THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
November 26, 2013
Guest: Dahlia Lithwick, Nicholas Confessore
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for joining
us this hour.
There`s lots going on in the world, including huge whole swathes of
America worrying right now about whether a rather large and powerful storm
is going to keep us all from getting home to wherever home is for the
holidays this year, whether it`s supposed to be random. But the god of
supposedly random weather really does like to give us storms on t heaviest
travel days before thanksgiving every year and this year it turns out is no
exception. We`ve got more on that coming up.
Also, the iconic political video "yes we can" from the 2008 campaigns,
that is now translating to other countries` politicians, in very unexpected
other countries. We`ve got that story and some of the tape coming up.
And the Obama administration makes a big, big move late in the day
today to stop the Sheldon Adelsons and Foster Friesses and Koch brothers of
the world from trying to buy the next presidential election as well. They
made the change without Congress today. They announced the first part of
And if you know any ideologically motivated billionaires and today
they seemed like they were in a really bad mood, this policy change might
There`s a lot going on in the news this Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.
But we start with the United States Supreme Court, and the court`s decision
to weigh in on the conservative war on birth control.
It`s hard to even say war on birth control, but as long as we as a
country are going to use the idea of war as an allegory for things that are
endangered because of the conservative political effort against them, then,
yes, the conservative war on birth control is a thing. And right now it is
hitting the big time in Republican politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things I
will talk about, that the president has talked about before is that I think
the dangers of contraception in this country and the whole sexual libertine
idea -- many in the Christian faith have said, well, that`s OK, you know,
contraception is OK.
It`s not OK. It`s a license to do things of a sexual realm that is
counter to what -- how things are supposed to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Contraception is not OK. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick
Santorum may now just be a guy who`s Christmas movie about a candle is
doing very poorly at the box office.
But last year, Rick Santorum proved that a guy who once had been
chased out of big-time politics because of his hard, hard, hard core social
conservativism, a man who was famous as the man on dog guy, a man who was
famous only for his anti-gay and anti-abortion and anti-contraception
beliefs, and who had lost his U.S. Senate because of it.
Last year, he proved that you only need to sit out a few years before
the Republican Party would be ready to have you back after that sort of
defeat. If that party was once again looking for a fire and brimstone type
as it`s potential savior, Rick Santorum effectively came in second in the
race for Republican president last year, losing only to Mitt Romney.
And at that time that that happened, it was seen as more of an
indication of Mitt Romney`s good fortune to be running against such as a
weak field of other potential nominees. But, you know what, it was also
the sign of a broader embrace on the right, of Rick Santorum brand culture
war conservativism, and that includes being against contraception.
About five years ago, an anti-abortion group called the American Life
League started organizing protests around the theme of the pill kills, the
pill as in the birth control pill.
In 2008, their theme was the birth control pill kills babies. In
2009, their theme was the birth control pill kills women. In 2010, their
theme was the birth control pill kills the environment. That was an
interesting take on it. In 2011, they decided that the birth control pill
So, yes, it`s an annual thing. Every year they say the birth control
pill is responsible for killing some other thing and they hold the protest
every year at the same time of year. They always hold them in the first
week of June and that is specific and on purpose. They hold their protest
in the first of June because June 7th is the anniversary of a Supreme Court
decision called Griswold v Connecticut.
The anti-abortion movement ties its protest every year to the
anniversary of Roe versus Wade. The part of the anti-abortion movement
that is also anti-contraception instead picks the anniversary of that
Griswold decision because they disagree with the Griswold ruling, and the
Griswold ruling said that states can`t ban birth control. The anti-birth
control people think that ruling was a travesty, that states should be able
to ban birth control and they should ban birth control. They think that
contraception should be illegal in America. Like Rick Santorum said,
contraception is not OK.
But the big break through for the "we`re against birth control" folks
really came in 2012 when their annual early June protests about how birth
control should be illegal, started to dovetail with something that was
going on in Republican politics. Their anti-contraception movement started
to get embraced by Republicans and conservatives more broadly as part of
the ways they wanted to be against Obamacare. They decided to become
outraged that insurance regulations federally under Obamacare would specify
that contraception is one of the things that has to be covered under
people`s insurance. So, you know, I mean, vaccinations, cancer screenings,
there`s a whole list of things that have to be included at a minimum in
health insurance policies.
