ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
February 7, 2014
Guests: Bob Herbert, Hunter Walker, Ben Jealous, Stacey Abrams, Beau Willimon
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
It is Friday night and we have a great show for you, including the creator
of "House of Cards", and the front-runner for worst boss ever.
But, first, we have breaking news tonight out of New Jersey. OK.
On Wednesday, we brought you news of startling data from Fair Share Housing
in New Jersey that showed that nearly 80 percent of applicants who were
rejected for Sandy relief money in the state were found to be eligible upon
appeal. That`s four out of five people who appealed won their appeal.
Findings tracked with negative performance reviews, we`d been hearing about
a distribution of Sandy aid by the Christie administration and HGI, the
contractor it quietly fired in December and paid a settlement of $10.5
million -- a firing and settlement that still haven`t been clearly
The Christie administration suggested to ALL IN on Wednesday it was FEMA`s
fault that so many people had been improperly rejected for Sandy aid, but
FEMA told us the Christie administration had improperly used FEMA data. It
was a complete mess, a story you weren`t seeing reported anywhere else on
Now, in the wake of our reporting, the Christie administration announced
late this afternoon it`s re-opening the appeals period for applicants
deemed ineligible. The administration said it wants affected New Jersey
residents to have a, quote, "full and fair opportunity to receive
assistance," something it appears they did not get the first time around.
This is a huge development for New Jersey residents who had been improperly
denied Sandy relief money and it`s one more piece of evidence to suggest
the Christie administration and contractor it hired to distribute $780
million in federal Sandy relief funds simply failed to do its job properly.
That`s just half of the news out of the Garden State. There was a
fascinating plot twist out of Fort Lee today as well, involving a cable
news agitator you might recognize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We have David Wildstein who since resigned saying it will be a
tough November for this little Serbian. Got a response to that?
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE, NJ: David Wildstein deserves an ass-
kicking. OK? Sorry. There, I said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Remember Mark Sokolich? Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, the town at
the center of the Christ Christie administration`s bridge-gate scandal?
Well, Mayor Sokolich is back in the headlines. After sitting down for
interviews with Bloomberg and "The Bergen Record", and clearly linking for
the first time the infamous Fort Lee lane closures with his own refusal to
endorse Christie for governor. Just (INAUDIBLE) that gets at the mystery
of the heart of the bridge-gate scandal, the most persistent unanswered
question, what was the motivation behind the infamous "time for traffic
problems in Fort Lee" e-mail?
The most popular theory when the scandal first broke was that it was
retribution for Mayor Sokolich`s refusal to endorse Christie for governor.
But at the time, Mayor Sokolich, himself, appeared to be poking holes in
that theory from the start when he said Christie didn`t even ask for his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOKOLICH: I don`t recall a specific request to endorse, but, you know, the
events that led up to all of this, I guess you can interpret to be somehow
attracting me to endorse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, today, Sokolich is sharing more details about the events he
once guessed you could interpret to be somehow attracting him to endorse
Christie, telling "The Bergen Record", Christie administration waged an
extensive campaign to win his endorsement, including gifts from the Port
Authority. "The Record" reporting, quote, "When Sokolich did not comply
but accepted gifts which included shuttle buses, snow plowing, filled
potholes and emergency radios, he says he now feels he was punished by the
paralyzing traffic jams."
Those gifts, according to Sokolich, included a personal tour of the 9/11
Memorial Plaza for himself and two cousins visiting from Croatia. Quote,
"Sokolich and his cousins were given a personal tour of the plaza by none
other than by David Wildstein, then the Port Authority`s director of
interstate capital projects. `I`ve been told to be nice to you,` Sokolich
remembers Wildstein saying during that tour."
Don`t forget, David Wildstein the guy acting as a nice tour guide for
Sokolich and his Croatian cousins is the same guy who would later refer to
Sokolich in an e-mail as that little Serbian.
For its part, the Christie administration denies the relationship Mayor
Sokolich is now describing, with the Christie spokesman saying Sokolich`s
new comments are, quote, "a direct and absolute contradiction of his public
comments up to this point."
Joining me now to discuss all of this late-breaking Christie developments,
Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at progressive think tank Demos,
former "New York Times" columnist. Hunter Walker, national affairs
reporter for "Talking Points Memo".
Let`s start with Sokolich. So, the big question on the table, is this guy
reversing himself or not? Went back and looked at my interview with him,
which we played a clip of, the CNN interview, and I think there`s two
What`s your feeling, Hunter?
