ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
April 16, 2014
Guests: Ari Shapiro, Chris Murphy, John Wisniewski, Dorian Warren, Tara
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
Today, the crisis in Ukraine reached a truly dangerous and equally
bizarre tipping point. Pro-Russian separatists rolled through the streets
of Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine after having taken over Ukrainian tanks.
Mass soldiers of unknown origin posed for pictures with residents as the
lines of authority continue to blur in a region of Ukraine where the
loyalties are complex and where the flame of civil war might catch fire at
President Obama tonight ratcheted up the pressure on Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS: Is he mocking you and the U.S. military?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`re not interested
in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our
conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians.
We don`t need a war. What we do need is a recognition that countries
like Ukraine can have relationships with a whole range of their neighbors,
and it is not up to anybody, whether it`s Russia or the United States or
anybody else, to make decisions for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The White House preparing new sanctions against Russia, with
the CIA chief`s weekend visit to Ukraine reportedly for the purpose of
sharing U.S. intelligence with the interim government, and with Russian
President Vladimir Putin reportedly telling his German counterpart, the
conflict in Ukraine, quote, "essentially puts the nation on the brink of
High-level talks tomorrow in Geneva, among Ukraine, Russia, and the
U.S. and the European Union now have an added urgency. All of this as the
threat of violence in eastern Ukraine escalates. And the situation gets
Here`s what happened in the last 24 hours -- facing a wave of pro-
Russian forces that seized key government buildings in at least a dozen
cities in eastern Ukraine, including a small airfield, the Ukrainian
government, for the first time, since the very beginning of the invasion in
Crimea, sent out its own forces to reclaim territory.
At first, they were successful, with a show of force that appeared to
be welcomed by at least some of the residents of the region. The Ukrainian
government claiming the airfield near Kramatorsk was successfully taken
But as Ukrainian tanks pressed on, in some instances, further into
eastern Ukraine, which has seen the most pro-Russian activism, those tanks
went on a strange kind of journey, from being Ukrainian tanks to being
In one instance, according to "Reuters", 15 armored personnel carriers
were surrounded and halted the by a pro-Russian crowd, with soldiers
handing over the firing pins from their rifles to a rebel commander.
In another apparently separate instance, purportedly shown by this
YouTube video, tweeted by "Wall Street Journal`s" Tom Garra (ph), Ukrainian
armored personnel were surrounded by what appears to be a massive crowd of
civilians. Ukrainian soldiers then seem to surrender. Soldiers appear to
disembark from their tanks, joining their fellow soldiers on the ground,
and then a Russian flag is waved above at least one of the tanks to the
cheers of the crowds.
Whether those tanks were ultimately taken over by pro-Russian
civilians or instead by Russian special forces or both is still unclear.
And whether those Ukrainian soldiers were deserters or captured is also
unclear. Ukraine defense ministry did confirm that six APCs were seized,
it said, with the help of Russian agents.
Ultimately, this is what became of Kiev`s resolute desire to take back
eastern Ukraine -- a formerly Ukrainian tank, now a Russian tank, doing a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It`s impossible to predict which direction this country
will take. What is clear is how much those who seek separation are
enjoying the humiliation of a government which so publicly vowed to defeat
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Whether this is Ukrainian fighting Ukrainians, as Putin would
claim, or Russian forces with Russian sympathizers fighting Ukrainians or
some murky combination, is both the question and the argument at the heart
of what could turn into a full-scale civil war in Europe.
Joining me now on the phone from Donetsk is Ari Shapiro, international
correspondent for NPR.
Ari, it is very hard to figure out how much of what we are seeing is
organic and genuine popular discontent with the government in Kiev and
support for the Russians, and how much is the product of Russian
provocation, from your perspective on the ground there, what is your sense?
ARI SHAPIRO, NPR (via telephone): In the last few days, the role of
Russians has become much more clear here in eastern Ukraine, but that role
is made easier by the fact that there is a lot of authentic pro-Russian
sentiment here. More than a week ago, when these demonstrations started,
it was really hard to detect any Russian presence. But within the last few
days, we`ve seen, for example, YouTube video in a town of Hurliv (ph) where
I was yesterday of a commander introducing himself to police officers as an
officer in the Russian army. People have told us that the folks manning
barricades speak in Russian accents and don`t know their way around town.
The protests are so much more coordinated now, it just seems very
professional, militaristic, and less like the authentic Russian uprising
that it could have plausibly have been a week and a half ago.
HAYES: So what is the sense of how frayed and tense this all is? I
have to say, thousands of miles away, watching the footage, this looks like
a tinder box. This looks genuinely like a very dangerous situation, in
which there seemed to be a fair amount of people with arms yelling at each
other, confronting each other, attempting to take territory back and forth
from each other, and looked like the kind of thing that with the wrong
cascade of circumstances can become something very, very ugly, very
SHAPIRO: That`s absolutely true. You have heavily armed people
facing off. My sense from talking to many of them is that nobody wants to
fire the first shot. I mean, I was at an occupied police station
yesterday, where they went into great detail about how they are guarding
the weapons to make sure they don`t fall into the wrong hands. That was
earlier in the week, the people in the city told me the same thing.
