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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

January 29, 2014

Guest: Bryan Norcross, Errol Louis

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for
this hour.

All right, this was election night in 2010, so November 2010 in Staten
Island, New York. Watch.


REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: If I was Nancy Pelosi, I ought to be
scared right now.


GRIMM: -- of the United States. Former FBI agent and the new congressman



MADDOW: That was Michael Grimm. "Nancy Pelosi ought to be scared right
now." Michael Grimm was first elected to Congress that night in November
2010. Last night Congressman Grimm performed the almost impossible
political task of personally overshadowing the entire State of the Union
address and every other response to it when he threatened to kill a
reporter. Right there in the U.S. capitol building while the camera on him
was still running.


MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1 POLITICAL REPORTER: So Congressman Michael Grimm does
not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign
finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw,
refused to talk about that.

Back to you.

Why --

GRIMM: Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I`ll
throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony.

SCOTTO: Why? Why? I just wanted to ask you.

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again --

SCOTTO: Why? Why? This is a valid question.


GRIMM: No. No. You`re not man enough. You are not man enough. I`ll
break you in half like a boy.


MADDOW: "I`ll throw you off this f-ing balcony. You`re not man enough.
I`ll break you in half like a boy."

I really don`t get the "like a boy" part of it. Boys break in half. Men
don`t -- I don`t know what that means.

After the initial outcry, Congressman Grimm put out a statement after that
happened last night, essentially defending himself and defending the
reasonableness of his decision to threaten to kill that reporter.

His statement said, quote, "I was extremely annoyed because I was doing New
York 1 a favor by rushing to do their interview. The reporter insisted on
taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview. I
verbally took the reporter to task and I told him off, because I expect a
certain level of professionalism and respect."

And so I threatened to throw him off a balcony. Yes, that was the first
statement. Hours later, Congressman Michael Grimm apparently reconsidered
his initial tact and reportedly did call the New York 1 reporter who he
threatened to kill and told him that he was sorry, no hard feelings.

And you know what? Consider the context here.

Today, while Congressman Michael Grimm was changing his mind from
essentially the little twerp deserved it to OK, OK, I`m sorry. While he
was doing that today, a man named Bernard Carrick was also preparing to
make his first public speaking engagement since being released from federal

Bernie Carrick is a former head of the New York City Police Department.
He`s also the former head of the New York City Corrections Department.
President George W. Bush in 2004 nominated Bernie Carrick to be the
secretary of Homeland Security for the whole country. Mr. Carrick was
recommended by Rudy Giuliani for that job. He was vetted by Alberto

You remember the story?

It only took about a week for that nomination of Bernie Carrick to be
secretary of Homeland Security, it only took about a week for that
nomination to fall apart. Seven days after George W. Bush nominated him in
this ceremony at the White House, Bernie Carrick withdrew his name from
consideration saying he had unknowingly hired an undocumented nanny and
housekeeper and so he couldn`t take the job in part because he`d be in
charge of enforcing the nation`s immigration laws.

Well, turns out that it was more than that. In 2006 Mr. Carrick was
convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of home renovations
for himself from an allegedly mobbed up contractor that had business before
New York City. He admitted to lying about that, lying to the IRS, and
lying to the White House when they vetted him for that Homeland Security

But because this is New York, and because New York is as amazing as New
Jersey, when Bernie Carrick pled guilty and was about to report to prison
to start serving his sentence, they had to move really quickly in New York
City to quick take Bernie Carrick`s name off the jail that he was about to
have to report to.

Less than 48 hours after he pled guilty to those corruption charges, they
had to physically take his name off of the outside of the lower Manhattan
detention complex, which Rudy Giuliani had renamed the Bernard B. Carrick
Complex because that is how it works in New York. Your name can`t both be
on the jail and on your inmate locater file.

In the 55th Assembly District in Brooklyn, New York, you will find public
amenities like the Thomas Boyland Park, the Thomas Boyland Baseball Field,
the Thomas Boyland School, that`s PS-73. You`ll even find a very nice
block called Thomas Boyland Street.

Thomas Boyland, this person who had a seat in the New York State Assembly
representing that part of Brooklyn starting in the late 1970s. He was
beloved. He then died and his brother got the seat, William Boyland. And
then William`s son got the seat after him, William Boyland Jr. And in
February 2011 William Boyland, Jr., the assemblyman, was arrested in
Manhattan on bribery charges.

