All In With Chris Hayes, Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
June 3, 2014
Guest: Mark Jacobson, Lawrence Wilkerson, Michael Tomasky, Zephyr
Teachout, Robert Costa
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
And the right tonight is in full freak-out mode over the circumstances
of the success or return of the only prisoner of the war in Afghanistan,
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
And if you`re surprised by that, you have good reason, because until
Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban after nearly five years in
captivity, it was a fairly common view that all steps should be taken to
make sure he comes home.
Last year, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said that,
quote, "It`s important that we make every effort to bring this captured
soldier home to his family." Now, Inhofe says the president negotiated
with terrorists to satisfy his, quote, "obsession to close Gitmo."
Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire referred just last
month to her, quote, "ongoing efforts to urge the Department of Defense to
do all it can to find Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and bring him home safely."
Now, she says the prisoner swap that freed Bergdahl endangers U.S. national
security interests and could encourage our enemies to capture more
Then, there`s Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. Here he is
on CNN in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: So, if there was some -- the possibility of
some sort of an exchange, that`s something you would support?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I would support -- obviously, I`d have
to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home, and if
exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: McCain, of course, caveating he has to know the details.
Well, now, McCain, former prisoner of war, says he would not have made the
deal to bring Bergdahl home, since the prisoner exchange poses a great
danger to the lives and wellbeing of American servicemen and women in the
In the conservative media, Bowe Bergdahl is being lambasted as a
deserter, and a traitor. The Drudge Report today blasting the former POW
as a rat with a question mark.
And "The Wall Street Journal" columnist an unidentified Special Forces
operator, suggesting Bergdahl should be killed by firing squad.
Meanwhile, former Bush administration official and Romney spokesperson
has taken it to arrange media interviews for soldiers to criticize
The message behind much of this is quite simply, that Bowe Bergdahl
did not deserve to be saved.
His critics are seizing on reports that he left a note in his tent
saying he`d become disillusioned with the Army before walking away, and e-
mailed comments critical of the U.S. government to his family before he was
So, let`s assume for the moment all this is true. A 23-year-old
soldier walked off his base in disgust, deserted and got captured by the
Taliban. Does that mean he does not deserve to be brought home?
I asked Rear Admiral John Kirby that last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: When you put this
uniform on, there`s an understanding that if you`re lost and you`re taken
captive, we`re going to go to great lengths to get you back. I grew up in
the Navy. If you fall overboard on the ship, we don`t ask whether you were
pushed or whether you jumped, we turn the ship around and we go get you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In Poland today, President Obama reaffirmed the importance of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of the
circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still
get an American soldier back if he`s held in captivity, period, full stop.
We don`t condition that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The details of what Bowe Bergdahl did or didn`t do are just
one side of this prisoner exchange. On the other side, and one that
conservatives are criticizing as well, are the five then released from
Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl. Some of the right are using the
release of those prisoners to call for the president to be impeached.
In the words of Allen West, the president`s unilateral negotiations
with terrorists without the consent of Congress should trigger that drastic
Let`s be very clear about who these men are that were released from
Guantanamo Bay and what they are accused of doing, because people are
referring to them as terrorists, referring to negotiating with terrorists.
These are people who are all members of the Taliban, who are fighting
American military forces in Afghanistan after the American invasion of
Afghanistan, after the September 11th attacks. Some, if not all of these
men, have done some really horrible things.
But they are viewed by our government, not as terrorists, unlike some
other Guantanamo detainees. They are viewed as prisoners who are being
held as enemy combatants under the conditions of regular war. And that is
a crucial distinction.
There is a long standing tradition of prisoners of war exchanges after
the cessation of hostilities. We are reaching that period now in
Afghanistan. The war is ending. And under international law, prisoners of
war have to go home.
As John Bellinger, a State Department legal adviser, in the Bush
administration, wrote over the weekend, "It is likely the U.S. would be
required as a matter of international law to release the five men shortly
after the end of 2014 when U.S. combat operations cease in Afghanistan."
So here`s what happened. Five men who are probably going to be
released any way under the terms of international law were released in
exchange for an American prisoner of war. And everybody who was worried
about the president of, quote, "negotiating with terrorists", who is
calling for the president`s head over this, is ignoring a very important
precedent that would have been violated had we not done this -- the
precedent of exchanging prisoners of war at the end of battle.
That precedent is there not just for humanitarian purposes. It is
there to protect American troops, because we do not want Americans captured
in battle to be held by the enemy for the rest of their lives. And
everyone demagoguing about the terrorists swap for Bergdahl must answer
precisely what exactly their plan is for those prisoners.
Joining me now, Mark Jacobson, senior adviser to the Truman National
Security Project. He served in Afghanistan as adviser to General David
Petraeus, General Stanley McChrystal. And Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson,
former chief of staff of the State Department during General Colin Powell`s
term. Now, distinguished adjunct professor of government and public policy
at the College of William & Mary.
