ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
November 21, 2013
Guest: Tom Udall, Tim Kaine, Alan Frumin, Jim Manley, Jared Bernstein,
Dean Baker; William Vanden Heuvel, Jim Lehrer
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
And it is a historic, momentous day in the history of U.S. political
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), PRESIDENT OFFICER: The threshold for
cloture on nominations, not including those of the Supreme Court of the
United States, is now a majority. That is the ruling of the chair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Today, for the first time in nearly 40 years, the Senate
changed its rules on filibusters, after a series of dramatic clashes over
the last few years and repeated threats by the majority leader that always
dissipated at the last moment.
But today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats finally
voted to eliminate the filibuster for executive nominees and judicial
nominees other than the Supreme Court. Majority Leader Reid, who had long-
resisted employing this, the so-called nuclear option, explained on the
Senate floor today why such an extraordinary measure was necessary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The American people believe
Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And
I believe the American people are right.
In the history of our country, some 230-plus years, there have been
168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. Half of them have
occurred during the Obama administration. It`s time to change the Senate
before this institution becomes obsolete.
Is the Senate working now? Can anyone say the Senate is working now?
I don`t think so.
Today, Democrats and independents are saying, enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Enough is enough. Republicans, rather predictably cried foul,
and with their ability to filibuster at will taken away, Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell was left to cry Obama care and threatened, you just
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Basically, this is all
the same debate. And rather than distract people from Obamacare, it only
reinforces the narrative of a party that is willing to do and say just
about anything to get its way. If you want to play games, set yet another
precedent that you`ll no doubt come to regret. And I say to my friends on
the other side of the aisle, you`ll regret this and you may regret it a lot
sooner than you think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: President Obama himself, a former senator and a dyed in the
wool institutionalist, like his Vice President Joe Biden, has been very
reluctant to muck with the rules.
And so today, he came before the country to explain why he was
supporting such a bold move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My judicial nominees
have waited nearly 2 1/2 times longer to receive yes-or-no votes on the
Senate floor than those of President Bush. And the ones who eventually do
get a vote generally are confirmed with little if any dissent. So, this
isn`t obstruction on substance, on qualifications, it`s just to gum up the
A few now refuse to treat that duty of advice and consent with the
respect that it deserves. It`s no longer used in a responsible way to
govern. It`s rather used as a reckless and relentless tool to grind all
business to a halt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Both sides delighted in pointing out the other side`s
procedural hypocrisy, considering just eight years ago, that each party was
on the opposite side. Beginning with then senate majority leader,
Republican Bill Frist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: We, 100 United States senators
will decide the question at hand, should we allow a minority of senators to
deny votes on judicial nominees that have the support of a majority of this
body? Or should we restore the 214-year practice of voting up or down on
all judicial nominees that come to this floor.
REID: Mr. President, the right to an extended debate is never more
important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In
these cases, a filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Today, Senate Majority Leader Reid used his Vine account to
point out Senator McConnell`s frequent calls for up-or-down votes on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Up or down vote should be given to presidential nominees.
Up or down vote. Up or down vote. All we`re looking for is an up or down
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What is not clear is what this means for the future of the
filibuster or for the senate going for or for the politics of President
Obama`s second term. What is clear that as of now, we have entered a new
era in the United States Senate.
Joining me now is Senator Tom Udall, Democrat from New Mexico.
And, Senator, it was you and Jeff Merkley, more than any other, too,
who came to Harry Reid early on when you first got to the United States
Senate and said we have to reform the filibuster, and you are in a distinct
minority, I think of the caucus at that point. Did you ever think you
would see this day?
SEN. TOM UDALL (D), MEXICO: I thought we were going to see this day,
because this was a victory for democracy and we`ve returned to the
Constitution, and I think it`s very important that we do that, so that we
can do the things we promised the American people we would do when we got
HAYES: How did it come about? I mean, I know from talking to Senator
Reid`s staff, from talking to Senator Reid himself, from other reports,
that Majority Leader Reid was -- what he said back in 2005, he meant.
Which is to say, he really did believe the importance of the filibuster,
the importance of Senate traditions, the importance of a voice for the
minority, particularly with lifetime appointments, he believed all that.
And he has now convinced he was wrong then and he`s right now. What
happened? What was the arc of trajectory?
UDALL: I think we hit such a level of dysfunction. You know, in
August, they were up against the wall, and put in nominees, and they said,
we`re going to go back to the extraordinary circumstances test.
Well, they didn`t. Two months later, we`re there again and blocking
nominees. There wasn`t a compromise this time. And so, I think it was
very important that the leader, majority leader of the Senate said, we`ve
had enough of this. Let`s move forward with democracy.
