THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
July 23, 2013
Guests: Al Franken
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us. Happy
Tuesday from Washington.
Here I thought the Bob McDonnell news was going to be the big
political scandal news of the day.
Thanks a lot, Anthony Weiner. Love Bob McDonnell. P.S., please save
the next pictures of your genital`s publication dates for the day I resign
from office. Yours truly, Governor Bob.
Wow. Really? All in the same afternoon? OK.
For the record, today is the day that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
finally, finally admitted taking over $140,000 in cash for himself and his
family from a Virginia business owner who`s now under federal
investigation. A company that received in return what Virginia newspapers
are calling special handling from the governor`s office.
After setting up a legal defense fund at the end of last week, after
hiring a phalanx of high-powered lawyers, after hiring a high-level crisis
PR guy, the embattled governor of Virginia today for the first time
apologized, apologized for making the state a laughingstock, said he was
paying back some of the cash. Which he says were loans. That said, the
catering bill at his daughter`s wedding, $10,000 for the other daughter`s
wedding, $6,500 Rolex watch for the governor, the $10,000 suede jacket for
the governor`s wife, the Bergdorf Goodman New York shopping trip and all
the rest for the wife -- yes, he`s keeping all that some of the cash he
says he has now paid back.
And also for the first time, he has said he is sorry. So far, at
least, he says he is no resigning.
Now, if Governor McDonnell performed official actions like, say,
setting up meetings for this company with state officials in exchange for
all the cash and loot that he took from that company, then today`s apology
is not going to stop a federal grand jury from indicting Bob McDonnell and
it will not stop him from going to federal prison if the charges are proven
But still, you know, while everyone is waiting to hear, "I resign, I
am stepping down," it is sometimes nice to hear "I`m sorry" along the way.
As I mentioned, though, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell sort of got lucky
today in the political scandal sweepstakes. Bob McDonnell had the good
fortune of dispensing with his, "I`m sorry, I`m paying back some of the
money but I`m not resigning statement" on the same day, the same afternoon
that this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY WEINER (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Good afternoon. My name
is Anthony Weiner, Democratic candidate for mayor of the city of New York.
I have said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and
today they have. As I`ve said in the past, these things that I did were
wrong and hurtful to my wife and caused us to go through many challenges in
our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress. While some
of the things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there
is no question that what I did was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That, of course, is former Democratic Congressman Anthony
Weiner of New York, during a hastily called press conference just a few
hours ago. The former congressman responding to a new round of sexually
explicit messages and photos that were published online today by a Web site
called -- drum roll, please -- "The Dirty". The Web site is called "The
Dirty", seems like kind of the only appropriate thing going on in this
Anthony Weiner is now running to become the next mayor of New York
City. He`s on the ballot in the Democratic mayor primary that will take
place in September. But, of course, his candidacy has been overshadowed up
to this point by the online sexting scandal that very famously and fairly
recently ended his high-profile career in Congress. He resigned from
Congress in 2011.
When Anthony Weiner decided to jump into this mayoral race, he
indicated that more messages and more naked pictures like the ones we had
seen before, more of those pictures and messages existed online. He warned
that those messages and pictures would likely come out during the course of
this race. What he did not mention, though, was that those messages and
those naked pictures would come from online/no pants exchanges that he was
still having after he supposedly came clean and apologized and resigned
Anthony Weiner`s apology tonight was specifically in relation to
inappropriate online conversations that he had within the past year. Which
is a problem for them him to the extent his whole redemption tour in the
press and his decision to run for office again were pretty explicitly
premised on the idea, that yes, he had done wrong but he learned his
lesson. He was a new man. He had ended that sort of activity upon
resigning from Congress.
Mr. Weiner resigned from Congress in June 2011. At that point, he
largely disappeared from public view, but in rare moments when he decided
to reappear, he did so essentially to assure people that all his problems
were behind him, right? His first big public reappearance came in "People"
magazine in July 2012.
It was heartwarming. This big, sweet spread with his wife and his
newborn son. Family man, he`s remade in the public image, right?
In that interview, Anthony Weiner told the world, quote, "I really do
feel like a very different person. I have enormous regrets about what I
put Huma through, how I let my constituents down. But it`s not like I sit
all day replaying it in my mind. With a baby, it`s pretty easy to put
things into perspective."
Again, that interview published July 2012.
