'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, July 11th, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
July 11, 2014
Guest: Ryan Grim, John Stanton, Deirdre Macnab
ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Good evening. Thank you, Chris.
And thank you at home for joining us tonight. Rachel does have the
Something weird happened in the capitol today. You can see it right
there. A genuine real live bill signing, yes, happening in our Congress.
It wasn`t a major bill or any kind of big-ticket reform, just a small jobs
package with some funding for job training.
Still, though, if you follow politics, if you like the idea of our
government actually working, it`s a welcome sight. And it`s not what we
usually get from this Republican House. This is a body that has settled on
being against everything Obama no matter what.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This week, we`re
passing two more bills that would encourage businesses to invest and to
create jobs here in America. Now, compare all this to the president`s
tone-deaf celebration of our struggling economy yesterday. You want to
talk about being out of touch. Middle class families continue to struggle
with high prices on everything from gas, to groceries, to health care.
That`s why House Republicans passed nearly 40 jobs bills that are
currently being blocked by Senate Democrats. We`ve seen enough of Senate
gridlock. The president should join us in pushing the Senate for more
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Nearly 40 jobs bills. Wow.
There are a lot of partisan Republican bills that do die after
leaving the House, while even moderate bipartisan bills that pass the
Senate tend to die over in the House.
You know the pattern. So you get a bipartisan immigration reform
bill out of the Senate and that dies in the House. Or you get a party line
budget from the House which has no shot in the Senate.
But after patting themselves on the back for that jobs bill today,
House Republicans may have hit another different new low. Now the House
can`t even stand by the bills that it has passed in the very same Congress.
A year ago this month, House Republicans pushed something called the
Authority for Mandate Delay Act, right there. The bill sought to delay
Obamacare`s requirement that employers provide health coverage by one year.
Almost every Republican in the House voted for that, 9l percent of the
caucus going on record with the stance if they couldn`t appeal Obamacare,
they should at least delay parts of it.
A year later, Houses GOP leaders are calling for the exact opposite
this week. And this reversal isn`t just playing out on the House floor,
itself. It`s apparently so important to Speaker Boehner that he`s actually
suing the president over the delay.
Recall, of course, that conservatives spent months on a very long
list of claims about the president overstepping his executive authorities
in some way. When the president signed a climate change order, they called
it a sweeping takeover. When the president laid out that executive order
on guns, the Republicans called it a power grab. When he signed that
minimum wage order for federal contractors, a pretty popular thing, by the
way, they said it was a terrible policy that would hurt workers by paying
them more and outside his authority.
There were op-eds detailing the many times this imperial presidency
had overreached. Some from the very lawyers Republicans were consulting
with for this new lawsuit that we`re hearing all about.
Now, they say he was gutting large swaths of federal laws from
immigration, to welfare reform, to education. He`s even legalizing pot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you planning to initiate a lawsuit against the Obama
administration and President Obama over his use of executive actions?
BOEHNER: I am. The Constitution makes it clear that the president`s
job to faithfully execute the laws. In my view, the president has not
faithfully executed the laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: All righty. But in the end, the only thing worth its day in
court apparently, according to John Boehner is the president`s delayed
implementation of one piece of Obamacare. A delay Republicans recently
But there is a silver lining to all of this GOP self-contradictory
phases of resistance followed by acceptance. They did go from trying to
stop all of Obamacare to voting to repeal all of Obamacare, to voting to
delay part of Obamacare, to now suing to protest that same delay of that
same part of Obamacare. And that amounts to, yes, a softening of their
And while it`s no surprise that their much hyped lawsuit is
hypocritical and you could say, hey, there`s plenty of hypocrisy in all
politics, I think there`s a reason the politics and the message from the
GOP is shifting here. There have been waves of good news and verifiable
progress for Obamacare, and that`s driving a factual undertow to Republican
The fact is Obamacare is working. And among people with access to
its benefits including Republican voters, the fact is it`s very popular.
The law was designed to reduce the uninsured. It was designed to
specifically target groups of Americans that struggle to get health for
structural reasons, get health care, poor people, young people, and the
unsteady job market, and people facing discrimination.
