All In With Chris Hayes, Thursday, June 5th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
June 5, 2014
Guest: Ben Domenech, Larry Korb, Lawrence Lessig, Mason Tvert, Joel Berg
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from Chicago tonight. I`m Chris
President Obama today took his critics head-on, standing squarely behind
his decision to authorize the release of the five detainees who had been
held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the one army sergeant, Bowe
Bergdahl, the lone American prisoner of war in Afghanistan who had been
held in captivity there for nearly five years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I make absolutely no
apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his participants
and that the American people understand that this is somebody`s child. And
that we don`t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Bowe Bergdahl has been land basted by conservatives and a number of
his fellow soldiers that fought with him. Who say he was a deserter who
walked away from his military post. With his harshest critics suggesting
he did not deserve to be saved.
The 28-year-old Army sergeant from Hailey, Idaho who is recovering in
Germany has yet to tell his side of the story. And the full story remains
unclear. Classified military report from 2009 (AUDIO GAP) just after
Bergdahl left the base found that Bergdahl seen here in Taliban video
shortly before his return to American custody had twice walked away from
assigned areas before, only to later return to his post.
Meanwhile, Taliban commanders tell NBC News they captured Bergdahl when
they discovered him walking alone outside his base. And that while
Bergdahl indicated he was frustrated with his countrymen, he said he did
not intend to join their cause.
Back in Washington, lawmakers including some Democrats continue to
criticize the deal to bring Bergdahl home. The Obama administration has
said it was spurred to act quickly in part by a proof of life video showing
Bergdahl in December, which has not been released to the public that
suggested the soldier may have been near death.
But some of the senators who watched that video at a classified briefing
yesterday disagreed that it provided proper justification for making the
deal, and the Republicans are attacking the Obama administration`s claim
that it did not notify senators of the prisoner swap in advance, in part
because it had intelligence the Taliban might kill Bergdahl if the news was
Senator John McCain saying it would not make sense for the Taliban to kill
Bergdahl and lose a valuable bargaining chip.
Meanwhile, on FOX News where Bergdahl has been turned from a POW into a
jihadist in under a week, the sergeant`s father, Bob Bergdahl, who grew a
beard to mark the time since Beau was captured and learned Pashto so he can
communicate to his son`s captors has also been deemed fair game for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: What he said on Sunday and what he said in the
Rose Garden, Walid is suggesting that he was declaring the Muslim victory
call, and then the president smiles when he does it as soon as he hears, he
calls it the war cry of Allah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Sean Hannity wasn`t the only FOX News host attacking Bob Bergdahl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: He has learned to speak Pashto, the language of
the Taliban, and looks like a Muslim. Now, the reason I said that Robert
Bergdahl looked like a Muslim is that he looks like a Muslim.
My job is to be honest and to analyze honestly. The man shows up at the
White House looking like a Muslim. He speaks Pashto. He thanks Allah.
But I`ll tell you this, Kurtz, and you`re going to remember these words --
this father and this son, they were sympathetic to the Taliban.
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS: I`m not disputing that.
O`REILLY: That`s going to be born out.
KURTZ: I`m not disputing that.
O`REILLY: That`s going to be born out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Blatant Islamophobia here. Here is a clip only by the sheer
ridiculousness of the argument. To be clear: O`Reilly is attacking Bowe
Bergdahl dad because he showed up at the white house with a beard looking
like a Muslim and he`s sympathetic to the enemy.
I mean, just look at the beard. If Bob Bergdahl`s dad looks like a Muslim
and that`s inappropriate, then who else should we be worried about? "The
Duck Dynasty" guys, ZZ Top, I have questions, Forrest Gump. What`s he
Who else? 2013 Boston Red Sox? The dude? If Abraham Lincoln and Jesus
Christ have inappropriate Muslim-looking beards like this, then someone
needs to look into the guy who wrote two sympathetic books about them. I
will be waiting for the "Factor" investigation.
Joining me now is Ben Domenech, publisher of "The Federalist" and senior
fellow at the Heartland Institute.
Ben, you and have I been going back and forth on Twitter on this. I am
really awe-struck at what feels to me character assassination that is
happening directed first at sergeant Bergdahl and now at the father. Can
we agree the dad is off limits?
BEN DOMENECH, HEARTLAND INSTITUTE: I think you left off Rick Ruben in that
folks to be investigated.
But let me suggest that I think to a large degree, this is kind of a
distraction from the real issues involved here in the sense that you went
through in your opening and talked about the challenges from senators to
this deal. I really do think those are legitimate arguments we need to
have about the nature of this deal. I don`t think it matters whether the
guy was a sympathizer or whether he defected or not in the bigger scheme of
things because you still, I think, it matters to the degree that you weigh
how much effort you have to put in to getting him back.
But I think that that`s really what this deal hangs on. It`s not so much
that we shouldn`t have gotten him back or that we should have left him
there. I think it`s more the question of was this the right deal to make,
was it possible to make a deal without sacrificing national security and
letting five bad guys go.