We learned today that the reason he didn`t have to replay it in his
mind is that he was still doing it. That was the same month that he was
engaging in this latest online exploit. He was telling the public, "I
really do feel like a very, very different person," while in private he was
continuing with these same activity that caused him to resign from
Since Anthony Weiner has reemerged on the political scene, he seems to
have made a concerted effort to give the appearance that this sort of
activity ended when he left Congress.
This was an interview that he gave to the local NBC affiliate in New
York City this past April. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of New Yorkers who are used to seeing you
all over the place on TV every day, when you were a congressman, wondering
really first and foremost, where have you been?
WEINER: Yes, it`s a good question. I mean, I haven`t been in
Congress, been spending a lot of time on two big jobs. One is making it up
to my wife and, you know, I`ve got a lot of apologizing to do there, and
she`s been forgiving, but it hasn`t been easy. And the other primary
thing, in addition to trying to be a better husband, is being as good a
father as I can be. I`ve got a 15-month at home, which is a handful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you sure those are your two big jobs right now? You sure
that`s what you`re doing? Anthony Weiner leaving out the other big thing he
was up to in that same time period. The other thing he was forced to
confront with his wife by his side earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When was the last explicit text?
WEINER: I can`t -- I can`t say exactly. Some time last summer, I
REPORTER: Was it after you told "People" magazine quote or you wife
told "People" magazine, there`s a lot of work to get where we are today
(INAUDIBLE) can be?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. It was after all at. After the redemption narrative
said this was all over and I should be given a second chance, I was still
doing it, for a long time.
That right there is the thing that could be the big problem for
Anthony Weiner going forward. His acknowledgement tonight that what he was
saying publicly about his behavior after his supposed fall from grace was
still yet more lying. His public statement still did not match what we
know he was doing in private.
Why would anybody ever believe him ever again?
Joining us now is Melissa Russo, political reporter for NBC`s New York
station, WNBC, who is at today`s press conference.
Ms. Russo, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I
appreciate your time.
MELISSA RUSSO, WNBC: Thanks, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, by your record of things, how do Congressman Weiner`s
public statements about his misbehavior and record of his misbehavior jive?
Was he -- was he dishonest since his initial denials that the original
scandal was not of his making?
RUSSO: Well, the original scandal, of course, he lied about it. He
was asked today if he`s going to drop out. That`s one of major difference
is that today he`s trying to say, oh, I`m being completely forthcoming.
The question is, has he changed?
He`s saying he has changed, but apparently he didn`t change until much
later than we thought he had changed. One of the most stunning moments in
that news conference today, I thought, Rachel, was when Anthony Weiner sort
of corrected the media`s misperception of the resignation from Congress as
having been the important moment in the public discussion. It was sort of
a news flash.
Apparently, it was not an important enough moment for him to stop that
X-rated texting behavior, and so in answer to your question, I don`t know,
it will be important to voters? Perhaps.
There are a lot of voters in New York City who simply do not care.
Two out of three of the most recent public opinion polls have put Anthony
Weiner in first place. The front-runner.
Now, granted it`s a very crowded field. He`s only getting about 25
percent of the vote, but that`s enough to get him to a runoff.
And at this point, in terms of whether or not he`s planning to drop
out of the race, if those people didn`t care before about his behavior, and
a lot of people have told pollsters they don`t care about Anthony Weiner`s
behavior. They thought he was a decent congressman, might be a good
fighter for New York City. The question is will they care whether he
stopped in 2011 or in 2012? I don`t know.
MADDOW: You know, I got to say that I -- in terms of my personal
opinion about this, I don`t see Anthony Weiner as a sexual morality
hypocrite. And so, therefore, I consider his private behavior to be his
The thing that I always felt like justified him resigning from
Congress was that he lied about it over and over and over again. Looking
people right in the eye, including me, personally, looking me right in the
eye and lying to me about it.
RUSSO: Do you remember when he called reporters names when they were
MADDOW: Yes, he gets up at the news conference and calls the reporter
a jackass for questioning him. Turns out he lied over and over and again.
Very explicit, like, very direct lies and he was very comfortable with
that. That seemed to me like the problem.
Now, the question is whether or not, in your view, this changes the
perception not about whether or not his online sexual behavior is of a
different magnitude than we thought it was, but whether he is even more of
a liar than he seemed like before. Whether he`s put his lying days behind
him or whether he still does.