And under Obamacare, contraception is one of those things. Everybody,
Now, at the time that conservatives and Republicans decided to freak
out about that, 28 states already had the exact same mandate in state law,
which never bothered conservatives at all, not even in those states, but
they decided that they were going to become outrage about it being part of
Obamacare because the root word of Obamacare is Obama.
Do you remember Wheaton College in Illinois? Wheaton is an
evangelical school. They decided that they would sue the Obama
administration over contraception. They said it would be horrendously
religiously offensive to them as a school to offer employees insurance
coverage that paid for contraception.
If Obamacare wanted them to do that, they would sue. It was so
terribly offensive to them on religious terms. The problem was, when that
school tried to sue, it turns out they were already offering contraception
coverage to their employees under their existing policies even before
Obamacare went into effect. They`ve been offering it for years. It had
never bothered them or offended their religious sensibilities before. But
they decided now they would say they were outraged by it.
The pill kills! Birth control is abortion! We couldn`t possibly
cover birth control. We`ve been covering birth control all this time,
And so, something that was never really controversial before except on
the fringes of the anti-abortion movement became kind of a mainstream
conservative and Republican cause. And it wasn`t just poor confused
Wheaton College in Illinois suing the federal government because of their
newly found religious objections to contraception. It was dozens of
lawsuits, with dozens of plaintiffs, many of them filing from states that
already required insurance plans to cover contraception, but that never
really bothered anyone before.
Today, the United States Supreme Court decided to take on a pair of
those cases, to decide if your boss gets to decide, based on his religious
beliefs whether or not you can get birth control covered by your health
One of the plaintiffs is a chain called the Hobby Lobby which donates
a portion of their profits to the televangelist Oral Roberts University.
The Hobby Lobby says that the evangelical Christian religious beliefs of
the company`s owners mean that they don`t want their employees to have
access to contraception in their health insurance.
Another one of the plaintiffs that the Supreme Court decided to take
up the case of today was a Mennonite owned wood working business from
Pennsylvania. Mennonites are sometimes confused with the Amish, but they
are a different sect that shares some religious views about health care,
including in some cases not believing in health insurance itself all
So if your boss is a Mennonite or is an Amish guy who thinks that
health insurance itself is wrong, does that mean that you don`t get health
insurance at work even if otherwise the law would say you had to? That`s
what`s so fascinating about this case.
Because yes, it is the Rick Santorum, the pill kills folks, with their
anti-birth control social conservativism. They`re an outgrowth of the
anti-abortion movement. They think contraception is the same thing as
abortion and they`re against them both.
If you are against birth control, these folks are your folks. This is
Rick Santorum, Ken Cuccinelli, Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, these are the
folks who put personhood on the ballot in Mississippi and Colorado and
other places. So, in which case if those things pass, yes, all abortion
would be criminalized, all of it.
But also the IUD would be criminalized because they consider some
forms of birth control to be just exactly the same as abortion. So if you
have an IUD, you would be what, a felon?
But this case goes beyond just that part of social conservatism and
Republican policy. This case is so fascinating because it goes to the
broader question of what your boss`s religion means for you, because
Wheaton College and the Hobby Lobby may not want you as an employee to have
access to birth control. But what if your boss isn`t hung up on birth
control? What if your boss has an objection to cancer treatment or a
vaccination for polio?
In the 1970s, in Greenwich, Connecticut, a whole bunch of kids got
polio, in the `70s, because they were from families that were Christian
Scientists and they didn`t want to vaccinate their kids for polio.
Christian Science parents who treated their son`s diabetic shock with
prayer instead of insulin, they were found liable in the boy`s death, along
with their church, who advised them on their course of action as their son
died and who sent a practitioner to the boy`s bedside to pray while he
died, instead of giving him the insulin shot that would have saved his
Over the history of the Christian Science Church, dozens of its
members have been charged in connection with people`s death from treatable
illnesses, which the faith of Christian Scientists tells them not to treat
-- deaths from measles, deaths from asthma, deaths from treatable tumors
If your boss is a Christian Scientist, should his legitimately held
religious beliefs mean that your health insurance shouldn`t cover treatment
for things that he thinks should only be treated with prayer, things like
measles, asthma, treatable tumors and cancer. If your boss doesn`t believe
your kid should be vaccinated against polio, should he be able to stop your
health insurance from covering your kids` vaccination against polio?