And life does go on as normal in these cities. I mean, today, I was
in Kramatorsk and we saw old women walking around with groceries, students
walking around with backpacks, people heading to work, even in this city
where you have a dozen Ukrainian tanks parked just on the perimeter.
So, it is very weaponized, very tense. It does feel like it could be
the brink of civil war. And yet, despite all of that, life does seem to be
going on as normal.
HAYES: In watching images, we`re showing some of the images near
Kramatorsk from earlier today in this remarkable scene, in which Ukrainian
soldiers pulling the firing pins out of their weapons and handing them to
the crowd. I was reminded of two different precedents, Tiananmen Square
and Tahrir Square in Egypt. In Tiananmen Square, it was said that the Red
Army had to bring in troops to fire upon the protesters. In Tahrir Square,
famously, the Egyptian military refused to fire on the protesters.
It requires a very strong chain of command and a very strong and loyal
state to get military -- members of the military to fire on their own
people. And what we saw today is that that this is not, thankfully,
present in this situation.
Is that correct?
SHAPIRO: I don`t think anybody has been ordered to fire yet, but it
is true that there is a lot of sympathy among law enforcement for the pro-
Russian demonstrators here. I spoke to somebody on the police force in
Donetsk who said, back in the winter, when we were sent to Kiev, the people
who gave us warm clothes and food are the people who are now holed up in
those buildings. This cop said to me, every day, my parents call me and
say, if they give you the order to shoot at the protesters, don`t shoot.
And he tells her, OK, mom, I won`t.
And so I think what you saw today was a lot of people whose sympathies
were divided in the first place, and according to locals I talked to, when
these tanks rolled into town, the people driving the tanks were
demoralized, they were tired, they were hungry, they were dirty. The
locals came up and gave them food, gave them water, gave them some nice
conversation and said, why don`t you fly the Russian flag? And the tank
driver said, OK, sort of shrugged and drove off to Slaviansk flying the
HAYES: Absolutely fascinating report on the ground from Ari Shapiro,
who is in eastern Ukraine from NPR. Thank you so much, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Pleasure talking to you.
HAYES: All right. Joining me now, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat
from Connecticut. He`s chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on
Senator, we saw during the protests that inaugurated this whole
tumultuous period in Kiev, in the Maidan, we saw groups taking over
government property. We saw them essentially refusing orders to disperse.
Why don`t we view what`s happening in eastern Ukraine as an equally
organic uprising of discontent from citizens who don`t feel represented by
the government in Kiev?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, ultimately, what we know is
that this isn`t a truly organic uprising. That there have been Russian
operatives on the ground in eastern Ukraine for a long time, as they were
in Crimea, being fed not only tactics and weaponry, but also, all sorts of
And you know, I was in that square in Kiev at the end of last year,
and we weren`t there to dictate the terms of the future of the Ukrainian
people. Senator McCain and I were there just to say that it should be
ultimately up to the Ukrainians to make those decisions. Right now, that`s
not the reality in eastern Ukraine. It is Russian operatives on the ground
that are stimulating this unrest.
And in the end, there are some legitimate issues that should be worked
out for people in those provinces on the border of Russian. They should
have some more rights to dictate the terms of their own life. For
instance, they shouldn`t have their governors selected the from Kiev. They
should be able to select their own leaders.
So, there is a legitimate debate to be had. But this isn`t really
about them. This is about Russia trying to get what they want in the
ultimate settlement of how Ukraine as a nation is disposed to Europe or
back to the east.
HAYES: If the idea here is that what`s happening in eastern Ukraine
is essentially the product of Russian manipulation and filtration and
provocation, what message does it send to have John Brennan, the head of
the CIA, in Kiev, meeting with the interim government? Does that not
confirm the worst paranoia on the part of the Russians and those who see
the Kiev government as essentially a puppet of the West?
MURPHY: Yes, I don`t know the wisdom of having Brennan there. We
ultimately don`t want this to be viewed as a proxy fight between the United
States and Russia. But the reality is that there is a real danger to the
Ukrainian military and to the Ukrainian civilians by having this kind of
Russian presence on the border of Ukraine and now inside Ukraine.
