THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 21, 2014
Guests: Dorothy Barnett, Steve Clemons
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Happy Monday. Exactly. Thank you very much,
And thank you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday indeed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pundits, the pundits
like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states. Red
states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I`ve got news for
them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states and we don`t like
federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states.
Yes, we coach little league in the blue states and yes, we`ve got some gay
friends in the red states.
There are patriots who oppose the war in Iraq and there are patriots who
supported the war in Iraq.
We are one people. All of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes.
All of us defending the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was 10 years ago. We are one people, all of us pledging
allegiance to the United States of America.
It is true. We are one people. But we are also still blue states and red
states. That did not go away. Except now it`s possible that the blue
state/red state thing does not adequately encompass the options for
governance in America in 2014. Because what we are actually seeing now in
terms of the options for governance is not just blue states and red states,
but rather blue states and then red states, and then Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is like turning it up to 11. Oklahoma is something else.
Wikipedia does this really helpful little election maps that show not just
the vote but the strength of the vote, county by county for presidential
elections. This was how Oklahoma voted in 2000, mostly red, just a little
smattering of blue. Then this was 2004, Bush versus Kerry. And this was
2008, McCain versus Obama, and this is 2012, Romney versus Obama.
And you stack them all up. I mean, this is Oklahoma trending over time.
If Oklahoma gets any redder it`s going to start blistering and peeling.
Oklahoma is so red it redefines the realm of possible in state governance.
I mean, it`s just completely off the charts. Take the issue of the minimum
wage right now. In the last few months a whole bunch of blue states have
moved to raise the minimum wage. States like Connecticut and Maryland and
Minnesota and Hawaii and Massachusetts. Blue states have been raising the
minimum wage or they`re in the process of raising the minimum wage. Red
states, normal red states, they are not raising the minimum wage, even
though it`s a very popular policy idea.
That`s created some awkwardness around this issue for some Republican
politicians. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is an interesting example.
He`s a Republican politician who is basically governing in a blue state.
He ended up vetoing a minimum wage rise that the rest of his state
government had passed. And then the voters overturned his veto with a
In Alaska, Republicans there, they`re afraid that the minimum wage is going
to get raised by a ballot initiative in Alaska as well, so the Republicans
in the Alaska legislature have been scrambling to try to pass a law that
will let them block a minimum wage hike. A minimum wage hike which people
in this state really like and that they know people would vote for if they
get a chance.
So faced with this popular policy of raising the minimum wage we have seen
blue states raising the minimum wage. Red states fighting to not raise it.
But Oklahoma, Oklahoma is taking it to a whole new level. Not only is
Oklahoma not raising the minimum wage, Oklahoma is the only state in the
country that has now banned raising the minimum wage. They`re not just not
raising it as a state they`re stopping anybody else from raising it, too.
If your town or your city wants a local ordinance to raise the minimum wage
within your city limits, or you want to require companies to offer paid
sick days or paid vacation days the state government in Oklahoma has now
banned any town in the state from doing that.
See there is blue states, there`s red states and then there`s Oklahoma.
Take the marriage issue, as well. There are 17 states that recognize
marriage rights for same-sex marriage couples now. And some of those were
decided in the courts. But blue states like Illinois and Hawaii and Rhode
Island and Washington state, increasingly they`re just passing marriage
equality laws through the regular legislative process. That`s the blue
Red states are not only not passing marriage equality laws through their
normal legislative process, red states are also fighting to hold onto their
existing marriage bans even as the federal courts with increasing frequency
are striking those bans down as unconstitutional.
So blue states are passing marriage equality laws, red states are fighting
to hold onto their bans against marriage equality. That is normal blue
states and normal red states. But in Oklahoma, just being a normal red
state is not enough. Fighting to keep gay people from getting married, in
Oklahoma that is not enough. In Oklahoma, the prospect of gay people ever
having the right to get married brought Oklahoma Republicans to the point
of considering banning marriage for everyone.
Banning marriage for straight people. Banning marriage altogether in
Oklahoma because the gays ruined it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Critics are calling it a political stunt.
Supporters say it`s what Oklahomans want.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R), OKLAHOMA: They`re willing to have that discussion
about whether or not marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Representative Mike Turner says his fellow
conservative lawmakers feel the same way, finding a way around the court`s
decision to strike down Oklahoma`s ban on same-sex marriage by not
providing marriage at all.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would it be realistic for the state of Oklahoma to
say we`re not going to do marriage, period?
