ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
January 8, 2014
Guests: Mark Sokolich, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Avik Roy, Maya Wiley, Wesley Clark
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
Stunning developments today in the unfolding scandal surrounding New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie, as documents obtained by the press show the
governor`s top deputies ordered lanes of traffic on the world`s busiest
bridge to be closed off in the New Jersey town of Ft. Lee.
In an apparent pity, punitive retribution of the mayor of Fort Lee
who had the gall not to endorse Christie. That mayor will join me here on
the moment. And trust me, you do not want to miss that.
And tonight, a man once hailed as the next Republican presidential
nominee is fighting for his political life, canceling his one event today,
giving no interviews and issuing a statement attempting to distance himself
from the entire mess.
One thing is for sure. Just a few weeks ago, he was joking about the
allegations, Chris Christie is not laughing now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A major twist in the bridge-gate controversy
rocking Chris Christie`s inner circle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve been reading some of these e-mails, they
seem very, very damning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The intrigue is intense political revenge, all
sorts of allegations out there.
HAYES (voice-over): Imagine the following e-mail exchange as Mark
Murray does. Former senior White House adviser David Plouffe to Treasury,
quote, "Time for some IRS audits on Tea Party groups", ad a Treasury
staffer responds, "Got it," how long until the pitchforks and torches came
out and articles of impeachment were filed.
Well, today, we have concrete evidence that top officials in the
Chris Christie administration ordered a massive four-day traffic jam in a
New Jersey town of Fort Lee in an apparent retaliation, the Democratic
mayor refused to endorse Christie`s re-election bid for governor.
Christie had previously laughed off the allegations.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones, actually.
HAYES: But in explosive documents obtained by "The Bergen Record",
it appears Christie`s inner circle was engaged in a stunning Nixonian abuse
Here`s what happened: on August 13th, Bridget Ann Kelly, one of
Christie`s deputy chief of staff writes to David Wildstein, a Christie
childhood friend and appointee at the Port Authority. Quote, "Time for
some traffic problems in Fort Lee". Wildstein responds, "Got it."
A few weeks later, on the first day of school, two of the three of
Fort Lee`s access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the busiest bridge
in the world, are suddenly closed for four days turning the entire town of
Fort Lee into a parking lot.
Fort Lee`s mayor, Mark Sokolich, complains about the problem of
getting kids to school, describing the situation as maddening. In
response, the person who`s identity is redacted writes to Wildstein, quote,
"Is it wrong that I`m smiling?" Wildstein, "No". The unknown (AUDIO GAP)
responds, "I feel badly about the kids, I guess." Wildstein, "They are the
children of Buono voters." As in Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate
for governor who lost this past November to Christie.
Four days into the lane closures, David Wildstein e-mails Kelly,
angered the traffic in Fort Lee wasn`t worse. "The New York side gave Fort
Lee back all three lanes this morning. We are appropriately going nuts,
Samson helping us to retaliate." David Samson, another Christie appointee,
to the Port Authority.
After being forwarded a "Wall Street Journal" story on the incident,
Wildstein writes an email to Bill Stepien, Christie`s campaign manager, and
at the time, one of his deputy chiefs of staff, "It will be a tough
November for this little Serbian." Stepien responds, "It`s fine. The
mayor`s an idiot."
Fort Lee`s mayor, Mark Sokolich, is Croatian not Serbian.
When Chris Christie was asked bout the lane closures in early
December, he scoffed at the allegations.
CHRISTIE: I worked the cones, actually, on that. Unbeknownst to
everybody, I was actually the guy out there, I was in overalls and a hat,
so I wasn`t -- but I actually was the guy working the cones out there, you
really are not serious with that question.
HAYES: But then he went on to express his displeasure, not about the
lanes being closed but that Fort Lee has three lanes.
CHRISTIE: I didn`t know Fort Lee got three dedicated lanes until all
this stuff happened. I sat in that traffic before I was governor, the fact
that one town has three lanes dedicated to it? That kind of gets me
HAYES: On December 6th, David Wildstein resigns.
On December 13th, Bill Baroni, another appointee who shows up in the
That day Christie said, he`s merely bothered by the resignations.
CHRISTIE: I`m bothered, probably would be the better words. I was
bothered by it, I`ve made it clear to everybody on my senior staff, that if
anyone had any knowledge about this, they need to come forward to me and
tell me about it, they all assured me they don`t.