So, it is, in our interests, as a friend of Ukraine, to try to give
them intelligence or assistance to try to avoid bloodshed, and to the
extent that we`ve been cooperating between our militaries or between our
intelligence agencies, it`s mostly been to try to avoid conflict, not to
instigate it. That, I think, is an important coordination, notwithstanding
the fact that it may not be super smart to have Brennan in Kiev, giving the
impression that the United States is somehow there to fight a proxy war
HAYES: In terms of avoiding armed conflict, which I think the
overwhelming participants, American citizens, onlookers, journalists, I
think everyone wants to see armed conflict avoided, the president basically
today both saying, it`s essentially unthinkable, but also kind of -- I
don`t know if taunting is the right word -- but basically telling Russia,
you do not want to go down this road. The U.S. has superior conventional
And at the same time, it is precisely the unthinkability of armed
conflict that has led to this very strange situation, in which it doesn`t
seem like there are a lot of levers America or the European Union have to
stop Russia from protecting what it sees as its interests in eastern
MURPHY: Well, I`m not sure we`ve even begun to try those levers. I
just walked out of a town hall meeting here in Connecticut, in which my
constituents were once again warning me against the overuse of American
military intervention. I don`t think there`s going to be support here in
the United States for U.S. troops being in or around this fight.
But, I mean, we haven`t even begun to impose economic sanctions on
Russia. Already, they`ve seen $60 billion of capital flow out of that
country. U.S. banks aren`t doing any new business with Russia today.
In the next few days, if these talks don`t work out, that are
happening right now in Geneva, we have to, with the Europeans, impose
crippling economic sanctions. We just haven`t tried that yet. To suggest
that we don`t have tools, I think, is to underestimate the impact that the
United States and Europe could have on economic stability in Russia, which
is really important to Putin as he tries to maintain power there.
HAYES: Your colleague, Senator John McCain, Republican John McCain,
who you`ve traveled to Kiev, who has been an ally, I would say, broadly in
terms to have the Ukrainian policy, he had this to say last night. I would
like you to take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The only thing that Vladimir Putin
understands is strength and there has been the weakest response imaginable,
sanctioned a few people in one bank. The fact that the United States will
not give defensive weapons to Ukraine including body armor, night goggles,
jet fuel, spare parts, the fact that we will not even give that, in fear of
provoking Vladimir Putin only encourages Vladimir Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Your reaction to that, Senator?
MURPHY: Well, I think it`s first, important to remember that we are
at this point today where Putin has lost control of Ukraine as a country,
as a whole, because the United States did stand with those protesters`
ability to grieve their government. Putin was in a much stronger position
several months ago, when he essentially had the president of Ukraine under
But when John says defensive weapons, he also means guns. And I don`t
think it`s right now in the United States` interest to essentially fuel
this fire by putting these kinds of weapons in the hands of the Ukrainians.
I think you will see, if these talks in Geneva don`t work out, I think you
will see the United States supplying the Ukrainians with nonlethal aid. I
think that`s a very proper response to these negotiations breaking down.
HAYES: Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much for your time tonight.
MURPHY: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Coming up, remember when people at the Port Authority started
resigning when the George Washington Bridge scandal broke? And it wound up
becoming a huge story, a bad story for Chris Christie? Now the same thing
just might be happening at ground zero. I`m going to explain, ahead.
HAYES: Coming up, we all think we live in a democracy, right? Not
according to a new study. The grisly details, ahead.
HAYES: All right. I want to tell you about some potentially big news
about the Port Authority of Newark and New Jersey, which is, of course, the
organization that oversees and operates much of the region`s transportation
infrastructure, including the George Washington Bridge, where those access
lanes were closed off last September to create the now-infamous traffic
problems in Fort Lee.
And if you`re anything like me, you were pretty skeptical about the
entire bridgegate scandal at first. I mean, I just didn`t think anyone
would be stupid enough to cause traffic jams for some sort of political
retribution. But then the investigations began and people began resigning,
starting with Port Authority officials Bill Baroni and David Wildstein.
And it became pretty clear that there was something there.
And now, it looks like another scenario may be playing out. And this
time, it`s not about what happened at George Washington Bridge. It`s about
an even more important and politically sensitive site, Ground Zero.
As first reported by "The Wall Street Journal" and confirmed by NBC
News, Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., the borough`s chief
prosecutor, last month subpoenaed records tied to a variety of Port
Authority projects, including the rebuilding of the World Trade Center
A longtime chairman of the subcommittee overlooking the rebuilding of
the World Trade Center site was this guy, Port Authority commissioner
Anthony Sartor. A few days after the news broke, the Manhattan D.A. had
subpoenaed those Port Authority records. Anthony Sartor announced he was
resigning, making him the fifth official to be resigned or be fired from
the Port Authority or Christie`s administration since the bridge scandal
Now, Sartor`s spokesman said the decision to step down had nothing to
do with any investigation. And in his resignation letter wrote that a
celebration of his grandson`s 13th birthday was a tipping point in
motivating him to retire and spend more time with his family.
But according to "The Wall Street Journal," Sartor was under scrutiny
because of overlap between his business interests and his role in
overseeing the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site for the Port
Now, let`s be clear, Anthony Sartor is not a Chris Christie guy. He
was first appointed to the Port Authority board all the way back in 1999,
and he`s not formerly been accused of doing anything wrong. There are
still a lot of questions that need to be answered.
What we do know is that like the official officials enmeshed in the
bridgegate scandal, Anthony Sartor is resigning amid an investigation into
possible impropriety at the Port Authority. And just like bridgegate, his
resignation highlights the enormous power and money of that agency, and
enormous potential for that power to be abused.