And this is -- as I said, a victim for democracy, and what it really
means, it`s about the things that we all care about, legislation, getting
them on the floor, having good debate, and returning to the glory days of
HAYES: Well, I may quibble with you a little bit about the glory days
of the Senate. The senate --
UDALL: There were great glory days in the `60s and `70s, with great
things they did.
HAYES: Well, it`s got a pockmarked record.
But I would say this -- I agree with you about this being an
affirmative win for democracy. If that is the case, why do we still have
the filibuster for legislation? It doesn`t seem to me that there`s any
rationale that there should be a super majority requirement for a bill to
reform the health care system or, you know, food stamps, anything like
that. When there`s no longer a supermajority requirement to put someone on
a district court bench.
UDALL: Well, as you know, that was part of our package, and I think
most of the senators that have been elected since 2006 and increasingly,
the old-time senators in our caucus realized we need to move to a talking
filibuster. So, we`re out in the open, we`re transparent. We know what`s
happening with these objections.
And if you really want to slow down something and delay it, then
you`ve got to come to the floor and take your desk and speak up, rather
than hiding behind a silent or stale filibuster.
HAYES: What about this objection that`s being raised by the other
side, which I think has a little more bite to it than the objection on the
filibuster was something amazing -- the idea of essentially changing the
rules in the middle of the game.
And that`s a phrase that then-Senator Barack Obama used, back in 2005
during this fight, that if this can be done, if just in the middle of a
regular week, the senate can call to order and say, you know what, we`re
changing the rules today, then, really, it is just a body that is governed
by the whims of the moment.
UDALL: Well, we need to have the restraint. I mean, as you know,
Senator Merkley and Senator Harkin and others, we have called for changes
in the rules at the beginning of a Congress, and then looking at them for
And so, I think you shouldn`t be doing this on a frequent basis, but
we hit the wall. I mean, this was a level of dysfunction and a level of
obstruction and delay. You know, the Constitution says advice and consent.
It doesn`t say obstruction and delay.
So, what we`re really focusing on is making sure that we come back to
democracy. That`s what this is all about.
HAYES: Back to democracy, Senator Tom Udall, thank you for your time
UDALL: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining me now, Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia.
And, Senator, one of the reasons I wanted to speak to you this evening
is that you have the good fortune of having not actually been in the United
States Senate during the last time this fight went down. And so, there is
no tape of you, as far as I know, defending the filibuster, its nobility,
its importance for the minorities to speak.
And so, you are free of the charges of procedural hypocrisy. But
those charges abound.
The question is: was then-Senator Barack Obama and Harry Reid, were
they wrong in 2005 as a general matter about the use of the filibuster?
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Well, you know, I wasn`t here, so I
don`t know how it was being --
HAYES: Well, you can render a judgment.
KAINE: I can render a judgment, my judgment is, we needed to make
this change. The way I pitched it, the Senate rules were being used to
nullify American law. This is what I have objected to in being here for 10
months. When the Republicans don`t like something, but they can`t muster
the votes to kill a program or a project or an agency, they try to defund
it or they try to decapitate it by not putting in the head.
So, they don`t like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
because the NRA is against it. For six years, we didn`t have a head of
KAINE: They don`t like the NLRB because it represents working people.
They try to deny putting in a quorum of commissioners at the NLRB.
And the D.C. circuit is a good example. It`s not the president that
says there`s 11 judges, it`s Congress.
KAINE: But they were using this filibuster to block the president
from filling the congressionally mandated slots. It`s nullifying law.
Just like the shutdown in October was trying to nullify -- well, we
don`t like Obamacare, we`ll shut the whole government down.
You cannot let the Senate rules be used to nullify the law.
HAYES: I think this is a crucially important distinction, because
there`s two elements here in the obstruction. There`s an empirical
obstruction on the number, right? Just the raw number of cloture motions
have gone up. And we saw that amazing statistic in the history of U.S.
republic. Half of all filibustered nominees have happened under President
HAYES: But there`s also this key point you`re making here, is that
it`s a difference in kind. The objection to, for instance, the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau, in which Republicans said, we simply do not
like the agency, ergo, we will confirm no one, we will filibuster everyone.
HAYES: That is a different kind of thing than what we`ve seen in the
KAINE: It absolutely is.
And let me give you another one. Mel Watt, to be head of the FHA.
KAINE: Let me tell you what folks say around here. There are
prominent donors on the Republican side who believe that the federal
government should not play a role in housing. So, they blocked Mel Watt
from being the head of the FHA to appease those donors. Even though they
would never even introduce a bill to repeal the FH or repeal the federal
housing, because the real state industry and home builders would go
So, they -- if they can`t get what they want because they can`t repeal
a law, they can`t beat it in court, they can`t win at the ballot box to get
enough people in Congress to repeal a law, they will defund or decapitate
or try to shut government down. The Senate rules can`t be used to nullify
American law. That`s why what we did today was so very important.
