'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, May 1st, 2014
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
May 1, 2014
Guests: Michael McCann, Joe Hoffman, Geoffrey Stone, Rick Salutin, Kathy
McGaughey, Diane Ansley
ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Republicans now think Republicans are on the wrong
side of raising the minimum wage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans as expected blocked a vote on the minimum
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The American people want to
know who is going to create jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats plotting strategy.
PELOSI: Who is going to create growth in our strategy?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The turn the Republican-led filibuster --
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I really don`t understand this
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of a Senate proposal to raise the federal minimum
wage to their advantage.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I think it`s malarkey. I don`t believe
there ought to be a national minimum wage.
WARREN: This is outrageous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be reasonably adjusted from time to time.
COBURN: I think it`s malarkey.
WARREN: I really don`t understand this Republican filibuster.
COBURN: I believe that markets were better than bureaucrats.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I developed a very different theory about
what makes an economy grow.
COBURN: I think it`s malarkey.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: If you work 40 hours a week, you should
not be living in poverty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans insist the Democratic proposal would be
PELOSI: Diversion (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not having honest debates.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They won`t raise wages for
millions of working families? That makes no sense.
MELBER: Hello. I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
President Obama is on the offense in the fight against economic inequality.
He put the Senate Republican Party on defense yesterday when they had to go
on record filibustering a vote on increasing the minimum wage to about $10
an hour. While obstruction is very common in the do-nothing Congress, we
know that, the president`s push to make economic opportunity the Democrat`s
centerpiece is taking hold around the nation.
Just today in Seattle, the Democratic mayor, Ed Murray, announced he
brought labor and business leaders to the table for a joint plan to raise
the minimum wage there, moving up to $15 per hour, which would be the
highest in the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ED MURRAY (D), SEATTLE: What we step towards I think is a
progressive path about how you can deal with the issue of income
inequality. I should say we are blessed with businesses that are willing
to sit down at a table and agree to $15 an hour. That is something that
shouldn`t be lost on folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That move comes amidst other progress in the states. This week,
Hawaii is not waiting for Congress. It passed its own bill to peg the
minimum wage to Obama`s proposed number of $10.10. And last night,
Minnesota`s Democratic governor addressed his state on the results of a
recent wage hike there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: And the legislature increased the state`s
minimum wage and it indexed it to inflation.
When fully in effect, 325,000 Minnesotans will earn almost $500 million
more every year. Those increases will be important to the workers and
their families. They use that money to give their children better lives.
They use it to buy necessities and much of that will be spent quickly and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is not all. The state`s former Republican governor, Tim
Pawlenty, is telling his GOP colleagues that voters can tell when
Republican politicians only talk about blue collar values on the campaign
trail and not in their policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Republicans should support a
reasonable increase in the minimum wage. If you`re going to talk the talk
for being in the middle class, if we have a minimum wage, it should be
reasonably adjusted from time to time. And for all of the Republicans that
come on and talk about, you know, we`re for the blue collar, for the
working person, there`s some basic things that we should for, one of them
is the reasonable increases from time to time in the minimum wage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Pawlenty explored running for his party`s nomination back in 2011.
He did drop out before the primary really got under way. The minimum wage
is perhaps the clearest issue in which congressional Republicans are out of
step with voters.
Take a look at this. A recent poll found 65 percent of voters favoring an
increase in that minimum -- a minority of congressional Republicans are
still able to block that will of the majority, of course. That`s how the
U.S. Senate works.
Now, here`s Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COBURN: The benefit is small. The cost of lost jobs is great. It goes
against the free market principles. We don`t know what the minimum wage
should be. How did they pick $10.10? Why not $22? Why not $100. That
makes everybody earn $200,000 a year.
I don`t believe you should interfere in the market. If there`s going to be
a minimum wage, my theory is, if Oklahomans want a minimum wage, we ought
to have it. I don`t believe there ought to be a national minimum wage.
That`s my position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Why not $100?
In the Senate race, meanwhile, in Kentucky, Democratic Senate candidate
Alison Lundergan Grimes is making the minimum wage a big issue in her
campaign to unseat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"The Kentucky State Journal" newspaper reports, quote, "Democratic U.S.
Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes reiterated her support Monday for
increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour at a Give America a
Raise bus tour stop in Lexington`s Thoroughbred Park. Grimes said
increasing the minimum wage will be, quote, `The first thing I put my name
to if elected to Congress.`"
Joining me now are Eugene Robinson, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC
analyst, as well as Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com, and also an
MSNBC policy analyst.