Mark, I`ll begin with you. I mean, you worked on some of these issues
with Petraeus and with McChrystal in the Bush administration. In Iraq,
let`s just take the example of Iraq, not even talking about Taliban. I
mean, in Iraq, all of that was conducted under the normal laws of war.
There were insurgents who did horrible things, who tried to kill American
troops, who blew up marines with IEDs, who were taken, who were released
Am I correct?
MARK JACOBSON, SR. ADVISOR, TRUMAN NATIONAL SECURITY PROJECT: If you
take a look back at the arguments during the early phase of the Iraq war,
it was look, there are going to be people in conflict who do bad things.
Look even further back, this is when Larry was at the State Department,
take a look at the arguments over the Taliban and al Qaeda. There were
Nazi SS officers during the Second World War who were treated as prisoners
of war. And if they were war criminals, they were tried and in many cases
A lot of the problems we see with detainees today is a result of the
failure to abide by international convention to deal with the threat.
And, Colonel Wilkerson, I mean, this is a situation which there is a
category of men being held in Guantanamo who are being prosecuted by the
American government for plotting to kill Americans, for acts of -- for
plotting or committing acts of terrorism. These men are not in that
category. That can`t be stressed enough to my mind.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET), U.S. ARMY: Actually, dealing with
these people in a very formal, diplomatic maneuver aimed at getting them to
release, to give up the al Qaeda in their midst prior to our invasion of
Afghanistan. We recognized their government, however heinous we might have
judged them to be. And we were dealing with them.
I think it`s very astute what`s happened here with Qatari help is that
we selected the people who might be the best to begin some really
meaningful talks about reconciliation in Afghanistan, so that the new
government in Afghanistan post-Karzai has an opportunity to bring a
political solution in that country that might bring some stability.
HAYES: Mark, having worked on these issues, having been in the Bush
administration during that time, are you surprised by watching the kind of
outrage machine get spun up in the last three days or so?
JACOBSON: Let me just correct one thing. I was a civil servant at
the Pentagon during the Bush administration. I don`t want to be associated
JACOBSON: But look, what bothers me is that there are some really
great opportunities as a result of what`s happened. One, Bowe Bergdahl is
home. Two, we have shown that the Qataris can be intermediaries with the
Taliban. This is going to be crucial to driving that political settlement
forward between the Afghan government and the Taliban eventually.
There are certainly some risks in terms of releasing people from
Guantanamo, but there are always going to be risks there.
HAYES: But, Mark, as soon as you say that, here`s what you`re going
to hear. This is -- I`ve seen it everywhere.
As soon as you say that, you want to talk to terrorists. You want to
negotiate with terrorists. You want to talk to terrorists. What`s wrong
with you? Why do -- the blood of Americans is going to be on your hands
and anyone who supports this in the future.
What do you say to that?
JACOBSON: Take a look at what the British did with the IRA, what the
Israelis have done with the Palestinians. If you want peace, you are going
to sit across the table from people who have the blood of your friends on
their hands, on both sides. But this is part of making war and making the
Let me stress one point, the very existence of Guantanamo has actually
put American troops` lives at risk, simply because it`s created this legal
black hole that`s been exploited for propaganda value and probably brought
more terrorists in through recruitment than we can count.
HAYES: Colonel Wilkerson, do you agree with that?
WILKERSON: I certainly do. And I must say that our blanket use of
the word "terrorist" to describe almost anyone in the world who disagrees
with our policies in the world is going to haunt us for a long time to
I would say that the Taliban are fighting against us in Afghanistan,
for the most part, because we`re there. They`re fighting us because we`re
on their soil, we`re in their territory and we`re contesting their power.
They`re not terrorists. They`re not people who want to bring through
terrorist actions against the United States, some sort of political
objective to bear. They are fighting us because we`re in their country and
we`re fighting them. So, as I said before --
HAYES: Right. And that`s where I think when we talk about -- all the
discussions about the risk to American lives. And I think this distinction
-- and, again, two of these men, there are allegations they were associated
with al Qaeda, they were close to Osama bin Laden when al Qaeda was taken
safe haven in Afghanistan.
There are also allegations that two of them were engaged in war
crimes, massacres of ethnic minorities in Afghanistan. Again, horrible,
atrocious acts that should be tried under international law if the facts
are there to pursue it. But these were men --
WILKERSON: Chris, I hate to --
WILKERSON: Let me just point out we were very close to these same
people when they were fighting the Soviets.
HAYES: Yes, and these were not men who unlike Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
who were operationally sitting there planning how to fly airplanes into
buildings and slaughter Americans in their office towers, Mark.
JACOBSON: Having been in the Pentagon on 9/11, I don`t want to
discount the danger that the Taliban sanctuary for al Qaeda posed.