HAYES: Well, Chris Christie should be more than bothered. This is
just the beginning. On the first day the lanes were closed, Kelly asked
Wildstein if Sokolich`s calls had been returned. "Radio silence,"
Wildstein writes back. His name comes right after Mayor Fulop.
Steven Fulop is the Democratic mayor of Jersey City, who also did not
endorse Chris Christie`s reelection bid.
The question now is, how many other people have been retaliated
against, how many people have been rewarded and how far up does this go?
HAYES: Late this afternoon, Governor Christie released a statement
reads, "What I`ve seen for the first time today is unacceptable. I am
outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a
member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate unsanctioned conduct
was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear, this type of behavior
is unacceptable, I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey
deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my
administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their
Joining me now, to discuss that, is mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey,
Mayor, I want to read an exchange that happened in the documents we
obtained today, and just get your reaction, and confirm that you wrote
this. This is a text you sent to one of Governor Christie`s appointees,
"We should talk. Someone needs to tell me the recent traffic debacle was
not punitive in nature. The last four reporters that contacted me suggest
the people they are speaking with, absolutely believe it to be punishment.
Try as I may to dispel these rumors, I am having a tough time."
Later, "A private face to face would be important to me, perhaps
someone can enlighten me as to the errors of my ways. Let me know if
you`ll give me 10 minutes."
Did you, in fact, write that?
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY: I did.
HAYES: And did you get a meeting?
SOKOLICH: I did not, I didn`t get a response.
HAYES: So, you got no -- at one point in these exchanges, they talk
about sort of gleefully radio silence. While this traffic jam is happening
in your city, what are you doing and what response are you getting from
SOKOLICH: Zero, we`re getting zero. Chris, understand that from the
moment that this happened, we went through an absolute incessant effort,
tireless effort to contact somebody at the Port Authority, to contact the
people we`ve always been designated and assigned to handle problems here in
Fort Lee, the very same people I develop relationships with during the
course of the six years as mayor.
We called, I mean, I think 20, 30 times, 40 times. I was calling
people`s cell phones, the cell phones that I had, sending text mails
because it was maddening, it was maddening because we had families that
were looking for emergency services to respond to calls, to 9/11 calls, you
know, that -- calls that would take three minutes were taking 11, 12
We had other problems with police. There was somebody that was
missing. They couldn`t conduct that investigation properly.
On top of that, we had thousands of kids that were late for the first
day of school. And then they were late for the rest of the week as well.
It was maddening. But we made an incredible effort to contact someone.
HAYES: So, when you`re getting stonewalled, you`re getting radio
silence -- what do you start to think is happening? It seems from the
texts that we got our hands on today, that you, yourself didn`t want to
believe it was possible that this was just political punishment for
refusing to endorse the governor.
SOKOLICH: Chris, if you`ve known me for 30 seconds, you know there`s
not an ounce of venom in my system, I don`t think, and I try to find the
best in people. So, I automatically -- my own instincts automatically just
dismissed the prospect that is political retribution, who would close down
lanes to the busiest bridge in the world to get to me.
First of all, I never viewed myself as being that important, the
governor himself said I`m not on his radar nor am I in his rolodex. So,
I`m thinking, how could this possibly be? How could this possibly be?
But now, reading the e-mails and the texts that we see today,
certainly it is the case, and I`m embarrassed for those people.
HAYES: You`re embarrassed for those people. What is your response
to the governor trying to distance himself to this? The fact that there is
a smoking gun, time for some traffic in Fort Lee, that comes from one of
his deputy chiefs of staff. How far up do you think this goes?
SOKOLICH: Yes. Well, everybody asks me that question, I`m not here
to speculate, nor will I speculate. I will tell you, though, it`s gotten
closer and closer as time transpires. I`m not rooting for an e-mail to
surface that`s specifically and expressly has the governor authorizing this
retribution. I`m not, because it`s not my nature.
But I will tell you, it`s -- the credibility level is getting reduced
and reduced and reduced as this story continues to move on.
Let me also explain one other thing, Chris. A lot of folks,
including, you know, your group and everybody else that`s been calling me
for interviews over the last three or four months, I specifically didn`t
enter this political fray, because I never viewed it to be a benefit to the
residents of Fort Lee. They`ve been through enough.
There were various agencies that were seeking facts, conducting
investigations to make sure we got to the bottom of this, to make sure the
people responsible suffered appropriate consequence, and hopefully
incorporate reform so this doesn`t happen again.
