'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Past transcripts by month
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
July 8, 2014
Guest: Donita Judge, Wendy Davis
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
We`ve got Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Texas governor here
tonight for the interview. I hope you will stick around for that.
But we start with this. Second terms are tough for American
presidents. In Bill Clinton`s second term, he got impeached. In Richard
Nixon`s second term, he was about to get impeached and then he had to
resign the presidency. In Ronald Reagan`s second term he had to come up
with the "I don`t remember anything" answer to make the Iran Contra scandal
go away, although 14 members of his administration got indicted in that
scandal, including his defense secretary and two of his national security
And in George W. Bush`s second term, it was clear very early on in
that second term that that second term for him, like most other modern
presidents, was also not going to be a walk in the park. And there was
this great snapshot, this great moment in time less than one week after
George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term where President Bush was
just having a brutal, brutal press conference. It was a press conference
that telegraphed a lot of the things that were going to make his second
term a really hard time for him.
A lot of questions were about Iraq. This was January 2005. Things
were absolutely terrible and about to get worse and he had already said
we`d won that war a long time ago. The president said he wanted to spend
all the political capital he accrued by winning the election by convincing
the country that we ought to privatize Social Security. He was going to
convince America that that was a great idea. That went over about as well
as you would expect.
So, at the moment of this press conference, President Bush is not even
sworn in a week yet for his second term, but he`s getting really tough
questions about Iraq, really tough questions about privatizing Social
Security and he also at that press conference had to face this array of
super embarrassing, super direct questions about his administration getting
caught buying off the media. Do you remember this? Paying reporters to
write positive columns and stories about the administration. That really
President Bush had to admit it to the White House press corps that
that had happened. And that it was a bad thing. He promised it wouldn`t
But then in that moment, at that terrible press conference for him
where he`s answering questions about that, it turned out that there were
actually two terrible things happening at once -- in terms of this odd
relationship between the conservative media and Republican politics. There
was the thing they were talking about overtly in terms of paying for good
But then there was also the hooker thing, all happening at the same
time. We did not know about the hooker thing at the time that this press
conference happened, but it just makes this moment so incredible when you
look back at it. Take a -- we`ll show you the clip here. Take a very
close look at the guy who throws President Bush the softball question at
the end of this clip to try to rescue the president, essentially, when this
press conference was getting to be really tough on him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you think it`s a proper use of government
funds to pay commentators to promote your policies?
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: No.
QUESTION: Are you ordering that there be an end to that practice?
BUSH: I expect -- yes, I am. I expect my cabinet secretaries to make
sure that that practice doesn`t go forward. There needs to be
independence, and Mr. Armstrong Williams admitted he made a mistake.
QUESTION: Mr. Williams made a mistake. Did the Department of
Education made a mistake?
BUSH: Yes. They did.
All our cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying,
you know, commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able
to stand on its own two feet. I`m confident you`ll be, over the course, of
the next four years willing to give our different policies an objective
look. Won`t you?
Yes. I can see that. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very
bleak picture of the U.S. economy, Harry Reid was talking about soup lines
and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of
collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock
solid and there`s no crisis there.
How are you going to work -- you`ve said you`re going to reach out to
these people. How are you going to work with people who seem to have
divorced themselves from reality?
BUSH: The -- continue to speak to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton hadn`t said anything
like that. Rush Limbaugh said they had said those things. But this guy
quoted Rush Limbaugh to the president, said, how are you going to work with
these people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality? And, boy,
was President Bush relieved to get that question. He smiles in the middle
of the question.
And that man who asked that softball question of the president sort of
rescuing him at this point in his press conference, that handsome man it
turns out the man who asked that president -- that question of President
George W. Bush, he represented a website called "Talon News". Ever heard
of "Talon News"? That`s OK.
"Talon News" it turns was a project of something called GOP USA, and
the George W. Bush White House had accredited that news source with a White
House press pass and had put that specific reporter on the lists of
reporters for the president to call on at press briefings. But their
accredited reporter, there in the briefing room, from whom President Bush
must have been so relieved to get that rescue me question, that guy was
actually a hooker.
That was Jeff Gannon of "Talon News" and Jeff Gannon of gopusa.org.
He was Jeff Gannon of jeffgannon.com. But he was also Jeff Gannon of
hotmilitarystud.com, and militaryescortsm4m.com, as in
His name wasn`t really Jeff Gannon. But that was his handsome bald
head which President Bush liked to touch sometimes from the photographic
evidence. And he apparently was paid roughly in the order of $200 an hour
for the naked services that he provided at hotmilitarystud.com. Those, of
course, are separate and distinct from the journalistic services that he
provided in the White House briefing room.