TURNER: That would definitely be a realistic opportunity. And that`s
something that would be part of the discussion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oklahoma Republicans proposing that there shouldn`t be marriage
anymore officially in Oklahoma if the gays can do it, too.
There are blue states, there are red states and then there is Oklahoma.
That`s as far as the meter goes. When it gets to Oklahoma some things are
about to blow up. Right? I mean right now with Oklahoma on this map you
end up actually making the other red states look kind of liberal to the
point that it makes them uncomfortable.
But now even Oklahoma has out done itself. Tonight Oklahoma`s Republican
Governor Mary Fallin signed a new law which makes you pay a special fee.
It will essentially fine people for the crime of using solar power. If you
want to use the sun for electricity instead of your local coal fire power
plant, the redder than red state Oklahoma government has figured out a way
to make you pay for that crime.
This bill passed the Oklahoma Senate last month, it passed the Oklahoma
House on a vote of 83-5 after no debate. And tonight, Republican Governor,
Mary Fallon, signed it.
In the House, the bill was actually sponsored by the same guy who wanted to
ban marriage for straight people. But while his banning straight marriage
idea didn`t go anywhere in Oklahoma his sun tax is actually going to become
law. It actually became law tonight. This idea, however, was not born in
A couple of years ago the corporate-funded network of conservative state
legislators called Alec started adopting model legislation to try to get as
many states as possible to punish people for using solar electricity. They
tried to overturn the standards in states that say that utilities have to
get a portion of their energy from renewable sources. And like this bill
in Oklahoma, they tried to tax or fine people who have solar panels on
their house and are making electricity that way.
So if you`re concerned about energy, for whatever reason. If you think we
ought to be trying to move on from fossil fuels like oil and coal and gas,
and pick more sustainable ways of generating electricity, this is kind of a
good news/bad news story, right? Because on the one hand here is the
fossil fuel industry and the reddest state in the union trying to destroy
the sun, right, trying to destroy any chance of alternative energy taking
On the other hand, it`s sort of nice that they care, right? Maybe this
means that alternative energy like solar energy is now viable enough to be
an actual threat to the bottom line of the oil and gas and coal industries.
They always say it`s the four stages, right? First they ignore you, then
they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win. Well, solar has
apparently moved on from being ignored or laughed at, and now they`re
fighting it, so maybe that`s good news for solar. Sort of.
What`s fascinating about this Oklahoma move tonight, though, is that it is
the first one of these that has worked. This -- here is an ad, an anti-
solar ad put out by the lobbying arm for the electric utility companies.
They`ve got anti-solar ads because they`ve been running these anti-solar
campaigns in states all over the country. That last ad we`re just showing
now is the utility trade group.
This one here, this one is by Americans for Prosperity. The Koch brothers
group. It`s an ad against renewable energy in Kansas trying to make the
case that solar energy is just like Obamacare.
In Arizona, they came up with a plan to fine people $50 to $100 every month
if you used solar energy. Imagine, solar energy in Arizona, crazy idea,
right? But the "L.A. Times" this weekend has a nice write-up about how
Barry Goldwater, Jr., and other Republicans not affiliated with the Koch
brothers` networks or ALEC joined the effort against the anti-solar bill in
Arizona and persuaded the all-Republican state body that had to rule on the
issue to bring these solar user`s fee from $100 a month potentially down to
$5 a month. A much more reasonable fee to help pay for maintenance and
overhead issues on the electric grid.
In Kansas, the Koch brothers led campaign to kill renewable energy in
Kansas. That got as far as passing through the Kansas state Senate this
year but they were able to stop it in the House, thanks in part to the fact
that having some non-fossil fuel energy is actually a really, freaking
popular thing. 91 percent of Kansas residents say they believe future
Kansas energy needs can best be met by greater use of renewables.
Seventy-two percent of Republicans, 75 percent of independents, 82 percent
of Democrats say they all support a bill passed in 2009 that requires
Kansas utilities to use renewables to generate at least 20 percent of their
electricity by 2020.
Those are huge numbers, look at that, 75 percent of independents, 72
percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Democrats. That is really, really
popular policy which the utility companies and groups like ALEC and the
Koch brothers networks are trying to kill all over the country. They are
trying to kill renewable energy in the states and they have not succeed
anywhere yet except Oklahoma, where they succeeded tonight. And where you
will now have to pay a fine if you want to use the sun for power.
