'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
December 11, 2013
Guest: John Stanton, Elizabeth Esty
HIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying up
with us this hour.
Up all night! And apparently it is not just tonight. They`re going
to be up all night tonight, which is only Wednesday. And then they`re
going to be up all night tomorrow and then they`re going to be up all night
the night after that. They`re going to be up all night all the way from
now until Saturday.
That is the plan. They are doing it again. Except this time it is
not just one guy, it is not just Rand Paul misunderstanding drone policy or
Ted Cruz on green eggs and ham. It is just one Republican senator that is
picking a pet issue that`s going to keep them up all night. This time it
is the whole Republican Party.
And the thing for which they are taking a stand, the reason the Senate
is still in session right now, and they`re going to stay in session
overnight tonight and tomorrow night and the night after that, all the way
until Saturday night, the hill they have decided to die on in the Senate is
that they want to take a long time to vote on these nominees, none of whom
are famous, and none of whom are really all that controversial.
At 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time tonight, they are scheduled to take a vote
on this non-controversial judicial nominee, her name is Nina Pillard?
Never heard of her? It`s OK, she`s not that controversial, no reason to
have ever heard of her, no offense.
Then, around 5:00 a.m., a vote is expected on this nice person. Her
name is Chai Feldblum. She`s nominated to be in the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. Also, not the world`s most high profile
And then there are these nine other nominees who are all stacked up
and ready for a vote. Jeh Johnson is actually the famous one out of all of
them. But he and all the rest of them, none of them are controversial.
All of them are likely to eventually be confirmed once they do come up for
But Republicans have decided that they`re going to take a really long
time to do that. And they have decided to mount this kind of amazing and
exhausting spectacle for the end purpose of achieving nothing they wouldn`t
get without it. They`re getting nothing in terms of a policy issue.
They`re getting nothing in terms of stopping or advancing a singularly
What this is, is them taking a stand, a four-day long stand, that`s
about a procedural Senate rules change. Woo-hoo!
Harry Reid and the Democrats in the Senate changed the rules three
weeks ago to stop Republicans from being able to filibuster nominees. They
said they weren`t opposed to the filibuster on principle, but they said
Republicans were abusing it. They said Republicans were just using it for
everything now. The filibuster was no longer for extraordinary
circumstances, it just happened all the time with nobody having to make any
real effort at all.
And when the Democrats made the change, to take the filibuster power
away from Republicans on nominees -- well, the Republicans said they were
very upset about it and they made lots of threats on how the Democrats
would rue the day, the Democrats would regret ever making this change. The
Republicans said that they had plans to get back at the Democrats.
And so, there were lots of questions about how they meant. How the
Republicans would plan to fight back. What did the Republicans have up
their sleeve to retaliate against the Democrats?
It turns out, now they know. We launched it tonight. This is it.
Their big plan is they`re going to stay up very late.
Making the blocking of the presidential nominations a relatively hard
thing to do that takes physical endurance and puts everybody through great
inconvenience, the way a filibuster is supposed to be, which is just what
the Democrats wanted in the first place.
This is Mitch McConnell`s big idea? If this is really is Mitch
McConnell`s payback plan, if this is what he had up his sleeve all along,
you got to think that Democrats must be really psyched. They`re probably
really tired already and they`ll be way more tired come Saturday if they`re
not allowed to get out of session between now and then.
But this was the Democrat`s whole idea, right, to try to make clear
this issue about the filibuster, if you want to slow something down or stop
something, it really ought to be hard. It ought to be hard. It ought to
involved a big spectacle and rolling out the cops in the Senate and
everybody paying attention and you staying up all night. It ought to seem
like an extraordinary thing.
Now, the Republicans are doing that in order to slow down nominations.
Right. It was the Democrat`s whole idea.
Mitch McConnell not only miscalculated and made the wrong bet and cost
the Republicans their ability to block nominees maybe forever, his surprise
stunt tactics unveiled tonight for getting back at the Democrats turns out
to be the best possible way to prove the Democrat`s whole point in the
first place, of what he was doing wrong in the first place.
It`s amazing. He`s like he was hired by Democratic bloggers to
illustrate what`s wrong with the Republicans in the Senate right now.
With what`s going on in the Senate right and what`s going on to --
apparently going on straight through tonight and tomorrow and Friday and
all the way through Saturday, with what`s going on right now in the Senate,
I`ve got to think that Democrats are psyched, unless they`re too busy being
psyched on what is happening on the other side of the House.
