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All In With Chris Hayes, Friday, February 28th, 2014

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February 28, 2014

Guests: Bernie Sanders, Jon Soltz, Chris Murphy, Paul Smith, Annette Insdorf, Christopher John Farley, David Edelstein

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris

There is breaking news tonight. The president of the United States
unexpectedly taking to the podium less there and three hours ago to issue a
warning to Russia as what appear to be a Russian forces move into Crimea in


concerned about reports of military movements taken by the Russian
Federation inside of Ukraine. The United States will stand with the
international community in affirming that there will be costs for any
military intervention in Ukraine.


HAYES: We will have much more on what is happening in Ukraine and
what Washington can or should do about it coming up. But, first, I should
be bringing you news tonight of a new $21 billion veteran benefit package
signed today by the president. But I am not because that bill died in the
Senate yesterday when it failed to get the 60 votes it needed to overcome a

And you will never get which party killed it. I mean, we all know
which party is on the side of veterans, right? They tell us all the time -
- remember when they all headed to the World War II Memorial during the
government shutdown to complain that the other anti-vet party was shutting
veterans out?


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I will go anywhere any time a veteran
needs me and I can get there to help and I`ve done it my whole life. It`s
who I am.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: They deserve being able to get
into this memorial. We need to open it up.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: One of you who served our country, who
risked our lives, let me just say -- thank you.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We will not be timid in
calling out any who would use our military, our vets, as pawns in a
political game.


HAYES: Got that? Republicans will call out anybody who wants to use
veterans as pawns. Well, guess what they did when Democrats led by
independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tried to expand medical,
education and job training benefits to the nation`s 22 million veterans and
their families. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tried to add an
unrelated poison bill amendment to that veterans bill that would impose new
sanctions on Iran.

Why try to tack the Iran`s sanctions amendment onto the vets bill? As
McConnell told reporters, we`ve been trying for months to get a debate and
a vote on the sanctions bill. That is a bill that we`ve reported on on
this program. It`s backed by Republicans and many Democrats and would
impose a new sanctions regime on Iran, which both the White House and the
Iranians say would threaten the historic talks that right now represent the
best chance we have to bring a peaceful resolution to Iran`s nuclear

Think about that for a moment. Republicans were pushing an amendment
that could heighten the possibility of another war, this time with Iran, at
the very same time they were working to kill a bill that would have helped
the veterans of the last two wars. This from the party that would never
use veterans as political pawns.

Harry Reid, for one, was not happy.


organizations including the American Legions and the Veterans of Foreign
Wars supported that legislation, plus 24 other veterans organizations. And
what happens over here? The Republicans, they figured out a way to say no.
They always do that.


HAYES: The GOP also argued the veterans bill cost too much and it
wasn`t paid for.

And this is really important. The $21 billion for the bill was set it
come out of the overseas contingency operation fund, the fund used to pay
for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, there`s some money left in that
fund because we are drawing down -- have drawdown in Iraq, are drawing down
in Afghanistan. The Republicans say that money doesn`t count. They point
out, as the conservative Heritage Action did in telling Republicans to vote
no on this bill, that the money is not recognized as real savings by the
Congressional Budget Office. And that is true. But so is this.

That money is a fund that was earmarked for the wars, that Democrats
would instead like to use to help the people who fought in those wars. Had
we planned to stay longer for Afghanistan, had we still been there in Iraq,
believe you me, we would have spent that money and that spending would have
been very, very real.

Or think about it this way -- the CBO says this bill would have
increased the deficit. And you know what I say, if you can run a deficit
to go to war, you can run a deficit to take care of the people who fought
in it.

Joining me now is the sponsor of that veterans bill, the chair of the
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Senator, the Heritage Action, Heritage Action told conservatives and
Republicans to vote no. They said the multi-billion dollar bill fails to
make necessary reforms to the system that is already overburdened and
flawed, harming both veterans truly in need of assistance and taxpayers in
the process.

What do you say to that?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, I say they`re dead wrong and
so does virtually every veterans organization in the country representing
millions of veterans. Chris, what I have learned since I`ve been chairman
of the veterans committee is the cost of war is much deeper and more
significant than I think most people know.

We`re talking about hundreds of thousands of young men and women
coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and TBI. We`re talking
about 2,300 of our soldiers who suffered wounds so that they`re unable to
have babies.

We`re talking in terms of older veterans. You have women, wives
staying home taking care of disabled vets, 24 hours a day, seven days a
week, who get virtually no kinds of support from the federal government.

You`re talking about young people who were promised a college
education after they left the service not able to afford that education.
You got a whole lot of issues out there that this legislation addressed.
And that`s why it had such enthusiastic support from the veterans

HAYES: And the Republicans say we can`t afford it.

