'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
August 20, 2013
Guests: Michael Sergeant, Scott Surovell
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Thanks to you at
home for staying with us for the next hour. The city of Winston-Salem has
not quite a quarter of a million people in it. It is a substantial city.
Big companies are based there, several colleges are based there. Winston-
Salem is the fifth largest city in the state of North Carolina. The mayor
of Winston-Salem right now is this man, his name is Allen Joines. He is a
Democrat, and he is up for reelection as mayor this year. The challenger
on the Republican side is this man, James Lee Knox, who works for a local
towing company. And despite being the only Republican challenging the
incumbent mayor of Winston-Salem for the mayor`s job, James Lee Knox has
just lost the support of his local Republican party.
The Forsythe County Republican party has announced that they no longer
support James Lee Knox in his bid to become the next mayor of Winston-
Salem. This comes after Mr. Knox admitted using with the local paper
describes as several derogatory terms including the "n" word in a
confrontation with a local elections worker last year. Mr. Knox
acknowledged that he used the racial slur after the 2012 election. He said
he was trying to find out the name of a black elections employee with whom
he had exchanged words during early voting. During a conversation with
another county worker, Mr. Knox referred to the woman using several
derogatory terms including the "n" word.
Mr. Knox says he does not believe in using such words but that he,
quote, "got frustrated." That`s how he explains it. He got frustrated.
You get frustrated and out pops the "n" word. She was black. You know, as
So reportedly, the state Republican party in North Carolina decided to
not get involved in this situation in Winston-Salem, but the local party
did drop their support for Mr. Knox. After initially telling the local
paper that he felt that the local Republican party had stabbed him in the
back. Well tonight Mr. Knox officially just quit the race.
I think this has happened early enough that it probably means his name
will be off the ballot and that means the winner of the Democratic primary
in Winston-Salem will go on to run for mayor without any Republican
opponent at all.
For an off year in politics, for an odd-numbered year, right, there`s
been a kind of a lot of elections drama in North Carolina this year and a
lot of it has been happening in North Carolina`s college towns. Like in
that dramatic development today in Winston-Salem.
Also there`s been some drama in the Boone, North Carolina, which is
the home of Appalachian State University. The new Republican majority
board of elections there last week decided to close the voting site on
campus at Appalachian State. No more voting on campus there. And if that
were not enough, the new Republican majority has also decided to limit
early voting to just one site in Boone, North Carolina. They have combined
three precincts to create what will be the third largest precinct in the
whole state with 9,300 voters all crammed into one voting location that has
just 35 parking places.
It includes the school, but as Ari Berman reported today at "the
Nation" this one remaining voting location is not only not on campus, it is
not accessible by public transportation. It is over a mile from campus,
and a mile from campus is along a 45-mile-an-hour road that doesn`t have a
sidewalk. So good luck, students. Just try voting in that part of North
Over the opposite corner of the state in Elizabeth city, in the far
northeast corner of the state, the chairman of the local Republican party
there has formally challenged the right of one candidate who wants t run
for city council there. Montravius King is a student at Elizabeth City
State University, which has a historically black college. The local
Republican party chairman challenged Montravius King`s right to run for
office specifically because he lives at school on campus and he is
registered to vote there.
The new Republican majority and board of elections agreed with the
Republican county boss. They ruled this week Mr. King is not qualified to
run for office which means that Mr. King and all the other students who
vote at that school might also be ruled not just not eligible to run for
office locally, but not eligible to vote. Because the qualifications for
being a candidate and the qualifications for being a voter are exactly the
same. And they`re saying so far he can`t be a candidate.
That Republican party chairman saying he will, indeed, challenge the
right to vote of all students at that historically black college in North
Carolina. And with that happening, North Carolina lawyers and some leaders
from the NAACP went to Elizabeth city state today. They went to that
historically black college to start looking into that situation.
And back up in Winston-Salem where they`re having that trouble with
the mayor, we reported on the show yesterday that the new Republican
majority board of elections there has been making a push to stop all the
early voting at Winston-Salem state university. It`s another historically
The local paper reported on that a couple of days ago. The Raleigh
paper, the news and observer picked up the story yesterday. The story even
got picked up in South Carolina, of all places.
We also reported on the story last night here on this show, and now
all of a sudden that elections board sees no rush, no rush to shut that
voting center down on campus. They had previously said they were going to
vote on that at tonight`s meeting with the new Republican majority on the
board. Right? But now all of a sudden they`re saying, what`s t rush?
