THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
September 26, 2013
Guest: Zeke Emanuel
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us
this hour. I`m sorry for you too. Anyway.
So Ronald Reagan had Tip O`Neill. When Ronald Reagan had
confrontation with the Congress and the other party about maybe shutting
down the government, it was Ronald Reagan versus tip O`Neill. When Bill
Clinton had his confrontations with the Congress and with the other party
about maybe shutting down the government and, in fact, shutting down the
government, he had his adversary as well, and that, of course, was Newt
So it was Ronald Reagan versus tip O`Neill, it was Bill Clinton versus
Newt Gingrich, and now it was Barack Obama versus -- who, exactly? Who is
President Obama negotiating with? Who is this showdown in Washington with?
And, yes, John Boehner has the same job title that Tip O`Neill and
Newt Gingrich had, but nobody, nobody believes that John Boehner is doing
the same job that those guys did, in that nobody believes that John Boehner
speaks for anyone. When John Boehner says Republicans should do something,
or that Republicans are doing something, nobody believes Republicans will
actually do that thing.
In July, he said, hey, Republicans have written a farm bill. We`re
going to pass a farm bill.
They did not pass a farm bill.
In July, John Boehner said, OK, now Republicans have written a
transportation bill. I`m in charge here. I`m in charge of the Republicans
in the House. And so now we are going to pass our new Republican
They did not pass their new Republican transportation bill.
Even earlier this month, John Boehner said, Republicans do not want to
shut down the government. He said, "We Republicans have drawn up a bill to
kick the can down the road and fund the government. We are going to pass
our fund the government bill" -- and he brought it up and the Republicans
did not pass their own fund the government bill.
John Boehner does speak and he is in the House, but the idea that he
is the capital "S" speaker of the House like Tip O`Neill was or like Newt
Gingrich was when they fought with presidents of the opposite party, hah!
No. Sadly, no.
Today, "Bloomberg Businessweek" posits a new cover story that the man
actually in charge of Congress is not John Boehner, but rather this guy,
Jim DeMint -- the guy who quit the Senate right after being re-elected to
go run the Heritage Foundation instead. You might remember us talking
about Jim DeMint`s tenure at the heritage foundation, because soon after he
took over, he got embarrassed at his new job, when it turned out that they
had hired a guy with white supremacist ties to write their anti-immigration
Then, they had this totally genius move, when this study came out
showing that 57 percent of Americans did not want to defund Obamacare.
They put out this poster, saying that 57 percent of Americans did want to
defund Obamacare. They read the poll backwards or upside down or
The poll says 57 percent of Americans don`t want it. They put out a
poster saying, look at this poll. It says that 57 percent of Americans do
want it! Who cares! We used to be a think tank, but now we`re run by a
senator who quit and used to run a marketing firm before that.
Yes, sometimes we get our numbers backwards. Who cares? We make
Then, under Jim DeMint, the Heritage Foundation said they would score
senators on whether they voted with Ted Cruz to filibuster for a government
shutdown. We will track that vote they said. We will score you on that.
You won`t look like a real conservative anymore unless you vote with Ted
Cruz to filibuster, to shut down the government.
Well, that got awkward, because after Ted Cruz did stand there for 21
hours, talking about the bill to fund the government, talking about why it
was so important to block that bill, even Senator Ted Cruz himself then,
right afterwards, voted for that bill. So, then, how is that going to
score over at Jim DeMint`s place. Apparently, though, Jim DeMint, though,
is in charge. At least he wants to seem like he is in charge.
And Jim DeMint has now rolled out a new argument for why it is still a
good idea to shut down the government as a way of killing Obamacare.
Jim DeMint says Republicans are justified in going there and doing
that. Because we have never had a chance to vote in a national election,
in which we got to make a choice between someone who was in favor of
Obamacare and someone who was against Obamacare. Obamacare never had a
hearing in a national election.
Asked by "Bloomberg Businessweek" if maybe the 2012 election was just
that chance, Senator DeMint responded that in 2012, quote, "We did not
litigate the Obamacare issue."
Yes, you know, come to think of it, in 2012, the whole Obamacare issue
just never really came up in the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must rein in the
skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We have to repeal Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will roll back Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obamacare!
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Replace Obamacare!
ROMNEY: Get rid of Obamacare!
Get rid of Obamacare.
NARRATOR: Day one, President Romney moves to repeal Obamacare.
All of Obamacare.
ROMNEY: I`m the one that`s going to get rid of Obamacare. We`re
going to stop it on day one!