But I never entered it, because it didn`t make sense. Let everyone
do their job and we`ll figure it out. Now reading the e-mails that I read
and see that it was a personal attack on me, slanderous that I might add, I
abdicate my responsibility to the people I`m sworn to protect if I don`t
enter this debate. And -- I`m embarrassed.
I`m embarrassed for the entire state of New Jersey, because it sets
us back, and we`re guaranteed to be the brunt of the next 50 years of
political jokes, quite frankly, after this behavior, we deserve it.
HAYES: Do you have a relationship with the governor? Have you spoke
tonight governor? Has the governor reached out to you? Has he apologized?
HAYES: Have you talked about what happened in your city?
SOKOLICH: No, no, the governor hasn`t reached out to me. Again, I`m
not on his radar, why would he? We`ve met him several times. I`ve
actually broken bread with him several times.
I have a feeling his recollection of me is a little better than
perhaps he`s revealing quite frankly.
But be that as it may, I don`t know. He`s not reached out for me.
But like I said, don`t reach out for me. Don`t do me any favors, don`t
reach out to me.
You need to reach out to the families who were waiting for ambulances
taking three times longer to get there. You need to reach out to the
thousands of families that couldn`t get their kids to school. And you need
to reach out to my chief fiscal officer and figure out how much this cost
Fort Lee so we could get a reimbursement check from Trenton.
That`s what we need to do. Don`t apologize to me. I don`t want an
HAYES: One appointee and someone worked for him as an aide I think
at one point.
And also, I just -- I have to read this to you and get your response
to it, because it was one of the most vicious little jabs in there. After
following an article about the traffic jam, we`ve had David Wildstein who
since resigned saying, "It will be a tough November for this little
Do you got a response to that?
SOKOLICH: David Wildstein deserves a ass-kicking, OK? Sorry, there
I said it.
HAYES: All right.
SOKOLICH: How you could intentionally do this --
SOKOLICH: How you could intentionally do this to a community that
had to endure as much as it has to endure on a daily basis. I mean, look,
I`m sworn to protect us. I`m sworn to make sure that the quality of our
lives are as high as they could possibly be, and I`m sworn to make sure
that our health, safety and welfare is protected every day.
And let me tell you, we do a great job here, especially considering
the host community to the bridge.
And, Chris, let me tell you, we`re relied upon by 40, 50, 60
communities on a daily basis. To get to and from work, doctor`s
appointments, what-have-you. This is not a Fort Lee issue. This is a
So, for those that say dedicated lanes in -- there`s no dedicated
lanes to Fort Lee. I`d love to have them. And if you`re offering, yes,
maybe that`s the way of making up for all of this.
So, if these are lanes that are shared by 50 or 60 different
HAYES: So, then, finally here -- why did you not endorse Governor
Christie back during the re-election? Which apparently was what
And wouldn`t you endorse Governor Christie if you were to run for
SOKOLICH: I didn`t endorse Governor Christie, because I am a
follower, believer, and supporter of Democratic principles, OK? Simple as
I didn`t support Governor Christie, because at least me, this city, I
seek no other higher political office. I`m born and raised in Fort Lee.
I`ve ever -- only ever wanted to serve in a leadership capacity to try to
help the people I grew up with. So I`ve been blessed with the privilege to
serve as its mayor.
This is not a stepping stone for me. If I was looking at this as a
stepping stone, maybe I`d think of other ways to do it. Not me, I`m loyal
to the Democratic Party. I`m proud of what we`ve accomplished on a county
level, state level. I`m proud of that. I`m proud of my legislative
delegation here in our district.
And I`ll tell you, we`ve done phenomenal things in Fort Lee, and that
truly is the tragedy here, we`re in the middle of a renaissance, we`re in
the middle of a billion dollar redevelopment, we are arguably the most
progressive community in the state of New Jersey run by this idiot, and we
should be applauded for that, not penalized for it.
HAYES: Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, New Jersey, thank you for
your time tonight.
So, that happened. And we will talk about it, along with the
implications this whole thing is going to have for Christie, with
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Stick around.
HAYES: In our interview just now, Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee,
New Jersey, talked about how emergency vehicles were stuck in a monster
traffic jam that was caught when members of the Chris Christie
administration shut down those lanes on the George Washington Bridge. In
fact, NorthJersey.com reports, "EMS responses were delayed in at least four
emergency situations, including one in which a 91-year-old woman lay
unconscious." That woman is reported to have later passed away.
The allegations here are serious business. Now, the repercussions
are coming from every where, left, right and center. And that is straight
HAYES: "I want to elect the next president," those are the words of
FOX News chief Roger Ailes, according to a blockbuster new book set for
release January 21st.