JACOBSON: Again, these are dangerous individuals.
JACOBSON: But the points you made earlier, we are trying to drive
home a conclusion to the war in Afghanistan. That`s going to be a
political settlement. These individual are in Qatari hands for a little
while. We should be so lucky that they pick up the phone and call Mullah
JACOBSON: I mean, that could be -- have some great advantages, too.
But the point is, we don`t know what these individuals might play for
positive. And frankly, if they go back to the battlefield a year and a
half from now, the administration has done a lot of things to mitigate the
risk to U.S. troops. They`re a challenge for the Afghan government and,
frankly, if they`re that concerned, the Afghans may put them on trial.
We`re not sure yet what`s going to happen.
HAYES: Colonel Wilkerson, as someone who spent a career and life in
the military, what do you make of the spectacle of an American soldier
being essentially tried in absentia for desertion via cable news and Web
WILKERSON: This is no surprise to me. I`ve learned that both
political parties, particularly my own and people like Ted Cruz and Lindsey
Graham and John McCain and others, will take advantage of almost any
situation to score points against the current administration. So, it`s no
surprise that they`re doing it. It`s reprehensible, but it`s no surprise
and I`m a member of their party.
HAYES: Do you think -- I mean, it just seems to me so bizarre, to
hear someone who spent five years in the Taliban captivity, he`s recovering
in a military hospital, and may have done something really awful and
actionable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that can be
adjudicated under the normal processes and due process he is accorded by
the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The idea that we have to declare now
what his nature is -- I don`t understand it, Colonel.
WILKERSON: Well, actually, if you want to look at it from a legal
point of view, and by legal, I mean the Uniform Code of Military Justice,
the body of laws that governs our military, the only way we would have ever
had an investigation and determine how he left the forces in Afghanistan is
to bring him home.
HAYES: That`s right.
WILKERSON: We certainly would have done it while he was in the hands
of the Afghans.
HAYES: That`s a necessary predicate.
Mark Jacobson from the Truman National Security Project and Colonel
Lawrence Wilkerson from the College of William & Mary -- thank you
JACOBSON: You`re welcome.
HAYES: Coming up, the conservative media loses its mind over Sergeant
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Six soldiers died searching for this guy that
may have gone AWOL, may have deserted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a perfect example of Obama`s incompetence.
He dips his hand into the war randomly and says, uh, I`m going to free this
guy, I guess? He chooses a loser, a deserter, who`s killed men. He killed
those boys, he killed those six soldiers that went to find him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: More on that, next.
HAYES: Coming up, there`s a very cool show on the Science Channel
called "Through the Worm Hole with Morgan Freeman." And tonight, I have
the chance to sit down with the Academy Award himself. Fascinating
interview. We will have it for you, ahead.
HAYES: I want to read to you a statement released by Republican
Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska on May 31st, that was the day Sergeant
Bowe Bergdahl was released from Taliban captivity. Quote, "A grateful
nation welcomes the news of the return of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. I had
the pleasure of regularly speaking with the nation`s active military and
veterans. I know there`s nothing more solemn of a pledge never to leave
one of their own behind on the field of battle. Sergeant Bergdahl is a
If you go looking for that statement on the Congressman Terry`s Web
site, you will not find it, because that statement, welcoming home the last
American prisoner of war from Afghanistan, has been removed from
Congressman Terry`s Web site.
Now, I`m just spitballing here, but I`m guessing he took it down when
he learned that welcome home is just not how conservatives are rolling with
this news. Instead, the conservative take on Sergeant Bergdahl`s return
looks more like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m not sure it would be a good swap if
we were trading for a Medal of Honor winner, much less trading for somebody
who may well have been a deserter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I know is a soldier who didn`t much like this
country is coming home, and five guys who hated this country are maybe
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s no crown jewel, and he was a ballerina when
he was a kid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you listen to the people who know him,
there`s something fishy there.
HANNITY: Obviously, he has some sympathies and some capacity, for the
enemy, if these statements are true, that he`s ashamed of his country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What information, if any, either willfully or
under duress did he provide to the enemy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is anyone else a little bit skeptical about the
father with the beard?
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: He has learned to speak Pashto, the language
of the Taliban and looks like a Muslim.
HANNITY: At the Rose Garden, the father praised Allah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I mean, you know, end of the case.
Joining me now, Michael Tomasky, special correspondent for "The Daily
I have to say, I`ve gotten into this big fight with a bunch of people
on the fight where over the last few days because this whole thing has
really wound me up. I -- the distinction between -- there are people in
that platoon who are furious at Bergdahl, they felt like he abandoned them,
they felt like he lost people pursuing him. That anger is something that I
think anyone can understand. I don`t have personal access to.
That is distinct from a just full spectrum attempt to assassinate the
character of a guy who cannot speak up in his own name because he`s in a
military hospital in Germany.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. And, Chris, you and I both
know they`re assassinating his character not because they care very much
about him. They`re assassinating his character because it`s a way to get
at Barack Obama`s character, right?