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Yes, remember 2012, the presidential election, about how
Obamacare just never came up? It`s like it wasn`t even an issue in the
So nobody ever expected that that election would have settled anything
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had said, next year, that you would repeal
the health care vote. That`s still your mission?
BOEHNER: Well, I think the election changes that. It`s pretty clear
that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, now the latest Republican argument for shutting down
the government in order to stop Obamacare is that it was never addressed as
an issue in the presidential campaign.
This is the point where the way your friend told you that you should
calm down, use deep breaths, this is the time for deep breaths.
President Obama today went to Maryland and gave a speech about health
reform, and he has given a million speeches about health reform. But this
one today, the president seemed both totally exasperated by what`s going
on, on the other side, and also like he was kind of having a good time
talking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One congressman said
that Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed.
Ever. In the history of America, this is the most dangerous piece of
legislation. Providing -- providing -- creating a marketplace so people
can buy group insurance plan, the most dangerous, ever.
You had a state representative somewhere say that it`s as destructive
to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act. Think about
that. Affordable health care is worse than the law that let slave owners
get their runaway slaves back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president also made a prediction today about what`s going
to happen now that health reform is going into effect. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Medicare and Social Security faced the same kind of criticism.
Before Medicare came into law, one Republican warned that one of these
days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children
and our children`s children what it once was like in America when men were
free. That was Ronald Reagan.
And eventually Ronald Reagan came around to Medicare and thought it
was pretty good and actually helped make it better. So, that`s what`s
going to happen with the Affordable Care Act. And once it`s working really
well, I guarantee you, they will not call it Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President Obama today, apparently enjoying himself,
giving his umpteenth speech about health reform, talking about Obamacare.
He was at Prince Georges Community College in Largo, Maryland, giving that
But what the president said there in the end, about if health reform
works out great, they sure won`t call it Obamacare anymore. He has raised
that issue before. He`s shown an acute awareness that health reform is so
closely associated with him personally. He told a funny story about it
just a couple days at the Clinton Global Initiative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You know, in Kentucky, it`s called like Kentucky Connecticut.
And in Idaho, it`s called the Idaho Health Care Exchange.
And there`s a story that came out of Kentucky where some folks were
signing people up at a county fair somewhere and some guy goes up and he
starts looking at the rates and decides he`s going to sign up, and he turns
to his friend and said, "This is a great deal. This is a lot better than
Obamacare." All right?
Which is fine, because we -- you know, I don`t have pride of
authorship on this thing, I just want the thing to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama is getting at something there, with the
branding issue on health reform. A couple of weeks ago, there was a FOX
News poll that turned up an accidentally hilarious finding on this subject.
Look at this.
Republican support of President Obama`s health care legislation rose
by eight percentage points when identified as the Affordable Care Act
instead of Obamacare, a new FOX News poll has found.
If you ask about it by another name, they like it more. It`s not an
outlier. Look, a new poll from CNBC finds that among voters overall,
opposition to the Affordable Care Act stands at 34 percent, but opposition
to Obamacare is nine points higher than that!
They`re the same thing! They are the same thing. The Affordable Care
Act is Obamacare. One`s a nickname.
It`s like Jim and James. Ahh! Deep breath.
Branding matters and the president knows it. And the White House
And today in recognition of the ridiculous scaremongering over
everybody getting health insurance, and the ridiculous outcome in which
people sure like the policy when it`s called one thing, but not when it`s
called some other thing, today the White House welcomed the Adorable Care
Act. We do not know exactly who rolled this out on Tumblr. The White
House says it was not them.
But from Affordable Care Act to the Adorable Care Act, it is not a big
leap. And there`s a bunch of different ones, so you get the idea. Thanks,
Adorable Care Act, this mouse and his cute little feet says, I can rest
easy knowing that lifetime caps on health coverage have been eliminated.
Or this is a good one, "Get your ducks in a row. Visit
This is a good one, "Don`t be a sad panda, health insurance market
place is open in five days."
Now, is calling cuteness a pre-existing condition, kind of a
ridiculous way to publicize changes in health insurance regulation -- of
course, it is. But is this kitten actually going to live to be 26? Only
in cat years, America! This is a scandal!
This is a scandal. Is this little kitty actually a defective eye
patch that this tolerant old dog will be able to replace with a proper eye
patch once the health exchange is opened next week? No, not at all, dogs
aren`t covered, this is ridiculous.
But, you know, this is a far sight less ridiculous than saying that
nobody talked about Obamacare in the last election. Or that Ted Cruz,
giving a long floor speech, will magically kill a law passed by Congress,
signed by the president, upheld by the courts, and affirmed by the voters.