And the person according to reports that Roger Ailes was most
interested in electing was, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, with
"New York" magazine reporting that Ailes encouraged Christie to jump into
the race, previously invited Christie to dinner at this Upstate New York
Which is why, perhaps, it`s not surprising, today`s shocking new
revelations have received almost no coverage on FOX News. Here`s what
Ailes` network, which is in the news business, gave its viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suggests that an aide to the New Jersey governor
knew about an apparent revenge plot against a mayor who refused to endorse
the governor for re-election.
But the e-mails are out today. They`re available out there, if you
want to Google them, you can.
If he decides to run for president, rest assured, they`ll end up in
campaign ads. There`s no question about it. They`re in an easy Google
away if you want to take a look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Those e-mails, that are the front and center of the news
cycle, just Google them. That does not mean their right as a whole is
being silent, because the right is not so cozy with the New Jersey governor
necessarily. Breitbart.com, "It seems as if the political thug mentality
is not just limited to the Obama administration and supporters, as New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff has been busted."
Ben Shapiro, "Breitbart`s" editor-at-large, tweeting, Christie`s
actions may be impeachable, not just indicative of the inappropriateness of
the 2016 run.
"The Federalist", "Eight reasons why Chris Christie`s traffic scandal
could cause big trouble in 2016, with classics like, it`s the corruption,
stupid. And you don`t attack kids or sick people.
Of course, it`s not just conservatives. Democrats criticizing
Christie today as well. New Jersey`s own Democratic senator, Robert
Menendez, saying the emails are troubling and disturbing.
We`re going to have more Democratic reaction in a moment. But
remember, it was only a few months ago, the media coronation of Christie as
a GOP frontrunner, is its peak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has his blue state landslide made in the GOP`s
man to be? Can he win over the Tea Party and unite Republicans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is his landslide victory in New Jersey, the first
step toward a 2016 presidential run, and will he be the savior for a
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now, the governor may have his sights set
on higher office. And a lot of Republicans I`ve spoken with say, you are
already laying the groundwork to run for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cover of "Time" calls him the GOP`s elephant
in the room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The politics lead, ladies and gentlemen, we have
a Republican front-runner, sort of.
CHRISTIE: I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey,
maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TV`s right now,
see how it`s done.
HAYES: Joining me now, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
Democrat from Florida, and chair of the DNC.
Congresswoman, the governor put out a statement today saying, I had
no knowledge of this, and people are going to be held accountable.
Good enough for you?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, it took him seven
hours today to put out that statement. And what I find unbelievable is
that if that`s his position, that he just learned like everyone else today
when those e-mails were revealed, that his closest top staff had direct
involvements in this scandal, why wouldn`t you have been -- put that
statement out right from the beginning? I mean, seems pretty simple?
I -- I just can`t believe that Chris Christie is not answering
questions. These questions that he`s been refusing to answer for months,
you know, at first he laughed, tried to laugh it off, and now the joke`s,
the joke`s over and the gig is up, it`s time to face the music and ask the
questions that most New Jerseyans deserve answers to, which is why would
the governor of their state shut down three lanes of traffic on the George
Washington Bridge, cut off people`s access to first responders in an
emergency, trap school children on school buses, all in the name of
exacting political retribution against a mayor that would not endorse him?
HAYES: Here`s my question. I`ve got a lot of questions about what`s
going on, in the state of the New Jersey, as revealed in these emails.
One question is, OK, if the governor said he had nothing -- this is
the first he`s learning of all this, when two of your appointees resign
from the port authority, what exactly did you think they were resigning
for? Do you have a conversation in which you said, oh, why are you
resigning? Well, I don`t know, just seems like a good time to go -- I
mean, presumably there was some conversation there, right?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You would think that he would be interested
enough to get to the bottom of the source of their resignations and what
would prompt them. When someone decides to leave their job, that`s a
The other thing that I think is really important about this is, Chris
Christie`s judgment. I mean, when you`re talking about someone in the
position of authority like he is, as the governor of New Jersey, who he
surrounds himself with, the top staff that he`s chosen goes right to the
core of his judgment. He created and allowed a culture in his office --
let`s set aside whether he knew. That will probably come out if that smoke
turns into fire. But how is it that he has such poor judgment that he
would create a culture in his office that would allow his staff to believe
that conduct and that retribution was acceptable.