RUSSO: I think what he`s trying to create the impression of, whether
or not it`s true, is that this whole period of texting is reflection of a
longer troubled period in his marriage that didn`t exactly end on a
particular day and did not coincide with the day in which he resigned from
Congress, obviously. He basically is saying there was a longer, more drawn
out period of time during which they went through some extensive therapy.
And I think what he`s trying to at this point, at least at the news
conference today, it seemed like he was trying to create the perception
that this is an old story. I`ve been saying for a long time that there
were other texts. He was sort of intentionally vague about it in the past.
Oh, could there be more texts? Absolutely. Could more things come
out? Sure. He`s been lowering expectations.
So I think what he was trying to say today is that it was not a
surprise that these messages surfaced. It was certainly not a surprise to
his wife. And I think that`s going to be the key thing here was Huma
Abedin`s appearance at that news conference. She`s known for being a very
private person, but the reason to have her there today was for the public
to see that this was not news to her.
This was something that they had already discussed before the decision
for him to run for mayor was made.
MADDOW: Melissa, one last quick question on this. This could be
important, maybe more in terms of his national profile than his run
specifically in New York City. But does this in a way pose a risk of
turning the press against him?
I mean, part of the way he lied the second round of times is that he`s
doing this sort of redemption tour in the press where he`s talking about
what a changed man he is and how he`s totally focused on his family and
he`s all about making apologies while he`s still continuing that behavior.
So, the press was really used by Anthony Weiner in order to convey the
second round of lying. Does -- I mean, in terms of the vibe in the press
conference today, does this latest wrinkle, I guess, does this make the --
run the risk of turning the press against him even in a way generally
RUSSO: It`s possible. But I think there was a certain amount of
credence given to fact his wife stood with him and said, look, I already
knew about this. I knew at the time. And we had been discussing this
essentially for months before we decided that Anthony was going to run for
So, will people focus on the fact that, yes, he gave an article a year
ago in which he said that he felt like a different person and was still
sending X-rated texts a month later? Yes, that will hurt his credibility.
But I`m not sure in terms of voters, they may feel that they don`t care
about his indiscretions.
For Anthony Weiner, this was never a slam dunk. He`s the front-
runner. Perhaps what his goal wall along was if I can`t win, maybe I an at
least rehabilitate my image and maybe the last thing that people remember
about me won`t be that I resigned from Congress. Perhaps I can come across
as a credible candidate that`s fighting for the middle class in New York
and I think that`s what he`s trying to achieve, whether or not he wins this
MADDOW: Melissa Russo, political reporter for NBC`s New York station,
WNBC. Melissa, thanks very much for your time tonight. I really
RUSSO: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: We have to do a correction later on in show tonight, but I
feel like I have to apologize right now, because I will never, ever forgot
having used the word wrinkle in a metaphor while discussing this story --
and for that I`m deeply sorry.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Here for "The Interview" tonight, the inter -- "The
Interview" is what we call it. Here for "The Interview" tonight is Senator
That`s coming up.
MADDOW: May 2011, Florida`s Governor Rick Scott ignores pleas and
sign sweeping voter law, slashing early voting. Tighter voting rules
expected to help GOP.
Republican Governor Rick Scott, May 2011, first year in office using
the power of his office to try to make voting harder in his state. The
longer the lines, the fewer people voting, the better Republicans expect
It worked like it was supposed to. In November, Florida -- in
November, Florida voters waited six, seven, even 10 hours in line just to
vote. Latino and African-American voters groups who tend to vote
Democratic, they waited longer than white voters in Florida did. It was
the stay in line election in November. And even Rick Scott was embarrassed
by what a national point and gasp horror show Florida`s elections became in
By January, the governor, himself, was calling for the legislature to
put back those early voting days he had taken away. In May, he signed a
bill into law that reversed himself. Almost two years to the day after he
turned his state into a late-night joke, he had to take it all back and
undo the damage he had caused.
That swift and painful lesson, the humiliation of Rick Scott, the
disaster by design in Florida elections is why today pink flamingos turned
up on the statehouse lawn in North Carolina. The pink flamingos were a
silent protest in hard plastic that was supposed to remind everybody of
Florida. The flamingos were planted on the statehouse lawn as a message to
the Republicans in that state, a message the Republicans in the North
Carolina legislature and North Carolina`s Republican governor, the message
was -- please do not make our elections look like Florida`s.