Yes, the kitty thing is ridiculous. But this is all ridiculous. And
the kitten one, at least, has a slight chance of actually working.
Joining us now is Dr. Zeke Emanuel, he`s a former special health
adviser to the White House Office of Management and Budget, and he`s
currently chair of medical ethics and policy at Penn, the University of
Dr. Emanuel, thank you for being here.
DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: It`s my pleasure, it`s
MADDOW: As a doctor, can you affirm whether or not that dog will be
able to get a proper eye patch?
EMANUEL: I`m not a vet, although we do have vet school at the
University of Pennsylvania, but I never trained with dogs.
MADDOW: The president today said that Republicans` biggest fear is
not that the Affordable Care Act will fail, but that it will succeed. Do
you think that political judgment is a sound political judgment and do you
think it will succeed?
EMANUEL: You have to ask my brother about sound political judgments,
he`s told me that I`m not allowed to make political statements since I
don`t know anything about politics. But on the policy issue of whether
it`s going to actually work, I do think it`s going to work. And I think
we`ve already had signs that it`s worked.
Many people say, well, October, the Affordable Care Act is going to
kick in, but it`s been around for almost four years now and it`s had a
pretty big effect.
Millions of children are getting insurance through their parents,
preventative services with no co-payments, so you can actually get things
like birth control pills or cancer screening tests without having to pay
for them or having that financial barrier. People getting rebates, if
their insurance companies don`t spend enough money. Seniors getting a
cheaper drug if they fall into that doughnut hole. Hospitals working
assiduously to reduce their readmission rate, to reduce their hospital-
We have already had a lot of activity from the Affordable Care Act
that has been in the positive direction of improving the system.
MADDOW: Have the things that have gone into effect already largely
turned out and had the kinds of effects that were predicted by the people
who designed the law?
EMANUEL: Yes, in general, we have had the right effects. And, you
know, that`s not to say everything`s been smooth or there haven`t been
glitches in implementing them, and we haven`t had unintended consequences.
But you`d have to remember that in 2009 and 2010, when we were debating
health care reform, the issue was, do we want to reform the system? The
current system was untenable and unsustainable.
And the Democrats came up with a proposal, and I have to say, the
Republicans never had a coherent proposal, which insured everyone, cut
health care costs, and improved quality. The Democrats at least had a
proposal and that`s called the Affordable Care Act.
MADDOW: When we have seen pieces of the law have delayed
implementation, and some of that -- you see little pieces of that all the
times in the news, different parts of it and people have tried to make a
lot of political hay out of that, saying, see, it`s a disaster. They`re
trying to delay it long enough that they can, something, something,
something. Something, something, something, my tinfoil hat hurts.
But when you look at those pieces that are delayed, do you think
that`s a cause for concern or that is a sign of reasonable prudence?
EMANUEL: Well, probably the biggest and most important thing was the
employer mandate, delayed a year. The president made clear, it`s only
going to be delayed a year, it`s not going to be delayed longer. And for
most of us, that didn`t really make a difference, because, again, it
applies to employers over 50 employees and about 98 percent of those
already offer insurance and the big ones offer almost 100 percent offer
So, it affects only a small number of employers and a small number of
employees. So it wasn`t a major issue.
Delaying the individual mandate is an entirely different issue -- and
that would not be prudent in my opinion, at all. We do have to get people
used to the fact that they have an obligation to take their responsibility
and have insurance, and that, I think, is what the individual mandate says.
And, again, this is one of the things that sort of perplexes me, as
much of this perplexes you, which is the Republicans are the party of
individual responsibility, assume your responsibility. And part of that is
insurance, right? If you are uninsured and you get sick, someone else is
going to largely end up paying for it. That`s not individual
And part of what the Democrats, you know, wanted to do is to say, all
right, we`re going to give you a way of assuming your responsibility. And
let me finally, you were talking about Jim DeMint and the Heritage
Foundation. We should remember that the individual mandate, which sends
the Republicans around the bend, was their idea.
MADDOW: The Heritage Foundation --
EMANUEL: The Heritage Foundation`s idea. Right.
MADDOW: And when Jim -- and I would just add, I am having a deep
breath problem with this story today, as you can tell. But in 2007, when
Mitt Romney was running for president, Jim DeMint endorsed Mitt Romney for
president, because he said he liked that sound health care program that
he`d come up with in Massachusetts.
EMANUEL: There you go.
MADDOW: And that`s the reason we need to end the world.
MADDOW: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of medical ethics and health
policy at the University of Pennsylvania -- it`s great to have you here.
Thank you so much.