Being a hooker, itself, isn`t that much of a scandal. All right?
It`s called the oldest profession for a reason. But the interaction of
high-level politics, high-level politicians and hookers, that can be a very
awkward thing. I mean, the White House press office accrediting a hooker
from a conservative media Web site as if that guy were a reporter, right?
I mean, that was a legitimate scandal for the George W. Bush
administration, one of the earliest in what would turn out to be a very
bumpy second term for that presidency.
But do yourself a favor the next time you`re stranded somewhere and
you got some battery life left on your personal electronic device, just for
fun when you have a minute, Google "prostitute Washington scandal." Some
combination of those three words. It`s important to include the word
"scandal" or you`ll get a different set of results.
"Prostitute Washington scandal," that`s an amazing history. I mean,
randomly pick a jurisdiction out of the air, pick a time period. We`ve had
a lot of these.
I mean, just pick a city in the news right now. Murrieta, California,
that`s where these virulent anti-immigration protests have been going.
Local residents from that town in California had been screaming at buses
full of unaccompanied immigrant kids in government buses, screaming at the
kids about how they`re diseased and they`re not welcome here in this
country and nobody wants them. USA! USA!
Murrieta, California, has been showing a rather rough face to the
world as these protests have gone on over the last couple of weeks, but you
know what? Google them a different way and find out that Murrieta`s
congressman, their local representative in Washington, is one of Congress`
First elected to Congress in 1992, Ken Calvert in 1994 narrowly
avoided getting criminally charged after police found him with a known
prostitute in his car one night. But he later admitted to the "L.A. Times"
what happened. This was the headline. "Scandal imperils young political
career after months of denial, riverside congressman admits sexual
relations with a known prostitute." Quote, "I was feeling intensely
lonely", he says.
Now, he is feeling intensely incumbent because that happened in 1994
but Murrieta, California, sent Ken Calvert to Congress ten times since
then. No harm, no foul apparently.
On the Democratic side, beloved liberal Congressman Barney Frank also
survived his own special variety of hooker scandal. Before Congressman
Frank came out as gay, his then-secret boyfriend in Washington turned out
to be running a gay prostitution ring out of Barney Frank`s apartment. So,
it wasn`t Barney Frank`s prostitution ring, so much as it was his secret
boyfriend`s prostitution ring that he says he didn`t know about, but still
Massachusetts elected him for another 13 terms before he retired last year
with a reputation that could not have been more positive.
Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, he chose to resign his
office after he admitted to repeatedly patronizing prostitutes in what
turned out to be some very nice Washington, D.C. hotels, including other
locations. He resigned as New York governor. He then tried for a
comeback, not last year. He ran for New York City comptroller. The
comeback failed. He lost.
In the space of three weeks in 1976, there were two separate amazing
congressional hooker scandals. Democratic congressman named Allan Howe of
Utah, charges of soliciting two policewomen who were posing as prostitutes.
He refused to resign but then he very quickly lost his seat in Congress.
On May 23rd, 1976, within three weeks of that other one, "The
Washington Post" ran an interview with the young woman, Elizabeth Ray,
saying she was employed as secretary for the administration committee in
the U.S. House of Representatives, headed by Congressman Wayne Hays of
Ohio. She said she was the secretary for the House Administration
Committee despite the fact that, quote, "I can`t type, I can`t file, I
can`t even answer the phone." She said the main responsibility of her
$14,000 a year job was to have sex with Congressman Wayne Hays, the
chairman of the committee.
That one was kind of like prostitution by taxpayer-funded payroll.
That one we were all johns, sort of.
"The Washington Post" printed the "I can`t even answer the phone"
quote from the secretary in that one in May 23rd of that year. The Ethics
Committee opened an investigation on June 2nd. That congressman resigned
his leadership positions on June 3rd and by the end of summer that year, he
was out of Congress altogether.
So, hooker scandals sometimes cost members of Congress their jobs, but
not always. The best federal elected official hooker scandal we have had
in a really long time, though, remains the hooker scandal that belongs to
serving United States Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. Having run for
office on the basis of his strong family values, using his wife and his
kids in his campaign ads in order to proclaim his moral fitness as a family
man for the job of being a senator, Senator Vitter was later revealed to be
a frequent customer of lots of different prostitutes.
And when he was outed, Senator Vitter refused to resign but he did
make his wife stand next to him at the press conference where he confessed
to his serious sin and talked about how much he had been paying for sex.