In North Carolina, which has gone crazy this year, Republicans are
making one more last-minute grab the silverware drawer and throw it in the
air chaos move in the legislature, an old bill to change voter ID laws in
state had been sitting dormant for about three months, but all of a sudden
today, the Republicans in the legislature brought it back to lifetimes a
million. They rewrote the old bill. They stuffed it full of a whole bunch
of new stuff that never gets debated and never has hearings and are ramming
this new bill through with basically no debate with just two days left in
the legislative session.
What they`re pushing through would ban you from voting unless you can
show ID that you never had to show before. It`s estimated that about
300,000 registered legal voters in North Carolina will not have the kind of
documentation you need now in order to vote.
More than a third of the people who do not have that documentation are
African-American. More than half are registered as Democratic Party
The changes to the bill happened so quickly that some of the first
information publicly available about the bill was published on Facebook by
a Democratic state senator named Josh Stein.
Thanks to him and his Facebook page, we know the last-minute changes
include putting an end to same-day voter registration, which over 100,000
people used in the state in last November`s election. They`re getting rid
of state support for voter registration drives. They`re banning local
election officials from extending polling times for an hour if, for
example, there`s really long lines still waiting outside. Or there`s some
other contingency that that local election place needs to handle on
Election Day. It used to be able to extend hours by one hour to allow for
local contingencies. They`re stopping localities from being able to do
And, of course, like Florida, hence the pink flamingos, they are
cutting early voting, just lopping off a full week of early voting which
North Carolinians love. Most of the state voted early last election -- 78
percent of North Carolinians say they like the state`s early voting laws.
Three-quarters of voters in state say they have used the early voting
provisions. But Republicans don`t care. They`re getting rid of it now.
They`re also getting rid of a program in high schools that juniors and
seniors register to vote, part of Citizens Awareness Month. North Carolina
Republicans are going so far so fast with this that they want to end the
state`s totally noncontroversial, popular, bipartisan program that reaches
out to students who are nearing the age of voting, to show them how to be
If this North Carolina school last year, seven kids registered to vote
through Citizens Awareness Month. We can`t have students registering to
vote, can`t have that. So, Citizens Awareness Month will go away, along
with the whole idea of preregistering young people to vote in the state.
It all goes away under the bill Senate Republicans advanced this afternoon.
Used to be that North Carolina Republicans had to be at least a little
-- changes like this, because North Carolina was covered by the Voting
Rights Act and they needed preclearance from the Justice Department to stop
the state from changing election laws in a way that would have racist
But, now, with the Voting Rights Act gutted by the conservative
majority on the Supreme Court, Republicans in North Carolina feel unbound,
and they are going for everything they can get. And so, they are advancing
this mega bill that is probably the worst voter suppression effort in the
If you want to know why dozens of people are getting arrested every
week now at the state capitol in North Carolina, this is why. It is
Republicans gone wild in North Carolina right now.
MADDOW: This is admittedly a rare thing on this show. But I have to
acknowledge assistance for tonight`s show from the church, specifically
from the National Presbyterian Church here in Washington, D.C., who has
provided us with material support for tonight`s show in the form of the
thing that is in this bag.
We have to do a correction on the show tonight for which we need this
and very specific church-related advice from a really nice lady named Carol
Ann who works at the church. So, that`s coming up right at the end of the
show. I`ll show you what`s in the bag. I`ll correct something that we got
wrong on yesterday`s show and that everybody in the entire American news
business got wrong along with us.
MADDOW: In just about every family, there is a family member who is
easily alarmed. And sometimes this can be a healthy thing -- sort of
healthy dose of caution for your family. But more usually it swings into
paranoid and gullible. If you have a family member who falls into that
category of easily alarmed, you might want to be particularly careful with
that family member over the next couple of weeks, particularly if your
member of Congress is a Republican.
Because today we learned that Republican members of the House are
going to go home to their districts over this next break and proclaim that
there is an emergency -- a health care emergency. And because of this
health care emergency that they`re going to proclaim, they`re going to
summon you and your family members to come to a member of Congress
emergency town hall meeting right away.
Heaven forbid your paranoid Aunt Josie actually gets ahold of this
kind of announcement before you get to it so you can hide it from her and
save her blood pressure. They`re going to do this.
Look, here`s the planning kit the Republican Party has sent to the
Republican members of the House telling them what to do in their districts
at the break.
Convene an emergency health care town hall to engage your constituents
on the negative effects of Obamacare, and how Republicans don`t like it,
and make sure you call it an emergency when you do it. And make sure you
include seniors when you declare this emergency because, of course, it`s
particularly fun to scare seniors in the hot months.
