THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
September 13, 2013
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us
You know, one of the best things about Fridays, if you work in the
news business, one of the best things about working on Fridays is the proud
tradition of the Friday news dump. Because the Saturday newspapers are the
least read newspapers of the week, because news networks and news programs
tip over into weekend programming schedules after Friday night.
Friday night has always been a great time to hide news that you
technically have to put out, but you really don`t want it to get a lot of
attention. So, during the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney finally releases a
single year of his tax returns, but he does it late on a Friday afternoon,
hoping the smallest possible number of people will be looking.
This year, when the White House had to release a report about that
Keystone pipeline project so hated by progressive around the country, White
House turned that vaguely pro-Keystone report loose because they had to,
but they turned it loose late on a Friday afternoon.
Last month, when Chris Christie got ready to veto a ban on .50 caliber
weapons, a ban he himself had suggested in the first place, when he changed
his mind and decided he should overrule the legislature to ensure that New
Jersey residents could keep stockpiling weapons that shoot bullets the size
of carrots, Governor Chris Christie dumped that unpopular news into the
abyss of a Friday night at 6:00 p.m. It was a classic Friday night news
So, it`s a little weird, but if you were in the news business, you
kind of look forward to come to work on a Friday because you never know
what`s going to get dumped. But the principle of the Friday night news
sump does not only app on Fridays. When the basic idea is that when you`re
trying to slip something into the news cycle in a way that it will insure
it doesn`t get much attention, and Friday is one way to do that.
But you can also plan to release your news at the same moment as some
other long planned news event that you know is going to be a big deal, you
know it`s going to be a big enough deal, that it will probably crowd your
story right out of most people`s attention. It will crowd most of the
other news stories out of that news cycle.
So, for example, if you find out a few days in advance that the
president is going to give a formal address to the nation from the East
Room of the White House about the prospect of us going into another war in
the Middle East, you can be pretty sure that`s going to be a biggest news
story, maybe even the only news story in the country for that whole news
cycle. Therefore, the night of that speech would make for an excellent
time for you to announce, say, that you have been questioned by federal law
enforcement authorities in conjunction with a major corruption scandal in
It seems like as good a time to mention it as any.
The biggest political race in the governor`s race in Virginia. The
Republican candidate in that race, Ken Cuccinelli, sat down for a local
news interview on Tuesday night, immediately before President Obama`s
speech to admit for the first time that he had been questioned in the
federal investigation into the Governor Bob McDonnell corruption scandal in
Virginia. Candidate Ken Cuccinelli said he was questioned in that scandal
months and months ago, but he is just admitting it now.
He also announced in the same interview that he is finally paying back
the $18,000 in gifts that he and his family received from the same generous
business man whose gifts are at the center of the McDonnell case.
The federal and state investigation into Governor Bob McDonnell in
Virginia is going to try to determine if the actions that McDonnell took as
governor to help one particular Virginia company had anything at all to do
with the fact that he head of that company gave Bob McDonnell and his
family a check for $50,000, and then a check for $20,000, and then another
check for $50,000. And then, an engraved Rolex watch and a lake house
vacation and a loan of $190,000 Ferrari and $15,000 chicken dinner for one
of the daughter`s wedding, and then $10,000 for another daughter`s wedding,
and a happy graduation trip to Florida last Labor Day weekend for the
governor`s daughter and a friend, and a trip for the governor and first
lady that same weekend to a fancy hotel in Cape Cod, and $7,000 worth of
golf and golf gear at elite Richmond area country clubs for the governor
and his sons and some staffers, and a $15,000 shopping trip in New York
City for the first lady, from which she emerged with $10,000 suede jacket,
a Louis Vuitton handbag, two pairs of designer shoes, and a very nice
Actually, I don`t know if the dress was nice, I`m just guessing.
We know about all of these gifts from the Virginia business man to the
Virginia governor and his family, because of tireless reporting, mostly by
"The Washington Post" and it is thanks to that reporting that we learned
just the other day that the same generous business man who gave the
governor and his family all that stuff, that same business man also bought
the Virginia first lady a second $15,000 shopping trip to New York City,
which she apparently did not use, maybe no more room in the closet.
But the timing on Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli coming clean this
week on his gifts from the same guy, the timing on this is a little weird.
It has been two months since Governor Bob McDonnell finally apologized for
his role in this scandal and paid back at least some of the loot that he
took. But Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican attorney general of Virginia, he
also took a bunch of loot from that same guy which he says he is only
paying back now. Two months after Bob McDonnell did.