SANDERS: Well, here`s the interesting thing. Anybody who knows
anything about Congress knows that our Republican friends are fighting hard
and have given huge tax breaks, we`re talking about hundreds and hundreds
of billions of dollars to the wealthiest people in this country. They
support a situation where one out of four major corporations in this
country doesn`t pay a nickel in federal income taxes. That`s OK. It`s OK
to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan without figuring out how you`re going
to pay for it, just putting it on the credit card.

What this bill does is take less than 2 percent from the OCO, from the
OCO Fund, less than 2 percent to make life a little bit better for the men
and women who put their lives on the line to defend us. And it really was
quite incredible to see almost all Republicans -- we got two -- almost all
Republicans put their partisan loyalty ahead of the needs of the veterans
in this country.

HAYES: Are you going to take another run of it? You said you got
two, Dean Heller, and who`s the other senator?

SANDERS: Senator Moran of Kansas.

HAYES: That`s right, Senator Moran and Senator Dean Heller.

SANDERS: We are going to get three more.

HAYES: And you need three more. You`re going to take another run
with it.

SANDERS: Oh, we sure. We`re going to win this fight and I look
forward to coming back on the show talking about victory.

HAYES: I do, too. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, thank you so

SANDERS: Thank you.

HAYES: Joining me now, Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran, chairman of

Jon, there was, it seemed to me, tremendous unanimity among different
veterans groups that sometimes represent very different kinds of
generations of veterans, sometimes they take different policy positions.
The American Legion is saying, "There was a right way to vote and a wrong
way to vote today, and 41 senators chose the wrong way. That`s
inexcusable. I don`t know how anyone voted no today can look a veteran in
the eye and justify that vote."

Do you feel similarly?

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG: Sure. We have actually not had a strong
relationship per se with the American Legion over the years. We haven`t
worked with them, you know. At Vote Vets, we have 400,000 online
supporters and we do a lot of politics, help veterans run for office and
get elected.

But, you know, we had a great conversation with them yesterday and
there`s complete, unanimous sport amongst all veterans group. It`s great
to see veterans groups like the American Legion and the VFW come out so
strongly and oppose what happened yesterday in the Senate and fight for
veterans of all generations frankly.

HAYES: What do you say when you hear Republicans basically say this
will add to the deficit, we can`t afford it, we have to pay for it in some
other way other than taking from that contingency fund?

SOLTZ: It hurts me so much. I served my second tour in Iraq in 2011,
I was embedded, I was one of the last advisors out of the country. And to
take John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two of, you know, the largest neocons
in the U.S. Senate, they were very much trying to push the Obama
administration to extend U.S. forces in Iraq.

I mean, you had a member of the Republican House caucus call to put
U.S. troops back into Iraq after Fallujah fell several weeks ago. So, they
are all about keeping U.S. troops extended past when we pulled them out of
Iraq. And right now, we`re having a debate in Afghanistan about going to a
zero level and negotiations with the status of forces agreement with Hamid
Karzai, where the administration looks like they want to go to zero.

So, they`re all about keeping troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, yet when
it comes to paying for the people, who have to fight for that war, all of a
sudden, there`s no money. And this money really would have gone to help a
lot of returning veterans get inside the V.A., it would have helped lower
the back log and helped kids have better G.I. Bill benefits frankly.

HAYES: This is so important. Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey
Graham, both of whom filibustered this bill yesterday, you know, that
overseas contingency fund, that money would have been spent if we had
stayed, right? I mean, the key point is that no one would have voted no
and choked off funds to continue occupation in Iraq, no one would have
choked off funds to continued residual forces in Afghanistan. That`s not
even on the table. This is on the table.

SOLTZ: Not only would they have voted -- not only would that money
been spent in Iraq or Afghanistan, they would have done another
supplemental. So, they would have spent billions and billions and billions
of dollars more. So, there`s complete hypocrisy.

To attach it to Iran, I mean, the Iran sanction issues is very simple.
I mean, we`re now drawing down, finally after 14 years of war and so many
veterans -- you know, the big question is how many times did you go?
Because nobody went one time. Everybody went two or three.

We`re finally at a point now where maybe there`s light at the end of
the tunnel, you see a drawdown is coming at the Pentagon. Lindsey Graham
and John McCain would not only have spent all this money, they would have
to have got more. And to talk about Iran and to do the sanctions bill,
you`re actually -- you know, if you support the sanctions with Iran right
now -- I mean, I hate to be so frank about it, you`re supporting another
war. That`s the path it`s going to put us on.

So, it`s very complicated. And so, to see everybody love war so much
and want to push us into war, having us -- without taking care of the
veterans when we come back, and these are practical ways. I mean, the
backlog is a big issue. These would have lowered the backlog.

