'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, November 14th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
November 14, 2013
Guest: Jonathan Gruber, Wayne Slater
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It was amazing to hear him be like, yes,
not exactly my cup of tea, but I understand why they do it. That was
incredible. We`ve actually got coming up some Texas perspective on why
George Bush might not be backing out of this. And that`s coming up this
Thanks, Chris. Thanks, man.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
This is the Web site for repeal Romneycare! This is what you get if
you go to the registered website that used to be RepealRomneycare.com.
Look, it`s in Japanese!
I have seen a lot of spam Web sites in my day, but I have seen very
few spam Web sites that unexpectedly pop up on your computer, in Japanese.
I do not read Japanese, so I do not know if the Google translate function
is just worse for Japanese than it is for other languages, but I got to
tell you, at least from Google`s perspective, the RepealRomneycare.com Web
site now offers -- I think it`s like nail art, that you were supposed to
use specifically in preparing for your wedding, maybe?
It also says the days of the week are fire, water, tree, gold, soil,
day, and month. So, there`s that, grain of salt, right?
Whoever used to be maintaining RepealRomneycare.com has obviously
really let it go. Back in the day, the Repeal Romneycare movement did try
to organize a petition drive. They did try to get the repeal of
Massachusetts health reform on to the ballot for a statewide vote.
And it works in Massachusetts like it does in every state. You need
to get your ballot language approved by the state, then you need to get a
certain number of signatures, but if you clear that number of signatures
and it turns out enough of those signatures are real people, then your
repeal thing goes on the ballot and people get to vote on whether or not to
repeal that law.
The Repeal Romneycare folks never got to the end of that process,
because they got distracted. See, the whole effort to repeal health reform
in Massachusetts seems to have actually been kind of a pet project, maybe a
side interest, for one single anti-abortion group in that state. And even
though the group said they really wanted to Repeal Romneycare and they got
the Repeal Romneycare URL and they got the Web site up and everything, they
ended up losing interest.
I think, because Massachusetts decided that they were going to
consider a doctor-assisted suicide measure and that excited the anti-
abortion people more than Repeal Romneycare, so all their petition
gatherers started working on that instead, and they never got it together.
They never got enough signatures to put repeal Romneycare on the ballot.
And so, it never went on the ballot. And that was sort of the last that
was ever heard of the grassroots uprising in Massachusetts to repeal health
reform. Now, the only sign of it is Japanese spam for wedding prep nail
By the time Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was leaving office in
that state, he was really unpopular there. In the month that Massachusetts
voters went to the polls to choose his successor, to decide whether or not
they would hire Mitt Romney`s lieutenant governor to continue his vision or
whether they would switch to the guy from the other party, Mitt Romney`s
approval rating was desperately underwater.
Look at that, 34 percent of the state approved of him, 65 percent of
the state disapproved of him. That was November 2006. And that month when
Massachusetts voters went to the polls, Mr. Romney`s lieutenant governor
lost that election by 21 points.
By the time Mr. Romney was on his way out of Massachusetts and on his
way to go badly lose the Republican primary for the presidential election
that time around, he was being replaced in the statehouse in Massachusetts
by essentially his polar political opposite, by a proudly progressive
Democrat who pledged to repeal a lot of things that Mitt Romney had done.
Remember, Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to recognize
same-sex marriage. Mitt Romney hated that. And during his time as
governor, he banned gay couples from anywhere else in the country from
coming into Massachusetts in order to get married. Deval Patrick reversed
that policy of Mitt Romney`s right away.
Mitt Romney had opposed stem cell research. He tried to ban that in
Massachusetts. Deval Patrick, when he took over, he lifted those
restrictions right away and unbanned it.
Mitt Romney had pulled Massachusetts out of a regional effort in the
Northeast to control greenhouse gases. When Deval Patrick took office, he
reversed that decision right away. He put Massachusetts back into that
Governor Deval Patrick was sworn in on January 4th. It was only two
weeks later, by January 18th, the Romney denialism on climate change was
over, and Massachusetts was back in the world of science.
Here`s the really interesting thing, though. That same month, when
Mitt Romney left office and Deval Patrick got sworn in, and all of those
leftover policies the from the Romney era got reversed, that same month,
the other thing that happened in Massachusetts is that Romneycare started.
The month that Mitt Romney left office, January 2007, that`s the same month
that Massachusetts residents were supposed to start enrolling in the
Massachusetts version of health reform which was, after all, Mitt Romney`s
signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts.