Yes, so this is what House Republicans are planning on doing with
their summer vacation. Emergency, we still hate health reform. You know,
there is a pilot project that has already been run in our country on how to
implement health reform.
The reform law that everybody calls Obama care is essentially the same
thing as the Romney care health reform that Mitt Romney signed into law and
implemented in Massachusetts where I live. Very successful. Very popular.
Very effective. Something like 98 percent of the state of Massachusetts
has health insurance, highest coverage rate in the nation, and that`s the
whole point. That`s the only way a private insurance-based system works.
Instead of having a single payer or like a British-style NHS system,
the way it works if we keep our private insurance is way it works in
Massachusetts and way it would work nationwide. You figure out a way to
get everybody covered by private insurance and then the whole system works
better and cheaper for everyone.
So, when they rolled out Romney care in Massachusetts, they made a big
statewide effort to get everybody to sign up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve got it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve got it.
ANNOUNCER: Got what? Health insurance. Massachusetts residents are
now required to have it, and the state`s health connector makes it more
affordable and easier to get.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me, too.
ANNOUNCER: Call or go to our Web site to compare plans, get
information, and choose the right plan for you. Get preventative care and
medical and financial protection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m getting it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve used it.
CROWD: We`ve got it.
ANNOUNCER: Get health insurance now, through the state`s health
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And, yes, the ad ends at Fenway. Massachusetts even got
individual Red Sox players like Tim Wakefield to do these ads saying, hey,
everybody can get health insurance now. You should sign up.
And the campaign worked and people signed up. And the law has worked
the way it was designed.
The Obama administration tried to do a similar thing on a national
level to how they rolled this thing out in Massachusetts. Last month, the
Obama administration announced they were in talks with the NFL about
getting football players to appear in ads, to encourage people to get
health insurance, to tell people why getting insurance was easier now and
would be a good thing to do -- essentially the exact same thing that Red
Sox players did in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor and they
piloted this whole idea in that state.
Those talks with the NFL seemed like they were going pretty well. The
White House said the NFL was actively and enthusiastically engaged in the
discussions. That is until the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch
McConnell, wrote a threatening letter to the commissioner of the NFL.
Quote, "It is difficult to understand why an organization like yours
would risk damaging its brand by lending its name to the promotion of
How could you possibly get involved with this legislation that we hate
Well, the day after that letter was sent by Mitch McConnell to the
NFL, the NFL said they would not be participating in promoting people
getting health insurance. Quote, "We responded to letters with received
from members of Congress to inform them we currently have no plans to
engage in this area."
Senate Republicans didn`t just target the NFL. They sent the same
threats to Major League Baseball, too, the NFL and a bunch of other
different sports organizations.
So, Senate Republicans effectively torpedoed that effort, to copy
Romneycare, to inform Americans about policies they can take advantage of
now that will benefit them, using sports stars. Congratulations, Mitch
This week, the White House is trying another tact. Here in Washington
this week, entertainers including Jennifer Hudson and Amy Poehler and Kal
Pen met with senior White House advisers about how they might be able to
help educate people about getting health insurance. The group at the White
House yesterday included producers for Oprah Winfrey and the singer Alicia
Keys. And also RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff love object, Bon Jovi. Jon Bon
Jovi who is reportedly going to be helping get the word out about health
insurance exchanges. Woo-hoo!
However the messenger is, no matter the haircut, the idea here is to
tell people what they get under the law, to tell people that everybody can
get health insurance now and that having health insurance is way more
accessible and way more worth it now than it was before.
Another entertainment world figure who was at that White House meeting
yesterday was the production president for a Web site called Funny or Die.
Funny or Die is a Web site whose videos sometimes get, oh, say, 80 million
views because they are things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who`s that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s my landlord, Pearl. I`m really late on my
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m getting out of here, man. She`s nasty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, please. I need you to stay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be ugly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Pearl.
PEARL: Where`s the rent?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t have to raise your voice.
PEARL: You pay now!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can give you half.
PEARL: I`m tired of this crap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, I -- I thought I was clear in my e-mail that
I needed a couple weeks.
PEARL: I work too hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I just get two more weeks?
PEARL: I want my money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to relax. God, you`re mean. Don`t make
fun of my crying.
PEARL: You`ll be evicted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not doing so good, Pearl.
PEARL: I put you on the streets. I`m going to smack you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You know what, you need to relax.
PEARL: I want my money!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you need your money so fast? Come on.