Ken Cuccinelli too rides in a private jet and a vacation for himself
and his family at a lake side villa and a big catered Thanksgiving dinner.
He also took thousands of dollars worth of the tobacco-related supplement
that this guys` company makes. Ken Cuccinelli also held $10,000 worth of
stock in the company which he initially did not put on his financial
disclosure forms. He later went back and amended those forms saying he had
just forgotten all about the stock.
He also did not initially disclose all the thousands of dollars of
gifts from the company. He waited until gifts from that same company blew
up as a huge scandal for Bob McDonnell and only then did he come forward
sand and say, yes, I, too, had thousands of dollars worth of gift from the
same guy that I did not disclose now, but now I will.
But bob McDonnell at least has paid them back now, most of them, some
of them, he won`t release a list, but he says it`s everything. He at least
paid some stuff back and he apologized. That was two months ago, and Ken
Cuccinelli did not pay anything back or apologize.
Ken Cuccinelli, for the past couple of months, has refused to pay
anything back. The Democrats in Virginia, look, put up this billboard on
Interstate 95 in Virginia saying, "Ken, pay back the gifts" with a handy
picture of the turkey in case he forgot what they were.
But, still, he resisted. He would not pay anything back. He said
those gifts were like a bell that you cannot unring.
He even had taken gifts from this guy while his own attorney general`s
office was fighting that guy`s company on a large state tax dispute, but
before this week, Ken Cuccinelli was unembarrassed by that. He was not
planning on giving anything back.
Now, all of a sudden, he is, with no explanation other than that -- he
wants to wipe the slate clean. And it is understandable that he wants to
wipe the slate clean. It is probably going to take more than this weird
Tuesday night news dump to do it though.
The election in Virginia`s only eight weeks away now, absentee voting
starts next week in Virginia. And if the idea is to put the McDonnell gift
scandal behind him, to get this issue out of the headlines on time for the
election, that is not going to work because next week is when Bob McDonnell
and his wife are supposed to go back again to meet with federal prosecutors
again to plead their case again about why the governor shouldn`t be
criminally indicted for corruption. That`s next week prosecutors say they
want to talk to them again.
So, this story is staying in the headlines regardless of ken
Cuccinelli`s strategically timed efforts to distance himself from it.
The head to head match-up between Mr. Cuccinelli and his Democratic
opponent in the race Terry McAuliffe is looking worse and worse for Ken
Cuccinelli with each new poll. The Rothenberg Political Report has now
moved this race from a toss up to leans Democratic. The latest poll in the
races from Purple Strategies, they have ken Cuccinelli losing by five
But look at this. This is really interesting. This is one of the
biggest gender gaps I have ever seen in a governor`s race. There`s a five
point split between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe.
But look at the split with women, Cuccinelli is losing Virginia women
by 18 points. And if that gender gap persists, it does not matter what
else happens in the campaign. That is fatal for the Cuccinelli campaign
and the Democrats and progressives know it, and they are doing everything
they can to press that advantage.
They started with the issue of the Violence Against Women Act, which
Cuccinelli would not sign on for as attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: When Congress failed to renew the violence against women
act, attorney generals from 47 states spoke out to protect women, but Ken
Cuccinelli refused. "The Roanoke Times" wrote, "Virginians should remember
Cuccinelli`s cowardly inaction as he seeks to become the next governor.
One either stands for tougher punishments for sexual assaults against women
Ken Cuccinelli, he`s focused on his own agenda. Not us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Ken Cuccinelli losing women by 18 points in Virginia.
Democrats and progressives he also gone after him for trying to make it
harder to get divorced in Virginia. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: If Cuccinelli had it his way, a mom trying to get out of a
bad marriage over her husband`s objections could only get divorced if she
could prove adultery or physical abuse or her spouse had abandoned her or
was sentenced to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, the Violence Against Women Act making it harder to get
divorced. They`ve also made it -- they`ve also gone after Ken Cuccinelli
for wanting to make it harder in Virginia to get an abortion or to get
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Ken wants to cut access to Planned Parenthood`s preventive
health services. He thinks your boss should be able to decide whether you
have access to affordable birth control and Ken wants to outlaw safe and
legal abortion, even in cases of rape or incense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the issue of your boss getting to decide whether or not
you get access to birth control through your health insurance, Democrats
have also pressed Ken Cuccinelli about him sponsoring a bill that likely
would have outlawed most popular forms of contraception.