Eugene, picking up right there on that fight in Kentucky, I want to show
you the Democratic house there also has pushed something about $10.10 an
hour. It was stalled in the Republican state Senate and there`s a
Bluegrass poll there that shows that 61 percent of folks in that red state
do want to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour.
Walk us through the politics and the policy there.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the politics -- I mean, we
see where public opinion is on this issue. And it`s very clear that people
nationwide and especially including Kentucky would like to see an increase
in the minimum wage. That`s established by every poll. The question is --
and I think the Republican calculation is that that might not be a voting
issue come November and I think Republicans are betting that it isn`t and
Democrats are hoping that it is.
MELBER: Yes. I mean -- that`s it. There`s always issues where you see
support, background checks being an example remember and it doesn`t
necessarily become a political winner in terms of having that heat or that
Ezra, I want to get your thoughts on that, and also some of the context
here of the Democratic economic legacy. I know you run an explaining Web
site. But there is someone else who`s known as an explainer in chief.
He`s good at explaining stuff to. Take a listen to him and talk it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We have been, for 12 years, governed by an economic policy which
propelled President Reagan into office in 1980. The Republicans called it
supply side economics. The Democrats called it, more disparagingly,
trickled down economics.
But the idea was that the economic troubles we had in the 1970s were caused
by the strangulation of a regulatory state, the inefficiencies of unions
and government trying to hold on to past economic arrangements which were
no longer relevant. They need to deregulate to the maximum extent. And
most important of all, to make taxes as low as they could possibly be on
what the second President Bush always called the wealth creators, the
highest income people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That there is Clinton`s sort of capsule synopsis of the Republican
critique which he says was applied and failed.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: I think that one of the things you see
there -- and I think it`s good for President Clinton to point it out is
that you have a pretty distinct periods in American economic policy making.
And the reason you have that is the fundamental conditions of the American
economy change over time. One of the major issues you had in the `70s,
preceding Reagan, obviously, is the huge oil shock. That was a supply side
Then, you have in the Clinton years, you have interest rates that are too
high. So, Clinton is a real deficit hawk. He brings down the deficit
pretty substantially. Interest rates come down substantially because of
that, and that is one of the contributors to growth in that period.
And then you have in the Obama years, a huge financial crisis. Now,
interest rates are incredibly low and so, you don`t need to worry about the
deficit as much.
There is a genuinely serious problem when a political movement decides that
it has found unchanging economic truth and it doesn`t need to update itself
according to different times and you see that with the minimum wage.
Plenty I think put it very well that there are time -- over time because
minimum wage is not indexed to inflation, you need to raise it.
This is not the application of some new theory. It`s not really a raising
of the minimum wage. It`s keeping the former policy steady as it goes.
And I think there`s a bit of a trouble in the Republican Party right now to
simply update the economic philosophy to a very changed economy in which
median wages are very, very weak, in which job creation is very, very weak
and which people need a little bit more help.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, Eugene, I think that Ezra is speaking to a very
important point, which is where the sort of facts on the ground in the
economy run into a party that can`t change at all. You heard a little bit
there in the Senator Coburn sound, where he says, well, what if it was $100
There`s an answer to that, right? Which is, (a), the proposal on the table
that you`re filibustering is not $100. It`s $10. And, (b), since the
Depression Era, both parties had previously had an agreement that you could
regulate this to some degree, although we could also all understand that at
certain points, a minimum wage might be too high to be good for the
economy. We`re just not at one of those points at all.
ROBINSON: Right. This was an agreement that minimum wage was a good
thing. And that is ought to be raised, as Tim Pawlenty said, from time to
time, and, you know, in a reasonable way.
And Ezra is right that there are different needs and different times and
the policies that fit the situation. You know, what we have now is the
Republican ideology that, as Tom Coburn said, well, maybe you shouldn`t
have a minimum wage at all and just let the market decide and I think we
know that that is, in effect, what the market is doing right now and it`s
keeping the minimum wage way, way, way too low for people who have to
subsist on that minimum wage and try to provide for a family to stay out of
poverty. And that I think is an outrageous situation and a ridiculous
situation, frankly, because it slows down the economy, those people don`t
have the money that they would otherwise spend, which would create jobs.
It really makes no sense.