Joining me now is New Jersey state Democratic assemblyman, John
Wisniewski. He`s chair of the special investigatory committee.
Assemblyman, it`s good to have you here.
STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be here.
HAYES: All right. Getting to the bridgegate issue, leaving aside the
Ground Zero issue, which we don`t know very much about. There`s been some
developments. The governor came forward with his investigation, some of
the notes from that, from Randy Mastro, his lawyer, were turned over.
What is your judgment of that independent, quote/unquote,
"investigation" that the governor had of himself?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, it`s not truly an independent investigation. This
is an attorney that`s been hired to represent the governor`s office. And
HAYES: Am I correct, by the taxpayers` of New Jersey?
WISNIEWSKI: By the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey.
So, it`s really questionable what the true mission here was. Was the
mission here to defend the governor`s office or was the mission here to get
at the truth at any price? We don`t really know.
But what we do know is the interview notes that we`ve been given
really forces us to accept whoever wrote it version of what happened. We
don`t know exactly what was said. We take somebody else`s synthesis of
that. And that`s troubling.
You have been enmeshed in a legal battle to compel document production
from two of the people that are at the center of this, Bridget Anne Kelly,
of course, who wrote the infamous "Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee,"
if there`s anyone that knows the motive, it`s her.
WISNIEWSKI: You would think.
HAYES: And Bill Stepien, who`s a campaign manager and adviser to
Governor Christie, who`s since been fired. The two of them have contested
that on Fifth Amendment grounds. A court recently found in their favor.
What is the next step and where do you go from here?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, the judge ruled three things. She said that the
subpoena was overbroad. So, we can clearly narrow the scope of the
subpoena and that might work.
The judge also said that the committee has very broad immunization
powers. And so, that if we really wanted the documents in the format we
asked, we could immunize those individuals. But we still have a variety of
documents that we`re still going through and individuals that we still need
to bring in for testimony.
And so, while two of the 28 subpoenas that we issued ran into
challenges, 26 of the 28 did not. And there`s thousands of pages of
documents that tell a very interesting story.
HAYES: Are you running into trouble now in which there are now
federal prosecutors looking into this and the turf, it seems to me, becomes
perhaps more and more treacherous as a criminal investigation in parallel
starts going. There`s reports that David Wildstein has been cooperating
with those federal investigators.
Does that essentially run you off the road as an investigator
WISNIEWSKI: It doesn`t run us off the road. It does make the work
challenging. Clearly, we`ve said all along that we do not want to
interfere with the federal investigation.
But we have a different mission. We`re looking at why this happened
and how it could happen, so that we could create laws that stop it from
happening again. Federal law enforcement officials, they`re looking to
prosecute a crime, potentially. And so, while there may be parallel
investigations and there may be a common area of interest, we have two
HAYES: OK. The Port Authority is a body that all of us have learned
a lot about, I would say, in the last few months.
WISNIEWSKI: More than we probably ever wanted to know.
HAYES: Yes, and I think across the country, had no ideas about this
thing. And I know about it, I`m a New Yorker. It seems to me, and using
that old cliche, that the scandal isn`t what`s illegal, it`s what`s legal,
is that the entire Port Authority is basically a walking, talking conflict
of interest. I mean, everyone involved with it is making decisions about
huge amounts of money being spent, while doing other things, like
representing construction firms or representing developers.
WISNIEWSKI: And when you go to the Port Authority meetings, as I went
to one recently, and they take their actions, it`s not with a lot of debate
and fanfare. It`s almost very stoically just a routine vote. But there`s
billions of dollars.
The Port Authority has a budget bigger than 26 U.S. states. But
there`s very little accountability. And that accountability comes to the
type of dialogue that happens at meetings, but also the accountability
among the commissioners.
Now, we saw one of the commissioners resign. We don`t know why. But
there`s certainly a curious coincidence between Cyrus Vance`s investigation
and the timing of his resignation.
HAYES: There`s a commissioner who -- if I`m recalling correctly --
had to recuse himself, I believe, on a majority of the votes about
redevelopment, on that very site, because of his business entanglements.
And that tells you a lot about the basic context of this authority, whether
or not there was anything afoot.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, thank you for your time.
WISNIEWSKI: Chris, thank you very much.
HAYES: Coming up, an update on how it`s going in the two states that
have legalized marijuana. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: One thing about this, Megyn, that the president,
to the extent that he`s sympathetic to marijuana use and would like to see
it perhaps legalized or at least decriminalized, the same for Eric Holder,
are not holding a particularly controversial position among a great many
Americans. After all, you know, remember, Megyn, you don`t twill this as a
pill or sip it in a drink, you know, you smoke this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s true. FOX News is facing an increasingly lonely rear
guard action against rising public opinion. Maybe you haven`t noticed, if
you haven`t watched that channel, this is a country in which the majority
of public opinion has moved towards embracing the legalization of
marijuana, in which two states have already done it. A country in which
half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents under 45 say
marijuana should be legalized.