Now, he`s trying to deny that he ever had that stance that he took
when he really did sponsor that personhood bill back in 2007, designed to
outlaw abortion, which it would do, it would also outlaw arguably hormonal
forms of birth control.
And, of course, this all dovetails with Ken Cuccinelli`s history as a
hard lined antiabortion activist and his role in the draconian crackdown on
abortion rights that access to abortion that`s happened in Virginia under
Ken Cuccinelli and Bob McDonnell. It was Cuccinelli who led the fight in
Virginia to ram through these new changes in regulations. He threatened
members of the sate health board if they tried to let more clinics remain
But the rules Ken Cuccinelli wanted went into effect this year. They
are already shutting down abortion clinics across Virginia, including the
busiest clinic in the state, which closed its doors last month because of
the new rules.
Here in the final stretch of the campaign with Terry McAuliffe leading
among women by 18 points, this is becoming an issue on the campaign trial
in a very explicit way. Terry McAuliffe yesterday at a campaign event told
supporters that he would take action if he`s elected governor to reverse
those regulatory changes, to try to keep the clinics open.
What`s fascinating here is that the whole reason we found out about
those remarks Terry McAuliffe made yesterday is that antiabortion activists
in Virginia started pushing on this issue. This is their campaign
tracker`s cell phone video. They`re trying to make a campaign out of this
from the antiabortion side.
Antiabortion activists from Virginia are calling to Ken Cuccinelli
from the right, saying, hey, Ken, come back to us, stop trying to sound all
centrist, start running your campaign based on the fact that you have shut
down the abortion clinics. Start bragging about that, Ken Cuccinelli.
That`s how you`ll win.
Ken Cuccinelli is going to lose the governor`s race if things keep
going as they are and he keeps doing what he`s doing.
Is the hard right in Virginia, the antiabortion hard right in that
state, are they correct that returning to his roots as a hard lined
antiabortion crusader might help him turn this race around? Both sides
seem convinced that they`ve got a winning issue here. Which side is right?
Joining us now is Karen Finney. She`s host of MSNBC`s weekend
afternoon show "DISRUPT WITH KAREN FINNEY". She`s also the former
communications director at the DNC.
And I should say, aren`t you still on the board of NARAL?
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST: I am still in the board of NARAL. It`s the
MADDOW: So, Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli both come from the hard
edge of the antiabortion movement. Their time in office have seen this
huge role back in abortion rights.
FINNEY: Vaginal ultrasounds, right?
MADDOW: That`s why we call Bob McDonnell governor ultrasound.
FINNEY: And the Cuch.
MADDOW: And the Cuch. That actually, I have nothing to do with that,
but you`ve got to say it.
MADDOW: How is the governor`s race affected by all those reproductive
rights politics in this?
FINNEY: So, couple of things -- remember that in 2012, one of the
things we saw for the first time ever was that in battleground states for
women voters, access to abortion care was a higher intensity issue than the
economy. And we`re seeing that trend actually continue in Virginia. I
would also remind you that in Virginia, both in 2012 and in the last
governor`s race, women were a little bit more of the electorate. So, what
that means is, if Terry can get those women voters out, the Cuch is
probably going to be packing his bags.
Because this is the other thing, the Republicans have -- and we saw
this last year and we talked about this last year. And the Republicans
completely underestimated the intensity with which women are so offended,
not just by the policies. But if you`re going say to me, you don`t trust
me to make a decision about what medicine I can take, you want to -- it`s
got to go to my employer, why should I think you trust me to run a company
or a country? Right? I mean, they really fundamentally don`t understand
how invasive and how connected to just basic human rights this feels like
for women and women have stayed very active in paying attention to these
MADDOW: So, that is -- that I think is sort of a best case scenario
from the Democratic side about how this issue plays to Terry McAuliffe`s
advantage. You call him Terry because you know him, because you`ve worked
with him through Democratic politics.
MADDOW: Do you think he as candidate and that Democrats in general
get how to run on that issue? You`re not running. You can articulate it.
You`re an activist on these issues.
MADDOW: But do Democratic candidates get it? I mean, the reason this
made public attention right now is because the right sent their tracker and
caught him saying it.
MADDOW: They`re not publicizing it from the Democratic side.
FINNEY: Which is probably a mistake, but what I`m assuming that
they`re doing, I`m just going to give them the benefit of the doubt here
because there`s all these fancy tools you can use now to micro target
voters and to very specifically target women voters, because the 18 percent
that Terry -- the gap that Terry has, I think that`s grown over the last
few weeks. So, clearly, they must be doing something right. Clearly, the
messaging is working.