Remember his official gubernatorial oil portrait? Shows him with a
flag. Also with a picture of his wife, which I think, it`s clear in
retrospect, is obviously supposed to signify not just his marriage, but
also marriage, as in, hey Republican caucus voters in Iowa, I tried to stop
this gay marriage thing, I tried, I swear. Look at me! Married to a
The only other thing in his gubernatorial portrait was a little folder
on the desk next to him with the -- I never know how to say this word --
caduceus, the little snakey medical symbol, that obviously signifies his
marquee policy achievement as governor. The Massachusetts plan to
basically get everybody in the state covered by health insurance,
And that first month that people were supposed to start enrolling on
the state`s Web site, that first month, the entire first month of
enrollment, after the ad campaign by the Red Sox trying to get everybody to
sign up, after wall-to-wall press coverage, not just in the state, but
nationwide about this landmark, first in the nation new thing, after all
that publicity, after all the billboards, after the TV ads, and when it
finally came time to sign up -- did not go well.
In the first month, look at this, terrible! Terrible! A grand total
of 123 people signed up. Oh, that`s awful. But they kept plugging away.
And the 123 enrollees in the first month became 2,000 people by the end of
the second month. By the end of the third month, they were up to 5,000
people. And it kept going.
There were definitely glitches along the way. The Web site didn`t
work very well at first. They had to keep tweaking the law. They changed
certain rules about what benefits had to be covered.
At one point, they even had to change the way that Massachusetts
businesses were allowed to count their number of employees. The
legislature went back and did a really big fix, pretty wide-reaching, about
medical billing and other stuff related to costs and standardization across
the state. There were a bunch of different fixes they had to do in order
to make it work. But they kept making those fixes and they kept plugging
away and kept making improvements where they found problems. And those
terrible, terrible initial enrollment numbers rose over time.
And the law is now essentially considered to be fully implemented and
it is a success -- 97 percent of people in the state of Massachusetts have
health insurance. Massachusetts did not lose lots of businesses because of
more people having health insurance, the overall cost of health care in the
state stopped rising as fast as it had been rising. And not incidentally,
a group of people across the state that is larger than entire population of
the city of Boston, which used to not have insurance, that group now has
It worked in Massachusetts. Even though it started off terribly, it
And here`s the fascinating thing. Now that we nationally are
implementing, essentially, exactly the same policy for the country, that
Massachusetts already piloted, people have understandably been looking back
to the Massachusetts example to see how it went for them in the early days.
To try to get some context as to whether or not the troubles that are
happening right now in the nation rollout have any parallel with this state
program that we know now ended up working out all right.
"The Washington Post" recently did a fact check of some of the
comparisons people are making of the new national law to what happened in
Massachusetts, and when they went back to look at those early enrollment
numbers in Massachusetts, they found, yes, those early enrollment numbers
were terrible, they were really, really low. But the most amazing thing,
they were unable to find any news coverage of those terrible numbers.
Yes, you can, now go back and document it and figure it out, that it
went terribly. That only 123 people signed up in the whole first month of
Romneycare. But in order to do that, in order to document it, you have to,
like, interview the statisticians who have access to the old data who might
be able to look it up for you, because there were really no contemporaneous
news stories about those numbers being bad while they were bad. And that
is because nobody was trying to make political hay out of the numbers being
bad at that time.
Yes, Mitt Romney w really unpopular and he was gone. And Deval
Patrick came in and started reversing a lot of things that Mitt Romney had
done. Mitt Romney`s chosen successor got beat by more than 20 points.
But you know what? Nobody was trying to kill health reform. Nobody
was trying to make a political point about the terribleness of this new law
and how awful it was going to be and how it had to be stopped and how any
early sign of trouble in the implementation proved that there was no way
that it was going to work.
So there were no stories, no news stories about, at least no news
stories that we can find now about how bad the early enrollment numbers.
Nobody was writing about these numbers as if they were newsworthy and
politically important thing in Massachusetts while that implementation was
ruling out -- even as Mitt Romney left office with these terrible numbers.
Even after he spent his last year in office, traveling the country, telling
the rest of the country how terrible Massachusetts is, and that`s why he
should be president, because he`d been governor in this terrible, horrible
place, and he`d made the best of it, but, boy, what an awful place
Massachusetts really hated him by the time he left. Again, they
rejected his lieutenant governorship by 20 points. They gave the
governorship to somebody from the opposite party who could not stand a lot
of Mitt Romney`s policies and they started flipping them like pancakes as
soon as he got into office and has the chance. But there was never any
serious question that Massachusetts was rooting for health reform to fail,
that anybody in the state, anybody in the politics was going to try to make
political hay by hoping that people wouldn`t get health insurance, by
hoping for failure.