HAYES: So, letting -- so I agree. Let me say this. I agree that the
place that`s most contested and the place that`s most legitimate to have
the argument is about the other side of the deal. I mean, I am -- and I
understand that the people that fought with him are angry at him. Many of
them are furious with him. They felt like he deserted them.
HAYES: I`m not going to question their accounts of that. I want to see a
process play out in which this person is allowed to speak for himself,
allowed to defend himself, in which his state of mind can be investigated.
None of which is available to us. So let`s take that aside, right?
HAYES: Yes, please, go.
DOMENECH: I just have to say my brother served in Afghanistan. I know
that he would certainly have strong feelings about this same situation.
It`s understandable that have a lot of his colleagues over there would have
this passion. But to me, that`s irrelevant to the larger conversation
about what actually went on here.
HAYES: I actually -- OK, so you and I are agreeing about this.
I want to turn to the other side of the deal because I actually agree from
a policy perspective, that`s the bigger part. That`s about what do we do,
(a), about Guantanamo, and (b), what does the end of the Iraq war look
So don`t go anywhere. I want to play some sound from Lindsey Graham,
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, on what the exchange of Bowe Bergdahl
for five Taliban fighters at Guantanamo Bay means for the future of 149
prisoners still being held in that facility, including the 78 men still
there after having been cleared for transfer.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Closing Gitmo was part of why we
did this, getting these hard core guys out. It`s going to be impossible
for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without just a huge backlash.
There will be people on our side calling for his impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was actually June 4th. And many of the people being held at
Guantanamo Bay have been there for more than a decade. Our war in
Afghanistan is now finally apparently coming to an end.
So, Ben, and others, I have a simple question for people like Lindsey
Graham, which is, what is the plan? What`s the plan? Do you want to keep
these people there in Guantanamo until their last dying breath? Do you
realize what that means for Americans captured elsewhere whose captors can
point to Guantanamo Bay as precedent to justify keeping those Americans in
captivity until they die?
I really feel strongly you cannot enter the debate and criticize the terms
of the deal if you do not provide your own plan about how you deal with the
folks in Guantanamo.
That to me is the cost of entry. You don`t get to just say bad deal.
Lindsey Graham, I should not, declined our offer to come on our show and
offer to answer that question.
I want to bring in Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American
Progress, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan
Ben, I`ll actually start with you. What is your -- what do you think the
plan is? What do we do with the category of people that were Taliban
fighters picked up on the battlefield to get them out of Guantanamo?
DOMENECH: Well, not to be trite about this, but I actually think that`s
something that I wish the president had thought through more when he made
the promise to close it. Mainly -- and this is the first conversation that
Bob Gates relates in his book that he had with the incoming administration,
that he felt they underestimated how difficult it would be to close Gitmo.
From my perspective, closing Gitmo is a priority, but it isn`t the number
one priority. And I think that a lot of people --
HAYES: What is the number one priority?
DOMENECH: I think the number one priority is American national security.
And so, I think that means if you a due process that ultimately ends up in
a situation where you do have to keep some of this camp x-ray open until
some of these people die in the same way you kept Nazi prisons open in the
wake of World War II until Rudolph Hess died in the `80s, that I think
that`s something that is a viable scenario, but would take get take
bipartisan support for due process.
HAYES: Well, there is, I mean, look, so, Larry Korb, you want to respond
to that? I mean, there is a problem in the military commissions. It`s a
problem, right? There`s three categories.
The 78 who have been cleared for release who were rotting in Guantanamo,
many of whom have never been accused of doing anything wrong. They were in
the wrong place at the wrong time. There are people who are going to be
prosecuted, or are being prosecuted in the military commissions and then
there`s the third category of which these Taliban commanders were too
dangerous to release, not enough evidence to prosecute.
Larry, what do you say?
LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, basically, according to
the laws of war, as put forward by John Bellinger, who worked for Bush, and
a lawyer who worked for Bush and the National Security Council, Jeh Johnson
when he was the general council at the Department of Defense, when the
active hostilities end in Afghanistan, you`ve got to let these 40 or so go
under international law.
You can also transfer about 78 of them mainly to Yemen when you feel
necessary. So the only ones you have left are the ones you`re still trying
to try. It bugs me how long it`s taken to bring these people to trial.
HAYES: But this is the issue to me. You get people like Lindsey Graham or
John McCain or other people who say well, yes, we should close Guantanamo.
But when there is -- when there are people released, right, we see the
firestorm. You`re letting terrorists -- you`re letting terrorist go.
We`re seeing it everywhere. It creates exactly the condition that makes it
impossible to actually close Guantanamo.
DOMENECH: But Chris, don`t you think so much of that is motivated by the
fact that when they look at this deal, the white house, as you said came
out today and said we couldn`t tell the Senate about this. We had to do
this in a way that skirted the law. Because they swore they were going to
kill him. That to me doesn`t sound like a prisoner transfer at the end of
hostilities. That sounds like terrorists who have a hostage. And that is
a different scenario.