And even one with a long-conservative tradition embracing marijuana
legalization. William F. Buckley, the man known as the father of modern
American conservatism, wrote a column after column arguing that drug
prohibition actually causes more problems than it prevents, but still
today, it is left to FOX News to stand before history yelling, stop, at a
time when no one is inclined to do so.
Yesterday, "The Journal of Neuroscience" released a study online that
linked casual marijuana use to brain abnormalities in young people between
18 and 25.
It was big news on FOX last night. And I will admit I`m skeptical
that it was because of their deep concern for the brains of young marijuana
smokers in this country, because, if that were the case, they might have
noted that other substances, such as alcohol, are also known to damage the
brain as well.
I`m guessing they were more concerned about the brains of a certain
constituency in their audience that is particularly agitated by the growing
acceptance of marijuana, a group of people who see the legalization of pot
as yet another part of the seismic change that has come in Obama`s America,
along with a rising demographic that will eventually create a white
And it`s precisely for that reason the politics of marijuana are way
more tenuous and complicated than you might think if you just looked at the
poll numbers. That`s the reason that Attorney General Eric Holder has been
walking a tightrope between these two worlds ever since Colorado and
Washington voted to legalize marijuana.
He said on Friday that he was -- quote -- "cautiously optimistic"
about how things were going so far in those two states. But until major
changes come to the other 48 states or the federal government changes the
classification of marijuana, then we will keep getting stories like this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT TAIBBI, AUTHOR, "THE DIVIDE: AMERICAN INJUSTICE IN THE AGE OF THE
WEALTH GAP": I went to court here in New York City where they announced
this, and I asked, what`s the dumbest drug case you had today? And they
told me about a guy who got 47 days in Rikers just for having a joint in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Tony Dokoupil. He`s senior writer for
NBCNews.com, author of a great new book, "The Last Pirate: A Father, His
Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuana," which tells an incredible story you
should check out.
All right, Tony, I think the politics of this are fascinating and I`m
fascinated by the fact that FOX News seems to have kind of taken up the
cause of being the ones to beat the drum on this issue, when a lot of the
other parts of the conservative infrastructure don`t seem particularly
interested in fighting it.
TONY DOKOUPIL, SENIOR WRITER, NBCNEWS.COM: They`re not interested to
the extent that they don`t want to comment on it, but there is room for
people to comment.
So the science of what marijuana does to the brain is, believe it or
not, unsettled, in part because the government won`t provide access for
researchers to do clear studies. So there`s a vacuum. FOX...
HAYES: Wait, wait. Explain that. The government doesn`t let people
do studies on it?
DOKOUPIL: So there`s one producer of marijuana in America. It`s the
University of Mississippi, and if you want to get marijuana, which is
illegal federally, if you want to get it to study it, and then give it
people and see how it affects their brains, you have to get it approved and
then provided by that university.
And the government doesn`t readily provide those approvals. Hard to
HAYES: So there`s like a -- there`s a dearth of actual research, even
as we enter this period in which we`re running this big social experiment?
DOKOUPIL: In a sense, there`s an epic amount of research. There`s
like thousands of years of research in just natural study, but in terms of
like published papers, no, there`s not a whole lot for this particular
And so that creates a vacuum and then FOX News can step in and cite
this one particular study and make huge hay out of it because there`s not
10 studies that refute it.
HAYES: That`s very interesting.
I think Eric Holder has negotiated the politics of this in a very
interesting way. And it seems to me, if you were to say, on a scale of one
to 10, one being burn it all done, raid it, raid every one, send in the DEA
to these states, shut it all down, and 10 being complete and total
acceptance and embrace, where would you put Holder on that scale in how
he`s negotiated the...
DOKOUPIL: Well, he`s a perfect five.
HAYES: I`m glad you said that, because that`s my instinct.
DOKOUPIL: He`s a perfect five, because he says he`s optimistic,
And then if you read down in the quote, he says he`s still watching
all of the different indicators, are kids using it, are Mexican mobsters
using -- or coming in and making money off of it? Is it making the roads
And we are not as close to legalization as one might think. If a kid
at a crosswalk is hit by somebody who is found to be smoking marijuana,
Republican politicians who are on the sidelines now, believe it or not,
they`re going to step in, in a huge way.
HAYES: That brings up the thing that I have been following on this,
is politics abhors a vacuum. And it does seem to me, as something as kind
of culturally resonant as this issue, there is a bizarre vacuum around the
people saying, don`t do this, don`t do this.
I mean, we`re highlighting FOX because they have been doing some of
it, Bill O`Reilly`s been doing some of it, but they seem kind of alone.
And I have not seen politicians really stepping out.
DOKOUPIL: And the politicians who have stepped out are actually
Democratic politicians, which is interesting, like Jerry Brown in
California has said, the world is competitive. I don`t know if we want a
bunch of stoned people.