MELBER: Yes. And you use that word poverty, which we don`t hear enough in
Washington. That`s the minimum wage piece, which is the working poor who
have jobs and are actually just trying not to slip on to the need for
benefits or public assistance or things that conservatives are ostensibly
And, Ezra, I want to put this up on the screen, because that kind of
concern, the inflation that cost of living issues that you both have
touched on, there`s no partisan gap here. When you ask people, are you
concerned about your income keeping up with the cost of living,
independents, Democrats and Republicans, overwhelmingly say yes, in the
high 70s and low 80s there, Ezra.
So, even well above the income bracket of minimum wage workers, people have
this concern right now.
KLEIN: And this is why you see such overwhelming support for it. You
know, it`s something we don`t talk about enough in the economy is power.
One thing that is a long running economic trend right now is that workers
are losing power in the economy, they`ve lost unions, the minimum wage is
getting weaker. There are a variety of things happening. You have a
slacker labor market. So, there are more individual employed workers
coming at any given job, so again, the employer has an ability to set the
wage low or and if it does hire somebody, you can fire that person very
One thing the minimum does is it`s a way of the government weighing in for
workers and giving them power to negotiate a bottom level wage. And that`s
just something that you`re going to see in a lot of different proposals
coming forward and you`re going to see sort of reflected in the polling
across different proposals. Workers understand they have lost a lot of
power. They don`t know quite how to get it back and the minimum wage is a
simple, necessary, and possible insufficient way to do it, but they know
they have lost power.
MELBER: Right. It`s something. It`s leverage. It operates uniformly and
it doesn`t go into, say, the union labor markets.
I think it`s interesting, as you mentioned in the lead, that there is
action here at the state level and Republicans, at minimum, are going
against it at the federal level.
Eugene Robinson and Ezra Klein, thank you both for joining us tonight.
KLEIN: Thank you.
ROBINSON: Thanks, Ari.
Now, coming up, how Donald Sterling could sue if he was forced to sell the
Clippers by the NBA.
And, entirely new argument in support of marriage equality in the south,
and approach you probably haven`t heard. We`re going to tell you about it.
And later, the fallout from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford`s decision to get help
for his addiction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: The American people expect us to
conduct ourselves in a matter befitting the responsibilities and duties
that we hold as members of Congress, not like we are freshmen at a frat
house. While they are the exception, not the rule, it`s an embarrassment
to this institution that some members have sex with teenage pages on the
floor. It`s not acceptable that others have groped and inappropriately
touched their staff members.
This behavior is illegal and unacceptable in the private sector, and it is
illegal and unacceptable here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: At 10:09 today, the House of Representatives passed Congressman
Speier`s amendment to allocate half a million dollars for sexual harassment
training for all House offices. You see her there. She introduced the
amendment, after Congressman Vance McAllister of Louisiana was caught on
video kissing one of his staffers at his district office. That final bill
Now, coming up next, reports that Donald Sterling wants to put up a fight
to keep the L.A. Clippers even after the NBA banned him for life over his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM GRAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I just spoke with Donald Sterling on the
telephone moments ago. He`s unaware of what is going to happen to him. He
has not been notified. He also said that he really didn`t want to comment
on the record.
However, the team is not for sale. And he will not be selling the team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Not for sale.
L.A. Clippers` owner Donald Sterling has not changed his mind since
Tuesday. Today`s "New York Daily News" headline gives it to you right
there, "Donald Sterling is set to fight NBA ban with lawsuit to block sale
According to another executive close to Sterling, quote, "He`s not going to
sell the team." The executive said, quote, "He`ll sue and it will take
years to settle."
TMZ Sports spotted Donald Sterling leaving a high profile celebrity-packed
Beverly Hills restaurant last night and asked him if he`d sell. Sterling
The NBA owners advisory finance committee held a conference call today to
talk about the next steps and the possible removal of Sterling as the
owner. Each member of the committee has voiced support for Commissioner
Adam Silver. A statement released after the call today said the committee
unanimously agreed to move forward expeditiously as possible and will
reconvene next week.
Thanks to the release of the NBA of its constitution and bylaws, we have a
glimpse at what arguments both sides could be prepared to make in any legal
Joining me now is attorney Michael McCann, a law professor and "Sports
Illustrated" legal analyst, who looked closely at the NBA constitution and
bylaws for this story.
How are you?
MICHAEL MCCANN, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: I`m doing well, Ari. Thank you for
having me on.
MELBER: Absolutely. We wanted to talk to you because this is where the
fight is going. We`ve talked about why this matters. We`ve talked about
the racism. But in a nation of laws and in a set of bylaws that binds a
group of teams, this is where the fight is going.