EMANUEL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. There has been a bunch of news today, including
some bold-faced, big-type headline news that has just broken tonight here
in New York at the United Nations and we`ve got a live report on that next.
So, please stay with us.
MADDOW: We have some significant news breaking late tonight here in
New York, where the United Nations is still meeting in its general assembly
and where the Obama administration appears to have achieved a big
diplomatic breakthrough tonight. At least, that`s how senior State
Department officials are describing it to NBC`s Andrea Mitchell, telling
Andrea that what happened tonight is, quote, "historic, and unprecedented,"
that it is, quote, "a breakthrough, arrived at through hard-fought
The breakthrough in question is about Syria. You`ll remember about
three weeks ago, President Obama was threatening American military action
against Syria, because of that country`s apparent use of chemical weapons
in its civil war.
The president threatened that the U.S. would even act unilaterally,
because no one thought it would ever be possible to get the United Nations
on board, to do anything internationally about Syria. That`s because
Syria`s -- the Syrian government`s best friend in the world is Russia and
Russia, of course, holds a seat on the Security Council, and therefore they
can block any U.N. action. Same goes for China, which no one thought would
ever go along with any U.N. intervention on Syria.
Both those countries had veto power, and both of them would block
anything the international community tried to put together -- until today,
apparently. Breakthrough -- the U.N. Security Council, including Russia
and China, as of tonight, says it has reached an agreement on an
international U.N. plan, a Security Council resolution, to go get and go
destroy Syria`s entire chemical weapons arsenal.
This is apparently binding, but we`ll have more on that in a second,
because that`s a difficult question.
But in addition, look at this. This is something that never happens.
Not for decades. Today, at the U.N., on the sidelines of the formal
session there, some diplomacy broke out between the United States and Iran.
This is the first high-level political contact between our country and
their country in decades and the world did not end.
I mean, it`s early yet. So far, though, the sky is still up and the
ground is still down. Two really dramatic breakthroughs today, all
achieved with no one firing a shot.
This seems like a big deal. The Security Council meeting on the Syria
part of this tonight, as we speak, this is a live shot at the U.N. outside
where the Security Council is meeting.
Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent
for NBC and the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS."
Andrea, thank you for being here.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you.
This is actually exciting stuff --
MADDOW: Yes, on --
MITCHELL: -- in diplo-Nerdland, which is where I live.
MADDOW: That`s what I wanted to ask you, on the Andrea Mitchell scale
of diplomatic achievements, where are we at on that scale in terms of these
MITCHELL: Well, first of all, on the Syria deal, this is real
language, it`s not threatening specific actions, but it is under the
chapter of U.N. resolutions, which would permit military action if Assad
MADDOW: That`s key, chapter seven.
MITCHELL: Yes. And everyone said that would never happen.
MITCHELL: So this was worked out in final draft between Lavrov, the
Russian, and John Kerry, this afternoon, and then they brought their, you
know, partners in, and there was another meeting, and it`s now being worked
out. It could, actually, be approved by the Security Council, as soon as
These things do tend to fall apart at times. We`ve watched this over
the Iraq resolutions. So we don`t know if it`s going to actually happen.
But I think this is a pretty important handshake.
MADDOW: The speed with which this is happening, on that point, again,
if Kerry and Lavrov worked o out this language today, should read anything
into the fact that we are meeting tonight? They`re not expected to sign it
tonight, but they`re right into the Security Council --
MADDOW: -- to discuss it.
MITCHELL: Exactly. And the fact is, this is the first time the
United Nations will have decided to take action on chemical weapons and in
Syria. It`s the first resolution on Syria since the 2 1/2-year war began.
MADDOW: Because Russia and China wouldn`t go along with anything, but
now they will.
MADDOW: Let me ask you also on Iran -- on the specifics of it, and it
is even the body language stuff here, is it the case that John Kerry and
his counterpart from the Iranian foreign ministry actually shook hands
MITCHELL: They shook hands, they sat next to each other, because you
saw note-takers and interpreters sitting between them, they`re basically
note-takers sitting between them. They were basically sitting side by side
on the corner of that table and had a separate meeting afterwards, each
coming out and each describing their meeting in the same way --
constructive, substantive, substantial.
This, of course, is only the beginning, and we`ll see what happens
down the road, will they drag their feet. But I was at a meeting where
Rouhani spoke without any cameras very candidly yesterday, and he
acknowledged just how tough these sanctions have been. And he said to the
Council on Foreign Relations tonight, I was elected with a mandate
overwhelmingly for a moderate course on foreign policy and to fix our
economy. And that`s what I have to do.