KORB: Yes, but the reason they`re doing it now is because by the end of
this year, you have to let them go. So, you got a good deal. I mean --
HAYES: Right, that`s the key point about the timing here, which I think
gets lost. Back when Michael Hastings wrote that article in 2012 about
Bowe Bergdahl, basically, the deal that happened was described in that
"Rolling Stone" article. It happened now with the provision that those
five guys stay in Qatar where they are monitored and then a year after that
go back to Afghanistan by which point the hostilities are essentially
ceasing -- stopping.
DOMENECH: I just think that that`s going have some negative ramifications.
And I think that`s why so many people are unsure about this deal, that they
feel like you let go some high-level people when there had been earlier the
possibility of a ransom or some other payment involved. There had been
other options there to get this guy out. And I think that`s the real
difference of opinion.
KORB: But wait a second. These people have been out of action for 12
years. It would be like bringing Michael Jordan back to play against
LeBron tonight. They were out of it.
The Taliban today is so much different when they were there, we didn`t
capture them. In fact, one guy was trying to work with us to turn in
another. Mullah Omar. So, you know, I mean, you`re really overstating the
capability of these people when they get back there, if they get back
HAYES: I think part of this is that this is, Ben and Larry, is that this
is essentially a proxy war about ending the Afghanistan war and more deeply
what it actually means to end the Afghanistan war. The people have to look
in the face of this whole thing that we have been at war for 13 years, and
the Afghanistan war is ending, and it`s not ending in a way that I think
Americans feel great about.
And that`s part of, I think, the kind of rage and reaction you`re seeing to
the deal is an expression of people being like, wait a second, this is what
it comes to, five Taliban fighters go back to Afghanistan? The answer is
yes, that is what it all comes down to.
DOMENECH: I think that the American people are more scared of the
ramifications of releasing these guys than Lawrence thinks, and I think
they are more concerned that we`re going to let some guys out there --
HAYES: Wait a second. But, Ben --
KORB: What would they be concerned about? Talking about what they were 12
or 13 years ago. This is a different Taliban. These people turned
themselves into the northern alliance.
HAYES: The other thing is whether they are justified in the fear. That to
me is the key point. Part of the reason they are fearful is people are
telling them we traded five terrorists. I think people have in their head
that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to learn how to fly planes into
buildings. And these guys for all their sins, alleged and confirmed, are
not those guys.
DOMENECH: I just think -- I think this is a difficult situation that was
brought on by the president`s promise and that he really ran into a
situation when he didn`t have it planned to achieve the bipartisan solution
that we needed to have.
HAYES: But, Ben, the bipartisan solution evaporates.
KORB: He could have transferred them to prisons in the United States and
people said, oh, you can`t do that because they will break out. The
security at some of our maximum security prisons in our country was more
than enough to take care of those. And that would have gotten the problem
HAYES: I think, Ben, I want to go back to one thing you said at the
beginning. And I praise you for being forthright about that that basically
one of the policies is you keep people there until you die. And I think if
that is -- I mean, I really don`t like that idea. I find it pretty awful
But if that`s the policy, people should be honest about that. If that is
basically, look, that`s what we`re advocating, then I want to see people
come forward and just embrace that and say that`s what`s on the table.
DOMENECH: Look, I don`t think we should have indefinite -- I don`t think
we should have indefinite detention without a due process. I think you
needed to have a due process, but I also think there are some guys that you
do have to keep there until they die. That`s what we`ve seen that in prior
conflicts. And I think that this one is no different.
HAYES: Publisher of "The Federalist", Ben Domenech, and Lawrence Korb from
the Center for American Progress -- thank you, gentlemen.
DOMENECH: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, the craziest race in America. The Republican primary in
Mississippi keeps getting crazier. Yesterday we told you about the Tea
Party official locked in a courthouse alone with the ballots in the middle
of the night. It turns out she wasn`t alone and I will tell you who was
with her, next.
HAYES: Tonight, there`s been another shooting on an American college
campus, this one at Seattle Pacific University. One person is in custody,
according to the Seattle Police Department. A lone suspect entered Otto
Miller Hall, shot four people and began reloading before university staff
disarmed him. One man has died, according to hospital sources, speaking
with "The Associated Press". One woman sustained life-threatening injuries
and one man and one woman are in stable condition.
Seattle police also tweeted there is not a search for a second suspect, as
had been previously reported. The university`s campus went into lockdown
as the event unfolded. SWAT officers continue to clear buildings,
according to Seattle Police, who say they will release more information as
soon as possible.
Stay with MSNBC and MSNBC.com for the latest on this story.
HAYES: There`s a woman in Mississippi named Janis Lane. She`s the
president of the central Mississippi Tea Party and despite being a woman
herself, she does not believe women should have the right to vote. In
2012, Lane told the "Jackson Free Press", "probably the biggest turn we
ever made is when the women got the right to vote. Our country might have
been better off if it was just men voting."