As you can see, the uninsured rate is crashing. A new report from
the Commonwealth Fund finds that the law is expanding insurance
specifically to those groups it was supposed to help. And in states where
Obamacare is actually being fully implemented, with the Medicaid funding,
the improvements are swift. And they are profound.
Unfortunately, in states where Republicans have prevented citizens
from getting the available funding, you can see there on the right, there`s
almost no improvement.
And how`s this all playing out? Well, despite the right`s best
efforts that we all know about to delegitimize and to stigmatize the very
idea of expanding health care, and despite admittedly a news environment
that often treats any Obamacare glitch as a juicy political scandal while
ignoring the more consequential falling aggregate rates of the uninsured,
despite all of that, Americans who actually experience Obamacare`s
benefits, they like it.
Again, looking at this new Commonwealth report -- the vast majority
of people with new coverage are pretty satisfied with it. And unlike so
many other matters of opinion in American today, we looked at this today.
When you break out those numbers by partisanship, independents, Democrats,
and Republicans, they all overwhelmingly like their new coverage.
So, while Republican politicians and conservative elites may still
rail against certain parts of Obamacare, they can see in these numbers
their own rank-and-file voters are liking it just fine. And that is the
background for this meager, ugly, oddly, un-ambitious lawsuit that Speaker
The steady plotting and imperfect surge in the health insurance rate
in America is not always an easy story to tell. It doesn`t always grab
attention in Washington. But it is having plenty of impact around the
nation every day. That`s good news, and it`s not because it leaves the
Republicans on the wrong side of this debate. Though that`s where they
are. Some I think are realizing.
It`s not good news because it proves the president right. It`s good
news because getting more Americans health coverage is good for America.
And among people who have it, it`s very popular.
So, why did Republicans chose this issue of all their complaints
about this so-called much ballyhooed imperial Obama presidency as the one
they want to go to court with?
Joining us now, Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for "The
Ryan, good Friday evening to you.
What gives? Why this focus on this one part of Obamacare?
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, it`s an instance where they
can look like they`re above partisan politics for a second, which is
extremely difficult given the situation where they are, you know, a
partisan part that controls one chamber of Congress and they`re suing
another branch of the government without the other chamber. That`s one
thing we have to remember. This is not a constitutional crisis where you
have Congress suing the executive. You have just one branch of it without
any support from the other party.
So, if they say -- well, we`re doing it because he didn`t follow the
letter of this law that we don`t even like, then there`s some plausible
argument that they can say, look, we`re kind of above politics here, and
what they`re saying is that the House of Representatives passed this law.
It was a Democratic House of representatives. So they`re trying to stand
up for a Democratic House of Representatives.
All that, of course, is getting lost in the reality that it`s just
pure politics and trying to stave off this kind of Palin-led impeachment
MELBER: Well, right. When you talk about the impeachment crowd or
imperial presidency, you had all these other complaints. Why don`t you
think any of them ever made it to the final cut of this much-promoted suit?
GRIM: You know, that`s a good question. I don`t think he wanted too
much attention on the particulars of this issue. I don`t think he`s
particularly proud of this. I don`t think he wants this to be his legacy.
MELBER: Speaker Boehner?
GRIM: Speaker Boehner.
GRIM: If he genuinely did believe that the president violated his
oath of office, there is a remedy articulated in the constitution that is
available to him and it is the one that Palin is pushing for. It`s
impeachment. Clearly, he doesn`t believe that that`s a good idea. He has
said as much publicly. That clashes directly with what he`s saying. If he
believes he violated his oath, then he should impeach him. It`s really as
simple as that.
And they say, you know, they say in their suit that there`s no other
option for them that they can take, and that`s one of the tests that they
have to meet. But that option does exist for them. They just realize that
it`s insanity, so they`re not going to take it.
MELBER: Yes, and it`s hard to see why implementation scuffling over
the timeline would be a high crime, a misdemeanor. Walk us through that
timeline. What would happen if they do proceed, if they are found to have
standing and get somewhere in the court with this? How does it go down if
GRIM: You know, this is an interesting case because you have
different incentives from different parties here. In other words, both
parties here would probably just like to see this sit there and languish.