HUNTER WALKER, TALKING POINTS MEMO: Well, this is definitely sort of a
version 3.0 of the Sokolich tale. He initially said that, you know,
Christie never -- he had no recollection of Christie pressuring to him
In January, he told, "The New York Times," oh, yes, he did sort of remember
that. But now, he`s detailing this kind of extensive campaign, including
these favors from the Port Authority and also a lunch at the mayor -- the
governor`s residence in Drumthwacket, with none other than Dawn Zimmer --
WALKER: -- the other mayor who`s accused Christie of abuse of power.
HAYES: You`re pointing out a very important plot in all this. Of course,
Mayor Zimmer whose own story about the nature of her rejection of Sandy
funds for a city changed as well. First, telling WNYC it had to do with an
endorsement, then breaking the story with the allegations of our own Steve
Kornacki on air here on MSNBC that it was in fact, she alleges because the
Christie administration wanted her to expedite a development. It`s very
You have both these mayors in the same place in this lunch. They both kind
of change their story, it seems, about why Christie was targeting. I just
keep feeling, Bob, there`s still so much we don`t know. I want to be,
like, come on, guys, you know, let`s fess up here.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: So much and it`s going to come out drip by drip by
drip. These are the kind of stories that come out of my home state of New
Jersey where I grew up.
But, you know, if you`re looking at Sokolich`s comments over time, he
hasn`t contradicted himself. It`s almost as though it`s a reinterpretation
HERBERT: -- of events that occurred to him.
So, the -- he hasn`t said, none of the events are conflict with anything
that he said in the past, but he seemed pretty, to say, pretty vehemently
early on that he didn`t recall being wooed for his vote and now, it seems
that the accumulating evidence tells him that he was being wooed.
HAYES: So, let`s recall also that Chris Christie, himself, in the epic
press conference, you know, basely said, look, we never teed the guy up for
me to go ask for his endorsement, I don`t know why we would be -- why we
would be punishing him.
WALKER: Not only that, though. Christie said he couldn`t, quote, "pick
Sokolich out of the lineup."
WALKER: So, this guy he supposedly had a two-hour lunch with he, quote,
"couldn`t pick out of a lineup." Someone is lying of the bunch.
HAYES: You know what? And Mark Sokolich actually said on my program, I
don`t think we have cut the bite, but I will recite it from memory. I was
just watching the interview. He said when interviewed him, he said, I
think I`m a little more familiar to the governor than he`s letting on.
I`ve broken bread with him. He said that on our air.
WALKER: Absolutely. So, I think, you know, more than a reinterpretation,
it`s kind of a slow teasing reveal. This may be the smoking lunch here.
HERBERT: The smoking lunch.
But I also think there`s a couple of things, when you start thinking about
the way Sokolich has commented in the press and also Dawn Zimmer, to some
extent, there`s a couple things at work.
One is, we`re used to folks with somewhat more sophistication dealing with
high-profile media types. I mean, they`re getting the kind of attention
that they never anticipated.
HAYES: Yes, we should say Fort Lee is a town of about 40,000 people. I
believe the mayor is a full-time job in Fort Lee.
HERBERT: It`s a full-time job.
HAYES: He`s also an attorney. I mean, this is -- you know, I just want to
make sure -- there`s nothing condescending read into your comments. It
literally is -- he`s a small town mayor.
HERBERT: All I mean by that is they`re not used to high-profile press
coming at them on mass with rapid fire questions. Not meant to be
condescending at all. That`s one thing that`s at work.
The other thing that I think is at work is this sort of feeling of fear
that permeates public officials in New Jersey when dealing with the
HAYES: Even now. I mean, that`s what`s so interesting. I think I thought
the dam will break. But still like, there`s a lot -- again, remember,
we`ve been covering this all week. This week, it was the Christie
administration announcing how they`re going to spend the next $1.2 billion
in Sandy aid, right?
That money is still all controlled by this governor, this administration.
It`s the strongest gubernatorial system of the 50 states, constitutionally.
It`s got the strongest governor of anywhere in the United States. And
they`ve got billions of dollars of Sandy money flowing through.
So, look, these mayors, everyone in New Jersey politics, still depends on
this office fundamentally, Hunter.
WALKER: Right. You know, this next set of Sandy moneys is a real
opportunity for the Christie administration to sort of clear up the gray
areas. When Zimmer made that accusation initially, WNYC, a New Jersey
public radio, did an extensive analysis. Though they found some
irregularities in how the Sandy aid was distributed, there was really, you
know, direct indication that it had been politicized.
WALKER: So, he may try to sort of write those irregularities now in this
second round of payments.
HAYES: Well, that gets to what we broke at the top of the show. We`ve
been covering this all week. I mean, the data out of the people appealing
and being -- their appeal being approved suggested that the initial
decisions were deeply flawed. I mean, if you`re getting an overture rate
of 80 percent, something is really messed up.
And we are -- I should say, I`d like to applaud the decision by the DCA of
the state of New Jersey to open these appeals. We`ve been pretty tough on
them and critical. But this is the right step for them.