Why? Well, because women are just up to no good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANIS LANE, CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI TEA PARTY: There`s nothing worse than a
bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical and how they can skewer
a person. I do not see that in men. The whole time I worked, I would much
rather have a male boss than a female. You never can trust them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, Tuesday night in Mississippi all eyes were on the contentious
Senate primary between incumbent Thad Cochran and Tea Party challenger
Chris McDaniel, which was so close it now goes to a runoff.
But hours before the polls closed in the wee hours of the morning, this
woman, Janis Lane somehow found herself locked inside a Hinds County
courthouse just outside the area where the ballots that were cast in the
county on that day were being stored for night. Around 2:00 a.m., Lane
called the local Republican official to come let her out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said she needed my help. That she was locked
inside the courthouse and couldn`t get out. That she and a friend were in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It is by no means clear what a Tea Party official who referred to
Chris McDaniel as our current-day Esther was doing inside that courthouse
with the primary ballots in the middle of the night and the plot only
thickens from there.
According to reporting by "Talking Points Memo", Lane initially said she
was there with a female friend. It turns out she was actually accompanied
by two men, one of whom is this guy, Scott Brewster, a paid staffer of the
At 11:16 Tuesday night, while returns were still coming in, Brewster posted
on Facebook, quote, "I`m going to come down to Hinds County." And lo and
behold, later that night he lock ends up locked inside the courthouse with
The McDaniel campaign argues this is all perfectly innocent. They released
a statement that reads in part, "Last night with an extremely close
election, and Hinds being one of the last counties to report, our campaign
sent people to the Hinds Courthouse to obtain the outstanding numbers and
observe the count. In doing, so they entered the courthouse through an
open door after being directed by uniformed personnel. They were locked
inside the building."
But elections officials said they left long before Janis Lane called for
help from inside the building. And the Hinds County sheriff says there is
no way the group had help from uniformed personnel. He told MSNBC reporter
Benjy Sarlin, to say a uniformed officer let them into the building at that
time of night is a total fabrication of the truth.
And here`s the thing. This is not the most bizarre set of scheming
shenanigans to happen during this Mississippi Republican primary fight.
You may recall that four McDaniel supporters including yet another Tea
Party official were arrested for a conspiracy to break into the nursing
home where Thad Cochran`s wife is bedridden with dementia to photograph her
for an online attack video.
So, the weird overnight high jinks in the courthouse are just the latest
development in what is shaping up to be the weirdest campaign of the
season. The Hinds County sheriff today decided today not to pursue
criminal charges against the McDaniel, the two others who got locked inside
the courthouse. But with less than three weeks to go before the runoff
between Chris McDaniel and Thad Cochran, there may be just enough time for
this to have an impact in the race.
Joining me now is Benjy Sarlin, political reporter for MSNBC.com, who has
been reporting on this.
All right. Benjy, I -- the conventional wisdom has been Thad Cochran is
toast. There`s no way he can win this run off. I have to wonder what else
is going to come out what these people are up to, what the supporters are
up to. You`ve got the nursing home gate.
What else are we going to find out in the next three weeks?
BENJY SARLIN, MSNBC.COM: Well, that`s always been the caveat to McDaniel
being the front runner the runoff, which is that he is a very combustible
force. It seems you can`t go a day without some completely bizarre scandal
breaking out that involves his campaign or his supporters more often. Many
of whom are, as you mentioned, with Janis Lane, often sort of on the fringe
even within Mississippi Republican politics.
This is certainly what the Cochran campaign was already trying to tag
McDaniel with. That I talked to their spokesman shortly before I came on
here, Jordan Russell, and he said the issue is that he has all these,
quote, "very sketchy" characters around him and that he will embarrass the
party if he wins.
But if the nursing home break-in didn`t do it, you have to wonder how much
something like this is going to make the difference.
HAYES: And, although, here`s the difference to this one. The county
sheriff disputed their story, but did not charge them criminally about how
they got the courthouse. In this case unlike the nursing home break-in,
which just supporters, some of whom had a kind of few connections in the
campaign, this case you have a campaign staffer who is in there.
SARLIN: No, that`s absolutely true. And they have been emphasizing the
difference. You have a staffer in there.
Now of course, the McDaniel campaign has not gotten to me about what
happened there and how their story lines up with the sheriffs department
that very forcefully disputed it when I talked to them. But their likely
argument is just look, no one got charged, innocent mistake. However, it`s
definitely very weird to have a staffer there with -- bear in mind, the
nursing home break-in involved the leader from the same Tea Party group as
So you`re already getting yourself closer to this. And it happened at 2:00
in the morning.
HAYES: That`s exactly right. And the other thing when you take a step
back, not to lose this forest for the trees, what you do is you also have a
McDaniel staffer who`s running a campaign for a guy who very well be a
united states senator who is hanging out at the courthouse late at night
with a woman who believes that women should not have gotten the vote.