Yes, there was a Repeal Romneycare effort. I found it today. It is
now a Japanese nail art kind of vaguely porny-seeming spam Web site
associated with an all-but-defunct anti-abortion group that tried for a hot
second to run a campaign against it before they got -- oh, squirrel! --
they got distracted -- oh, squirrel! They got distracted, squirrel!
They couldn`t even keep it together to try to get the petitions done
in order to get it on the ballot, let alone get it on the ballot. Grr,
squirrel! It wasn`t a really serious effort.
Massachusetts` experience with health reform, Romneycare, is the
blueprint for what we are now doing at the national level. And don`t take
my word for it. Ask the people who are implementing this law at the
national level, see? Massachusetts is the blueprint for the Affordable
The policies are almost identical. What`s different is the politics.
The one thing that Massachusetts did not have that we do have nationally is
one-half of the political spectrum openly rooting for failure, rooting for
people to not get health insurance. People scouring every detail of the
law`s initial implementation, looking for every glitch, every difficulty,
every bump as an occasion to insist that this law obviously is a failure
and can never work and should be done away with it.
And you know what, I mean, objectively speaking, it is true that the
Republican plan does work better. What a debacle, mine works just fine.
Anytime your plan is nothing, anytime your plan is no plan, your plan
is to do nothing, that is always a much easier thing to do than anybody
planning to do something. For the record, if you do want to compare what
we`re going through right now nationally with what Massachusetts went
through back in 2007, national enrollment is actually going much faster
than it did in Massachusetts. In both cases, the first month numbers were
really low, but in terms of the percentage of the total number of people
that they enrolled in their first year or that are expected to enroll in
the first year nationally, the national enrollment pace is five times what
it was in Massachusetts at this point.
And who knows if that will prove to be significant? I mean,
Massachusetts is a helpful example in that it is a statewide pilot project
for this exact policy that we are pursuing at the national level. So it is
helpful to look at that, helpful to compare how it worked for them versus
how it is working for us now as a nation.
Massachusetts seven years down the road from putting this policy in
place has found that it is working. It took work to make it work. It took
tweaks and fixes.
But it`s working. It is a successful policy. And if we are able to
follow that same path, there is no reason to think that this couldn`t be
successful nationally either.
But are we able to follow that same path?
While Massachusetts had nobody but the utterly irrelevant and
incompetent far-right fringe rooting for failure at the state level,
nationally now, it is the whole reason for the Republican Party`s existence
to root for the failure of this plan.
Today, President Obama announced a fix in the implementation of
national health reform. He announced that because of criticism, he would
change the law to grandfather in people`s old plans that do not meet the
new standards of what a health plan is supposed to offer. Only a very
small proportion of people will be affected by this rule change, but the
criticism on that aspect of health reform has just been deafening.
Today`s change in empirical terms will not have a significant effect
on health reform overall, but because of the megaphone that Republicans,
and it has to be said, the media, have put on any and all criticism of any
aspect of this law, this policy tweet today was treated as earth-shattering
news in Washington.
And now, Republicans have to decide if they are happy with this fix
that was announced today, this fix to what they`ve been complaining about
so loudly. Or whether they will demand that the law not be fixed, because
then, heaven forbid, the law might work.
Joining us now is Jonathan Gruber. He`s a professor of economics at
MIT. He was a key architect of the Massachusetts health reform effort. He
also served as an adviser to the White House and to Congress on the
Affordable Care Act.
Professor Gruber, thank you for being us.
JONATHAN GRUBER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR AT MIT: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, last month in Boston, President Obama said he is
confident national health reform will work because Massachusetts has shown
that this model of policy works. Do you see it that way? After the
initial implementation glitches are fixed and tweaks are made and the
website is fixed, do you think the national law should be expected to work
like the one in Massachusetts?
GRUBER: Rachel, I can think of no other major law in our nation`s
history, where we`ve piloted it first in this way. And we piloted it in
Massachusetts, and it worked. And it`s the same basic structure. And I
think it will work and be successful.
It won`t be exactly the same, but it`s going to follow the same basic
successful pattern as in Massachusetts. We just have to be patient and
recognize it takes time. It took about a year for us to ramp up
enrollment. Really, it was about three years until enrollment was at its
full, steady state level. We have to be patient and not measure the
outcome in days and minutes, but rather, months and years.