Urgency, what urgency? Now they`re not going to bring it up until next
That same news report noting the board`s last two meetings had been
filled to capacity. Board of elections meetings in August filled to
capacity. They had already been planning to move tonight`s meeting on this
contentious effort to close down the early voting site at the school. They
already planned to move tonight`s meeting to a different floor of the
building in which they usually meet in a larger room in order to
accommodate what they would been told to expect was going to be another
Winston-Salem state students are just getting back right now, still
arriving on campus this week. But the student body president is Johnny on
the spot here saying student leaders were planning on attending tonight`s
meeting. And with that expected large turnout, with that reaction and that
attention in the press, to what they had planned on doing, they have put it
off for a year. And in fact the elections director for the county is now
saying that no public comments about closing down this voting site will
even be allowed to be spoken at tonight`s meeting which they are still
holding in the larger room. So, all of a sudden they are very shy about
what they had been planning to go right ahead with tonight.
The fight in North Carolina is getting to be a very interesting fight,
and I think from a national perspective, it feels like it`s happening all
of a sudden. But the more we talk to people in North Carolina and pay
attention to the local press and local discussion there, you get the sense
in North Carolina it doesn`t feel all of a sudden. It feels like we`re
getting to the loud part of a natural crescendo.
Started, of course, in 2010 when Republicans did really well in the
midterm elections in North Carolina. Once they got in in 2010 because they
did great, they took advantage of the fact they were there in a sense this
year and they redistricted the jeepers out of North Carolina. Thus earning
themselves supermajorities in both houses of the legislature to go along
with their new Republican governor, North Carolina`s first Republican
governor in 20 years.
Pat McCrory had been the seven-term mayor of Charlotte, North
Carolina. He was thought of as a Republican who might conceivably govern
the way that mayors tend to govern which by necessity tends to be a kind of
technocratic moderate get things done kind of way of working.
It has not been that way with him as governor, though. With his
supermajorities in the legislature, with the Republicans` ability to do
whatever they want in the state for the first time in 20 years, they are
going for it. And it has been a hard, fast and rather radical right term
on everything in the state from abortion, to taxes, to funding education,
to northeast recently this very dramatic move getting attention on voter
suppression, voting rights.
Moral Mondays in North Carolina, on Mondays, in North Carolina. Moral
Mondays started back in June. People started showing up at the state
capitol, protesting inside the state capitol building getting arrested week
after week. More than 900 people have been arrested so far in those
Now that the state legislature is out of session, they have been
moving moral Mondays around the state. The first one they held outside the
capitol was in the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina. Thousands
of people showing up on a Monday to protest their government, look at that,
Last night moral Mondays on the road was in Charlotte which, of
course, is where Pat McCrory spent seven terms as mayor before he became
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (INAUDIBLE) this evening and she joins us
live. Quite a few people showed up. Maybe more than was expected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, Paul. Two thousand people according
to Charlotte Mecklenburg police. But all of these protesters have one
thing in common. They are frustrated with the direction the state
legislature has taken in Raleigh and they wanted their voices heard.
Everything from cuts to education, to the new voter I.D. law, women`s
rights, the new tax laws, the changes in the capitol have folks fighting
mad. Take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m furious for our students, for women, for
poor people, for old people, for sick people. I just feel like the state
of North Carolina has taken a huge step backwards. It`s just not right.
And I`m ready to fight. I`m mad. I`m angry. And I`m ready to fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Fighting mad. In that larger than expected crowd last night
in the governor`s hometown of Charlotte.
The protest movement in North Carolina is promising enough now.
Promising enough to people who are fighting against what the Republicans
have been doing in that state. That our guest last night on this show,
nine term state Senator Ellie Kinnaird, she announced yesterday she is
quitting the state Senate at 81 years of age. After 16 years of service,
she is quitting the Senate. She`s 81-years-old but not quitting because
she wants to retire. She`s not retiring. She`s not quitting in protest of
the new voter I.D. law or in protest of any of the other things Republicans
Ellie Kinnaird is instead resigning to fight, to work full time
outside the system with the people who have been turning out for all of
these protests all over the state.
Dovetailing with this now very interesting, very energized fight in
North Carolina is new news today from national Democrats. That they plan a
50-state strategy. They plan to wage a 50-state sort of counteroffensive
to try to advance voting rights everywhere in the country. It`s not just a
defense to what the Republicans have been doing, but as an alternative to
what the Republicans have been doing. As an alternative to how
aggressively Republicans have been trying and succeeding in many states to
roll voting rights way, way, way back.