Here is the question. Did these guys win? Did the utility companies and
the Koch brothers` network and ALEC, and all these conservative groups, did
they win against solar energy? Did they win for the first time tonight in
Oklahoma because it is Oklahoma? Because Oklahoma is so far off the
freaking ideological cart in terms of its state governance that they don`t
just refuse to raise the minimum wage? They ban raising the minimum wage,
where they see gay people are getting married and the reaction is to ban
marriage for everyone because the gay people have ruined it?
I mean, did warming yourself with the sun instead of cold just become a
punishable offense in Oklahoma because it is Oklahoma, and what happens
there really just doesn`t apply to the rest of the country? It`s too off
the chart. Or is what just happened in Oklahoma tonight, is it just first?
Is Oklahoma the only one? Is it such an ideological standout that it
stands alone here? Or was Oklahoma just the first one to fall and these
kinds of laws are coming to your state soon?
Joining us now is someone who fought one of these laws in another state and
won, Kansas, the home of Koch industry, saw a hard-fought battle to hold on
to their renewable energy law. Repealing a law went through the state
Senate but it got stopped in the House. How did they stop it in Kansas?
Dorothy Barnett is the -- executive director of the Climate and Energy
Project in Kansas. She joins us live tonight from Wichita.
Miss Barnett, thank you very much for being with us.
DOROTHY BARNETT, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROJECT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Thank you,
Rachel, for having me tonight.
MADDOW: So Kansas is not Oklahoma-level red but it is quite red. Why do
you think that your side was able to fend off this anti-solar, anti-wind
legislation? How were you able to win in your state?
BARNETT: You know, I would say, Rachel, the opportunity for Kansas to win
on renewable energy really was centered around bringing together a diverse
network of partners from all walks of life, regardless of whether they were
in a red state. They all can see the economic benefits of the giant wind
turbines that are now generating across our state.
MADDOW: We reached out to the Koch brothers` group tonight, to Americans
for Prosperity about despite in your state and they told us, they sort of
bragged but they have spent $300,000 on the fight so far in Kansas. They
seemed sort of excited in their statement about the prospects of being able
to win this one eventually.
How far out-gunned have you felt here? Can you talk a little bit about the
resources on both sides of the argument in your state?
BARNETT: Sure. Sure, so the Climate and Energy Project is a very small
nonprofit based here in Kansas. We don`t have a huge budget. We have a
small number of staff. What we`re fortunate to have our relationship that
we`ve built over the last several years with a broad group of people in the
agriculture and economic development, in chambers, and renewable energy
advocates. Really all focused around one goal, which is moving clean
energy policy forward in Kansas.
And so although we were out-manned financially to the tune of probably 10
to one, we were able to have manpower and lots and lots of volunteers
reaching out to their legislators.
MADDOW: When the Koch brothers operate nationally, I think that people on
the other side of fights from them are getting better and better at
identifying their hand in political arguments, being able to identify them
in their networks as sort of undeclared funders in some of these fights.
In Kansas, which is of course the home of Koch Industries, I wonder if that
sort of cuts both ways. Obviously they`re a very important employer in the
state, very influential not just with legislators but with everybody who is
touched by their group -- by their business group in the state.
I wonder if it ends up being a more delicate issue in terms of talking
about somebody with such deep pockets fighting on those issues in their
state when that`s also where their home is.
BARNETT: It is -- it is different here in Koch`s backyard. But you know,
when people see Americans for Prosperity running patently false TV ads
trying to tie renewable energy costs to our former governor, Kathleen
Sebelius, and to Obamacare, it almost comes -- becomes ludicrous. You
know, when they bring out false information about the cost of renewable
energy, when we know for a fact based on documents from our public utility
commission that the renewable portfolio standards, those green energy
mandates as they like to call them are not costing Kansans the kind of
money that these ads try to portray.
MADDOW: Dorothy Barnett, executive director of the Climate and Energy
Project. Your fight in Kansas is becoming sort of a case study for people
who are fighting these anti-renewable energy things all around the country
right now. Thanks for helping us understand your work, I appreciate you
BARNETT: Thank you so much.
All right, lots more to come tonight, including a brand-new debunk junction
tonight, possibly the most awkward one yet. That`s ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 1961, the attorney general of the United States of course was
Bobby Kennedy. And in October 1961, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy gave a
speech in Chicago, Illinois, where he told the remarkable but tragic tale
of a parrot smuggler. And it wasn`t the lead-up to a joke that involved
like a rabbi in a bar or anything. It was actually criminal justice story
of a parrot smuggler.