David Vitter confessed to serious hooker sins but he found his friends in
the Republican Party to be very forgiving. None of the other Republicans
in the Senate said that Senator Vitter should resign.
Bobby Jindal in Louisiana said he forgave Senator Vitter for the
hooker thing. The chairman of the state Republican Party in Louisiana
said, quote, "I think if nothing else comes out and this is all there is,
then three weeks from now, this will all be behind him."
So this serving U.S. senator, family values conservative Republican
senator, confesses to a long history of patronizing prostitutes both in
Washington and Louisiana, and the Republican Party says, it`s kind of OK
with us, we forgive him, let`s move on, let`s put this behind us. He
definitely should not resign.
At the time that Senator Vitter`s hooker scandal came to light, it
should be noted that Louisiana`s governor was a Democrat, Kathleen Blanco.
So, had Republican Senator David Vitter resigned over the hooker scandal,
the Democratic governor of the state would have been able to pick his
replacement in the Senate. So, he probably would have been taken out of
the Senate and replaced with a Democrat.
So, David Vitter definitely shouldn`t resign. This hooker thing, it`s
OK, it`s just not that big a deal, everybody should get over it.
This year, this spring in Louisiana, another family values
conservative Republican, congressman from Louisiana named Vance McAllister,
he was caught on tape making out with one of his own congressional staffers
who was not his wife. She, in fact, was somebody else`s wife.
Now, nobody is a hooker in this circumstance and they`re not shtupping
in the hallway. They`re just kissing. The reaction to that was like night
and day compared to David Vitter. I mean, the same Bobby Jindal who
forgave David Vitter immediately for hookers said that Vance McAllister in
contrast, he had to resign, he had to go. He called Vance McAllister an
That exact same Republican Party chairman in Louisiana, the same guy
who said David Vitter`s hooker problem would just go away if we stopped
talking about it, this would all be behind him in a few weeks, that same
Republican Party chair in Louisiana said that the guy who just got caught
kissing one of his staffers with no hookers involved at all, he says that
that guy has to resign. "Mr. McAllister`s extreme hypocrisy is an example
of why ordinary people are fed up with politics. A breach of trust of this
magnitude can only be rectified by an immediate resignation. He has
embarrassed our party, our state, and the institution of Congress."
But David Vitter with the hookers, that`s OK. He didn`t say that last
part -- it was just implied when the man said the word "hypocrisy" and the
giant asterisk appeared in your mind.
See, David Vitter had he resigned, he would have been replaced by a
Democrat. Vance McAllister represents kind of a safe Republican seat. So,
it`s OK to grandstand about morals when it comes to him. It won`t have any
partisan consequences so he`s got to go. David Vitter`s got to stay.
Hooker scandals are about as rare in American politics as hot days in
July. We have a lot of them. But just because we have them all the time,
we have them even in the White House briefing room, it doesn`t mean that
they`re ever anything but awkward. Hooker scandals are awkward in
But here, perhaps, is the mother of them all. When the David Vitter
hooker scandal broke in 2007, one of the TV shows here on this network on
MSNBC was hosted by a very nice guy named Tucker Carlson. He was still in
his bow tie days then. The show had originally been called "The Situation
with Tucker Carlson." That`s when I was on it, succession of terribly
incredible shirts and haircuts.
But then it stopped being "The Situation with Tucker Carlson" and
started just being "Tucker." And when the David Vitter story broke, Tucker
Carlson on the show Tucker, like every Republican in the Senate and like
those Republican officials in Louisiana decided that senator -- they
decided that Senator David Vitter`s history with hookers wasn`t a big deal,
right? Nothing we should bother the senator about.
Tucker made the case that frankly when it comes to patronizing
hookers, that`s barely even illegal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON: It`s even more ridiculous, it`s not even the
Democrats who are doing it, it`s the press, it`s us, it`s the media. After
humiliating David Vitter, putting his wife`s picture on television, as many
of us have which is almost indefensible, in my opinion, because she didn`t
do anything, guy`s got four kids.
We`ve helped destroy his life. Publicized this thing he did. Now,
we`re in the press attacking him for not showing his face in public.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Wait a minute. This
guy lied for years about this. OK?
CARLSON: Lied about going to hookers? Supposed to tell the truth?
What the hell are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lied about going to a hooker. May I point out
something out? This is against the law, a felony. The question is not is
he going to resign --
CARLSON: I don`t believe it`s a felony.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real question is, is he going to be charged
with breaking the law? By the way, prostitution is against the law in New
Orleans and even Washington, D.C.