So he hires lawyers to help him fight the bribery charges. He gets
released on bond in that case. While he is out on bond for the first
bribery case, FBI agents taped him allegedly soliciting new bribes to help
pay for the lawyers in his other bribery case. You give me $250,000, and
I`ll get you your hospital. See, I need the money to fight these bribery

It all happened, according to the FBI, in an Atlantic City hotel suite.
Obviously. The case is ongoing. Assemblyman Boyland reportedly rejected a
plea deal that would have locked him for nine years on these charges. The
case is going ahead. If he`s convicted now, he`s looking at potentially 30
years in prison.

And again, the charge here is bribery to pay for the defense of the other
bribery charges of which he was acquitted. First bribery charges
acquitted. Second bribery charges, to pay for the defense of the first
ones, those are the ones that are still pending.

You want to talk about bribery around here? How about this guy? State
senator, at one point he was the leader of the Democrats in the state
Senate. His bribery case was that he tried to bribe his way on to the
ballot to run for mayor of New York City. He is a Democrat, he`s a
Democratic state senator, but he decided that he wanted to run as a
Republican. Less competition.

And you know, frankly when you`re operating at this level, who cares what
party you are. But this state senator needed local Republican Party bosses
in New York City to sign off on him switching parties, to say they would be
OK with him running for mayor as a Republican, even though he`d been a
Democrat all this time.

So how do you get these local Republican bosses to sign off? Well,
apparently in the Bronx the Republican Party chairman there was going to
need $25,000, please, quote, "in an envelope," end quote. He asked for 25
originally, they jawed it down and eventually got it down to a $15,000
bribe, quote, "in an envelope."

Over in Queens, it was the vice chairman of the Republican Party there, he
wanted $50,000 as his bribe, but he wanted it kind of spread out so it
wouldn`t look so suspicious. He`d take half up front and then maybe break
down the other payments into less than $10,000. But it`s got to be 50,
that`s the bribe for him.

On one fine day, this past April in New York City, the state senator trying
to get on the ballot from New York City mayor as a Republican, he gets
arrested. The Republican Party chairman in the Bronx who demanded those
bribes, he gets arrested. The Republican Party vice chairman in Queens who
demanded those bribes, he gets arrested.

A Republican city councilman from Queens gets arrested. He`s allegedly the
guy who set up all the meetings and arranged all the bribes. He`s the one
who specified that maybe those said the bribes ought to be paid
specifically in an envelope rather than what? In a bucket? He thought
that out of the deal, he might be able to become deputy mayor of New York
City or maybe a police commissioner like Bernie.

But if you want to understand the cesspool that we are talking about here,
that former Senate majority leader, Malcolm Smith, the one on the right,
who got arrested for trying to allegedly bribe his way on to the ballot, he
is one of three recent Senate majority leaders from the New York state
Senate who have been arrested for corruption.

Yes, Democrats, Republicans, doesn`t matter. Three.

Sure, everybody remembers Eliot Spitzer resigning in his prostitution
scandal. But let us not forget, the state comptroller, also a Democrat,
who just got out of prison last December for his role in a corruption
scheme involving the state pension fund. And all of that is before you
even get to New York`s congressional delegation, which is a thing of

Literally a very beautiful thing. This, for example, is New York
Congressman Christopher Lee. Republican from the Buffalo, New York, area,
who nobody could have picked out of a lineup until the married congressman
forgot to crop his head out of the shirtless selfie that he posted on
Craigslist while looking for dates.

When it comes to former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, I`m not sure
anybody remembers what he cropped in or out of the selfies that ended his
congressional career. That frankly wasn`t the part of those pictures that
he or anybody else seem to most focus on.

Congressman Christopher Lee is a Republican, Congressman Anthony Weiner,
the pecks on the right is a Democrat. But again, in New York, this really
is a bipartisan Kumbaya kind of situation.

In 2010, the year that the New York Congressional Delegation got Michael
Grimm. They also lost Eric Massa. That was one of the weirder exits from
Congress ever.


ERIC MASSA, FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN: Now they`re saying I groped a
male staffer. Yes, I did. Not that I grope him. I tickled him until he
couldn`t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th
birthday. It was kill the old guy. You can take anything out of context.


MADDOW: Turns out his staffers didn`t see it as just being out of context,
and Eric Massa, a New York congressman, is gone.

As is Vito Fossella, incidentally a Republican, but again who cares, he had
the most surprising ending ever to a DWI. He was pulled over in 2008 and
his blood alcohol level was reportedly double the legal limit. But the
cascade of revelations that started with Vito Fossella`s DWI arrest ended
with the revelation that Vito Fossella had a whole second secret family
that nobody knew about until his arrest.