So, it seems to me that as long as they keep pushing Cuccinelli to
have the talk about these issues, which he`s been trying not to talk, as
you pointed out, he`s been trying no not talk about. What are you talking
about, vaginal ultrasound? No, that wasn`t me, right?
FINNEY: So, for Terry, they have got to very, very carefully make
sure they are targeting those women voters, activating them and getting
them out to the polls, because in a nonpresidential election year, you tend
to have lower turnout. So, he`s really depending on not just high turnout,
but high turnout of women voters.
MADDOW: This is going to be -- I mean, we`re in the last eight weeks.
What`s going to be fascinating -- I think you`re right, that that`s what
the Democrat side is going to do. But you can see now the Republican side
panicking. Cuccinelli upended his campaign staff this week. He`s done
this Hail Mary, I`m sorry for the gifts, I`ve given away the $18,000 thing
and you can see the hard right where ken Cuccinelli comes from, pressuring
him to start campaigning as an antiabortion crusader and go back to his
That would help the Democrats, but the Republicans think it would help
them, too. Fascinating.
FINNEY: Yes, I would like to see Democrats also take a harder line on
what`s happening in these crisis pregnancy centers that also were part of
the Cuccinelli agenda where basically you`re saying it`s legal to lie to
women. I mean, they could be doing a lot more to message on that because
that`s when you get more Kim Gosnell, the Gosnell cases. When women don`t
have good choices, when women don`t have access to good health care, they
are prey to those kinds of people. That`s the kind of thing that Terry
could be talking about.
MADDOW: Karen Finney, the host of "DISRUPT WITH KAREN FINNEY", which
airs at 4:00 Eastern here on MSNBC, Saturday and Sunday -- Karen, thank you
for being here.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. So, this week, American conservatives have decided that
they have a new man crush and we have scored some shirtless pictures of
him. I know you would not expect that from me in particular, but we`ve got
it. That story`s coming up.
But first -- one more thing about Virginia politics and Friday night
news dumps. We just got word -- thanks to a late Friday night press
announcement -- that the spokesman who Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has
hired to handle his corruption scandal is leaving. This just broke late
tonight that the scandal handling pro who`s an old Republican hand who
worked for Newt Gingrich when he was speaker and Dan Quayle when he
couldn`t spell potato, that guy has left tonight.
"The Washington Post" reporting that Rich Galen says his departure
does not mean anything one way or the other about whether bob McDonnell of
Virginia is about to be indicted. Quoting from "The Post", ask if his
leaving meant an indictment is not expected anytime soon, Galen said it
means what it says.
See, this is why it always pays to work Friday nights in the news
business. You never know who`s going to quit or confess or whatever else
they don`t want you to notice.
MADDOW: In northern Illinois, right along the Wisconsin-Illinois
border, there`s a lovely medium-ish sized city called Rockford. Rockford,
Illinois, is the biggest in Illinois outside of Chicagoland. And even with
that distinction, it`s not that big. It`s about 150,000 people.
But mighty, mighty Rockford, Illinois, is home to something called the
World Congress -- the World Congress of Families. If you are unfamiliar
with it, the World Congress of Families calls it an international network
of pro-family organizations that seek to restore the natural family as the
fundamental social unit in the seed bed of civil society.
And when they say natural, what they mean is no homo. As far as they
are concerned, natural families do not involve gay people.
Now, because they fancy themselves a world congress, this group in
Rockford, Illinois, hosts international meetings every few years to do what
they do. To promote natural families that definitely are not gay.
They met in 1999 in Geneva. They met in 2004 in Mexico City. 2009,
it was Amsterdam, that must have been hilarious. Last year, it was
But next year, next year for the big World Congress of Families 2014,
they have gone out of their way to schedule their next world congress of
natural families in Russia. And not just in Russia, but specifically at
the Kremlin in Moscow.
You might have seen "The Reuters" reporting this week that some far
right groups in Italy, the national front, the ultranationalist party in
Italy, the national front, they`ve put up posters around Rome praising
Vladimir Putin, saying, "We stand with Putin".
And then you go to the Web site associated with the poster and they
explain that they stand with Putin because of his courageous positions
against the gay lobby. So, just as Vladimir Putin is becoming a hero to
literally fascist groups in Europe, for him being super anti-gay, Vladimir
Putin and Russia under Vladimir Putin are also becoming kind of a North
Star for antigay forces here at home in the United States. Since Mr. Putin
signed a series of laws that essentially criminalize the gay in Russia
earlier this year, Rockford, Illinois` own World Congress of Families
declared that it was Kremlin next meeting.