MADDOW: We`re talking about ramping up enrollment, again, on the
Massachusetts model of one to three years, as you just described it, I
think about one to three years in political time, as a very long time.
When the Massachusetts plan went into effect, if there had been a powerful,
concerted effort by state legislatures and, say, mayors around the state,
to try to make the law fail, could they have interfered with it. Could
they have screwed up their chances for success if they were really
determined to do so?
GRUBER: I think it`s possible. It`s hard to know. As you said, we
really didn`t have that kind of opposition. The Massachusetts
implementation was really in the hands of a board of which I was a member,
which we had to make these implementation decisions that you mentioned.
But it`s just -- Rachel, it`s just hard to say, because as I say, we
didn`t face that opposition. To be honest, I was on the board. I was as
involved with Massachusetts health care reform as anyone in the state, and
I did not know the 123 number until I went back to look it up.
GRUBER: We just weren`t paying attention to that. We figured it
would take a year or so and we are taking that perspective on it.
MADDOW: What do you make of the change that the president announced
today? People whose plans that are going away because of the new law will
be offered a chance to keep them if they want them for another year. How
significant does that change seem to you?
GRUBER: I think it`s a shame that we have to be discussing this.
Look, everyone in America, or this broad agreement in America, that we need
to move to a nondiscriminatory health insurance market, where people are
not excluded for pre-existing condition and the sick and the healthy alike
pay the same rate, the Obamacare plan is the minimally disruptive way to
get to that goal. If you agree with that goal, there is no way to get
there that has less disruption than the Obamacare plan.
And yet there is still a little disruption. Some people have bad
plans or who are benefiting from existing discrimination in the market will
have to pay more. I think that is a small price to pay for the tens of
millions of Americans who will finally be able to have access to health
insurance. But apparently it`s too big a price to pay for the political
system, so President Obama had to make this adjustment.
I don`t think it`s fundamental. I do think it`s a shame that we`re
even having this conversation and not focusing on the benefits that this
law is going to deliver for many, many times as many people.
MADDOW: There will need -- undoubtedly, there will need to be more
fixes over time for the national law, just as there were in Massachusetts.
Do you foresee an evolution of this law, where most of those fixes can
happen in the way that we saw today, as sort of an executive branch
decisions, or is a constructive Congress going to be necessary in order to
adjust and grow and tweak this law, so it works as time goes on?
GRUBER: I think there`s no way you can do it eventually without a
constructive Congress. Take a look at Medicare. The largest single --
going to be the largest single social insurance program we have in our
nation before this plan.
OK, the biggest change to that program ever actually happened 38 years
after the program was introduced in 2003, when President Bush introduced a
drug benefit into the plan. But that took legislative approval. I don`t
see any way that we can fix this law, fix the things that are wrong with
it, until Congress finally gets away -- until the Republicans get away from
a position of just trying to defeat it to a position of trying to actually
MADDOW: Jonathan Gruber, economics proffer at MIT, former adviser to
the White House, that was an intensely clarifying discussion for me.
Thanks for your tonight. Nice to have you here.
GRUBER: My pleasure to be here.
All right. Lots to come tonight, including a crash course on how to
be really, really bad at the job of former president of the United States.
It`s a job not that many people have it, but now we know what it looks like
to stink at that job.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20th of this
year caused the kind of destruction that your mind has trouble processing,
even after all this time. It was total devastation. The tornado that day
hit at 2:56 p.m. It leveled entire neighborhoods, including two elementary
schools that were still in session for the day.
Twenty-four people, including nine children, died in that storm. The
damage that that tornado did to Moore, Oklahoma, was beyond what most of us
can imagine, both in terms of its force and in terms of its breadth. The
storm was on the ground for approximately 40 minutes. It traveled along a
17-mile path of densely populated Oklahoma in the suburbs of Oklahoma City.
But beyond the metrics of its power and its duration and its course,
what was really unusual about the Moore tornado, almost shocking at the
time, even in Oklahoma, where tornadoes happen a lot, what was most amazing
about that storm and unusual about it was how wide it was.
We think of tornadoes as twisters, right? As narrow columns of
swirling wind that, sure, pack a punch, but that pack a very, very, very
narrowly targeted punch. We think of tornadoes as the pinpoint strike of
the storm world.
But that tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, was huge. It was 1.3 miles wide
on the ground. It was not a pinpoint strike. It was as wide as 23
football fields laid end to end, while it was on the ground. Tornado-
forced winds more than a mile across. That was Moore, Oklahoma, May 20th.