These are all congressmen from the same state. Yes. Remember John
Sweeney? This is John Sweeney reportedly quite drunk, dressed up like the
congressman he is, plus hat, attending a frat party at Union College in
Schenectady, New York, which I should mention isn`t even in his district.

When the Union College student newspaper reported the congressman`s drunken
visit to the frat party on its front page the congressman`s office
responded with a very cheerful statement about the whole thing. Quote, "As
a committed representative of the people throughout the area where he lives
and works, the congressman enjoyed the discussion he shared with the
students from Union College. The congressman was impressed with the energy
and enthusiasm the students displayed, particularly on a Friday evening."

Congressman Sweeney was a connected guy, he was a Jack Abramoff guy. He`d
been seen as sort of maybe a rising star in the Republican Party.
Ultimately, though, the frat party thing gave way to much more serious
allegations of domestic violence. He eventually lost his seat, he pled
guilty to a felony DWI, after law enforcement sources in that arrest say he
nearly hit the state police cruiser that was trying to pull him over, and
then he surprised the arresting officer in that case, who had thought that
the congressman was alone in that car, but who realized upon approaching
the vehicle that the congressman had a 23-year-old woman in his lap.

And yes, Congressman John Sweeney was a Republican, but when it comes to
New York and to New Jersey as well, it is hard to stress just how
bipartisan -- let`s say nonpartisan a disgusting cesspool of public
corruption and terrible behavior this really is.

It was almost heartening in a way. Right? We always get so mired in how
partisan everything is. Not here. Last year after about half the state
legislature in Albany -- I`m only exaggerating slightly. After about half
the state legislature got arrested in the space of a few weeks in New York,
"The New York Times" put out this handy rogue`s gallery pointing out all
the people who had recently been arrested, censured, convicted or in one
case died in prison.

And I mean, at one level it`s kind of nice -- men, women, black, white,
young, old. New York and New Jersey politics are an equal opportunity den
of inequity. And in that context, consider Congressman Michael Grimm of
Staten Island, New York.


SCOTTO: And so Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some
of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him
on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to

Why --

GRIMM: Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I`ll
throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony.

SCOTTO: Why? Why? I just wanted to ask you.

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again --

SCOTTO: Why? Why? This is a valid question.


GRIMM: No. No. You`re not man enough. You are not man enough. I`ll
break you in half like a boy.


MADDOW: Like a boy. What`s that about?

On one level it is just an amazing spectacle that this happened. That the
way some New York politicians apparently are used to behaving leaked on to
television in this case because the congressman apparently didn`t realize
the camera was still rolling. But what that reporter from New York 1 was
trying to ask about at that moment was the ongoing FBI investigation into
how exactly Michael Grimm became a congressman in the first place.

That was an upset win back in 2010 on Staten Island. Yes, that was a
Republican year, but that was upset win. Part of the reason that Michael
Grimm was able to win in that upset race was that -- that he raised a
hugely unexpected amount of money. Since then a federal grand jury was
convened in July 2012 to look into allegations of illegal fundraising by
the congressman.

The FBI`s Public Corruption Unit has interviewed several Michael Grimm
campaign workers. Earlier this month the FBI arrested a former Michael
Grimm fundraiser on charges that she illegally funneled thousands of
dollars into his campaign.

Another key figure in the Michael Grimm fundraising world steered hundreds
of thousands of dollars into his campaign, into his first campaign back in
Staten Island for 2010, pled guilty last year to visa fraud.

One of the things the federal investigation is reportedly looking into is
whether or not Congressman Grimm or his campaign donors illegally gotten
money for that campaign from people who aren`t American, from foreigners
who are not legally allowed to donate to a campaign like that.

But even understanding that context, consider also that this is not the
first time that New York Congressman Michael Grimm has physically
threatened anyone who questions him about the charges that he faces about
his first campaign. In December, in an interview with the same news
station whose reporter Michael Grimm threatened last night, New York news
anchor Errol Louis pressed Michael Grimm hard about that ongoing FBI
investigation into his campaign fundraising, the arrests of people
associated with him.

Well, today New York 1`s political director said that something previously
undescribed in the press happened after that heated interview, which now
takes on a rather new light, quote, "Following an interview with New York
1`s Errol Louis in December 2012, the congressman blew his top. But this
time it was off-camera. After the interview, Congressman Grimm became red
faced and started yelling at both Errol Louis and me, acting as if he were
in a bar instead of a TV studio."

The congressman, quote, "alluded to settling the issue by taking it outside
with our political anchor Errol Louis."