Another U.S. group called the Catholic Family and Human Rights
Institute declared that they admire Vladimir Putin`s stance against gay
people. The quack group that claims to be able to cure people of being
gray, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, they publicly applauded
Vladimir Putin`s decision to sign the antigay laws, saying he was
rejecting, quote, "The negative lesson of American homosexual decadence."
Also, do you remember the evangelical antigay activist Scott Lively?
The American guy who pushed in Uganda for the kill-the-gays bill there? He
was credited with inspiring the kill-the-gays law. Scott Lively is now
suggesting that American conservatives should move to Russia, specifically
because of Russia`s awesome new antigay laws. Ahead of the Russian vote on
the antigay law that Putin eventually signed, Scott Lively published an
open letter to the Russian people, where he lauded them for becoming a
model pro-family society.
He said if they pass those antigay laws that they were considering,
quote, "I believe people from the West would begin to immigrate to Russia,
the same way that Russians used to immigrate to the United States and
American conservatives should move to Russia. All hail Vladimir
Antigay activists in this country embracing Russia and the KGB`s own
This has been one of the weirder and more unexpected turns in our own
domestic politics this year. But it turns out that the antigay part of the
American right, those folks were just ahead of their time because now, a
big chunk of the rest of the right in this country have chosen themselves a
new hero, who is fun of riding shirtless on the backs of large mammals.
It is not just the far, far, far right antigay right anymore. It is
the right in general. Both in Congress and in the conservative media
peanut gallery, who have decided that real Americans should show how much
they love our country by maybe moving to Russia. If you love this country,
you ought to move to Russia because Vladimir Putin is the kind of strong
and decisive leader that we want and we love. That we love here in a
totally different country.
The role that Vladimir Putin has taken in the diplomatic negotiation
in Syria this past week, the big op-ed that he wrote in "The New York
Times" this week, the way he has tried to throw his weight around thus far
in this international crisis, it has made the American political right
suddenly get very hot to Trotsky about him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vladimir Putin is coming to the diplomatic
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin is riding to President Obama`s rescue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia is the player here. It is the big player,
not the United States. I think frankly in the last week, Vladimir Putin
has looked like a statesman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Instead of a pariah, he`s a statesman, he`s a
partner in peace, and he`s in a position that we can lecture the United
States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, you know, if this were a tennis match, it
would be the umpire shouting, "advantage, Putin".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin really has been schooling our president of
the United States on how to be a leader, hasn`t he?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir Putin has filled the leadership gap
because Obama and your buddy, Kerry, can`t make up their mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t like Putin. But I respect that guy. He
is tough. He delivers what he says he`ll deliver. He knows his people.
He presents himself as a real he man, but he lives up to it.
Our president talks tough, but in a clinch, he`s gutless.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: You know, there was a moment in the `08 presidential campaign
when the American right got so hot for Sarah Palin that it actually became
a little NC-17. Remember, there was this writer for the conservative
magazine, "The National Review," who said that when he saw Sarah Palin, she
sent star bursts straight through the TV screen straight at him? Remember
He said, "It was so sparkling, it was almost mesmerizing. It sent
little star bursts through the screen. It`s either something you have or
you don`t and, man, she`s got it." He said, "I`m sure I`m not the only
male in America who when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little
straighter on the couch and said, hey, I think she just winked at me."
No, conservative magazine guy, she was not winking at you and neither
is Vladimir Putin taking his shirt off just for you guys at FOX.
It`s one thing for the right to fall in love with its own politicians,
to make Ronald Reagan a saint, to make Sarah Palin their collective fake
girlfriend. But the president of Russia, you guys? He is not that into
Seriously, I know you guys hate President Obama, so it feels good to
have a man-crush on somebody else, but this guy is a president of Russia.
Zip it up, you guys, seriously. Have some respect.
MADDOW: There is a best new thing in the world today and it happened
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: What exactly is going on there and it is amazing is the best
new thing in the world today. I will explain what this is and what it`s
for. It`s coming up right at the end of the show this hour. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold the Texas fruitcake. Pineapples, and cherry and
raisins, and it`s covered in pecans. To get true Texas fruitcake cred, if
you are a baker of such things, your fruitcake must be covered by Texas
Pecan tree is Texas` official state tree after all. And Texas
fruitcake is the signature sweet thing from the famous Collin Street Bakery
in Corsicana, Texas. If you want to send me a Texas fruitcake for
Christmas, that`s where you`d send it from. I`m just saying.
