All In With Chris Hayes, Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
August 29, 2013
Guests: Lawrence Wilkerson, Barbara Lee, Mouaz Moustafa, Jan Schakowsky, Cory Booker
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
Tonight on ALL IN:
After days of ratcheting up the rhetoric to intervene in Syria, our
Congress and tonight the British parliament is saying not so fast. That in
Also tonight, fast food workers in 60 cities across the country spent
the day on strike, protesting to raise their wage, shutting down some fast
food restaurants. And we`ll talk to a U.S. congressperson who joined the
workers on the picket line today.
Plus, my interview with Mayor Cory Booker who`s running for U.S.
Senate. He responds to contemptible attacks on his personal life by his
Republican opponent. You definitely want to stay tuned for that.
But we begin tonight with the momentum toward a U.S. military
intervention in Syria grinding to a halt and now reversing at breakneck
speed. Just two days ago, military strikes on Syrian targets were all but
inevitable. Tonight, that is simply no longer the case.
In the United Kingdom just hours ago, parliament delivered a stunning
rebuke to Prime Minister David Cameron, voting down a motion that would
have paved the way for military strikes in Syria. A vote the prime
minister promised to take heed of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, UK PRIME MINISTER: I strongly believe in the need for
a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in
respecting the will of this House of Commons.
It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of
the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get
that and the government will act accordingly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Both the U.K. and U.S. government says they have intelligence
showing that forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad carried out the
chemical weapon attack last week in the suburbs of Damascus that killed
hundreds of Syrians.
The British government, unlike the U.S., even took the step of
publicly releasing some of this intelligence. So far, the release has not
had the desired effect. In fact, tonight, the vote against David Cameron`s
government is almost completely unheard of in U.K. politics, described by
"The Times of London" as a humiliating defeat.
Back at home, the president is experiencing a congressional uprising
of his own. Senior administration officials just finished up an
unclassified briefing to assuage the concerns of congressional leaders.
And today, the president spoke with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
and Speaker John Boehner, after the speaker expressed deep skepticism about
military action in a letter to the president with 14 pointed questions
about any further U.S. military involvement in Syria.
This on heels of a letter sent by 54 House Democrats to the president
encouraging him to, quote, "seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior
to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis." And
that after a bipartisan group of 140 House members strongly urged the
president to, quote, "consult and receive authorization from Congress
before ordering the use of military force in Syria."
Right now, voices are coalescing against military involvement in
Syria. The White House finds itself in the incredibly awkward position of
having to defend an intelligence finding on the use of weapons of mass
destruction directly in the shadow of Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: Iraq and Syria are in no way
analogous. We`re not considering analogous responses clearly in any way.
So I would really caution people against using both the language that
people use in the Iraq intelligence assessment but also making any kind of
intellectual comparisons because they just don`t exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now is retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson,
former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is now an
adjunct professor of government and public policy at the College of William
And, Colonel, you were working with Colin Powell in preparing for the
big display of intelligence before the U.N. back in 2003 -- that
intelligence that proved to be faulty. How does that experience inform way
you are watching this debate unfold right now?
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET), COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY: As you
said, I listened to George Tenet and John McLaughlin and tell Condoleezza
Rice, Colin Powell, Steve Hadley and a host of other people that Saddam
Hussein had weapons of mass destruction with absolute certainty. I also
listen and tell him that his counterparts in Israel, Jordan, U.K., Germany
and elsewhere agreed with him.
That turns out, as we all know now, to all be false. So, no matter
what the White House says about me not drawing any parallels, I have to
draw parallels. Not just that, but what I`ve been hearing from my
colleagues in the government and elsewhere is that this intelligence is a
little bit ambiguous.
So I`m not convinced. I think the British parliament with the 13-vote
majority as you just pointed out, and I think that`s probably the first
time on a national security issue since World War II the parliament has
voted against the prime minister. I think that`s a significant sign of how
the West feels about this.
HAYES: The ambiguity in the evidence about the deployment of chemical
weapons, my understanding is the ambiguity is not that the weapons have
been deployed, not even so much they were deployed by forces associated
with Assad, but whether that can be linked to the chain of command with
Bashar al Assad or whether -- we just, it seems, cannot establish that.
Given that, how important is it for the U.S. to publicly present the
evidence it does have?
WILKERSON: I think it`s all important, and I think -- here`s another
parallel with the situation in 2002 and `03. We`ve got U.N. inspectors on
And the argument we were putting out in the last 24 hours or so that
conventional weapons have deteriorated the spot, so you can`t do a good
inspection is preposterous. If it was a neurotoxin, if it was sarin or VX
or anything like that, then what you want to do is take blood samples. You
want to talk to the victims. You want to look at the victims who are dead
and get blood out of them and so forth.