It`s a way to turn this into their story, their narrative about the
kind of president they say they believe Obama is, the Manchurian president,
all that kind of nonsense. They want to get Obama on this. They want to
turn whatever they can that the White House has done here, perhaps an error
in judgment. I mean, we can say this -- maybe it was too high price to pay
to release those five guys.
But they want to turn those potential errors of judgment into high
crimes and misdemeanors. And it`s laying the groundwork. The character
assassinations of Bergdahl and his father are really aimed at Obama. We
HAYES: It`s one thing that the actual charge in question, who may or
may not have done the things that he is -- or had done the things with the
intent to desert that he has reported to have done.
It`s another to attack a father who has had his son in five years and
grew a solidarity beard, and has -- whatever beliefs he has. That seems
completely out of bounds. You say that.
What I think is interesting -- it`s always amazing to watch the kind
of right wing machine gear up together. It`s like -- someone sends out
like a bat signal and then, you know, that signal is Drudge, frankly. And
what happens is in this case you have Republicans who are wrong footed
because they didn`t get the message early enough.
So, here`s Joni Ernst who`s in the ballot tonight in Iowa, Andrea
Kosinski (ph) catcher her tweeting, "U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl freed
after being missing for five years. Thoughts and prayers go out to
Sergeant Bergdahl and his family." That tweet was deleted. She deleted
her thoughts and prayers.
TOMASKY: Yes. That was one of my favorite ones, and, of course,
she`s in a race and she`s facing election right now and, you know, she`s
favored to win. But, so this probably hasn`t happened soon enough to hurt
her at the polls, but she might end up in a runoff and it could hurt her
But she and the congressman you cited before, you know, it`s
interesting, because the kids from Idaho, you know, Mitt Romney got 80
percent of the vote in Idaho. Idaho is probably safe. It turns out maybe
HAYES: Yes. I am imagining the campaign manager, you know, reaming
out the staffer in the Ernst campaign, you tweet, no, delete the thoughts
and prayers, delete the thoughts and prayers.
HAYES: And this is the thing, people keep saying, no one is making
the argument he should have been left behind. That`s ridiculous, how could
slanderous to say that people are making that. First of all, people on my
Twitter feed aren`t making that argument.
But also, what is the argument here? I mean, is the idea that -- you
know, you see some people saying, well, he`s not a hero. OK, fine. That`s
going to be adjudicated.
But it`s very hard not to reach the conclusion that people are pushing
the idea that we should have sort of remotely adjudicated his guilt and
TOMASKY: Well, that`s sort of about it. That`s exactly the argument.
It`s left implied in most tweets and comments, but every once in a while,
it`s kind of sort of stated.
But yes, that`s clearly what they mean. We absolutely should have
left the guy to die or should have left whatever fate he was going to be
left to, because he wasn`t worth it.
And as you said, I know they`re saying it on your Twitter feed and
they`re saying it on mine, too. They`re saying it openly. Just not
prominent people, but rank and file conservatives are certainly saying it.
It will bubble up. It will bubble up.
HAYES: This is also an object lesson in big -- part of the reason
Guantanamo is still open, is because these kinds of fights -- if Guantanamo
is going to close, there`s going to be releasing and it will be demagoguing
like this just constantly, constantly, constantly.
This is part of keeping that thing open, of keeping the war on terror
going, which has become central to the world view of the right.
Michael Tomasky from "The Daily Beast", thank you so much.
TOMASKY: Thanks a lot, Chris.
HAYES: All right. Coming up, we`ve done reporting on the show about
the one gun the NRA doesn`t want you to have, the smart gun. The NRA
finally responded, sort of. That`s next.
HAYES: We brought you this story last night of the NRA trying to
throw the open carry activists off the Second Amendment boat. In a
statement calling people bringing their long guns into Chipotle, quote,
"down right weird and just not neighborly."
But there`s another part of that statement is a direct response to us
and to our coverage of the Armatix smart gun, a gun with the breakthrough
technology that could save lives. The personalized hand gun fires only if
the shooter is wearing a password protected watch within 10 inches of the
The NRA has been vehemently opposed to it. The basis for their
opposition, as we have reported here, has been a New Jersey law which
mandates that within three years of a smart gun going do market anywhere in
the country, quote, "no other type of handgun shall be sold or offered for
sale by any registered or licensed firearms dealer in New Jersey."
Well, we actually talked with State Senator Loretta Weinberg who
authored that 2002 bill who offered a kind of truce to the NRA nearly a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: If, in fact, they would
get out of the way of preventing the research, development, manufacture,
distribution, and sale, I would move to repeal this law in the state of New
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All right. So, that`s on the table, right? So the NRA
responds, well, pretends to respond, to all of our reporting.