If there is one thing to take pleasure in your opponent`s outrage
display of his own impotence in defeat, it`s got to be spectacle of your
opponent being driven to his knees by infighting on his own side. The
outbreak of open warfare within what is supposed to be one side of the
fight, that is what happened in Republican-ville today in the House of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, most major conservative groups put out
statements blasting the deal, are you --
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You mean the groups
that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?
REPORTER: Yes, those groups. Are you worried --
BOEHNER: They`re using our members and they`re using the American
people for their own goals? This is ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is ridiculous.
To be clear, he is not calling the reporter ridiculous. He is not
calling the Democrats ridiculous. He is not calling the lamestream media
ridiculous. He is calling the conservative movement ridiculous.
A huge fight has broken out in the last 24 hours between the
Republican Party, the Republicans in Congress, and the conservative
movement. Now, it is nominally about this small-scale budget deal that
Congressman Paul Ryan negotiated with Democratic Senator Patty Murray in
But if the agreement were just about that deal, it would probably not
be this vitriolic. It is not that big of a deal, as a policy matter. It`s
kind of like if you`ve been having like a long, simmering fight with your
spouse over something that`s been going on for months, maybe years, and
it`s about really big issues that most of the time, in order to get along,
you just agree you`re not going to talk about it.
But then one day, just get like, pass the salt. And you know what?
That`s it. I`m not passing you the salt!
And you realize it`s not the salt. It`s all this other stuff building
up. But finally it is just this one (INAUDIBLE).
There`s John Boehner yelling at this reporter who can`t even get her
question out. This is ridiculous! And then, everybody is smiling
nervously. Where`s this going to end?
And then, tonight, in "Politico", the Senate Conservatives Fund
executive director tells "Politico" that John Boehner has apparently
decided that he is waging war on conservatives. Conservatives everywhere
need to understand that the party`s leadership has declared war on them.
If we don`t fight back, we will always regret it. We`re going to hang
together or hang separately.
Not that big of a budget deal. Maybe this is not really about the
budget deal. The headline on that "Politico" piece tonight is, "GOP`s
private war goes public."
You do get the sense that this is something that has been waiting to
break out in the open for a long time now. And maybe the immediate
precipitating event is not the most important thing, but now, it`s all
coming out. And there was a sign earlier today that something was going to
break out into the open, when the internal group inside congress, for sort
of hard core conservative Republicans, it`s called the Republican Study
Committee, has been around for 40 years. This is the group in the `80s
that said Ronald Reagan was a squish, and real conservatives needed to
stand up to him.
The Republican Study Committee today, in the midst of this fight
that`s going on between Republicans, the Republican Study Committee today
fired the guy who has been their executive director for the last 12 years.
There were sort of vague noises in the press today that he had broken
protocol somehow. Or maybe he inappropriately talking to the press or
But then reporting from "National Journal" tonight suggests that what
really happened is that the Republican members of Congress in the
Republican Study Committee thought he was ratting them out -- ratting them
out to the outside conservative groups who are now at war with the
Republican Party and its congressional leaders. So he had to go.
This is kind of a "with us or against us" moment among Republicans.
They`re having a full-scale civil war. These long simmering frustrations
and fights as of today, they feel like more than ever before, they feel
like they`re turning into a full-blown schism.
What has to happen next in the very short term is that House
Republicans have to make a decision about whether or not they`re going to
side with these outside conservative groups or whether they`re going to
side with Paul Ryan and John Boehner on that policy issue.
It`s anybody`s guess right now as to how that is going to go. If you
were a Republican member of Congress could you say how you vote on that?
Would you side with those guys or would you side with the big money groups
who say they will primary you if you do.
And then if it does get through the House, it has to go through the
Senate, where the conservative groups that are funding and promoting
challengers to all of these leading Republican senators are saying, don`t
you dare vote for that budget. Don`t you dare side with Paul Ryan and John
Boehner. If you do, we will destroy you. Side with us instead.
Even before we get to that point, though, we`re going to all be
treated to a 48-hour, 72-plus hour demonstration overnight, and then
overnight, and then overnight again, a marathon around the clock four-day
long presentation of the consequences of the bad decisions and subsequent
powerlessness of Republicans in Congress and specifically their leadership.
Up all night. Up all night. Covering politics does not get any
better than days like this.
Joining is now is John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for
Mr. Stanton, thank you for being here. Nice to see.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Good to see you.
MADDOW: All right. Do you get excited with up all night publicity
stunt or are you like, oh, the cots again?