So, that`s not a very good argument. Again, that makes me begin to
suspect the government`s position.
I have no doubt that Assad might have been stupid and used chemical
weapons or one of his generals might have, but it is counterintuitive.
Let`s face it. He`s got the high performance aircraft, bombs, the
artillery, the unified command, the centralized control and everything.
He`s holding his own, if not winning.
Why would he invite international intervention and thus his inevitable
defeat probably if chemical weapons use would do that? It doesn`t make
HAYES: Well, here`s the argument on the other side of that. The
argument is he is making a bet that the world will stand by and watch,
which those who are favoring intervention, the argument on favor of the
intervention and way the president and White House officials have talked
about it is it would be intervention to reinforce the international norm
that bans the use of weapons such as this sort.
WILKERSON: That`s a good argument, in my view. But it doesn`t have a
Let`s say we go ahead and launch some cruise missiles, make some
precision strikes, even take out some air defense assets. Maybe do it over
a series of days with multicarrier battle group operations and so forth,
let`s say we do that. And let`s say Assad, if he`s smart, just says, so
what? What do we do next? How to we carry on?
HAYES: What do we do next? How do we carry on -- are some of the
questions that have haunted us since Iraq.
Of course, Colonel Wilkerson. Thank you so much for your time.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.
And we now are joined by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat from
Congresswoman, I want to read to you an article from "The New York
Times" that was just posted. "President Obama is prepared to move ahead
with a limited military strike on Syria, even with the rejection of such
action by Britain`s parliament and increasingly rest of Congress and
lacking and endorsement from the United Nations Security Council."
Is it legal for the president to strike Syria without any kind of
U.N., international or congressional backing?
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, thank you, Chris. Let me say
that the reason that we worked to send a letter with 54 members of
Congress, Democratic members of Congress, to the president, was to indicate
first of all our unequivocal condemnation of the use of chemical weapons.
I mean, that is something that is unacceptable, and we have to address that
in a big way.
However, there`s no military solution, and in fact, the American
people deserve to have members of Congress come in and debate the evidence,
debate should we use force? And if we do use force, what the implications
and the ramifications are.
HAYES: Congresswoman, sorry, let me stop you there. I`ve heard
members of Congress talk about debate, consultation. My question to you is
twofold. Should there be a vote? And is it legal for the president to
order a strike to the absence of one?
LEE: The Constitution requires that any time we`re going to engage in
war, and this is using military force regardless of whether it`s 24 hours,
three days, four days. We`re committing actually a military encounter with
another country. And I believe that Congress is required based on our
Constitution that it`s our legal requirement to debate this and to make a
decision as to whether or not we want to send our tax dollars, first of
all, our military hardware, and yes, military personnel, into a war zone.
And Syria is a war zone.
Also, we have to debate this because, Chris, you know that this could
very well lead to a regional war, a regional conflict. I`m not sure the
American people are ready for that, but if that is something our commander
in chief and president thinks makes sense, then we must have a full debate.
The American people must understand what is taking place, and, in fact, we
need to do that right away.
Also, Chris, he me just say --
LEE: -- the inspections process is in place right now. We should at
least understand what that`s about and minimally not obstruct that process
by using force at this point.
HAYES: Very quickly, if there was a vote held tomorrow on whether the
Congress would approve a strike of Syria, a la the vote held in the
parliament today, what to you think the vote would be?
LEE: Well, when you look at the fact that there`s bipartisan
opposition to the use of force, you know, it`s hard to say what that vote
would be, but I believe there`s no military solution and I think many
members who I`ve talked to don`t believe that a military strike will
accomplish anything but would lead to more damage, more carnage, more
violence and, in fact, would not lead to negotiated settlement and
solution. That`s where we need to go, a full diplomatic initiative, a
Otherwise, we have a military strike, a vote to take use force. What
happens next week? What happens at two weeks? What if there are more
chemical weapons that are used?
This is very complicated. It`s very dangerous. And so, the
president, I believe, is in a very difficult position and Congress should
be with him on whatever he does. That`s why we need to have a full
congressional debate right away.
HAYES: Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Thank you so much.
Joining me now is Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian
Emergency Task Force, a non-profit advocacy group working with the rebels
Mouaz, I guess I want to get your reaction to what you heard so far,
which is a tremendous amount of skepticism toward the efficacy of a U.S.
military strike there and skepticism that reflects I think broad U.S.
public opinion at this point.
MOUAZ MOUSTAFA, SYRIAN EMERGENCY TASK FORCE: Right. No, I mean, I,
for example, share the feelings of the congresswoman that chemical weapons
should never be used. That a political solution is something everybody
wants, that nobody wants to see military intervention.