You know, John Boehner does not want any type of summary judgment on
this. He doesn`t want this moved with any quickness. He`d like this to
last well into 2015 so that by the time, it finally does get dismissed,
then they can hem and haw about whether or not they`re going to appeal
And, you know, by the time they finally exhaust all their remedies,
you`re kind of into the presidential election at which point the hope among
Republicans is that there`s no actually no appetite or realistic ability
for impeachment anymore because he`s going to be gone any minute so they
can move on.
But you`ll notice that`s not a very well thought through plan, and
that`s kind of typical of how the House Republicans have been holding on to
power over the last couple years. Just day-to-day, week-to-week. You
know, their famous plan B over New Year`s is probably the best example.
GRIM: This is what we`re going to do, plan B on the floor and a
couple hours later they were like, oh, wait, we don`t actually have the
votes for that.
MELBER: Right. Ryan, at least when the dog chases the car, it`s
just a dog so it doesn`t know whether it wants the car, but if you`re,
like, a functioning political party, you should figure out whether you want
the car. It`s the same with the Benghazi committee, right? They set this
whole thing up. Now, they don`t know what to do with it.
GRIM: That`s the problem. You have to be very careful that you
might actually catch the car. You know, they caught the car, so to speak,
last October when they shut the government down. And the car backed over
them. And it was a bloody mess for them.
And so, they were able to then buy another couple months and tamp
down the sort of conservative insurgency here. But now, here they are back
on the road, chasing the car again. Just desperately hoping that they
don`t catch it.
MELBER: Yes. And I want to do more with the car analogy, but we are
out of time.
Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of "The Huffington Post" -- thank
you very much, and good evening to you.
GRIM: You got it.
MELBER: We have lots more ahead, including the latest in the fight,
over something just about everyone in Congress says they want to do
something about but are they capable of it?
But, first, one more thing about the fallout from the Affordable Care
Act. Whoopi Goldberg and Mel Brooks surprisingly have something pretty
phenomenal in common. They have both EGOT it or have EGOTs meaning as many
of you know, they have won all big four big-time entertainment awards,
Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony.
And now, believe it or not, President Barack Obama who has two
Grammys for the audio versions of his books, this week got a little closer
to EGOT it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, BETWEEN TWO FERNS: I have to know, what is it
like to be the last black president?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Seriously? What`s it
like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?
GALIFIANAKIS: It must kind of stink, though, that you can`t run
OBAMA: Actually, I think it`s a good idea. You know, if I ran a
third time, it would be sort of like doing a third "Hangover" movie. It
didn`t really work out very well, did it?
GALIFIANAKIS: Is it going to be hard in two years when you`re no
longer president and people will stop letting you win at basketball?
OBAMA: How does it feel having a three-inch vertical?
GALIFIANAKIS: It`s a three-inch horizontal. So -- you know what I
would do if I were president, Mr. President? I would make same-sex divorce
illegal, then see how bad they want it.
OBAMA: I think that`s why you`re not president. And that`s a good
GALIFIANAKIS: You said if you had a son, you would not let him play
football. What makes you think that he would want to play football? What
if he was a nerd like you?
OBAMA: Do you think a woman like Michelle would marry a nerd? Why
don`t you ask her whether she thinks I`m a nerd?
GALIFIANAKIS: Could I?
OBAMA: No. I`m not going to let her near you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That appearance you may remember, a stunt for the president
to plug the healthcare.gov Web site, was pretty successful. It was viewed
22 million times to date. And it not only got him a huge boost in signups
on the health care Web site, it also got the president this Emmy nod just
this week. Now only the executive producers of comedian Zach Galifianakis
is "Between Two Ferns" show gets nominated for the Emmy. But if they win,
I thing we can call it a bi-proxy win for President Obama.
And we`ll be right back.
MELBER: And ahead, a path to American citizenship that has taken
more than 200 years. This is an amazing story. So, stay with us.
MELBER: The current Congress is bad at passing legislation. The
113th Congress for which we`re living has passed fewer pieces of
legislation than any other session in modern history. As "The Washington
Post" recently noted, the inaction is so acute that even annoys some those
"I hate government" members of the government. As they put it, it takes a
law to repeal a law. Amen, brother.
Yet while this Congress is terrible at actually doing stuff, they
still find ways to do the symbolic stuff. They are politicians, after all.