HAYES: Here`s the most damning parts of that e-mail exchange, which
is not most necessarily the smoking gun of the fact that they hatched this
plan and executed it and they said nasty things about this mayor who
committed no graver sin then refusing to endorse someone from another
party. The part in which the mayor says, everyone the reporters talked to
think this is political retribution -- which gives you a little window into
the kind of operation running in the state of New Jersey, the assumptions
people on the ground in New Jersey had about how the governor conducted
himself in office, that a traffic jam happens and people`s first thought
is, well, clearly, this is political punishment for you crossing Governor
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, obviously, those feelings and that response
is the result of their interaction with the governor and his track record.
And people make presumptions based on the experience that they have.
And so, Chris Christie has spent years trying to present himself as
the straight shooter that tells it like it is. Well, clearly, he has done
nothing everything but telling it like it is, all the way through this
scandal and now, the chicken is coming home to roost.
HAYES: We`re just getting started. There`s hearing scheduled for
tomorrow. There`s a lot more to watch on the story.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: There`s a little tidbit hidden in former Secretary of Defense
Bill Gates` bio that totally puts everything he says in his new
administration book into context. It`s extremely revealing, you want to
stick around for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: The president of the United States and the general
secretary of the central committee of the communist party of the Soviet
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Way back in 1985, Ronald Reagan was considering whether to
take seriously the new Soviet leader, purported reformer by the name of
Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev seen at the time to bring the prospect for
change, the potential for reforming the Soviet Union, opening up to the
left, and who knows, maybe -- just maybe, ending the Cold War.
But the process that led to the end of the Cold War was not a given
at the time. It was really a fiercely fought debate inside the U.S.
government. One of the strongest opponents to the idea of working with
Gorbachev was a voice from inside that government, a top CIA criminologist
in fact was pushing the contention the U.S. should simply not trust
Gorbachev, writing in a memo, quote, "We are losing the thread of what
toughness and skill brought Gorbachev to where he is. This is not some
Gary Hart or even Lee Iacocca. We have to give the policy makers a clearer
view of the kind of person we may be facing."
Of course, Reagan did work with Gorbachev when the cold war ended
and the Soviet Union dissolved and the entire global map was changed
forever. As Max Fisher of "The Washington Post" put it, the CIA`s
conferring was overruled by Reagan and the world was better off for it.
CIA officials dolling out what was in retrospect was very bad advice
on a monumentally important issue, was of course, former Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, who in his forthcoming tell all book had this to say about
Vice President Joe Biden, quote, "I think he`s been wrong on nearly every
major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four
Strong words from the guy who was wrong about ending the cold war.
Gates also takes a shot of the president`s leadership from a meeting about
Afghanistan in 2011, quote, "As I sat there, I thought, the president
doesn`t trust his commander, can`t stand Karzai, doesn`t believe in his own
strategy, doesn`t consider the word to be his, for him, it`s all about
getting out." Today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was forced to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What weight Americans should give to his description
of Joe Biden as someone who`s been wrong on nearly every major foreign
policy and national security matter?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would reiterate that the
president and the rest of us here simply just disagree with that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, retired four-star general, former NATO Supreme
Allied Commander Wesley Clark. He is now a senior fellow at UCLA`s Berkel
Center. General Clark, let`s start with quote that`s getting the most
traction, which is the most damning, he`s focused on getting out. It seems
to me that if you look at that, he was mistrustful of the military
leadership, that had not done a fantastic job of managing the Afghanistan
conflict. He couldn`t stand Karzai, which is I think a completely rational
response and wanted to get out. I`m not quite sure what`s supposed to be
so damning about that.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RETIRED), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think you raise some
good points here because the truth is that the president was given a really
tough situation. He didn`t pick this situation. This isn`t a high school
football game and he`s not a coach. He`s making the best of a lot of bad
possible decisions. He`s having to live with and is he uncomfortable, yes.
He`s probably really uncomfortable, I think all Americans should be happy
that`s the kind of commander in chief we have for the Armed Forces and kind
of president we have.
Because he recognizes that a lot of rah-rah and let`s get on with
this team was not going to change the situation on the ground in
Afghanistan. He made the best decision he could and one of the things
Gates does say is that President Obama made good decisions. That decision
he says to get Osama Bin Laden was a very courageous decision.
HAYES: According to the excerpts I`ve read. I have not read the entire
book, but the excerpts that I`ve seen he actually says every major decision
the president was right on, he praises the actual decisions. What he
focuses on is this tension between the president and the military
leadership. As someone who`s been on the inside of that nexus, I`m always
curious, it seems to me that there should be -- it`s natural that there is
some inherent tension.