If your boss is a Jehovah`s Witness, should he able to stop your
health insurance from covering the cost of a blood transfusion?
If your boss thinks that AIDS is god`s punishment from a god who hates
the people, who he gave it to, and he gave it to him on purpose, then can
your boss forced a change in your health insurance so it doesn`t cover HIV
testing? And if you test positive, can`t he decide that your health
insurance will not cover the treatment because god?
And why stop at health care? What if your boss says it`s not just the
laws about health care that he doesn`t want to follow because of his
religious beliefs? It`s the laws about all kinds of things.
This is the lovely, lovely campus of Duquesne University in
Pennsylvania. This fall, Duquesne University started making the case that
they were not going to recognize their employees decision to form a union
because they are a Catholic institution, and for some reason, that
religious affiliation of the institution means their teachers can`t be in a
You might want to take that up with the new Pope Francis. Come to
think that that was their case. Are religious beliefs mean we do not have
to follow labor law here?
And why should it stop there? Presumably, we`re about a half step
away from somebody declaring that their religious beliefs preclude paying
their employees the federal minimum wage, or anything else in the law.
The fight here in the small sense is about the mainstreaming in the
conservative movement of fire and brimstone anti-contraception politics.
Anti-contraception politics where they think that contraception is abortion
and abortion is murder and you shouldn`t have access to either.
That`s what it is in a smaller sense. The fight here in a larger
sense is about whether you are still entitled to the rights and protections
of federal law, even if your boss says that god told him otherwise.
Joining us now is Dahlia Lithwick. She`s senior editor and legal
correspondent at "Slate".
Dahlia, it`s great to have you here in person. Thanks for coming in.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE: I feel like I have always been the crazy old
aunt in your attic in Charlottesville and I`m really here now.
MADDOW: You have always been the crazy aunt at your lovely studio in
Charlottesville. It`s great to have you here.
How do you think that the Supreme Court is going to approach this? Do
we know anything from the specific cases they chose to bring up about the
way they set this up for themselves that tells us what it`s going to be
LITHWICK: We don`t know. I mean, what we know is, as you said in
your intro is this is some kind of unholy alliance of, you know, Citizens
United and the idea of corporate personhood getting together with the war
on woman and getting together with the ACA cases, and producing this baby -
- this ugly, ugly baby that has just threads hanging out of every kind of
You know, this is about in a profound way the First Amendment freedoms
of religion, but it`s about their religious freedoms restoration act,
right? It`s about a statute that was supposed to give fits (ph) to their
religious freedom protection. It`s also about whether religion -- I`m
sorry, a corporation, a for profit corporation, right, we`re not just
talking about Catholic universities and about Catholic hospitals. We`re
talking about for profit corporations that just make cracks in this case,
whether they can have a conscious a religious conscious.
So in a deep way, there`s so much going on and this is going to be a
nightmare for the court. And based on the two cases that we saw them take
today, and based on the cases that they did not take today, I don`t think
they can avoid squarely answering this question of, are corporations people
too, not just for speech purposes, right, in the campaign speech context,
but are corporations people too, when it comes to having religion and what
do you do about the real religions of the real employees, and are they
trumped by that corporate person`s imaginary religion?
MADDOW: And that corporate person`s imaginary religion is mind
I mean, my understanding -- you`re the lawyer not me. But my
understanding about the law around religious freedom, especially the
Supreme Court precedent here is essentially that you can have your right to
obviously practice your religion protected, but your ability to sort of
exempt yourself from things that would otherwise apply to you on the basis
of your religion sort of stops at your own skin.
You`re not able to make those decisions on the basis of your religion
that affect other people. You can do things that affect the way things
apply to yourself, but when you make that decision for a third party, in
this case your employee, that`s when things have gone too far, because then
you`re infringing on other people`s beliefs.
LITHWICK: Right. And the court is clear. I mean, we have lots and
lots of precedent that says once you make your decision to enter commerce,
your religious personhood has to fall back from generally applicable laws.
Otherwise, everybody could object to everything, and that doesn`t work.
So, this precedent is clear. What`s a little bit interesting is that
you have different corporations in this case, even defining what they
consider abortion-causing drugs differently. So you`ve got the Catholic
plaintiffs in these cases saying, all birth control is off the table.