The Collin Street Bakery`s fruitcake is famous for a reason, but the
Collins Street Bakery has been in the news this week for reasons unrelated
to its gorgeous pecans. Turns out the guy in charge of the money at the
Collin Street Bakery was indicted yesterday for allegedly embezzling almost
$17 million. Who knew it was possible to embezzle $17 million from a
According to the complaint, the allegedly fruit cake embezzler spent
all those millions on 43 luxury cars, he bought a second home, he bought 60
watches and 600 fine bottles of wine.
When managers of the bakery found out, they fired him, obviously, and
they called the police in Corsicana, Texas. But the police in Corsicana,
Texas, turned around and they called the FBI. The FBI was tasked with
nabbing the alleged fruitcake embezzler because this kind of crime falls
under the purview of the FBI.
The FBI led that investigation into that alleged crime as part of
their white collar crime division, which is one of the things they`ve
focused on. We think of the FBI has going after terrorism suspects or
kidnapping suspect, but the FBI has a pretty broad mandate, that includes a
lot of very specifics, from international terrorism, to art theft, to
insurance fraud, to all kinds of white collar crime. The FBI is busy.
But because of the self-imposed never supposed to happen federal
budget cuts known as the sequester, the FBI has decided to close for 10
days this year. All of its offices and HQ in Washington closed. For those
ten days, quote, "The bureau will only have a skeleton crew on hand, which
raises questions about how effectively it can respond to crime."
According to an unnamed FBI official talking to "The New York Times",
those 10 days will probably fall on either side of the weekend, you know,
Fridays or Mondays. Fruitcake embezzlers, take note.
This is on top of a hiring freeze the FBI has had to put in place.
Oh, and also, no more cars for the FBI, because why would FBI agents need
cars? They can get a bus pass, maybe monthly.
Back in July, there was news of a Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond,
Kentucky -- that name might ring a bell recently given this week`s world
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Welcome to the beautiful rolling hills of Kentucky, home of
the Bluegrass Army Depot. Located on 250 acres, the Bluegrass chemical
activity safely stores a stockpile of chemical weapons made up of nerve
agents GB and VX, and mustard, a blister agent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A blister agent.
Because of the highly sensitive nature of the more than 500 tons of
chemical weapons that are stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky,
that site has their own specialist firefighters, which seems like a good
idea, except that a few months back because of the budget cuts, those
firefighters got scheduled for furloughs, sent home. Don`t come to work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: We spoke with a firefighter at the Bluegrass Army Depot, or
BGAD. He expressed concern for the community`s safety. BGAD regularly
detonates conventional weapons and also stores weapons of mass destruction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ammunitions or munitions might leak. Potentially,
they could explode. That hasn`t happened.
REPORTER: Security personnel received an exception from the furlough.
Firefighters appealed for one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Firefighters protecting our nation`s chemical weapons arsenal
having to beg to do their jobs. Thanks, Congress.
At the last minute, the week before the firefighters furloughs were
scheduled to begin, those firefighters did get a last minute exception.
We came within a week of canceling our firefighting abilities at the
place where we store our chemical weapons in an ammunition depot. Genius.
Do not have to look far to see examples of the dumbness of the
sequester. Because of the sequester, for example, there are 41 countries
where we think there`s a reason to investigate theft of American
intellectual property, 41 countries -- because of the sequester, we`re only
following up on one. Ukraine drew the short straw. But the other 40
countries that are ripping us off, we`re just letting them slide. Is that
going to be good for our economy?
And this is not even to mention the 50,000 American children who have
been forced out of preschool because of cuts to federally supported
programs, leaving those preschool kids to have to try to raise money for
preschool by decorating tiny little toddler sized chairs trying to sell
their chairs to pay for their preschool tuition. This is a group doing
this in Colorado Springs.
The head of that group telling "The New York Times" she`s trying to
see this as an opportunity. She said, quote, "Otherwise, I would have to
sit in the corner and cry."
The situation here with these dumb threats and threat of cuts, this is
what we ended up with because of the last round of budget negotiations that
happened in Washington. We ended up with the dumb sequester thing in part
because Republicans said they were so worried about the deficit. We had to
take this drastic action even if it was going to be in sort of nonsensical
ways that were going to hurt the country and the economy. The deficit was
so bad that we had to do something as drastic as furloughing the
firefighters who protect our chemical weapons arsenals.
It turns out actually the deficit is on track to be the smallest it`s
been in five years, but that apparently does not matter. The sequester is
what we got the last time. And now, it is that time again.