And then less than two weeks later, that storm in Moore was dwarfed by
an even bigger tornado, which hit El Reno, Oklahoma. El Reno wasn`t 1.3
miles across, like Moore was. El Reno was double that, 2.6 miles across,
on the ground!
The El Reno storm is less remembered now, because it struck a less
populated area and therefore did less damage than Moore, but that El Reno
tornado was the largest storm of that kind ever recorded on earth. Before
El Reno, there has never before been a tornado that was more than 2.5 miles
wide on the ground. And its wind speed was almost the fastest ever
recorded on Earth as well. The El Reno tornado had wind speeds of up to
296 miles per hour. The fastest wind speeds ever recorded on Earth are
only 5 miles an hour faster than that, and they did not come in a storm
These storms this year would have been terrifying and incredibly
destructive, even at a fraction of their size. But it seems important to
know that with all of our experience of tornadoes in this country, we have
never before faced storm as big as what hit us this year. And globally
speaking, the same goes for hurricanes.
Up to now, the strongest hurricane ever recorded on earth was Camille,
which hit Mississippi in the gulf coast in 1969. Camille had wind speeds
of 190 miles an hour, fastest ever recorded for a hurricane, until now.
The storm that hit the Philippines late last week shattered that
record. Camille was 190 miles an hour. The wind speeds for Typhoon Haiyan
are estimated to have been 220, 225. The fastest hurricane speeds ever
recorded on earth. Haiyan is called a typhoon, not a hurricane, but
typhoon is just a word used for a hurricane-type storm when it hits in a
different part of the world.
So in one year, we have had the largest tornado ever recorded on
Earth, and we have had the fastest hurricane ever recorded on Earth. And
they`ve hit within six months of each other.
In climate science, in the insurance business, in public policy, they
always stipulate that you cannot attribute the size or strength, or shape
of anyone particular storm or weather event to climate change, so
stipulated, OK? It is also, however, willful blindness to not just observe
that we are now experiencing more storms of record intensity. And that is
the global calamity adjunct to the national calamity that has befallen the
Philippines, where Haiyan came ashore.
This is what the aftermath looks like, still, nearly a week later in
the city that took the brunt of Haiyan`s destructive force. And aid is
getting into some places in the Philippines, but it is not enough and it is
not to enough places yet. The head of humanitarian efforts for the U.N.
today said so very bluntly. She said, quote, "We have let people down,
because we have not been able to get in more quickly. We are all extremely
distressed that we have not managed to reach everyone."
But the effort to reach everyone now is mammoth and well underway.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier George Washington and four other ships are
at the scene of the storm now. A U.S. Navy cargo ship as transported food
and water to Tacloban, with more to follow there.
The sister ship to the USNS Comfort, remember, the Comfort was the
U.S. hospital ship that was deployed to Haiti after the earthquake there,
the Comfort`s sister ship is called the Mercy and they`ve been called to
active duty and starting to prepare for a potential mission in the
This storm has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. The
U.S. says that the death toll has reached almost 4,500 people. It`s still
not known what the final toll in human life will be.
But one major task in the efforts to preserve life now is the
collection and burial of dead bodies. Yesterday, the mayor of Tacloban
told his city`s residents to get out if possible, to just flee if they
could. To try to find shelter and food with relatives, to do anything they
could to leave.
There have also been reports of looting. One fatal stampede at an aid
station today. Crowds trying to obtain food and supplies that are coming
in too slowly and not enough yet.
Mitigating a calamity of this scale right now in the central
Philippines is a task almost beyond description. Experts who study huge
storms say that the super typhoon that hit there essentially set a new
standard. Quote, "It is as strong a typhoon as you can get, basically."
Quote, "It is about as strong as tropical cyclones can get on Earth."
By warming the planet, we have raised the speed limit. We have raised
the thermodynamic speed limit that we thought defined the upper reaches of
how big and how fast storms can get. And of course, the immediate need is
to help the people who survived this latest, biggest ever storm in the
world -- while at the same time, acclimating ourselves to the fact that
this, too, is probably just a momentary, terrible record that itself is
waiting to be broken.
MADDOW: According to the public polling, and ultimately the election
that took place in our country at the end of 2008, Americans decided that
they were really over George W. Bush. The signature flavor of his failure
as a president was, of course, his inclination to make decisions without
necessarily understanding all of the consequences, and then to doggedly
stick with those decisions, even when it was clear they were terribly,
terribly wrong. Do you remember that? Do you remember those eight years?