Now, we`ve seen a little bit of twists and turns, where he talked
about the Holocaust and then the government news agency, Fars, said he`d
never really said that and he said, then, to Charlie Rose, yes, I did say
that, and repeated it.
MITCHELL: And, you know, he didn`t shake hands with President Obama.
That was probably too much, too soon for the people, for the audience back
home, acknowledging a lot of people have acknowledged both in their mission
and externally, that, you know, there were diplomatic problems, political
problems back home with the hard-liners.
But he has certainly more running room than we`ve seen with previous
MADDOW: And just the fact of them meeting and talking, it has been
years and years and years since anything like that has happened, isn`t it?
MITCHELL: There has not been a formal, not a back channel, but a
formal meeting at this level since 1979, since the revolution.
MITCHELL: Since "Argo", you know?
MADDOW: Exactly, the real "Argo".
Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC, the host
of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS," which is 1:00 p.m. Eastern here on MSNBC --
MITCHELL: We had a great lead today.
MADDOW: Thank you. It was very fun to be there today. And we
bookended each other`s shows today nicely, which is probably rude to
everybody else who works here, but it`s fun for me.
Thank you, Andrea.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There are unwritten rules for politics -- at least for
American politics. For example, we have the unwritten rule that there
should be no hitting. We have not always had that rule in our politics,
and not every country in the world believes in it, but that is an unwritten
rule in our politics. Use your words. No hitting.
Also, raise the debt ceiling. It`s not a written rule, but it is an
unwritten rule. Do not damage the full faith and credit of the United
States, no matter what political point you are tempted to make about it,
just don`t do it.
There are also unwritten rules in baseball. Like, for example, if you
crush a pitch into the stands and hit a home run, you do then verbally
taunt the pitcher who just threw you that pitch. The fact that you just
hit it into the stands is supposed to do that talking for you.
Do you want to see a guy break that rule? This was last night,
Milwaukee versus Atlanta. Milwaukee`s Carlos Gomez hits a home run -- he
totally kills it -- hits that homerun off the Atlanta pitcher. But then he
doesn`t just give the pitcher a piece of his mind, he yells at everybody
As he runs around the bases to score his home run, he`s yelling at
everybody. It`s totally against the unwritten rule. You`re supposed to
let your athletic heroism do the talking for you, big guy. The guy that
decides to enforce that unwritten rule is Atlanta`s catcher.
I don`t know if anything like this has ever happened before, but the
catcher just gets up and decides, you know what, you`re going to yellow at
my pitcher and my first baseman while you`re running toward home, you are
not going to do that. I`m not going to let you -- I will not let you pass
and he stands there on the base line and will not let the guy pass.
And the swearing was bad enough that TV networks had to pixelate their
mouths when they showed the replay.
And then, of course, there was a big fight. And even though the dude
was not allowed to get to home plate, they gave him the run anyway, but
then they also threw that guy out of the game. The guy who hit the home
run got thrown out, not the catcher who blocked him from getting to home
plate, which is maybe unfair.
But also in this instance, it is the enforcement of that unwritten
baseball rule. That`s how it works in baseball. That was amazing last
night, in the first inning of that game.
What are the odds of the same thing happening in Republican politics?
Who is going to enforce the unwritten rules of American politics for
Republicans in Congress? That story is next.
MADDOW: The date was November 1st, 1983. The number one TV show in
the country was "Dallas." The number one song in the country was "Islands
in the Stream," by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. And the president of the
United States kept a diary.
I know, Ronald Reagan kept a diary. And on November 1st, 1983, here
is what president Reagan wrote in this has diary.
"Dear Diary, day began with GOP congressional leadership, a full
cabinet room. Last night, the Republican Senate very irresponsibly refused
to pass an increase in the debt ceiling, which is necessary if we are to
borrow and keep the government running. After we gave them all a rundown
on Lebanon and Grenada, we took up the budget and the necessary
legislation. I sounded off and told them I would veto every darn thing
they sent down unless they gave us a clean debt ceiling bill. That ended
the meeting. Love, Ronald."
I don`t think he signed them, I don`t know. The guy who Ronald chewed
out in that White House meeting that he described in his diary was Senator
Howard Baker of Tennessee, the top Republican in the Senate at the time.
And a few weeks after that intense White House confrontation, Howard Baker
received a personal letter from President Reagan.
"Dear Howard, this country now possesses the strongest credit in the
world. The full consequences of a default or even the serious prospects of
a default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to
contemplate. The nation can ill-afford to allow such a result. The risks,
the costs, the disruptions and the incalculable damage lead me to but one
conclusion. The Senate must pass this legislation before Congress
Ronald Reagan sent that letter November 16th and, tada, two days
later, Congress raised the debt ceiling.