And, you know, Chris, it`s going to have one other benefit. We waste
so much time on the procedural maneuverings about appointments. By
shortening that now, there will be more time to actually debate and
consider the other most important job of Congress, which is legislation.
HAYES: What I see here, and I`m glad you brought the shut down, is an
evolving set of dispositions in the two parties. In which the Republican
Party is increasingly viewing itself as a minority party that is embattled
and has to come up with different means of sabotage and subterfuge in order
to get its agenda passed or to politic the rising Obama coalition.
And the Democratic Party is increasingly confident. I think part of
what happened in 2005 wasn`t just that the parties were switched in a
majority/minority status. It was that Democrats weren`t confident that
they were going to be able to win national majorities. And they are now.
And I`m not sure Republicans are confident of the same.
KAINE: Well, I think that`s a good point, I`ll tell you, the
confidence goes a little bit further on the Democratic side.
Before we cast this vote, we all asked ourselves, would we be
comfortable with this as a state of affairs if we were in the minority,
with a Republican president, and we all said yes. Here`s why?
The election of a president carries with it a mandate to assemble a
team. We -- if there`s a day that I`m in the minority and I see a
presidential nominee from a Republican president I don`t like, I`m going to
do my research, I`m going to make my most persuasive case, about why the
individual shouldn`t be in.
But if a majority of the colleagues in the Senate, elected by the
American people feel like that`s somebody that should be in office, then
that should be the net result, even if I happen to vote against it.
I`m confident that the process will work, whether I`m in the majority
or minority, whether Republican is a Democrat or Republican, the president.
I`m confident that the process will work.
HAYES: Senator Tim Kaine of the commonwealth of Virginia, espousing
the radical, radical notion of majority rule here. That is now on tape,
sir. Thank you.
Coming up in a few minutes --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: To get elected to the upper house, you have to
be among this nation`s most reasoned and revered (EXPLETIVE DELETED) holes
-- the type that would keep voting year after year to continue what are
known as the rules of the Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know that one friend who just won`t let you
get a word in edgewise? Well, the U.S. Senate has a friend like that. His
name is filibuster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And do you know who started the filibuster? Our most hated,
despised Founding Father. The deep, dark history of the institution that
was mortally wounded today, coming up.
HAYES: Today, Harry Reid took the first step in asserting majority
rule in the United States Senate. And it has taken us more than 200 years
to get to this day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do really know what my constitutional rights
are? Do I really know what the Constitution is?
HAYES (voice-over): In the United States Constitution, there are five
specific instances where a Senate supermajority is required to act. A two-
thirds majority is required to impeach a president, ratify a treaty, expel
a senator, overcome a veto, and amend the Constitution.
When it comes to the term "filibuster," an ALL IN investigation has
revealed that the word does not exist in the Constitution. The invention
of the filibuster comes to us from none other than the guy who murdered
Alexander Hamilton. Under Vice President Aaron Burr, the Senate changed an
obscure Senate rules that ended up allowing for endless actual debate --
now known as a talking filibuster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I`ll tell you one thing. The wild horses
aren`t going to drag me off this forum until those people have heard what
I`ve got to say, even if it takes all winter.
HAYES: That tool was rarely used until 1917, when during World War I,
a small group of Republican anti-war senators killed a bill to arm merchant
President Woodrow Wilson wasn`t having it. Unilaterally arm the ships
and push the Senate to change the rules, so that a two-thirds majority
could overcome a talking filibuster, thus creating cloture -- the vote
taken to overcome the filibuster.
And the rules stayed that way until the post-Watergate reform era.
ANNOUNCER: This is "NBC Nightly News" with David Brinkley in
Washington and John Chancellor in New York.
JOHN CHANCELLOR, NBC NEWS: Good evening. Filibuster fever has broken
out in the United States Senate.
HAYES: In 1975, Democrat Majority Leader Mike Mansfield oversaw two
changes. One, a change to the rules making it easier to defeat a
filibuster by lowering the threshold to 60 votes. The other change made it
easier to launch a filibuster, allowing senators simply to announce their
intention to filibuster rather than actually delivering a speaking
filibuster. Thus, the procedural filibuster was born. And it was used
around 20 times a year, throughout the Carter and Reagan administrations.
But perhaps not surprisingly, its use spiked under Bill Clinton.
THEN-SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: They required us to get 60
votes. We didn`t get it, we didn`t get it twice, and so where I come from,
that means we lost.