But the fact is, we have been slow in reacting to the crisis in Syria.
And, quietly honestly, our policy to Syria has been very reactive, in
general. I mean, we have I think we have acted, for example, with an
announcement of military support. And now, with this strike, it`s sort of
reactionary to things that are happening on the ground due to pressure.
But what we`ve seen is almost three years, 120,000 people killed,
conventional and chemical weapons. Chemical weapons used in the past that
was verified by multiple countries and that was the first response of
military assistance. Now, we see him using it on a bigger scale.
And I think the president is right in ensuring that is something as
taboo as using chemical weapons where this entire planet has decided it`s
something that should never be used, must not go unpunished, or else we`ll
see the same trend that we`re seeing, another attack on a bigger scale.
HAYES: But what do you say to the "what next" question? Let me play
for you the president describing what kind of an attack it would be were he
to order one. Take a -- he says, the president has been clear, he`s not
contemplating open-ended military --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not contemplating an open-ended military
action. He is contemplating what we`re talking about here is something
that`s very discreet and limited.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: If it`s discreet and limited, then what exactly does it
accomplish and what happens the next day?
MOUSTAFA: I think that`s a really good question, but, you know, I
think for the same cost of a discreet and limited airstrike which is maybe
taken only as a punitive measure, we can -- we must have some sort of
overarching strategic plan of how this strike could be used to end the
crisis. I think what`s disappointing is mostly on the media and in the
president`s interview that he did, you know, a couple days ago is the fact
that we`re focusing on there was chemical weapons used. We have to apply
because this is absolutely against all norms in international law and so
on, and it`s a moral duty for the international community to act.
Yet we have not addressed the crisis, itself, which 120,000 people
have died -- way more with conventional weapons than non --
HAYES: Let me ask you this.
HAYES: You spent a lot of time in Syria. I know you`ve been working
with rebels there and actually helped take members of Congress over there.
If you could wave a magic wand, if Mouaz Moustafa controlled American
policy, what is the first thing you would do?
MOUSTAFA: I was speaking to President Obama right now, I would say,
that we have obviously, again, no good options because how late we are on
taking a greater leadership role in resolving this crisis. And in this
intervention that seems to be imminent, I think if we have some strategy in
using this intervention to lead to true political negotiations and a
solution, then that would be great. And that includes things like taking
out all airports, where you stop the daily flights from Russia and Iran
that are resupplying weapons used against civilians. And we need to take
out his ability to use weapons against civilians.
And, finally, I think we need to aim at showing his inner circle and
the regime, itself, that they are not immune and they don`t have --
HAYES: What you are describing, Mouaz Moustafa, whether advisor or
not, is certainly not discreet from the Syrian Emergency Taskforce, that is
Mouaz Moustafa. Thank you for your time tonight.
MOUSTAFA: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up later, my interview with Cory Booker is one you
absolutely do not want to miss.
But, first, today, congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis saw
striking workers on TV and a rush to the picket line to join them. We`ll
bring you what he said. That`s ahead.
HAYES: The mayor of the city across the river from us here in New
York, Newark, New Jersey, is a bona fide rising star in the Democratic
Party. He`s running for Senate. And today, I got a chance to talk to him
in a wide ranging interview. He addressed the attacks on his sexuality by
his Republican opponent. Stay tuned for that.
HAYES: Civil rights hero, Congressman John Lewis, who yesterday
helped commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington for jobs
and freedom was back in Atlanta today and there he reportedly saw on
televisions strikes outside fast food restaurants across the country.
And John Lewis then went and joined one of those picket lines in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I do not understand how people survive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
LEWIS: When they`re -- in place (INAUDIBLE) wages --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
LEWIS: In a country like ours, we can do much better. Sometimes
we`re too quiet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re right.
LEWIS: Sometime you have to find a way to make a way out of no way.
Sometimes you have to find a way to get in the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: To find a way to get in the way.
The average employee at a fast food restaurant in this country makes
$8.94 per hour. As we have talked about repeatedly on this show, as we
have spoken with workers here in this studio, they tell us that is not
enough. Today, an industry that had never been faced a large-scale strike
had its workers walk out in 60 cities in 1,000 stores across the country,
the largest such strike of its kind. These workers are demanding a raise
to $15 an hour and right to unionize.
From New York to Los Angeles, marking the first time for fast food
workers to protest there, to Seattle, to Boston, to Milwaukee, to
Wilmington, to Detroit, to Charlotte, the largest city in a right-to-work
state in the South.