Joining us now is Errol Louis, political anchor for New York 1 and the host
of "Inside City Hall" who has had some experience with Congressman Grimm.

Mr. Louis, thank you for being here.

ERROL LOUIS, NY1`S "INSIDE CITY HALL" HOST: Of course. Good to see you.

MADDOW: You didn`t actually take it outside with him?

LOUIS: No, no, no, I didn`t even consider it. I mean, I`m in that part of
the world like most professional employees, where when you do things like
that, you get fired.


LOUIS: If you threaten to throw people over balconies and stuff like that,
most people would just get fired. And so I certainly didn`t consider it.
I did tell my producer I wasn`t interested in talking with him anymore.
And 2013 was Michael Grimm free. You know, I mean, I just told him just to
keep him out of here because he was clearly out of control, and it could
only get me and people around me in trouble. So we just figured it would
be better to just keep him out of the studio.

MADDOW: The reason I wanted to contextualize Michael Grimm amid other bad-
behaving politicians of various stripes in this part of the world is
because you`re at New York 1, you cover not just New York City but the New
York region, the Tristate area, and there`s so much bad behavior by

Is his personal behavior of a different stripe than other people you`ve had
to have difficult conversations with in this very rough and tumble
political environment?

LOUIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Most of the people that you listed there
are people that I`ve interviewed at one time or another. And, you know,
you talk to a Malcolm Smith, you -- you know, you talk to a Joe Bruno, you
talk to a Pedro Espada, even, people who in some cases end up going to
prison, and, you know, they`ll play along.

They`re professional politicians, they understand it`s part of their
obligation, that when the public wants to know what`s going on and what
these charges are, you put on a big smile and say, it`s false, or you put
on a big smile and say, I can`t talk about it, or you put on a big smile
and say, talk to my lawyer. Or you put on a big smile and say, I`m here to
talk about the State of the Union, I don`t want to talk about it. Most
people do that.

What was so surprising last night -- because I was on the other side when
he said "back to you in the studio," that was me. But the surprising thing
was that he -- you know, he said he didn`t want to talk about it, OK, so
far so good. He walks off camera and then he comes back and threatens the

I mean, why didn`t he just, you know, go have a drink or something, or go,
you know, curse the reporter out or something?

MADDOW: Yes, go kick the wall.

LOUIS: Yes. Something like that. And he didn`t do that, I don`t think he
could have done it. I mean, you know, there is an issue here, I think,
about what personal resources he has to sort of, you know, fend off some of
what -- some of the most difficult parts of his job. I mean, he`s got to
answer these charges, you know?

I mean, when the Ethics Committee in Congress is talking about you, and the
Justice Department is talking about you, and "The New York Times" is
talking about you, and everybody`s talking about you, your constituents
want to know what the heck is going on. And so, you know, it`s really just
a matter of him saying, like any other politician would say, the charges
are false, I`ll be -- I`ll get my day in court, I`ll show you all.

And it does happen once in a while. I mean, you showed a pretty broad
rogues gallery and I know you only have an hour so you couldn`t go through
much. But there are a lot of people, who, you look at the charges and it
swirls around for a while and sometimes it does away. Or it`s not as bad
as people first thought.

MADDOW: Sure. I mean, right now, Michael Grimm has a new set of problems.
And it`s interesting, I described this as a spectacle because I think that
is how it`s being viewed right now. But Congress actually does have a
decision to make now. Now that that happened, whether or not Michael Grimm
apologized for it, as to whether or not that behavior towards your
colleague at New York 1 last night, was it self-worthy of some sort of
censure or some sort of response from Congress?

He did threaten to kill the guy in not as many words. I wonder if you feel
like in that context, with the Department of Justice investigation, the
interest from the ethics committee, if the ethic charges, the previous
problems that Michael Grimm has had, are well understood. He obviously
refutes the charges. He says he`s totally innocent.

But do you feel like the way they get nutshelled now that people are
focusing on him nationally is accurate?

LOUIS: Absolutely.


LOUIS: I mean, he -- look. He`s got to answer these -- I mean, you have,
as you said, a question about whether or not somebody raised money from
foreign nationals, that`s a yes-no question. The Department of Justice,
they know how to do this. He used to be an FBI agent. He`s well aware of
the power and the tools that they have at their disposal.

They`re going to shake the trees, they`re going to talk to people, they`re
going to put people under oath, they`re going to put people under pressure,
they`re going to find out whether or not that`s true. But in the course of
doing it, things like this arrest of his former friend -- or his friend
come up, and there are other kinds of issues about whether there was money
structuring or whether there were swapping of donations or whether or not
people got reimbursed which some e-mails had suggested after giving him

So, you know, the tactic of saying, I`m innocent, and don`t you dare ask
me, or I`ll commit physical violence against you, that doesn`t seem to be
working. So we`ll see what Congressman Grimm comes up with, but the
current strategy not working very well.