Congress is due to pass spending bills to keep the government running.
They got to do that by October 1st or the government will shut down. By
mid-October, Congress has to vote to raise the debt ceiling so we don`t
default on our debts with all the economic disasters that implies.
Democrats are saying they not only want to move forward with not
shutting down the government and not defaulting on our debt, they say they
would like to undo the sequester that we`ve all been living with, in ways
that are making children auction off the art they can produce on their
chairs so they can go to preschool.
Republicans meanwhile held their 41st vote yesterday to defund
Obamacare. And their speaker in the Republican-controlled House of
Representatives has gone to the White House now asking for the Democratic
Party`s help and the Democratic president`s help to please help him somehow
sort out the problems he is having with his own caucus, with his own
members of the Republican Party on these budget negotiations. He`s going
to the Democrats for help.
Yes, this feels like Groundhog Day, but this is actually all upon us
all over again. As we go through this again right now, is there in any
chance that any of this stuff is going to get better and get resolved? Or
are we at risk of things getting even worse than they already are?
Joining us now is Jonathan Capehart. He`s a columnist for "The
Mr. Capehart, thank you very much for being here on a Friday night.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the threat of the sequester was not enough to bring
Congress around to any sort of long-term budget agreement last time we were
in this position. Will the reality of the sequester and how dumb it is do
the trick this time?
CAPEHART: I`m not sure. I don`t think so.
Matt Bennett at Third Way when the sequester was put in, called it
sort of a slow roll disaster. And as you showed in your intro, lots of
communities around the country had been hit by elements of the sequester
rolls. Until enough members of Congress hear from enough people in their
districts about the real world impacts of sequester, nothing`s going to
happen with it.
I mean, the other thing we have to keep in mind, Rachel, is that when
we were facing sequester before it went into place, there were people in
the building behind me who were saying out loud in public, maybe sequester
wouldn`t be a bad thing. After all, we do need to cut spending. We do
need to get our financial house in order. We have to get the deficits
So, the idea that you`re going to get the Republican-controlled House
in any way to do anything substantive on sequester I think is really
MADDOW: So, the Republicans are threatening to shut down the
government again. They are threatening to bump up against the debt
ceiling, which is scary prospect for the country, not just in the short
term, but in the long term in terms of how expensive it is for us to
borrow. The Democrats have tried to open up the menu of options to include
also fixing the sequester.
All of this needs to be decided in very short order. It seems like
Democrats getting what they want is unlikely. Republicans getting what
they want is unlikely. What`s the default position if things go the way
they are? If nobody scores a Hail Mary, nobody wins big, what do we end up
CAPEHART: Well, what we end up with in the short-term is a government
shutdown. As you said earlier, October 1st is that day. Right now, if
memory serves, there are only nine working days that Congress will be in
session. Now, they could come back into session I believe September 19th
or September 26th so that later this month when they`re supposed to be off,
there have been talk -- there have been noises made about having Congress
come in and try to get some of this done before October 1st.
But it`s going to require I think at this point for Speaker Boehner,
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to show some real leadership and get
their caucus in line, because if they think they`re going to strike some
sort of deal to keep the government running and open by handing the
president a bill that says he will delay the implementation to Affordable
Care Act or completely defund it, they`re crazy.
MADDOW: And that`s actually the right way to end that, because I feel
like that`s where we`re it -- that`s where we`re at.
Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" Jonathan,
thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know it feels like Groundhog Day whenever we talk about
this, you know, government shutdown. The sequester that we`re going to
have a debt ceiling.
It feels like Groundhog Day? It`s just because we never fixed this
problem and we have to go back and try to fix it again now. I don`t know
when this starts getting better. Just feels like it`s getting worse every
time we have to go back to it.
All right. A much needed best new thing in the world is still coming
up. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When dictators commit
atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those
horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The
facts cannot be denied.
The question now is, what the United States of America and the
international community is prepared to do about it.
To my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to
America`s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly
just. To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in
freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing
in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor.
For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama making the case this week in his address from
the East Room of the White House that what happens in Syria matters. And
that our country ought to not just care about what happens in Syria but we
ought to act, because he made the case that we can act in ways that are not
futile, that can make a difference there.
This is interesting. Before the speech and after the speech sort of
bookended polling that was done by CNN, that show that the president`s
speech did shift Americans` views to be more favorable for the prospect of
some kind of American involvement in Syria. It wasn`t a huge shift, but it
was a shift among people who watched the speech.