Today`s demonstrations are an indication of just how the movement has
grown over the last several months.
Our first week on this show, we covered a one-day fast food worker
strike then being called the biggest job action ever in that industry.
Then last month, more than 2,000 fast food workers went on strike in seven
cities including Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Missouri, Flint,
Michigan, as well as New York, Milwaukee, Detroit.
Not only has the movement grown, but it has captured the national
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Fifteen dollars 15 an hour. What do they
think, those arches are made of gold?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Earlier today, we reached out to several companies to see if
they had anything to say. I would very much like to discuss the issue with
the representative of any of them. Less than a handful responded.
McDonald`s issued a statement that read in part, "McDonald`s aims to
offer competitive pay and benefits to our employees. It will be business
as usual for us."
The good folks at Burger King told us their restaurants provided an
entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans during this time.
"Customer service and quality will remain a top priority in all Burger King
The statement by Wendy`s seem, well, downright passive/aggressive.
The spokesperson telling us that they "are proud to provide a place for
thousands of people who come to us asking for a job can enter the workforce
at a starting wage, gain skills, and advance with us or move on to
Company line here seems to be the fast food industry is a gateway of
opportunity for young people looking to get ahead.
The reality is something quite different. The fast food industry is
not made up of a bunch of teenagers looking to earn extra spending money
for the summer. It`s made up of people who`s average age is 35. A third
of them are at least 40 years old. More than half of them are women, and
55 percent of fast food workers, this is their full-time job.
Joining me is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Democrat from Illinois,
like her colleague John Lewis, she joins fast food workers who are
protesting today in Chicago.
Congresswoman, what is a member of Congress doing, joining a strike
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Well, this gets to the heart of
our economic problem in this country which is income inequality. And yes,
those arches are made of gold for people like CEO Donald Thompson who makes
over $13.7 million in his pay package last year. But I met fast food
workers today at McDonald`s who have been working there for a decade and
still making $8.50 an hour.
You cannot live on that kind of wage, and they end up turning to the
government for support. So we end up subsidizing Donald Thompson and the
profits that McDonald`s.
HAYES: So, let me ask you this -- what do you say to the people that
are watching this and are saying, look, this is between the employees of
McDonald`s and their employer? This is a private market encounter that
happens between people seeking work and those who are looking to hire
folks, and it`s not really any of your business, respectfully,
Congresswoman, what they pay their workers?
SCHAKOWSKY: Look, this is an entire industry that is paying poverty
wages in this country, and thousands and tens of thousands, maybe millions
of people who simply can`t make it on those kinds of wages, and I think
that forming a union, getting $15 an hour, which makes a modest income of
about $31,000 a year, if you get to work full time, is something that is a
And actually these workers are acting -- are going to the employers,
are going to these companies. I`m standing with them because I think we
need it for our economy. If they got paid more, we`re going to see
millions of jobs created because there are going to be consumers in the
HAYES: You`re going to go back to Washington, in session in a week.
What can you do as a member of Congress to help them?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, there`s a couple of things. The president has
called for a $9 minimum wage. We have a bill in Congress that George
Miller has introduced. Congressman Miller, $10.10 an hour.
And, in fact, the president could with an executive order do something
about the low-wage workers, 2 million of them, that are contract workers
for the federal government. That would be a good start.
HAYES: So, the president can actually sign an executive order that
would mandate a living wage or higher wage for those workers who happen to
be working for private firms that are contracting to the federal government
-- McDonald`s, for example, on Army bases and federal facilities. He could
do that with the stroke of a pen?
SCHAKOWSKY: That would be, I think, a very good signal that we don`t
think those poverty wages that are paid to millions and millions of workers
across the country are good for our economy and certainly not food for
HAYES: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of the great state of Illinois --
thank you so much.
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you.
HAYES: FOX News host Bill O`Reilly gets caught lying about
Republicans being barred from the march on Washington yesterday, and the
truth is way better than the lie. I`ll tell you what actually happened,
HAYES: There have been three African-Americans who have been
popularly elected to the U.S. Senate since reconstruction. The best chance
to be the four sat down with me tonight to talk about a criminal justice
system that destroys the lives of hundreds of thousands of black people and
what can be done about it. That`s coming up.
But, first, I want to share the throe awesomest things on the Internet
today. #click3 is back.
And we begin with the missing Republicans. Good news. We found hem.
The day after the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King`s "I Have a
Dream" speech, the right wing echo chamber had one big complaint. Where
were all the Republicans?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Wasn`t it a little strange we didn`t have
one black conservative or one black Republican?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: OK, I have no idea why they --
O`REILLY: No Republicans and no conservatives were invited.