MADDOW: Errol Louis, the host of "Inside City Hall" for New York 1 News,
caught in the middle of something just horrendous last night.

My apologies to your colleague who had to endure that. I know I didn`t do
it, but it made me feel sick for him as a journalist.

LOUIS: He`s a -- he`s a tough, tough guy, and he`s doing well. And he
just needs a little bit of sleep and shook it right off.

MADDOW: Good. I`m glad to hear it.

Errol Louis, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

LOUIS: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We will be right back, stay with us.


MADDOW: Last night at this very moment, President Obama was right in the
middle of delivering his fifth State of the Union address. The president`s
speech last night ran longer than an hour. In part because he got a lot of
applause breaks. 82 separate applause lines in the speech. They always
get a lot.

The State of the Union is a speech that`s essentially built with applause
lines in mind. But during last night`s speech there were two moments in
the speech when the president was laying out first his domestic policy
agenda and then his national security agenda. Two moments that got huge
applause lines. One was a minute and 44 seconds of sustained applause for
a wounded Army Ranger who had been hurt grievously on his 10th deployment.

That was the emotional crescendo of the speech.

Before that, though, the other huge applause line which happened during the
domestic policy part of the speech, it was an applause line that sort of
seemed to take everybody by surprise in the room. Certainly it seemed to
take the president by surprise in the room. It was just sort of a reaction
from the assembled lawmakers in that room that wasn`t like all of the
others. It was this moment right here.


about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a
man earns. That is wrong. And in 2014, it`s an embarrassment. Women
deserve equal pay for equal work.


Now it is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad
Men" episode. This year let`s all come together, Congress, the White
House, businesses from Wall Street to main street to give every woman the
opportunity she deserves because I believe when women succeed, America



MADDOW: Roaring standing ovation, high fives, fist-pumps from the
audience. That applause line right there sort of had it all. And it was
apparently not just women inside the capitol who responded to that
particular section of the speech in a way that was just slightly

President Obama`s emphasis on equal pay for women last night, the
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg did a dial testing survey in Denver
during the speech. He found that with his focus group, when the president
hit that particular line about equal pay, Stan Greenberg says that was met
by his focus group with, quote, "near universal approval from Democratic
and Republican women," sending the approval specifically of unmarried
women, quote, "off the charts" of the dial meter.

Going into last night`s speech, there was some speculation as to whether or
not the president would address women`s issues specifically, how specific
can get to them and specifically whether he would talk about reproductive
rights and the fight over access to reproductive rights for American women.

The president did not address the issue of reproductive freedom directly.
Instead he got that huge applause line on the issue of equal play and
workplace policies getting out of the "Mad Men" era.

But still, thanks to Republicans, the specific issue of reproductive rights
did get its moment in the sun on State of the Union day yesterday. Because
the thing that House Republicans decided to do, right before coming to the
State of the Union address was pass yet another abortion ban.

This one would make it all but impossible for private health insurance
plans to cover abortion. It would impose tax penalties on small businesses
if their health plans covered abortion.

This bill is a perennial favorite in the Republican controlled House. They
have passed it twice before. But it`s still right at the top of their
priority list. The bill number on this thing is HR-7. It was the first
bill that the all-male Republican membership at the House Judiciary
Committee decided to move on this year.

This is the full Republican membership of that committee which first moved
this bill after clearing this committee with unanimous support from every
Republican, and there they all are, the bill then passed the full House
yesterday on almost an entirely party line vote.

And now it will die immediately in the United States Senate. And if by
some miracle it does not die in the United States Senate, it will surely be
vetoed by President Obama.

So why do it then? All the punditry about the Republican Party`s problem
with women voters tends to focus on gaffes or language and perceived
sensitivity to women or a lack thereof. But Republicans alone made the
decision yesterday that on the highest profile workday in the whole
political calendar, what they wanted to be seen working on was another
purely symbolic effort to roll back access to abortion.

Democrats tend to be incredulous that this is what Republicans want to be
known for, but believe it, judge them by their own actions -- the issue of
abortions is what Republicans want to be known for more than anything else.


MADDOW: After last night`s State of the Union Address, Republican
strategist Steve Schmidt mentioned that one of his favorite lines in the
speech last night was the part where President Obama really stuck it to
Vladimir Putin.