The absence of contrition, the refusal to change course, no matter how
obviously wrong the course?
Well, in the four years and 10 months of George W. Bush`s post-
presidency, including and especially tonight, it appears that what you
remember about the guy really has not changed, now to a whole new effect.
And that story is ahead.
MADDOW: In 2009, hundreds of thousands of people filled the AT&T
Center in San Antonio, Texas, for this!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER: Or San Antonio.
All right. Ladies and gentlemen, that person sitting next to you,
(INAUDIBLE) with you. We`re about to do our beach party. We`re about to
take this day, your life, your week, your year to the next level. If you
think you`re ready to do that, I can`t wait to hear the San Antonio scream.
One, two, three! Make some noise!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Make some noise!
I never got the beach party part of it? Also, it`s a song about
Detroit. Anyway. It`s exciting, though! Hah!
That was the get motivated business seminar in San Antonio, Texas.
That year, the seminar hosted quite a lineup of motivators, including
Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, San Antonio Spurs basketball
player Tony Parker, a famous megachurch minister who I don`t recognize,
also, Zig Zigler, who is America`s self-proclaimed number one motivational
speaker. And also, this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I want to share some lessons about
what I learned as president by describing the rest of the Oval Office to
you. Now, at the Oval Office, obviously, there`s no corners to hide in.
So when you come into the Oval Office and you`re there to brief the
president, you better know what you`re talking about. And the president
has a team of people around him who are willing to tell --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So this is not the best video quality you will ever see, but
you recognize the voice, right, and the whole Oval Office bit, right? That
was the 43rd president of the United States, of course, George W. Bush,
about a year after he left the White House.
Think about the timing there. That means the American economy was
still a burning wreckage. But there he is, appearing at a get motivated
seminar, to get people motivated in Texas.
Last year, right before the presidential election, with President
Obama facing a Republican challenge from private equity zillionaire, Mitt
Romney, who was facing lots of criticism for offshoring he has personal
wealth in places like the Cayman Islands in order to avoid paying U.S.
taxes, right before the presidential election last year, in early November
2012, President Bush decided to speak at another conference. This one he
had to fly to. It was the Cayman Islands Alternative Investment Summit.
The most recent Republican president of the United States headlining
an invest your money in the Cayman Islands conference at the exact time
that the new presidential nominee of his own party was enduring 24-hour-a-
day speculation about stuffing his personal money in Cayman Islands tax
There is no job description for how an ex-president is supposed to
behave, or for how an ex-president is supposed to make a living. But our
most recent ex-president, George W. Bush, has decided to make his living,
at least in part, for giving speeches for money, even when it is hugely
political awkward like in the Cayman Islands, and even when it is mildly
exploitative and fairly embarrassing, like the get rich quick motivated
Well, in that spirit, former President George W. Bush tonight is the
keynote speaker at a fund-raiser for something called the Messianic Jewish
Bible Institute. It was first reported in "Mother Jones" on Thursday night
of last week.
If you want to go to this event at the Messianic Jewish Bible
Institute, you`re too late. It`s on right now.
Mr. Bush has spoken to lots of groups since he was president,
including lots of different types of religious assemblages. What makes
this group different is that the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute is a Jews
for Jesus group. They`re trying to make Jewish people accept Jesus as the
messiah, because they think if they convert enough Jews to that belief,
that will bring about the second coming and the end of the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bible predicted the day would come, declared
the day would come when that blindness would come off of the eyes of the
people that it all begun with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the blindness comes off of the eyes of the
Jewish people and the days we`re living in, our job will get bigger and
bigger and bigger until all Israel shall be saved. Help us to raise up an
army, an end time army that will bring about God`s promised redemption of
The greatest blessing you can give a Jewish person is the gospel, and
then disciple them into an abundant life in the Lord.
Every contribution matters. If it`s a dollar, a hundred dollars, a
thousand dollars, a million dollars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes resources -- it takes resources to expand
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is everybody`s prerogative to believe whatever they
believe and to have their own theology and to pursue their own religion,
whatever they want to pursue. But if the greatest blessing that you can
give to a Jewish person is the gospel of another religion, to move them out
of their religion, to a new one, Jewish people will have an opinion about
George W. Bush raising money tonight for a group that is trying to
convert Jewish people to the Christian gospel has a lot of Jewish people
and Jewish leaders miffed at the former president. Why is he doing this?
It may be that George W. Bush always believed I trying to convert the
Jews in order to bring Christ back to earth and start the rapture. Maybe
he always wanted that. And he only maintained good relations with the
Jewish people through his presidency by hiding that belief. And now that
he`s not president, he doesn`t have to hide it anymore. Maybe.