Ronald Reagan strong-armed Congress into raising the debt ceiling 18
separate times during his presidency. And he did it by essentially saying,
it would be a freaking disaster for the country to not raise the debt
ceiling. So, let`s go, you guys. Quit messing around.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: The Congress consistently brings the
government to the edge of default, before facing its responsibility. This
brinksmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely
on Social Security and veteran benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket,
instability would occur in financial markets and the federal deficit would
soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the
world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation
for reliability and credibility, two things that set us apart from much of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ronald Reagan speaking in 1987.
Two years ago, when Republicans in Congress were threatening that they
would not raise the debt ceiling, Democrats used that old Ronald Reagan
tape that we just played to say, look, we know that you really hate
President Obama, but do it for the Gipper. Listen to Ronald Reagan, at
least. Do not mess with the debt ceiling.
But two years ago, regardless, in 2011, Republicans in Congress messed
with the debt ceiling. They took us right to the brink of default, and
even just getting to the brink was enough to not only get the U.S.
government`s credit rating downgraded for the first time in our history, it
also took what had been relatively strong job growth and put a big four-
month dent in it.
And now, two years later, we`re doing it all over again.
Today, House Republicans unveiled their big wish list for all the
things that they want, in exchange for not sending the country into
catastrophic default. The U.S. government is set to go into default on
October 17th, three weeks from today. And Republicans say that they will
let that happen. They will crash our economy and likely crash the world
economy, unless Democrats agree to pretty much everything Republicans have
asked for over the last few years.
They want to delay Obamacare for a year, they want to gut Wall Street
reform, they want to approve the Keystone oil pipeline, they want to
increase oil drilling on federal lands, they want to increase oil drilling
offshore. They want to block EPA regulations carbon and power plants,
slash Medicare benefits for old people, and maybe, although this one is
uncertain yet, maybe they want to institute a new federal abortion ban.
Also, tort reform, killing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I
think literally, they said, they also want to throw in there, getting rid
of net neutrality. Because, hey, why not? Anybody want a pony? It`s
everything they can think of.
And unless Democrats agree to do all of those things, the economy gets
Democrats are asking for nothing. Republicans are demanding these
things or they kill the economy.
Republicans have been in control of one-half of one branch of the
federal government since they won control of the House back in 2010. And
in that time, with that little bit of control, they have brought this
country to the brink of default once, causing the first credit downgrade in
the history of the Republican. And now they are threatening to do it
again, unless the president enacts everything they want.
Let`s say you have decided that your teenager is mature enough and
responsibility enough to be trusted to drive the family car. So you`re
driving, you pull over to the side of the road, and you say, OK, Junior,
let`s trade places. Here`s the keys. You drive, you`ve earned it.
And your kid says, sweet! And you switch places, your kid grabs the
wheel, and then speeds towards the nearest cliff saying, I swear I will
kill us both, I swear I will drive this car over this cliff unless you
raise my allowance!
And you talk him down somehow or maybe you wrestle the wheel from his
hands or something, but you save yourself.
Then you decide you`re going to try it again. And the next time you
hand him the keys and you switch seats and you let him drive, he aims the
car at the nearest brick wall and guns it and says, I swear I will drive
this car right into this brick wall unless you extend my curfew. I will do
it! I will kill us both. Then he reaches over and unlatches both of your
seat belts, still steering towards -- do it!
What would be the logical response from you a parent, if that was your
experience with your teenager driving the family car? Would you hand him
the keys again?
Today, congressional Democrats raised the prospect, as they did two
years ago, that President Obama has the power under the Constitution to
raise the debt ceiling all by himself -- to take this away from Congress,
to just raise the debt ceiling, citing the fourth section of the 14th
Amendment of the Constitution, which says that the validity of the public
debt of the United States shall not be questioned.
When House Democrats brought this up a couple of years ago, President
Obama said he did not want to do it. He said, Congress should be able to
handle it. Congress cannot handle it. Should he, could he, just take the
keys away from this child?
The great Steve Kornacki joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: This autumn, the Congress has faced the unhappy task of
raising the debt ceiling to over $2 trillion. With only a few days left
before that deadline, Congress must realize that by failing to act, they`re
entering very dangerous territory. Never before in our history has the
federal government failed to honor its financial obligations. To fail to
do so now would be an outrage. And the Congress must understand this and
bear full responsibility.