I want to put up on the screen, Article 13 of the NBA constitution here
which says, "Ownership can be terminated if an owner willfully violates any
of the provisions of the constitutions and bylaws".
And now, in another article that pertains to owners, which they call
Article 35A, the commissioner has the power to suspend for a definite or
indefinite period or to impose a fine not exceeding $1 million or inflict
both such suspension and fine upon to any person who is, in his opinion,
should have been guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the
Bottom line, sir, can they prevail on the argument, that here you have that
kind of conduct?
MCCANN: Yes, I think the NBA can. But I think there are some counter
arguments. But from the NBA`s perspective, the language is very sweeping
and it gives the league a wide degree of discretion and it`s language that
Donald Sterling agreed to adhere to.
So, this helps the NBA. The fact that the NBA has its own documents in
place that Sterling agreed to and that clearly give sweeping language that
could include pretty much anything.
I think the counter-argument, also, is important. Donald Sterling will
argue that under Article 13, there are nine enumerated specific offenses,
none of which apply. There is the one that you mentioned, the willful
violation of any provisions of the constitution, bylaws and other
I would say two things. Number one, where is the willful? Did he
willfully violate? This was a private conversation in his house, taped
without apparently his knowledge, perhaps taped illegally, shared possibly
illegally with TMZ. Was this really a willful act if done in the privacy
of his own house?
Secondly, if in fact he can be thrown out under this very vague language,
what other conduct could trigger that sanction? Does the NBA want to go
down that path?
MELBER: Yes, let me stop you on willful because you`re making a very
important point for the people who care about the resolution of this thing
and whether the guy can get booted here. What you`re saying is even on the
plain reading of this, if this was an accident, if this was supposed to be
a secret, if this was private conduct, you`re saying that Sterling and his
lawyers can say he didn`t willfully try to do anything?
MCCANN: That`s exactly right. The circumstances of the conversation
matter. Not defending what he said. What he said was absolutely
reprehensible, unacceptable, racist. We know that.
But it was in his home. There is an expectation of privacy in your home.
If you`re in your home having a private conversation, how could you
willfully hurt the NBA in that narrow context? It`s an argument that his
lawyers are going to use.
MELBER: And then you look at the way the bylaws govern player behavior.
I`m going to put this up as well. There`s a section of bylaws which states
that for a player to be eligible, quote, "All players should be of good
moral character and possess qualities which will make them proper members
of their representative teams".
And this goes to the larger conflicts we have here and whether something
good can come out of all of this bad conduct. And that is, this document
here that binds so much of the performance and the rules, like a lot of
worker agreements, has a lot more rules for the players than for the owners
and you don`t really tell me if you see this different, there is the same
kind of good moral comprehensible requirement of the owners as there is of
all of the players?
MCCANN: I agree. There isn`t that requirement. And that`s also possibly
strengthening Donald Sterling. He`s going to say, the language that`s used
to regulate the players is far more scrutinizing than the language used to
regulate the owners.
Now, the NBA can say, you`re still on the hook if you willfully violate any
terms or provision, prejudicial language can trigger that.
MELBER: I want to ask you --
MCCANN: The rules are not the same. They`re tougher for players.
MELBER: They`re not the same. That`s why I asked, the policy question is,
we say, what should we do about all of this? Do you think they should have
rules on the owners that are tougher going forward?
MCCANN: Sure. Look, I think why treat the labor harsher than the
management when in this case the owner that did the worst thing possible?
No player has caused an international crisis for the NBA. No player has
caused the president of the United States while on a trip abroad to talk
about him. It was an owner of a team.
I think it definitely is a sole searching moment for the league to consider
the rules that they used to govern owners, to govern the conduct and words
of the owners. And, look, if we`re going to treat players this way, make
sure owners agree to play by the same set of rules.
MELBER: Well put. Michael McCann, thank you for joining us and giving us
And coming up, a lawsuit over marriage equality from an entirely different
place. This is an argument in support of marriage equality that you
probably haven`t heard, and that`s next.
MELBER: In the spotlight tonight: a new argument in the fight for marriage
equality. In a new North Carolina case, the United Church of Christ, a
national Protestant denomination, is challenging the state`s ban on same-
sex marriage. They make several arguments about equal treatment that have
prevailed in some other states, and they`re proposing a new way to
undermine gay marriage bans.
The suit argues that beyond the mistreatment of gay Americans who want to
marry, North Carolina`s laws also hurt religious freedom by not allowing
clergy members to marry gay couples.