CARLSON: But hold on, it`s against the law in the sense that double
parking is against the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tucker --
CARLSON: Let`s be real here. No, come on, come on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- because they`re a little more serious. I think
CARLSON: In New Orleans? Ever been to a restaurant in New Orleans?
One out of three women is for sale. Come on.
You know, I wish David Vitter were a Democrat. I wish he were a
liberal Democrat. I wish he were Russ Feingold because then I would defend
him every bit as zealously as I`m defending not what David Vitter did, but
his right to be unbothered by the rest of us for something that`s none of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Listen. Senator wants to go see a hooker, come on. One out
of every three women in your average Louisiana restaurant is for sale.
It`s like double parking.
Who among us has not paid a hooker for sex while serving in the United
States Senate? Can`t these people solicit hookers in peace without us
bothering them? And embarrassing them?
So, Mr. Carlson, that`s when he was here on MSNBC. He made a big
point of how it is no big deal to see a hooker if you are a U.S. senator.
And he said he felt that way not just because David Vitter was a Republican
senator when he was seeing hookers, he said he would feel that way even
about Democratic senators seeing hookers.
In fact, he wished David Vitter was a Democratic senator so he could
make that point more clearly. It`s none of our business about senators and
And the reason why it matters what somebody said about this on MSNBC
in 2007 when the David Vitter hooker scandal broke open is because Mr.
Carlson, who, again, I have to say is a very nice guy, went on to found a
conservative media outlet called "The Daily Caller", which right before the
election in 2012 broke the news, what they said was a news story about a
Democratic senator, oh my God, paying for hookers.
It was just days before the 2012 election Senator Bob Menendez of New
Jersey was up for re-election and Mr. Carlson`s own publication ran what
they described as a scoop. Complete with the two obscured face video
interviews with women who they said had been paid by Senator Menendez to
have sex with him -- so much for not caring about hooker scandals, right?
This one was a Democrat. So much for that.
Mr. Carlson`s Web site ran with it big. They pushed the story hard
enough that it was picked up as a Tucker Carlson scoop all over the FOX
News Channel, multiple shows on that channel and lots of FOX News Channel`s
radio shows, too. Again, this was days before the 2012 election.
It also got tons of online traffic from the conservative mega Web site
the Drudge Report. As a result of those allegations, the FBI sent
investigators to the Dominican Republic, alleged site of the senator`s
alleged hookering to investigate those charges.
But a funny thing happened on the way to that conservative media
scoop. Bob Menendez did survive the last-minute onslaught of allegations
before the election. He was re-elected in November.
But then, within a few months that emerged that lots and lots of other
news networks had been shopped this alleged story about Bob Menendez and
hookers. Politico.com said they had been shopped that story. They looked
into it, did not think it was credible enough to publish.
"The Star Ledger" in New Jersey had, shopped that story. They looked
into it, found it not credible enough to publish.
"The New York Post", which I`m sorry is not known for its high
standards of what it will or will not publish, "The New York Post" was
shopped that story about Senator Menendez. "The New York Post" looked into
it, found it not credible enough to publish.
The ethics watchdog group CREW in Washington, D.C., said they`d been
contacted by a tipster who called himself Pete Williams, not to be confused
with NBC`s Pete Williams presumably. They`d been contacted by a tipster
who tried to shop them this story about Bob Menendez and prostitutes and
this tipster wanted CREW to do sort of an ethics expose on the senator.
CREW called the ABC News and asked the ABC News investigative unit if
they would please to look into the story to try to verify the claims from
the tipster. And ABC News, like all these other networks, they looked into
it and they found the story was not credible enough to report or broadcast
or publish in any way.
But Tucker Carlson was very happy to do it. And so because he did it,
then FOX News did it, and then the "Drudge Report" did it and even as the
FBI left the Dominican Republic empty handed apparently like all of those
real news organizations did on this story, when nobody was able to
corroborate it, the right wing media stuck with it. They never walked it
And that is where it would have ended. Just circling the drain of
Jeff Gannon, White House briefing room hooker and "Talon News", and
Armstrong Williams being paid to write favorable stories about the
administration, the New Black Panther Party, and Shirley Sherrod, and
Michelle Obama said whitey, and the president is secretly Kenyan and
Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster and all the rest of this bullpucky that
has been invented by and for the conservative media who`s happy to tell
each other for years that this stuff is news and not just stuff they made
up. While the real media and frankly the politicians who have to swim in
that sewer have to worry about this parallel track of paranoid fake
information that traffics as news on the American political right, but that
is disproven everyone else outside their echo chamber.
