questions it likes, right, when it
does its due diligence in assessing presidential nominees. They ask
questions out loud in confirmation hearings. They also asked questions in
writing and then the nominees write back their answers.
And particularly when it`s a contentious agency or contentious
nomination, senators tend to ask a lot of questions to try to gum up the
works. So, when George W. Bush nominated Michael Leavitt and Steven
Johnson to run the EPA, Michael Leavitt had to wade through 22 written
questions. Johnson had to wade through 49 written question. That`s a lot.
President Obama`s first term EPA nominee, Lisa Jackson, then set the
all-time record. She had to answer 118 questions. That was the record.
And it`s daunting, right, submitting written answers to 118 different
written questions all from senators looking to find a word wrong somewhere,
to try to scuttle your nomination.
The last nominee, Lisa Jackson had to answer 118 questions. Guess how
many questions the Republicans have submitted to the new nominee? One
thousand and seventy-nine questions. And then there`s sub-questions within
those questions. If you include the sub-questions, more than 600 of the
questions to Gina McCarthy have come from one senator, from Louisiana
Senator David Vitter.
This is the 123 page questionnaire exchange between Senator Vitter and
the EPA nominee, 123 pages of questions and answers. She has answered all
of his more than 600 written questions. In response today, Republican
senators refused to even show up for the vote on her nomination because
they say she has been unresponsive. They say she has not answered enough
The eight Republican senators on the Environment Committee led by
Senator Vitter boycotted the vote to protest how unresponsive Gina McCarthy
was to the more than 1,000 questions they have asked her, the more than
1,000 questions they have asked her which she has answered. They consider
What do you think the odds are we get to 2,000 questions? Maybe we
can get to 3,000 questions. Advice and consent.
MADDOW: 1983, I was 10 years old, it was a formative thing. Matthew
Broderick and Ally Sheedy in "War Games".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE: Shall we play a game?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it missed him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, weird, isn`t it?
Love to. How about global thermal nuclear war?
VOICE: It a good game of chess?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later. Let`s play global thermonuclear war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If there`s one lesson that we learned from the 1983 movie
"War Games", the lesson was never disguise your launch codes as games like
chess and checkers where unwitting hackers might bump into them and
accidentally start global thermonuclear war.
We learned that in 1983. That said, it turns out there`s a whole
another category of mistakes that really could happen. That`s next.
MADDOW: A 2-year-old boy died last night after accidentally shooting
himself in the head in his home in north Texas. Police say the boy who`s
named Kinsler Alan Davis (ph), he found a handgun inside a bedroom in his
home. His father was in another room at the time. The wounded boy was
transported to the hospital where he later died.
Earlier this week, it was a 5-year-old boy who accidentally shot his
brother, his 7-year-old brother with a rifle. That happened in Houston,
Texas. Two boys were taking a bath, when the 5-year-old got out of the
tub, found .22 rifle and shot his brother. Police say it happened when the
mother stepped away for just the moment.
The 7-year-old boy who was shot was not killed. He was wounded. He`s
Child Protective Services said the 5-year-old who did the shooting has
been sent away from home for now to stay with his uncle.
In Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday night, it was a 3-year-old, a boy named
Gedarius Spifes (ph). He found a gun in a backpack in his home and shot
himself. He died at the scene. Authorities say his uncle had purchased
the .9 millimeter handgun at a gun shop and left it in his backpack in the
bedroom that he shared with his nephew. The uncle was arrested that night.
He was charged with culpable negligence, according to authorities. He does
hold a concealed weapons permit and owned the gun legally.
This weekend, it was a 6-year-old girl child who was shot in the chest
by her 13-year-old brother. The sheriff`s office said the kids were home
alone when they found a handgun. Authorities are treating that shooting as
accidental, but the investigation continues.
Last week, it was a 5-year-old boy in southern Kentucky who was
playing with a .22 caliber rifle that was his, that he had been given as a
gift. He was 5 years old. His gun was loaded and he shot and killed his
The NRA line forever now, of course, is that guns don`t kill people,
people kill people. The implication, of course, is that guns aren`t the
problem. It`s bad people who are the problem.