The brief says, quote, "By prohibiting religious denominations, even from
performing marriage ceremonies of same sex couples, the state stigmatizes
the religious institutions and clergy that believe in equal rights." In
other words, they are arguing that these laws don`t just hurt the people
who want to be married. They hurt the people who want to marry them.
Joining me now are three of the plaintiffs in the suit, Reverend Joe
Hoffman, the senior minister at the First Congressional Church of Christ at
Nashville, North Carolina, and two members of his congregation, Kathy
McGaughey and Diane Ansley, who`ve been together for 14 years and were
Good evening to all of you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening.
REV. JOE HOFFMAN, SUING NORTH CAROLINA OVER MARRIAGE BAN: Good evening.
MELBER: Reverend, tell me about the suit and why you`re bringing it and
why, specifically, as I just mentioned, part of the issue is the religious
freedom of clergy pastors, et cetera, to marry people.
HOFFMAN: In my tradition and in my congregation, I have been empowered and
authorized to marry any couple that`s mutual, loving and wants to get
married. So this law prevents me from doing that for the same-sex couples.
So, being as half of my congregation is gay, it`s an issue for me not to be
able to marry people who want to be married in this community with their
friends around them. It`s a part of our church and it`s something that I
think we should be able to do.
MELBER: Reverend, what do you say to the argument from folks on the other
side who would protest that you can conduct any kind of private ceremony or
marriage and these issues are about where the state government comes in?
HOFFMAN: Well, actually, it`s a misdemeanor if I conduct the ceremonies
and I can be fined for that. And secondly, there`s about 1,100 rights and
privileges that come with the legal marriage license that the gay couples
in my church are not allowed to have when I cannot legally marry them.
MELBER: And let me turn to you guys, Diane and Kathy, first of all,
congratulations. Getting engaged is always exciting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MELBER: And I understand from looking at this, Kathy, that there`s a
special reason that you wanted to get married at your particular church?
KATHY MCGAUGHEY, SUING NORTH CAROLINA OVER MARRIAGE BAN: This sanctuary is
the sanctuary where my mother was baptized as a teenager and my parents
were married met in Ashville and were married in the same sanctuary 67
years ago. It is pretty exciting.
MELBER: Yes. Diane, what about you? Where do you come down in all of
this? And how do you feel about being involved in the suit?
DIANE ANSLEY, SUING NORTH CAROLINA OVER MARRIAGE BAN: I feel honored to be
involved in this suit. Not only that Kathy and I can express our love and
help others -- hopefully help others to be married, kids of today, it`s
special that my mother-in-law was married here in this church.
It`s also special to me that this is my faith community. This is my home.
This is where I`m welcome. This is where everybody loves me. As you said,
we recently got engaged. Kathy did it up here during church service last
Sunday, much to my surprise. I have no idea this is going to happen. I
thought we were just going to stand up here and let the congregation know
that we would be going to Charlotte and would be part of an historic
moment. Kathy got down on her knees and proposed and I have my wonderful
iron man ring for our engagement. And through tears of joy I said yes and
we got a standing ovation by over 200 people in this church.
I cannot think of another place where I would want to be married where I am
so welcome and so loved and Reverend Joe is such a pioneer and such a
loving man and a wonderful pastor.
MELBER: You know, Diane, you`re speaking to something that a lot of people
know and yet is often mischaracterized in the way that we talk about these
issues which is, of course, you have people who happen to be gay and are in
house of worship all the time. And yet, you know as I know we hear about
this as an issue of sort of religion versus marriage equality.
Do any of you want to speak to that? Why do we get that wrong so often
when you`re showing us a photo of that beautiful moment in a church and a
lot of people cheering?
HOFFMAN: I don`t think religion is -- put those at opposites is not the
way I see it at all. I think marriage equality should be for everybody.
And I think that`s what our religion is about, it is loving and caring for
everybody. And so, I`m very grateful that we`re bringing this case forward
and saying the people who love each other within our own community, we
should have the right to be able to marry them as they want to be and for
our community to be here and support that.
MELBER: Diane or Kathy, did you want to add anything?
MCGAUGHEY: Go for it.
ANSLEY: I just -- again, why can`t I be married by my a pastor in my home
church with my loving friends and fellow congregants? It`s where --
straight couples can be married. Why can`t we be married in that manner
and have the same rights?