STANTON: Yes, it is hard to get super excited about a bunch of old
guys saying they`re going to stay up for three days. Rich old guys don`t
generally stay up three days. Not, I mean --
MADDOW: Not without help.
STANTON: A lot of blue pills.
STANTON: I`m a little suspect whether they`ll actually go to
Saturday. But the significant thing is there are a lot of other ways they
could go about with blocking things in the Senate, which would have more of
an impact. Yesterday, the thing is two-hour rule, which is a very arcane
part of Senate rules, which is also stopped a confirmation hearing of one
of President Obama`s nominees.
MADDOW: Stalled it.
STANTON: Stalled it.
STANTON: Nobody really cared. Rolling out the cots and staying up
all night, they found out with Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, that does get a lot
of publicity, gin up their base. People can fundraise on it. And you saw,
I think it is very much more of a publicity stunt than anything else.
MADDOW: Here`s my issue, though. I mean, I find Mitch McConnell to
be the most amazing and mystifying political animal of all. It is that
when Rand Paul did the drones thing, what that got attention to was drones
policy, which was awkward for him because he didn`t understand very well
what he was talking about. That ended up actually being a bad thing for
him, but it got a lot of attention for him personally.
When Ted Cruz did the green eggs and ham filibuster, it got a lot of
attention to Republican opposition to Obamacare, the impending shutdown,
and, of course, primarily Ted Cruz himself.
This is a stay up all night, three-day long, four-day long event
that`s mounted by the Republican Party as a whole over the issue of the
procedural nature of a Senate rules change that happened three weeks ago.
I mean, where does -- how could you possibly politically capitalize on
STANTON: Right. I think, you know, to a certain degree, it does --
they found their base is definitely up in arms about the changes to the
rules. And also judicial activism is still a big thing for conservatives
and there`s something like gets them worked up.
MADDOW: But they`re not making a case for any of these nominees.
STANTON: No, but they`re saying essentially saying to the
conservative base, we`re with you. And for people like Mitch McConnell and
John Cornyn and others who are facing primary challenges and are being beat
up by the outside groups, it is important for them to try to show these
conservative bona fides. The irony, of course, though, is that no matter
what they do, they`re still get attacked as being RINOs. They can`t --
there`s nothing really they can do to not be attacked by the Senate
Conservative Fund or Heritage Action, or any number of these groups.
So, they are sort of playing, almost grasping at straws in some cases,
trying to show that they are true blue conservatives.
MADDOW: And at a certain point, they have to make a decision about
who they`re going to side with, because they can`t sort of keep playing the
I want to play you a little piece of tape. This was Paul Ryan, making
the case on conservative talk radio last night. And part of the Republican
leadership`s case for why everybody should vote for this Paul Ryan budget
is that it will prevent there from being another government shutdown in
January. So, he is making that case on conservative talk radio, and this
was the response he got. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: This agreement prevents a government
shutdown in January, and prevents a government shutdown in --
MARK LEVIN: You guys are all worked up about that. But a lot of us
don`t really care about.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mark Levin telling Paul Ryan, you want to avoid a government
shutdown, we care about that. Where do you go from there?
STANTON: Well, the irony here is that the House has been in the last
three years, the place where conservatives have held down. They have made
it difficult to move anything, and Mitch McConnell has been sort of the
adult within the Republican Party that comes, worked with President Obama
or with Harry Reid, and the Senate Republicans have been the ones putting
pressure on conservatives who agreed to things.
Suddenly, today, it`s the opposite. House Republicans are embracing
Paul Ryan and embracing this deal. They think it`s a good idea. John
Boehner is getting to go out there and paying back finally against Heritage
MADDOW: And call them ridiculous, all that stuff?
STANTON: Right. And at the same time, suddenly Mitch McConnell and
John Cornyn are saying, Paul Ryan is crazy, it is a bad idea. We don`t
want to do this. And it is a fascinating flip of roles.
MADDOW: When the House votes, I mean, we`ll have to see what happens
in the Senate and how long they are actually able to stand up. They`re
saying Saturday night, that would be hilarious just for the state they
would be in by then. But in the House when they go to vote on the Paul
Ryan thing, what`s your impression? Do you think it`s going to pass?
STANTON: I do think it`s going to pass, there are enough House
Republicans that are supporting it. A lot of guys are looking for ways to
put distance between themselves and Heritage Action, and other groups
saying I`m not totally beholden to these organizations.
And I think that, you know, Ryan is a unique figure within the
Republican Party. People believe in him. They think he is a conservative.