That said, the polling broadly says that Americans still do not want
our military involved over there at all. And, of course, the fight in
Washington and the fight at the U.N. now is about the maybe of
international military intervention, or international diplomatic
intervention to at least seize and secure all of Syria`s chemical weapons.
Not all of the action that might make a difference in Syria has to
happen through governments and through militaries. To the extent that
President Obama`s attention and all debate and all of the news coverage
this week about what Syria is going through, to the extent that is
motivating regular American citizens who want to help, want to help the
people there in some way, there are nonpolitical ways to help. Individual
people, us random civilians, of course, cannot negotiate with the Russians
or with the Assad regime. But there is stuff that we can do.
The U.N. Refugee Agency has made an urgent appeal for donations even
just from individuals to help the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled
their country because of the violence there. The World Food Program also
from the U.N., they`re seeking donations to help feeding families who are
still in Syria.
People can also donate to the Syrian Crisis Fund at Save the Children,
which is setting up temporary schools in refugee camps. The International
Rescue Community is doing work helping displaced people both inside Syria
and in the cross border refugee camps that they have fled to.
There`s a British charity called Hand in Hand for Syria that has also
been helping at three field hospitals inside of Syria.
The inspiring and intrepid group, Doctors Without Borders, they won
the Nobel Peace Prize, they always need help. If you so choose, if you are
so moved by what you are hearing out of Syria and you want to help there
specifically, you can designate that your Doctors Without Borders donation
goes specifically to their work in Syria.
This is a big overwhelming story about a big overwhelming crisis. But
beyond the politics of it, beyond the international wrangling between
countries of it, if you personally are moved to try to help in a small way
yourself, there are ways you can do that. We`re going to put links to all
of those places that I just mention and a few more, tonight at
Maddowblog.com. Check it out.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: OK, happy Friday, best new thing in the world.
The Motor City, the great city of Detroit, has produced lots of great
cars, lots of great art, lots of great music over the years. And now, the
great city of Detroit has produced this. Behold the light dragon.
This is the brain child of two artists, Detroit based artist Ryan
Doyle and Hong Kong born artist named Teddy Lo.
It`s called the light dragon. It is made entirely of salvaged metal
and rubber and lights. It was apparently 60 feet long and it weighs 17,000
pounds. It sits on top of a stripped down 1963 Dodge dump truck. It`s
equipped with 2,500 feet of color changing LED lights. And because it is a
dragon, naturally, it can breathe fire. No, really it can shoot a 20-foot
burst of flame through its dragon nostrils.
That part is going to be really important later on in the story. So,
put a pin in that for a second.
The city of Detroit as you may be aware is going through a rough
stretch right now. The city filed for bankruptcy in July. They`ve been
under the control of an emergency manager who makes all the decisions
regarding the city`s finances. That has rendered local democracy
essentially dead in democracy.
One of the things that emergency manager did in city recently was that
he hired Christie`s Auction House to appraise the art that is house the
inside the amazing, iconic, Detroit Institute of Arts. The Detroit
Institute of Arts is one of the country`s greatest art museums. It has a
world famous collection of Rembrandts, and Michelangelos, and Diego
Riveras, like you wouldn`t believe.
It is a truly incredible collection of art and it is owned by the
people of Detroit. It`s municipal owned. The city owns the collection.
It belongs to Detroit and its people.
And when the emergency manager announced that he was having the entire
place appraised to find out its cash value like in case he was going to
sell it off, Detroit started fighting back. And part of the way they have
been fighting back is with art. And that is where the fire breathing
dragon comes in.
Late last night, as the rest of the city was preparing to go to sleep,
the LED lit 60-foot long junkyard dragon, equipped with its own D.J. booth
on the back, rolled through city of the Detroit, pulled right up to the
front lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and as only a fire breathing
dragon can do, it left a simple message for Detroit`s emergency manager
about how the city feels about its art museum. Watch this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Save the art. If you are going to try to send a message to
the powers that be in your city, that is the way to do it. Send your
fabric wed metal flame on fire, and with flames you shoot 20 feet out of
your dragon nostrils.
The artists who created that performance stunt made their escape
shortly after setting the protest sign alight. The sign was then
extinguished by dragon artist supporters, and also by the Fire Department.
However, you have been making your political case, however you have
been trying to convey your political feelings, you need to know that out
there somewhere, there are dudes in Detroit who are getting their political
point across with fire breathing LED, 60-foot dragon that breathe fire and
have a D.J. booth on the back.
The bar has officially been raised, America, step it up.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again Monday.
Now, you must go to prison.
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