The Bob Menendez story nobody could verify outside the right wing echo
chamber would have circled the drain along with the rest of all that stuff,
had there was not the lingering question of who started the story in the
first place? Who was the unanimous tipster? This pseudonymous Pete
Williams who contacted CREW and contacted all these other media
organizations trying to shop this story, which then nobody responsible
Who started it? Where did it come from? Who was out there pushing so
hard for all these different outlets to look into this story before they
could find one lax enough or craven enough to actually run with it?
Well, this story broke last night in "The Washington Post." Quote,
"According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government
intelligence, the CIA has obtained credible information, including Internet
protocol addresses linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and
efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media. The alleged
Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year
to U.S. government officials and sent to the FBI`s counterintelligence
It is one thing for us to domestically be inventing this stuff for
ourselves, right? It`s another thing for this weird fake channel in our
supposed news media to allegedly, at least, become a conveyor belt for
foreign countries` disinformation about U.S. government officials. And we
don`t know yet if the Cuba allegation of this is true. "The Washington
Post" is citing an unnamed former official in what they say is an
intelligence report blaming Cuban intelligence for having started this
NBC News tonight says they have talked to multiple officials at
multiple agencies who have found no credible evidence of Cuban involvement.
So, we still don`t know.
Senator Menendez for his part answered questions about "The Washington
Post" reporting today. He said he wants the Department of Justice to
investigate it. He says he is chasing down what he called -- he says he
wants the U.S. government chasing down what he called the serious
allegation that a foreign country may have used an intelligence operation
to try to alter the results of a federal election in this country, which by
the way determined who would be the next chair of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, which is something that would matter to any foreign
government including Cuba.
So, he`s saying that his priorities that the U.S. government should
investigate this and find out if we need to take it up with Cuba. If we
find out that that was the source, and if that was the source, then maybe
so. We will see what the Justice Department does in terms of their
For the rest of us, there`s another part of accountability here that
has nothing to do with foreign relations and intelligence. It has to do
with our own intelligence as a nation, and what the consequences are for
all of us, of a conservative movement that has now spent a full generation
telling people, telling Americans to not trust the actual news and to
instead invent their own conservative version of it, and they did that.
This is where it got us. And apparently, at least, Cuba maybe appears to
be delighted with the results.
MADDOW: Just a reminder we`ve got Wendy Davis from Texas coming up as
the interview tonight. That`s later on in the show. Please stay with us
But when President Obama won the presidential election in 2008, one of
the surprises was that he was able to pull off a win in North Carolina.
North Carolina had not been won by a Democrat in a presidential election
since 1976. And when you look at how North Carolina was voting, even in
the 2008 election, it seemed like an impossible thing for a Democrat to
I mean, North Carolina voters 65 and over were voting Republican.
Voters 45 to 64 were voting Republican. Voters 30 to 44 were voting
Republican. There`s no way a Democrat can win in that state when that`s
the age group voting, right?
Oh, that`s how the Democrats won, 18-29. Were it not for young
voters, voters in their teens and 20s, there`s no chance that any Democrat
could win in the state of North Carolina.
And when the election was even closer in 2012, the Democratic
candidate, again, Mr. Obama, he was not able to pull it off in that state.
Even though, again, it was young voters who made it even competitive at all
in the state. Without young voters voting in large numbers, Democrats
would never have a chance there.
Since that election, the state of North Carolina has rolled back early
voting. It has eliminated same-day voter registration. It has passed
voter ID law in which you are not allowed to vote unless you submit
official state-issued ID, but that official state-issued ID cannot include
a student ID even if the institution that issued that student ID is a state
They started shutting down on-campus voting sites like the one at
Democratic-leaning Appalachian state in western North Carolina where the
Republican-controlled local election board in the county there moved voting
off campus and on to a local site where there`s no bus stop anywhere nearby
and there are 35 parking places to serve 9,300 people.
One Republican-led elections board in the eastern part of the street
tried to rule that this young man was ineligible to run for local office
because he attended the historically black college in Elizabeth City. It
ruled him ineligible to run for office because he`s a student, and wouldn`t
you know it, the eligibility rules for running for office are the same as
the eligibility rules for voting. So the local Republican chairman took a
brief stab at trying to get all college students in North Carolina ruled
ineligible to vote in the state.
This has not been a subtle couple of years in North Carolina. Perhaps
the most amazing one is when the Republican state legislature decided to
get rid of a civics program in North Carolina high schools, in which high
school seniors who were about to turn 18, they could submit their voter
registration forms ahead of time. So, when they did turn 18, they`d be
ready to vote.