Like think about that for a second. Forget about the courthouse
shenanigans. Just for a sense of where this guy is on the political
spectrum, where his support is coming from, that tells you something as
SARLIN: Oh, absolutely. This has been something that`s been dogging
McDaniel for from the start. It`s one of the reasons national Republicans
are so worried about him.
Now, I am skeptical that Democrats can win this seat if McDaniel is the
nominee, but I think what`s absolutely clear that there`s a serious danger
to the national Republican party if you have this guy hanging around in the
Senate while you`re trying to do all this minority outreach, this outreach
to women. And it`s clear they just have fringe ties left and right.
McDaniel has been caught speaking at events sponsored by neo confederate
groups. There was an issue where he had to pull out of an event because
there was a white supremacist involved with the event.
This is something they have been harping on. This is just another example.
More you see the scandals, more you see how some of the extremity elements
are that are apparently pretty close to the McDaniel campaign staff.
HAYES: Yes, and my favorite latest one is that apparently one of his
staffers got busted by the Wikipedia editors trying to fluff up his bio on
Wikipedia. After he got booted off, a Tea Party supporter did the same
thing 20 minutes later.
SARLIN: But which supporter was that? It was one of the four people
arrested in connection with the nursing home break-in. It`s one of those
things. Were they coordinated. It`s 20 minutes. It seems that it`s
possible it`s a coincidence, but it`s just another one of the things that
seems to tie them closer together.
HAYES: Yes, if you`re the national Republican Party, you got a pit in your
stomach about this race.
Benjy Sarlin from MSNBC.com, thank you.
SARLIN: Thank you.
HAYES: All right. Coming up, the video everybody is talking about that`s
impossible to look away from. I have so many questions. That`s next.
HAYES: The most exciting thing ever to happen in the history of Polish
hotel workout facilities was posted to the Internet this week, this footage
of the president of the United States hitting the gym at the Marriott in
There`s him doing forward altering lunges, coupled with a dumbbell shoulder
press, lateral dumbbell raises, and bench step-ups, and dumbbell shoulder
presses, and free weights, and running on the elliptical machine.
So, how the heck did the Secret Service let this happen? They told NBC
News the guests were screened before entering the hotel, and they were not
asked to leave the gym and not asked to refrain from taking pictures
because the president`s visit was spontaneous, the Secret Service adding it
was no different than if he visited a restaurant and other diners took
pictures of him.
Well, given the itchy scandal trigger finger back in Washington, I will say
this. President Obama is lucky he got caught working out with just
weights, rather than doing Zumba.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Can I run for president and
keep my super PAC?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t have the PAC. You could have it run by
somebody else, but someone who you would not be coordinating with.
COLBERT: Is being business partners a problem?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being business partners does not count as coordination
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Can I legally hire
Stephen`s current super PAC staff to produce these ads that will be in no
way coordinated with Stephen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I will fully admit that my best understanding of super PACs comes
from Stephen Colbert. And I say this as someone who has read a lot about
super PACs and campaign finance.
I was happy to learn I`m not alone. A study released by the Annenberg
Center for Public Policy found that Colbert did a better job of teaching
his viewers about super PACs than, well, the rest of us did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLBERT: That`s right. I did a better job informing the public about
campaign finance reform than every other news organization and CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Colbert`s super PAC displays were meant as comedy education,
demonstrating the absolute absurdity of what we now allow in our elections.
But there`s a new super PAC, a bipartisan super PAC in town that is even
more ambitious, a super PAC that is being started with the explicit goal of
ending all super PACs.
It`s named Mayday PAC. The idea is the brainchild of a renowned law
professor Lawrence Lessig and is backed by some of the biggest names in
And joining me now to explain, the man himself, Lawrence Lessig. He`s also
professor of law at Harvard Law School.
All right, Larry, what is the plan here with the Mayday PAC?
LAWRENCE LESSIG, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: We want to build a PAC that`s going
to be big enough to win a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016.
And to do that, we`re going to run a series of races in 2014 both to figure
out what messaging, what way to intervene will work, and also to send a
message to Congress that this is serious and voters care about it. And
when we come back in 2016, they better be on the right side of this issue.
HAYES: So, the idea is you`re actually raising real money to have a real
operational super PAC that`s actually going to play in races and it`s going
to play in races on the issue of campaign finance.
LESSIG: That`s right.
We have raised the money for 2016 -- for 2014. We have raised a
significant start of this money through just Kickstarting it. So, we on
May 1 launched this Kickstart, where we said we wanted to raise $1 million
in 30 days; 13 days into that 30 days, we had crossed the million dollar
mark. And then last week, I announced that we got that million dollars
matched by six really incredible people who support reform in this way.
And yesterday we launched our second major challenge, which is to raise $5
million in 30 days, which is going to be a very difficult feat to hit, but
we`re working incredibly hard to do it.