It`s hard to see how that applies when the shooter is 5 years old in
Kentucky or Texas or when the shooter is 3 years old in Florida.
The answer to this cannot be that this is a bad person with a gun who
needs to be stopped by a good person with a gun. These slogans do not help
It`s actually surprisingly hard to tell if these last few days, these
headlines over these last few days represent a lot of gun violence
involving American kids relatively speaking. Is this an unusually large
number of incidents like this? It is hard to chase the numbers and figure
it out, if this rash of headlines is unusual or if this is normal for us
It is possible that this is normal and the only reason these headlines
seem like a lot is because we are paying more attention than we usually do
and if it is we are paying more attention than we usually do, we are paying
that attention because of Newtown. The Newtown Elementary School shooting
was in December.
Part of the reason it still means that we are paying more attention to
gun crimes and to the relationship between kids and gun crimes is because
the families of Newtown are not letting us stop.
Francine Wheeler, who lost her 6-year-old son Ben in Newtown
delivering the president`s weekly address, grieving and pleading very
publicly for the Senate to pass reforms.
Mark Barden lost his 7-year-old son Daniel in Newtown, introducing
President Obama the day the Senate voted to reject background checks. The
first federal political battle on this issue was lost that day last month
to a Republican filibuster. But the people who led that battle are still
leading and they`re the ones who are making it so clear right now that
really was just the first battle and this is not done.
Joining us tonight for the interview is Mark Barden. His 7-year-old
Daniel was a first grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was one of
the 20 kids and six adults who were lost there on December 14th. Mr.
Barden is now a member of the Sandy Hook Promise.
Mark Barden, thanks for being here.
MARK BARDEN, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: Thank you for having me,
MADDOW: I know that you were very involved in lobbying the
Connecticut legislature to pass the reforms that they did. We all saw you
pledging not to give up at the federal level. I know you were in Delaware
yesterday. I`ve been told.
Where else have you been working? What has it been like to be talking
to legislators about such a personal loss?
BARDEN: It`s interesting to find they`re just people like us, just
regular folks, their moms and dads and grandparents. They understand this.
I mean, they know what happened here.
So, I find it just -- I scratch my head where they can say no to these
common sense solutions. When I say common sense, this is (AUDIO GAP) and
safety. It`s not infringing on anyone`s Second Amendment rights. If you
think it does, then you haven`t read the bill.
MADDOW: You said with such eloquence and drama, actually, after the
Senate made that first -- after the background checks bill fell to the
Senate filibuster that this was not over, that this was just the beginning,
you`re not going anywhere. How does that manifest? What happens next?
BARDEN: Well, if we have to go state by state, we will. Like you
said, we`ve been to Delaware. We`ve been to New Jersey. We were in
Connecticut. We go on our own free will.
We go because we think we can make a difference, we can put a face on
this tragedy. If our support and encouragement can help get some of these
responsible legislation across the finish line, that`s what we will do.
And we`re not going to give up at the federal level either.
MADDOW: You say we go on our own free will. Some politicians have
criticized Newtown families for doing this work, calling you pawns or
puppets, saying you`re being used by Democrats or the president. What`s
your reaction to that?
BARDEN: My reaction for that is do you not think I have my own
reasons for doing this? Here, let me show you. Is that not reason enough?
Senator Jim Inhofe said that we have no business engaging in the
debate. I called his office and I asked to speak with him. He`s too busy
to speak with me. I said, here`s my cell phone. Call me. I`m still
waiting for him to call me.
Rand Paul, I think, has the same notion. If he wants to ask me what
my motives are for advocating for a safer culture, he can call me, too.
MADDOW: Do you feel like if you could talk to Jim Inhofe you could
change his mind?
BARDEN: I`d like to ask him, just like to ask him, what are you
thinking? Why wouldn`t I want to do this?
MADDOW: Right. In terms of going back to the background check
legislation, specifically, at the federal level, the way that Joe Manchin
has talked about it, he`s going to be on the "LAST WORD" with Lawrence
later tonight and I was with him in Washington a couple weeks ago and he
was wearing the Sandy Hook promise pin, and I talked to him about it. I
said, how do you see this a different result than what just happened?