Right now, if you`re a kid and you come back to North Carolina, but
you don`t get into a school in that state and you want to go to another
one, you know, you don`t get that difference paid for. This would have
done that. This would have allowed someone like me to go to the V.A. for
10 years, even if I`m not service connected. So, these were fundamental
things that would have helped so many veterans and that`s why so many
veteran groups supported this bill.

HAYES: Jon Soltz of -- thank you so much.

SOLTZ: Thank you.

HAYES: All right. Up next, a surprise statement from the president
prompts the question is Russia invading Ukraine as we speak? And if so,
what should or even can the United States do about it? That`s coming up.


HAYES: Down in Florida, Gators Dockside, a chain of sports bars, like
businesses, is working to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

But unlike other businesses, Gators is transferring that cost to you,
with a 1 percent ACA surcharge, so that you know those extra 20 cents are
Obama`s fault. We call that Gator`s location in Florida to confirm it and
as of an hour ago, they are indeed charging their customers an Obamacare

But here`s the thing -- Gators doesn`t insure most of its full
employees and doesn`t have to until next year. So they`re charging their
customer for no reason. It`s a move that other independently owned
restaurants of the same name are running from, even tweeting they will do
no such thing.

Now, we all know the initial rollout of the Obamacare Web site, not
the policy itself but the Web site was a disaster. In fact, it was such an
abomination the president considered scrapping the whole thing. We`re
going to tell you about the A-team that saved it, ahead.


HAYES: Did Russia just invade Ukraine? That`s the question
ricocheting around the world tonight as all eyes are on Crimea.


BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS (voice-over): It began in the dead of night,
unknown gunmen surrounding the main airport in Crimea. By day, it was
clear they were pro-Russian and against any repeat here of Ukraine`s

After the surprise on land came the shock in the air. Russian
helicopters, some gunships, flying over Crimea, and what Ukraine said was a
violation of its airspace.

Next, the sea -- a Russian warship blockading Ukrainian coast guard
vessels from leaving port.

Russia admits its armor and troops are on the move, these men blocking
the main military airport, where tonight hundreds more Russians flew in,
Ukraine says 2,000.

Russia says it`s for security but whose security and is that really

Along Ukraine`s borders, Russia drilled its troops, tens of thousands
of them.

Russian jets flying near Crimea, the message to Ukraine`s new leaders
loud and clear.


HAYES: That was NBC`s Bill Neely.

Just hours ago, the president -- President Obama addressed those
Russian military movements and issued a warning to Russia, to respect the
sovereignty of a nation that is struggling to emerge from an outright
political upheaval, during which, of course, its own president has fled to


OBAMA: However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military
movements taken by the Russian federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has an
historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties
and a military facility in Crimea. But any violation of Ukraine`s
sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which
is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia or Europe. It would represent a
profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian


HAYES: Joining me by phone is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of
Connecticut, a member of the committee on foreign relations, was in Ukraine
himself back in December with Arizona Senator John McCain.

And, Senator, your reactions today of the developments today in Crimea
and the president`s statements?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT (via telephone): Well, I`m glad
the president came out and made a very strong statement because these
developments are incredibly concerning. I mean, this is a tried and tested
tactic on behalf of the Russians, on which they -- as they did in Georgia,
marched troops in to try too create a contested region.

The result, though, in the long term is very bad for Russia. In
Georgia, it effectively drove the rest of the country beyond the contested
region into the hands of the European Union. They`ve done a similar thing
in Moldova and the same will occur in Ukraine.

If there was any question as to whether the rest of greater Ukraine
was going to join the European Union, it essentially got solved today
whether or not they are able to carve off a portion of Ukraine into Russian
sovereignty, the Crimea. The rest of Ukraine is now destined for Europe.

So, these short-term bullying tactics on behalf of Putin obviously
blow up in their face. This is obviously very disturbing. We`ll try to
use all the power that we have to try to push back. But this is not going
to be in the long-term interests of Russia, nor the entirety of Ukraine.

HAYES: Well, let me ask when you say all of the power we have. I
mean, I saw a lot of reaction today, particularly from conservatives but
from a number of people that, you know, the president is being weak, his
statement wasn`t strong enough, this is what happened when John McCain said
the president had been naive about Vladimir Putin, that we have to get
tough, that we have to push him back.

What do as any of that amount to any kind of concerted policy sense?

MURPHY: Well, I think everyone has to be pretty realistic here. I
don`t think there`s appetite in the United States, in red states or blue,
to march U.S. troops into Ukraine in order to fight a proxy war on Russia`s

That being said, there certainly are tactics that we can take in
concert with our European allies to economically isolate Russia and make
them pay a true cost. Frankly, from a military standpoint, I do think it`s
about time for some of our European friends to recognize that they might be
next. I mean, this is now a pattern.