You`ve got others saying only the morning after pill. You`ve got others
saying, as you said, the morning after pill plus IUDs.
So even among themselves they don`t just disagree about religion, they
disagree about science, right? They disagree about facts. Do these things
cause abortions? The FDA says no, but that`s not even the issue anymore.
So, you`re not just probing the good faith religious beliefs of these
corporations, these profit corporations. You`re also probing, do they
really believes these ideas about science? And how does the court --
MADDOW: And if we have to be completely value neutral in assessing
them, why can`t a Christian Science boss say, no, the only treatment
allowed for cancer under my employees` health coverage will be player?
If we`re going to say we`re agnostic as to the validity of scientific
beliefs, if you ascribed them to theology, when why -- how can there every
ever be a regulation about health insurance ever, let along malpractice?
LITHWICK: It really rises in some of the dissents in these cases,
where they just throw out these slippery slope cases, really, stem cell
research, really? Gay couples that you don`t agree about? Really?
You know, Christian Scientists and there`s no answer to that. You
have to create a neutral rule. And I don`t know how the court creates a
neutral rule if the court doesn`t want to micromanage religious beliefs and
deeply held religious beliefs.
MADDOW: It`s amazing stuff. I mean, it`s going to be amazing to
watch this legally. Politically, I will say, it`s also amazing to see this
spring from the anti-contraception movement which so few people even admit
exists, even though it`s their in plain sight.
Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent at "Slate" --
it is a real pleasure to have you here in person.
LITHWICK: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Stick around if you want, there will be libations at the end
of the show. Maybe. Look, I don`t want to promise.
All right. Big news breaking this afternoon from the Obama
administration that could potentially change things a lot for the
ideologically motivated billionaires among us.
Plus, some amazing pictures taken in Iran, after the big nuclear deal
that I want to show you.
And also, whether -- there`s weather. There`s weather and weather
related hurly-burly in the skies and on the roads and on the rails tonight.
There`s a ton still to come up this hour. Stay with us.
MADDOW: After the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Kenneth Starr, the guy who
investigated President Clinton`s extramarital affair, released a more than
400-page report about that affair and what happened when President Clinton
tried to deny it. It was called "The Starr Report" and it was filled with
really, rather lurid details, perhaps unnecessary lurid details. But it
was all there in black and white and for sale.
The public could buy "The Starr Report" as a paperback and we did buy
it by gazillions. "The Starr Report" was so popular that it had coattails.
It also caused a huge spike in the sales to the book of poetry by Walt
Whitman called "Leaves of Grass."
According to "The Starr Report", President Clinton had once given his
young mistress a copy of "Leaves of Grass". And apparently, after reading
that in "The Starr Report", everyone in America then rushed out to check
out the Whitman. Maybe there`s some more dirt there.
But "The Starr Report" was that popular. And the weird thing,
surprisingly, even government reports that are not about sex turn out to be
bestsellers more often than you might think.
The 9/11 Commission report about why we were not prepared for that
attack and what we should change to keep anything like that from happening
again. The 9/11 report was a nationwide bestseller. Just like with "The
Starr Report", you can go online and read the entire report for free, since
it`s a government document, but people wanted to buy it in paperback anyway
because they wanted to have it on the shelf.
So, "The Starr Report", a huge smashing success. The 9/11 Commission
report, also a very big bestseller.
But you know what recent report was also a big and unexpected huge,
huge hit? Five hundred seventy-six pages long, paperback edition costs
about $15, Amazon ran out of copies of it a few days after it went on sale.
It was the financial crisis inquiry report. Whoo! And there`s nothing
about cigars or Whitman sadly, or al Qaeda.
In the wake of the `08 financial crisis, from which we are still not
yet recovered, the federal government created a commission of six Democrats
and four Republicans to look for answers about what went wrong in that
crisis and how we can avoid doing it again. And while there was a lot of
disagreement between the Democrats and the Republicans about what exactly
led to the financial crisis, there was one big unanimous criticism that had
no partisan bounds and it was this: "The greatest tragedy would be to
accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing
could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again."