MCGAUGHEY: And to have it be legal and recognized in our state. We love
North Carolina. This is our home. And we want it to be recognized here as
other marriages are and that`s important to us. Especially with the
support of our church family and our friends around us and with our
wonderful pastor who is doing the ceremony for us.
ANSLEY: We could go, you know, to another state and get married but why
should we do that where we would not have our support of our families, our
loving friends who couldn`t afford to go to make the trip and I don`t think
that we should have to do that. This is our home.
MELBER: Yes. No. I hear you on that. Let me play for you a little bit
of something from senator -- former senator, I should say, Allen Simpson, a
Wyoming Republican and a guy who prides himself on straight talk. This is
a relatively recent ad. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN SIMPSON, FORMER SENATOR: I was raised here in Wyoming. It was a
town with western values and independence, freedom. I`m a Republican. At
the party`s basic core is government out of your life and the right to be
left alone, whether you`re gay or lesbian or straight, if you love someone
and want to marry them, marry them. I`ve had a wonderful married life.
Why shouldn`t somebody else have the joy of marriage? Live and let live?
It`s very simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Live and let live. Diane and Kathy, how important do you think it
is for members of the Republican party to come around on this topic?
ANSLEY: I never thought I would live to see the day.
MCGAUGHEY: Yes. It`s hugely important and significant. And it`s a
wonderful thing because we think of having an impact like this on the
generations behind us, like our daughter and -- but to hear that is very
empowering and hopeful.
MELBER: Yes. And that`s funny because we talk sometimes about
generational shifts and as you mentioned, we see that demographically. I
mean, young people do not have this hang-up whatsoever, I don`t think.
Republicans under 30, for example, uniformly support marriage equality but
when you see young people changing the minds of their parents, that`s also
Reverend Joe Hoffman, Diane Ansley and Kathy McGaughey, thank you for your
MCGAUGHEY: Thank you.
ANSLEY: Thank you so much.
MELBER: You got it.
Next, we have a look at why a liberal hero and former Supreme Court justice
went to Capitol Hill to testify about what his former colleagues got wrong.
And what more we have learned about those new allegations that sent Rob
Ford to rehab.
MELBER: A new development in a story we brought you last night, the U.S.
has offered to help the country of Nigeria in that search for more than 200
girls who were kidnapped from their school. On April 15th, armed and
uniformed men forced more than 275 girls into trucks in the northeast
village and drove them into the forest. About 40 girls did managed to
escape. No one has claimed responsibility officially but the Islamist
group Boek Co-Harram (ph) is suspected. Some parents of the girls have
turned up sick in hospitals overcome with grief as hundreds more marched on
the Nigerian parliament for a second day here demanding that the
government do more to find these girls. A protester the "New York Times,"
if this abduction of 200 girls happened anywhere else in the world, the
nation would be at a standstill.
We will bring you more on that, as warranted.
And up next, the Supreme Court justice who even Ted Cruz feared.
MELBER: You know, after Supreme Court justices write their opinions, they
don`t really have to explain themselves and they often don`t. They don`t
hold press conferences or run political ads for their positions or even
speak very often to the other branches of government. But when they do, it
can be powerful.
So when one of the court`s living liberal icons retired justice John Paul
Stevens, now 94, marched over to the Senate to testify this week. It was
the first time since his confirmation hearing in 1975. And many people
were listening closely. He came to say that the current conservative block
on the court is not only dead wrong but wrong in a way that threatens the
core of our democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PAUL STEVENS, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: The interest in creating
a level playing field justifies regulation of campaign speech that does not
apply to speech about general issues that is not designed to affect the
outcome of elections. The rules should give rival candidates irrespective
of their status for citizens to vote for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: All right, there is Stevens was calling out the court`s recent
case uncorking more money in politics the famous citizens united decision
and from this year, the McCutchen case which basically lifted the bans on
certain types of donations. Stevens was vigorous and fair and I think
elegant and that spirit must have been contagious because even senator Ted
Cruz paused to praise his ideological adversary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Justin Stevens often disagreed with the position
of my clients and there was no justice whose questions were more incisive,
more friendly, and, frankly, more dangerous than Justice Stevens, always
with a twinkle in an eye would ask a question, counsel, wouldn`t you agree
with this question that if walked you down a road would unravel the entire
position in your case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: in fact that trait was on display yesterday as Stevens used some
plain English and logic to unraveled a conservative argument against
campaign finance law that money is the exact same thing as speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVENS: While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech.
Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign
contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not
receive the precisely the same constitutional protection as speech itself.