If you upset Russian integrity, if you cross Vladimir Putin, the next
step may be invasion. That`s happened now in Georgia and in Ukraine in a
matter of about a decade. So, you know, whether it be the Germans, who
have always been sort of sitting back when it comes to issues of military
intervention or others in the E.U, I`m not suggesting they marshal an army
to march into Crimea today, but they have to start being a little bit
tougher on the Russians as well.

HAYES: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut on the phone for us
tonight -- many thanks. Appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Up next, remember the scramble to fix


OBAMA: We`ve got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and
address the problems.


HAYES: One of those people will join us next to share the incredible
behind-the-scene story about how a tiny elite team of techies essentially
rescued Obamacare from total disaster.



OBAMA: Millions of Americans are more secure and will be more secure
because of what we did. Millions of Americans.


Because as Democrats, we believe that no hard working American should
ever go broke just because they get sick.


HAYES: Just a short while ago, the president touted his signature
achievement to Democrats, encouraging them to embrace the health care law
they fought so hard to get passed. What a difference a few months can


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Today was the first opportunity for
millions of Americans to go to these new exchanges and sign up for
insurance under Obamacare.

HAYES (voice-over): It was supposed to be a day of triumph. American
watched with great anticipation as made its debut on the
national stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I keep getting this error page. It won`t let me
progress past identify, it won`t let me progress past verifying personal

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s 15 minutes into this call. This is the
second call. So, I`ve probably spent almost 20 minutes on the phone now.
We started about 35 minutes ago. So, at this point, I`m going to hang up
and call it a day.

HAYES: It quickly became clear things were not going as expected.
And that was just the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you get the screen first and so, I click
"apply now", and let me show you what we got. Please wait.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Important -- your account could not be created at
this time, the system is unavailable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were error messages or that annoying
twirley thing.

HAYES: Thousands of people were getting error messages. A memo
leaked revealing after the first full day of operations, there was a grand
total of six enrollments.

And new reporting from a journalist revealed at of October 17th, the
president was thinking of scrapping the whole thing and starting over.
Needless to say, the president had a problem. The prognosis was grim for
his signature policy agreement.

OBAMA: Of course, you`ve probably heard that hasn`t
worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work.

HAYES: But just when it seemed like no one else could help --

OBAMA: There`s no sugar-coating it. Nobody is more frustrated by
that than I am.

HAYES: The president called on his tech surge A-team.

A ragtag handful of technology experts, including a Google engineer, a
rocket scientist and DNC tech wizard were hired to fix the site.

OBAMA: We`ve got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and
address the problems.

HAYES: Their mission -- to save Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those are the people they reached out to on
beginning October the 18th or so and those are the people who rode in to
the rescue.

HAYES: The group decamped to suburban D.C. and set the ground rules.
Rule number one, the war rules and meetings are for solving problems.

Rule number two, the ones who should be doing the talking are the ones
who know the most about the issue, not the ones with the highest rank.

Rule number three, we need to stay focused on the most urgent issues,
like things that will hurt us in the next 24 to 48 hours.

And then they got started, slowly working through the punch list, as
they called it, of issues with the site, revolutionizing the entire site`s
functionality, sometimes searching for a single line code out of millions
that was bringing the site to a halt. Meanwhile, they were leaving away
from their friends and family, working around the clock seven days a week
and dealing with outages that left them unable to work for days. A project
they thought would last days lasted nearly 10 weeks. The group spent their
Thanksgiving eating pies at their desk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people worked through Thanksgiving, worked
right up until Christmas Eve, they literally worked 19 or 20 hours a day.

HAYES: Each day the team worked, the extended enrollment deadline
came closer, and on December 23rd, they watched as the number of users rose
and rose. On that day alone, 129,000 people enrolled, five times as many
in a single day as what the site had handled in all of October.

On Christmas Eve, the group parted ways, mission accomplished.


HAYES: Joining me now is one of those elite 18 members, my good
friend Paul Smith.

Paul, it`s great to you have here.


HAYES: Congratulations on a job well done.

I should start -- I should start on the question of mission
accomplished. Is it mission accomplished?

SMITH: I wouldn`t say it`s accomplished but it was as bad as your
package laid out and it`s miles, ions, light years better --

HAYES: Yes. That`s the big question, like, what are we talking here
when we say it`s bad? Like it really was a disaster?

SMITH: Well, response times, so the time it took for you to click on
the site and get a response could be upwards of eight seconds or more. The
site was down for more than half the time. Error rate was very high.

HAYES: Yes. Only three of 10 people at one point were even just
getting into the thing.

SMITH: Right. Exactly. So I was part of a small team of -- I`m a
software engineer. And that means I build web sites and applications, I
worked on some big sites that have gotten a lot of traffic. And so, I
worked with some other engineers who had similar backgrounds, a group of
five of us. And we went in deep with the people who had built, and saw that it was just as bad as everyone who was trying
to get on the site knew.