The Mitt Romney/RINO stink did not carry over unto him. He came back and
they all think he`s very conservative. And he has a lot of cache with his
MADDOW: I love that you had a Republican staffer in your piece at
"BuzzFeed" today tell you that Paul Ryan is our Jesus, you know what? If
the Democrats said that, that would be the end of the world. But in the
Republican Party, that`s OK. That`s just, you know, Wednesday.
John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for "BuzzFeed" -- it`s great to
have you here in person. Good to see you, man.
All right, that crazy, genuinely impossible to believe story about
Chris Christie`s high school buddies single-handedly creating a giant
traffic jam on the busiest bridge in the country as political retribution,
it`s not becoming less of a thing. That story is not going away. More
MADDOW: So it started with a traffic jam on a really inconvenient
day, on the first day of school this year in September. In a town in New
Jersey that abuts the busiest bridge in the whole United States of America.
On the first day of school, on Monday morning, with no notice, and
apparently for no reason, all but one of the traffic lanes leading from
little Fort Lee, New Jersey, unto the George Washington Bridge, were
abruptly closed off. Those inexplicable lane closures from the busiest
bridge in the nation turned what was usually a 30-minute commute into a
two-hour nightmare. And the resulting traffic turned to the streets of
Fort Lee into a parking lot that did not let up all day and all night.
And it was not just for one day and a night. This thing went on all
week. It started on a Monday morning, went on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, it kept going, and nobody knew why. There was no accident.
There was no construction. There was no announcement, no explanation of
any kind. It was just shutdown.
The Port Authority is the name of the agency that`s responsible for
all things related to that particular bridge, since the bridge goes from
New York to New Jersey, New York and New Jersey both run it. New York runs
one side of it. New Jersey runs the other. It`s the two states agencies
When they finally decided to explain what was going on with Fort Lee,
the Port Authority put out a written statement explaining that those lanes
had to be shut down because of a traffic study. The problem was, there was
no record of any such traffic study anywhere. And nobody heard of such a
study being conducted.
And so as these things tend to do, because the supposed explanation
made no sense, that made everybody wonder what the real explanation was.
And that made the story get bigger, and then the story got weirder. "The
Wall Street Journal" has done some really excellent reporting on this very
And "The Journal" soon turned up that the lane closures had been
ordered by one specific guy. Republican activist, former blogger, former
small town Republican mayor of New Jersey, who was an old high school buddy
of the governor, Chris Christie. He had been given a political appointment
to the Port Authority, this agency that runs the bridge.
Port Authority employees later testified that when Chris Christie`s
old high school buddy and this appointee, when he gave the order to close
down Fort Lee`s access to the bridge, that was an unprecedented request.
They were never told to do anything like that before. And they were told
to keep quiet about it. They were asked if they could notify the town,
maybe make a statement so people could prepare and make alternate plans,
the answer reportedly was no, just forget about it. Don`t tell anybody.
So, Fort Lee is about to have a city-wide log jam from the seventh
ring of hell, and they`re getting no notice, really? We shouldn`t tell
them we`re about to do this? No, forget about it. Don`t say a word. No,
just do it. Don`t tell anyone.
That all happened reportedly two weeks after the mayor of Fort Lee
rebuffed requests from Chris Christie`s allies to endorse the governor`s
bid for re-election.
Was it political retribution? I mean, nobody is under any illusion
about purity and delicacy of New Jersey politics. Is it really? This
heavy handed. I mean, political appointees shutting down whole towns and
parts of bridges to retaliate against small town mayors because they
wouldn`t give their endorsement? Seriously?
It seems insane, right? It seems like something that Pauly Walnuts
would suggest to Tony, and Tony would say, come on, Paulie, this isn`t the
But last week, the guy who reportedly said don`t tell anybody guy, the
guy who reportedly gave the order to shut down Fort Lee`s access to the
bridge, Governor Christie`s old high school buddy, on Friday, he resigned
from his job. He resigned from the Port Authority and said the story had
become a distraction.
And then this week, it got to be a real thing, officially, as in the
state assembly and the biggest newspapers in the state starting to demand
answers. The number two guy at the Port Authority, the guy who hired Chris
Christie`s high school friend, it was his press office that put out the
phony "traffic study" excuse, he has been hauled out so far before hearings
on the scandal in the state capitol in Trenton.