So, there`s two things that come to mind. First, on the kind of using the
master`s tools to take apart the master`s house, as it were, or the charge
of hypocrisy, is there something inherently hypocritical about using super
PACs to try to go at the issue of campaign finance?
LESSIG: Look, before the 19th Amendment, women couldn`t vote in America.
And I think that was an unjust system, where women couldn`t vote. But
there was nothing wrong, I think, with men organizing to try to give women
the right to vote. To try to achieve equality, you use an unequal system
to achieve it.
Same with African-Americans and the 15th Amendment. When only whites could
vote, it took whites to get together to make it so African-Americans.
Obviously, it took 100 years after the amendment to make that real. But,
still, the point is that the imperfect system has to be made better by
using the system.
So, yes, I think we should not have a system where campaigns -- or where
super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money to support campaigns or to
oppose campaigns. That`s not to say I oppose PACs. I think limited PACs
are a good thing. That`s part of democracy. But we`re going to use the
rules the way the system is right now to achieve a system which is closer
to the ideas of what a more perfect democracy will be.
HAYES: OK. So, here to me strikes me as the bigger challenge than raising
money, because I think you`re a charismatic person, you have got a good
network. I think the idea has a certain kind of appeal to it.
It strikes me a more difficult challenge to get voters to care about
campaign finance, and not just care in some, yes, they will say yes to a
pollster they care about, or, yes, they clap when you speak, but care
enough to vote a certain way in an election, that it`s a make-or-break,
votable issue. That to me seems something that people have had a hard time
figuring out for a long time.
LESSIG: Yes, I get that.
And this is the skepticism that`s surrounded this issue forever. But,
actually, that skepticism is hiding two different things. Number one, the
vast majority of Americans, according to the polling we have done, more
than 90 percent of Americans believe that the influence of money in
politics should be reduced.
But, number two, about the same number of Americans, 91 percent of
Americans, don`t think it`s possible.
LESSIG: So this is the politics of resignation. People accept the world
the way it is because they are adults. They know that nothing else can be
done. But if you begin to give them a plan, an idea, a way in which they
could credibly believe something could be done, then the energy, the
passion for that kind of reform begins to break through.
And I think the very first challenge that we did, the million dollars in 30
days, is perfect evidence of that. Look, we did no promotion. We had no
online ads. All we did is put up a Web site. I put out a blog post. We
sent some e-mails out to a Rootstrikers list, and within two days we had
And then our servers melted. And then within two weeks, we had raised a
million dollars, because people care about this issue enough to open up
their credit cards and give money to support it.
So, that`s going to be our challenge, to prove to people this issue is
important enough for people to vote on it. And I think when we take out
five congressmen in this next election cycle, they`re going to understand
this is an issue Americans care about.
HAYES: Lawrence Lessig of the Mayday PAC, we will be watching and we will
check back with you later. Thanks a lot.
LESSIG: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up: If Maureen Dowd had been a poor person living in
Georgia and had eaten a pot candy bar, instead of a "New York Times"
columnist in Colorado who ate a pot candy bar, she might not be eating
anything at all. I will explain ahead.
HAYES: Tomorrow night, we will be bringing you a special presentation of
"ALL IN America: On the Road in the Conservative Heartland," a full hour of
stories and reporting from our "ALL IN America" series, including new
reports you haven`t yet seen. That`s tomorrow night at 8:00.
HAYES: As you may have heard by now, Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York
Times" columnist Maureen Dowd got really high.
She was doing some research in Denver after Colorado`s legalization of
marijuana, and Dowd had a really bad trip, like super bad. Dowd wrote it
all up in a recent column.
"I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a
hallucinatory state for the next eight hours."
As you might expect, Dowd has gotten a lot of response, including from this
guy, Matt Brown, described as one of Maureen Dowd`s primary marijuana
industry contacts in Denver. Brown is the co-founder of My 420 Tours,
featuring the Colorado Summer Mountain Cannabis Tour.
And as he tells "The Cannabist," he showed Dowd around town. As for the
burning question, did you like warn Maureen Dowd of how potent those pot
edibles can be, the answer,according to "The Cannabist," is, yes, man, yes.
"She got the warning," Brown said. "She did what all the reporters did.
She listened. She bought some samples. I don`t remember what exactly. Me
and the owner of the dispensary we were at and the assistant manager and
the budtender talked with her for 45 minutes at the shop."
The article even implies Dowd could have avoided the whole super bad trip
if she had just rolled a joint instead -- quote -- "She got some bud, some
edibles and when we got back to the hotel she had to run off to a Mitt
Romney documentary screening. She asked me, `Will you roll a joint for me?
I don`t know how to do it.` But she had to run really quickly to the
screening, and I was going to catch a flight the next day, and we were
going to connect a few nights later but it never worked out."
You heard that right, Mitt Romney documentary, the urgency of getting to
said documentary kept Maureen Dowd from getting a joint rolled for her.