We have a civilian control of the military and there are going to be
times when the senior officials at the Pentagon want something and the
White House doesn`t and that will create tension.
CLARK: Absolutely. When you`re the secretary of defense and you bring an
option to the president, the president is going to look at you and say, you
brought me this option, I expect you to deliver on it. He`s not going to
say, it`s up to me, no, you`re the secretary of defense. You`re in the
chain of command. I brought you this decision, but you are the guy
executing it so sure.
If you`re the secretary of defense you are going to feel a
tremendous load of pressure for doing something like this. You know,
Chris, when you are in a high position like this and there`s always a lot
of pushing and shoving going on, everybody wants to do the best job. The
president has to sort that out, when you come out of that pressure cooker,
and it`s all -- you have a lot of thoughts going through your head.
When I got out, it took me a long time to unwind, I wrote a book,
but -- did was therapeutic, but it was years after that, before I could
express it in a few words what I had gone through. It takes a long time to
digest something like this.
HAYES: As someone who -- I used to read about cable news before I was in
cable news and now I sort of laugh at the things I read about cable news
because they are so often wrong or sort of miss something crucial. I
wonder someone who`s been on the inside of some of these meetings, it seems
there`s a tendency for a first person account to just do a lot of score
There are all kinds of score settling all of us would love to do.
Anyone watching this program has a boss or a co-worker they would love to
burn after they left. How much credence do you put in this stuff?
CLARK: I think you put some credence in the performance, that`s what you
should be looking at, not the process, but the performance. The truth is,
the president came in. He was going to get us out of Iraq. He did. He`s
going to do the best he could, to get rid of al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden
he did that and he`s trying to get us out of Afghanistan.
Frankly, for me personally, I`m really uncomfortable being over
there. I`m glad I`m not in a position where I have to order young men to
go to Afghanistan right now because I think it`s a really, really tough
mission for the United States Of America. I know what we`re trying to do,
but it`s not a football game.
HAYES: I was actually comforted by that he was focused on getting out.
General Wesley Clark, thank you so much for your time.
CLARK: Thank you.
HAYES: After voting against extending long term unemployment benefits for
over a million people, Senator Marco Rubio gave a speech today where he
told everyone how much he cares about poor people. How the war on poverty
became the war on the poor ahead.
HAYES: Today Senator Marco Rubio, marked the 50th anniversary of the war
on poverty, which ushered in programs that millions of Americans rely on
today like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, by giving a speech on
poverty and also taking a few shots at the administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Our current president and his liberal
allies, they propose to address -- let`s spend more on these failed
programs and increase the minimum wage to $10.10. This, really, this is
their solution to what the president has called the defining issue of our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I see what you did there, Marco Rubio. Today you stood and spoke
of how and how not to beat poverty. That is, of course, all you did. That
and 2 bucks will get you a slice of pizza. Yesterday you voted against
extending long term unemployment insurance making it harder for more than 1
million people to, in your words, get the chance to improve their lives.
How the war on poverty actually did do that and what still needs to be done
with my colleague, the Reverend Al Sharpton ahead.
HAYES: Just one day ago, Marco Rubio was voting against extending long
term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people suffering through some of
the coldest temperatures in decades, today a Florida Republican went before
the cameras in an attempt to brand himself as a man concerned with
poverty. Rubio`s speech came 50 years to the day after President Lyndon
Johnson uttered these historic words in his first "State of the Union"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: This administration today here and now
declares unconditional war on poverty in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Rubio used the anniversary of Johnson`s declaration to offer his
own ideas for reducing poverty, few which were interesting, but many others
were the same old right wing talking points we`ve heard over and over
again. Rubio also took the occasion to declared Johnson`s war on poverty a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: For 50 years now we have tried big government and yet too many
people have remained trap in despair. Now we must try a new way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That might sound familiar. It`s a refrain Republicans have been
offering for more than a generation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Friends some years ago, the federal
government declared war on poverty and poverty won. Dependency has become
the one enduring heirloom passed from generation to the next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: An article among conservatives and a lot of people who haven`t
looked at the data is the idea that we fought a war on poverty and poverty
won, it`s not true. One recent Columbia University study found out that
when you take into account government intervention, the fraction of
Americans with incomes below the poverty line has dropped, from 26 percent
in 1967 to 16 percent today. Among the elderly, the poverty rate fell from
47 percent to 15 percent more than 30 percentage points.