It can make for an awkward combination. There was that well-meaning
ceremony in the capitol rotunda a few weeks ago celebrating the 50th
anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It was awkward in two ways. It was traditionally awkward because --
I guess, look, see for yourself.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MELBER: Don`t -- don`t judge them, you guys. That`s what a
congressional sing-along looks like.
But that awkward part doesn`t really matter. Let`s be fair. The
other awkward part is important. It`s the politically awkward thing where
you can`t back up your ceremonial tribute with policy. So, while there was
time for that photo-op celebrating the 1960 civil rights protest, just
perfectly fine, neither the Senate nor House has held a vote yet on
renewing the Voting Rights Act which many of those protesters marched and
Congress is good at doing things just for show, and just stomaching
the awkwardness even when it curls into outright hypocrisy. But every so
often all that symbolism does catch up with politician and it can even help
drive action, real congressional action. It`s the rarest of things. It`s
happened even in this Congress.
During the 2012 election, the Republicans insisted over and over they
were the party for women despite all that "legitimate rape" stuff and war
on woman thing and they said that was made up by Democrats, a myth,
insisted what women need to do was stop being bamboozled by Democrats and
realize the GOP would stand up for them.
They did all that and then there was a shock. After the election,
House Republicans did follow through on symbolism with real action.
Shortly after the election, the House did pass the Violence Against Women
Act. Now, it did get a minority of GOP votes, but still, Speaker Boehner
brought it to the floor, breaking his much named Hastert Rule, and it
So, once in a great while, symbolic congressional action transforms
or creates pressure for actual action, for lawmaking. It happens more
rarely than ever before. But it has happened in this session of Congress,
and the question is, can it happen again? Are we seeing it happen when it
comes to the acute crisis that we`ve all been looking at, at the border
with those tens of thousands of young children and their parents crossing
into this country, many, mostly from Central America, turning themselves
over to border guards and begging for some kind of humanitarian assistance?
The magnitude of the crisis has overwhelmed our legal capacity. Just
the nation`s physical capacity to detain these children in a humane way and
process them efficiently or get them through the system in a legally
binding set of rules that have to be followed. All of that has broken
And the White House now in response is requesting a $3.7 billion bill
that would provide emergency funds, much of it for granular and specific
purposes -- to deal with the surge of people at the border, requests like
$116 million for transportation, overtime pay for those overworked border
patrol agents, 40 additional immigration judge teams, a media campaign in
the countries where much of this crisis is originating, to make sure people
understand that children are not safe on this voyage and will likely be
Now, Republicans say they want this crisis dealt with ASAP, they want
it dealt with yesterday and they spent the week asking the president to
focus on something Congress knows all about -- another symbolic gesture --
demanding, as you may have heard, that he visit the border.
The president`s response has been to take a page out of that playbook
that helped get the vote on the Violence Against Women Act, to invoke the
other side`s symbolism in the hopes of pushing, cajoling, or even shaming
this House into holding a vote.
So, we`re at a fork in the road here, and there are some signs this
strategy might even work. Behind closed doors, House Speaker John Boehner
told his Republican colleagues this week they should act on the spending
bill before the August recess.
Republican Congresswoman Hal Rogers, told reporters he thinks $3.7
billion is too much, the House will act on portions of this emergency
request before recess. "There are pieces that need to be dealt with
immediately," he said.
What is happening right now on the border is not a question of broad
policy debates. It`s an emergency which requires congressional funding for
things like vans and the overtime hours, and those legal teams we
mentioned. The crisis will not go away if Congress ignores it, while
Republicans say it needs to be dealt with immediately.
Look, there are 12 work days now before the August recess. Will
there be action here to catch up with all the symbolism?
Well, joining me now is John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for
Good Friday night to you, sir.
That is the question here. With 12 days and something approaching
unity on the idea that this matters, that this is urgent, that this is
important, does the president get some kind of vote?
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED DC BUREAU CHIEF: Well, the president`s plan
won`t get a vote, but parts of it could see some action on the floor of the
House, like you said, some of the money for overtime or some basic stuff
that`s going on right now on the border. There is some talk Republicans
won`t vote on anything.