And he said, well, we had majority support and we only had to move a
few senators who voted no and convince them to vote yes. What do you think
is the kind of argument that can move senators who filibustered to not do
that again? What`s convincing?
BARDEN: I`m trying to find what that is, because I don`t understand
why it needs to be -- why they need to be convinced unless there`s -- I
don`t know -- some other force at play. Maybe they haven`t read the bill,
maybe they just don`t know, because I hear things like this wouldn`t have
We`re not trying to stop Newtown. We can`t stop Newtown. If we can
help other families, if we can help reduce gun violence in this nation by
all of these means, not just that, not just this, it`s everything. It`s
safer gun legislation, it`s mental health, it`s family values, it`s
community, connectivity, it`s school safety, just all of that.
MADDOW: Can I ask how you and your family are doing these many weeks
and months out and how it`s -- how you`re coping, changing over time?
BARDEN: You know, Rachel, we -- my wife, Jackie and I still -- we cry
together everyday. We still try to come to terms with is this really
possible that this actually happened? To us and to this community of
Newtown? And, man, if that`s not evidence that it can happen here, it can
happen anywhere. It can happen anywhere any day.
MADDOW: Mark Barden, Sandy Hook Promise, I know -- actually I just
want to mention that Sandy Hook Promise, Mother`s Day online card that`s at
the Web site right now. Can you explain what that is?
BARDEN: Sandy Hook Promise grassroots advocacy group came together
from community members of Sandy Hook. They are posting on the Sandy Hook
Promise Web site, a Mother`s Day card to honor the mothers who have lost a
child, whose children won`t be able to wish their mommies a happy Mother`s
Day this year.
And we`re asking folks to please go to the Sandy Hook Promise site and
sign the card.
MADDOW: Mark Barden, father of Daniel, this is very difficult.
Thanks. We`ll be right back.
BARDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: OK. This is Minot Air Force Base, just outside snowy Minot,
North Dakota. Minot describes itself as one of the best kept secrets in
the Air Force. Best kept secret because it is in the middle of nowhere.
I don`t mean that in a bad way, in the middle of nowhere for a good
reason. Minot Air Force Base has the job of housing lots of our nation`s
nuclear warheads. They`re stored in sod top bunkers in the high plains of
North Dakota and it`s the job of men and women of that command to
essentially baby-sit 150 giant intercontinental ballistic missiles and
hundreds of smaller warheads. They guard and maintain nuclear missiles at
all time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they are the ones in charge
of launching them in some cases if we ever decide to do that.
Well, on August 29th, 2007, a day like any other at Minot, one of
those weapons handling teams was tasked with transporting some soon-to-be
decommissioned cruise, just to fly down to Barksdale Air Force Base in
Louisiana. The mission was to fly those cruise missiles to Louisiana, and,
importantly, these were not supposed to be live nuclear missiles. They
were going to take off the nuclear warheads, replace the warheads with
dummy weights just for balance and them send them away.
However, instead of retrieving the missiles with the dummy weights
attached to them, the Air Force crew at Minot accidentally loaded on to the
plane six cruise missiles that has live nuclear warheads on them. They
loaded actual nuclear weapons on to a B-52 bomber and sent it to its way to
The pilots had no idea. Six nukes each with roughly the capacity to
cause Hiroshima times 10 were taken on a cross-country flight. That
bomber, I`m not kidding you was named Doom 99 and Doom 99 departed Minot on
schedule and for the first time in 40 years, a nuclear armed bomber crossed
U.S. air space without clearance.
Luckily, the warheads made their way to Louisiana without incident.
And upon landing, they sat unguarded on the runway at Barksdale for nine
hours. Until the ground crew there finally realized with a resounding OMG
that they had accidentally acquired six live nuclear weapons they weren`t
expecting and they had left them sitting around unguarded for nine hours.
After that debacle at Minot, Defense Sectary Bob Gates gave the boot
to the secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force chief of staff. They
put into place a new system to try to do what we can as a nation to prevent
our nuclear weapons from going missing again.