Well, today, New Jerseys` largest newspaper, "The Star Ledger"
essentially called bullpuckey on what he said at that hearing, called
bullpuckey on his explanations for the scandal so far. They said the
legislature should haul him up again, quote, "Now that his cover story is
starting to unravel, legislators should subpoena Mr. Baroni to testify
again, this time under oath, with the threat of perjury hanging over his
Addressing Governor Chris Christie and his joking effort to brush the
scandal off, "The Star Ledger` is demanding answers from the governor as
well. Quote, "This is more than political theater. The amateurish
shutdown put people at risk. It`s past time for jokes and fairy tales.
What`s needed finally are truthful answers. Let`s hope that the perjury
charges shakes loose some official honesty."
Furthermore, there are calls from both sides of the bridge, New Jersey
and New York, for the resignation of the governor`s appointee Bill Baroni.
This story, this scandal may or may not turn out to be a big deal for
Chris Christie. So far, though, it is not good, particularly for a guy who
very clearly wants to run for president. And the Democratic super PAC
American Bridge, ironically enough, which raises a lot of money and spends
it against Republican candidates even on issues not related to bridges, as
of today, American Bridges thinks enough of this political retaliation
traffic jam of 2013 scandal that they started to work on this reproducible
meme to capitalize politically on the charge that Chris Christie is playing
dirty politics and he should answer for this scandal.
Political retribution? Lane close, expect Chris Christie?
As of now, Chris Christie is responsible for having guys working for
him who are mixed up in this mess and still can`t explain it. But the Port
Authority`s inspector general announced late yesterday that they`re
launching their own investigation into what happened on the shutdown, and
the state`s largest paper is calling for more testimony under oath, under
threat of perjury.
The fact-finding portion of the story is not over by a long shot, so
the story is not going away. Not as long as the official explanations
continue to make absolutely no sense. A story that sounded too crazy to be
true, a story that sounded like a rejected plot line from the Sopranos, is
starting to sound more and more like a plausible the more we learned.
MADDOW: Sometimes, impostors are more memorable than people who
actually do things the right way. So, for example, the most famous best
new artist in Grammy Award history, is probably Milli Vanilli. Thanks to
the simple fact that those were the guys who faked it and who got stripped
of the award because they weren`t actually singing.
Also, if you know the name of one Boston marathoner winner from the
`80s, the one name you probably is also a person who faked it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first person seen crossing the finish line,
Rosie Ruiz, an unknown. Her win was immediately challenged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nobody knew who Rosie Ruiz was, no one expected her to win
the marathon that day, but there she was, crossing the finish line first,
claiming victory, looking tired, even though she barely broken a sweat.
And the reason she had barely broken a sweat is because Rosie Ruiz did not
actually run the marathon. She just jumped in from the crowd at the very
end of the course to beat out the real winner of the women`s division. The
real winner was a Canadian runner named Jacqueline Gareau.
But even though she really was the real winner, the name we all
remember is Rosie Ruiz, because her cheating, her faking it was such a
remarkable thing. And that principle of who gets remembered and why, is
all the more important on a day when remarkable cheating and fakery is big
in the news again. And that story is ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Check this out. Six states, New York, Colorado, Connecticut,
Maryland, California, New Jersey. Those six states have all passed some
form of new gun safety legislation since the massacre at Sandy Hook
Elementary School a year ago this week. Five of those states are
controlled totally by Democrats, in the sixth one, the Democrats do control
the legislature, but the governor, of course, is a Republican.
So, gun reform has happened in the past year in blue states and in the
somewhat purple state of New Jersey.
"The New York Times" today totaled up new laws in the states overall
to try to address gun violence, new laws that have passed since Newtown.
Over the past year, states have put new limits on the sides of ammunition
magazines, on the sale of assault weapons. They passed new requirements
for universal background checks that you can evade just by going to a gun
They added to the controls that are supposed to keep people with
serious mental illnesses away from firearms.
In January, a month after Newtown, President Obama announced that he
would take 23 executive actions to try to reduce gun violence. That`s why
for the first time in seven years, this year, the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms, the ATF, finally got a Senate-confirmed permanent
official director, has not had one in seven years but has one now.
Just yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden announced a new hundred
million dollar round of funding for mental health care in towns and cities
around the nation.
It`s true that new federal gun laws have not passed the House and
Senate and been signed into law. But we have seen real change on some gun
safety issues, both at the national level and in the states, especially
with the tighter restrictions on guns and ammunition magazines that have
passed in blue states.
Now, we have also since Newtown seen looser gun laws, especially in
the red states, along with 39 new laws tightening restrictions on guns.
Other states have passed 70 laws loosening restrictions on guns in the past
year, making it easier to get guns and adding new places where it`s legal
to carry them.