Joining us now, Michael Sergeant. He is the president of the group
called American Values First. They are organizing this 50-state initiative
to encourage efforts that make voting easier in every state.
Mr. Sergeant, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
MICHAEL SERGEANT, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN VALUES FIRST: Thank you so much
for inviting me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So seeing the "Washington Post" reporting on this today was
the first I learned about it, and I don`t totally understand. I feel I
have been waiting to hear some sort of national answer from Democrats about
a national strategy to combat what is obviously a national Republican
strategy to roll back voting rights. What exactly are you doing?
SERGEANT: Well, what the American Values First voting rights project
is working on id a 50-state strategy to promote policies and legislation
that will, you know, ease access to voting as well as opposing the myriad
of voter suppression measures going on in the states.
Over 30 states right now have either passed legislation or are in the
process of passing legislation that would make it more difficult for people
to vote. And we are talking about students. We are talking about the
disabled. We are talking about elderly. We are talking about minorities.
This is really a truly -- it`s an attack upon, you know, American values
and, you know, American rights.
MADDOW: We have been reporting on that for years now in terms of
these very aggressive Republican efforts, very similar Republican efforts
in lots of states to try to roll back voting rights wherever and whenever
they can. What we`ve seen so far in terms of a pushback is a lot of legal
fights, right? The department of justice, whether or not they can use the
voting rights act, in some cases defending states` voting rights against
what Republicans are trying to do there. We`ve also seen local fights
organized by local community groups and politicians like I just documented
in North Carolina.
We have not seen any sort of national strategy organized by Democrats
spanning multiple states to try to push for it. So when you say you`re
going to fight to turn back this tide, what exactly are you going to do?
SERGEANT: Well, you know, a big part of the program really is, you
know, the mobilizing and working with state legislators around the country
actually passing the laws and are in position to oppose these laws. That`s
one of the things that, you know, American values first and the voting
rights project is working on. We have the ability to work with legislators
across the country, you know, it should be legislators of whatever
political persuasion, who believe that all Americans have the right to vote
and we should -- and it should be encouraged and should be made easier, not
more difficult. And unfortunately, far right, many far right forces have
been working on limiting the right to vote, you know, to try to guarantee
certain political objectives.
MADDOW: Can you give us any idea of the scale of your efforts and how
you are connected to Democratic Party politics or Democratic Party
organizations at all? How long are you guys going to be around, and how
big a deal are your efforts going to be?
SERGEANT: Well, I mean, we are planning on being around and working
on this issue as long as it needs to be worked on. And unfortunately, I
think it`s something that`s going to need to be worked on for a long time.
You know, we work, you know -- the American Values First w with
legislators, state legislators across the country, and that`s the first
line of defense regarding protecting people`s rights to vote.
And American Values First works very closely with the democratic
legislative campaign committee which is the Democratic Party organization
that works with democratic state legislators across the country.
MADDOW: Democratic legislative campaign committee. Now I have to set
a new Google alert.
Michael Sergeant, president of American Values First. Thank you for
helping us understand your efforts tonight. It is nice to be in-touched.
SERGEANT: Right. Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Now, we have been reporting on this story for as long as this
show`s been on the air, we`ve been reporting on voter suppression and
protecting the right to vote. And every time you get sort of national-
level Democrats to talk about it, they tell you how bad the problem is and
they tell you how much it must be fought.
But the fight has been a state-to-state fight and a lot of it has been
a legal fight, and a little bit of it has been a legislative fight. But to
imagine the Democratic Party waging a national 50-state political fight on
this subject, I feel like that`s something that everybody`s been waiting
for. Everybody`s been covering this. Everybody`s been watching this
happen for years, has been waiting for. This rollout of this American
Values First thing has been very subtle. And that was certainly their
first national TV appearance. We shall see if this turns into a big deal.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There were a lot of big legislative achievements in President
Obama`s first term. Health reform obviously is the big one. Something
Democrats have been trying to achieve for 60 years. President Obama and
the Democrats in Congress got that done.
Also, Wall Street reform to try to stop the worst of the abuses there
that led to the financial crisis at the end of the Bush presidency. To
preclude the possibility of another giant Wall Street bailout like we had
at the end of those years.
Also the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act so women can sue to get equal
pay as men doing the same work. Also, the nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
The START treaty, the repeal of don`t ask, don`t tell, expanding the hate
crimes law, overhauling student loans to take out the weird subsidized
private middleman in the loan system that was there for no reason, that
9/11 first responders bill, the stimulus. Remember cash for clunkers?