HAYES: By 2005, it was Republicans who were threatening filibuster
TV ANCHOR: We turn to the latest political battle brewing on Capitol
Hill. It`s the fight over federal judges and the so-called nuclear option.
HAYES: Back then, it was a Senator McConnell urging up or down votes.
MCCONNELL: Let`s get back to the way the Senate operated for over 200
years, up or down votes on the president`s nominee, no matter who the
president is, no matter who`s in control of the Senate.
HAYES: Back then, the two sides were able to avoid pushing the
button. Since then, Republicans have embarked on an unprecedented
obstruction campaign against the president`s agenda, particularly against
his executive and judicial nominees. You can see the obstruction ticked up
under Clinton and effectively doubled under Obama.
REID: In the history of our country, some 230-plus years, there have
been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. Half of them
have occurred during the Obama administration.
HAYES: After cycles of threats and gentleman`s agreements with Mitch
McConnell, Republicans blocked all three of the president`s most recent
judicial nominations, daring Reid to act.
And today, he did.
HAYES: Joining me now, Alan Frumin, who retired as the
parliamentarian in the U.S. Senate in 2011.
And Jim Manley, former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader, Democrat
Harry Reid. He worked in the Senate for 21 years. Now senior director at
QGA Public Affairs.
Jim, I`ll begin with you because you were at the Senate majority
leader`s side when he was the minority during the big fight in 2005. Was
he wrong then or is he wrong now?
JIM MANLEY, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR SEN. REID: He sure as heck isn`t
wrong now. I want to applaud him for doing what he did. It was a tough
decision for him to make, but I`m glad he finally did it.
Look, as you yourself pointed out, it`s an apples and oranges
comparison. What we`ve seen since 2005 is a filibuster on steroids. In
your report, you talked about the growth in filibusters and nominations and
judicial nominees, but what you didn`t mention was the filibuster on
steroids for every piece of legislation coming down the pike.
Now all but the routine, most routine piece of the legislation are
subject to a filibuster. Senator Reid decided correctly that something had
to give. The current situation was untenable, and we needed a reset in the
HAYES: I want to come back to you about how much things have changed
and where we go from here.
But, Alan, I want to ask, as the authority on the Senate rules and
procedures, how much did the United States Senate change today?
ALAN FRUMIN, FORMER SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN: I believe the United
States Senate changed in the very fundamental way today. The Senate has
given its minorities a tremendous amount of deference. It has accorded its
minorities privileges over the years. Those privileges, I believe, over
the years, have been consistent with the framers` design of the Senate.
And there are those who argue that these privileges were being abused.
I will leave that determination to others.
It did appear that the level of what the majority calls obstruction
had reached new heights. I can`t answer that. But the manner in which the
Senate went about changing its procedures, I think, is a fundamental
alteration of the Senate`s way of doing business.
HAYES: Is this -- is your fear that this is a one-way ratchet, Alan?
That basically we`ve now opened the floodgates. It seems to me, and I`m
rooting for this eventuality, because I`m a believer in majority rule, that
you`re not going to be able -- it won`t be tenable to have this in-between
situation for very long, which is to say, well, we only don`t have a
filibuster in these cases, that you`re just going to get simple majority
FRUMIN: I think reasonable people can disagree as to whether there
was a need for a change in Senate procedures and in Senate rules. But I
believe the manner in which this took place will, in fact, be a ratchet,
that this will be a device that the majority can use whenever it`s
convenient to use it.
And one can disagree with whether or not the substantive ends to be
achieved are worth it, but from a procedural standpoint, my fear going
forward is this is a fundamental alteration of the very delicate balance
between majority and minority, that the Senate uniquely in our federal
system has honored for 200 years.
HAYES: So you and I disagree on this, and partly, I think that`s the
places we`re coming from. You`re someone who has been immersed in and the
kind of guardian of this procedure. I`m someone who basically cares about
outcomes and I think -- no, I do. And I pretty much think that we`re all
procedural hypocrites at the end of the day, which is why it was so
hilarious to watch FOX News was making fun of liberals for flip-flopping
and we`re making fun of conservatives for flip-flopping.
Well, everyone`s flip-flopping, because everyone`s a procedural
hypocrite, Jim, because --
FRUMIN: But not the Senate parliamentarians. Let`s give credit where
credit is due.
HAYES: But you`re a special kind of fish, Alan. Let`s be honest
Most people care about outcomes more than they care about procedure,
which brings me to Jim.
The big kind of utilitarian argument against this is, oh, you
Democrats, you`re going to reject this when you`re in the minority, when
the Republicans just get rid of the filibuster for everything, and they get
51 votes to fully repeal Obamacare. Do you worry about that?
MANLEY: Sure, I do. Absolutely.