HAYES: Was he the one who said China wasn`t -- someone else was
talking about how China doesn`t smoke pot.
DOKOUPIL: I`m unclear on that.
I do know that actually Colombia, which I wrote about in the book,
Colombia doesn`t smoke pot. Colombia was a big marijuana producer, and
they used to refer to the Americans who came down to get it as donkeys.
DOKOUPIL: Anyway, America`s doing fine relative to Colombia, so
clearly pot, which we consume in epic proportions, is not doing us all that
But you are seeing the beginnings of a message from the Republican
side that lumps all drugs together. The heroin epidemic, which I think is
widely recognized and a huge problem, a public health concern, is a problem
for the legalizers, because when you start talking about drug abuse, it`s
still possible to lump everything together. And marijuana is still an
HAYES: It is amazing to me, though, how much the politics of law and
order, crime, and drugs, in some ways, how much public opinion and
discourse around it have changed and how slow policy has been to change.
And so public opinion seems like it`s moved 100 miles and the laws have
moved three miles.
DOKOUPIL: Right, because there`s a huge potential downside to being
in favor of legalization, and not a huge potential downside to just sort of
toeing the line.
HAYES: The status quo.
And the point you made, the very like Aaron Sorkin, "West Wing"
episode point you just made about someone tragically hit in a crosswalk by
someone who`s stoned, the kind of perfect touchstone incident, is a really,
really good point. And that`s, of course, what everyone fears. That`s the
risk aversion you`re seeing in politics.
DOKOUPIL: It could happen.
HAYES: Tony Dokoupil, the book is "The Last Pirate." Go check it
HAYES: Coming up, we have a piece of video in our possession. I
think it`s going to blow your mind. You may actually yell at your TV in
affirmation at the end.
HAYES: We often talk on this show about the disconnect between
political talking points and the real world.
But, tonight, we have a rare look at political rhetoric facing off
against reality on camera, right before our eyes, because, yesterday, a
fast-food worker named Shaneeka Rainer showed up at a congressional public
forum to ask a simple question.
And the folks at ThinkProgress published the video that resulted. So
now we can all watch what happens when Republican Congressman Dennis Ross
of Florida is forced to explain his opposition to raising the minimum wage
to a real-life minimum wage worker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANEEKA RAINER, FAST FOOD EMPLOYEE: Would you support the Obama act
of raising the federal minimum wage?
REP. DENNIS ROSS (R), FLORIDA: No, because I think it would do more
harm to our economy than anything.
You work at Arby`s, the cost of -- the cost of products, the cost of
services are going to go up. If we are going to make it a living wage,
who`s going to pay for it? Who`s going to pay for it?
I`m going to pay for it at the counters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will. I will pay 20 cents extra for a
ROSS: Especially on tax day. Send in some more today.
RAINER: That man, he said he`ll pay.
So if he`ll pay, and I`m going to work every day busting my butt. I
want to know, would you take a walk in my shoes?
RAINER: Every day, would you take a walk in my shoes?
RAINER: Lay your tie and your suit down, just for a day, 24 hours,
and take a walk in my shoes.
ROSS: I was a child at age 12 mowing lawns.
I have worked my entire life. I have walked that path many times
you`re walking today. And I`m glad I did, because it built me an
appreciation for what I know this country has allows me to have. And that
is the enjoyment of my fruits of my labor.
And if the government is going to tell me how much I can get paid and
when I can`t work and when I can work, then we have got a serious problem
in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, it sounds like you can mark Congressman Ross down as a
no on the offer to spend a day working at Arby`s for minimum wage.
But didn`t worry. He knows all about surviving on low-wage work,
because he once was a 12-year-old with a lawn mowing gig.
You see, an increased federal minimum wage is an extremely popular
policy that for some reason is having a hard time actually getting passed
into law. And there is a new study that explains why. That is ahead.
HAYES: If there`s one thing we have learned in politics, particularly
over the last few years, is that it`s not enough for a policy to be popular
in order for Congress to pass it. What you need is a billionaire on your
Now two academics have done a study of American politics and have come
to this conclusion. We may be a democracy on paper. That isn`t what we
have become in practice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this thing we call democracy? Do the
buildings of the national Capitol give the answer? National structures
exist in other nations, but democracy is not architecture. Democracy lives
in the lives of our people.
HAYES (voice-over): There are a few basic principles of democracy.
One is that the will of the majority should determine what the government
does, with some obvious restrictions.
Today, that is not always the case. The will of the people has been
tossed aside to make way for the will of an influential few. Here`s an
example. Last year, Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, a Democrat and a
Republican, came up with legislation that would expand background checks
and close loopholes in the current system.
Most people thought this was a good idea.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Ninety percent of Americans,
including a lot of gun owners, supported the idea of expanded background
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ninety percent of Americans support universal
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eighty-eight percent of gun owners support
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats 95 percent, Republicans 87 percent in
favor of background checks.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Background checks for
those people buying guns are among the most popular policies of any kind.