The president had a lot of legislative accomplishments in his first
term. Particularly when he had Democratic majorities in both houses of
In his second term, the president has been pretty clear about what
he`s aiming go with this half of his presidency. He`s talked about taking
action on some tough stuff. Climate change. He`s already made a go at
federal gun reforms although that has been a tough slog already.
And of course, the big Kaduna, everybody is waiting to see how it
turns out, say it with me now, immigration reform. Starting about five
seconds after the 2012 election results were announced, even lots of
Republicans and lots of conservative pundits agreed that there was really
no excuse to keep not fixing our stupid and broken immigration system which
has been stupid and broken for decades. It has been stupid and broken for
so long because of Congress` inability to get it fixed.
The previous Republican president could not even get his own party in
Congress to go along with his effort to fix the system. But in 2012, after
losing the presidency to a democratic president, who went from 67 percent
of the Latino vote in 2008, to 71 percent of the Latino vote in 2012, as
Mitt Romney just got trounced, after the 2012 election results, even
Republicans were conceding it was time to fix the immigration system.
And thus was born a vague mist-like esoteric sense in Washington that
something would happen. Surely if the political logic is this clear and so
many important people even in Republican politics see that political logic
that is so clear, then surely doesn`t it seem like something will happen?
Feels that way. And, yes, after hemming and hawing of almost epic
proportions, the United States Senate, controlled by Democrats, did pass an
immigration bill. The Senate is controlled by Democrats, but 14 Republican
senators crossed over to get it passed.
Passing in the Senate, though, does not mean it has passed into law.
And having a vague misty sense that it must pass, that it ought to pass,
that it might pass, that surely it`s got to pass, right? That vague
abstract positive feeling that it should pass is also not the same thing as
something actually passing into law. It really does have to go through the
house, too, and the house really is controlled by Republicans. And
whatever funky smelling cloud of smoke has settled over the beltway`s
reasoning on this subject about how surely it`s got to pass, it doesn`t
seem like the Republicans are going to let it pass.
The chairman of the house Judiciary Committee is a key gatekeeper for
this thing. If it can`t get past him, it can`t get past his committee.
And if it can`t get past his committee, then, it can`t get a vote.
And last night, he did a town hall at which he said he will do
everything he can to ensure that the Senate`s comprehensive immigration
bill never gets taken up in the house. He said he is flat-out opposed to
the whole point of the bill and it will never happen. He is saying he will
do whatever it takes. He will do whatever he can. And what he can do is
stop it. Plainly. Personally.
He said that around 7:00 p.m. eastern last night, and although this
vague sense persists in the punditocracy (ph) that surely something is
going to happen, it has to pass. Republicans would be insane not to fix
this problem for themselves. Even though that un-sourced, feel-good sense
still seems to pervade Washington and people who are paid to watch it for a
If the Republicans who control the house say no, then it`s no. It`s
not going to happen. And as of 7:00 p.m. last night, they are saying no
full stop. And I know that in the marginal sense of what has just been
advanced, it`s just this anonymous guy, Bob Goodlatte nobody could pick out
of a lineup. It seems like a processed story and it`s not getting press
today because he`s not all that famous.
But he`s the head of the committee who has to make it happen and he`s
saying no, and this is a huge moment on a huge issue, arguably the hugest
issue in Washington for four years. And Republicans are flat-out saying,
no, don`t care, we aren`t going to do it. Put a pin in this story today,
even though the headlines about it have not been huge, put a pin in it.
Unless something changes radically, the Republicans just killed immigration
for the foreseeable future in this third week of August 2013. And on their
heads will fall the political consequences probably for a generation,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. How you had been? You guys got any problems
you want me to handle, a fire anywhere, people trapped?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No? Like a bad automobile accident where you need
me to help some folks?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need me to get a cat in a tree?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think we`re all set here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trooper, what do we got?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor, thank you for coming. There`s a two-alarm
fire on state street. We do have a car broken down on route 1. And yes, a
little girl lost her cat in a tree.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you were. Governor, I`ve got this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Booker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Last year Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey
joined forces with the Democratic mayor of New Jersey`s largest city,
Newark, Cory booker, to create a video parody of their political selves,
which is great, right? And a moment to move past our political differences.
We are all united in making New Jersey laugh at us. It was a great
publicity stunt for both of them. It was all in good fun.