As I mentioned before on your show, another reason to be concerned is,
let`s pretend, you say Grover Norquist is writing tax policy for Senate
Republicans under that scenario. Next thing you know, you`ll have a
supermajority of 67 to raise revenue. So, yes --
HAYES: That`s an interesting -- that`s a very interesting point.
MANLEY: Yes, I`m worried about it. Senator Reid is worried about it,
as well as the caucus as a whole.
But as your previous guests pointed out, they factor that into their
internal deliberations and made it a calculated decision, like I said, that
they needed to reset the current situation was untenable. And that they
were prepared to take these relatively small steps to try and affect some
change in the Senate.
HAYES: Alan, when you talk about the way that this was done, and I
think this is crucial, because, you know, you`re someone who I think that
has authority to speak on this. Something was revolutionized today in the
U.S. Senate. And it`s kind of hard to see through all the procedural
language. But the fact that, basically the majority asserted a simple
majority control over the rules of the body in the middle of a session,
that was -- that was a pretty remarkable thing to take place.
FRUMIN: Well, it`s important to understand that the Senate doesn`t
operate so much by its rules and I have the rule book here, it`s 69 pages
long, as it operates by precedent and practice. And I also have the Senate
procedure, which is over 1,500 pages long. That`s the book of precedent.
The Senate operates by precedent. And what happened today was a
precedent was established, but it was both a procedural precedent and an
institutional precedent and you pundits can determine whether or not it was
a political precedent.
HAYES: Yes, very important that that precedent happened today.
Something really changed today. We entered a new era.
Alan Frumin, former Senate parliamentarian, and Jim Manley, former
Senate staffer -- thank you, gentlemen, both.
OK, coming up next --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We also know that we have a job
to do, and what we`re hire to do is to run our states and do the job. We
talk about the common sense solutions that we`re bringing to the people of
our state and the things that are getting done on their behalf. And that`s
what our focus is going to continue to be. We have extraordinary records.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Is there anyone who loves Chris Christie more than Chris
Christie? That was, of course, the New Jersey governor, talking about jobs
and extraordinary records today. You know what the unemployment rate is in
the state of New Jersey? The answer is coming up.
HAYES: Did you hear the amazing news today? Chris Christie got a new
job. Now, I know what you are thinking. Did not this guy just get a job a
few weeks ago when he was re-elected to another term as governor of New
Jersey? Well, yes, he did; but, now he has a second job.
Christie has been elected chairman of the republican governor`s
association. He helps the RGA kick off its annual meeting in Arizona.
And, while the head of the RGA gets to hobnob with some other big GOP
governors, the big prize of being head of the RGA is getting to increase
your national profile as you try to help republicans win elections.
Ronald Reagan was RGA chair back in the late 1960s when he was
governor of California. That worked out pretty well for him. The guy
Christie is seceding as chair is also someone who would not mind increasing
his national profile. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. In fact, back in
2011, both Jindal and Christie were gunning for the chairmanship in 2014,
which is a high profile election year for governors.
And, it was Chris Christie who worked behind the scenes to trump
Jindal. An unnamed GOP operative told CNN, "It just kind of took people by
surprise." Bobby had paid his dues. Was it a good move by Christie?"
Absolutely! He just rubbed some people the wrong way. And, so the former
future of republican politics, Bobby Jindal, passes the torch to the
current future of republican politics, Chris Christie, who does not mind
speaking for everyone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Everyone was excited that,
you know, I am going to take over the chairmanship and I am getting great
responses from governors and from my fellow governors. So I am looking
forward to it. It is going to be a great year. 36 races will be fun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Everybody is excited. But while Chris Christie thinks
everybody is excited about his new job, he seems to forget about the lack
of jobs in his own state. While the nation sits at a 7.3% unemployment
rate, New Jersey is more than a point higher and every state that borders
New Jersey has an unemployment rate below 8%.
Today, we learned that New Jersey had the fourth highest increase in
weekly unemployment claims. So, while Chris Christie starts his second
job, there are plenty of people in the state, who do not even a have one.
But, Christie is not alone. Congressional republicans seem to care about
jobs only as press conference set decorations. Ask them to outline a jobs
plan, and you will not hear very much.
So, while Chris Christie and the Republican Party may be excited about
their political agenda for 2014, they are ignoring the single biggest issue
for working people, getting to full employment. Joining me now are two
economists, who just wrote a book about this, MSNBC Contributor, Jared
Bernstein, former chief economist, economic policy adviser to vice
President Biden, now a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities. And, economist, Dean Baker, Co-Director for the Center for
Economic and Policy Research.