HAYES: And even though the majority of people were behind the idea of
background checks, an influential few were not.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION:
The shooters in Aurora, the shooters in Newtown, they`re unrecognizable.
They`re not going to be in the system. Who is going to be in the system?
You and me.
HAYES: Guess who won out in the end?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": The gun control
legislation that was supposed to tighten background checks was defeated
today in the U.S. Senate.
HAYES: The Manchin-Toomey amendment was defeated despite broad
popular support. And a new study out of Princeton and Northwestern
University could explain why.
Two political scientists looked at almost 2,000 policy cases over 20
years, trying to answer some basic questions. Does public opinion
translate into actual policy? And whose opinion matters? They found that
average citizens` preferences have essentially zero estimated impact upon
You heard that right. The average voter`s opinion just doesn`t
matter. So what does? Major business interest groups, like the gun lobby,
and rich people. The researchers found that, while the opinion of the
average American has zero impact on policy, the opinions of economic elites
have a very large, positive, independent impact.
This is certainly not the box we learned about in school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to elect a president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s going to do what the people want.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s going to run things our way.
HAYES: In fact, it sounds like the textbook definition of oligarchy,
of government by the few.
So, if the will of the people is not enough to get something popular
like a background check bill passed, it`s important to get a billionaire
involved. Enter former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Yesterday,
Bloomberg announced he will be spending $50 million of his own money to
build an organization to challenge the NRA and pursue an expansion of
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: This is not a battle
of dollars. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of America, so that
we can protect our children and protect innocent people.
HAYES: Because that`s the way American politics works in 2014. If
you want to get a broadly popular piece of legislation passed, you better
find a billionaire, a powerful business interest group who agrees with you.
HAYES: Joining me now, political consultant Tara Dowdell, Josh Barro,
MSNBC contributor and national correspondent for "The New York Times," and
Dorian Warren, associate professor of political science and international
public affairs at Columbia University.
OK, this is a thing lefties say all the time. Oh, it`s an oligarchy.
Oh, your vote -- but this was -- there was real empirical work done here by
these two professors who really went through these policy cases. This
isn`t just them like sitting around theorizing. They`re matching outcomes
to public opinion.
And that sentence has haunted me since I read it, zero predictive
impact, zero predictive impact, meaning what you think doesn`t translate at
And the question, Dorian, is, like, does that mean in some fundamental
sense we just are not a democracy?
DORIAN WARREN, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: That`s absolutely
And thank you for highlighting cutting-edge research from political
scientists. I really appreciate that.
HAYES: That`s my game.
WARREN: Yes, exactly, we are an oligarchy. It doesn`t mean we`re
also not a democracy. The two might be compatible uncomfortably, but, yes.
I want to correct one of your definitions of oligarchy. You just said
rule by the few. It`s rule by the wealthy few, so rich -- the rich few.
HAYES: Right. It`s not just like people whose last name starts with
HAYES: Which might be a superior system, actually. Those might be
WARREN: But we now have the research to back up with Occupiers were
saying a few years ago, right, that the political system is broken, that
the economy is broken, but the political system is ruled by the 1 percent,
by the rich, by the wealthy.
And now we have more social science data to validate that sense that
everyday people have that the democracy is not working for them.
HAYES: So, one of the questions, I think, Tara, is, well, hasn`t it
ever been thus, right? Hasn`t it always been the case that in a big
country that we have all these intermediary institutions, and you`re
someone who works in politics, right?
TARA DOWDELL, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Yes.
HAYES: Do you feel like you have seen a shift in the way that
influence functions in the world of politics and campaigns?
While this is not a new occurrence, this is not breaking news, it has
gotten significantly worse, especially when you look at the McCutcheon, the
Supreme Court decision that basically made buying influence a
So, when you look at that, and you look at all of these other Supreme
Court decisions that preceded it, and then from my own experience, I
literally have had -- when I was in the governor`s office, I had someone
mail a copy of a check that they had written to the governor to say, this
is what they wanted, and reminder, "I gave this check."
That happens. Now, granted, I threw that letter away.
HAYES: A copy of a check is trashy. That is trashy.
DOWDELL: A copy of a check.
But most people are not that obvious. It is a subtle thing. It is an
understanding. People don`t give money out of the kindness of their
hearts. Corporations give money because they want a policy...
HAYES: Or individuals too.
DOWDELL: Exactly, or individuals, because they want very specific
policies, and that money is buying those policies.
HAYES: You know what, my favorite line about this is a grizzled old
Chicago veteran reporter referring to the way that owners of newspapers
will push an editorial agenda. And the line was, "No one ever bought a
bicycle they didn`t want to ride."
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
No, I think this finding really isn`t surprising to me either. And
it`s sort of, if you think about the way that an individual, an ordinary
individual can affect the political process, the main thing they can do is
And so that`s a really big threshold thing. If some elected official
does something you disagree with, you can either give them your vote or
not. And so if it`s not your primary issue, it`s difficult for you to hold
People in the elite have all sorts of ways to hold elected officials
BARRO: It`s partly about money. It`s not just about money. And it`s
also the circles that these people run in. These are the people that they
talk to on a daily basis.