HAYES: Wait. Take me back, though, to that moment, where it`s like,
you`re called in. Everyone is panicking. And you go in, right?

SMITH: Right.

HAYES: And it`s like, OK, show us what you got. And you`re like --
what is -- your reaction is, oh, man?

SMITH: Right.

I think we initially thought that we might be doing a few-day
evaluation, maybe make some suggestions about what to do next. But when we
saw that it required, I think, more expertise and more operational
experience, we basically dropped what we were doing and moved to Northern
Virginia and spent the next two-and-a-half months turning the site around.

HAYES: OK. This is a question that you`re maybe not the best person
prepared like to answer, but I`m going to ask it anyway, which is like, how
did it get so bad? How did this thing -- how does this very signature
thing get so bad that they have to call in you guys?

SMITH: Well, you know, a lot has been written and said about how bad
it was and what went wrong.

And you`re right. Like, I came in -- I was called to help fix the
site. So, you know, I think expectations for government services, I think
because the Web and consumer Web sites that you go to and shop and use
every day, they set the bar pretty high for government services.

And now the people who build Web sites and applications that we rely
on every day, you know, they don`t tend to -- they don`t typically work in
government contracting. So I think we need to do more to bring some of
those people over.

HAYES: Was there a point where you all realized you had turned it
around? Because it was an open question. You come in and you look at it
and you think, this actually might -- this thing might just not work. It
might actually need to be scrapped, right? That was a real possibility at
some point?

SMITH: Actually, I don`t think we really thought that was an option.
We saw a technology problem, and technology problems, as my friend Mikey
Dickerson would say, can be fixed.

The real challenge was the human problem. Could we get this disparate
group of government contractors working together, coordinating and focused,
so that we could execute and get those fixes done in time? Because we knew
that, by mid-October, we only had a few weeks to get the site in shape for
the surge of traffic in December.

HAYES: You`re working, you`re working, and every day goes by, you`re
closer, you`re closer.

Is there a point where you feel like the nose of the plane came up and
you guys looked around and thought, OK, I think we have got something that
can really function?


I think the fact that -- so, the war room that your package
highlighted was a key part of that, the fact that everyone seemed to rally
to it. And it really set the tone for a sense of urgency for getting the
site fixed.

But there were a few moments where -- I think of one where the site
was down, and it was a problem with the database, right? And so the
database that I had never worked with myself personally, but I knew the
kind of problem that it had. I had run into that before. So, I worked
with the database team to come up with a fix.

And because the site was down, and it was the middle of the day, it
was affecting people as it was down.


SMITH: We didn`t have the luxury of doing the normal process for
getting the code reviewed and deployed. So we did what was called a hot
fix and just...

HAYES: Fixed it while people were using it.

SMITH: Basically, we had to deploy the code and the only way we`d
know that it worked was to see it live in the world.

And it was a nervous-making moment, for sure, but we deployed the
code, and the site came back up. And I think it was because we had the war
room process, because at that point, we had really changed the speed of
execution on the site, that moments like that gave us confidence that, yes,
we can really fix it.


HAYES: Paul Smith, part of the team that helped fix,
many thanks, man.

SMITH: Happy birthday.

HAYES: Thank you.

Up next: an update on the Arkansas state representative who opposes
the Medicaid expansion, even though he himself is a Medicaid beneficiary.


HAYES: I spent the last day chewing over an interview I did on last
night`s show with an Arkansas state lawmakers named Josh Miller.

Miller is one of a small group of ultra-conservative Republican
legislators currently blocking a bill that would reauthorize that state`s
privatized version of the Medicaid expansion that was part of the
Affordable Care Act. It`s known in Arkansas as the private option, this
despite that he himself, Representative Miller, is a beneficiary of

After a tragic accident involving a mixture of alcohol and driving
left him uninsured and paralyzed in his early 20s, with a million dollar in
medical bills, most of which was picked up by Medicaid, he continues to
benefit from crucial government safety net services Medicaid today.

Now, he insisted to me last night, multiple times, that he and his
colleagues who are blocking the reauthorization of the private option
Medicaid expansion in Arkansas are not trying to take away health insurance
from 100,000 Arkansans who are currently covered under that plan.


is wanting to take 100,000 people off of this coverage that currently
exists. I don`t think there`s anybody in the Arkansas legislature that
wants to deny somebody health care.


HAYES: That is the claim anyway, but it`s not necessarily exactly

As "The Arkansas Times" Max Brantley responded this morning -- quote -
- "There`s no kind way to put this. It is inaccurate, and Miller knows it
is inaccurate. To knowingly say something inaccurate is, well, a lie."

Here`s how one of Miller`s fellow Republican holdouts explained to
"The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette" what they`re fighting for. He said he
would like to see some caps on spending and enrollment, as well a way to
wind down the private option program and kill it in the future.