Watch this.


not just by our defense of threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do
good, and promote understanding around the globe. We do these things
because they help promote our long term security. And we do them because
we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being,
regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.

And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment when
Team USA marches the red, white and blue into the Olympic stadium and
brings home the gold.



MADDOW: That`s one sure fire way to get lots of applause, and I think
Steve Schmidt is right that that line was a little thumb in the eye to
Vladimir Putin who has pushed all these anti-gay laws in Russia ahead of
the Winter Olympics, which start next week in Russia.

That kind of push back from our president against Putin is the sort of
thing that can bring together all Americans, right? Other than the ones
who like Russia being so anti-gay. It was a nice thing. Republican like
Steve Schmidt can like a moment like that, liberals like me can like a
moments like that, that was a nice thing.

But that is not the best new thing in the world, no. The best new thing in
the world today is still to come on tonight`s show. It is a visual. It is
laugh-out-loud funny, it`s amazing, and it`s going to get even better next
week at the Olympics, and I think it too will really annoy Vladimir Putin.
Best new thing in the world is coming up at the end of the show tonight.
It`s really good.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: The snow started late yesterday morning in Atlanta, Georgia, and
there was not much of it, a couple inches, maybe three, but the result was
an urban nightmare. It was truly terrible. It was like a zombie movie,
gridlock that stretched for miles along the highways that bring commuters
into and out of Atlanta every day. It seems like every commuter in greater
Atlanta decided to try to rush home all at once, and then at the same time,
officials called off school and started sending kids home, except that
nobody in a car or a truck or a bus could go anywhere for hours, for five
hours, and 10 hours and 12 and 20 hours and counting.

People sat in their cars on icy roads all day and all night. Cold, hungry,
absolutely stuck, a true urban nightmare.

In the next state over, in Birmingham, Alabama, people experienced the same
instant unwinding of normal life, as parents tried to race home from their
jobs to pick up their kids before the snow and ice locked them in place.
And, frankly, the snow and ice largely won.

Steven Nix (ph) took this photo yesterday near Birmingham, Alabama. This
is on Interstate 280. It`s showing where drivers gave up on trying to
drive and started walking down the highway to try to find some sort of

Some of what happened in this great snow-pocalypse of 2014 was just an act
of God. Brian Barrett (ph) at "Gizmodo" wrote today, quote, "walking up in
Birmingham to snow is like walking up in New Hampshire to quicksand." You
just do not expect it or plan for it.

But some of what unfolded in the South looks less like just an act of God
and more like the result of bad decisions on the part of government
officials, frankly. In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed defended his city`s
response to the storm, but also acknowledged the city could have staggered
the closing times for businesses and schools, so the city didn`t end up
with thousands of people spending Tuesday afternoon in their cars and also
Tuesday night in their cars and then also Wednesday.

Thousands of kids spent the night in their schools last night. Teachers
posting on Facebook that they were feeding the kids supper and everyone was
going to be OK.

It`s been a really scary event. At least 10 people killed in the Southeast
since the storm began yesterday. A lot of people only just now making it
home to their families again after this American disaster.

In suburban Atlanta, a tech worker named Michelle Sollecito (ph) started a
Facebook page to try to link anybody who wanted to help with people who
needed to help. Fifty thousand people ended up joining this Facebook page,
snowed out Atlanta. They made a map where you could register where you
could register with your offer to help.

Look at that sea of pins. Each one of those marking strangers willing to
say, hey, walk down the road a little bit and ring the bell, we`re offering
to help.

The flip side of seeing your neighbor sleeping in the aisles of local
stores is that the people who work in those stores made the decision to
help them, even if it was just to offer them a place on the carpet and some
sort of makeshift pillow. It`s 2014. It`s just amazing.

Now, the worst of this disaster appears to be over or at least ending. The
South is expecting warmer weather tomorrow and that should clear the rest
of the ice and snow out. They do still have an enormous mess to clear,
thousands of drivers who are going to need help retrieving their abandoned
cars for one. That process starts in earnest tomorrow morning.

And, frankly, a lot of people have questions about whether the official
response to the storm was good enough or whether officials waited too late
to recognize the emergency that was about to engulf them. Is this going to
happen again with the next storm?

Along with the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal has taken
criticism for not closing schools and businesses before the storm hit.
Governor Deal, it should be noted, is up for re-election this year.

At the time that the storm was rolling in, Governor Deal was posting this
photograph of himself on Twitter. It`s a photo of him and the Atlanta
mayor at a luncheon where they were honoring each other as the storm rolled
in. That`s the mayor, you see there, getting his Georgian of the Year
portrait as the storm was rolling in that crippled his city and much of
that state.