CARVILLE: If they would have been --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The Drudge Report was outraged. "Segregation. Nation`s only
black senator not invited." They`re referring to Republican Tim Scott
whose own office backed up the claims, that is until "Roll Call" revealed
that Scott actually was invited but turned it out.
His office sent an e-mail saying, "Unfortunately, the senator will be
in South Carolina during this time. So, he will be unable to attend the
Invitations actually went out to all congressional Republicans. But
House Speaker John Boehner decided to stay in Wyoming. While Majority
Leader Eric Cantor chose Ruthford City, North Dakota instead of the Lincoln
Memorial. What for? To tour a camp for oil works in a moment that may or
may not have looked like this. Probably not but it`s still funny to
Well, don`t worry, guys. I`m sure you`ll have another chance to make
things right 50 years from now.
The second awesomest thing on the internet today, Patrick Stewart
internet darling. The former Star Trek captain has found a second life as
a favorite son of the web versus the hand gesture (ph) of the Double
Facepalm meme, and as a guy who goofs around in the main offices of twitter
in Silicon Valley. And now is a guy with a compulsion for sharing a quirky
moments in his life on social media. Patrick is not one to shy away from
posting photos of himself with bizarre fruits or showing off his first
slice of pizza ever.
Now comes Captain Piccard latest opus, a home video shot by a female
companion, with a classically trained actor, instructs viewers on the art
of the take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK STEWART, ACTOR: Just running through the take. The double
take. The triple take. Our buns are the best. Double take. Her buns are
the best. Triple take. Her buns are the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And while you`re trying to figure out whose buns Stewart is
talking about, he kicks it up a notch with an attempted quadruple take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Her buns are the best. That might have been actually the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Really who`s counting when something rules this hard? And the
third awesomest thing on the internet today, cage fighting. There`s
something about Nicolas Cage you can`t put your finger on. Is he one of
the world`s worst actors? Is he an over the top genius? A ready page
comes down squarely in favor of the letter. A website is called Cage, one
true God. One contributor shared his contribution to the world of Cage
worship. He and his friend put pictures of Cage all over another friend`s
house. Fifty one photos in all.
Some obvious. Some less so like this one inside the TV remote or this
one inside a computer mother board. Nothing was safe. Not the cookie jars
or the sofa`s cup holder arm rest or a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth`s, or
this most appropriate location, a slice of cheese. The guys who did this
surely celebrated in true cage fashion. While the victim probably had a
different Cagean reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLAS CAGE, ACTOR: Why don`t you say we cut the chitchat a-hole?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: More proof Nicolas Cage remains a national treasure. You can
find all links for tonight`s Click3 on our website, Allinwithchris.com.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK: The truth of the matter is that the
dream still demands that the moral conscience of our country still calls
us. That hope still needs heroes. We need to understand that there is
still work to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Newark mayor and democratic nominee for Senate Cory
Booker, giving one of the better speeches of the weekend, marking the 50th
anniversary of the march on Washington. If current polling holds, Booker
is on his way to becoming only the fourth African-American elected to the
U.S. Senate in American history and the first since Barack Obama. Booker
is the rare mayor who`s also become a national figure. A charismatic man,
in his own words work alcoholic -- not alcoholic, workaholic leader in
rebels in the image of indefatigable guardian of the people fighting off
crime and urban decay in New Jersey`s largest city. He`s chased down a
murderer, and he`s rescued his rescued his freezing dog, he saved a woman
from a burning building. That actually happened.
Booker has been on the political radar since he was just 29. When he
want to seek on a Newark City council, grabbed attention by holding a ten-
day hunger strike and leave in a tent to protest against open air drug
dealer. Yes, some believe Booker has the ability and drive to be
president. They`ve thought that since his days at Stanford and Oxford
where he was a Rhode scholar in Yale Law School. But Booker is also not
without his detractors. He`s been accused of being a shameless publicity
speaker, he angered members of his own party after publicly defending Bain
Capital during last year`s presidential campaign.
He`s gotten further flak from the Left, myself, included, for his
close connections to Hedge Fund backers and his support of school voucher
programs. But now, in the heat of a Senate campaign, things have gotten
strangely personal. Booker`s republican opponent Steve Lonegan has jumped
on comments Booker made about his private life and is now bizarrely
questioning his masculinity of all things and engaging in outdated and
frankly gross rumor mongering about his sexuality.
And amidst of all that, Booker is rolling out his first big domestic
policy platform, and it is not at all what you would expect from a
politician with the level of ambition that Cory Booker clearly has. We`re
going to talk about all of this with Cory Booker, next.