PEARL: I need to get my drink on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You scare me. You`re an alcoholic.
PEARL: Can I have four beers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Funny or Die guy told "Reuters" yesterday that if he, like
the NFL, gets a threatening letter from Mitch McConnell saying how Funny or
Die definitely should not help out with Obamacare, he says he`ll frame that
letter and put it up in his office and he`d be proud of it.
So, the White House is reaching out to a wide variety sell you an get
health insurance now more easily and it`s a better deal. Some of the
selling of the law will be the law itself. Over the course of the summer,
millions of Americans have been receiving check, physical checks in the
mail because of Obamacare, because of a specific requirement in Obamacare
that says whatever your health insurance company is charging you for your
health insurance, that company has to spend at least 80 percent of that on
actually providing you health care.
So, advertising and bonuses for their CEOs and generic overhead costs
that don`t actually result in you getting health care, it has to be less
than 20 percent of what you pay for. It`s called the 80/20 rule. And the
punishments for companies who don`t meet the 80/20 rule is companies have
to pay you the difference, pay it back to you in the norm of a check made
out to you and mailed to you. Insurance companies who fail to abide by the
80/20 rule have until the 1st of August to give you their money back. And
almost 13 million Americans qualify to get their checks, averaging out to
150 bucks per household. And that`s because Obamacare says health
insurance companies have to spend most of your money on actual health
Going to your mailbox and finding a check for 150 bucks, sure, it`s
not the same as somebody screaming health care emergency at you. But it is
definitely going to get people`s attention.
Joining us tonight for the interview is Senator Al Franken of
Minnesota. He championed the 80/20 rule which requires insurance companies
to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care.
Senator Franken, thank you for being here.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you for having me, Rachel. You
explained it very well.
MADDOW: Did I get anything wrong?
FRANKEN: Of course not. You`d correct it if you did.
No, this is -- before this provision, before health care reform,
insurance companies could spend really whatever they wanted on, you said,
marketing, administrative costs, profits, and CEO salaries. And what this
provision says is that they had to spend 80 percent on actual health care
and not those other things. Eighty-five percent for large group plans.
And you`re right, their checks are now in the mail. Last year, it was
about 13 million people benefited from these checks. You may not get the
check. It may go to your employer in you`re on an employer plan.
But people with individual plans, they saved in the last two years
have saved over $2.7 billion because of this provision. And what it`s
doing is we have seen over the last three years the costs of health care
has been growing at the slowest rate that it has in 50 years.
MADDOW: And is that the idea to change the behavior of health
insurance companies to make them stop jacking up their prices to pay for
stuff that`s in their health care?
FRANKEN: Well, yes, it`s forcing them to be proficient. So, even if
you aren`t getting a check yourself, you`re benefiting from this, because
it means that health insurance companies have to be more efficient.
Actually, I have to say the good actors in this, a lot of Minnesota health
insurance companies were fine with this because they meet that 85 percent
or 80 percent ratio.
They just do it. And it`s either bad actors have had to clean up
their act and everyone`s gotten more efficient. That`s good. Remember
bending the cost curve? That`s what this is doing.
MADDOW: Well, I feel like a lot of the political machinations around
health reform at the Republicans, you know, calling it an emergency and
still inveighing against it, threatening a shutdown to try to stop it and
everything, a lot of that is about the long delay there has been between
passing the law and actually seeing its provisions come into effect. But
this went into effect essentially right away.
FRANKEN: This one went in last year. Last year was the first year
people got their checks. The year before, companies saw at they were doing
and actually had to -- last year, for example, Aetna in Connecticut reduced
their premiums by 10 percent in order to meet this.
But, you know, there are other provisions in the law that have kicked
in. No longer can children with a pre-existing condition be denied health
insurance. And I have met children who are alive today, or at least their
parents believe they are, and that`s important because that provision is in
Also, we don`t have the lifetime cap anymore. So that if you`re --
you`re not just one diagnosis or one accident away from bankruptcy.
I go to a lot of senior centers in Minnesota, and seniors, you said
that the Republicans are going to be reaching out to seniors at these town
meetings. Seniors really like the fact that under Medicare, they`re
getting free preventive treatment. They also like the fact the donut hole
is closing, and to people who are -- it`s going to be closed entirely by
2020. And for people who live on Social Security, or a little bit more,
that can make the difference between having medicine, not having medicine.