Here is the thing, though, that reflects the trend that preceded what
happened at Newtown. Before Newtown, conservative lawmakers in the states
had already been on a year-long spree to loosen gun rules, rights, to
increase gun access, to loosen gun safety regulations wherever they could.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed the nation`s first "Stand Your
Ground" law back in 2005. In the blue jacket there standing right beside
Jeb Bush, that`s the NRA`s chief lobbyist.
After Florida passed "Stand Your Ground" in 2005, more than 20 other
states followed Florida`s example. The gun lobby flipped the states like
dominos, with help from corporate-funded conservative groups like ALEC.
In 2009 and 2010, red states started to pass new laws that let you
carry a gun into bars. What could possibly go wrong in the mixing of
alcohol and firearms?
So, after Newtown, some red states kept up their efforts to get more
guns and more powerful guns into the hands of more people, to give law
enforcement less to work with, to loosen the restrictions that are supposed
to keep guns away from the criminals and mentally ill. Some red states
have stepped up their efforts in that regard, even after Newtown. Yes,
But that kind of thing is already happening. The thing that changed
after Newtown was this, was some new restrictions on guns. Movement in the
law in that direction had not been happening at all, before Newtown,
basically, anywhere in the country. And that has changed in this past
year, in a big way, in states like Maryland and California and most
definitely in Connecticut.
Newtown was the catalyst in all that. Before Newtown, the movement
for gun safety in this country consisted of a few groups that have been
around for a long time. They had enormous stores of knowledge and
experience, but they really honestly represented sort of a static, place-
holding position in politics. They`re sort of the permanent, less powerful
oppositions to groups like the NRA.
After Newtown, that has changed, too, and by a lot. After Newtown,
that movement has just grown wings, with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense
in America, and Gabby Giffords` Americans for Responsible Solutions and the
Sandy Hook Promise, and the reinvigoration of groups like Mayors Against
Illegal Guns and formation of interfaith groups calling for change,
organizations of families who have lost loved ones, not necessarily to mass
shootings but to street violence, all these new groups all calling for
change, all doing it in their own way -- a new, energized, heterogeneous
movement in this country for gun safety reform.
As we approach this weekend, one year since the shooting at Sandy Hook
Elementary School, the people of Newtown have been asking the media and
people in general to please not come pouring into town for the anniversary.
They say they understand the concern and the interest, but the media
presence alone can paralyze the town and has in the past.
Nobody wants anybody to forget Newtown, and nobody will, particularly
on this one year anniversary. But if you were of a mind that what happened
at the elementary school there a year ago, requires a moral or political
response in our country, I think the idea now is that that response could
and maybe should be something that you do in your state, in your town. Not
in theirs, let Newtown be.
Joining is now is Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut. Her
district includes Newtown.
Congressman Esty, thanks very much for being here. I really
appreciate your time tonight.
REP. ELIZABETH ESTY (D), CONNECTICUT: I really appreciate the chance
to be with you this evening.
MADDOW: In terms of people marking the anniversary in their own towns
and in their own states and not in Newtown, are you hearing about plans
like that? Are you hearing about ways to channel the effort around Newtown
into helping people market it in their own ways and in their own towns?
ESTY: We have, we have helped coordinate that, those who have been
active in Washington as part of the gun violence prevention task force.
And really with groups across the country have spread the word and wishes
across Newtown to mark this solemn anniversary with acts of kindness in
their own communities.
As you said, what has dramatically changed in the last year is that
Newtown is no longer simply a place, but in these words of my good friend,
Monte Frank, who has been a real parent/activist, galvanized in his
community, it`s not just a place, it`s a movement. And that movement is
happening in cities and towns all across America.
MADDOW: We can see in year one of this movement, as you say, there
has been some policy change. There has been some policy change at the
national level and in blue states, not so much in red states, who sort of
carried on as they did before.
In terms of the gun violence prevention task force meeting groups,
bringing people together in Washington to talk about policy, terms of what
you are hearing people trying to work on in the states, do you expect there
to be further change in terms of law?
ESTY: I think we`re going to continue to see growth and support and
change. The American people overwhelmingly support common sense gun
reforms to keep our children safe on the streets, in their homes, at their
schools and to keep young people safe and families safe everywhere.
Today, we had a group of families from all across America. And it`s
not simply Newtown. But it`s Washington, D.C., and it is Hartford,
Connecticut and Chicago. And it is every city and every town in America
that is affected by this epidemic of gun violence.