After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglaries,
actions that clearly were not protected by the first amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is Geoffrey Stone, law professor at the University
of Colorado and an expert on the first amendment, among other things.
GEOFFREY STONE, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO: Thanks for being
here. I`m glad to be here.
MELBER: Glad to have you here. You looked at that, as I mentioned, the
first time that actually Justice Stevens had been before Congress to
testify since his confirmation hearing, this is not a run of the mill
disagreement between justices. This is for him and I would argue for our
STONE: Yes. I think for Justice Stevens, this is one of the core issues
that the Supreme Court has decided during his tenure and has felt that the
court has gotten it wrong and it affects the future of our democracy.
MELBER: And when you look at his proposals, part of what he is saying is
well, let`s amend the first amendment to deal with this. You`ve written
books about the first amendment`s power and also its limitations in war
time. It would be difficult, though, to go in there and do a surgical
amendment that would restore elections in a way that rotated less around
money, wouldn`t it?
STONE: Yes. I think a constitutional amendment of the first amendment is
something that would make me very uneasy. And in general I think the
constitution should be for only compelling purposes and Stevens made a
pretty strong case this is one of the situations where it`s justified. But
even so, I would have reservation. I would much rather see a change in the
makeup of the court and have the court reconsider these decisions which I
believe, like Justice Stevens are wrong, and over time to come to a better
position with respect to the meaning of the first amendment.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, the problem with this debate, if you take it
seriously, is always the question of compared to what? And you look at all
of this money flooding in, you look at the inequities of it and the secrecy
which he also spoke about and Senator King was conducting the hearing
talked about, dark money. But compared to what?
One of the points that Senator Cruz made that I think has to be taken
seriously as well, could you apply any of these rules to the type of
organizations that we don`t think of as tantamount to the Koch brothers?
Would it work to have these rules applied to "the New York Times" and how
do you get around that?
STONE: Well, law is filled with slippery slopes. I mean, every idea,
every principal, always, you play out and see how would it apply to this
situation, all down the road. And inevitably, that`s going to be difficult
lines to draw. But I think it would be a terrible mistake to say that
regulation of campaign money is inappropriate because there are media
corporations and individuals who engage in free speech.
I think the fundamental problem here is that we have billionaires
completely unanticipated by the framers of the constitution, even
anticipated by the justices who decided the issue 30 years ago now who are
now playing an extraordinarily important role in the political process that
makes no sense.
MELBER: You know, Professor, you mentioned that and it`s interesting
because you`re talking about an historic or what they sometimes called an
originalist view of what was going on at the time the constitution. They
didn`t have billionaires and they didn`t have these multinational
corporations. And yet, one thing we do know about the founders as they
were intensely concerned about overly concentrated power., They were
concern that this sort of factions or powerful entities would subvert what
they wanted to do, which was try to get people to have a say in how they
STONE: Right. The idea was, in fact, to create a society in which
individuals participated volume (ph) in political discourse and in voting
and in self-governance. And what we have now is a situation in which a
handful of billionaires are able to have a disproportionate impact on the
political system. I think the framers would have blasted. It wasn`t
anything the day at the time could have anticipated. And I don`t think
originalists could answer this question one way or the other.
MELBER: You know, I don`t think it answers a lot of questions but that`s a
disagreement with Justice Scalia.
The other thing I want to say is you saw him there invoke Watergate. That
was powerful on a number of levels. One reason that we had publicly funded
presidential elections in this country for decades, as you have written
about and as you know is because the Watergate scandal shocked us into
action. It was the Enron scandal that actually got McCain find bull pass.
What do you think we need to have, as a country do you think, to get more
action out of a do nothing Congress in this area?
STONE: We need some kind of an event like that because right now we have,
as you know, a parallel and polarized Congress that won`t pass
legislations. But the larger problem is that even if they wanted to pass
legislation, these five justices will strike them down. So the truth is,
the problem is at the constitutional level as much as that is even more
than it is right now at a congressional level.
MELBER: That is true but also kind of a bummer.
STONE: That is a bummer. That`s why Justice Stevens was talking about a
MELBER: Right. Going there and going vague or getting liberals really
more energized on making sure the courts have a certain kind of jurist
Geoffrey Stone, thank you for talking to us.
STONE: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Coming up, where in the world is Rob Ford?