If you want to find some good news in Rubio`s remarks today, it`s
that he has joined other prominent Republicans in at least talking about
poverty. Maybe misleading people about the legacy of the war Lyndon
Johnson kicked off 50 years ago, but at the very least the plight of the
close to 50 million Americans living in poverty right now, is for the first
time in a very long time at the center of the national conversation.
Joining me now is my colleague, Reverend Al Sharpton, who host
"Politics Nation" on MSNBC at 6 p.m. and also founder and president of the
National Action Network. Rev, what do you think are the misconceptions,
what do people get wrong about the war of poverty?
AL SHARPTON, HOST, MSNBC`S "POLITICS NATION": One, I think they get wrong
that it was not successful. It did bring a lot of relief to millions of
Americans all over the country of all races and when you look at today
those that claim -- I`m talking about employers when I say those, that the
problem is skills set, you have things on the war on poverty like manpower
training development in model cities that actually train people for
employment and move them toward employment.
The other misconception that was outright wrong that Senator Rubio
said today is the 50 years. He acted like this was one 50-year stretch on
poverty. The fact is that Lyndon Johnson made his speech in `64, by `66,
`67 they had begun taking a lot of those resources and putting it into the
Vietnam War. I remember as a kid when I was 13 years ago I became youth
director in New York of "Operation Bread Basket" the year Dr. King was
killed and I was just a kid.
And they had a tent city that Dr. King had proposed. We were down
and Ralph Abernathy who succeeded Dr. King and Jesse Jackson that I was
being mentored by, were fighting then because they were saying the money
shouldn`t go to Vietnam, it should stay on the war on poverty. Then right
after that Nixon became president and killed those programs.
After him, you had a brief four years of Jimmy Carter, then you had
Reagan, Bush, this has not been a 50-year war against poverty, Republicans
were in charge most of the last 50 years.
HAYES: MLK in his very famous and controversial speech in 1967 comes out
against the Vietnam War says, it seems as if there was a real promise of
hope for the poor, there were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then
came the build up to Vietnam, and I watched the program broken and
eviscerated as if it were some idol political play thing.
One of the things he says here that I think is key also is
experiment. Marco Rubio had a line, a section of the speech today, he
said, "The problem is we`re not letting local places experiment and try new
things." The whole spirit of the office of economic opportunity was
SHARPTON: And they were the ones that dismantled it, the fathers of Rubio,
the fathers of the Civil Rights Movement, they dismantled it, and they
dismantled it running against the welfare queen, demonizing and denigrating
poor people. So it was not a 50 year stretch, we had the war against the
war on poverty much longer than we had the war on poverty. The shortest
war in American history was the war on poverty.
HAYES: Do you think it is a sign -- there`s two ways to interpret the
Rubio speech today, one is that it`s a step in the right direction, in so
far as Republicans believe they need to give this kind of speech, the other
is this is laughable hypocrisy. What`s your reaction?
SHARPTON: Both. I think it is a sign that President Obama, the first time
since Lyndon Johnson has made this a central part of the political
discussion with his speech. The President Obama speech about the
inequality is the challenge of our time, which we have not heard a
president say since Johnson 50 years ago. And I think that when we see the
Republicans now trying to do it where they have it both ways and they
distort history is laughable, other than it`s so sad you have 50 million
Americans today that does need what President Obama`s trying to do.
What we must do now is generate that kind of movement around that
inequality, which King died trying to do and some of those with him tried
to continue, but they ran right into the Nixon, Reagan, Bush backlash,
which was the majority of the last half century.
HAYES: That`s the big question it seems to me is, is there political
appetite? Marco Rubio is giving the speech. Paul Ryan is now talking --
is there political appetite in the constituency on the right in the
Republican Party for any kind of determined effort to actually get
something done about poverty?
SHARPTON: I don`t know if there`s a political appetite among the
Republican rank and file, but there`s a political need because many of them
are living in poverty. Many that Mr. Rubio and others voted against the
unemployment benefits are themselves victimized by it, many of them that
they are trying to stop, take $40 billion out of food stamps are themselves
recipients of food stamps all the way across the board.
So if I think the challenges that we can explain to them, that we`re
not talking about somebody, somewhere else, them, we`re talking about you.
We`re talking us. We`re talking about America, that`s what the president`s
speech was, and that`s what we on the ground have to build a movement
HAYES: Reverend Al Sharpton, thanks so much for your time.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
HAYES: You can catch his show "Politics Nation," weekdays 6:00 p.m. on
MSNBC. You can catch our special edition of ALL IN, "50 Year War, The
Changing Face of Poverty in America," this coming Monday at 8:00 Eastern.