So, kudos to them for doing it.
HERBERT: I mean, congratulations are in order for you guys. I mean, you
have been pushing this story from jump street. And I`ve thought all along
that it was an important story. You do not want shenanigans going on with
regard to aid for -- this was a terrible tragedy that happened.
So, now, you`re getting a bit of sunlight, and I hope that that`s a curtain
that`s being raised and I hope it`s raised a little further as we go along.
HAYES: All right. Finally, let me go to this.
This is a piece in the "Politico" which is just bizarre. It really makes
me feel like it`s amateur hour in the governor`s press shop.
So, a week ago, on a Friday, a breaking Friday night, David Wildstein`s
lawyer`s letter saying evidence exists the governor wasn`t telling the
truth about when he knew about the traffic jam. A memo is fired back,
written like a "BuzzFeed" listical that weekend attacking David Wildstein
for being deceitful and deceptive as a 16-year-old by his social studies
Now, "Politico" saying people close to Governor Christie swear he had
nothing to do with the heavily mocked memo surfaced by his office on Friday
claimed Christie had no knowledge of the memo, which attempted to discredit
David Wildstein, former ally who said through his lawyer he`s prepared to
turn over evidence against the governor.
What do you make of this?
WALKER: Well, you know, it`s very interesting, because the memo in the
first place is discrediting David Wildstein who`s a Christie, you know,
ally and appointee. So, here are Christie`s staff wronged him yet again.
And we have sources close to the governor who know what`s going on with the
governor, trying to put him unanimously in the "Politico".
HAYES: Here`s the thing. Apparently, the governor doesn`t -- the
governor`s staff just floats out in some sort of satellite, like, bureau
that does all sorts of stuff and the governor peeks in to figure out what
the heck they`re up to.
HERBERT: The memo, itself, was amateur hour. It was an idiotic thing for
this administration with all the problems they have to do in the first
place. Of course, now he`s saying, well, I didn`t know any more about that
than I knew about anything else that was going on in my office.
HAYES: Yes, it just gets -- it gets -- all of that gets less and less
plausible, particularly when you know what people close to you working with
Christie say about this micromanaging tendencies.
Bob Herbert from Demos, Hunter Walker from "Talking Points Memo" -- thank
you, gentlemen, both.
WALKER: Thanks for having us.
HAYES: Coming up, what kind of boss blames the parents of sick children
for his own decision to cut his employees` retirement plans? We`ll tell
you that story next.
HAYES: Have you heard about the show that revolutionized television and it
wasn`t even on the TV? Tonight, we`ve got the interview no one else does.
Stay with us.
HAYES: If we know one thing about America`s 1 percent, it`s that no matter
how good they have it, and they have it pretty damn good, they still
somehow manage to feel like day are under siege. And lately, they`re
feeling awfully persecuted because of one specific law.
TIM ARMSTRONG, AOL: As a CEO and as a management team, we had to decide,
do we pass the $7.1 million of Obamacare costs to our employees or do we
try to eat as much of that as possible and cut other benefits?
HAYES (voice-over): Meet Tim Armstrong. He`s the CEO of AOL. And since
taking over in 2009, AOL has spent hundreds of millions on properties like
"The Huffington Post" and Patch while laying off thousands of employees.
But Armstrong is doing OK. In 2012, he took home $12.1 million. So, he`s
pretty good at making money. But what kind of boss is he? Well, he once
fired an employee on a conference call.
ARMSTRONG: If you think what`s going on right now is a joke, and you want
to joke around about it, you should pick your stuff up and leave Patch
today. Patch from an experience -- Abel, put that camera down. Abel,
you`re fired. Out.
HAYES: Abel Lenz was fired for taking this picture of Armstrong.
Armstrong later apologized but Lenz remains no longer with the company.
Lenz was an employee of Patch, a hyper local news site that Armstrong
founded and was personally invested in. It was one of the first
accusations he made as CEO of AOL. It was Armstrong`s baby. AOL sunk $300
million into Patch and sold it off losing upwards of $200 million and
laying off hundreds after Patch employees in the process. Some on another
LEIGH ZARELLI LEWIS, PATCH CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Unfortunately, your
role has been eliminated and you no longer have a role at Patch. And today
will be your last day of employment with the company.
HAYES: Now, Armstrong is on another cost-cutting mission. Targeting
employees` 401(k)s. If you`ve been listening to other CEOs over the past
few years, his reasoning should sound familiar.
ED RENSI: Obamacare is going to add $40,000 to $45,000 more in costs to
the average restaurant.
BERNIE MARCUS: Obamacare is going to kill off the small businesses.
JOHN MACKEY: We no longer have free enterprise capitalism in health care.