Our repeated calls to have anyone come to the show and talk. They
respond with a total non-response, about how bad the New Jersey law is,
what a slippery slope it would be to mandate smart guns, with absolutely no
mention of the fact that the state senator Weinberg has offered a truce,
not even a hint of our repeated requests to come on this show and talk
I got to say, America`s gun lobby seems awfully scared of just coming
on television and talking. I mean, I won`t even have an assault rifle
slung over my shoulder.
But that`s not all -- one more thing about that statement -- we just
learned the NRA is apparently scared of those open carry demonstrators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS COX, NRA-ILA EXEC. DIRECTOR: Word went out that referred to
this type of behavior as weird or somehow not normal. And that was a
mistake. It shouldn`t have happened. It was a poor world choice and we
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes, yes, the NRA today on their own propaganda network,
apologizing to the open carry activists. It took one day for the NRA to
grovel in the laps of the handful of people who like showing off their guns
to other folks just trying to eat burrito.
As for us, NRA, it`s been 29 days. We`ve got an open seat for you.
We`re still waiting.
HAYES: Something really great is happening right now in television, a
batch of explanatory shows that seek to answer fundamental questions about
science, and people are watching them.
There`s Neil deGrasse Tyson`s amazing "Cosmos," and there`s "Through
the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman," now in its fifth season, hosted and
executive produced by, you guessed it, Morgan Freeman, one of the most
prolific actors of our time.
In many ways, "Through the Wormhole" has an even wider area of
curiosity than "Cosmos," ranging from social science to genetics, asking
questions like, can oceans think, and is gravity an illusion?
Tomorrow night, the show`s fifth season premieres on The Science
Channel at 10:00 p.m. The season kicks off by looking at the research
around poverty and genetics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Are the wealthy just born in the right place
at the right time? Or are the poor victims of a system designed to keep
Perhaps physics and biology determine who`s rich and who`s poor. Many
hope to erase the divide between the haves and the have-nots. But what if
nature demands winners and losers in life? Could poverty be genetic?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And joining me now is Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman.
Mr. Freeman, I can`t tell you what a great pleasure it is to have you
here. It`s really wonderful.
FREEMAN: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: I`m fascinated by the series. I think you guys have done an
incredible job with it, but you really can do just about anything you want,
any project you want to pursue, roles you want to pursue. Why -- why did
you do this?
FREEMAN: That`s such a misapprehension, Chris, that I can do anything
I want to do.
FREEMAN: But I did want to do this.
We sort of -- it was born in-house, sort of truncated birth. My
business partner and I, my producing partner, Lori, we started a company
some time ago called ClickStar. And in doing it, we had these little
channels we could do. And I wanted to have a channel about space, about
outer space, our space, the solar system, the galaxy, all that stuff, just
talk about it.
And she had a talk with Discovery, and this came up, and they said,
good idea. So here it came.
HAYES: I love the -- each episode takes on a topic, but they`re
extremely high-concept, and yet you guys manage to pull it off as
television. There -- this first episode is about basically genetics and
poverty, and the link between the...
HAYES: There`s this one clip where you talk about the super rich. I
want to play this clip for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN: The super rich operate by their own separate physical laws.
But they have to live on the same planet as the poor. Biology could hold
the key to our mutual survival.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I saw that clip and I thought to myself, Morgan Freeman is an
individual who has lived at many levels in the American -- in the Titanic
that is the American class system.
HAYES: And this is sort of about the degree to which we`re bound by
our genetic determination. What do you learn in doing this?
FREEMAN: Well, I don`t think I learned anything from it, except that
there is -- there are people who think that they are genetically programmed
to succeed and to be at the top of the heap.
In reality, that isn`t so, at least not in our country. You still
have the ability here to go from there to there. It`s not -- probably not
as easy as it used to be. Things are a lot more complicated now than they
were at one time in our lives, but still it`s possible. I know, because I
So -- and the idea that it could be genetic is -- I think there`s
something to talk about.
HAYES: Well, there`s this fascinating finding where they basically --
you talked to one researcher who says, what we found as we surveyed this is
that -- in fact, let me play the clip. We got a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we found was quite surprising. Children
raised in poverty, their home environment was by far the most important
Their genes seemed to play almost no role at all. And then as you
moved from kids raised in those really terrible circumstances up to kids
raised in the middle class, the role of genes became more and more and more
And once you got to the middle class or better, genes took over. And
by the time you got to the wealthiest people in the study, genes were
making all the difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I thought that was such a fascinating finding and also really
FREEMAN: Not a finding at all. I don`t believe it for a minute.
Your genetic structure is -- we`re not -- we`re not genetically
programmed according to the level of birth.
FREEMAN: Your genetic programming is genetic programming.
FREEMAN: Your environmental input, your home life, what your parents
are able to provide for you in terms of preparation, all of that is what
makes the difference.