What they may do though is come up with their own proposal that they
would sort of put out there that would have funding, but would also have
strings attached to that. That would be changes to the 2008 asylum law
which made it these children from Central America are automatically put
into the asylum process. That could be changed or at least ask for that.
And some other maybe border patrol, border security kinds of measures.
So, it`s a little unclear now. Republicans have a little bit of
space, because frankly Democrats are a bit divided on what they want to do
on this. So, they`re in a wait-and-see pattern I think.
MELBER: Yes. What would be the problem with altering the 2008 law?
That passed on bipartisan lines at a time when there was just far fewer
families trying to come over the border. And so, there wasn`t the kind of
pressure we`re seeing on the system.
STANTON: Well, the problem, though, for progressives and members of,
say, the Hispanic Caucus have raised is that if you change that law, that
means you`re going to have these kids going home much more quickly and they
want to try to find ways to keep at least some of them in the country
because they believe that the circumstances to which they`re living in
places like El Salvador, or Honduras, or other parts of Central America,
are so bad that they deserve to get asylum in the United States. They
don`t want to see mass deportations of the children.
And if they change the law, particularly they make it maybe
retroactive, we`re going to see much quicker deportations which is what the
White House would like, frankly, and some of the moderate members,
Democratic Party would like, and Republicans are for. You know, and so,
there is this battle going on sort of behind the scenes between Democrats.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, from a policy prospective, though, you`re
putting your finger on the most difficult part which I actually don`t think
is very political. It`s the fact that in an effort to do something good in
that original bill, as we know is bipartisan, because there was agreement
that people who are generally eligible for asylum, who are in danger, who
are minors, we have a heart for them. And yet at an international level,
it seems apparent that has created some kind of incentive combined with
rumors that has made the problem worse.
STANTON: Yes, that`s right. I think, you know, there is this
longstanding tradition, frankly, with the coyotes that bring people up that
will say, oh, if you go at this certain time of the year or get in soon,
you know, you`ll be able to stay no matter what. And certainly this law
has, I think, probably contributed to that. Certainly some of the talk
about the DACA and allowing the DREAMers to stay has fueled that.
Whether or not it`s true, it`s sort of besides the point, frankly.
You know, they`re saying this to these families. The families are
desperate. They need to get their children out, they believe, because
they`re worried they`re going to die. And so, they hand them over to these
MELBER: Right. On the politics, though, as you were saying when we
started, if there are literally no votes, that`s got to hurt some of these
Republicans because they`ve made a big deal out of this.
STANTON: Well, it depends, frankly. They`re going to go into the
August recess and start going to town halls and put out a proposal that
requires a lot of new strengthening of border security and changes that law
but does have the funding in it and they sort of kick it to the Senate or
say web we come back in September, we`re going to vote on this.
If they`re able to take that to their voters, I think in a lot of
their districts they`re going to have a lot of support for that. They`re
looking at their elections which are different than the national election
or statewide election. And I think for them that could actually end up
being a bonus, at least in this election cycle.
MELBER: Right. You`re saying that might help them in the short run
and in some of these districts. And yet there is something so cynical
about clambering for the president to do a photo op, immediately, ASAP, go
to the border and not doing your own job of holding the votes.
John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for "BuzzFeed" -- thanks for
your time tonight.
STANTON: Good to be here.
MELBER: Now, given its pristine record of fair, undisputed
elections, how is it possible that anyone would take issue with how the
state of Florida elects its members of Congress? We have the details,
MELBER: We don`t currently have a draft in this country. The U.S.
military, which is deployed all around the world is an all-volunteer force.
Even though there`s no draft, though, there is, of course, still a draft
board. All men age 18 to 25 do have to register with the feds just in case
the draft might ever be brought back. You`re supposed to register with the
selective service system. And if you fail to do so, the draft board still
will come after you.
Last month, the draft board came after a Pennsylvania man named Fred
Minnick. Mr. Minnick they said, had failed to register for the draft.
Failure to register is an offense punishable by a fine and even
The only problem, Fred Minnick, if he were still alive, would be 120
years old. He was born in 1894. And that letter was received earlier this
month by his daughter who`s now in her 80s. Mr. Minnick is one of actually
14,000 men in Pennsylvania alone born in the 1800s, all of them who are
informed by the federal government they have failed to register for the
draft and are now facing that potential jail time.