It`s nice, right? Civics. Get involved. Prepare for the
responsibilities of citizenship and adulthood. Register to vote.
North Carolina Republicans in the legislature killed that program in
the high schools. Without ever offering any explanation for why it had to
die. They killed it as part of an omnibus "make voting harder" bill that
they were able to pass into law not because there was a Republican takeover
of state government in North Carolina which there was, but also because the
Supreme Court last summer gutted the Voting Rights Act. The court struck
down the part of the Voting Rights Act which says that certain states and
counties that have a history of racially discriminated voting restrictions,
they need to get any changes to their voting procedures pre-checked by the
Justice Department to make sure those changes aren`t discriminatory.
Big parts of North Carolina were covered by the preclearance sections
of the Voting Rights Act, but when the Supreme Court struck down that
portion of the act, North Carolina Republicans pounced and they radically
moved to restrict voting in the state, because they finally could.
Now, though, something really interesting is happening, because even
though we no longer have the part of the Voting Rights Act that makes
states have to get clearance to know that their voting changes aren`t going
to be discriminatory, we do still have the part of the Voting Rights Act
that says the Justice Department can sue a state after the fact. So, once
the state has already implemented discriminatory voting changes, then the
federal government afterwards can sue that state because of the
discriminatory effect of those changes.
And the big test of that surviving remnant of the Voting Rights Act,
the big test of whether or not the Voting Rights Act at least in that small
way can still work, whether it can be used to stop a state from restricting
voting in ways that are discriminatory, that test is happening right now,
this week in North Carolina, because the federal government and a host of
civil rights agencies are suing the state of North Carolina over what it
has done to voting rights in the last year.
And this is a big deal for beleaguered North Carolina, but it also
because of the Voting Rights Act, this is potentially a big deal for the
Joining us from the North Carolina courthouse where today`s hearing
took place is Donita Judge, staff attorney for the Advancement Project, one
of the groups joining the Justice Department in this suit against the state
of North Carolina.
Ms. Judge, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
DONITA JUDGE, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Thank you. It`s good to see you
MADDOW: You, too.
So, I know today`s hearing was the first step in a big test for the
Voting Rights Act. Your organization arguing this with others alongside
the Justice Department. How do you think it went today and yesterday in
JUDGE: Well, I think it went extremely well. Today we had several
very compelling witnesses.
We started out today with Rosanell Eaton, our 93-year-old plaintiff
who really talked about when she registered to vote in the 1940s, how she
had to recite the U.S. Preamble to the Constitution. She talked about the
fact her ancestors were unable to register and vote, and that`s why she
felt it was important to register close to 4,000, 5,000 people before she
JUDGE: We also have one of the North Carolina legislatures talk about
how really this law was just so abnormal, the entire process, and really
how it just broke the relationships that we`re building between the
bipartisan general assembly. And then we had, today, we had Reverend
Hawkins who really talked about, you know, the impact in his church and
Souls to the Polls that it used by African-Americans to register to vote,
the transportation issues that really require the churches to get involved
and really be a vessel to help these communities to register and vote.
So, we have had what we believe certainly have been several -- a
couple very good days and we`re marching forward and we`re looking forward
tomorrow to hearing our experts put on what we believe is really
exceptional evidence that this law was passed within -- it was
intentionally passed to disproportionately impact and affect African-
Americans in this state.
MADDOW: Now, I understand that this is essentially the pretrial
phase, a full trial set for the coming year, and the pretrial, correct me
if I`m wrong, it would block these new laws from taking effect for the next
election, the midterm election coming up this November.
What do you expect to happen in terms of the way these different
things are going to go into effect in terms of what happens next and when
the important decisions are going to be made?
JUDGE: Well, our -- we brought a preliminary injunction, and our goal
is to prohibit these laws from being in effect in the November 2014
election, and really to have the same laws that were in effect in 2012 as
well as 2008, to have those laws still in place. The reason that we asked
for a July date is because we believe strongly that we are going to be
successful and we want the state to have the time that they need to revert
back to the laws that were in place and to have time to train -- to make
sure the poll workers and everyone who`s involved in this process really
understands and know how to administer these laws so that they will not
continue to disproportionately impact voters of color, students, and
MADDOW: Donita Judge, staff attorney for the Advancement Project,
joining us from the federal courthouse tonight in North Carolina. Thank
you so much. Please keep us in the loop as this proceeds over these next
few days. Thank you.
JUDGE: We certainly will.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
That case in North Carolina is so important for the overall existence
of the Voting Rights Act. Nothing is happening in Congress. Nothing is
happening in Congress to bring the Voting Rights Act back. Despite all of
that noise that was made after that devastating Supreme Court decision last
summer, nothing is happening to bring it back in Congress.