This talk of genetic predisposition, I don`t -- personally don`t...
HAYES: Right. And I agree, and I think it`s got a very -- it`s got a
long vintage actually in American life.
FREEMAN: Well, it`s an inheritance we have from the monarchies, the
people who believe in divine right to rule.
HAYES: Right. Right.
FREEMAN: It`s the same -- it`s the same thing.
HAYES: Right. And you see 21st century versions of that offered by
some people today: Oh, the reason that people are making more money is
they`re smarter, they`re genetically endowed.
FREEMAN: They`re just genetically endowed.
HAYES: You were just telling me -- you grew up in Mississippi.
HAYES: And then you moved back to Mississippi. You live there now.
FREEMAN: Yes. Yes.
HAYES: Why did you move back?
FREEMAN: I always -- I moved around a bit when I was a kid, and I was
always most comfortable in the village situation that I was in growing up
in Mississippi. Mississippi has always been a comfort place for me, and it
is right now. The biggest sense of, "Ahh, I`m home," is when I go home.
HAYES: Well, I`m looking forward to doing some reporting trips down
FREEMAN: Do come.
HAYES: I will come knock on your door.
FREEMAN: You do. You must.
HAYES: Morgan Freeman.
FREEMAN: I`m easy to find, Chris.
HAYES: I will find you.
FREEMAN: All righty.
HAYES: Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman.
The series is "Through the Wormhole."
Thanks so much.
FREEMAN: It`s "Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman."
HAYES: Coming up: Why is Ted Cruz defending Planned Parenthood? We
will tell you next.
HAYES: A quick programming note.
This Friday night at 8:00, we will bring you a special presentation of
"ALL IN America,: On the Road in the Conservative Heartland," a full hour
and stories and reporting from our "ALL IN America" series, including new
reports you haven`t seen yet. That`s this Friday at 8:00. I hope you will
HAYES: Big news out of Capitol Hill today: Liberals take the First
Amendment, and Senator Ted Cruz is not afraid to call them out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: And where are the liberals today? Why is
there not a liberal standing here defending the Bill of Rights and the
Mr. Chairman, 42 Democrats have signed their name to a constitutional
amendment that would give Congress the power to muzzle Planned Parenthood
and the National Right to Life; 42 Democrats have signed their name to
giving Congress the right to muzzle the Sierra Club, to muzzle the National
Rifle Association and the Brady Center on Handgun Violence, to muzzle
Michael Moore and Dinesh D`Souza.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s Ted Cruz getting self-righteous with it at a hearing
today about a proposed constitutional amendment that Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid and Democrats are pushing that would reestablish Congress`
ability to regulate big money in elections, an ability that has largely
been taken from Congress by a series of Supreme Court rulings, most notably
Citizens United and the recent McCutcheon decision.
Now, the right loves nothing more than casting themselves as victims
and trolling liberals by pretending to care about liberal values. So
Senator Cruz can try to frame this as a core First Amendment issue, one
that threatens the expression of Michael Moore as much as Dinesh D`Souza.
But, of course, the problem is the Supreme Court`s jurisprudence that
has rewritten our understanding of the First Amendment, because, back in
the bad old tyrannical days, in which campaign reform was actually in
effect, Michael Moore wasn`t facing prison time or FCC sanction for
releasing a documentary in an election year, because everyone understood
what that movie was.
It was a documentary. It was First Amendment-protected free speech,
not a campaign ad in the guise of a documentary.
So would the constitutional amendment being debated today actually
change things or would it, as Senator Cruz alleges, imperil the First
Joining me now is Zephyr Teachout, associate professor of law at
Fordham University School of Law. She`s an expert on money in politics.
She just sought the endorsement of the Working Families Party for New York
governor, had this big conference this weekend. They did end up endorsing
But you talked a lot about money in politics, and I want to talk about
it in a second. So you`re a liberal. You`re a legal scholar. You work on
money in politics. What do you say to the First Amendment argument you`re
getting from Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell that you liberals want to do
something very dangerous, which is take away the First Amendment and start
prosecuting political speech?
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, there`s two
problems with it.
First, it`s a radical misunderstanding of the First Amendment. And,
second, it takes the First Amendment out of the Constitution in which it
TEACHOUT: And so it makes us all talk about the only constitutional
value is the First Amendment.
But, in fact, we know, if you look at all of American constitutional
history, a core value is the value of fighting against the power of money
I`m a legal historian. I just finished a book on what corruption has
meant in American history. And if you look at the founding era, the reason
they had the Constitutional Convention was to figure out how to keep people
from being corrupted by now fancy presidents and the kings. So...
HAYES: They were obsessed in fact with blocking corruption, obsessed.
TEACHOUT: Yes, exactly. Right.