Until it became an awkward situation. Because now, when it comes down
to actually throwing support behind a candidate for political office,
Governor Chris Christie really cannot side with his buddy, the really very
popular mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, who is now the Democratic candidate
for U.S. Senate in New Jersey.
Chris Christie and Cory Booker go way back, you know? I mean, for
guys in opposite parties with big national profiles, they have a lot of
mutual respect. Even a mutual publicity stunt under their belts.
But now, partisan politics dictate that Chris Christie cannot go with
Cory Booker anymore. Now, he has to go with somebody amazing who is
running against Cory Booker for that Senate seat. And the photo op just
happened. And it was capital "A" awkward. It was oh, God, no, awkward.
And we`ve got that coming up.
MADDOW: The largest newspaper in the state of Virginia has today
called on Virginia`s Republican governor to resign from office, citing his
diminished credibility and a drained capacity to lead the commonwealth.
"The Virginian Pilot" newspaper in Norfolk today said that the prospect of
Governor Bob McDonnell`s continued leadership is untenable. He must devote
his full attention to sorting out his personal and legal problems, and for
the good of his office, for the good of the state, for the good of every
Virginian and his family and himself, Governor Bob McDonnell should resign.
This is the second major Virginian newspaper to call for Governor
McDonnell`s resignation. The first was "The Daily Progress" newspaper in
Charlottesville, Virginia, last week. Even the "Washington Post`s" pretty
doctrinaire Republican columnist, Jennifer Rubin, is calling on Governor
McDonnell to resign.
The latest calls for the governor to step down follow the news
reported in the "Washington Post" that federal officials spent yesterday
meeting with lawyers for both the governor and his wife. Separate lawyers
now for each of them. We`ll have more on that in a moment, though. They
spent yesterday meeting with the governor`s lawyers and his wife`s lawyers,
giving those lawyers a chance to argue for why federal prosecutors should
not bring criminal charges against Bob McDonnell.
Asked today about that repeatedly by reporters, Governor McDonnell
said he did not want to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us at about the results of the
meetings today with your lawyers?
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VA.: No. I came to talk about hiring veterans
and why that`s important. I can talk to you about the budget. We had a
great day yesterday, but I don`t have anything else to say on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was sunny Governor Bob McDonnell today in Fairfax,
Virginia, fending off one of many questions about essentially whether the
Commonwealth of Virginia should be bracing itself right now for their
sitting governor to be criminally indicted.
It was just about a month ago that someone created a new website at
forbobMcDonnell.com, for the purpose of hosting precisely one piece of
paper, a piece of paper containing this apology from the governor, saying
the governor was quote, "deeply sorry" for the embarrassment certain
members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia.
It`s always a very strange way of phrasing it, right? Going out of
his way even in his apology to say it was certain members of his family for
whom he was apologizing, and only secondly was he apologizing for himself.
That weird dynamic was pushed to the fore late on Friday night when in
a Friday night news dump for the ages, Governor McDonnell`s spokesman told
the "Washington Post" that, yes, there was even more that the governor had
not yet admitted to about his corruption scandal and his ties to a troubled
Virginia company. But these new disclosures that they were letting out
late on Friday night, they wanted to be very clear about these new
disclosures, look at this, that these new things, these new problems
they`re admitting to just now, they were definitely all the wife`s fault.
The governor didn`t even know.
Oh, and also the governor and his wife have hired separate legal teams
to represent them now.
What the governor is blaming on his wife, this news they broke late
Friday night, is the first news we have had since the scandal broke months
ago that Governor McDonnell and his family had a personal financial stake
in this company from which they took all those gifts. More than $140,000
in cash and a Rolex watch and a Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree and a
lakeside vacation home and the loan of a white Ferrari and all the rest of
it. Potential prosecution of the governor hinges on whether those gifts
and that cash he took from the company were essentially bribes, payment for
official actions that Bob McDonnell then took as governor to benefit the
company that was giving him all the loot.
His wife traveled around the state and around the country touting the
company`s products. The governor and the first lady hosted a product
launch event for the company at the Virginia governor`s mansion. The
governor and the first lady arranged meetings for the company`s CEO with
top state health officials so he could lobby the state on how great his
company`s products are and how great they could be for the state and they
should be covered under all the state employees` health insurance.
Were all those favors that the governor and his wife did for that
company, were all of those favors done in exchange for what they got from
that company? For the Rolex and the cash and everything else that the
governor took for himself and his family from the company`s CEO. That has
been the question up until now. That is the quid pro quo question that
presumably federal officials were discussing with the McDonnell family`s
his and hers lawyers all day yesterday in Virginia.