MADDOW: Are we in one of these situations where people will have a
sense that their health care is getting better or their access to health
care is getting better, but they`ll still hate the idea of Obama care
because they see so many bumper stickers saying you should hate this law
and it`s been so politically branded by the Republicans in a way that`s
FRANKEN: You know, I think Americans don`t want to fight this fight
anymore. I think they want to see this implemented. And I think they will
like the fact that no one, starting in January 1st of 2014, that no one can
be denied health insurance and penalized for having a pre-existing
You talk about these town halls. In August, I was at the state fair
in Minnesota in 2009, I guess it was during all that. And a woman came up
to me and she must have been in her late 60s, early 70s. She said, you
know, at my age, everything is pre-existing.
And that`s sort of right. I mean, seniors do, you know, if you`re on
Medicare, you`re probably taking a number of prescription drugs, and so
this is very important to them. We`ve also -- one thing that is very
important about the Affordable Care Act, is that we`ve extended the life of
Medicare now by nine years. And that was -- remember that $817 billion
they kept talking about? That was savings. That was not overpaying
insurance companies for Medicare advantage plans.
And that -- and what it`s also saving us by not reimbursing hospitals
quite as much. That works out for hospitals because hospitals, if there
are 30 million more people insured, the hospitals don`t have to pay for --
they`re not online to pay for those people`s care when they go into the
emergency room. That`s why this works.
MADDOW: Do you feel struck by the president today turning to people
in the entertainment field, comedy specifically to try to get the word out
about this? The word actually isn`t very much about the law. The word is
-- hey, health insurance is easier to get now. You ought to try to go get
it and here`s why it will be more worth it to you to try to do it.
It is kind of a public service announcement sort of thing. Anybody
being against people having health insurance is kind of a weird idea. Do
you think it makes sense for -- politically, the White House to be trying
to tap entertainment figures and comedy figures to try to get that word
FRANKEN: Sure. I guess so. I mean, I think what`s important is
senators going on shows like yours and saying, talking about -- bragging
about their provision.
MADDOW: You know, since I know you from a previous life.
MADDOW: And I`ve had to fight tooth and nail to ever get to speak to
you in any sort of official context, I am grateful that the time I finally
get to talk to you is about the 80/20 rule. I`m happy to have you.
FRANKEN: I`m glad this is -- I`m very proud of this.
FRANKEN: This is something that actually kind of came from Minnesota
law. They didn`t have the rebates in it. They had different levels, et
But this is something that I`m very proud to have done as a senator,
is take something from Minnesota, bring it to the capital, to D.C., and
have it become a law that has saved people a lot of money and has brought
down the cost of health care. Very proud of that.
MADDOW: Senator Franken, it`s great to see you.
FRANKEN: Great to see you, Rachel.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A clue. Here is a clue.
What is wrong with this picture? Look at the bottom row. See there`s
one, two, three, four, five, six.
Look at the top row. There`s six in that row, too, but there is one
missing. I know where the missing one is. Hold on. That`s part of our
correction. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: In 2004, Barack Obama was a candidate for U.S. Senate from
Illinois. He did not yet have a very wide national following. And then he
gave the speech. That speech, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention,
which nominated John Kerry for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-SENATE CANDIDATE BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Now, even as we
speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us. The spinmasters,
the negative ad peddlers, who embrace the politics of anything goes.
Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a
conservative America. There is the United States of America.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
There is not a black America and a white America, and Latino America,
and Asian America, there`s the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the day of that speech that made Barack Obama nationally
famous, before he actually gave that speech that day, then-Senate candidate
Barack Obama seemed to have a sense ahead of time that that speech was
going to go over pretty well. Writing about it in retrospect for the "New
Yorker" magazine, Ryan Lizza described it like this, "Marty Nesbitt
remembers Obama`s utter calm the date he gave his celebrated speech at the
`04 Democratic National Convention in Boston, which made him an
international celebrity and a potential `08 presidential candidate."
Quote, "We were walking down the street late in the afternoon and this
crowd was building behind us like it was Tiger Woods at the Masters.
`Barack, man, you`re like a rock star,` Nesbitt said. Obama replied, `Yes,
if you think it`s bad today, wait until tomorrow.`
`What do you mean?`
`My speech,` Mr. Obama said. `My speech is pretty good.`" Yes,
pretty good, I guess.
So that was 2004, about that 2004 speech that changed his life. That
ultimately changed all of our lives since it rocketed him on the way to the
presidency of our country.