So, the First Amendment argument is wrong, but there`s also this real
sort of inability to see the First Amendment in relationship to all the
HAYES: It seems to me -- I have now taken the position -- and it`s
interesting to watch this political theater emerge over the amendment. And
I call it political theater...
HAYES: ... because the amendment is not going to be passed.
HAYES: I have become -- I have come to believe that, as regards
campaign finance now, the worse, the better, which is to say that just burn
it all to the ground, that don`t -- that McCutcheon -- like, just go all
the way, because I don`t think these -- the kind of Band-Aids that we have
on the wound now are so insufficient.
People need to see what full plutocracy really looks like.
TEACHOUT: Oh, my dear.
TEACHOUT: I`m glad you were not around in 1896. You would said to
William Jennings Bryan, you know, just go home. Let the whole thing burn
HAYES: No, no, no.
HAYES: I`m saying from the Supreme Court perspective.
HAYES: I`m basically saying like knock it all down, right, and so
that there`s political mobilization around this issue. I`m not saying
don`t fight at it.
I`m saying that like having a single -- OK, well, now we have donation
limitations. Get rid of the donation limitations. Who are you kidding
anyway? In the era of super PACs, they`re gone anyway.
TEACHOUT: I don`t agree with you.
I think there`s a few really important things we could do. A lot of
them are Band-Aids. A lot of the stuff is Band-Aids. One is public
financing of elections, where you actually build a system -- we have never
built a system which allows a bus driver to run for Congress who doesn`t
have rich friends.
HAYES: Right. Right.
TEACHOUT: So, I think maybe we should forget...
HAYES: Yes. Like, how are you going to run for governor?
TEACHOUT: That`s part of the question, is, I`m ready to run, but if
we don`t have public financing of elections, I need a lot more rich friends
than I have.
TEACHOUT: So, I think it`s our job now to build those systems, and we
can do it. Connecticut has it. New York City has it.
But the other thing, Chris, that I really think we could do is look
back to the other plutocratic moment and say, we don`t just have
concentrated political power. We have concentrated economic power.
TEACHOUT: And without messing with the Supreme Court, we can go and
stop some of these mergers, break up the Koch brothers` power in other
HAYES: Right. So, you think -- that`s interesting. So, part of it
is a sort of anti-monopoly argument on the economic side, that there`s too
much economic power concentrated in too few hands.
TEACHOUT: Yes. Yes.
HAYES: Public elections pass muster with the Supreme Court, right?
TEACHOUT: Yes. Yes.
HAYES: They haven`t struck that one down yet.
HAYES: Aren`t they just going to come after that, though, too?
TEACHOUT: Well, yes, let`s talk about the Supreme Court.
Folks talk about the constitutional amendment strategy. But what
about packing the court? What about adding some justices? This court is a
really -- it`s a rogue, out-of-control court. It`s taking power away from
the public and taking the power away from all of us to say, this is the
kind of democracy we want.
HAYES: I love that you just advocated court packing on air.
TEACHOUT: I did, yes.
HAYES: Yes. Zephyr Teachout wants to pack the court.
TEACHOUT: Well, when you have a nonresponsive institution -- it`s a
good thing to have a Supreme Court. But it can get out of control, too.
And any kind of sort of overly precious attitude towards it is a
little problematic, especially this court. I`m an academic, but this is
the most academic, least politically experienced court we have ever had.
And I think they may need...
HAYES: Sometimes, I think that shows particularly in campaign finance
decisions, which read like they were written from people on Mars visiting
the American political culture.
HAYES: Zephyr Teachout from Fordham University, thanks so much.
TEACHOUT: Thank you.
HAYES: All right, coming up, it`s primary night, and we`re going to
check in on the craziest race in all of America next.
HAYES: Still counting the votes tonight in Mississippi`s Republican
Six-term incumbent Thad Cochran faced a Tea Party challenge from
conservative Chris McDaniel, who had a strong campaign, except for the
pesky fact of that little nursing home break-in scandal, you know, the one
where four McDaniel supporters were arrested and charged in an alleged
conspiracy to break into the assisted living facility where Cochran`s
ailing wife resides to photograph her for purposes that have not been
entirely definitively established, apparently had to do with some sort of
The race is coming down to the wire, but McDaniel could still win, and
if he does, having a Tea Partier on the ticket might, might put Mississippi
-- Mississippi, of all places -- into play for the Democrats.
That brings us to what has to be the lamest campaign walk-back so far
in the 2014 election cycle. It all started when Cochran took a very
strange approach to trying to win on the weekend before primary day in
Mississippi in a Republican primary by seeming to endorse, in an eminently
reasonable way, Obamacare.
When "The Washington Post" asked him about the law, Cochran responded,
"I think we need to monitor any federal programs that provide services and
assistance to people who need help, and this is an example of an important
effort by the federal government to help make health care available,
accessible and affordable."