So, instead, she ate that edible, well, part of it anyway, and too much of
it at that. And, as she writes, this is what happened in her hotel room:
"I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my
green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia
deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me."
Now, as wacky as all this sounds, part of Dowd`s intention, as expressed in
the rest of her column, was to shed some light on instances in which the
consumption of Colorado in has led to some truly bad outcomes.
The question, however, is whether such instances are prevalent or outliers.
Joining me now is Mason Tvert. He`s director of communications for the
Marijuana Policy Project.
Mason, how common is this? Are there lots of people in hotel rooms and
their apartments in Colorado since legalization freaking out all the time?
MASON TVERT, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: Well, it`s obviously hard to tell
just how people`s experiences are going.
But, ultimately, edible marijuana products can be very uncomfortable if
someone consumes too much of them. And it`s really important that they get
the information they need to do it responsibly. But I think it`s safe to
say more people every night are throwing up from drinking too much than
eating too many edibles.
The kind of serious issue at the base of this column, which I got a chuckle
out of, as many people did, is the fact that you have now got this -- you
have got this legalized market and all of a sudden you`re dealing with
dosages, you`re dealing with amounts and potency of a drug that has never
really been regulated and probably hasn`t been available easily
commercially at the potency that it is now available in Colorado.
TVERT: Well, you know, here`s the thing is, when it comes to something
like alcohol, people have been around it their whole life, so they know
that something like whiskey, it`s 80 proof, they understand that that`s
more something that is more potent than, say, beer or a glass of wine.
TVERT: And then they adjust accordingly. When it comes to something like
marijuana, particularly edible products, a lot of people just aren`t quite
aware of exactly how much they want to use.
Even if they know that it`s 10, 20 milligrams of THC, they are not
necessarily sure if that`s what they want or if they need more or less.
HAYES: Yes. And these sort of intense trip stories aside, there`s been a
little bit of kind of reefer madness coverage I have seen out of Colorado.
There was one "New York Times" article, aside from the Maureen Dowd column.
There`s been some other stuff about someone -- a murder that was briefly
linked to pot or pot consumption possibly.
What is the data saying about how the experiment in Colorado has been going
in terms of its effect on crime?
TVERT: Well, things are going exceptionally well.
It`s way too early to really look at things and say, well, there`s a causal
relationship between the system and a reduction in crime. It`s worth
noting that crime has been down and has not gone up. And contrary to what
a lot of folks, opponents of this law said, we`re not seeing the sky fall.
We`re not seeing any sort of massive increases in use.
We`re seeing tens of millions of dollars in new revenue and licensing fees
coming into the state and its localities. But, ultimately, it`s just
another day in Colorado. It`s just that adults who want to use marijuana
can buy it in a store, rather than on the streets.
HAYES: Is there preliminary data about expansion of use? That -- it
strikes me that there`s some nontrivial number of people who, when
something goes from being illegal to legal, are going to be much more
likely to use it.
TVERT: Well, there`s been some polling done. A Quinnipiac poll that came
out in April showed that there hasn`t been an increase in the general level
of Coloradans who have used marijuana since it became legal.
Ultimately, marijuana has been around. It`s been available in every state
in this country for decades and decades. And so it`s not as if all of a
sudden people who were dying to use marijuana now can.
By and large, people who were already using marijuana are still doing it.
They are just getting it in a safer, legal fashion, and paying taxes on it.
But there are some people who are probably trying or trying it again --
they haven`t used it in a long time -- because it`s now legal and they
don`t have to fear being arrested.
And we`re not really seeing any problems as a result. Everything is going
very smoothly. And we`re going to need to iron out some of the regulatory
things. And that`s how things have been with alcohol for quite a long time
is, every year, we need to look at how things are going and improve upon
them if needed.
HAYES: My big -- the big thing I`m looking for is not usage.
And it`s not necessarily revenue and it`s not crime. It`s incarceration.
I`m really curious to see. There`s a certain argument that this is one way
of starting to roll back the crazy amounts of incarceration we do in our
society. I`m really curious to see at the end of the first year of this
experiment whether that`s going to have that effect. I really hope it
Mason Tvert from the Marijuana Policy Project, thanks for your time.
TVERT: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, the state of Georgia has passed a law that`s actually
illegal. And now the federal government, the Obama administration is
stepping in to stop it.
I`ll tell you what that law is next.
HAYES: If you`re a columnist for "The New York Times," you can go to
Colorado and eat some pot and probably get 100,000 clicks out of it. But
if you`re a poor person in Georgia, it can mean you and your kids don`t get
Or at least that`s the idea behind the Republican-backed law that will
require food stamp recipients in that state to be drug tested. Thankfully,
the USDA is saying in no uncertain terms the Georgia law is illegal. The
law, passed by the legislation in March and signed by Republican Governor
Nathan Deal, would require testing in cases where state workers have a --
quote -- "reasonable suspicion the person is using drugs."