Why did no one see it coming? Why didn`t more big deal economists see
that the financial collapse was coming in 2008? They should have seen it
The fact that economists are not better at predicting thing has always
been kind of a bad problem for economists. The very first president of the
American Economic Association, this handsome chap with the awesome
mustache, he`s famous for his lamentations in the 19th century about how
economists were so tied up in abstract reasoning about the economy in
theory that they didn`t offer anyone much help in figuring out the economy
If economists cannot predict anything about the real world, then
economics has a whole is essentially an elegant but mostly decorative form
of math. It`s like the rhythmic gymnastics of the science world. It`s
pretty, useless, but also very pretty.
What would be very helpful and reassuring is if economists did
actually offer some correct predictions about what might happen next in the
economy and what the impact might be of certain changes and relevant
The other big news in Washington right now is that maybe there`s
someone who can do that.
Janet Yellen is President Obama`s nominee to be the next chair of the
Federal Reserve, and she might just be the one person in the country who is
best at predicting what`s about to happen next in the economy.
Check this out, last year, before she was nominated, "The Wall Street
Journal" analyzed more than 700 predictions that were made over three years
by policymakers at the Fed. The current chair of the Fed, the guy who has
that job now, he came in 10th.
The number one spot, the most accurate predictor of all in the whole
country was Janet Yellen. And who knows if Janet Yellen will still be as
good at making predictions about the economy once she gets the job of
running the Fed, but so far, if the criteria of being able to accurately
predict economic events is an important criteria, she is apparently the
best at it in the whole country among major economists. And she is also on
paper the single most qualified person ever nominated to be Fed chair in
the modern era.
All of that means that it seems like smooth sailing for Janet Yellen`s
nomination thus far. Being right on the important stuff and being
ostentatiously qualified for the job tends to help you get the job.
But neither of those things apparently help you with the modern
Republican Party. The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think thank,
they`ve just announced today that their political activist wing, not only
opposes Janet Yellen to be Fed chair, they`re also making the nomination a
key vote, which means that any Republican that dares to cast a vote for
Janet Yellen will be punished with some sort of demerit by the once
respected and now sort of out there Jim DeMint Heritage Foundation.
Because of the move that Senate Democrats made last week to employ the
so-called nuclear option, Janet Yellen`s confirmation is really not in
doubt. Republicans do not have the votes to filibuster her nomination.
She is going to be confirmed as Fed chair.
But any Republican who dares to vote in favor of who has been deemed
the most qualified Fed chair in history is still going to deem not
ideologically pure enough for Jim DeMint and accompany.
Will Republican senators care? Will they heed Jim DeMint on this and
vote against her, even as he`s running primary campaigns against the whole
bunch of incumbent Republican senators in their home states anyway?
I have no idea what Republicans are going to do on this. Republican
politics right now are amazing. They would have to go amazing to try to
gin up a Republican revolt against somebody like Janet Yellen. But they
are that amazing and they are not like the rest of politics here in this
country or anywhere else in the world. It`s amazing.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Happy almost Thanksgiving. Without fail, this time of year,
you can always count on an influx of news stories to alert you that people
are, for example, camping outside your local big box store, or there is a
long list of ways that you are allowed to cook a turkey, or there`s a war
on Christmas, and you are on one side of that war even if you don`t want to
There`s another set of stories that you can also always expect this
time of year. And tonight, we are having a particularly ripe experience of
The problem and maybe part of the solution is just ahead.
MADDOW: The news broke today in Washington, but it began with this
documentary in 2007. It`s called "Hillary, The Movie". Basically a horror
movie tear sheets of all the scandals that the right wing said Hillary had
already been involved in even before running for president.
It was produced by a conservative nonprofit called Citizens United.
They wanted to show "Hillary, The Movie" on TV and they wanted to run ads
for the movie on other parts of TV.
Right before the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008. The FEC
blocked Citizens United from advertising the film and ultimately from
making it available anywhere on TV, saying that the movie was essentially a
90-minute attack ad. It was paid for by undisclosed donors and at that
time, that sort of thing was verboten.
Citizens United appealed that ruling all the way up to the Supreme
Court. And in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in their favor. And thus the
legality of money in political campaigns was changed profoundly and
The ruling was in January 2010. By later that year in the 2010
elections, campaign spending from groups outside of the political parties
on the candidates was in the vicinity of $500 million. By the next
election cycle in 2012, spending by those outside groups just exploded,
another $2 billion of outside money.
Billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, and Charles and
David Koch became very famous in the last election by pouring 10 of
millions of their own personal dollars into various campaigns. Some of
their contributions were unreported. Some of their money remained
unreported, because it was funneled through nonprofits. Organizations not
taxed by the federal government because they have a nonprofit purpose.
They don`t have the same requirement as traditional political organizations
to, say, disclose where they get their money.
So, Karl Rove`s nonprofit group, which is called Crossroads GPS, they
are estimated to have spent almost a billion dollars since 2010 on various
political campaigns. The Koch brothers funded group Americans for
Prosperity, they have been spending millions and millions and millions as
Casino bazillionaire Sheldon Adelson is estimated to have given tens
of millions of Adelson bucks to Crossroads GPS and also to Americans for
Prosperity and also to other organizations. And those groups which take
the millions and millions and millions of dollars especially from big
dollar donors, and they use it for various campaigns, those groups remain
untaxed under the guise of being social welfare organization. That`s how
Political operations funded by undisclosed donors at least for the
moment are officially considered to work for the cause of social welfare
and that`s how you get a billion dollars where we don`t know where it came
from or what`s to become of the organization that made it happen.
Well, today, a bombshell came from Washington, unexpectedly. Today,
the Obama administration proposed new rules to specify exactly how much and
what kinds of political activity these wealthy nonprofit groups could
engage in and still qualify as tax exempt, nonprofit, social welfare
According to reporting from "The New York Times", these new rules
would not just set clearer limits on spending, they would prevent these
groups from funding political ads that appear two months before an
election. That couldn`t be considered social welfare activity anymore.
If these new rules are adopted, could they represent the first
effective countervailing force against the massive flood of spending that
sprung out of the Citizens United decision? And if so, wouldn`t bit neat
that it all started happening when everybody was stuck at the airport two
days before Thanksgiving, in the middle of a storm?
Joining us now is Nick Confessore. He`s a political correspondent for
"The New York Times".
Mr. Confessore, thanks very much for being here.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIMES: Of course, anytime.
MADDOW: These proposed rules -- I think it was unexpected that they
were going to happen today, two days before Thanksgiving, but we knew that
something like this might come from the administration. Were those the
contours that you expected to see that were expected to be seen?
CONFESSORE: It`s actually a surprise. We have always known the IRS
was considering over the long-term, over years some kinds of new rules and
restrictions. But the idea of coming out with them like this, is probably
a reaction to the IRS scandal with the Tea Party groups, a desire to have
clearer rules for everybody, clearer enforcement for enforcers, clearer
guidelines for the groups themselves.
It is kind of a surprise. It is a wholesale change. It is the
biggest change in probably 20 or 30 years.
MADDOW: If these changes did goo effect as proposed today or as
introduced today, how much of a change would they have on the kind of big
dollar, outside groups spending that we saw particularly in the 2012
CONFESSORE: I think what would happen is, what we`ll see is that some
groups will say, you know what? We can`t spend as much on political ads as
last time. We got to spend our money on things that don`t count under
these new rules as political.
Some groups may say, you know what? We`re basically a political
group. We should probably go and register with the FEC as a super PAC, and
then some groups will say, no way, and they`ll find other ways, or they
will try to hide their money, like organizing as a corporation and then
spending the money out of the corporation.
MADDOW: In terms of the option of registering as a super PAC, the
downside, donors to those groups, even if they can spend unlimited amounts
donating to them, we all know they have to disclose their donors at least
eventually. So, that anonymity has been I think a big part of the
suspicion about that spending, right?
CONFESSORE: Yes. Listen, there are a lot of donors that don`t want
their names in the paper, they`re afraid of boycotts, they`re afraid of
being called names. So, C4 group has given those donors on left and right
a way to spend money and get money in politics, large money, contributions
in politics, without being disclosed. It`s a huge advantage of these
groups. Super PACs, it`s all on the table.
MADDOW: In terms of the viability of what was proposed today and what
process it has to go through before these rules could be implemented, what
do you see in terms of that?
CONFESSORE: Well, we`ll see at least three months of public comment.
I expect we will see thousands and thousands, if not hundreds of thousands
of comments on this rule from the affected groups, from ordinary people.
After that, they have to go back and think about the comments. Possibly
tweak some of the rules little bit.
And then, sometime, probably in a year, or maybe even two years, the
final proposed rules will go out. It takes a long time, it`s the IRS. But
eventually, it will have some clarity.