MELBER: According to the Toronto star, on March 15th, Mayor Rob Ford ran
into pop star Justin Bieber in a common area and have an exclusive night
club near Toronto`s water front. According to witnesses, "Ford tried to
shake Bieber`s hand but became enraged when Bieber jokingly asked him, did
you bring any crack to smoke? Security ushered Ford back to his party
group where he was reportedly entertained along with four other men by
prepaid party hostesses. The star has been unable to reach Bieber for
Now, we`ll have more of Rob Ford`s alleged dilatory up ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you purchased illegal drugs in the last two years?
MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: Yes, I have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: After surviving that somewhat embarrassing scene five months ago,
today, Toronto`s crack smoking mayor Rob Ford is on a 30-day leave of
absence and out of the public`s eye, sort of. City official are renewing
demands for his resignation. And today, a strip Ford of all power putting
Toronto`s deputy mayor in charge. That deputy mayor told reporters,
however, quote "I don`t see this as a crisis of government. Nothing has
changed." I mean, something has changed. But anyway, Ford is supposedly
seeking treatment for, at the very least, alcohol abuse.
Now, according to a statement and, of course, after this image was
published by Toronto`s globe and mails, we reported, it is allegedly taken
from a video shop by a self-professed drug dealer. And the paper says the
video shows Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine from a copper
colored pipe and that it was show on Saturday in what looks to be his
To be clear, NBC News has not independently confirmed those details and Rob
ford`s brother spoke to the media this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG FORD, MAYOR ROB FORD`S BROTHER: I am relieved that Rob has faced his
problems and has decided to seek professional help. This is not an easy
thing for anyone to do, especially when you`re the mayor of the city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is certainly true.
Ford left his Toronto home today and has not been seen by the media since,
adding to some of these troubles here, though, the "Toronto Sun" released
audio that it says was covertly recorded by someone in a bar, and on the
recording, a man on a voice that at least resembles Rod Ford makes sexually
graphic remarks about a political rival.
Again, as with the other recordings, MSNBC News has not independently
confirmed or authenticated that recording.
Joining me now is Rick Salutin, columnist for "the Toronto Star." How are
RICK SALUTIN, COLUMNIST, TORONTO STAR: I`m good, thanks.
MELBER: What are we learning here? And what do you say to any of the
reports that Rob Ford may actually be in Chicago where his brother has a
residence. What do we know?
SALUTIN: Well you know, in a lot of ways I don`t quite understand what the
issues of his addiction is because one of the things that we`ve learned is
he says the same things when he`s drunk and stoned as he does when he`s
sober. In both states, he`s homophobic, (INAUDIBLE), aggressive.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, look, part of this, you look at anyone in a public
story who has got a real problem and as a human you can feel bad for their
problem. You are making a very fair point, which is his conduct has been
questionable with or without substance abuse but --
SALUTIN: It`s almost identical. Yes.
MELBER: Yes. But what -- he is in public life. What are the constituents
here supposed to make of all of this? Where do we go from here?
SALUTIN: You know, I`m glad you asked that, in a way. I mean, up here, I
know for people there and around the world, this is kind of a nice
entertaining diversion. It is here, too. I don`t want to deny that. But
it`s also something that you have to live with and you have a situation
where the leader, the mayor of the city is consorting with and abetting
with the drug trade and gun trade, which is pretty damaging for kids here.
So, yes, it is a problem.
MELBER: Yes. And also, I mean, he is the chief executive here. Although,
as we`ve reported, he`s had many of his powers removed.
MELBER: Go ahead.
SALUTIN: Well, we`re fortunate to having to what is called a weak mayor
system. So that the mayor here has way less power than the mayor in most
American cities. So in a way, his -- the damage he`s been able to do has
been limited. And the entertainment value has always been there. I even
think there`s been some actual positive elements in all of it.
MELBER: What are those?
SALUTIN: Well, I think it`s -- it`s drawing people into more activity.
People instead of trusting the people in charge, they have had to, to some
extent, take charge. We`ve had kind of a citizen activism. The city
council has been way more than a rubber stamp. They basically taken over.
And I think it`s also made people think about each other.
I mean, I was just talking this evening to a member of the sort of Toronto
elite who said it made her think about the people who support him and what
are their lives like and their thoughts like? That`s not bad as a kind of
dynamic happening in a big city.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, that`s interesting. It is such a weird story. And
as you mentioned, it has those layers f there are things coming out of it
or rethinking, as you mentioned, that may be one small, small silver
Rick Salutin, you get tonight`s "Last Word." Thank you.
SALUTIN: Thank you very much.
MELBER: I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.
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