According to a transcript of that Chicago event the attorney general told
the crowd about the case of an American man who had been convicted of
conspiring to smuggle parrots into the United States from Mexico. The
attorney general said the parrot-smuggling man was a lawyer. He was a
combat-wounded veteran of World War II. He had never been in trouble
before. The attorney general said he had a, quote, "loyal and honest
family," but for whatever reason the judge in the case really had it in for
the parrot smuggler.
Attorney General Robert Kennedy said in that speech that the judge in the
case thought that the parrot-smuggling lawyer was rude, rude and arrogant.
He didn`t like his attitude. And so the judge sentenced him to 11 years.
Eleven years in federal prison for the crime of conspiring to smuggle
Bobby Kennedy heard about this guy`s sentence, he thought it sounded a
little extreme. And so he recommended to his brother, the president, that
the parrot smuggler`s sentence should be cut way down. And his sentence
was cut way down and he got sprung.
Bobby Kennedy used the parrot-smuggler example as a tale for explaining
that sentencing sometimes goes wrong. And he explained that we ought to
then use executive clemency. We ought to use the powers of the presidency
to right those kinds of wrongs when the justice system otherwise can`t.
In his time as president, John F. Kennedy pardoned 472 people. When Lyndon
Johnson became president he more than doubled Kennedy`s pace of
presidential pardons. After Johnson in 1974, President Gerald Ford
commuted the sentences of everyone who had dodged the Vietnam war draft.
Jimmy Carter did President Ford one better and in 1977 he issued a blanket
pardon for anyone who had dodged the draft.
So it was not just making those sentences disappear. President Carter made
dodging the Vietnam draft disappear as a crime, as well. The presidential
power to spring people from prison and to essentially annul convictions is
kind of a peculiar thing in our criminal justice system. Right? It`s
almost sort of a kingly power. The guy at the top just comes in like a
lightning bolt and declares somebody innocent. Retroactively.
Feels weird, but it is enshrined in the Constitution that the president can
pardon people and can commute their sentences, and it is part of our
justice system. And the way that it`s done sort of seems like a black box.
Like it`s the antithesis of the transparency and due process that at least
in theory is at the heart of our criminal justice system. It seems like
there is no process. But there is actually a process for these things.
There is a way that clemency, that pardons and commutations at the
presidential level are supposed to work.
And that process has not been working very well under President Obama for a
reason that you may find surprising. President Obama has granted fewer
pardons than any other president in modern history. In the first five
years of his presidency, Ronald Reagan pardoned one out of every five
applicants that got to his desk. Bill Clinton pardoned one out of every
19, under President Bush, that number was one in 16, for President Obama,
that number is one in 39.
President Obama has used this particular and peculiar presidential power
less than any of his predecessors. And if you want to know why it may be
useful to know about the case of Clarence Aaron. Back in 1992 Clarence
Aaron was in college when he helped introduced a drug supplier to a drug
dealer. He also, quote, "was present for the sale of nine kilograms of
cocaine and the conversion one kilogram to crack cocaine."
He got $1500 out of the deal and for that $1500 and for introducing those
drug dealers, Mr. Aaron got triple life sentence. Three life sentences, no
possibility of parole. He got the harshest sentence, stiffer than the guys
who actually bought the drugs, sold the drugs, supplied the drugs. It was
such an obvious miscarriage of justice that eventually the prosecutor in
the case and the judge who`d handed out the triple life sentence they both
said they wanted Clarence Aaron`s sentence immediately commuted.
The prosecutor and the judge advocated that the president should commute
Mr. Aaron`s sentence, shorten it and let him out of prison. But that did
not happen. And according to landmark reporting from ProPublica and the
"Washington Post," it did not happen because the guy who had something
called the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the office that reviews people`s
applications and makes the recommendation to the White House about whether
a pardon is warranted, that guy, that office recommended to the White House
that Clarence Aaron should remain in prison.
The pardon attorney`s name is Ronald Rogers. He got the judge under
President Bush. When Mr. Rogers told the White House that he thought
Clarence Aaron should continue to serve out his triple life sentence he
failed to also mention to the White House that the prosecutor and the
sentencing judge in Mr. Aaron`s case did not agree with that assessment.