OBAMA: I have to say, no Congress before this one has ever, ever, in
history, been irresponsible enough to threaten default. To threaten an
economic shutdown, to suggest America not pay its bills, just to try to
blackmail a president into giving them some concessions on issues that have
nothing to do with the budget.
I mean, this is the United States of America. We`re not a deadbeat
nation. And that`s why I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to
the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking today at a community college in
Maryland. Ronald Reagan saying the same thing in 1985.
Joining us is Steve Kornacki, host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI", which
airs weekends at 8:00 Eastern. Steve is also a senior writer at "Salon".
Steve, thanks for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: Fighting over the debt ceiling is not a brand-new phenomenon
in American politics, but were these fights less scary in the past than
they are now?
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, I would separate -- fighting over the debt
ceiling is one thing. The tradition is really posturing over the debt
ceiling, and I think there`s a big difference. There`s a few times in the
past, you look at Reagan in 1985. I think 1990 was another example when
there were sort of budget deadlines or budget negotiations that were
playing out in the Capitol and the debt ceiling kind of got thrown in as
part of it.
There have been times where you could say there were negotiations over
the debt ceiling, there have been a lot of times when the debt ceiling came
up for renewal and the opposition party, this is both parties, Democrats
and Republicans, would use that to -- you know, it sounds like this
horrible thing to people, look, the governing party is going to raise the
debt ceiling, they`ve run up so much debt. We`ve had that vote from Obama
in 2007, against raising the debt ceiling, that sort of thing.
But it was never, it wasn`t officially symbolic, but it was symbolic.
There was no suspense in any of those votes, the debt ceiling was not
actually going to be raised.
In 2011, we entered uncharted territory, where we walked up to a line
that we had never even gotten too before. We didn`t cross a line. We`ve
come as close as we`ve ever come, but that was new territory there, and now
MADDOW: And that was enough to harm the country materially.
KORNACKI: That was enough to -- right. You had the credit rating
reduced in the wake of that. Now, the demands and sort of negotiations in
2011 were all sort of fiscal related. Now, we`re taking it a step further
here, where you have this laundry list from Republicans that came out
today, which is totally unrelated to the budget, totally unrelated to the
deficit and taxes, the Keystone Pipeline in this, I think tort reform in
this. It`s just a laundry list of Republican demands, which takes it to an
even further level we`ve never been to.
MADDOW: OK. So when we start talking about things that have never
happened before, things for which there is no historical precedent, in
2011, when we did get so close to the brink that the country was done harm,
Nancy Pelosi specifically and some other House Democrats suggested that
President Obama could essentially take it out of the hands of Congress,
saying the debt ceiling is not a constitutionally defined thing, it`s a
statutorily created thing, that the president could go around. He could
under the 14th Amendment and the powers that he has as president, just say,
this isn`t Congress` job anymore. I`m doing it. And the president
rejected that idea.
Was that ever in previous times when we worried about the debt ceiling
ever come up?
KORNACKI: I think it only came up as a practical matter, like wow,
the president should think about doing this in 2011. It has been proposed
a few times since then, sort of anticipating the next great showdown. The
case that the White House -- I think the White House is still not there
where Nancy Pelosi is today.
I think what they would say on that is, look, we are talking about
catastrophic outcomes of a debt ceiling. The effects on the economy could
be catastrophic. If the president invokes the 14th Amendment after there
was basically a default, deadline passed, there would be profound
uncertainty, there`d be court challenges. There`d be, you know, maybe
Republicans saying we have to impeach him because of this.
So, economic impact of that, I think they`re afraid of that as well.
So, it`s probably less bad than a default. But they are really hoping
There is still reason. This is not to say Congress is healthy and
functioning. But there still is reason to think that after all of the
dancing that John Boehner and the Republicans are going to have to do over
the next few weeks, that you will get to a point where John Boehner is able
to put a debt ceiling bill on the floor, he`d have to break the Hastert
Rule in the end where Republicans would vote against it, there is still a
case to be made to get to the point.
It`s going to be messy. It`s going to be all sorts of dancing,
pretending going on. But we might be able to get there.
MADDOW: When you look at the history of these standoffs in the past
there is no prescription from history about how to take this off the table,
about how to make this not happen. We have never actually been so
seriously threatened by it.
KORNACKI: Here is a perfect example. Look at Ronald Reagan,
Republicans in the Senate, Republican-controlled Senate. You have the
leader of the Republican Party who is capable in 1983 of looking at
Republican majority in the Senate in saying no, you can`t do this. And he
used his moral authority and he used his political power to do that.