MADDOW: In terms of the potential, I guess, the hurdles ahead, can
Congress do anything to stop this from happening?
CONFESSORE: Not really, they can, you know, try and pass laws to stop
it if they want. In fact, some senators and Congress people have called
for laws that would do this, so the IRS is now doing it with rule-making.
But I see more of a fight in the rule-making and in the courts.
I imagine if someone thinks they have a really good case, that these
rules are burdensome, that they violate the First Amendment -- you know, I
expect a challenge on those grounds.
MADDOW: We`re not in the Supreme Court right now, and nobody should
ever speculate about what the Supreme Court might do. But the way these
rules are crafted, today do they seem to be crafted in a way that is
designed to not rub the Supreme Court the wrong way?
CONFESSORE: Well, you know, here`s the important thing -- the rules
don`t say you can`t spend money on that ad before Election Day. It just
says that if you do too much of these particular things which we will
identify, you don`t qualify as a 501c4 social welfare group. You should go
and register as a super PAC. You can still do these things.
CONFESSORE: You can`t be a 501c at the same time.
MADDOW: And so that kind of limited -- well, at least if not limited,
at least targeted change maybe design to --
CONFESSORE: It sounds like a small thing but it could be --
MADDOW: Fascinating. Nick Confessore, political correspondent for
"The New York Times" -- it`s really nice to have you here in person.
Thanks for coming in.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up, a real life cranberry gets it on live
MADDOW: The Iranian foreign minister, the guy who led the Iranian
side in the huge and historic nuclear negotiations over the weekend is an
interesting and eccentric seeming guy. He was the high level diplomat who
broke the news of this "nobody thought it was possible" nuclear deal over
He was the guy who was immobilized, literally immobilized during a
previous round of nuclear talks because of back pain -- back pain that he
said was caused by the stress he suffered by being misquoted in an Iranian
Look, quote, "After seeing the headline of one newspaper, I got severe
back and leg pain. I could not even walk or sit."
The Iranian foreign minister is a very interesting guy. Right now in
Iran, he`s a very popular guy.
Look at this -- this is the greeting that he got when he arrived back
home in Iran after making the nuclear deal. Those crowds if you can`t tell
are very happy.
This is the scene at the airport, people cheering him, mobbing the
motorcade, singing patriotic songs. They`re holding up pictures of his
boss, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The Iranian people at least
judging by the way they greeted their foreign minister, they seemed psyched
about the deal that Iran struck in Geneva. Iranian journalists are
describing the mood in Tehran as hopeful. Really the only hope that the
Iranian people have had a in a long time, the relief from the sanctions
that have knee capped their economy and isolated their country.
And in that hopeful atmosphere, the Iranian president today posted
online a rather astonishing video, posted on this official Web site. To
appreciate what is astonishing about this video, it is helpful to revisit
an iconic memory from a recent American presidential election.
Do you remember this?
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: And now the Iranian version.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Iran has a yes we can video. And it seems a lot like the
Obama "yes we can" video. This was first written about by the Persian
And this thing, it`s fascinating in style and in substance. It puts
the Iranian president`s inaugural address to music. The format is almost
exactly the same as the American "yes we can" video, right down to the
solemn looking actresses.
The fact that the president of Iran decided to essentially copy the
style of this very famous American campaign video is itself noteworthy.
But it`s also noteworthy what he says.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: There are hard-liners in Iran who have come out against the
nuclear deal. But the overwhelming response from the Iranian people, and
importantly from the government, is very positive -- a clear demonstration
that there is a readiness for change there, that they see negotiating with
the West not as a sign of national weakness but as a sign of national hope.
And the "yes we can" video put out by the Iranian president today is
maybe a sign that the Iranian government recognizes just how ready for
change its own citizens are.
Today, our Secretary of State John Kerry also released a video, not
nearly as fancy. Secretary Kerry said he wanted to clarify misinformation
about the nuclear deal. He explained that the U.S. has offered modest
sanctions relief in exchange for major concessions from Iran, including
daily inspections at Iranian nuclear sites. He did not explicitly address
in this video to members of Congress, but he may as well have.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress both are trying to scuttle the
deal, working in a bipartisan way no less, miracle about miracles, to try
to scrap it -- working to impose new sanctions on Iran even though the
White House has asked them to wait a few months to see if this nuclear deal
works. And even though sanctions, new sanctions would kill the deal
Iran seems very happy about the nuclear deal and seems ready to take
steps to change its relationship with the world.