He kept it a secret that the prosecutor in Mr. Aaron`s case and the
sentencing judge had advocated for Clarence Aaron`s sentence to be
That is really, really relevant information when somebody is applying to
get their sentence commuted. But that information was squashed. It was
never passed on to the White House. Mr. Aaron`s application for a
commutation was rejected in 2008. And the guy who, for reasons we do not
know, kept that vital information secret and recommended that Clarence
Aaron remain in jail for the rest of his life, he has been running the
Office of the Pardon Attorney the entire time President Obama has been in
He was not appointed by President Obama but he has been there the whole
time. The inspector general for the Justice Department looked at what --
looked into what happened in that case and issued a scathing report about
how Mr. Rogers handled it. After that report and all of the media
attention, particularly from the ProPublica series, Clarence Aaron did
become one of the lucky few to get an Obama era presidential pardon.
He got out of prison last week. Last Thursday after 21 years. So for
whatever reason, the guy who has run the Pardon Attorney`s Office, the
whole time President Obama has been president has really seemed like he did
not want to recommend that people get out of prison. That this particular
part of the criminal justice system be used. And maybe that is the reason
why so few people have been pardoned under President Obama.
The process is that they get a recommendation from the Office of the Pardon
Attorney and them the White House acts on that recommendation. The Office
of the Pardon Attorney since George W. Bush was president has been helmed
by somebody who`s gone to very great lengths to make sure that the White
House never gets a recommendation to release anyone. That has been --
that`s been the way that it`s been for the last five years. But now that
In 2010 President Obama signed something called the Fair Sentencing Act
which made it so that you did not get way more time in prison for being
caught with crack cocaine versus powdered cocaine because essentially they
are the same drug, just in two different forms. That bill also got rid of
mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine possession.
But when President Obama signed the first Sentencing Act in 2010 it did not
apply retroactively. So it didn`t help anybody who had already been put in
jail under the old guidelines. Under the sentences that are now deemed to
be unfair and unnecessarily harsh and frankly targeted toward minority
So signing that bill, that helped people going forward in terms of not
getting those kinds of sentences anymore. But it didn`t do anything for
the thousands of people who had been sentenced under the old guidelines.
Today, the Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice
Department and the White House are working together on new guidelines that
will be used to recommend pardons or commutations of sentences. And the
new guidelines will affect potentially thousands of people who were
sentenced under the old laws. They said they will announce those new
guidelines later this week and they are welcoming recommendations for
clemency from serving prisoners, from people who want to have their
sentences commuted to accord with the new guidelines rather than the old
The Justice Department is staffing up to meet with they expect will be an
onslaught of applications from people serving long sentences that they
would not have gotten if they had committed those crimes today. Another
big change expected at the Justice Department, perhaps the biggest change
is this, senior officials -- senior administration officials saying they
expect that Ronald Rogers, that current pardon attorney, the man who was
scolded by the inspector general for mishandling the Clarence Aaron`s case,
Justice Department insiders say that he also is on his way out.
So expect big changes this week to the way we as a country decide what
constitutes fairness in our justice system and who we put in charge of
helping to make those decisions. This is going to be a big deal when they
release those details. It`s going to be a real test of this emerging new
consensus that Republicans and Democrats don`t fight over crime issues the
way they used to. When these details come out on Wednesday it will be
fascinating to see how the politics fall around them. Watch this space.
MADDOW: The 2012 Senate race in the great state of Massachusetts was a bit
of a doozy. That race pitted sitting Republican Senator Scott Brown
against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. It was a bare-knuckle,
knockdown drag-out race with Elizabeth Warren putting her hand on the bible
and being sworn into the Senate.
Elizabeth Warren did not just turf out the incumbent Senator Scott Brown.
She didn`t just beat him. She beat him going away. She beat him badly.
And if there are two things to recall about that race, one was Scott Brown
and his campaign mocking Elizabeth Warren for being part Native American.
That was classy. The other, though, was this chart. Scott Brown in that
Senate race was awash in Wall Street money. Specifically money from the
hedge fund and investment industry. Scott Brown got more money from the
hedge fund industry than any other member of Congress by a mile. And he
But now, now Scott Brown is back. This time in a brand-new state. Scott
Brown has just decided that he is running for Senate again only this time
he is running in the great state of New Hampshire. Massachusetts is just a
distant memory. New Hampshire is now home for old Scott Brown. And in the
opening weeks of this brand-new "I`m now from New Hampshire Senate"
campaign Scott Brown has decided to travel to Las Vegas, whereupon he will
be attending a giant hedge fund conference. Tada.