It`s scheduled to go into effect on July 1. But U.S. Department of
Agriculture policy prohibits states from mandating drug testing on food
stamp applicants and recipients, according to a letter from the regional
administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
The state of Georgia is expected to put up a fight.
State Representative Greg Morris, who sponsored the measured, said: "I
believe the bill will withstand a court challenge. I believe the state of
Georgia should defend suspicion-based drug testing."
Joining me now, Joel Berg, executive director of the New York Coalition
Against Hunger, author of "All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?"
All right, Joel, why is this a bad idea?
JOEL BERG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK COALITION AGAINST HUNGER: It`s a
horrible idea because, as they proved in Florida when they tried drug
testing welfare recipients, the testing cost far more than it saved.
It turns out that people on welfare were getting less positive tests for
drugs than the population as a whole. And food stamps aren`t welfare and
this is a violation of federal law.
Why does the right want to intrude in people`s personal lives? When it
comes to big polluters and big ranchers loafing in federal lands, they
don`t want the federal government on their back. But when it comes to
struggling families, trying to support themselves by getting food while
they`re looking for work or they`re looking at low -- working for low
wages, these conservatives want the government on their back, their top,
their front, their bottom.
There`s no ideological consistency whatsoever, and this is a huge big
government waste of money that the conservatives are supposed to be
HAYES: Yes, I want to back up that fact about Florida. A 2011 article
about Florida`s drug testing, since the state began testing welfare
applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive,
preliminary data shows; 96 percent proved to be drug-free, leaving the
state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their test.
The other part of this that strikes me, aside from the fact it`s a blatant
violation of federal law, they cannot do it under federal law, is that it
strikes me as particularly perverse, which is always the case when you come
back to food stamps and SNAP is, let`s say you had a parent who was on
drugs. What good would it do their kids to take away the food stamps for
them to get food?
I`m having a really hard time figuring out how that`s a net positive policy
BERG: It would do no good for anyone.
And you will recall that one of the congresspeople from Florida who
supported drug testing of welfare recipients ended up being caught with
HAYES: That`s a good point.
BERG: The level of hypocrisy and just punishing poor people for the crime
of being poor is insane. This is ridiculously counterproductive, a waste
of money, criminalizing poverty.
And why don`t elected officials in Georgia actually do their job, reduce
the need for food stamps, SNAP, by creating more jobs and ensuring they pay
a living wage? That will reduce the need for food stamps far more than
picking on low-income families.
HAYES: There is a real ugliness here.
I think it`s really interesting to see the way that drug politics are
moving in two different directions simultaneously, because on the one hand
I think there`s a certain kind of part of the conservative elite that want
to legalize drugs, that support the Colorado experiment.
You have even got people on FOX News arguing with their hosts about -- in
favor of marijuana. And then at the grassroots level, where you got
conservative lawmakers in the states, you`re seeing state after state try
these kind of ways of punishing the poor if they are using drugs through
this drug testing.
BERG: Well, this isn`t about drug policy.
This isn`t about any consistency on libertarianism. This is about going
after poor people. And frankly there`s always an undercurrent of race in
this. They may never use a term related to race, but they are basically
sending the message to their base, oh, my goodness, look at these horrible,
evil people sucking away our tax dollars and doing horrible things like
taking drugs, when the fact of the matter is two-thirds of the people on
the SNAP program are children, senior citizens and people with
There are veterans who need the program, active-duty military personnel and
their families. This is demonizing challenged families, struggling
families for a simple, clear-cut, cold-eyed political agenda.
HAYES: So where are we, Joel? We have been uncovering the sort of food
stamp war on this show. And I feel like there was this barrage -- it
became a very hot thing for Republicans to attack it.
We had the FOX documentary, which was preposterous in a million different
directions. You had the $40 billion cut that came out of the House. The
cut you ended up getting out of the farm bill was much less than that.
Where do you think the momentum is on this battle now? You know this
better than anyone.
BERG: Well, it`s interesting.
Governor Corbett in Pennsylvania came into office wanting to demonize low-
income people as well. And he turned around and took the so-called heat or
eat option after the farm bill passed to increase access to food stamp
benefits, SNAP benefits, in Pennsylvania.
So I think the pendulum has swung. I think more and more Americans
understand this is not welfare. This is work support to help struggling
families get by in their low-wage jobs. And I think support for these
programs goes hand in hand with the budding movement to increase the
HAYES: Yes. And it`s interesting. Corbett in Pennsylvania, I agree, is a
sort of interesting weather vane.
The bordering state with Chris Christie in New Jersey has not made that
move to restore food stamp cuts. He could do it if he wanted to. Tom
Colicchio has been talking about that. We`re keeping our eye on that.
Joel Berg from the New York Coalition Against Hunger, it`s always a
pleasure. Thank you.
BERG: Thank you.
HAYES: All right, that is ALL IN for this evening from Chicago.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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