Governor Deal said that for the next storm, he will order a shut down ahead
of time. But he defended not doing so this time.


GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: We don`t want to be accused of crying wolf.
Because if we had been wrong, you all would be here saying, you know how
many millions of dollars you cost the economy or the city of Atlanta and
the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and
this state?


MADDOW: Wouldn`t that have been terrible facing those questions?

Governor Deal also today called the storm in the South unexpected, was his
turn of phrase. That does not seem to be true.

Over at the Weather Channel, a sister network to MSNBC, Bryan Norcross
writes today that emergency managers really could have known from the
forecast that real trouble was possible. Mr. Norcross says that the
governor, quote, "was more afraid to be wrong in closing down the city than
he was of people being stranded in their cars."

Until we can develop a system that keeps politics out of it, and let`s
science and good judgment drive the decision making bus, this kind of thing
is going to keep happening.

Joining us now is Bryan Norcross. He`s a Weather Channel meteorologist and
hurricane specialist and he`s based in Atlanta.

Mr. Norcross, thank you very much for being with us.

BRYAN NORCROSS, WEATHER CHANNEL: Thank you, Rachel. Good to be here.

MADDOW: So, you write that some forecasters knew that real trouble was
possible. But officials somehow didn`t know that, even though the
forecasts were there. What went wrong? Where was the breakdown?

NORCROSS: I think you hit it right on the head there, the forecast for
some days showed that trouble was possible. It never got to the point of
saying, trouble was absolutely going to happen. And listening to the
governor and the mayor today, I think that`s what they were waiting for.

But they were waiting for the wrong thing, because 20 percent chance of a
cataclysm like we had yesterday is a really big number, 20 percent of that.
But 20 percent chance of rain isn`t very much. So, you have to think about
disasters in a different kind of way, and really weigh what`s your
threshold of risk.

Now, somehow, the governor and the mayor sent that threshold very, very
high, much higher I think than emergency managers would in a lot of this
country, that had more experience than dealing with this kind of a weather
forecast, risk situation that could lead to a disaster.

MADDOW: Do you think that is a systemic problem where the way the risk is
both expressed and accepted and reacted to by policymakers should change in
a way that maybe the South needs to think about this differently or other
parts of the country that are maybe ought to be thinking about weather
events that aren`t typical for them? Should there be a sort of systematic
change or is this just a matter of policymakers getting their acts

NORCROSS: It`s a challenging thing in the United States. We have this
division between federal, local and state people, and they all have their
own policies.

The mayor in New Orleans shut down that city, because they had an ice storm
warning. It turned out the ice was not really too terrible in the city of
New Orleans. It was kind of bad around the city. But not right in the

In South Carolina, they shut down things, but they made a different
decision in Georgia.

And I think part of it is, that these people don`t really do this very
often. You know, things don`t come along in Georgia that often that
require you to shut down the city like happens in New Orleans, like is more
likely to happen in the Carolinas, because of hurricanes, or in the
Northeast, the idea of having a school day, and shutting down the city and
keeping kids home, because it might be a bad snow day is not a foreign

That is a foreign idea here, but the fact is, if they had thought about it
ahead of time, had a good plan for it ahead of time, they should have been
able to react to it, but it does not seem like they had that here in

MADDOW: Well, if the political feedback loop works the way it`s supposed
to, having experienced this disaster will make them make better decisions
next time, or at least think harder about it before they blow it off.

Bryan Norcross, Weather Channel meteorologist based in Atlanta -- thanks
for helping us understand this. Good luck to you.

NORCROSS: All right. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks a lot.

Post-State of the Union, conservatives are hitting President Obama for his
out of control, socialist, dictator abuses of executive orders.

"Chart Imitates Life" coming up.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: "Chart Imitates Life". This is a good one.

President Obama wasn`t even finished with the State of the Union last night
when a new talking point tore across Republican social media -- edicts,
decrees, dictates. We will not hail to this usurping thief.

Performance artist and Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas says he walked
out of the State of the Union last night, explaining in one of his many
daily press release, quote, "I could not bear to watch as he continued to
cross the clearly defined boundaries of the constitutional separation of
powers." The congressman said, "President Obama has openly vowed to break
his oath of office and begin enacting his own brand of law through
executive decree. This is a wholesale violation of his oath of office and
a disqualifying offense."

Issuing executive orders is a disqualifying offense.

There were also these tweets from Kansas congressman, my new friend Tim
Huelskamp, during the speech. "The new imperial presidency, Obama will do
everything without legislation to advance his radical agenda."