When the "Boston Globe" first reported this planned trip last week, Scott
Brown`s campaign said essentially nothing to see here, he`s just speaking
at a bipartisan event. This is no big deal. But now the rather dogged New
Hampshire press has just revealed that not only is Scott Brown traveling to
Las Vegas to speak at that hedge fund conference, turns out it`s a paid
appearance. He is being paid to speak at the hedge fund conference in Las
This is the kind of thing that helped sink Scott Brown in 2012. This is
the thing that helped Elizabeth Warren become Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Right? It was the senator from Wall Street, Scott Brown, versus the
senator who said Wall Street should follow the law. And in that narrative
the people voting in that election chose the Wall Street sheriff over the
Wall Street stooge.
This time, though, in neighboring New Hampshire Scott Brown is apparently
undeterred and even more shameless about it that he was before. He is just
going for it in New Hampshire and somewhere Elizabeth Warren has to be
smiling. And tomorrow night we will find out for sure. Because tomorrow
night on this show Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is going to be
joining us live. I`m really excited for that interview, I hope you will
joins us for that. That`s tomorrow night. Set your DVR. We will be right
MADDOW: Happy birthday, Queen Elizabeth. She turns 88 today. Today is
her actual birthday but they`re doing a public celebration for her on June
14th. See, if you`re the queen, birthdays mean you get a parade including
whole regiments of your army. This is the one from last year but she gets
a fresh parade each year.
And while being the queen of England is mostly a ceremonial throw-me-a-
parade kind of figurehead role, being the queen does bring with it some
real diplomatic responsibilities. Queen Elizabeth has hosted and met with
a whole bunch of world leaders, including Indira Gandhi and Nelson Mandela
and various U.S. presidents over the years.
When Pope John II made the trip to Buckingham Palace in 1982, that was the
first time a pope had visited Britain in 450 years. It wasn`t quite as
long as the time elapsed between popes, but when Vladimir Putin visited the
Queen in 2003, no Russian leader had made an official state visit to
Britain since 1874, since the queen was Queen Victoria. So Vladimir
Putin`s visit to see Queen Elizabeth in 2003 that was a really big deal,
that was a big historic deal of landmark moment more than a century in the
making between the great nations of Britain and Russia.
And for that historic state visit to Britain, Vladimir Putin showed up
late. He kept the Queen waiting for 14 minutes. She was not amused. But
apparently, President Putin has a rather epic history of being late for
everything. I don`t know if it`s a power play or just a personality tick
or what, but in 2012, he was 40 minutes late for a meeting with German
chancellor Angela Merkel.
Last year he had a meeting with U.S. Secretary State of John Kerry, Putin
kept Kerry waiting for him for three hours. In November, he had a meeting
with the new pope, with Pope Francis. Putin made the new Pope wait for him
for nearly an hour.
And while we are talking about being late, consider also that it wasn`t
until last week that President Putin admitted that OK, yes, we denied it
before but those were Russian soldiers who suddenly appeared all over
Crimea before Russia effectively annexed Crimea from Ukraine. For weeks
he`d stuck to his guns, right? He`d insisted that those soldiers in
Crimea, those were not Russian soldiers. You can buy uniforms in shops on
the corner. He said they were just local defense forces.
Last week, finally, at his annual four-hour televised press conference,
President Putin admitted that actually the soldiers with no insignia on
their uniforms and their state-of-the-art Russian military issued weapons
and their obvious Russian military training, and their Russian military
vehicles, yes, OK, I admit it. They were Russian soldiers.
He now belatedly admits that about taking over Crimea. But when he is
asked now about whether he is doing the same thing in eastern Ukraine,
whether those are also Russian soldiers that he has sent not just into
Crimea but into other parts of eastern Ukraine, for now at least Vladimir
Putin says no, no, those aren`t Russian soldiers, why would you even think
"The New York Times" published an investigative theory basically this
weekend about those unclaimed mystery soldiers who popped up all over
eastern Ukraine, well-armed, apparently well trained me who`ve taken over
Ukrainian government buildings in city after city in the Ukraine`s east,
some photographic evidence published by the "Times" suggests that the men
doing that appeared to be Russian soldiers.