The only part of it that survives is being tested right now in North
Carolina, and, boy, does it matter for that state, but, boy, does it matter
for the whole country.
All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Just ahead on the interview tonight, I`m very happy to say my
guest is the woman who wants to be the first Democrat elected governor in
Texas in two decades. She is Wendy Davis. We`ve got lots to talk about.
That`s coming up.
MADDOW: On last night`s show, we reported on this from the great
state of Texas. This is from the "Dallas Morning News." Greg Abbott steps
in it on chemicals issue. Greg Abbott is Texas` Republican candidate for
governor this year. He`s currently the attorney general in the state.
Earlier this year, it turns out, which was just about a year after
this huge and fatal explosion at an ammonium nitrate fertilizer plant in
Texas which killed 15 people and injured more than 200 people, almost
exactly a year after that explosion, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
declared that the state of Texas would to longer tell the public where
large quantities of explosive chemicals are stored in that state.
For decades, that information had been public information in Texas,
but not anymore. In May, Greg Abbott`s office issued a ruling saying state
agencies must start withholding that information from the public. That`s
the only significant change in rules or policies or laws in Texas, since
unsafe storage of chemicals set off that apocalypse in that little town of
West, Texas, last year.
The only thing the state government has changed since then is Greg
Abbott saying the state will no longer tell Texas families if they`re
living next door to something like this. Greg Abbott issued that ruling in
May but did so quietly and the press in Texas is starting to pick up on it.
Greg Abbott was asked about it by reporters in Austin on Tuesday. It
did not go well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know where they are, if
you drive around. Let`s bear this down. If you`re living in West, Texas,
you know that there`s some facility there and you have the right to ask the
people in West, Texas, hey, what chemicals do you have in there?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just drive around. You can figure it out.
After that, we got the "Dallas Morning News" editorial, "Abbott steps
in it on chemicals issue."
Now, today, there`s this one. This is the Ft. Worth "Star Telegram"
also editorializing against Greg Abbott on this, calling him off base.
Quote, "Greg Abbott`s comments about disclosure of where dangerous
chemicals are stored in the state proved to be almost as explosive as a bin
of ammonium nitrate. The attorney general made several comments that were
insulting and certainly not befitting a candidate for governor."
Drive around, you figure it out.
On paper, at least, there are a lot of things that could give
Democrats a chance in the red, red state of Texas in this year of all
years. One obviously is Latino voters. About 38 percent of Texas is
Latino and growing.
And now, that demographic growth in Texas is being matched by an
effort by Democrats to find and register and mobilize those eligible Latino
voters. It`s also the case that this year, the Democratic candidate for
lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte, she is both Latina and really
popular in the Texas Hispanic community.
And that brings up the second thing that could conceivably give
Democrats a shot this year in Texas. He is the Republican candidate for
lieutenant governor in Texas, his name is Dan Patrick. He`s a right wing
talk radio host who was thought to be so out there even for Texas that he
might have a voter-repellent effect on the whole Republican ticket in the
way people thought Sarah Palin did for the Republican ticket in 2008.
So, there`s the Latino voters and that potential. That`s one issue.
There`s Dan Patrick as potential kryptonite on the ballot. That`s a second
The third issue that could give Democrats a shot is this new issue
that just emerged when Greg Abbott decided a year after that fertilizer
plant explosion killed 15 people next to a Texas middle school that the law
should be changed in Texas to stop disclosing the storage location of
dangerous chemicals in Texas neighborhoods. That`s the third issue.
That`s the new one.
But then there`s also this new crisis on the border. A legitimate
policy and humanitarian crisis on the border and one that is happening in
Texas more than it is happening anywhere else on the southern edge of our
country. The thing is, politically, Republicans in Texas used to have a
reputation for being comparatively pragmatic, even compassionate on the
issue of immigration. Frankly, you have to be that way in Texas. Texas is
38 percent Latino.
But Texas Republicans don`t have that pragmatic streak anymore. Not
this generation of red Texas. I mean, Dan Patrick`s whole campaign is
about stopping the illegal invasion of Texas by Mexico. I mean, now Texas
Republican rhetoric tends more toward Texas needing to secede from the
The Texas Republican response to unaccompanied kids coming to border
from Central America is conspiracy theories that the governor is voicing on
TV about how president Obama has arranged this crisis on purpose. He sent
the kids because -- because Benghazi or something. I don`t know.