HAYES: Huge news out of Washington today. The Justice Department
says it will not block state marijuana laws for voters in support of
legalizing it for the medical or recreational use. Feds say states can
allow people to use pot as well as licensed folks to grow and sell it as
long as those states enforce strict rules on how to drag its tribute.
Colorado and Washington recently legalized both the consumption and sale of
marijuana in direct intervention of federal law.
And as "The New York Times" reports, Attorney General Eric Holder
called the governors of those states earlier today to inform them of the
administration`s position explaining a trust but verify approach in
monitoring the state`s new regulatory framework.
This is a big deal. It`s just the latest in what is an undercover but
absolutely clear wave of momentum in the direction of criminal justice
reform. Yesterday on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, Congressman John
Lewis as well as former President Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton all
addressed the social and moral costs, mass incarceration and epidemic of
disproportionately affects African-Africans. The nation`s first black
president weighed in on the matter as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: The arc of the moral universe
may bend toward justice, but it doesn`t bend on its own. To secure the
gains this country has made requires constant vigilance. Not complacency.
Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote or ensuring
that the scales of justice work equally for all and the criminal justice
system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded
jails. It requires vigilance.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In the meantime, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is promising to make
criminal justice reform his signature issue if he`s elected to the U.S.
Senate next month. Later in the year. Yesterday Booker revealed an
ambitious plan to overhaul the current system. One that would address the
decriminalization of marijuana as well as eliminate mandatory minimum
sentences for low-level drug offenders and sentence disparity between crack
cocaine and powder cocaine and put an end to the private prison system. I
spoke to Mayor Booker about his proposal and the urgent need for reform
HAYES: I was impressed by the scope of the reforms that you`ve laid
on the table around criminal justice. What motivated you to make this your
first real big kind of domestic policy push?
MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Well, it`s the fact that
we in America, it`s part of the biggest gross waste of American money,
American taxpayer dollars in our country. It doesn`t make our communities
safer. In fact, I think it makes our communities more dangerous. It
wastes obviously taxpayer dollars and it suppresses the truth of who we
are. We say we`re the country of freedom and justice but yet we
incarcerate more people in America than any other country on the globe.
And it`s outrageous. Because when you see every single day in cities
like Newark the profoundly awful impact of the criminal justice system,
even the police officers that I ride around with at night, they feel like
they`re stuck on this treadmill going nowhere. They can name people on
street corners. That`s how well they`ve gotten to know them. And if
you`re a murder victim in Newark, a victim in my city, it`s almost an 85
percent chance that you`ve been arrested before an average of ten times.
So, on both sides people are going through this crazy game. Police,
individuals. That we could stop with common sense solutions.
HAYES: How much of that can be corrected at the federal level?
Obviously policing is a local endeavor. Criminal justice systems are
local. How much can you really get done federally?
BOOKER: Well, a lot can be corrected at the federal level. Our
federal policies to me are just as egregious as most of our state policies
are. And so we could be working on substance abuse like marijuana, what we
do in federal prison to empower people not to come back. How we look at
court systems, how we incentivize our prosecutors, focusing on just,
arrest, arrest, incarceration, incarceration, incarceration as opposed to
the outcomes which we should really be looking toward which is keeping
people out of prison.
HAYES: Recidivism, keeping people out prison. As the metrics that
you`re judged by as opposed to how many people -- how many inputs you
create, what are the outputs?
BOOKER: Exactly. And so, all across. And then really on re-entry.
And I just have the privilege of sitting with about 14 mayors and the
President and the Attorney General talking about -- we`ve had incredible
success with our pilot programs. How you can dramatically drop the cost of
government by empowering people when they come out of prison.
HAYES: One of the things that`s interesting here, there`s one place
in your proposal I thought was weak, and that was you called for a
structured national conversation on decriminalizing marijuana. It seems to
me we have news today, Attorney General of the United States telling two
states that he will not interfere. Federal government won`t interfere in
those two states` experiments in legalized marijuana.
HAYES: Why, why so soft on marijuana?
BOOKER: Well, first of all, let`s all agree there are so many steps
we can do before we get even to decriminalization, that are urgently must
to. Look, you and I are two men, black and white. The chances of me, if
we`re both pot users, the chances of me getting arrested, there`s no
greater rates of black male use of pot than white males. About the same.
I`m 3.7 more times more likely to be arrested than you are for doing
something the same thing, doing something that multiple residents are now
have admitted to doing.
BOOKER: We punish nonviolent drug offenders who can`t get sort of
student loans and the like. So all this mess has to be taken off the
table. Why are we putting people, why not investing in drug courts? And
by the way, what we`re finding in, is investment in courts again, drives
down dramatically the cost of government. So, there`s all these common
sense things we need to do up to legalization or decriminalization that we
should be doing including respecting the laws of the states.