The "Times" posting a series of photographs and descriptions linking men
seen in eastern Ukraine now to other Russian military missions. For
example, the guy I like to think of as kind of the D.C. top "Duck Dynasty"
entrant in this particular contest, this guy was photographed during
Russia`s invasion of neighboring Georgia in 2008, in this case he`s wearing
his full Russian military uniform, including the special forces insignia on
his left arm there. That`s what`s circled.
He was allegedly spotted in two cities in eastern Ukraine last week only
this time he is not wearing the insignia even if he still does have the
beard. If this reporting is right, if Russian soldiers are already in the
eastern Ukraine in big numbers does that mean that in addition to the tens
of thousands of Russian troops who are amassed on the Russian side of the
border, does this mean that the Russian has in effect already started an
invasion of eastern Ukraine?
Also, how important is it and what should we take away from the fact that
our own government, the United States government, has not sent Vice
President Biden to go to Ukraine in person. Vice President Biden arrived
in Kiev today. He`s due to meet with the Ukrainian prime minister
What range of options does the West have in responding in terms of what
realistically comes next? Is the United States going to be in a position
of essentially acting alone against Russia or is the U.S. successfully
holding together an international alliance against what Putin is doing now
which presumably he will only admit a few weeks from now.
Joining me us now is Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America
Foundation, Washington editor-at-large for the Atlantic.
Steve, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC WASHINGTON EDITOR: Clemens, Good to be with
MADDOW: So if the "New York Times" reporting from this weekend is correct,
that these men wearing these uniforms without insignia are in fact Russian
soldiers, Russian special forces, should we see that as a meaningful
escalation? Does it mean that effectively a Russian invasion has already
begun in a different part of Ukraine?
CLEMONS: Yes, when -- I think that`s absolutely the case. That Russia has
in a softer sense than a full-scale invasion has invaded Ukraine and is
there to de-stabilize a government that is already weak. That is
attempting to put together elections. And Russia, whether it engages in a
full-scale invasion or not is sending the signal that Ukraine`s future is
in a vise that Russia controls much more than the West.
MADDOW: Why does President Putin continue to return to these sort of
transparently false tactics where he denies that there are actually Russian
soldiers, where he denies facts on the ground that are (INAUDIBLE) anybody
who can get there and can see it?
CLEMONS: Well, I think Vladimir Putin is not worried about what the West
thinks. He is playing to a constituency inside Russia that sees him in a
way as a Russian version of a Ronald Reagan. It`s morning in Moscow and he
is the one that`s reestablishing, you know, Russian dignity and Russian
power on the global stage. And so he`s playing to that community and he`s
trying to link up various parts of the Russian ethnic communities that
exist on the border.
And, actually, you know, put some jitters into the NATO countries
particularly the new NATO countries that have felt a bit more emboldened
lately. So he`s playing a geo-strategic game across a lot of platforms and
basically making the bet that the West doesn`t have what it takes to deter
MADDOW: What -- but, Steve, with that point, though, if this is about
swagger and if this is about a domestic audience and wanting to be seen to
disregarding what the rest of the world thinks and doing what`s right for
Russia, then why continue to be painfully coy about the fact that Russian
troops are there? Why does he continue to deny it? Obviously he doesn`t
mind being provocative to the West and particularly to the United States?
CLEMONS: Well, I mean he`s lied all the way through this.
CLEMONS: During the period where there was a build-up. When we saw -- you
know, dramatic episodes inside Kiev. He kept telling Western European
leaders and American leaders particularly, and Sergey Lavrov did the same
thing with John Kerry, that Russia would not invade, Russian would not send
There are 40,000 troops amassed right now on the border of Ukraine, and
allegedly for a military exercise. So through this he`s been duplicitous.
Why he`s duplicitous? I think he`s basically trying to hedge his bets and
create enough ambiguity about what he might do that he doesn`t need to
engage in the full-scale invasion down the road, though, he might but he
doesn`t mean to do that. He can basically change the game for Ukraine and
change the behavior he thinks of other countries like Moldova and others
that had been part of -- you know, in his sights without necessarily paying
And entering what many people say this isn`t really, you know,
Czechoslovakia, in terms of Russian invasion. This may very well -- at
least this is the White House view -- that this would be equivalent to
Afghanistan. And so he doesn`t know for sure. And I think right now he is
scaring Ukraine, he`s creating jitters in Ukraine. But he`s not going full
in because he may be afraid himself of what that might mean in terms of
tearing the nation apart. A civil war inside Ukraine could turn badly for
Russia as well as for western Europe.