Now, though, you can add to that this new admission from the governor
that his family also had tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the
company, themselves, bought allegedly by the first lady at times that
coincided with the official actions that she and her husband took as
governor and first lady to help that company. She bought stock the day she
flew to Florida to tout that company`s product to researchers. She bought
stock the day after she arranged a meeting between that company`s CEO and a
top Virginia state health official.
So think about that. Not only was the first family taking very
expensive gifts and cash from this company that they were helping, they
were also helping themselves by helping the company, because they had a
personal financial stake in it. A personal financial stake. Stock in the
company that the governor had never before disclosed.
"The Post" has since reported that Governor McDonnell knew about the
stock as early as 2011, but he is just admitting to it now. On Friday
night. In the middle of the night. Blaming his wife. Ahead of the
meeting on Monday morning where his lawyers and his wife`s separate team of
lawyers got their chance to beg federal prosecutors to please not bring
Oh, and also, there are reportedly still more gifts from this
company`s CEO to the McDonnell family that still have not been disclosed.
Apparently reported in the "Washington Post" with two sources, we`re talks
about golf clubs for each of the governor`s college-aged twin sons, and
also an iPhone for the first lady.
OK. Anything else? Seriously. Anything else? I mean, when Governor
McDonnell apologized a month ago and said he had paid everything back, when
he did that a month ago, he made the kind of implicit promise that all
apologizers make. Which is that the story`s over. This thing for which I
need to apologize has been disclosed. You know what I did wrong and I`m
sorry for it. It`s over.
In Bob McDonnell`s case, we have no idea. The apology a month ago has
preceded just another month of yet more new details of new stuff that he
did and he took and was hoping to get away with. Things he has known about
for years, like the stock ownership that he was still trying to keep secret
even after supposedly coming clean and making his big apology.
And so, yes, what next? I mean, golf clubs and iPhones have been
added to the list. Stock options -- stock in the company has been added to
the list. What`s next? Presumably there`s more. This now shows signs of
only getting worse, not better. If him apologizing was not him coming
clean, then there`s no reason to think that there isn`t more to come.
Joining us now is Delegate Scott Surovell of the Virginia legislature.
He was one of the first members of the legislature to call for the governor
to resign. He made that call back in July. Thank you very much for being
with us tonight.
STATE DEL. SCOTT SUROVELL, VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So you have suggested that if the governor doesn`t resign on
his own that maybe the legislature should look into trying to force him out
using other measures. Do you still think that would be appropriate? And
would that mean impeachment?
SUROVELL: Well, it certainly sounds like there`s an indictment that`s
imminent, and if it turns out that the governor does get indicted and his
wife gets indicted, I think that`s something we need to very seriously look
MADDOW: So far, Ken Cuccinelli, who is the Republican candidate for
governor, the current attorney general of the state, who has his own ties
to this scandal himself, having accepted about $18,000 worth of gifts from
the same CEO involved in this scandal, he has said that there should be
broad-scale ethics reform in the state, not that there shouldn`t be
specific accountability for the governor but that the ethics laws in the
state should be changed, and that would be the appropriate response. What
do you think about that?
SUROVELL: I don`t think there`s any question that Virginia`s ethics
laws need some revision. I`ve made a series of proposals in that regard.
Ken Cuccinelli suggested that we need to have a special session on that
now. I think that would be -- now is not the right time. We have
elections in about 80 days. I just think right now a special session on
ethics reform would be kind of a political sideshow, and we ought to wait
for our general session, which starts in January.
If we do have any special session, I think if the governor is indicted
and he refuses to resign, then I think the only special session we ought to
have should be one for the governor to come and explain himself to us. If
he doesn`t resign, we ought to be talking about having impeachment
MADDOW: Mr. Surovell, following this from a national perspective, the
thing that`s been remarkable about it, beyond the personal career
trajectory here, this fall from grace from somebody who had been talked
about as vice presidential or even presidential timber, to have fallen in
this really shabby and tawdry scandal so quickly, the thing that has been
notable about it has just been that it never seems like it`s over. Even
after the apology, even after what seemed like the initial rush of almost
unimaginable disclosures in this, there`s just been more. Every few days,
there`s more and more and more and more. Why do you think that is? What
do you think is the overall truth of what happened here?
SUROVELL: You know, Rachel, this state has a proud 237-year history.
We`ve had 71 governors. We`ve never seen anything remotely close to this
in the history of this state. And from the second these stories started to
come out, you started to hear a drip, drip, drip. And it never seemed to
end, and you always heard there was something else coming out, something
else coming out. Even just last week, the governor, I think, gave a -- he
issued a statement indicating he had returned, he and his family had
returned all the tangible gifts they had received from Johnny Williams.
When the governor was asked if he would tell everybody what those gifts
were, he said, no, he`s not going to provide a full accounting of the
And it`s clear we still haven`t had a full disclosure of exactly what
went on between the governor`s family and this guy. Still to this day
after three months of this. And after repeated calls from myself and other
legislatures for him to come clean, he hasn`t come clean. And I think
there`s more out there, and that`s one of the reasons I called on him to
resign. He`s clearly distracted by it and not being forthright with
Virginians about what`s going on here.
MADDOW: You are a Democrat, the handful of politicians in the state,
legislators in the state who have called on the governor to resign are all
Democrats. I wonder if what your sense is of the prevailing political
winds. We`ve now got two major papers in the state, including the
Virginian Pilot, largest paper in the state today, calling for the governor
to resign. Still there have been no elected Republicans who are joining
those calls and saying he ought to go. There`s really been no Republican
criticism of Governor McDonnell at all. Do you think that has to change?
As newspapers around the state, in particular, start really turning on the
governor in this?
SUROVELL: You know, I would think that that would be a good start.
There`s been one member who suggested we ought to have some ethics reform.
But nobody`s really called on him to resign. But I think if he`s indicted,
which it seems like is very probable, I think you`re going to start to hear
people on all sides say it`s time for the governor to resign his position
and turn it over to the lieutenant governor. And, you know, from what I`ve
heard, from what I`ve read in the papers, that could be imminent with what
you were just talking about, with him meeting with the U.S. attorneys just
What disappoints me is that we, you know, this state shouldn`t be
outsourcing its ethical responsibilities to the federal prosecutors. Our
constitution places ethical enforcement with the Virginian legislature,
which pre-existed the federal government by ten years. And the idea we
should hide behind federal prosecutors and leave it to them to figure this
out is a little disappointing to me. But I think if he`s indicted, I think
you`ll start to see some action.
MADDOW: Delegate Scott Surovell represents southern Fairfax County in
the Virginia legislature. Thank you very much for your time tonight. I
realize this is not just a personal story, this is a political crisis for
your state, and I appreciate your being willing to talk to us about it.
SUROVELL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie has made a major endorsement in the
race for New Jersey`s open U.S. Senate seat, and it probably didn`t go the
way he wanted it to. That`s next.
MADDOW: The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is an acutely and
dramatically image-conscious politician, which is funny because he wants
his image to be that he doesn`t care what people think about him. But he
so desperately does. So when he vetoed the ban on .50 caliber sniper
rifles in New Jersey, a ban he, himself, had proposed in the first place,
and he also partially vetoed background checks for guns in New Jersey,
which is supported by 95 percent of even gun-owning New Jersey households,
when he signed those vetoes, image-conscious Governor Chris Christie made
sure to do it late in the day on a Friday night in August. Look at the
time here, 7:27 p.m. on Friday. You do something in a time like that in
the hopes that nobody will notice what you are doing.
At the same time he made the decision on the gun things, though, he
also made the decision to ban the creepy quack therapy that tries to turn
gay people into straight people. But that one he made sure to announce on
Monday morning, right at the start of the news cycle, so he could get lots
of praise for being a brave, brave guy for doing that, while nobody noticed
him caving on his own gun proposal.
Chris Christie is acutely image-conscious. And so it has got to
sting, it has got to really chap his hide today that Republican political
etiquette requires that he, as governor of New Jersey, as a Republican, as
somebody who presumably wants to be president, he has got to endorse the
Republican Party`s nominee for the United States Senate from his state.
Everybody knows who the Democratic nominee for Senate is, right? Cory
Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he`s a pretty popular guy, nationally
known, heavily favored to win that seat. But the Republican Party
nominated somebody, too, they nominated this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE LONEGAN, NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE: President Obama, don`t
tread on my freedom. President Obama, don`t tread on my liberty.
President Obama, President Obama, don`t tread on me. Don`t tread on me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Steve Lonegan. He is a perennial candidate in New Jersey.