Or maybe he didn`t know what he was getting himself into here. If so,
he`s got to know now, now that so many prominent Jewish groups and leaders
are up in arms that he is doing it, including the Jewish community of
If he didn`t realize what he was getting himself into, and that`s how
he got himself into this mess, why hasn`t he backed out? Once he realized
Joining us now is Wayne Slater, senior political writer for "The
Dallas Morning News." He`s also the author of "Bush`s Brain."
Wayne, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here tonight.
WAYNE SLATER, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Great to be with you, Rachel,
MADDOW: What are you hearing from political circles in Texas about
the president`s speech tonight? Are people in Texas surprised that he`s
SLATER: You know, clearly, there are a group of people, and the
Jewish community and elsewhere among many Christians who are asking the
question, what was he thinking?! Scratching their heads and really saying,
this is -- does he understand how deeply offensive what this group is
preaching and advancing is to a lot of people.
But to be honest with you, Rachel, there is a very long, very large
Christian evangelical community in Texas who may not understand the
fundamentals of this, but see the idea of proselytizing, group that`s just
proselytizing and converting nonbelievers to Christianity, as part of the
message of Christianity, part of the great commission -- when you go out
and make disciples of all nations.
There`s also, I think another subset, and that`s a group of
evangelicals, and I`m not saying that George Bush is with this group, I`ve
never talked to him directly about this, but another group of evangelicals
who know exactly what this group is doing, who understand that the end
times eschatology that`s being preached here is one of the last chapter,
for the Jews anyway, is convert or die. That`s why it`s offensive to many
Jews. They lose their religion in this process.
But many Christians, and I think George Bush is one of those, at the
beginning didn`t realize what this was all about.
MADDOW: Well, people who usually are all right with him represent
leaders from the Jewish community who worked with him during his
administration. Even if they disagreed with him on some political matters,
who always felt mutual respect from him, people who like him are really mad
at him about this. How do you think he`s going to respond to this?
I mean, does he just brush this off and pretend that nobody minds?
His comments from his spokesperson and from unnamed people close to him, so
far, have been defiant, almost willfully disbelieving that anybody`s got a
problem with it.
Do you think he just doesn`t address the controversy at all?
SLATER: George Bush doesn`t do reverse very well. Never has.
And my sense is at the very beginning, he did not really recognize the
deep sensitivity of what this group is all about. I think there was a --
he, like many evangelical Christians, saw it as a proselytizing mechanism.
It was a place that was probably going to pay him a lot of money. We don`t
now that. But I think your lead in and the implications we get here is
this is probably a pretty good paycheck for the speech tonight.
But fundamentally, when George Bush made decisions as president and
there`s no reason to believe he changes, when he`s made a decision, that`s
his decision, come hell or high water. And I think that`s probably what
happened here. He`s dug in his heels, said, I`m not going to change, I see
no reason to change.
Although I`m wondering if he probably will never address this group
again in the future, because of the controversy that it`s caused.
MADDOW: Wayne, we do not know if he`s being paid for this. And I
also don`t mean to be insensitive in the question, but I have to ask, is
there any -- if he is getting paid a lot of money for this speech, and he`s
not backing down in the face of criticism, even from friends, is there any
reason to believe that he really, really needs the money, that they`re
offering him so much money that he can`t afford to turn it down. Is there
any reason to believe that he`s broke?
SLATER: There isn`t, Rachel. In fact, if we look at his finances,
when he went to the White House, much of his stuff is in bonds. Much of
his stuff is in very safe treasury notes and so forth. And there`s no
reason to think that he doesn`t have a lot of money or certainly is not
But he`s the son of a president who went out and made money. Bill
Clinton made money. And I can remember that George Bush, remember in the
final weeks and months of his presidency, kind of looked at Clinton and
said, gee, that guy is going out and making a lot of money. Some people
interpreted that as criticism. Others said, gee, I think George Bush sees
an opportunity here.
It`s not that he`s broke, I believe, it`s just that, you know what, in
Texas and in a lot of places, what`s wrong with making a little bit more?
MADDOW: Wow. Wayne Slater, senior political writer for "The Dallas
Morning News," the author of "Bush`s Brain," of course, Wayne, thanks for
helping us understand the this tonight. Really appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. In conservative politics, there`s right, there`s
far-right, and there`s Mississippi neo-confederate right. What the last
one on that list can never do if he wants to get elected in Mississippi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out here, flying at a height of up to 1,400 feet,
the clouds are puffy white and brilliantly lighted but cast dark shadows on
a wave capped water below.