There`s a legitimate policy and humanitarian crisis on the border
particularly in Texas, but the Texas Republican political response so far
has just been to go full talk radio on the issue.
So, is that part of the potential this year for Texas Democrats? I
mean, amid all these other opportunities that they`ve got this year among
all years, can Democrats distinguish themselves as having more to offer,
practically, on this issue than the "set themselves on fire spinning their
wheels hysteria" that it has generated on the right?
Hold that thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D), TEXAS: Greg Abbott obviously is doing
everything he can to try to undo a mess that he has made. But let`s make
no mistake about it -- what Greg Abbott has ruled is that families do not
deserve to know where these dangerous chemicals are stored. And there`s
absolutely no excuse for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview tonight is the Democratic
candidate for governor of Texas. She`s running -- she`s running against
Greg Abbott. She`s State Senator Wendy Davis.
Senator Davis, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
DAVIS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So why do you think that Greg Abbott is wrong on this
chemicals decision and what would you do differently?
DAVIS: Well, there`s no mistaking that he`s wrong, and as you said
earlier, for decades in Texas, it`s been our practice to comply with the
law that President Reagan helped to shepherd through the Community Right to
Know Act, because parents deserve to know whether they are living or their
children are going to school or their parents might be in a nursing home
that`s next to one of these facilities that stores dangerous chemicals.
And there`s simply no excuse for suddenly reversing course in what the
state has done for decades in compliance with that law, and hiding that
information from parents across the state.
MADDOW: Is this one of those issues --
DAVIS: As governor --
MADDOW: I`m sorry, let me just interrupt you there for a second. Is
this one of those issues where I`m looking at this from New York and you`re
in Texas and there`s some weird ideological rift about this story that I
can`t see? There`s some mysterious Republican ideological attitude that
makes them opposed to something like that even though they would have
supported it in the Reagan era? Do you know what`s driving this change?
DAVIS: Yes, I think when you look at what drove the change with
Abbott, you need look no further than the campaign contributions that he`s
received from the Koch brothers, who have at least one of these facilities
that stores these dangerous chemicals in the state of Texas.
MADDOW: What would you do differently as governor?
DAVIS: As governor, and as I laid out today in a couple of press
conferences that I`ve held, I will call for an emergency item to be placed
on the legislative calendar, so that this issue can immediately be taken up
and addressed by the Texas legislature before the typical 60-day period of
time that it takes for legislation to be considered. And for the
legislature to act in a way that gives true meaning once again to the
Community Right to Know Act, and empowers Texas families with information
to help keep their families safe and to make decisions about where they`ll
live and where they`ll put their children in school, to give our school
districts the ability to decide where to build their schools, where
hospitals should be built, where nursing homes should be built -- so we can
assure as much as possible that communities across the state are safe.
MADDOW: Texas Governor Rick Perry recently said that, in terms of the
border crisis in Texas and along the southern border of the United States,
he think there is a conspiracy behind it. He thinks it`s on purpose.
Tomorrow, he`s meeting with President Obama on the issue.
I know you`ve called on the governor to call a state of emergency on
the border. Why do you want that? What would that do?
DAVIS: It is a term of art essentially in Texas, which allows the
release of resources, to help the local communities that are bearing the
burden and the cost of taking care of this influx of people from across the
border. I`ve asked for a special session that would hear from our local
communities, from first responders, from charitable organizations who are
on the ground and who are taking care primarily of these children who are
unaccompanied minors and who have been coming in literally by the hundreds
every single day, and who are under the care of many incredible people
doing amazing work, but who need to have the cost for that care covered.
Ultimately, it`s the federal government`s responsibility, and not only
have I called on Governor Perry, asking for a special session to be called
so that we can deal with this at the state level and do our part in helping
our local communities, but that, ultimately, the federal government do its
job, and that it reimburse us for those costs.
I was very pleased to hear President Obama call today for $3.7 billion
to be brought to these border communities and to help supplement and make
sure that they are safe, that our border patrol officers can do their job
and that they can assure that drug smugglers and human traffickers are the
real focus of our border patrol officers, as they should be. And that the
government should also, of course, make sure we`re doing what we can to, as
I said, help reimburse these local communities for the costs that they`re
MADDOW: Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for
governor in the state of Texas, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
I know you`re very busy.
DAVIS: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks very much. I appreciate it.
DAVIS: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Quick programming note. I`m going to be on "Watch What
Happens Live with Andy Cohen" tonight on Bravo, which means I need to run,
because that thing is live. Luckily, it`s already time for "THE LAST WORD
WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.
MORE FROM RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Add Rachel Maddow Show headlines to your news reader: