THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
August 26, 2013
Guests: Steve Clemons, G.K. Butterfield
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for
the next hour.
OK. When Japanese pilots turned to kamikaze attacks in World War II,
it was meant to not be only effective in a direct sense, but also
terrifying. The piloted aircraft used as a missile could obviously do
great direct damage to whatever it hit. But the psychological effect of
being up against an enemy who would do that, a military that would expect
its own men to deliberately kill themselves, was also just meant to
terrorize, to make their enemies believe there was nothing they wouldn`t
do, no lengths they would not go to.
When Iran and Iraq went to war with each other in 1980, a war that
stretched on for almost the full decade of the 1980s, the Iranian side
employed their own variation on the kamikaze tactic. And it had the same
They used human beings, masses of human beings to clear minefields, to
walk out into mined areas, thus, setting off the mines killing those people
in the process but clearing for others to pass through the same area
safely. They used swarms of humans often unarmed, untrained young boys to
physically swarm over armed enemy positions.
It was the human wave tactic. It was effective in direct terms by
distracting and overwhelming the enemy and by soaking up their munitions.
It was effective psychologically, because, my God, how could they do that,
When you hear the estimates that the Iraq/Iran war may have killed a
million people, it is tactics like the Iranians` human waves that help to
explain how the casualty total got that high. But as existentially
unnerving as it may be to think about what it takes to deploy a tactic like
that, using your own people, your own children in some cases as guaranteed
mass casualty strategic fodder, consider also what it means to defend
against that kind of tactic, because in the eight-year-long war between
Iran and Iraq, the human wave tactic was one of the more successful tactics
that Iran used.
And so to defeat that, to eliminate this threat posed by waves of
human beings coming at them on the battlefield, waves of human beings who
were ordered there specifically to attract artillery and rocket fire and
bullets everything else in order to occupy the Iraqi troops and distract
them and make them give away their position on the battlefield, in part to
eliminate the threat the human waves posed.
The Iraqis came up with their own unimaginable tactic. The goal was
to make it impossible for these human wave attacks to keep advancing on
them. They did not want to have to keep shooting at those human waves and
they wanted to instill some terror of their own like with the kamikaze
tactic, Iraq wanted to cause damage in a way that also sapped the morale of
the other side, made the other side feel like they were up against an enemy
that would stop at nothing.
They did something that was designed to kill but also to instill fear
and hopelessness, to make the other side want to turn around and run.
It started in the summer of 1982 when Iraq decided to use tear gas on
the battlefield. They used tear gas munitions against Iranian forces in
southern Iraq, that was near Basra during the initial Iranian invasion of
Iraq. Iraq hit the Iranians with mortar rounds loaded with tear gas. That
By 1983, the Iraqis were using mustard gas. It was like World War I
in the desert -- trench warfare, these battles of attrition, and then
mustard gas, blistering pain, blindness. That started in northern Iraq in
the mountains, 500-pound bombs loaded with mustard gas dropped to stop an
Iranian incursion in northern Iraq. That was 1983.
By 1984, the Iraqis had moved past tear gas and mustard gas on the
battlefield to become the first country anywhere in the world to use nerve
gas in a combat situation on the battlefield. The details of those attacks
are spelled out in great detail in recently declassified CIA documents that
have just been published by "Foreign Policy" magazine today.
The CIA knew all this was happening in Iran and Iraq as it was
happening. Quote, "Iraq has begun using nerve agents on the al Basrah
front. If Iraq starts using nerve agents in large quantities, Tehran will
have to rethink its war strategy. Iran human wave tactics are especially
susceptible to nerve agent attacks. And if Iran does not achieve a major
military victory by this winter, it probably will not be able to in the
future. Those Iranians not directly injured by chemical attacks would
probably suffer morale problems and are likely to flee the battlefield" --
so said the CIA.
All of these documents from 1983, 1984, when these attacks were
happening, showing that the U.S. government, the Reagan administration then
knew it was happening. They knew that Iraq was using chemical weapons,
even nerve gas in its war against Iran, but the U.S. government did not say
beep about it.
Remember, in that war, the United States picked sides. We picked
Iraq. Between Iran and Iraq, we picked Iraq.
And when Iran went to the United Nations to say, hey, the Iraqis are
bombing us with mustard gas and nerve agents, isn`t the world supposed to
care about that? Isn`t that illegal? The United States said nothing to
back them up, even though we now know our government had plenty of our own
evidence to back up what the Iranians were saying, but we didn`t say
Iran`s envoy to the United Nations in January 1984 brought actual soil
samples and rocks and part of a tree and some shrapnel to the United
Nations building itself. He brought this stuff to New York and he held it
up in the United Nations building. He held up all this stuff and then had
to rush out of the room saying, "I have to wash because my hands are
He said his country could not testify the samples themselves, but he
said he knew the U.N. could, and that was why he brought those samples to
New York so the U.N. would study those things.
And the United States through all of that said nothing even though we
knew that what he was alleging was absolutely true.
And it is not like 30 years ago, chemical weapons and nerve gas were
no big whoop. We and the whole world were supposedly as outraged by
chemical weapons then as we are now. But in that terrible war between Iran
and Iraq, Iraq wanted to use chemical weapons, and so they did. And thanks
to the documents unearthed by "Foreign Policy" today, now we know that the
U.S. government knew about it, and the CIA thought at the time that that
use of chemical weapons gave Iraq a pretty effective battlefield advantage
in this war that we desperately wanted them to win.
Still, though, I mean, nerve gas and chemical weapons?
No matter how much the Reagan administration loved Saddam Hussein and
wanted them to win that war, we are supposed to be outraged by anyone using
chemical weapons, no matter who uses them. We are supposed to react
publicly to the use of chemical weapons the way that Secretary of State
John Kerry did today.
I have seen John Kerry give a lot of speeches and make a lot of
comments in his life as a senator and as a presidential candidate, and,
indeed, as secretary of state. I have never seen him more outraged or
emphatic about any public issue as he was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What we saw in Syria last week
should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality.
Let me be clear: the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the
killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons
is a moral obscenity. This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of
weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at
all. A conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else.
There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of
chemical weapons. No matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and
all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up
to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so
that it never happens again.
Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the
world about the gravity of this situation, I went back, and I watched the
videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media. Now, I
watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in
words the human suffering that they lay out before us.
As a father, I can`t get the image out of my head of a man who held up
his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him -- the images of
entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a
visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms, human suffering that we can
never ignore or forget.
Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could
be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own
What is before us today is real, and it is compelling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is compelling. The use of chemical weapons itself in the
past has not been enough to compel an American response, let alone an
American military response. At least it wasn`t during the Reagan
I mean, chemical weapons may seem like something that inherently
demand not just international but specifically American condemnation. But
in the past, we have let it slide when we felt like it, when it worked for
us for strategic reasons.
It should also be noted that Syria denies it has used chemical
weapons. They deny that about the attack last week that was filmed that
the secretary described in such great detail. About that last week, they
say, if nothing else, their own forces were in the area that suffered this
attack and they would wage an attack like that to which their own side
would be susceptible.
Syria`s ally, Russia, says if the U.S. decides to use military force
to respond to Syria`s alleged chemical weapons use, it would be an echo of
what George W. Bush did 10 years ago when our government said it was sure,
but it was wrong, and the resulting war without U.N. approval was one of
America`s greatest foreign policy mistakes ever, if not the greatest
foreign policy mistake ever.
So, now, here we are. The drum beat in Washington today says that
there is going to be an American or an American and allied military hit of
some kind against Syria. What will that do? What choices does President
Obama have in terms of how to respond if he does want to respond militarily
or otherwise? Does Congress get a say in the matter, and what happens if
we are wrong about this?
Our government`s track record on being wrong about chemical weapons is
long. It spans multiple administrations for multiple reasons. And if the
use of chemical weapons really is going to be a real red line in the world
that demands a response when it happens, why is the world waiting for our
government to make up our government`s own mind about whether this happened
instead of waiting for the U.N. weapons inspectors to say definitively one
way or the other?
The U.N. weapons inspectors are in Syria right now. Why is the world
waiting on the U.S. government, especially with our track record on this
issue, instead of waiting on the experts who are right now looking into
Joining us now is Steve Clemons. He`s a senior fellow at the New
American Foundation. He`s also Washington editor-at-large for "The
Steve, thank you so much for being here.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC MAGAZINE: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, Secretary Kerry says there`s evidence that the Syrian
government is responsible for that chemical weapons attack that the U.N.
inspectors are investigating.
Do we have any indication what that evidence might be?
CLEMONS: I`ve spent much of my day today talking on background, with
various parts of the U.S. government. And as you know from our previous
encounter, I tend to be skeptical of many of these assessments.
In this particular case, I believe that we have signals intelligence
that tells us who did what to whom, who ordered these commands, and the
kind of intelligence that we have today is very different in nature than
what was happening with lower level chemical weapons incidents that were
documented before, in which there was some ongoing confusion about whether
the regime or the opposition used those chemical weapons.
I think the administration has evidence that they`re not sharing with
us publicly, but which I believe is compelling, where in this particular
case, we know that the command staff in Syria has responsibility for the
deployment of these terrible weapons.
So, this is one of these times where my own skepticism is suspended,
and I -- and I actually think this is one of these cases that deserves a
MADDOW: And we are hearing, Steve, that we are likely to get,
released publicly, more specific information about why the U.S. government
feels so confident in this assessment. If they are going to tell us that,
as you put it, the command staff in Syria is directly responsible for
ordering this attack -- does that mean that a U.S. military response or an
allied military response would be against the command staff in Syria?
Would be essentially a decapitation strike?
CLEMONS: I think there will be -- the White House has gone out of its
way as well as people in the Pentagon and people in the State Department
have gone out of their way to make clear they`re distinguishing the actions
that they`re planning to take. I think those plans are under way and
certain at this point are different than an attack on Assad, an attack on
the state or an attack meant to create a tipping point opportunity for the
A lot of people commenting have been conflating the chemical weapons
issue and the use of these weapons in this terrible incident with the
ongoing civil war inside Syria. And in contrast with what the Obama
administration did previously, they are being very clear that this is not
about that. That this is about the collapse of a key international norm
that Barack Obama and Joe Biden and other world leaders have come together
several years ago to prevent and to try to prohibit and create a global
allergy against the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction.
And they believe that not to respond to this case -- it`s a very
different case than the ongoing questions about Assad and internal
instability and, you know, the fight for Syria. This is about a global
norm, and that is why they are going to basically punish parts of the
Syrian government and try to create a capacity.
What`s odd about this is that they are basically telegraphing to the
world that they`re going to do it, and one will have to assess after the
fact whether or not Syria was able to harden, move, or hide assets that
they fear will be attacked. It`s not often -- I mean, I -- if you were in
a perfect military planning incident, you would attack without notice. But
the Obama administration is giving very, very wide notice, that, in fact,
an attack is coming in my view.
MADDOW: Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New American Foundation
and Washington editor at large for "The Atlantic" magazine, and somebody
who is well-connected and very candid -- Steve, thank you for being with
us. I appreciate you.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: It is remarkable hearing what Steve said there about how the
overall strategic idea here is about re-establishing that international
norm, that international allergy on weapons of mass destruction while the
U.N. weapons inspectors are there in that country, that we would act before
we have actually heard from them what they found is very conflicting
direction as far as I`m concerned in terms of what the point of this is.
If the idea is that we`re supposed to reestablish international norms
and an international regime against this sort of thing, while the tip of
the spear there is the weapons inspectors. Why wouldn`t we wait for them?
All right. Lots ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Before there was a Republican senator named Rand Paul out of
the great state of Kentucky, there was a Republican senator named Jim
Bunning from Kentucky. Do you remember Jim Bunning?
Jim Bunning was known in part for offending people a lot, sometimes on
purpose and sometimes just because he couldn`t help himself. One of the
more offensive things that Jim Bunning ever said in public was when he
predicted the death of a sitting Supreme Court justice.
In February 2009, Jim Bunning predicted that Supreme Court Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead in nine months. Justice Ginsburg had
just undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer, and Senator Jim Bunning said,
hey, nobody ever lasts more than nine months after being diagnosed with
Jim Bunning said that on a Saturday. Then, the following Monday, Ruth
Bader Ginsburg went back to work. She went back to work 18 days after
surgery for pancreatic cancer. She has been on the job ever since, 54
months and counting.
A year after Jim Bunning publicly predicted she`d be dead in nine
months, Justice Ginsburg told a crowd in Washington, quote, "I`m pleased to
report that contrary to Senator Bunning`s prediction, I`m alive and in good
There is, though, one activity that justice Ginsburg says she can no
longer take part in. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is about this big. She`s 80
years old. She is the oldest current member of the court. She`s survived
two bouts of cancer.
And she says there has been a consequence in her life from her
advancing age and from her health challenges. She told "The New York
Times" for an interview this weekend, "I don`t water ski anymore. I
haven`t gone horseback riding in four years. I haven`t ruled that out
entirely, but water skiing, those days are over."
Supreme Court justices do not often sit down for interviews. They
mostly keep their public appearances limited. But Justice Ginsburg spoke
to "The Times" and she did make some news. She said she has no intention
of stepping down from the court any time soon. She says she loves her job,
has no plans to quit though she`s had to quit the whole water skiing thing.
That was a bit of news. But she also had stinging criticism of where
the court had been heading in recent years. She told "The Times," quote,
"In terms of readiness to overturn legislation, this is one of the most
activist courts in history." She was talking specifically about the
court`s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act earlier this year.
She said that decision was stunning in terms of activism and she said
she made a mistake on signing on to a 2009 opinion that ultimately laid the
groundwork for the court`s eventual gutting of the Voting Rights Act this
Despite her opposition to that Voting Rights Act, that decision did
happen this year. Since then, a number of states covered by the Voting
Rights Act either wholly or in part, they have sprung into action to do
things that that law would most likely have prevented them from doing were
it still in effect.
States have changed their voting laws in ways that would have been too
racially discriminatory to have been allowed before under the Voting Rights
Act, but now, they can get away with it and so they`re going for it.
Last week, the Justice Department announced that they were going to
sue the state of Texas over the voter ID law Texas Republicans put into
place after the Supreme Court decision. A federal court in Texas is now
reviewing the Justice Department`s complaint.
But while that review goes on, the voter ID law in Texas is going into
effect, and there is a fascinating little test case that`s going to play
out there this week.
This is a ballot for a local city council race in the city of
Edinburg, Texas. This tiny local election is going to be the first one in
the state that will be held under the state`s strict new voter ID laws.
Opponents of the law are planning to watch that election very closely to
see what effect this new voter ID law has on the ability of minority
residents to turn out and vote.
The fight is also on right now in North Carolina. That state`s new
voter suppression law is seen as even more draconian than the one that was
passed in Texas that the federal government is suing over right now. The
North Carolina law, and all of the national coverage of that law, has
kicked up a wave of opposition in the state. Last Thursday, North
Carolina`s Republican governor Pat McCrory who signed that bill, he
appeared at a CEO forum in Raleigh. The very next speaker after him at
that event was former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
And with Governor McCrory in the audience speaking right after him,
Colin Powell, a Republican, took a direct rhetorical aim at Governor
McCrory`s voting bill, saying, quote, "These kinds of actions do not build
on the base. It just turns people away. I want to see policy just turns
people away. I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote,
not make it more difficult to vote."
Those comments from Colin Powell in North Carolina on Thursday made a
lot of waves in North Carolina. But then secretary, former Secretary of
State Colin Powell reiterated that critique for a national audience when he
went on CBS yesterday morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Here`s what I say to my
Republican friends. The country is becoming more diverse. Asian-
Americans, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans are going to constitute
the majority of the population in another generation.
You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message,
you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the
Republican side -- this is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to
make it easier for them to vote then give them something to vote for that
they can believe in.
Many states are putting in place procedures and new legislation that
in some ways makes it a little bit harder to vote. You need a photo ID.
Well, you didn`t need a photo ID for decades before. Is it really
And they claim that there`s widespread abuse or voter fraud. But
nothing documents, nothing substantiates that. There isn`t widespread
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on CBS` "Face the
Nation" yesterday morning.
As he spoke, this was the article that appeared on the front page of
the "Charlotte Observer" in North Carolina, a super hard-hitting article
exploring the origins of this particular variety of Republican politics in
that state. It`s a long well-reported piece on the front page of the
Sunday paper on where Republicans in that state found their inspiration for
their agenda including that controversial voting bill, a bill that has now
lit a fire under the Democratic Party across the state.
Last week, we took the show to Watauga County in North Carolina where
Republicans have voted to eliminate all of the polling places from a local
university and instead make those students trek way, way, way off campus to
vote at a really hard to get to location that doesn`t have sufficient space
for parking, let alone a sidewalk on the way there.
The Watauga Democrat newspaper now reports that the Democratic Party
in Watauga County has started fighting back in a new way. They`ve
announced a formation of a voting rights task force that will do campus
outreach and events to energize students to take action. They`re building
what they call a progressive staff of young voters to hold elected
In Watauga County, Democrats mobilizing on this issue in a big way, as
are North Carolina students across the state, the student government
representing the whole UNC system, University of North Carolina system,
passed a resolution this weekend calling on the state board of elections to
overturn the Republican-controlled county boards of elections that have
been trying to limit voting on college campuses.
The state board of elections is probably unlikely to do that given
that it is also Republican controlled, but North Carolina students are now
organizing on that issue, asking the state to get involved.
I`m not sure that North Carolina Republicans expected this level of
outrage and push-back to what they have done. But there is an incredible
level of outrage and push-back that is now being made manifest every day.
And if you want to talk about really interesting and really unpredictable,
consider what also happened today in Washington, D.C.
Today, one of the top Republicans in the House, James Sensenbrenner of
Wisconsin, Republican, said that he personally intends to resurrect the
aforementioned Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court
earlier this year. Congressman Sensenbrenner, again, a Republican, said
that only does that law need to come back, it needs to come back soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: I am committed to restoring
the Voting Rights Act as an effective tool to prevent discrimination, more
subtle discrimination now than over-discrimination. My job is to fix the
Voting Rights Act.
Now, the first thing we have to do is to take the monkey wrench that
the court threw in it out of the Voting Rights Act and then use that monkey
wrench to be able to fix it so that it is alive, well, constitutional and
impervious to another challenge that will be filed by the usual suspects.
I`m with you on this.
This is something that has to be done by the end of the year so that a
revised and constitutional Voting Rights Act is in place before the 2014
election season, both primaries and general elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is something he said that needs to be done by the end of
Now, you may have heard Congressman Sensenbrenner there saying, "I`m
with you on this." Where he was speaking, he was at a Republican Party
event commemorating the march on Washington, 50 years of the march on
Washington when he said that.
The very next speaker at the podium was RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
who remarked, quote, "I think Jim Sensenbrenner just made some news here."
Yes, he did. And if he gets to do what he said he`s going to do, that
would not only be news. That would be huge news. We`ll have more on that
next with somebody who`s helping to lead that fight.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENSENBRENNER: I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act as
an effective tool to prevent discrimination, more subtle discrimination now
than over-discrimination. This is something that has to be done by the end
of the year so that a revised and constitutional Voting Rights Act is in
place before 2014 election season, both primaries and general elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner of
Wisconsin, today calling for the Voting Rights Act to be restored by the
end of this year, by this Congress. He`s a Republican.
Is what he`s saying a possibility?
Joining us now is Congressman G.K. Butterfield. He represents
Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where we visited and took this show last
week. Congressman Butterfield is a former voting rights attorney and
former North Carolina Supreme Court justice.
Congressman, thank you very much for being back with us tonight. I
appreciate your time, sir.
REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Rachel. It`s
good to see you again.
MADDOW: After what the Supreme Court did with Voting Rights Act
earlier this summer, I have not been hopeful that the Voting Rights Act
could be restored by this Congress, in particular. But there was
Congressman Sensenbrenner there saying it can be done, he will see that it
will be done.
What do you make of that from him?
BUTTERFIELD: Well, Rachel, first of all, thank you for continuing to
put the spotlight on this issue. This is very important to so many people.
I am cautiously optimistic that we can reach a bipartisan compromise
in the House of Representatives to amend the Voting Rights Act and to get
Section 4 alive and well again so that we can enforce Section 5. The
Supreme Court really surprised us on June the 25th when it invalidated the
But thanks to Congressman Sensenbrenner and hopefully Congressman Eric
Cantor and others in the Republican conference, we`re going to cobble
together a bipartisan compromise and we`re going to get this thing amended
before the end of the year. We`ve got to do it.
So many Republican members who served in 2006 are still with us in the
House of Representatives, and I believe that they`re going to stand with
Mr. Sensenbrenner and let`s get it passed.
MADDOW: In terms of the opposition to that happening, is there overt,
articulated opposition to that idea, the idea that the Congress should
restore the Voting Rights Act, or is it more that people don`t want talk
about their opposition and essentially just want to slow walk the issue,
not deal with it overtly but make sure it doesn`t get done?
BUTTERFIELD: Well, there are clearly differences of opinion in the
House of Representatives, but it takes 218 votes to get anything through
the house. There are 233 Republicans and 202 Democrats, and we`re looking
for 218 votes.
I can assure you that the Democratic caucus is prepared to vote almost
unanimously to amend Section 4. And so, we only need, perhaps, 20 or 30
Republican votes in order to reach the 218 threshold.
We`ve got to get Section 4 behind us because we cannot afford to see
voting rights eroded throughout the South. We fought too hard for these
gains over the last 30 years, and the Voting Rights Act has been our
protector and I can tell you the Congressional Black Caucus and the others
of us in the House are ready and willing and able to put together a
compromise to get this reauthorized.
MADDOW: Your state, North Carolina, has become, along with Texas, a
bit of a poster child with what the states would like to if Voting Rights
Act does not constrain their behavior, with the way the states have moved
so quickly after the Supreme Court`s action to institute policies that
nobody thinks would have been allowed to go forward had the Justice
Department been responsible for pre-clearing those policies.
What do you think is going to happen in your state in terms of the
pushback that we`re seeing now against the changes to voting rights that
have happened both in law and in policy?
BUTTERFIELD: Well, there`s outrage and pushback all across North
Carolina -- not just from African-American citizens, not just from
students, but forward-thinking people of goodwill. We don`t like what has
happened in North Carolina. We`re going to insist that the attorney
general of the United States bring a federal action against our state to
enforce our constitutional rights.
I spoke with Eric Holder the other day at the march on Washington. I
did all of the talking. He did not give any a commitment one way or the
other, but I expressed to Eric Holder, Attorney General Eric Holder what I
said to him in a letter earlier this month.
We must have federal action and we must have it now. He correctly
filed an action in the state of Texas for the same reasons we must do it in
North Carolina. If not, this Republican majority is going to become a
tyranny in our state and we don`t need that.
The policies that they`re beginning to enact in the North Carolina
legislature are just draconian. They declined the Medicaid expansion,
unemployment insurance. They gutted public education.
We cannot go down that path. We`re a progressive state. We want to
stay that way.
MADDOW: Congressman G.K. Butterfield, Democrat of North Carolina,
representing a beautiful corner of the eastern part of the state which I
was able to see last week. Congressman, thank you very much for your time
BUTTERFIELD: And thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Lots including unexpectedly liberal news from Alabama,
specifically from Republicans in Alabama. Liberal, seriously. That`s
MADDOW: We have some breaking news tonight out of New Mexico.
A judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has ordered the most populous
county in that state to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex
couples. This is a state district judge who has ruled that New Mexico`s
constitution bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The
judge is saying that that fact requires the issuing of marriage licenses to
same-sex couples who seek them in the state of New Mexico.
New Mexico is the only state in the country that has no specific laws
either allowing same-sex marriage or banning them. So, this is an
important change in what`s true in the state.
Bernalillo County plans to start issuing marriage licenses at 8:00
a.m. tomorrow. The county clerk is reportedly ready telling "The
Associated Press" that she had 1,000 licenses printed up just in case the
judge ruled in favor of same-sex marriage tonight, which the judge did.
Again, tonight`s breaking news -- looks like tomorrow morning is going
to be a festive morning in Albuquerque, as a state judge orders New
Mexico`s most populous county to start issuing marriage licenses to same-
sex couples right away and in this case -- right away means 8:00 a.m. local
We will have more ahead on this issue. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE TYLER FERGUSON, ACTOR: I did not know I`d be sitting in front
of a seal speaking to news cameras. So this is not my -- but, you know,
speaking about people who oppose marriage equality, it`s certainly
something I have dealt with, you know, every day of my life, and now being
in the public eye I certainly deal with it very directly.
You know, it`s -- it`s something that I`ve grown a thick skin for.
You know, I certainly respect everyone`s rights to their own opinion. But
I think at the end of the day we have to all agree treating any American as
a second-class citizen is just not OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is the actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. He`s an openly gay
actor on a sitcom called "Modern Family"
What Jesse Tyler Ferguson was doing in that clip was lobbying the
state of Illinois on gay rights, trying to get that reliably blue state to
legalize same-sex marriage.
Not a big shock, right? Handsome, well known, celebrity-type person
with attractive beard supporting equal marriage rights for same-sex
couples, making that case at a bedrock Democratic state. It`s almost a
cliche, right? That`s every social conservative view of how this issue
In Illinois, even the head of the Republican Party said that
Republicans should support same-sex marriage. He said, quote, "I think
it`s time for people to support this."
Right, because it`s Illinois. It`s Illinois. It`s Obamastan. Of
course, even the Republicans there are for gay marriage. You think.
Except when the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party came out and
said that being in favor of gay marriage, the rest of the Illinois
Republican Party got furious with him and they essentially forced him out
as chairman of Republican Party in the state because he supported gay
rights. He ended up resigning not long after those comments and the furor
they caused among his fellow Republicans.
So, that happened this year in Illinois. Illinois which we think of
as being somewhere in line with Massachusetts and Vermont and California
and the race to be the deepest of deep blue states, right? It`s weird.
Well, if you head a couple states south of Illinois, and a little to
the right, you will find yourself in the great state of Alabama, which is
not a blue state. It is not even close. Not even remotely purple, crimson
tide and all that.
Well, in Alabama on this issue, something weird has also just
happened. After the pro-gay marriage ruling from the Supreme Court earlier
this summer, the chair of the Alabama College Republicans came out in
support of what the Supreme Court did. She came out in support of marriage
equality in Alabama -- in Alabama Republican politics.
She even went so far as to criticize the record of harsh anti-gay
rhetoric from her fellow Republicans saying, quote, "We are governed by the
Constitution and not the Bible." Alabama, Alabama Republicans did not see
that coming, right?
Once that happened, though, what happened next was probably
inevitable. The old muckety-muck in the state Republican Party decided
this upstart president of the College Republicans needed to feel the wrath
of a Republican Party purge. They decided they would set out new bylaws
requiring that anybody in a job, like, say, being head of the college
Republicans in the state, would have to agree with everything in the
Republican Party`s national platform. No dissent allowed. If you did not
agree with the national party`s anti-gay official platform, you could not
be in a leadership role in the state.
So, college Republican president says something shockingly not anti-
gay. Alabama party elders decide to change the rules of the party so to as
allow themselves to kick her out of her job for not holding that anti-gay
And this weekend, the party voted on this issue and decided that they
would side with the president of the college Republicans. In Alabama --
Alabama Republicans voted not to change their rules to allow themselves to
fire her. So, she gets to keep her job. And that means if you are keeping
score at home, Republicans in Alabama it turns out are less anti-gay than
Republicans in Illinois. Go figure.
This is a super interesting, super unpredictable moment in our
politics. I mean, the map of states with marriage equality is a pretty
blue map. It`s pretty much a blue state map.
But a lot of what`s going to happen in terms of determining what
becomes of this map, how this map changes, is not just whether the state
votes red or blue overall. It`s what happens internally inside the state
in the state in Republican Party politics, in the remaining states that
still don`t have equal marriage rights.
I mean, mostly with some exceptions but mostly Democrats are on board
with marriage equality now. Republicans are the ones who are all over the
map and changing fast, and changing in unpredictable ways and in
And those internal Republican dynamics which we will be learning about
and we will be surprised by one red state at a time all over the country,
those are going to be the determining force for what happens in this major
civil rights issue in our country right now, which is why it makes sense
that when the ACLU decided to hire a new strategist to try to flip more
states into being pro-marriage equality they did not hire a Democrat, they
hired a Republican. They hired a major league hugely respected Republican
heavyweight strategist to try to flip more states into supporting marriage
They don`t need a Democrat. They need a Republican, because that`s
where it`s all happening right now. And the Republican strategist they
picked to do this state by state is Steve Schmidt -- Steve Schmidt, who you
know and love from this program.
The ACLU has hired Steve to noodge Republicans across the country
toward marriage equality in states that do not yet recognize it. And Steve
Schmidt joins us tomorrow night to talk about that big, unpredictable
fascinating project that he is right in the middle of.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: In October 2009, the U.S. military abandoned an outpost
called Camp Keating, that was up in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan in
the mountains near the Pakistan border. Stuck between two rivers with high
ridges surrounding them on three sides, they were on the low ground with
the high ground surrounding them.
The soldiers stationed at Camp Keating said they felt like they were
in a fishbowl or maybe of shooting gallery. This footage of heavy gunfire
at Camp Keating was posted online by a veterans group last year. Soldiers
stationed at Camp Keating were forced to defend that base almost
Five days before the Army abandoned that site, before they blew it up
so they wouldn`t be leaving behind anything of value that could be used by
the other side, five days before U.S. troops left Camp Keating for good in
October 2009, all hell broke loose there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their worst fears
became a reality. Fifty-three American soldiers were suddenly surrounded
by more than 300 Taliban fighters. The outpost was being slammed from
every direction -- machine gun fire, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars,
sniper fire. It was chaos, the blizzard of bullets and steel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was what became known as the battle of Kamdesh. It was
The night before, local villagers had been warned to evacuate because
something big was about to go down. Nobody knows if there`s civilians left
but the local police got out of dodge. More than 300 Taliban fighters then
launched a coordinated attack, firing down on the physically indefensible
Camp Keating. Eventually, the camp was overrun. Some of the Taliban
fighters got inside Camp Keating.
Now, the American troops called in air strikes, called in air support
to help, but in the meantime, the outnumbered Americans on base were left
to fight for their lives and to fight for their base, including one group
trapped inside a Humvee, pinned down by enemy fire. They were able to hold
out for a long time, in part because of Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, who made
it his job to personally resupply that Humvee with fresh ammunition. He
ran back and forth between the Humvee and a supply room three times,
dodging explosions and gunfire.
He also provided covering fire so his fellow soldiers could try to
make a run for it and escape. And when some of them did not escape, when
their bodies were lost in the dust and in the smoke, Staff Sergeant Carter
and a fellow soldier defended that trapped Humvee for hours until the smoke
cleared and they could see what was around them, including their fellow
soldiers who had been wounded or killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And if you`re left with just one image from that day, let it
be this -- Ty Carter bending over, picking up Stephen Mace, cradling him in
his arms, and carrying him through all those bullets and getting him back
to that Humvee. And then, Ty stepped out again, recovering a radio,
finally making contact with the rest of the troop, and they came up with a
As Clint Romesha and his team provided cover, these three soldiers
made their escape. Ty, Brad carrying Stephen on his stretcher through the
chaos, delivering Stephen to the medics.
And the battle was still not over. So, Ty returned to the fight.
With much of the outpost on fire, the flames bearing down on the aid
station with so many wounded inside, Ty stepped out one last time, exposing
himself to enemy fire, grabbed a chainsaw, cut down a burning tree, saved
the aid station, and helped to rally his troop as they fought yard by yard.
They pushed the enemy back. Our soldiers retook their camp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of the 53 U.S. soldiers who defended that outpost that day
against 800 enemy fighters, eight Americans were killed and 25 were
injured. And two of the survivors have been named as recipients of the
nation`s highest military award. In February, President Obama presented
the Medal of Honor to one of the soldiers you heard him mention there,
Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha.
Today at the White House, the president awarded the Medal of Honor to
the soldier who defended that Humvee and buried the wounded to safety and
saved the aid station, including the gallantry with the chainsaw. Staff
Sergeant Ty Carter.
Twelve service members have received the Medal of Honor for heroism in
the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Of those 12 only five of those Medal of
Honor recipients are living. Seven of them were awarded posthumously.
Staff Sergeant Carter today is the fifth living recipient of an Iraq
or Afghanistan-related Medal of Honor. For he and Staff Sergeant Romesha
to have both received the medal for actions in the same battle is
exceedingly rare. That has not happened in 40 years. That has not
happened since the Vietnam War.
Although eight Americans were killed in action at the battle of
Kamdesh in eastern Afghanistan, for his part, Staff Sergeant Carter says he
considers that battle to have a ninth fatality, a fellow soldier who
committed suicide less than a year after the attack. Until he survived
that battle, Staff Sergeant Carter says he thought that post-traumatic
stress disorder was a myth, a made-up excuse. In the wake of the battle,
he personally resisted seeking any help for himself, but he did eventually
Staff Sergeant Ty Carter is still on active duty in the Army, which is
a rare thing for a Medal of Honor recipient. He says he wants to help
other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with their own PTSD. That is the
lesson he says he wants everybody to take away from his heroism in Camp
Keating`s final days. And, of course, from all those cameras that were
focused on him today as the commander in chief placed the nation`s highest
military honor around his neck.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great night. We`ll be back
with you tomorrow with Steve Schmidt.
Stay with us.
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