HAYES: OK. But is that a political calculation on your part or
policy calculation? I mean, you were saying, I want to get us to where we
need to be conversationally, but you know, do you think your
criminalization, legalization is a good idea?
BOOKER: Look, I think that we have this massive problem with pot in
our country, that`s been done by the over criminalization of pot, by our
over focus on drug that is not, that is dangerous as other drugs that I`ve
seen right there, that have the capacity to use them once and you die. And
bringing people together in a non-demagoguery fashion in discussing the
issue is urgently important.
HAYES: You have been a mayor, which is actually not a trajectory a
lot of people go through to get into the Senate or natural politics.
BOOKER: Only 20 people have ever gone in history of the United States
directly from being a mayor to the United States Senate.
HAYES: So, you have experienced at the street level of stop and
frisk, and some of the issues we`re talking about, racial profiling,
policing. Newark has actually done a bunch of reforms in concert with
community. Do you think New York City is doing enough to go in the
direction your city has to try to come together with the community as
opposed to antagonize them which is what it feels like the New York mayor
BOOKER: Well, I would be wrong to tell you that Newark is somehow a
paragon, a virtue on this issue, it`s not. It`s quite the opposite. And
the reason why we`ve been working with the ACLU and others in pushing the
bar in terms of disclosure, in terms of even collecting data is just an
early step. I really want to thank Newark, New Jersey`s ACLU for working
with us now to try to fast track us to a point that we can be really proud.
The fact is this is a tough complicated issue. I get tremendous calls of
service. More so than in other areas. In neighborhoods that are often
I have police that are doing everything they think they should be
doing to keep communities safe and so this is a tough issue. But the first
and foremost, and this is where I applaud the New Jersey`s ACLU, is that in
New Jersey, on my side of the river, we`re not doing all we can do to
create the kind of transparency that we need to even analyze the issues so
we all can be working from the same facts.
HAYES: What is your reaction when the mayor of New York says, I think
we`re probably stopping too many white people in New York City?
BOOKER: Look, again, I just want to keep it on my own turf because
the reality is this is a very, very difficult issue. Again, let`s just be
clear what`s going on in America right now. In New Jersey, we have 14
percent of my state is African-American, and our prison system is over 60
percent black. We are putting in this country, that stands for such wanted
and incredibly great principles, here we are 50 years from the march on
Washington, here we are a century more, frankly, from battling with the
worst kind of white supremacy, but yet we`re creating these pipelines from
failed schools to our prisons that are disproportionately affecting the
African-Americans and poor, but we`re all tied to the same destiny when it
comes to solving these problems. And we have to solve them. There has to
be an urgency. And it can`t just be about attacking other sides. We need
to figure out what the best things are to a affirm safety, lower taxpayer
expenditures and elevate human potential. And we can do that with common
sense things, that`s what this first policy papers about.
HAYES: Coming up, Mayor Booker will respond to the frankly gross
remarks made by his republican opponent in the New Jersey Senate race.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE LONEGAN (R), NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE: It`s kind of weird,
as a guy I personally like being a guy. I mean, you know, he -- I don`t
know if you saw the stories last year, they`ve been out quite a bit about
how he likes to go out at 3:00 in the morning for a manicure and pedicure.
It was described as his peculiar fetish is how it was described. I have a
more peculiar fetish. I like a good scotch and a cigar. That`s my fetish.
But we`ll just compare the two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was republican candidate for Senate Steve Lonegan of New
Jersey questioning the masculinity I guess of his democratic opponent, Cory
Booker. Lonegan`s crude remarks came in response to an interview Booker
gave to the "Washington Post." Newark mayor expressing his wishes to keep
his dating life private. "Because how unfair is it to a young lady to put
them in the spotlight? They haven`t signed up for that yet. And people
think I`m gay, some part of it you think it`s wonderful because I want to
challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing it on twitter when
someone says, I`m gay, so I say, so what? It doesn`t matter if I am. So
be it. I hope you`re not voting for me because you`re making the
presumption that I`m straight."
I asked Mayor Booker about Lonegan`s comments, the campaign and much
HAYES: I have to ask you about the campaign. You`re running for
Senate. So, your republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, and I`m going to
editorialize here for a moment if you`ll indulge me. Is behaving pretty
despicably I think. And spreading a lot of nonsense in which he`s
questioning your masculinity, he is questioning whether you`re gay or
straight. And I think you responded in a really great way basically
saying, what the hell do you care, it doesn`t make one bit of difference,
what kind of senator I would be. But I want to ask you this from the
perspective of the gay rights movement, from the perspective of the
progress we`ve seen for LGBT rights, coming out has been a huge morally
important step to get the kind of acceptance we`ve seen. And so my
question is, if you are gay, why would you not just come out?