In a new poll that is released tonight, it is clear the American
people favor the deal too, by a huge margin, by a margin of 2-1.
Right now, most everyone is on one side -- the side of at least trying
to make it work. It is only the U.S. Congress that is on the other side.
The side of hoping that it doesn`t work and trying to make sure that it
MADDOW: Hey, travelers. Weather.
There are about 313 million people who live in the United States of
America. And more than 40 million of us are expected to be traveling some
where within the United States for the Thanksgiving holiday.
And, hey, look weather. Nearly half the country its getting some kind
of significant rain or snow event right now, and into the holiday -- which
is making for scenes like this around the country, as people try to get
home or to grandma`s house or anywhere that doesn`t have so many strangers
in it who are also trying to get somewhere, but who instead are stuck with
you somewhere on the way.
Weather, so far, has caused 200 flights to be canceled. Nearly 5,000
flights have already been delayed. This would be a drag if this was not
the busiest travel of time in the year. But because it is, this is a
really serious drag.
And you know what? It always is. It always happens every single
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It was a miserable travel day for millions of Americans on
the move for Thanksgiving.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Holiday travelers be warned. It could be a
miserable commute to grandmother`s house this year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are planning on traveling to day, give
yourself some extra time. Bad weather may be headed your way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pick a year, any year, except maybe 2008 which seems like it
was mostly OK. But other than, every year, every single year -- look,
"Wild weather disrupts holiday travel plans." That was 2004. "Weather
disrupts holiday travel." That was 2005.
2006, "Storms and floods hammer millions of Americans making the
Thanksgiving trek." "Thanksgiving storm on the way." "Weather delays
wreak havoc on Thanksgiving travel." Thanksgiving weather, Massive airport
Every year, every year, every year, Thanksgiving travel and northern
hemisphere winter are a terrible combination. It happens every year.
And so -- stay in. Stay in. Stay in if you can. And if you want to
stay in and plan your Thanksgiving night cocktail for the family, or for
just you and the cats, or whatever. This might help. My friend Josie
Packard who works at the bar drink in Boston invented the drink. I don`t
know if it is a Thanksgiving drink, but it is my family`s Thanksgiving
It`s called the Northern Spy, named after the apple variety, the
Northern Spy. Use a lemon to wet the rim of a glass. And this is sugar,
granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Since the glass rim is wet with the lemon
juice. It will sort of stick. And you will get a cinnamon sugar rim like
that. Set that aside.
And then, you make the drink. This is applejack. Laird`s bonded
applejack, which means it`s 100 proof kind, which is way better than the
non-100 proof kind. If you can`t find it, you might want to substitute for
the bonded applejack. But per drink, you want to 2 ounces of applejack, 2
Then, the other liquor ingredient, some times hard to find. Apricot
brandy is best. If you can`t find apricot brandy, apricot liqueur will
also work, which is what this one is. You want to have about a half an
ounce. If it`s too sweet, you can dial back to half an ounce. This is a
pretty dry one, so that`s all right. It`s about a half an ounce.
Then, the magic ingredient that makes it particularly seasonal is
apple cider I you can find like non-preservatives, even non-pasteurized
cider, that`s better. You want an ounce of apple cider.
And then, to even out the whole thing -- then make it, muy delicioso.
You`re going to want some lemon juice. For this recipe, you want half an
ounce of lemon juice.
So, that has to come from an actual lemon, not from a plastic thing
that lives in your fridge that spelled like lemon but without the vowels.
You want it to be a piece of fruit.
There is the drink. Shake it up with ice.
Pardon me for a moment. I have to take care of this.
And then, you pour it into the glass that has already been rimmed with
the cinnamon and sugar.
If you forget to do the cinnamon and sugar rim until after you poured
the glass. There is no going back. There`s no hope. You can`t add the
rim once there is liquor in the glass.
But then to be particularly thanksgivingy, you have two choices --
one, is to add champagne. The other is not to add champagne. Those are
two choices. They`re both wonderful.
Add fresh cranberries as your garnish. Do not eat the garnish.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Bye, have a great night.
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