Killing the private option necessarily means taking away health
insurance away from 100,000 Arkansans, period. If the right-wing
Republicans of Arkansas want to take away health insurance from 100,000
people, they should own that.

We will continue to follow this they, because, as I told
Representative Miller last night, the whole country is watching.


HAYES: On Sunday, an estimated 40 million people will gather around
their televisions to watch one of the biggest live events of the year, the
86th Academy Awards.

And for the second time, Ellen DeGeneres will host. All the votes
have been cast, and there`s no real clear-cut consensus on a front-runner
for best picture, making this year`s race an unusually competition and
suspenseful one.

Now, if you`re one of those folks participating in an office Oscar
pool, you should have an idea of just who is voting. The Academy of Motion
Pictures Arts and Sciences is made up of 6,028 Academy Award voters, and
they are, well, very white, very male, and relatively old.

The Academy is still 93 percent white. It`s 76 male. And the average
age of Academy members is 62. You should note that the Academy got its
first black president this past summer, and notable Hollywood folks like
Jennifer Lopez, Rosario Dawson and "12 Years a Slave" director Steve
McQueen were recently invited to join.

But here`s the thing. Since Academy membership is for life, turnover
is pretty slow. Even if 200 of the Academy`s oldest members pass away or
retire and are replaced by those whose demographics mirror the folks I just
mentioned, the Academy still would be 89 percent white and 72 percent male
by 2023, with a median age of 61.

Then there there`s "Hollywood Reporter" interview of an anonymous
member of the Academy that gave a pretty eye-opening look at who these
folks really are.

On Jared Leto`s best supporting actor nod: "It`s as close to pandering
as you can get." On "12 Years a Slave": "It`s not as if it required great
courage to make that movie -- maybe if you made it in Mississippi in 1930."

And on best animated feature: "I have no interest whatsoever. That
ended when I was 6. My son dragged me to a few when he was 6; I would seat
him and go outside and make phone calls."

So, come Sunday, when you fill out your Oscar pools, just try to
imagine 6,000 of those dudes making their choices.

Joining me now is David Edelstein, chief film critic for "New York
Magazine," Annette Insdorf, director of undergraduate film studies at
Columbia University, and Christopher John Farley, senior editor of
Speakeasy, "The Wall Street Journal"`s entertainment site, and author of
the new book "Game World."

So is this right that there really is no big consensus front-runner in
best picture this year? That seems to be the case.


DAVID EDELSTEIN, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Well, I know what they love
best and what they love best is "Gravity." I know what they think they
should do. It`s sort of like, do I love it? Do I want to do something
good for the world? Do I love it? Do I want to do something good...

HAYES: So, you think it`s "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave"?

EDELSTEIN: "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave," yes.

And -- but there`s a lot of love for "American Hustle" as well.

The question is whether -- you get into these weird equations. Will
"American Hustle" and "Gravity" cancel each other out for the escapism vote
and leave "12 Years a Slave"?

This is also all about how Hollywood wants to present itself to the
world. And they do espouse great liberal values. It`s really about time
that there was a halfway decent movie about the slave...


HAYES: It`s fascinating how slavery -- when you go back and look at
the history of slavery`s representation in film, it`s not a particularly
like proud of august tradition.

It`s been a pretty disastrous one, I would say, through the years.
Part of that has to do with the fact that the American historical
relationship to slavery has been pretty disastrous and film has been as
much a symptom of that as a cause, but of course things like "Birth of a
Nation," "Gone With the Wind" have had some causal role in forming our pop
culture sensibility, our pop knowledge of what the era was like.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SPEAKEASY: It also speaks to who gets to
direct the films about slavery, who gets to write them, who gets to produce


FARLEY: And so you haven`t seen a whole lot of really investigative
pieces about what the slave trade is really about.

I think as you look at the selection of what`s up for best picture
this year, "12 Years a Slave," of course, "Gravity," I think they`re
leading the field, along with "American Hustle," but I think you should
also talk about what`s missing.

You talked about who is part of the Academy membership. I think that
speaks to what`s missing. You`re missing "Fruitvale Station," one of the
most acclaimed films of the year. You`re missing, of course, the great
French lesbian love story "Blue Is the Warmest Color." There are some
reasons why it didn`t get nominated for best pictures, because France
apparently didn`t screen it in time, but the actresses should have been up
for something. Critics love them.

They are not represented. So, that`s too bad. And also even a film
like "Before Midnight" that takes some chances, that`s about real people,
that`s not on the list either. So Hollywood missed some great movies that
should have been part of that list.

HAYES: And even though they expanded to 10 now, right, of course,
which is the way of -- I think it`s sort of mostly a marketing ploy, right?