They have co-written, Getting Back To Full Employment: A Better
Bargain For Working People. Are you amazed, Jared Bernstein, as someone
who worked in the White House, who is a creature of Washington in many
ways. You have been around that town a while, are you amazed at the
shocking disconnect between the urgency Washington -- all of Washington,
both parties, particularly the Republican Party, both parties show towards
the gap, the unemployment rate, the jobs deficit, the disconnect between
the issue in the country and the response in Washington?
JARED BERNSTEIN, FMR. BIDEN ECONOMIC ADVISER: You know, I probably
should be shocked, but I am a little bit inured to it. It has been going
on for such a long time. I think what you have to conclude is that there
are far too many policy makers up here who really. A. Do not think that
much about the problems that you just outlined.
I mean, you have just shown, I think, pretty compelling evidence that
the kind of rising star of the Republican Party really does not have much
going on in terms of his economic record. I mean, when I think about Chris
Christie economics, by the way. A. I cannot really think about -- figure
out what they are. And, B. I know that when the chips are down, he comes
running to Washington for help.
HAYES: He sounds like Rand Paul there.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. Well, he actually has some Keynesian credentials
there, you know? So, think about that for a second. So, no, it does not
surprise me, but it definitely disappoints me in a very fundamental way and
it is behind our work.
HAYES: I will do one better than disappoint, it enrages me.
HAYES: Because it is the single most -- it is the single most
important thing you could do right now for working people. And, Dean, I
was joking to someone today that the title of this book is like, "Why Good
Things Are Better Than Bad Things." You know? It is --
DEAN BAKER, CO-DIRECTOR FOR THE CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY
RESEARCH: In Washington that is news.
HAYES: I know. It is strange you would have to make a sustained
argument for, like, why is full employment good? Can you explain why full
employment is good and why we should be trying to get there?
BAKER: Well, you know, you get this bizarre sense here in Washington.
You know, I am sure Jared has been on panels like this too, that things are
basically OK. Of course, we had liked them better. I mean, no one -- I do
not think we would find anyone in the house and the senate even though who
personally might think it is the craziest right-wing republican who is
going to say they think it is good that people do not have jobs.
But, you know, for them, it just kind of -- you know, A. like a minor
concern, and B. Nothing we can do about it anyhow. And, you know, our
point writing the book is, "No, it is the major concern. It swamps
everything else." You know? There is a lot of important issues in
Washington. So, I do not need to dismiss many, many other things that are
But, there is such a world of difference between, you know, we were
talking about 4% unemployment. Jared and I decided, that is number, we
think, to shoot for full employment. There is such a world of difference
between when we are at 4% unemployment and where we are today, 7.3, 7.4.
That mainly swamps everything. So, we thought it was important. Let`s try
to drive that home and let`s hope, maybe we can get this on the agenda
again. Let`s get people talking about it.
HAYES: I think, Jared, part of it also, and if you talk to
conservatives, they will say, "Well, sure, it would be nice. But all you
can really do is cut taxes and remove regulations and let the private
sector do its thing, government can`t actually create jobs."
BERNSTEIN: Yes. So, clearly, we reject that. I mean in fact, there
is over 20 million people working for the government, so let`s just be real
about that. But, I think one of the points Dean just made is very
important in this regard. There really is no playbook for job creation on
the republican side. And these days, you really don`t hear enough on the
democratic side either.
And, one of the things we try to do in this book, I would say more so
than in earlier stuff that we have written together, we have two chapters
on the path back to full employment, with a number of very potent ideas
that would help. What is important here, Chris, is that it is now
beginning to be understood by very prominent economists that left to its
own devices, the private sector actually would not take us to full
BERNSTEIN: It will do better than it has been doing, and I think
that`s going to happen as time goes on --
HAYES: That is right.
BERNSTEIN: -- But, left to it`s own devices, I do not think we are
going to have the quantity of jobs we need.
HAYES: In fact, there was a remarkable book written in the 1930s by a
man by the name of Keynesians who figured this out as he looked at this
slump that was crimpling the world. Economists, Jared Bernstein and Dean
Baker, everyone should read this book. Thank you, both.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
BAKER: Thanks for having me on.
HAYES: Coming up next on the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER STEVEN HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Lee Harvey Oswald, the
president`s alleged assassin --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER (1): He has been shot.
HOLT: -- was dead. Shot as he was escorted through a crush of police
and reporters. He was handcuffed to Dallas police detective, Jim Leavelle.
JIM LEAVELLE, DALLAS, TEXAS HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: I jerked back on him
to pull him behind me. And instead of moving him, I just turned his body a
little bit, so instead of hitting him dead center, it hit him about 3
inches to the left of the naval.
HOLT: You were trying to protect Oswald.