HAYES: This is an important point. I want to show some stats about
fund-raising and also talk about whether, Josh, you think it`s a good
thing, the sort of Bloombergism model of enlightened despotism. Does it
work? Does it actually produce better outcomes?
Right after we take this break.
HAYES: Back here with Tara Dowdell, Josh Barro, and Dorian Warren,
talking about if America is functionally an oligarchy at this moment, if
it`s functionally controlled by a wealthy few.
And just three little data points. Total lobbying spending from 1998-
2013 -- this is in real dollars -- you see it goes way up. In 2010,
there`s -- 2009, there`s a bunch of regulations passed that sends a lot of
it underground, so it`s still probably going up. It`s just in the weird
shadow lobbying economy.
Outside spending by cycle, not including party committees, look at
that number. That is 2012. That`s $80 million. We are like -- that`s
like hockey stick climate in the -- like carbon in the atmosphere kind of
graph. Then this is the per capita election contributions of the top 1
percent vs. the 99 percent.
And you see that going through the roof. So we are -- you know, if
you can say, well, it`s always been the case that some wealthy few are
intermediating things and they have more power, we`re actually seeing an
acceleration, it seems to me.
WARREN: Yes, but let`s distinguish.
There are those outside of government that want to influence
government, and then there`s the composition of government itself. So,
another political scientist, Nick Carnes at Duke, has written a book called
"White-Collar Government," where he says, if millionaires had their own
political party, they would be 3 percent of the population, but they`re a
majority of the House of Representatives, they have a filibuster-proof
majority in the Senate.
They are 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court, and, by the way, the man
in the White House is also a millionaire.
WARREN: So it is white-collar government, literally, well, those that
-- that compose it, much less those outside trying to influence it.
HAYES: And, partly, that has to do, Josh, your point about
HAYES: Like, I know folks that used to run -- work for the committees
like trying to recruit a member to run in a competitive race for a sort of
competitive seat as a Democrat.
And the first question is, can you raise a million bucks? Can you
raise two million? What`s your Rolodex look like? Who can you call up
that can write you a $5,000 check?
No, I think that`s right. I think we should just be cautious, though,
about, like, what happens when the oligarchy falls apart? What`s the
alternative here? We have actually seen that in the Republican Party over
the last few years.
Now, you can look at the Republican Party and you see all this
spending by billionaires, and it looks like there`s more influence by big
money in the party. But there`s also this of offsetting trend, where the
ability of elite forces within the party, big business groups and
Republican leadership to control the policy direction of the party has
Wealthy Republican donors do not, for example, want the government
shut down, or at least most of them don`t. And you have seen the Tea Party
base of the party basically reassert control of the policy agenda, in my
view, taking it in a negative direction.
You could also look in...
HAYES: So, that`s interesting, just for one second, because I think
what`s interesting about that is the shutdown sort of works against the
theory in different ways, right?
The shutdown -- the Chamber of Commerce didn`t want the shutdown. The
1 percent really didn`t want the shutdown. At the same time, it was also
HAYES: So, it was like, who does want this, actually?
BARRO: But it was, I think, popular with conservative base voters...
HAYES: Right. Right.
BARRO: ... primaries.
So if politicians were saying, I`m not focused right now on my donors,
I`m focused on my electoral base, in this case the primary electoral base,
that looks like the voters being in control.
HAYES: And you know what, Tara? This strikes me, this is an
interesting point of the ability of the organized conservative base to kind
of defy political gravity in this respect, right, that they are able to --
and one of the things that comes up in the paper is organized interest
HAYES: And it says -- it distinguishes between kind of business-
affiliated ones and mass ones, that they are able to influence, as well as
just the wealthy writ large.
DOWDELL: Well, yes and no, because, at the same time, a lot of these
grassroot Tea Party groups are backed by very wealthy billionaires.
But I think, sometimes...
HAYES: Right, distinguishing...
DOWDELL: Right, exactly. So you have to distinguish.
But, at the same time, sometimes, they take that billionaire`s money
and they go off a little too far off the reservation.
HAYES: That`s right.
DOWDELL: That does happen. But they are still behind a lot of these
HAYES: And that`s what we have -- we have seen a little bit of a
What I would say, though, is, at the end of all of this, what you see
are -- when you`re matching the policy outcomes, which of course is the
kind of real empirical work in this paper, is that you are seeing a real
correlation between what people with a lot of money want to see happen and
what the government does.
And that basic fact, that is the basic existential threat to our
democracy right now. That`s it.
WARREN: But we have been here -- we have been here before, a hundred
years ago, in the first Gilded Age. Yes, we`re in a second Gilded Age, but
we have been here before.
We can democratize this -- our country again.
HAYES: Political consultant Tara Dowdell, MSNBC contributor Josh
Barro, and Dorian Warren from Columbia University, thank you.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
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