BOOKER: Well, first of all, this is the ridiculousness of this point
which is --
HAYES: And I agree it`s a ridiculous --
BOOKER: The question really should not be whether I`m gay or
straight, but the question should be, why the heck you are asking the
question in the first place?
BOOKER: It doesn`t make a difference what kind of senator I`m going
to be or not. And so, what I`m simply saying right now, is we live in a
nation of tragic injustice where we have said that there`s going to be a
class of Americans that are going to get second-class citizenship just
because of who they choose to love and the rest of us Americans are going
to enjoy full citizenship rights. And these are germane issues to how I`m
going to perform as a senator. Getting back to me, this is what I find
comical. My local press, I was talking to one of our local reporter who
has been covering me for seven years and saying, there`s more evidence
including your protestations of what your sexual orientation is.
That`s out there already that`s from the records, as I said to this
reporter, you know, we`re talking, why is this coming up yet again of
something that has been affirmed and talked about a lot. And let me tell
you why. You know, again, my opponent in this race is going to try to
really replicate the worst of our national politics where we make a race
about individuals and not the issues. And so this is a guy that`s attacked
HAYES: OK. Let me stop you there. Because I want to push back from
a left for a second, from a progressive perspective, right?
HAYES: Because you`re getting -- this is being done in this really
gross way of this kind of rumor. But from the progressive perspective,
there is a connection between the political and personal. And this has
been the argument that gay folks have been making since Harvey Milk and
before, which is the connection between the political and personal is that
personally coming out has a very profound political effect. One does
connect to the other because it creates a kind of seismic change people`s
BOOKER: What I`m trying to say to you is I have affirmed my sexual
orientation numerous times over the years. And people in my local press
world know exactly what that is. At this point right now, in some ways the
fact that you and I are having this conversation might be a little more
frustrating. But the reality is, the point I`m getting a chance to make
right now, and I really, really want to drive this home is that we need to
stop in America talking about anybody in a public realm besides what is
important. The content of their character. The quality of their ideas.
The courage within their hearts to serve others. That`s what`s
important. And so, here we have an opponent that is trying to say, God
awful things. I mean, literally saying, well, I believe a guy should be a
guy. Almost like saying that you are not a man, that you`re not a man if
you`re gay. I mean, that is so extreme. Let`s shine lights on this for a
second and understand that my father taught me what manhood is about. And
it`s not about whether you play football or enjoyed badminton.
Being a man is about love. About kindness to others. About standing
up for what`s right. About doing what`s important to do in the unfinished
business of America. So, you know, again, my sexuality is not an issue
right now. Especially because it`s been talked about by me for years
before we get into a campaign that suddenly this issue is brought up again
because of the behavior of my opponent.
HAYES: Last question. Why should Barbara Buono be the next governor
of New Jersey?
BOOKER: Well, it`s -- please don`t -- this is another example. Let`s
get away from personalities. Heck, I`m friends with them both, both
opponents but if you believe in these issues, marriage equality, woman`s
right to choose, that we should as New Jersey be a part of regional
greenhouse gas agreements, if you support Planned Parenthood and women`s
preventative care. If you believe that we should make massive investments
in infrastructure like the arch tunnel. If you`re a believer that we
should not be cutting the earned income tax credit which essentially raises
If you go to a whole bunch -- if you look at the issues, forget the
personalities and say, if these are the things you stand for, who are you
going to choose? And for me, when you line up all the issues, clearly
Barbara Buono is the candidate to support and frankly, most in line with
where New Jersey stands. And so, I would like this campaign for the
governor, which is three weeks after the October 16th senatorial election -
HAYES: Governor, I gave you your own special election.
BOOKER: I got my own special -- I feel very special with that. But
the reality is I`m really hoping my state, the state that I love, and we
really focus on the issues in this election and really just do an issue
chart of what`s important to you from economic empowerment, from equity,
from dealing with women`s health care line up the issues and vote on the
issues, not the personalities.
HAYES: Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, candidate for Unites
BOOKER: Thank you very much. Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW"
starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Good evening. I told
you yesterday that I was going to give you congratulations for beating me
in the ratings and a warning that you should never do it again and did it a
second night in a row.
HAYES: I feel like this is some taboo breaking fourth wall exploding
conversation. We do this like I`m ashamed that we`re talking about this in
front of the viewers.
MADDOW: You know what, actually we shouldn`t talk about this in front
of everybody. Let`s cut this before we go live.
HAYES: All right.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2013 NBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2013 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>