LEAVELLE: Yes. I was trying to pull him behind me, but I did not
have any leverage.
HOLT: There had been phone threats against Oswald.
LEAVELLE: When I told him I hoped if anybody shot him, they were as
good a shot as he was, meaning, of course, that they would hit him and not
me. He kind of laughed and he said, "Oh, nobody is going to shoot at me."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was NBC`S Lester Holt talking to former Dallas police
detective Jim Leavelle, who was part of one of the most iconic moments on
television ever. When Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, 50 years ago. The
moment we first learned to experience national trauma collectively in front
of our television sets, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK MCGEE, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Excuse me, Chet. Here is a flash
from the associated press, dateline, Dallas. Two priests who were with
President Kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds. There is no further
confirmation, but this is what we have on a flash basis from the associated
press. Two priests in Dallas who were with President Kennedy say he is
dead of bullet wounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: 50 years ago tomorrow, that was the report that millions of
Americans saw on their television screens, announcing the assassination of
President John F. Kennedy. It was a scarring moment for the nation and
kicked off one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: I`m absolutely shocked, stunned. We
have the same birthday. I am just crazy about him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: I don`t know. I was -- I was in my place,
you know, I work as a mail clerk in one of these music places, and someone
asked me for a radio. And, I thought they were joking. I mean it, I
thought they were joking. I could not believe it. Who would want to shoot
the president? What did he do? He has been doing so much for the country.
Someone goes out and shoots him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The Kennedy assassination was the first major national trauma
we collectively witnessed through the medium of the T.V., the beginning of
the all-encompassing media era in which we now live. Just A few day after
the president`s death, the nation witnesses what remains one of the most
jarring moments in the history of live television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: There is Lee Oswald --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: He has been shot! He has been shot. Lee
Oswald has been shot. There is a man with a gun! It is absolute panic.
Absolute panic here in the basement of Dallas police headquarters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We have all become used to the fog of confusion that descends
on social media and cable news during chaotic violent, breaking news
stories. But what distinguishes the Kennedy assassination is that the
confusion that reigned at that time, in those painful, jarring hours and
days still lingers 50 years later.
Joining me now, Ambassador William Vanden Heuvel, former special
assistant to attorney General Robert Kennedy in the JFK Administration and
journalist Jim Lehrer, executive editor and former news anchor for PBS
NewsHour. He is author of Top Down: A Novel Of The Kennedy Assassination
and covered of the Kennedy Assassination.
As a reporter, what was it like to try to sift through the information
at the time to report this story in the midst of the rupture, shock, trauma
and confusion that must have reigned?
JIM LEHRER, COVERED JFK ASSASSINATION: Chris, there has never been
anything like it before, that I have ever heard of. Certainly, nothing
that I ever experienced or nothing since. It was -- I spent many, many
hours at the Dallas police station, for instance, after all of this had
happened, and the chaos in that police station was unlike anything.
It was and the cross-collisions of feeling, disbelief. "Good God!
They killed the president! Oh, my God, it happened in Dallas. Oh, my God,
who did it? Oh, my God, I got to find out because I am a reporter or I am
an FBI agent or a cop and all of that."
And, then suddenly -- we become swept with grief about it. And, all
of these things were happening, and I made some terrible mistakes. People
told me news, I picked up the phone and called the city -- I work for the
afternoon newspaper in Dallas, and I told them, for instance, an FBI agent
had told me that one of the people killed in the assassination attempt was
a secret service agent. And they went with it. They were about to go with
it when somebody double checked and did not go with it, but in today`s
HAYES: And, this is remarkable, right? Because we get all of this
tsk-tsking about kids today and the social media and all this confusion
that reigns. But, you know, it is a truism about human chaos and trauma
that false information ripples out. It always does and it must have under
the circumstances. I want to hear about how you heard about news, and what
it was like inside the administration, which was also trying to get its
hands on the information right after we take this one quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently
official, President Kennedy died at 1:00 P.M. central standard time. 2:00
Eastern standard time, some 38 minutes ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We are back. I am here with the Ambassador William Vanden
Heuvel and Jim Lehrer. And ambassador, you were in the justice department
at the time special assistant to Bobby Kennedy. Was there confusion inside
the administration as well?
WILLIAM VANDEN HEUVEL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN OFFICE: Not,
what you would call confusion. We were called back to the justice
department. Robert Kennedy was having lunch at his home in Virginia with
Bob Morgenthau when J. Edgar Hoover called him to tell him the president
had been shot and then told him the president has been killed.
A strange messenger of terrible news and then we went back and we were
with Nick Katzenbach, who is a deputy attorney general. And, Bobby himself
called and said that the president had talked to him and had asked him to
give him a copy of the oath, so that he could take it. It is an interest
thing, that that would have happened, because a lot of people would have
had -- it is in the constitution.