EDELSTEIN: It`s the "Dark Knight" prize, because when "The Dark
Knight" wasn`t nominated for anything, remember all the Comic-Con kids were
in an uproar. So, this is the token. This is the way they can throw a

So, there has to be a real consensus. I agree about "Before Midnight," but
at least it got a nomination for best adapted screenplay for Julie Delpy
Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater.

HAYES: Do you have a favorite for best picture?

INSDORF: Well, my only personal favorite? I do believe that "12
Years a Slave" is a searing, deeply moving portrait. I saw it at its world
premiere at the Telluride Film Festival and was blown away, because I
didn`t even know what I was going to see when I walked in.

EDELSTEIN: Searing, deeply moving, Annette Insdorf.



HAYES: That`s right. Draw it up right now.

INSDORF: But I do recognize that "Gravity" is probably going to win a
lion`s share of the awards on Sunday night, at least six awards in the

HAYES: I have said this before on air. And no one could -- people
can care less what I think about films because who does care.

But I just -- that film left me totally cold, "Gravity." I thought it
was a sort of technical marvel and I just completely...

EDELSTEIN: Didn`t you see it on your TV?

HAYES: No, I didn`t see it on my TV.


EDELSTEIN: But you didn`t see it 3-D, though?



EDELSTEIN: You had to sit really close. You had to have the
Dramamine. You really...

HAYES: Do you have a favorite?


Seeing "Gravity" in 3-D I think gives it a different experience. I
think my favorite of all the films is "12 Years a Slave." It`s hard to
call like that a favorite because it left me disturbed.

Of course, it`s a story that I know. It`s a story that is part of my
own heritage, but it not something you want to see as entertainment. It`s
not something your wife says, here`s a date night, let`s go see "12 Years a

HAYES: Although, we should say, it did fairly well at the box office.
That was another thing about that movie, right? It did not tank,
considering the difficult of watching that film.

And it is difficult to watch. It performed relatively well on the
market, not that necessarily matters. But I think it says something about
the film`s ability to overcome the ugliness of the material to make
something pretty transcendent and sublime that is watchable that people
went out and watched it and told other people to go watch it.

EDELSTEIN: It also -- it delivers as a conventional narrative.

HAYES: As a film, yes.

EDELSTEIN: And I`m not to going to say it had a happy ending.

But you know from -- I`m not spoiling anything, "12 Years a Slave."
He gets free after 12 years. So, you do at least know that at the height
of despair.


HAYES: Right.

OK. I want to talk about some of other categories. I also want to
talk about gender and this question, which segment producer Todd Cole
raised today in the meeting, which I guess I have heard before, but hadn`t
really -- why do we have best actor and best actress categories?

Why are those two categories? We don`t have best female and best male
director, best female and best male composer, best female and best male
editor. Right? Gender has nothing to do with those things. Why are those
categories distinct? I want to talk about that and I want to talk about
gender in film right after we take this break.


HAYES: My 2-year-old daughter is here for the show tonight. And the
last time she was here, this was by far her favorite moment.


HAYES: The Panda Cam has returned, thank God. But while many
rejoice, the 24/7 live-stream means the end of all privacy for this little
gal. The still unnamed baby panda is not too pleased about the nonstop


HAYES: Tonight, my daughter has asked for one thing, and one thing
only on the show, a moo cow.

So, Ryan (ph), here you go.




HAYES: We will be right back.



SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS: What happened to Kane?

TOM SKERRITT, ACTOR: Something has attached itself to him. We have
to get him to the infirmary right away.

WEAVER: What kind of thing? I need a clear definition.

SKERRITT: An organism. Open the hatch.

WEAVER: Wait a minute. If we let it in, the ship could be infected.
You know the quarantine procedure, 24 hours for decontamination.

SKERRITT: He could die in 24 hours. Open the hatch.

WEAVER: Listen to me. If we break quarantine, we could all die.

DELETED) hatch? We have to get him inside.


HAYES: And Sigourney Weaver made "Alien" in 1979, she broke down
traditional gender roles as the rare lead in a sci-fi horror film.

There`s still a gender gap in Hollywood movies. "The New York Times"
points out that this year`s lead actors average 85 minutes on screen, but
lead actresses average only 57 minutes.

That brings us to something called the Bechdel test. It`s a series of
questions devised by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 that tests a film`s
gender perspective and bias.

First question, does the movie contain two or more named female
characters? Do those characters talk to each other? And if so, do they
discuss something other than a man? That`s it. Pretty low bar, right?

Well, of this year`s best picture nominees, only four of the nine
movies passed, "American Hustle," thanks to a conversation about nail
polish, "Dallas Buyers Club," "Nebraska," and "Philomena."

Still with me here, David Edelstein, Annette Insdorf, and Christopher
John Farley.

And, Annette, in some ways, the answer to the question I asked before
the break, which is, why is there not one category, is that women would be
even less represented, probably, in that single best actor category.

INSDORF: Absolutely right.