MADDOW: Ooh, I want to go there. I want to see the puffy white
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s been a long time since we made a fake ad. That one was
from we made inspirational campaign style ads out of BP`s press releases
after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Well, tonight, our in-house fake advertising agency has been pressed
in to service in for a needy, would be politician of the neo-confederate
This guy has been done wrong by the lamestream media. And we are here
to help him, and that is straight ahead.
MADDOW: Among the highest profile incumbent Republicans who is in big
trouble right now with his right flank is conservative Mississippi Senator
Thad Cochran. The man to Mr. Cochran`s right, who has seen enough of Thad
Cochran`s his lily livered, not conservative enough-ism is this guy, State
Senator Chris McDaniel, who says he wants to launch a Tea Party primary
challenge against Senator Cochran from the right, even though he looks like
As soon as Chris McDaniel declared those intentions, he picked up
endorsements from a bunch of big time right wing Washington groups in
Washington, like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth.
But then, interesting political science conundrum. Last month, after
Chris McDaniel picked up those big-time national group endorsements, after
they already endorsed him, "Mother Jones" reported Chris McDaniel`s history
with pro-secession groups in Mississippi, including him headlining events
for neo-confederate groups.
And that brings up the whole question of whether the whole South rise
again with a sharp bayonet thing is OK now. Is that OK with the Republican
Party and big time Washington conservative groups? Would anyone maintain
their endorsement with Chris McDaniel? Would he get any new Washington
endorsements after his affiliation with neo confederate groups came to
light? Interesting question.
Turns out the answer is: no problem. It`s totally OK. It`s totally
fine to be down with the Confederacy. Now, in 2013. Even after Chris
McDaniel`s neo-confederate lifestyle became known, he got another big
national conservative group to endorse him. He got a big endorsement from
Then, today, the Senate Conservatives Fund, which had endorsed him
before went ahead and released a new Chris McDaniel for Senate.
So, this is an interesting test case. It turns out that neo-
confederate is on the things that are totally okay to be if you are running
for U.S. Senate as a Republican. As far as mainstream groups in Washington
are concerned that`s not a problem. There maybe a line somewhere, but
believing that the South shall secede from the Union again, that`s not
across the line.
We learned that this week, and thank you, FreedomWorks. Thank you,
Senate Conservatives Fund.
But, now, we have also learned something else. We have also learned,
in this instance what is across the line. Neo-confederacy, no problem this
side of the line. But do you know what is across the line? What`s a
bridge too far? Voting once, ever, as a Democrat.
The whole treason against the United States thing -- no problem. But
if you might conceivably have had a bipartisan impulse at one point in your
life, get out of here!
Another potential Republican challenger for Thad Cochran apparently
did a little oppo research on Chris McDaniel and found that he once may
have voted as a Democratic in a primary ten years ago. Having lived with
the reporting that he was a neo-confederate, Chris McDaniel has decided to
not stand for this new reporting, he called the charge about him voting
Democratic desperate and tacky.
Surely, the Chris McDaniel`s campaign will have to respond in a way
that reaches voters, though. One clip in a newspaper cannot possibly be
enough to defend his sullied honor. And so, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW fake ad
consultancy got a head start for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: How low will people go during Mississippi`s campaign season
and when is enough enough?
Take the smear campaign against conservative Republican hopeful Chris
McDaniel. Here is the left-wing media`s inflammatory headline about
McDaniel. "Mississippi Senate candidate says he didn`t speak at neo-
Leave it to the left-wing lamestream media to tell you half the story.
Turns out Chris McDaniel`s missed the August neo-confederate conference,
but he gave the keynote speech to the neo-confederate conference in June.
Somehow the liberal headliners writer left that out. He is, too, a neo-
confederate secessionist. He is, too.
But if that wasn`t bad enough, try this smear on for size --
Mississippi Tea Party challenger voted as a Democrat in 2003.
Voted as a Democrat? Voted as a Democrat? It`s one thing to say a
man missed a speech at the neo-confederate nullifying separatists. This is
But voting as a Democrat? That`s just low.
You could say a lot of things about Chris McDaniel but don`t you ever
say he voted Democrat. Liberals and RINOs, you just crossed line.
I`m not Chris McDaniel, who did not approve and will probably unaware
of this fake message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Coming soon to a TV machine near you, Mississippi. Coming
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Have a great night.
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