But, Robert Kennedy gave him the oath and he relayed that to Lyndon
Johnson. But, it was an event that you would never forget. I mean I was
with Adlai Stevenson and -- others that night and everybody so stunned
beyond belief. And, suddenly Lyndon Johnson is on the phone and inviting
you over to the White House and reading the transition.
HAYES: Can I ask this question, I think, will betray my age a little
bit, but I am going to ask it anyway. If you poll people today, there is
still tremendous confusion. The majority think that we don`t know the full
story, that it was not the lone gunman theory of Oswald. What was the
tenor at the time about how secure -- how sure people were about the chain
of events, that it was Lee Harvey Oswald, lone gunman who had shot the
president of the United States, that he had been killed by Jack Ruby, a
nightclub owner in Dallas, four days later on national television. Was the
sense at the time that basically we know just what happened?
LEHRER: Oh, no, certainly not, anything but that. In fact the tenor
was there is so much that we do not know. And, Ruby`s killing Oswald has
made it worse than it already was. And even though there had been a lot of
forensics -- they found the rifle. They found the bullet. They found
this. All of that sort of stuff, but the fact is, and I was one of
thousands of reporters who spent hours trying to prove that it was not one
man, that it had to be -- because the natural inclination at the time, of
everybody, one man could not have done --
HAYES: So, there was initial, just, people just blanched at the
thought that this lone --
LEHRER: Absolutely. That was in the automatic wind, did not matter
what your views were, did not matter what facts you knew. It was just, no,
no! The president of the United States could not have been killed by one
guy by himself. It had to be a conspiracy.
HEUVEL: I do not think you can overestimate the role of Jackie
Kennedy in those days in holding the country together. Her majesty, her
command of the situation, her very stoic ability to plan the events as they
came out, it was such a masterful presentation of a tragedy. And, it was
such a tragedy.
I mean, it had the dimensions of a classic tragedy, the great young
king in the sunlight of Dallas and his beautiful queen at his side. His
brother, the attorney general of the United States, his other brother in
the senate, presiding over the senate at the moment that the president was
assassinated. And the father, the source of the family power, in Hyannis
Port, rendered mute, dumb, by stroke the year before, and compelled to
watch the murder of his son without even being able to react. It was an
event that no one would ever forget.
LEHRER: But, another part of the problem in terms of the way people
thought, was that if it was not one man acting alone, that meant there was
a conspiracy of some kind. So, who are we going to bomb? Are we going to
bomb Havana? Are we going to bomb Moscow? What are we going to do?
HAYES: And, the subhead, the A1, "The New York Times" the next day,
identifies Oswald in the subhead, as affiliate with a pro-Castro group.
That phrase appears on page 1. And, one of the FBI -- you know, actually
had kept quite tabs on Mr. Oswald, as had the CIA. Oswald had been in
Mexico, presumably spotted at the Cuban embassy just a few weeks before all
this happened. And, in some ways, it is Amazing that the country did not
go to war in the wake of it.
LEHRER: And, one of the reasons it did not go to war was because they
suddenly and very quickly, two things happened. They federalized the
crime. The FBI took over the investigation, and the Warren Commission was
established. And a lot of people saw that as part of a conspiracy. In
other words, to temp -- because nobody wanted World War III.
LEHRER: Whatever it took, let`s don`t have World War III.
HAYES: Right, because if it were the case that you pulled on the
thread long enough that it got you back to Moscow, then you must, right?
Under the logic of the time --
HAYES: -- there would have been no out.
HEUVEL: Well, the events that revealed, I mean, for example, Oswald`s
attempted murder of General Walker three months before. So, suddenly, you
had somebody who was identified as a possible murder.
HEUVEL: And, you delved into the fact that Oswald had been in Moscow
-- he had been in Russia --
HAYES: Yes, he essentially defected --
LEHRER: For several years.
HEUVEL: That was a sort of a mass concern.
HAYES: But, it is an amazing thing given the sort of history of anti-
communism as the dominant ethos in American life in that period of time
that, that part of the Oswald story, because the FBI tamped that down so
hard, is not the part that has been passed down through the years.
And, it some ways a testament to J. Edgar Hoover`s ability to keep
facts in the per view of J. Edgar Hoover that, that is no what we think
about now. Ambassador William Vanden Heuvel, who is featured in the new
documentary called "JFK: A President Betrayed," and, the great journalist,
Jim Lehrer. Thank you, both, gentlemen.
LEHRER: Thank you.
HAYES: That is "All In" for this evening and "The Rachel Maddow" show
starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. That was fascinating.
HAYES: Thank you.
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