This one, too. "Imperium. Wherever and whenever I can act without
restraints, I will. #lawless."

And then there was the gold medalist in the tweet the looniest thing
possible contest last night, Congressman Randy Weber from Texas who, we
checked, is an actual congressman and who has not complained recently that
his twitter account has been hacked.

Last night for the State of the Union, Congressman Weber wrote this -- yes,
it`s real. "On floor of House, waiting on `Kommandant-in-Chef.`" Chief?
I don`t know. "The socialist dictator has been feeding U.S. a-lying." Or
is it a-lying?

There it is in all of its linguistically incongruous glory. The

The easily rattled edges of the Republican conference were very upset about
President Obama, announcing last night that he would use an executive order
on the issue of the minimum wage for federal contractors. But it wasn`t
just upset at the edges. Consider also Arizona senator John McCain, the
Republican nominee for president in `08.

At various points in his life he has been known to have been a supporter of
various practical things, like, for example, immigration reform. But as
mainstream as you get as a Republican, John McCain is now doing it, too.
He has signed on with congressional Republicans who are taking President
Obama to court over his hugely excessive use of executive orders. John
McCain says, "We haven`t gotten many more options except telling the
American people that we`re seeing an abuse of the intent of the

If you listen to Republicans right now, the Constitution never intended for
this massive abuse of executive orders we`re seeing from President Obama.
It`s time to sue this president. It`s time to call in the kommandant-in-
chef. That President Obama`s abuse of executive orders is unprecedented.

OK. Are you ready? This is a chart of how frequently presidents have used
executive orders over the last 115 years. Some presidents were only there
for four years or less. Some were there for eight years. FDR was there

But this chart shows on average, over the course of a presidency, how many
executive orders that each president issued. They`re ranked from most
executive orders to least executive orders. Over there on the most side,
on the left, you see FDR. You see Herbert Hoover, Wilson, right?

Over there on the far right, the president who has issued fewer executive
orders per year than any president in the last 115 years? That is a
president named Barack Obama. Fewer than both Bushes, fewer than Reagan,
fewer than Clinton, fewer than Eisenhower, fewer than anybody. Barack
Obama -- o if you prefer, the kommandant-in-chef.

We have posted that chart on our Web site in case you want to print it out
and male it to your local insane right wing radio talk show hosts because
it will make them lose their minds further.


MADDOW: Best new thing in the world.

First, let`s get out of the way. This is what the U.S. Olympic team is
going to be wearing at the Olympics this year. This is what you`ll see
them in at the opening ceremony in Russia next week.

It`s kind of quilty looking. Not a bad way, on top. White fleecy pants
are kind of a startling choice. And then there`s red laced hiking boots.
That`s what the U.S. team is going to be wearing.

Here`s the thing, though. Heading into these Olympics, basically,
everybody thought the odds were 100 to zero that once the games got under
way, the steal the show outfits would be the guys from Norway, specifically
the Norwegian men`s curling team. Curling teams usually wear blacks, at
least black pants because curling is a very sober sport apparently, you
need to focus. So, you wear black pants basically as a means of creating
no distractions on the ice.

This was the American team. This was the Swiss team cheering and excited,
but wearing sober, traditional for curling black pants.

Not the Norwegians, though. In 2010, the Norwegian curling team showed up
wearing these pants, blue argyle, red, white and blue argyle. They won a
silver medal at Vancouver in their very, very loud pants.

Now for Sochi, the Norwegian curling team is doing it again. They unveiled
their new even louder pants before anybody else unveiled their outfits,
weeks before. This year, it`s a give you a seizure red, white and blue
zigzag pattern.

And surely, the Norwegians are thinking -- everybody is thinking, this is
going to be the most outstanding outfit of all the sports in all the
nations in all the Olympics. Not true, it turns out, because look who is
beating the Norwegians at their own game this year, if not also at curling.

Mexico. Look at this. The Mexican ski team, the entire team is skiing in
Sochi in an amazing ski suit that`s mariachi themed. Black bolero jacket,
white ruffled shirt, red tie, red cummerbund, the whole Mexican ski team
will wear this outfit.

And the whole Mexican ski team is one guy. His name is Prince Hubertus Von
Hohenlohe, which isn`t a very Mexican-sounding name because he`s only 1/8
Mexican. He lives in Austria. He`s 55. He`ll be racing the slalom and
he`ll be doing it in the single greatest mariachi-themed ski suit in all of

Best new thing today, by far. Ball is in your court, Norway, OK? OK.

That does for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Have a great night.


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