Now, check this out. Today if you log on to Whitehouse.gov on the
front page of the White House Web site, there is a hype video for a speech
that the president is going to deliver tomorrow. A video that has
highlights from previous speeches the president has given, a montage of
some of the president`s greatest hits to sort of get people fired up and
ready to go about this big speech he`s going to give tomorrow.
It also includes an ask for you to please join the president for the
speech he`s going to give tomorrow. If you are one of President Obama`s 34
million followers on Twitter, you saw a tweet today telling you that you
are going to want to watch this speech tomorrow, with a link to the video.
And a post from one of the president`s senior advisers urging you to
tune in on Wednesday, saying, "I don`t think you`ll be disappointed."
The president is scheduled to give a big policy speech tomorrow. And,
of course, he`s the president. He gives lots of speeches all the time.
But he does not tend to say much about them in advance before he gives
them. This is not normal. Something about this speech tomorrow has the
White House and even the president personally really hyping it in advance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m going to talk about where we need to go from here. How we
need to put behind us the distractions and the phony debates and nonsense
that somehow passes for politics these days, and get back to basics. It`s
going to be the kickoff to what is essentially several months of us trying
to get Washington and the press to refocus on the economy and the struggles
that middle-class families are going to -- going through.
Now, here`s the thing. It`ll be a pretty good speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`ll be a pretty good speech, if he does say so himself.
Last time he said that, everybody on planet America learned how to spell
the word "Obama" all at once.
I do not know why the White House and the president are going whole
hog trying to get the word out and raise expectations for this speech
tomorrow. But they are.
Whether you believe the hype or not, here`s the details. The speech
is at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois tomorrow. They are calling it a
major policy address. They`re saying this is not a speech to be missed.
It happens at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow, which just so you know is
when Andrea Mitchell is hosting here on MSNBC.
I do not know what the hype is all about for this speech, but there is
in fact hype.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: I got this right, hear ye. Hear ye. I`m keeping this
Ye old department of corrections shall herewith be presented. I made
a royal error on last night`s show. It was embarrassing. I regret it.
But here`s why I made it. You remember this guy? The town crier?
The guy who donned the Tea Party-looking costume and rang the bell and
shouted out the announcement of the birth of the new royal baby. Third in
line to the throne. May he be long lived, happy and glorious.
Well, on our show we identified this man as the official town crier of
London. Upon further review we now have the full story. His name is Tony
Appleton. He is a town crier.
But he is a town crier in the village of Great Baddow in the town of
Rumford and Berry St. Edmonds (ph). But he is not the official town crier
of London, which is what I said.
London`s town crier, the guy who had the gig for 31 years, he died
four years ago and as far as we can tell, he has not been replaced.
Today, we learned that our friend`s well-heard announcement in front
of St. Mary`s Hospital yesterday was not performed in any official capacity
even though it really looked official. The guy was not asked or summoned
by the royal family or anybody from the palace. He just showed up on his
He said, quote, "I was not invited. I just crashed the party. I got
out of my taxi and I stood in front of the steps because I didn`t think I`d
be allowed on them. And I did my bit. It was great. It was a great
atmosphere. It`s like the Olympics."
Wait, how would he know about the atmosphere at the Olympics? Oh,
well, look. Here he was ringing in the London Olympics, which he also did
on his own.
Mr. Appleton also said that he proclaimed Prince William and Kate`s
royal wedding in 2011. And in fact, here he is at the royal wedding posing
for pictures with the crowds, who probably think he`s official, too.
We had never heard before of a serial town crying shower upper at
stuff who`s not invited but everyone`s happy when he`s there anyway.
So, when we realized that we got his job title wrong on last night`s
show, we called him today. And Tony Appleton, by his own personal account
on the phone to us today said that when there is some sort of royal
function, he just likes to turn up. He puts on his regalia and he turns up
because he loves the royal family.
He says he planned the royal birth announcement for two weeks. He
says he planned it like a military operation. He timed his appearance
yesterday based on a tip from someone inside the hospital, he says. He
said a royal journalist from the "Times of London" helped him fine-tune his
announcement so it would be accurate and royal-sounding and all.
And according to him, he proceeded unchecked by the security detail.
He says they thought he was a, quote, "messenger from the palace."
Tony Appleton is charming. He is a town crier. He has the routine
He is not the official London town crier. I apologize for the error.
But it gave me an excuse to do this.
That does it for us tonight.
"THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" starts now.
Have a great night.
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