On the other hand, despite the amusing and apparent usefulness of the
Bechdel test, it would be terribly reductive onto motion pictures.

"Gravity" wouldn`t pass simply because there`s no second female

HAYES: There`s no one to talk to, right. That`s right.

INSDORF: But do you then damn the film because the female hero
dominates, is the anchor emotionally?

HAYES: Is basically the entire movie, right?

INSDORF: No, you don`t.

I prefer, instead of dealing with Bechdel test, calling attention to
the fact, well, at least "Before Midnight" did get one nomination and Julie
Delpy`s characterization, which she created, wrote, incarnates, is not your
typical Hollywood girl and ingenue. And even though "Enough Said" didn`t
get in there, Nicole Holofcener got to do it.

"Short Term 12," one of the best films of the year.

HAYES: What is "Short Term 12"?

INSDORF: This is starring Brie Larson.

EDELSTEIN: Brie Larson, a breakout performance. Why this film wasn`t
seen in every house in America, including yours...



INSDORF: Well, let me be honest.


HAYES: I got a 2-year-old, right?

INSDORF: Look at the nominees, the nine in best picture. All of
them, I think, were released in the last three months of 2013.

FARLEY: And I think it`s also worth talking about other categories,

Look at best director this year. If Steve McQueen wins for "12 Years
a Slave," he will be the first black director ever to win in that category.
And only two others have ever been nominated.


FARLEY: And you talked about women. Only four women have ever been
nominated for best director.

There`s something going on with who gets to be the owners of these
films, who get to make these films. And so of course, you are going to
have things like the Bechdel test and have people fail those tests again
and again because you`re not seeing a diversity of people chosen to make
these films.

EDELSTEIN: The real double standard is that you do have a lot of
chances for female directors and for African-American directors.

What you don`t have is second chances for them. One of these people
bombs, and forget it. You will have a lot of people who are chummy with
the movers and shakers at the top. They will get chance after chance after
chance. They will be allowed an honest failure.

HAYES: But it`s such a fascinating thing about the way Hollywood
works and who is in and who is out and how mercurial that can be.

I mean, "American Hustle" is a great example where you have Jennifer
Lawrence and Amy Adams, both of whom I greatly admire and I think are great
actresses. But they`re extremely hot right now, right? People want them
in their movies. They`re both very talented.

But there`s tons of other actresses. I remember it was 10 or 12 years
ago, I remember Christina Ricci being on the cover of every magazine.


EDELSTEIN: Helen Hunt in five lead roles in one year.


HAYES: Right, five lead roles.

And the kind of unbelievably whiplash-inducing vicissitudes of who
Hollywood finds fashionable, I just feel like if I lived in that world, I
would be just insecure and out of my mind all the time because one minute
you`re in everything and everyone thinks you`re the best, and then the
next, like no one wants to cast you. John Travolta says until Quentin
Tarantino came knocking for "Pulp Fiction," John, he thought his -- John
Travolta thought his career was over.

INSDORF: And yet, if look at the best actress category, you do have
Meryl Streep in there, you heard have Judi Dench in there.


INSDORF: There are great performers, female, who manage to transcend
the obvious limitations that exist in Hollywood. They make their movies
and they do great work, they get nominated.

HAYES: And, in fact, this whole ledger does include Amy Adams, but
Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock also, who has had a variety of roles. She`s
been nominated before. She`s won before. Judi Dench, Meryl Streep.

The best actor nominees, Christian Bale for that performance in
"American Hustle," Bruce Dern in "Nebraska," Leonardo DiCaprio for "The
Wolf of Wall Street," Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has actually been on this
program, "12 Years a Slave," and Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers

Is there one person, one -- I`m going to go around -- the one person
you`re most rooting for, the one award you want to see get by one person
the most?

EDELSTEIN: My favorite performance of the year was Joaquin Phoenix in
"Her," and it wasn`t even nominated.

So, I think McConaughey will win. But you know why McConaughey will
win? A., because he lost weight, and, B., because it happened to land at
the same time as his amazing performance in "True Detectives."

HAYES: In "True Detectives."

Quickly, Annette.

INSDORF: I agree about Matthew McConaughey, but it`s cumulative.
It`s also because of the work he did in "Mud" and "Magic Mike." He`s been
taking chances.


HAYES: You`re rooting for him?

INSDORF: I would be happy for any of these men to win.


Michael B. Jordan, I know he`s not on the list. He should have been
for "Fruitvale Station." I`m still harping on that.

But I think Matthew McConaughey, he will probably walk away with the
big prize.

HAYES: Wow. Big Matthew McConaughey consensus at the table. All
right, stay tuned.

David Edelstein of "New York Magazine," Annette Insdorf of Columbia
University, Christopher John Farley of "The Wall Street Journal," great to
have you here.


INSDORF: Thank you.

HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.


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