Afterwards, "The Post" reported a Cochran adviser called to say the
senator thought he was talking about the VA, which doesn`t quite square
with what he actually said, an important effort by the federal government
to help make health care available, accessible and affordable. If he`s
talking about vets, maybe, but sounds like the Affordable Care Act to me.
Fittingly, the candidate who brought us the lamest campaign walk-back
also gave us this fine reasoning as to why he wouldn`t debate his primary
opponent earlier in the season.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R), MISSISSIPPI: I`m not running to be a member of
the debate team. I`m a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But some people might like to see you guys
comparing thoughts in one place.
COCHRAN: I don`t think so. I think it would be rated pretty low down
on the charts for public appeal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Robert Costa, national political reporter for
"The Washington Post."
And, Robert, this race is so, so strange. What was your sense, what`s
been your sense from reporting on it on what we could be looking for out of
ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think you laid it out real
nice there, Chris.
We`re talking at someone in Thad Cochran who was elected to the House
in 1972 on Nixon`s coattails, gets elected to the Senate in `78. He`s 76
years old. He was an ally of Bob Dole in the Senate. That`s what he is
most well-known for. He`s rusty. He hasn`t debated the Tea Party
challenger, Chris McDaniel, and right now this is the toughest race of his
HAYES: Yes, and it also seems to be not just the toughest race of his
life. It doesn`t seem that he -- how do you say this? Rusty...
COSTA: He`s not engaged. He wanted to retire. He has actively
talked about this publicly, that he was interested in retiring.
HAYES: Yes. Rusty is kind of an understatement for the way that he`s
conducted himself in this campaign.
COSTA: I think so.
I think he`s signaled many times that he was leaving the Senate or he
was open to leaving the Senate. He really didn`t have it in him for this
campaign. And I think McDaniel has kind of taken him by surprise. And we
have seen McDaniel in this final week. The blogger controversy has not
caused McDaniel to slip.
And I think tonight it`s going to be a very close race. And the
problem for Cochran is that if they -- no one reaches 50 percent tonight,
if this race heads to a runoff, and it`s Cochran in his current campaigning
state, can he really endure that politically, physically on the trail? We
will have to see.
HAYES: Yes. Have you ever encountered a weirder campaign scandal
than the four arrests for an alleged conspiracy to break in to take photos
of a woman in a state of advanced dementia in a nursing care -- home
COSTA: So, McDaniel may have a -- he may be celebrating tonight. He
may win. He may make it to a runoff against Senator Cochran.
But this is why it`s one of the strangest races I have ever covered.
And it could be a thorn in the side for Republicans nationally. They`re
not worried about losing Mississippi. Democrats do have Travis Childers, a
former congressman, who is running. And he -- there is some distant hope
that Democrats could pick up the seat.
But Republicans know this is a red state. But McDaniel could become a
Christine O`Donnell, Todd Akin type, because this investigation into these
burglaries, into conspiracy, people who were arrested for conspiracy, the
investigation is ongoing. I have spoken to the local district attorney
there, and so anything could turn up in a general election.
That`s why Republicans are nervous.
HAYES: Joni Ernst in Iowa has the best ad of the cycle by far. She
is running for Senate in Iowa. She`s on the battle tonight in a primary.
This is the ad that catapulted her into contention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONI ERNST (R), IOWA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Joni Ernst.
I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to
Washington, I will know how to cut pork.
NARRATOR: Joni Ernst, mother, soldier, conservative.
ERNST: My parents taught us to live within our means. It`s time to
force Washington to do the same, to cut wasteful spending, repeal Obamacare
and balance the budget.
I`m Joni Ernst, and I approve this message, because Washington is full
of big spenders. Let`s make them squeal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I mean, that ad really put her -- it just changed everything,
am I right?
COSTA: It was a sea change.
What`s amazing is that Joni Ernst enters this Senate primary as the
establishment favorite. Terry Branstad, the governor there, really likes
her and all of his allies really like her. But he`s managed to thread the
needle in this divided Republican Party to get endorsements from Sarah
Palin and a slew of Tea Party groups, as well as Branstad and all the Iowa
So I think she`s poised to do pretty well in a general election.
HAYES: Yes. And she will probably be taking on Bruce Braley. That`s
for the seat of the retiring Tom Harkin in Iowa. And that`s going to be a
COSTA: Oh, very much a real battle.
Bruce Braley, he is no pushover. This is a congressman who is pretty
sharp. He`s made a few mistakes here on the trail. He has a lot of money
behind him, a lot of trial lawyer money behind him. And he`s a good
campaigner. And Ernst, we will have to see can she in a swing state like
Iowa really endure a general election? I think she is sharp. I have
covered her on the ground in Iowa.
But right now, we have seen her really not establish herself as a
national GOP favorite. Tonight, in her speech, let`s watch it closely.
HAYES: Yes, that will be very interesting.
Robert Costa from "The Washington Post," thanks so much.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
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