MADDOW: We have talked -- you have been on the show, and we`ve spoken
a few times since what happened last December in Newtown. I wonder,
looking back on it, the way this past year has gone, if there is anything
that you knew now or that you have learned over the course of this year,
that you wish you knew then. If there was any advice that you could give
yourself or anybody else who ever has to deal with something like that
about how to cope and in your case, how to lead in this kind of a context.
ESTY: I think you have to use the touchstone, in my case it was using
what it felt like to be a parent. And helping to be as respectful as I
possibly could be and as courageous has these families have been. And
rather than responding with anger or despair as they had every right to.
Instead, they`ve led with courage and hope and kindness, and that has
really inspired and I think frankly it`s opened the eyes and hearts of
America to the price of inaction, and that inspires me every day. And
their courage and their persistence is what I have taken to be my mission,
persistent, we cannot give up. They will not and we must not.
MADDOW: Local officials in Newtown have been very vocal.
Superintendent to the schools, first selectwomen, essentially the highest
officials in the town and others, representatives of the families, have
talked about how they don`t want people to come to Newtown. Physically,
they don`t want the media there. They don`t want people to visit. They
don`t certainly want people to send anything to the town on the occasion of
marking one year since the massacre happened.
I wonder if you share those feelings and if you feel like they`re
ESTY: I do share and support the community`s feelings. They have had
to go through an unimaginable tragedy and horror in an exceptionally public
way. And they have channeled that outpouring of grief and outpouring of
support in remarkable ways.
But this one-year anniversary is really a time for them to regroup, to
grieve, to heal in their own private ways. And I think they have been very
wise to call on us as a nation those of us who are moved by not only what
happened in Newtown but by gun violence in our own communities, to take
positive steps, respond with an act of kindness, that is what we`re doing
here in Washington, we have families here this week participating in events
and are encouraging others to do the same.
Mike Thompson, the chairman of our task force and other members of
Congress, will be joining us at Martha`s Table here in Washington, later
this week as well as families from Newtown. And gun violence, victims and
families from across the country are joining us to mark the occasion.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes
Newtown, thanks very much for talking with us about this tonight. I know
that this week is going to be a very tough week for you. Please stay in
touch and let us know what you can do.
ESTY: Well, thank you so much. And thank you for your continued
interest and support, in this country, standing up for political courage to
cowardice in Washington.
MADDOW: I appreciate it, ma`am. Thank you for being here.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This has not been a great week for America`s big banks.
Yesterday, the Volcker Rule was officially approved by five big agencies.
That new rule means that banks will no longer be able to use your money to
make high-risk trades that make them a lots of profit but that also
threaten the stability of the whole world`s financial system.
The Volcker Rule is something the banks have spent more than two years
and millions of dollars lobbying against, but yesterday, they lost the
fight. That was yesterday.
Now, today, the single most interesting ongoing fight within the
Democratic Party also landed with a thud on Wall Street. "The Wall Street
Journal" published an editorial last week by a purported Democratic group
demagoguing Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, and saying that any
Democrat who wants to expand Social Security or not cut Medicare, like
Elizabeth Warren, is a laughingstock and should never be taken seriously.
The group that wrote that op-ed is called Third Way, and they do call
themselves a Democratic group. But liberal Democrats are really mad that
Third Way is considered to have any weight at all in Democratic Party
politics. There was some pushback against the group from Elizabeth Warren
herself earlier this week. But today, the liberal group, the Progressive
Change Campaign Committee, personally delivered more than 125,000
signatures to the Third Way`s doorstep in Washington, D.C.
The PCCC and two other liberal groups essentially are demanding the
anti-liberal forces in the Democratic Party show themselves. They`re
demanding that Third Way explain where they get their money from and who
There has been a fascinating to watch unfold on the left over the last
few days. Including the Web site, Daily KOs, posting this chart to at
least help people understand who is on Third Way`s board of trustees. This
is list of their board of trustees. This is the annotated list.
This is what they do or have done for a living. Investment banker.
Investment banker. Investment banker. Investment banker. CEO.
Investment banker. Investment banker. Investment -- oh, hey, you are the
guys who want the Democrats to take more positions that are good for Wall
Street and bad for everybody else? Why is that?
In Republican fights, as a rule, are way more fun to watch than
Democratic fights are. But on the Democratic side, this fight, the
populists and the liberals against Wall Street, this one so far has been a
fascinating one to watch. It does not appear to be over.
This is the kind of fight the liberals always used to lose. But in
the Democratic Party right now, it sort of seems like the Wall Street guys
are going to lose and liberal guys are going to win. We shall see. But
that`s how it feels like it is going.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Hoot, hoot, Debunktion Junction, what`s my function?