MADDOW: Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
Steve, thanks for being here and helping us through this. I really
CLEMONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
All right, bunked, de-bunked. Straight ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. True or false? The Portuguese military now has its own
drone. Is that true, or is that false? True. Technically, it`s true.
The Portuguese military does indeed have its own brand new drone. Do you
want to see it?
Can we see that one more time, please?
That was the Maiden Voyage. In front of the Defense minister and
everything. It is true that Portugal has a new drone. But sometimes
knowing something is true as a technical matter does not do the whole story
True, they`ve got one. But you`ve got to see it. "Debunktion Junction" is
coming right up. Stay with us. One more time. One more time.
MADDOW: Toot, toot. "Debunktion Junction," what`s my function? We have
some really good ones today. We`ve been saving them up.
All right. First up, the Supreme Court has heard oral arguments for what
has been dubbed the Hobby Lobby case, and the court is now deciding whether
private companies should be exempt from the mandate under the Affordable
Care Act that health insurance policies should cover contraception, things
like birth control and IUDs.
You know that as background, right? Well, this weekend on "Face the
Nation" New York`s conservative archbishop, Cardinal Dolan, said he
supports the Hobby Lobby because of how widely available those kinds of
contraceptives are now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: Is the ability to buy
contraceptives that is now -- that are now widely available, my lord, all
you have to do is walk into a 7-Eleven or any shop on any street in America
and have access to them. Is that right to access those and to have them
paid for -- is that such a towering good that it would suffocate the rights
of conscience? I don`t think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Any shop on the streets. OK? True or false, the kinds of
contraceptives that are at the heart of the Hobby Lobby case are available,
as the cardinal says, at 7-Elevens or a shop on any street. Is that true
or is that false?
There is a chance that Cardinal Dolan has just forgotten how babies are
made or, more accurately, how babies are not made. Because while 7-Eleven
has a lot of what you need on any given day, beer, Slurpees, Taquitos, do
yourself the favor of not walking into your local 7-Eleven and asking them
to fit you with an IUD. And if you do know somebody who says they do get
their birth control pills from 7-Eleven, that probably explains why they
have super fresh breath but also elevendy-hundred children. Aisle 3. Hot
dogs, breakfast burritos, IUD -- seriously no.
What the cardinal said there was false. Thank God.
Next up, true or false, the president of the aforementioned Hobby Lobby,
that company, is now drafting bible curriculums for public school children.
Is that true or false?
True. This is Mustang, Oklahoma, just outside of Oklahoma City, population
about 18,500. And last week the local Mustang, Oklahoma, school board
voted to adopt for Mustang`s public schools a bible course that was
developed by Steve Green, the president of the Hobby Lobby. They say the
curriculum will focus on the narrative of the bible, the history of the
bible, and the impact of the bible.
So not only is the president of Hobby Lobby drafting bible-themed curricula
for public schools, at least one public school board is now adopting that
curriculum. And if you work for Hobby Lobby, they want it to be your boss
who decides whether or not you`ll be allowed to have contraception covered
by your health insurance on the odd chance you can`t get it at 7-Eleven.
All right. Third. Finally, the first female police chief in the history
of Latta, South Carolina. Her name is Crystal Moore. She`s a 20-year
veteran of the force. She was fired by the town`s mayor last week for
being gay. Now we don`t have to fact check that. The mayor admits as much
in a conversation that was secretly recorded by a local councilman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR EARL BULLARD, LATTA, SOUTH CAROLINA: I would much rather have, and
I`ll say this to anybody`s face. I would much rather have somebody who
drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose
lifestyle is questionable around children. Because that ain`t the damn way
that it`s supposed to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So it wouldn`t be good to have the kids to be around, right? He`d
rather have a drunk watching his children because drunk adults and children
really have a sterling history. All right. So but true or false here.
Police Chief Moore was fired by mayor jerkface who you just heard there
because she is gay. And of course that is completely and totally illegal.
False. She was fired because she`s gay. But that firing was not
necessarily illegal. Many Americans assume that there is a federal law
that prohibits this kind of discrimination based on sexual orientation
where your boss wants to fire you just for being gay, but they`re wrong.
There is no such federal law. The bill that would do that, ENDA, the
Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that has languished in Congress since
I should tell you a quick programming note. Crystal Moore, the police
chief in question here, she is about to be a guest on "THE LAST WORD,"
which starts right now. Stick around. We`ll be right back.
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