The leaders of today`s Republican Party, if you look at John Boehner
in the House and Mitch McConnell, who`s facing primary, they`re scared of
their jobs, Boehner is scared of his job in the House, McConnell scared for
his seat in Kentucky, and they are not going to stand up and deliver the
message to rank-and-file and to the base, because they will be dubbed
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
KORNACKI: McConnell will lose his seat in the primary and Boehner
will lose his job as speaker.
MADDOW: Those guys are scared of it enough, that they don`t sit in
crowded rooms anymore. They don`t know what is going to happen. The idea
they could sort of issue hard truths to their sides, it`s good we are a
long, long, long way from that.
Steve Kornacki, the host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show "UP WITH
STEVE KORNACKI" -- Steve, always great to have you here. Appreciate it.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Last year, a big landmark thing happened at the Oscars. For
the first time ever, an Oscar was awarded to a movie that was made in Iran.
That had never happened before. It`s very exciting. Iranians were
psyched, must have been, right?
Unless they worked at Iran`s state-run media in which case they were
not allowed to be psyched. When state-run media reported on the Iranian
movie getting the Oscar first time ever, Iranian state-run media changed
the acceptance speech given by the filmmaker. They changed his speech to
add in a shout out to e Iranian nuclear program.
This is what the filmmaker actually said at the Oscars. He said, "I
proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect
all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment." He
got a very round of applause. That is what he actually said.
But in Iran, they changed it. They edited his speech. So, instead of
saying this, they tuned up the transcript a little and they added this
reference to all of the tensions and hostility of recent months between
Iran and the West over Iran`s nuclear program.
They add a shout-out to the Iranian nuclear program which the
filmmaker never said and they dropped the end part about Iranians despising
God bless the state-run media in Iran. Their jobs just suck. I mean
think about it. You have to censor the guy who ought to be a national hero
for winning the country`s first Oscar and for then saying something nice
and uncontroversial about your country. Can`t have that. Make them say
something about the nuclear program.
You also have to use like silver sharpies and glitter pens to add in
sleeves to First Lady Michelle Obama`s dress, the night she was presenting
the Oscar for best picture to "Argo". On the right, you will see the first
lady as she appeared in real life form, sleeveless silvery gown, bare arms
On the left, that was the Iranian media translation. They added
sleeves to her. That happened earlier this year.
Then, earlier this month, this tweet appeared from the new president
of Iran. He said this, quote, "I want to wish all Jews, especially Iranian
Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah." Happy New Year to the world`s Jewish
people, right? I mean, since the president he replaced used every public
occasion to deny the Holocaust ever happened, this was very unexpected and
nice Rosh Hashanah thing.
Then, the state run media denied he had ever said that. He couldn`t
tweet that. He didn`t have a Twitter account. Actually, he doesn`t have a
tweeter account. Let`s not split hairs.
Altering the Obama speech -- altering the Oscar speech, excuse me,
PhotoShopping Michelle Obama`s arms, the Rosh Hashanah tweeter denial, all
of it the work of the semi-official Iranian news agency, Fars is the news
Well, now, they`re back at it again. On the heels of the Iranian
president`s maybe happy New Year`s wish to the Jewish people, yesterday,
the new Iranian president gave an interview and said, basically, yes, I
acknowledge that the Holocaust happened. He described the Holocaust as a
crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews. He called it
reprehensible, condemnable. He then proceeded to repeat those comments in
meetings with news media executives and reporters later in the day.
OK, that is a huge deal, given his predecessor`s career of denying the
Holocaust, right? This is a big deal -- unless you work for the news
agency, in which case it never happened.
Look, see the "exclusive" there, Fars reporting exclusively, they say,
that CNN has fabricated the Iranian president`s remarks about the
Holocaust. They even came up with a color-coded transcript system to
explain what they meant.
See, red means the president`s words were completely altered. Yellow
means they were partially altered. And the underlined parts are the worst
parts of the fabrications.
So the most damning combo they want you to look for is both red and
underlined. Holocaust would be red and underlined. And also, whatever
criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn.
He definitely never said that. Completely altered and fabricated.
President didn`t acknowledge nothing like that. CNN made it all up.
Translation was wrong.
And, indeed, the Iranian president did speak in Farsi in the
interview. There was an interpreter. But you know what? That interpreter
was provided by the Iranian government.
I don`t know if you don`t like your job, possible you don`t. If you
don`t, I`m sorry. But if you don`t like your job you can still feel better
about the fact that your job is better than those poor saps who work at
Fars news agency for the Iranian government. Their jobs really suck.
That does it for us tonight. Thanks for being with us.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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