Stay with us.
HAYES: Joining me now Maya Wiley, the founder and president of the Center
for Social Inclusion and Avik Roy, opinion editor of "Forbes," senior
fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and also author of "How Medicaid Fails
the Poor." And Avik, as center right gentleman, do you buy into this idea
that Marco Rubio said and Paul Ryan, others said that war on poverty
AVIK ROY, OPINION EDITOR, "FORBES": Yes, so like, Republicans --
Republicans laugh at progressives who want to turn Texas blue and I think a
lot of progressives laugh at conservatives who are talking about poverty,
but there is a serious agenda and there is also a serious restlessness
among conservatives who want to address these real issues about the
persistence of poverty in certain parts of the country.
HAYES: OK, do you think that`s true?
MAYA WILEY, CENTER FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: No.
HAYES: Why not?
WILEY: Well, first of all, I don`t think we had a war. I think what we
did was -- we had some shots and skirmishes. But by 1968 all of these
programs were under attack, and in fact we saw by 1981, $10 billion alone
just out of the job training programs so I`m still waiting for the war.
ROY: You mentioned $10 billion we spent $916 billion a year.
HAYES: And they`ve been remarkably successful, right?
ROY: Some of them, some of them not. There`s an enormous inefficiency.
HAYES: What`s the inefficiency?
ROY: Well, if you map out the number of people who were in poverty and the
amount that we spent on anti-poverty programs. In theory, that amount of
money should eliminate poverty in America. It doesn`t because there`s so
HAYES: Here`s the thing, I hear this sometimes, I want to play this out.
Let`s say, we`ve said, OK, let`s come together. Just write everyone a
check. Get rid of the welfare bureaucracy. How much, $30,000, here you
go. The idea that rank and file Republicans that any Republicans in office
right now would support that is crazy.
ROY: Crazy is not the word I would use, but there is a tension between the
libertarian right for whom all programs are immoral. And there`s a
progressive side, which says all welfare programs are good, regardless of
whether they`re inefficient or not.
HAYES: No one makes that argument.
ROY: Plenty of people make that argument.
HAYES: Because there are two things here. You`re speaking as someone
who`s in center circles. There are interesting debates that happen among
those peoples, you included. About these sort of things, the point is,
there`s got to be, when a Republican is elected, right? That`s not the
thing that his political constituency wants him to do.
WILEY: If you go to an oncologist with cancer and the oncologist says,
chemotherapy, you go into remission and five years later maybe you have
another bout with cancer, no one says you failed. That chemotherapy was
extremely inefficient. The debate on poverty is the same. Literally the
poverty rate went down from 20 percent to 12 percent, and yet we still talk
about the failure of these programs, it`s crazy.
HAYES: There was this concerted political effort. The safety net programs
extended Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, those exist now, and when you
take them together they reduce the after government poverty rate by half,
right? But the big thing is also concerted domestic political attention to
the problem, the problem must be solved.
ROY: Absolutely, when "Forbes" approached me, they asked me, what do you
want to do? I said, I want to make "Forbes" citadel for the anti-poverty
movement within conservatism, that`s a movement that`s growing. It`s a
movement that Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio. So you can laugh, but it`s a
serious effort --
HAYES: I`m not laughing. I feel like I`ve seen this rodeo before, for
example, there`s Jack Kemp, mentored Paul Ryan, that was his big idol. I
saw it with Newt Gingrich. I don`t feel it cashes out in the politics.
ROY: That`s not how they win primaries. You have to find politicians who
are willing to transcend the primary voter. I have an agenda that speaks
to all voters.
WILEY: So I think what`s really important here is there should be
bipartisan effort on poverty and I think it is true that it`s important
we`re talking about it more if we`re really going to attack poverty we
should look at what works, we look at the five countries that have poverty
rates below 10 percent that spend a lot more on these kinds of programs. A
lot more and we wouldn`t be --
HAYES: Why are Republicans trying to cut food stamps? Before you give me
any speeches, why let`s just not cut food stamps.
ROY: It`s quadrupled in the last ten years. Let`s have anti-poverty
programs that address poverty. Let`s give them the cash.
HAYES: I`d love to run the experiment where we`re just giving people cash
transfers. I can`t begin to imagine the Fox News coverage of that program.
Maya Wiley from the Center for Social Inclusion and Avik Roy from "Forbes,"
thank you both.
That is ALL IN for this evening, the "Rachel Maddow Show" starts
now. I`m excited to race upstairs and watch your show for the next hour.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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