Whether or not you think it makes sense as a military mission to have
these 5,000 nuclear weapons that we have, whether you can imagine 5,000
targets for things we might reasonably want to one day nuke, as long as we
have 5,000 nuclear weapons lying around, one of our responsibilities is to
not lose them or drop them or whatever.
One measure that the Air Force instituted to prevent another Minot to
Barksdale debacle was to implement no warning inspections at Air Force
bases that house nuclear warheads. And in March of this year, one of those
inspections took place at Minot, thus giving the Minot missilers a little
chance to redeem themselves after their great embarrassment.
Here are some photos from that inspection. Minot officials posting
these photos on their official Web site afterwards. Everything seems to be
going along fine. Everybody is kind of smiley or at least competent-
looking in all these pictures. Minot officials publicly declared the
inspection was a success. No more problems at Minot. No nuclear oopsies.
Well, what we have now learned, thanks so some great reporting from
"The A.P." is that that inspection in March actually was not that big a
success. Not only did the base earn the equivalent of a "D" letter grade
when it came to their missile launch operations, but look at the big "A.P."
headline here. Air Force sidelines, 17 nuke officers.
After that inspection in March, the Air Force quietly removed 17
officers from the highly sensitive duty of standing 24-hour watch over the
Air Force`s most powerful nuclear missiles, the most extensive sideling
ever of launch crew members. So despite publicly asserting the inspection
was a success, the "A.P." obtained an internal e-mail from one of the
deputy commanders who wrote, quote, "We are, in fact, in a crisis right
now." He described the cause of the crisis as rot in the crew force. A
problem of motivation, essentially, he explained.
Those 17 officers will be sidelined for a couple months but it does
not end with them. In addition to the 17 people who were taken off missile
duty, possible disciplinary action, this is amazing, is possible against
one other officer at Minot who investigators found had purposely broken a
safety rule in an unspecified act that could have compromised the secret
codes that enable the launching of the missiles. Oh, how desperately I
want to know what that unspecified act was.
The Air Force initially tried to deal with this whole thing quietly
but shuffling guys off the sidelines for a couple months and declaring
victory in their inspection. But "The A.P." is reporting on it this week
has sort of broken this thing back open, so much so that the Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel is demanding answers from the Air Force about exactly
what is going on in our nation`s nuclear mission.
It should probably be noted here that Chuck Hagel`s previous life, his
life before becoming defense secretary, included his membership in a group
called Global Zero, a nuclear policy organization that advocates for a
world without nuclear weapons. Chuck Hagel himself signed on to a report
that called for getting rid of the Air Force`s entire intercontinental
ballistic missile arsenal altogether. Yes, that same one that we are
firing from for incompetence now and whose leaders say is in crisis.
How Chuck Hagel deals with this is going to be amazing to watch.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: OK. Best new thing in the world today, I need one. All
right, you ready?
This is a McDonald Douglas DC-9. The tail number, if you care, is 73-
In 1975, this DC-9 was assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing of the United
States Air Force. That is the combat-ready force responsible for shuttling
government officials around the world. This particular DC-9 when it was in
service was configured as sort of a short-haul flying machine, not
necessarily long-haul flying machine.
When it was used, it was used by the White House to fly all over the
U.S. and Central and South America. Its passengers included on occasion
the actual president of the United States. And that means that this DC-9
at some point was Air Force freaking One.
Air Force One isn`t just one specific plane. Air Force One is what
you call whatever Air Force plane the president happens to be on at that
moment. So, when a president was on this plane, and a president was
sometimes on this plane, this was, technically, Air Force One.
And the big news here, the big good news here, is that this sometimes
Air Force One plane right now is for sale. It`s for sale. You can buy Air
Force One, the government is auctioning off Air Force One for a $50,000
From the pictures online, we know it`s got a cockpit with a lot of
dials. It also apparently has a card table set up, maybe. Plenty of room
for your friends and it has a weird blue kitcheny storage area. Thirty
years of presidential aviation history could be yours.
Ever seen a decommissioned cop car driving around and you slow down
and you realize it`s actually regular guy driving it, now it`s just a Crown
Vic. Buying Air Force One would be like that but with a plane. Everybody
It`s the best thing on in the world today. Thanks for being with us
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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