The only actual office he has ever held was mayor of Bogota, New Jersey,
population 8,200. But this kind of guy who runs for everything, he really
is a perennials candidate. He even ran against Chris Christie for governor
a few years ago. By some political miracle, called low turnout election in
August, he has now become the Republican Party`s nominee for the United
States Senate. The real one. And of course, Democratic groups are gorging
on the buffet that is Steve Lonegan`s history of public statements. The
group American Bridge has been circulating a reel that`s essentially like
Steve Lonegan`s greatest hits, circulating them for entertainment value,
for its fundraising value, presumably, but also for nationwide Republican
branding value. Because he`s like Christine O`Donnell minus the witch. It
is amazing that this is the guy who the Republican Party has nominated for
the United States Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LONEGAN: You know, I`m a right-wing radical. I don`t think there
should be any minimum wage.
This is a Ponzi scheme, you know, the biggest disappointment I had
last week was when Rick Perry came out and called Social Security a Ponzi
scheme, and all the controversy around it, is that he didn`t stick to his
guns, because it is.
I am going to put forth what I called the Lonegan plan. People are
going to say, well, doesn`t this mean a tax increase for the poor? And the
answer is yes, it does.
I have no interest in paying for your health care. I`d hate to see
you get cancer, but that`s your problem, not mine.
I didn`t hear Mark Levin`s ideas about Medicare or Medicaid. I think
both of these programs are destined for destruction for the next
generation, and I think they should be done away with and privatized,
that`s what I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And so the way acutely image-conscious Governor Chris
Christie had to spend his afternoon was cozying up to that guy, talking
about what a great Republican he`d be in the U.S. Senate, and how much he
supports him, and hopes he wins. Yes, Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan,
this is going to be one of those relationships that is going to be fun to
watch it develop.
MADDOW: Duck walks into a drug store and asks the pharmacist for some
chapstick. The pharmacist says, here`s your chapstick. The duck says
thanks, would you put it on my bill? Crickets. It`s OK, that was a bad
joke. And bad jokes, things that fall flat, get crickets.
There is actually a cottage industry of mobile crickets for all
occasions, and any location. Browsing, without any real effort, I found 39
different apps for cricket sound effects available on the iPhone. They all
say they`re promising to fill that awkward silence from a bad joke or
another faux pas with the appropriate cricket sound effects. Instant
funny. Look at this one, out with a bunch of pals and somebody brings out
the lamest diss on the planet? Give them some crickets. Because actual
silence is not good enough at making a point. We have learned to fill
silence with the sound of crickets. To highlight the fact that there is
silence, that something is not working.
Earlier this month, "The Columbia Journalism Review" documented the
life cycle of a scandal, in our national news media. They plotted the
attention that one scandal got in terms of news coverage, just by counting
the number of stories that were done during the course of the scandal.
They focused on three news outlets that cover a lot of national political
news, and from which many other news organizations often take their cues.
So near the beginning of the IRS scandal, there was a huge spike in
interest in coverage, Politico.com running an amazing 66 stories at the
scandal`s apex, during its second week. The "Washington Post," 16 stories
that week; "The New York Times," nine stories that week. But as the facts
of the story emerged and changed, it became clearer and clearer that the
scandal was not actually all that scandalous, interest in the story at the
three news organizations rapidly petered out. And it stayed petered out.
Which means the news consumers were given lots and lots and lots of
information at the outset, that this allegedly scandalous thing had
happened, but when it turned out that President Obama was not Richard
Nixon, readers had a much harder time figuring it out.
Today we have been given even more information about how unscandalous
the IRS scandal really is. How it was not a plot by the White House or the
Obama administration to bankrupt its enemies and target the Tea Party. How
workers at the IRS were also asked to be on the lookout for progressive
groups, just as they were conservative groups. Much more proof that it was
not a one-sided deal. It follows last month`s evidence that the IRS was
also targeting progressive groups, and the evidence before that, that
showed being singled out for scrutiny by the IRS was not really a political
thing at all.
On top of all that, we again have even more documentation that the IRS
scandal has been disproven. More exoneration. And so of course. Silence.
Give them some crickets.
This is how scandal journalism works, right? There is no reason to
feel high and mighty about it. It`s understandable. Something is a lot
more interesting when it seems like it might be terribly, horribly wrong.
Point at the horribly wrong thing, look at it, wave your arms, draw
attention. But when something actually turns out to be not that wrong,
when the facts of why it is scandalous are difficult to explain, that story
is not anywhere near as interesting to tell, but it is twice as important.
Sometimes hearing crickets is not the result of a bad joke. Just
disinterest in letting people know how stuff that turned out to be the
Now it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks
for being with us tonight. Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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