HAYES: Now, Tim Armstrong is saying AOL`s employee benefits need to be cut
because of Obamacare.
ARMSTRONG: Obamacare is an additional $7.1 million expense for us as a
company, so we have to decide whether or not to pass that expense to
employees or whether to cut other benefits.
HAYES: As "The L.A. Times" reports, health insurance experts aren`t sure
where Armstrong is getting that $7.1 million figure. Experts we spoke to
were equally baffled.
But in Armstrong`s defense, he didn`t just blame Obamacare for the changes.
On a companywide call, he also blamed the parents of two sick infants.
Quote, "We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that
we paid $1 million each to make sure those babies were OK in general. So
when we had the final decision about what benefits to cut because of the
increased health care costs, I made the decision to basically change the
The American worker has had a pretty rough time of it over the last six
years. Yet somehow no one feels more oppressed and under siege than their
bosses. Tim Armstrong, no exception.
HAYES: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein. He`s editor in chief
of "Project X", his new journalistic venture.
Ezra, since all this press has been around your new venture, I have to ask
you, now that you`ll be launching a startup within another company, are you
going to be taking management advice from Tim Armstrong and telling people
that you`re cutting benefits because, you know, two of your fellow
employees had sick kids?
EZRA KLEIN, PROJECT X: We have extremely good health care benefits in my
venture. But the thing -- but this is actually an important point, right?
We are a recently launched company at Vox Media. AOL is orders of
And the thing Obamacare doesn`t really do is affect large companies.
There is something, though, that Obamacare has done that large employers
love. It`s a huge benefit to them, and the main thing it`s done for them
is any change they want to make to benefits, they can blame --
KLEIN: -- on Obamacare. That`s a very, very big deal.
So, the 401(k) change that Armstrong made has two effects basically. One
is that the main thing it does, it saves the company money because it only
gives payout for the 401(k), the matching at the end of the year. So, the
company isn`t paying any of the money it would have paid if the 401(k) had
made money during the year.
But the other thing it does, if anybody wants to leave the company during
the middle of the year, they have to contend with the fact they`re going to
get a big payout for the 401(k) at the end. So, it gives them a
disincentive to leave in the world, makes it harder to recruit. So, it`s a
reasonably good change for the employer because it saves them money and
makes people harder it recruit and it is extraordinarily convenient for a
guy who makes $12 million at a company that made profits of $36 million
last quarter to blame that on mystery costs coming out of Obamacare.
HAYES: Well, that`s -- I mean, that is a great point. It reminds me a
little bit of the structure of the airline baggage fees which, of course,
came into being when oil prices spiked. But, of course, oil prices went
down and we never got rid of the baggage fees, right? This was just a
permanent structural change to the cost structure that benefited them, and
you`re completely right.
I mean, we`ve seen this time and time again, particularly with this myth
about -- you know, this kind of anecdote that runs through chain e-mails
and even just water pool conversation about so-and-so`s boss, they`re
cutting back part time, they`re cutting back hours because of Obamacare.
That kind of thing has been happening for a long time, but they now have
Obamacare to hang it on.
KLEIN: Right. It should be said, that`s a whole different set of kettle
of fish there. That`s for only smaller employers. It`s been delayed so
it`s not happening.
So, it`s true. There`s been this generalized move to make any benefit
change the result of Obamacare. You know, but I want to two go to the
other part Armstrong mentioned, right? Because when he was pressed on it
more, he said -- well, in 2012, by the way, not 2013, 2012, they had two
employees who had children who were presumably had really severe health
care problems. Each cost $1 million or more. So, that is really where you
get into the cost structure of American health care and it`s people
actually getting sick. So that, alone, even given sort of Armstrong`s
mystery $7 million, those two children cost, you know, $2 million which is
a fair chunk of that.
So the thing that I think is worth thinking about in all this, health care
benefits actually cost money. The core health care problem in this
country, it`s been going on long before Obamacare, is that we`re really
good at providing extraordinarily expensive medical care for people when
they get very, very sick. Companies do have to bear the cost. It`s often
too much for them.
But the argument, it`s not nobody get the health care, it`s one, keeping
costs down and in a funny way it`s almost a single payer argument because
it will spread those cost over a vastly larger group of the population as
opposed to one particular employer that is self-insured but has bad luck of
having seven or eight or nine or 10 or 50 employees have catastrophic
health care costs in a single year.
HAYES: The other thing (INAUDIBLE) story is, don`t call out two parents of
sick kids who if their co-workers know they had an incredibly sick kid is
now going to look at them askance when they`re in the office because it`s
like you screwed over my 401(k).
MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein, congratulations on the new venture. I`m
extremely excited about it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. So, Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss who arguably has
the best name in Congress is retiring and the primary campaign going on
right now to replace him is a veritable bonanza. Eight Republican
candidates trying to out-Tea Party each other. The story is next. And
pass the popcorn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you like the results coming out of Washington right
now, then pick one of these four professional politicians. It really won`t
matter because you know nothing will change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help me change the childish behavior up there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What did they do to those poor kids? I always wonder when I watch
something like that.
All right. The most entertaining primary campaign right now is in the
state of Georgia, for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Saxby
Chambliss. That ad you saw was from one of the eight Republican
contenders, businessman David Purdue running against the Washington
Among those insiders are three leading candidates, all congressmen,
themselves, a who`s who of Tea Party aspiration. With the Republican
primary slated for May 20th, there are 10 full weeks, plenty of time for
the candidates to trip over each other in their quest for the far right.
Here`s Congressman Paul Broun who offered an AR-15 rifle in a raffle to
raise campaign cash and lead this to say about evolution and all that other
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: I`ve come to understand that all that stuff
I was talking about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is
lies straight from the pit of hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There`s Congressman Jack Kingston who made headlines recently with
this novel policy suggestion about the school lunch program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACK KINGSTON (R), GEORGIA: Why don`t you, you know, have the kids
pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such
thing as a free lunch or maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria -- and,
yes, I understand that would be an administrative problem, and I understand
it would probably lose you money, but think what we would gain as a society
in getting people -- getting the myth out of their head that there is such
thing as a free lunch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: His defense, he did concede, it would be an administrative problem.
Then, there`s Congressman Phil Gingrey who complained about his
congressional salary of $172,000 a year being too low. He also said Todd
Akin was partially right in his legitimate rape comments about how a
woman`s body shuts down so that pregnancy will not occur.
Here are six of the Republican candidates in a recent debate responding to
the question of extending unemployment insurance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: Show of hands, yes or no? Yes, I would vote to extend
No, I would not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Congressman Broun, kudos to him eager to be the first to raise his
hand no on extending unemployment insurance.
Now, all of this has Democrats salivating over the possibility of taking
that seat, one that would typically be a safe one more Republicans and a
Democratic takeaway of that Senate seat would make it much harder for the
GOP to recapture a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, so far
proven to be a strong candidate. More than that, Democrats have a
potentially large secret weapon, 600,000 unregistered African-Americans in
the state. You heard me right. Thousands more unregistered Latinos,
Asian-Americans, women and millennials, according to one of our next
If you could register those voters, not only would the Senate race be
effective, but Georgia could move closer to being the next big swing state
in presidential elections.
Joining me now, Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, who
recently wrote about turning the deep south blue. And Georgia state
representative and House minority leader, Stacey Abrams. She`s a Democrat.
Ben, let me begin with you. You`ve got this piece up on our Web site,
MSNBC.com, about this. You know, this is one of the things easier said than
done. You see the numbers, 600,000 unregistered African-Americans, get
them registered. You and I both it`s really hard to get people registered
into the polls.
BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: It comes down to $8 million.
That is what it will take. We are talking about $12 per person on average.
This can be done. We saw $1 billion spent just by one candidate in the
last presidential. This would be less than 1 percent to put a huge state
into play for 2014, for 2016. So there`s work that has to be done, but
this can be done.
HAYES: Representative Abrams, but is the political atmosphere in Georgia
now? You have two main factors. A democratic shift pushing the state
toward the Democrats but you`ve also got a very entrenched Republican right
wing conservative Tea Party streak that has basically total power over the
state government at this moment.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA: Well, I think what`s
happening is that that Republican shift is actually creating the best
opportunity for Democrats, certainly years ahead of any time people would
have expected. Because of that really hard right tilt that everyone is
taking, the moderates that moved to Georgia over the last ten years are
looking for someone who is speaking sense. What we`re finding is moderates
are being turned off by the hard right push and are looking at Democrats as
a viable and I think very reasonable alternative to what they`re afraid
will happen if we elect one of the other eight.
HAYES: We`ve seen this overreach and backlash in the state of North
Carolina in which you`ve got full Republican control. Amazingly aggressive
right-wing agenda, the moral Monday`s movement
JEALOUS: And the moral march which is happening tomorrow.
HAYES: All of that has led to plummeting approval ratings for Republicans
there. You see something like that possibly playing out in Georgia?
JEALOUS: Certainly. I mean, the real crisis here is the folks in
Washington typically don`t have vision that extends into the Deep South.
And it`s time for people to look seriously at the fact that because we have
not played in all 50 states as a party for a very long time, we have some
real easy wins if we just decide, you know what, we are going to go all in
in Georgia. We could flip it.
HAYES: Representative, does that ring true to you? Do you agree with that?
ABRAMS: Absolutely. In 2012, we ran seven races in our House districts.
These were races and seats that were designed for Republicans to win. But
because we did on-the-ground fieldwork, spent $35,000 roughly per seat
compared to the hundreds of thousands spent for the other seats, we won
four of seven races. And this was not an opportunity this is not a time
when President Obama was spending money in the state. This was purely us
getting on the ground and going after those seats.
What Ben is saying is absolutely true. For a low investment, return on
investment in terms of picking up seats, picking up voters and engaging
voters across the state is an incredible opportunity, and if Georgia can
turn blue, the rest of the Deep South can follow.
HAYES: It should be noted that the dynamic here, with voter registration,
particularly in the south, is not static in the sense that boosts in black
turnout tend to come with a correlated boost in white turnout and that has
been the history in a lot of southern states.
JEALOUS: Look that depends on the issue. Right, so if you look at what
happened in Florida last year, what you saw was the far right wing saying,
look, we`ve got to come in here and got to go hard and vote suppression.
You saw some of the toughest play flaw flaws in the country. We in the
NAACP say, look, we`re going to double down on signing up people to vote.
Obama won by 73,000 votes.
JEALOUS: The reality is, quite frankly, most of the year the other major
operations shut down because they were afraid of the penalties. What we
know is we can overcome the wall of vote suppression with a higher wave of
vote registration. You`ve got to invest, do the hard work and start now.
HAYES: Speaking of which, one of your colleagues, Republican State Senator
Barry Fleming in the other House has a bill to limit early voting. What do
you think is going to happen with access to voting rights in Georgia
between now and Election Day?
ABRAMS: We`re going to fight very hard to avoid any limitations.
Representative Fleming`s bill would limit municipal elections and not
affect our 2014 elections. More importantly, I think we have to remember
that we have 833,000 unregistered African-American, Asian and Latino
ABRAMS: That represents almost 32 percent of the total voter turnout from
2010. If we can register those voters, there`s no trouble in picking up
those seats. The other --
JEALOUS: Just to draw a fine point here, Stacey, the president lost by
JEALOUS: Governor Diel won by 258,000 votes.
HAYES: Wow. That`s a bonkers numbered by registered voters. I didn`t
quite realize the number was that big.
JEALOUS: This was just it. As an organizer, you need money, you need
people, vision, and need to plan it and it`s not magic. It`s not like it
HAYES: I bet you, Representative Abrams, would make a good majority
JEALOUS: I`m tired of her it.
HAYES: Come together. Ben Jealous, Georgia State Representative.
JEALOUS: She would then be speaker.
HAYES: That`s right. I should note. Stacey Abrams, thank you so much.
Senator Republican Mitch McConnell has a problem in his home state. It
sounds a little something like this --
You`ll have that in your head all weekend now. Kentuckians are not
pleased with McConnell, and the latest polls show it. That`s next.
HAYES: All right, big new poll out of Kentucky, but bad news for Senate
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Poll commissioned by some of the
state`s biggest media outlets found that Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes
leads McConnell 46 percent to 42 percent in the Kentucky Senate race. Two
recent polls showed a tight race between Lundergan-grimes who is the
elected secretary of state in Kentucky and McConnell who held his Senate
seat since 1985.
McConnell still has to get past a Tea Party primary challenger named Matt
Devan, the backing of both Freedom Works and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
In short, Mitch McConnell has a real fight on his hands. For one thing,
the longtime Washington fixture is deep under water in his home state.
Just 27 percent of Kentuckians hold a favorable view of him. A full 50
percent have an unfavorable view.
Look at this, McConnell`s approval rating in Kentucky is 32 percent, 32
percent. President Obama who lost Kentucky by 23 points in 2012 actually
has a higher approval rating in the state than Mitch McConnell. Now, you
might say, no big deal. Election is nine months away. Mitch McConnell has
a ton of money.
He knows his state incredibly wall. Call in a bunch of favors between now
and Election Day. All that is absolutely true, but unlike Harry Reid, who
faced a tough re-election fight in 2010, Mitch McConnell has not been
gifted with a weak opponent. In fact, Alison Lundergan Grimes is one of
the strongest candidates that the Democrats have in this cycle.
She is young, strong fundraisers. She already runs statewide and she
comes from a well-connected political family. She`ll have the help of Bill
Clinton who will campaign for Lundergan-Grimes in Louisville later this
month. McConnell`s campaign sent a statement to ALL IN saying it`s
comfortable with the campaign stands, promising grimes` alliance with the
agenda on Obama care and the war on coal will come clear to everyone over
the next nine months. They left out the part where President Obama`s
actually more popular than their candidate.
Coming up next, I`m pretty stoked the guy behind my favorite show is going
to be here. We`re going to talk about what`s next for his Emmy winning
series. And, spoiler alert, I`m in the upcoming season.
HAYES: Are you as psyched as I am for the second season of "House Of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think he`s dangerous?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know he is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and
casualties! I need to prove what the vice president is capable of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you`ll do whatever you think is best.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finish your thought.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of someone`s murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot run away from this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a dangerous man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can be dangerous, too. I did my part. Put it to
bed. I won`t submit myself to this exposure again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tip of your iceberg is melting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m really scared this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know how to handle him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s make him suffer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain,
there can be no mercy. And the butchery begins.
HAYES: "House of Cards" stars Kevin Spacey, as the crazily power hungry
amoral house majority whip. Frank Underwood, a Washington insider, whose
conniving behavior as you saw in the trailer for season two, does not
traffic in subtlety. The end of season one, his character through a series
of complex ruthless maneuvers including something I don`t want to give away
was working his way toward the vice presidency.
"House of Cards" is widely seen as the political drama of our times right
now. What`s amazing about that, it`s not even a thing that`s on TV. It`s
a show that`s produced and streamed on Netflix. It represents a paradigm
for the television industry. According to Netflix, when season one
appeared last year it was the most streamed piece of content in the United
States and 40 other countries.
This wasn`t just some leap of faith into original programming. Netflix is
betting on their data. Knowing what their subscribers watch. Even when
they pause, rewind and fast forward. Netflix figured out many subscribers
were watching David Fincher`s movies from beginning to end and Fincher was
onboard to direct the first couple episodes of the show and Spacey`s movies
and "House of cards" were streaming well, Netflix created a diagram,
suggested the U.S. version of the show would be a hit.
Another reason why "House of Cards" is revolutionizing the way we watch
television, watch an entire season all at once. In other words, when
season premiers next Friday, Valentine`s Day, you`ll conceivably be able to
watch all episodes that same day, extremely romantic.
And the anticipation of the second season is so -- Netflix already ordered
a third season of the show. As television becomes less beholden to a point
of viewing, Netflix`s "House of cards" with nine Emmy nominations last year
and three wins is proving an online series can hold its own against
traditional TV shows.
Joining me now is the creator, screenwriter and producer of "House of
Cards," Beau Willimon. Beau, congratulations on the third season getting
BEAU WILLIMON, CREATOR, "HOUSE OF CARDS": I have to get 800 pages down so
we have something to shoot.
HAYES: Right. Watching this Kris Christie scandal unfold, there is
resonance in just the sheer kind of transactional petty nature of politics
which is what your series focuses on.
WILLIMON: Well, the allegations are the not that`s not petty at all.
That`s serious. Potentially someone broke the law. You know, time will
tell. But in terms of how it`s being exploited, you know, when there`s
someone, you know, wounded on the Savannah, the vultures do circle. You`re
seeing that in both parties remarkably. But, you know, what politics
rewards more than anything is an underdog comeback kid, someone who can
survive and prove themselves to be a fighter. So it`s --
HAYES: That`s interesting.
WILLIMON: It`s possible if Christie survives this he in the long run comes
out stronger. It`s over two years until the presidential election.
HAYES: Are you super cynical? The thing about "House of Cards," you
worked in politics, and sometimes when I`m watching the show I`m like what
horrors did he witness that he I mean --
WILLIMON: I`m actually the opposite. I consider myself an optimist. I
believe that government has great potential and so does Francis Underwood.
He`s an optimist. People often mistake optimism and idealism as the same
thing. There are a lot of incredibly cynical idealists out there in the
world. Francis underwood says, I believe that the impossible is possible.
And I`ll go out and make it happen. You may judge how I do it, but I give
you forward progress.
HAYES: Do you think there`s always wonder what the show`s stance is. What
the show`s perspective towards Underwood`s kind of politics is? In some
senses, there`s something very dark about it and there`s some real dark
twists that happen in the end of the first season. At the same time, there
is something admiring about the way the show portrays his just sheer kind
of conniving power.
WILLIMON: I think the show poses the question, doesn`t answer, but poses
the question; do the ends justify the means? And here is Francis Underwood
who gives you forward momentum. Who says something is better than nothing.
I give you some form of progress rather than stagnation. And with our
political climate as it is in Washington, that`s attractive to a lot of
people. It gives you cause to root for him, even if you disagree with
everything he`s doing.
HAYES: Washington, D.C.`s, obsessed with this show. Official Washington
is. Take a listen to the president of the United States talking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I`m just
wondering if we brought advanced copies of "House of Cards."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Willing to do a little cameo?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The -- well, I wish things were that ruthlessly
efficient. Like Kevin Spacey, this guy`s getting a lot of stuff done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s a very funny line.
WILLIMON: Their cabinet room looks as good as our cabinet room on set.
It`s incredibly flattering and amazing when the president of the United
States is taking a moment to watch any of your show. And so that was very
cool. But, yes, I mean, you know, Obama has more than anyone, I think, in
the past several years had to contend with what a lack of compromise looks
like. What it stems from his administration or whether it`s a Congress
that refuses to engage with him. You know, in our show we have the liberty
to focus on a protagonist who`s able to cut a knife through butter.
HAYES: That`s part of the thing. Part of the reason I think official
Washington loves the show is because even if they`re devious, they`re
competent, right? They`re not bunglers.
WILLIMON: Confidence is sexy.
HAYES: Confidence is sexy. I want to talk about the kind of revolution in
television that this has been when we take a short break and come back.
HAYES: We`re back. I`m here with Beau Willimon, the creator, screenwriter
and producer of "House of Cards." Spacey`s direct address, where did that
come from, why choose that? It`s so rare that you see them on television.
WILLIMON: We outright stole it from the BBC version that aired in 1990.
Richardson would turn to the camera and deliver these direct addresses and
we just love that device. It gives you an intimacy with the character.
You find yourself complicit in all these nefarious acts. It`s one of the
reasons I think people root for him.
HAYES: It reminds me of Yago in Shakespeare, right? He`s a plotting
villain letting us in on how his plot --
WILLIMON: Richard III is a great example which Kevin performed on stage
for nine months in the world tour prior to shooting the first season.
HAYES: If I`m you, here`s what`s stressing me up and keeping me up at
WILLIMON: There are a lot of things.
HAYES: The British model is they go for one year and they`re done. The
American model is you do them. Everyone loves them and have to keep the
plate spinning. In the case of "Homeland" you start with this one conceit.
The end of the first season you don`t have the conceit anymore. Queue you
have to figure out how to keep things going. How do you intensify the
drama without jumping the shark?
WILLIMON: We had two seasons guaranteed upfront. I was already looking at
a two-season story and had a strong idea of where I wanted that to end.
With the third season, you know, I have to ask all these questions which
are how do we keep the core of the show that works well, but at the same
time, not find ourselves in a rut that we don`t get too comfortable with
what the show is that we`re expanding and deepening what it can be. I
can`t get too much more specific because then I`d ruin it. We haven`t put
out season two yet.
HAYES: You guys need a red wedding about 2/3 of the way through season
WILLIMON: Yes, yes. Some, you know, someone ripping off someone else`s
HAYES: You guys were the first to do this. Now there are other Netflix
series "orange is the new black." amazon is doing a new series. This is an
exciting development because there seems like there`s a real creative
flowering that`s happening in this world. All of a sudden all of these old
conventions like when we went from print to germy journalism. Articles had
to be a certain length. Things had to fit to the physical form. Now when
you`re dealing with streaming shows, they can be different lengths.
There`s no scheduled time slot. It seems like a radically new world.
WILLIMON: The future is here in television. The first great big
revolution was when HBO said, paid cable subscriber-based networks are
going to start providing original content. We saw the great flowering of
amazing shows that came out of that and extended into AMC and Showtime.
Now what you have with the internet is a lot of questions which people
never thought to ask before which is precisely the ones you brought up. Do
we need a half hour, hour-long episode? Do we need episodes at all?
Can we put it all out there in one day? Whenever those sort of questions
are happening and there`s a shift, artists flock to that because they have
the opportunity to explore new things and I think you see the movie, you
know, studio system in Hollywood sort of, you know, looking at all of these
great film directors and actors and writers flocking to television and
scratching their heads because artists will go where the risk takers are
and the risk takers are in television.
HAYES: What does it say to you about the zeitgeist, the cultural moment?
Look at "House of Cards" and compare it to "West Wing." There`s something
deep how we feel about Washington. The times, the most successful
Washington drama in the Clinton era were "West Wing." That was a very,
very, very different vision of politics.
WILLIMON: First of all, I`m a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. I think "west wing"
is one of the greatest shows ever made. Brought so much intelligence to
network television like "hill street blues" did! What you have with the
"west wing" is you have wish fulfillment fantasy in a good way of what
America could be. What you have with ours is in some ways the same thing.
This is what it could be, but we flip it on its head.
We say now we`re taking the idealism and ideology out of it but offering
progress when it`s purely out of self-interest. So, look, no one show can
completely encapsulate D.C. it`s a complicated layered place. In fact,
there are a lot of shows right now that take place in D.C., whether it`s
"VP," a great show, "Homeland" or "Scandal." What have you each takes our
own angle on it.
HAYES: It`s interesting how culturally resonant D.C. is when watching the
second season "House of Cards" next Friday. Valentine`s day, cancel all
your plans. Cuddle up with the one you love. Watch all 13 hours. "THE
RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.
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