All right. True or false, the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" was made
without any untoward help from the CIA. Without any unauthorized
disclosures about U.S. intelligence from the CIA. Is that true or false?
"Zero Dark Thirty", of course, was the movie that portrayed the U.S. Navy
SEALs mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. And when the
movie came out, some law makers had their suspicions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DAN COATS (R), INDIANA: One of the areas of concern its over the
question of this -- this accommodation with Hollywood filmmakers, regarding
the bin Laden raid. It`s been alleged that -- that the name of -- one of
the participants in that, one of our uniformed participants in that has
been made public. We were wondering, question is whether, what other
details have been shared about that.
LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You have got to be able to
protect those who are involved in clandestine operations. Having said
that, I also want to make clear that no unauthorized disclosures were
provided to movie producers or anybody else?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. So, that`s the claim. No unauthorized disclosures were
provided to the movie producers who made "Zero Dark Thirty", is that true
or is that false?
False. Newly declassified documents from the CIA say they did make
unauthorized disclosures to the "Zero Dark Thirty" filmmakers. But,
apparently, it was an accident.
Then CIA Director Leon Panetta apparently revealed classified
information about the raid during a speech that he gave at CIA
headquarters. Nothing wrong with giving a speech at CIA headquarters about
something CIA did. Except, unbeknownst to him, apparently one of the
filmmakers was in the room, and he didn`t know that when he revealed the
classified name of the ground commander of the unit who carried out the bin
So, yes, apparently that did happen. Oops.
Next up, true or false -- one of the ways the U.S. government is
providing material assistance to protesters in Ukraine who have been
demonstrating against their government in Kiev`s main square, one of the
ways the U.S. has been helping them out is by giving them snacks. Is that
true or is that false?
True. What you are looking at here is the U.S. assistant secretary of
state visiting -- there she is -- visiting Independence Square today,
walking through the crowd. She`s holding a white plastic bag filled with
snacks, bread, maybe cookies or biscuits. You can see her offering snacks
to protesters camped out for weeks. She even offers some of them to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NULAND: Some bread for you? Take some bread. You`re hungry. Come
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Come on. That standoff in Kiev, the main square has been
escalating. Last night, right before dawn, black helmeted riot police,
some in balaclavas as well, carrying -- carrying riot police shield and
batons. They charged at protesters camped out at the square.
The police charged at the crowd. They broke through the barricades.
They bulldozed the camps the protesters built where they had been sleeping.
Big swaths of the square were cleared out. It was a violent confrontation.
And dozens of people were injured.
In response to that crackdown, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a
statement last night, quote, "The United States expresses its disgusts with
the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kiev
square, with riot police, bulldozers and batons, rather than with respect
for democratic rights and human dignity." The State Department even
suggested today that the U.S. government might kid sanctions against
Ukraine if the violent crackdown there continues.
Now, this thing is nowhere near over. By 10:30 this morning, the
security forces had withdrawn from the square. And within hours, the
protesters barricades all went back up.
The interior minister said today, that last night`s overnight
crackdown was reportedly just to clear traffic congestion. He promises
there will now be no further crackdowns of the sort.
We shall see.
Last one, though, true or false? During the memorial service for the
late Nelson Mandela this week, where dignitaries from around the world
gathered to pay homage -- this man, man on the right side of your screen
was doing helpful and useful sign language interpretation of the speeches
made to the crowd and to the vast TV audience.
Is that what that man is doing? Is he a sign language interpreter?
True or false?
That is false. The man who appears to be the appointed man
translating the speeches given at the memorial is a fake interpreter. He
is just waving his hand around in random gestures, for a global audience of
millions. He is speaking no known sign language a deaf member of South
Africa`s parliament noticed this guy was a fake and tweeted this. "ANC
linked interpreter cannot sign at all, he is making up signs. Please get
You can see here, when a real sign language interpreter on the left-
hand side of the screen, signs what is said during the memorial. See,
they`re doing totally different things, because the guy on the right side
is making it up.
Person on the left is signing. Dude on the right is doing who knows
what. He stops at some point. Starts looking around. When he start he
starts up again, it looks like he`s just repeating the random gesture over
It`s not his first go around as a fake interpreter of major events in
South Africa. Here he is making stuff up for the video of the 100th
anniversary of the African National Congress last August.
So, yes, who is the guy? How come he keeps turning up? I don`t know.
Is he real? He is not real. He is something else.
That does it for us. Thank you for being with us.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Have a great night.
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