It turns out when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
passed along records from their database to the draft board, a computer
operator entered 93-97 instead of 1993 to 1997. So, the computers spewed
out all males in the database born from 1893 to 1897 and from the `90s.
A spokesman for the agency said, "Hey, we made a mistake. This just
wasn`t good. We do apologize."
Among those receiving the draft letters were military veterans,
themselves, including some from World War I.
But there is one veteran of the revolutionary war who is also now the
subject of the federal government`s attention. It is for a fascinating
reason. And that story`s coming up.
MELBER: After the 2010 census, it was time to redraw Virginia`s
congressional map. Republicans wanted to give Eric Cantor an edge, packing
more Republican voters into his district. Then the House`s number two
Republican would be in an even safer ticket.
Great idea, right? Not exactly. As you know, despite Republicans`
best efforts to pick their constituents to suit their agenda, the voters
actually had ideas of their own. They decided Cantor wasn`t conservative
enough and last month, they tossed him out of office, picking a little
known Tea Party college professor, Dave Brat.
Gerrymandering, redrawing a district to shape election outcomes was a
big flop for Cantor. But you can see why he tried it. Brazen political
redistricting has helped the GOP keep control of the house -- this is
important -- regardless of what voters might prefer in many parts of the
You wouldn`t know it from looking at the House today, but it was
actually Democrats who got 470,000 more votes than Republicans in 2012
House races. Yet, Republicans didn`t just eke out a majority, they won 35
more seats in the House.
This is the kind of thing that turns people off of politics or makes
you wonder, how`s this even legal?
Well, the Supreme Court has largely stayed out of partisan
redistricting fights. Gerrymandering does not have to be legal, however.
It is still up to the states. Some have decided that voters should be
picking the politicians, which also, as you can see from these examples,
means picking their districts.
So, citizen committees handling redistricting in states like
California and Arizona. And when you see congressional districts shaped
like this, or this, or this, I mean, these are absurd. You can see why
citizens are confident that all on their own, they can draw better and less
politicized organic districts than these self-interested politicians.
Florida voters had the same concern, and they amended their
Constitution in 2010 to ban lawmakers from using redistricting for partisan
gain. In other words, they set a tougher standard than the current Supreme
Court has set. The next round of redistricting would test that standard.
But GOP lawmakers unveiled suspicious new districts that looked a lot like
the suspicious old districts.
But now unlike, say, the 42 other states that do allow this
bipartisan redistricting, Florida through that new rule, had a way to
patrol the abuse and the League of Women Voters led a challenge to those
Republican districts, arguing that the GOP was using a shadow process,
orchestrating behind the scenes and using political operatives to make the
legislature approve a map that simply favored Republicans. And the League
Last night, a state judge threw out two congressional districts
completely, ruling that, yes, GOP operatives had conspired to ma manipulate
redistricting by drawing maps for partisan gain and improperly packed black
voters into certain areas. The judge, Terry Lewis, said while
redistricting may be a mild interest to many observers, it`s a high stakes,
zero-sum battle that can determine who controls the U.S. government.
And that patrolling the process goes to the foundation of our
representative democracy. It was those high stakes he found that led
Florida GOP operatives to conduct an elaborate Astroturf campaign, trying
to make it look like ordinary citizens just happened to back those
suspicious district maps that favored the GOP. And the ruling even details
how operatives wrote scripts for people to attend public hearings and say,
yes, they really wanted those GOP-friendly maps and then later, the
legislators destroyed e-mails and other evidence of communication regarding
the redistricting process.
Judge Lewis ruled that because of all this, those two politically
gerrymandered districts, district 5 and 10, have to be redrawn, which means
other districts around the area might also have to be redrawn.
As he wrote, "If there`s a problem with a part of the map, there is a
problem with the entire plan." And he was talking, of course, about
Florida`s map. That is what the case was.
But when you dig into this backroom process, an electoral fight that
can have bigger consequences than our actual elections, you realize he
could have been talking about most of the U.S. map, and if we want a
functioning democracy where the side with more votes actually gets to win,
when you think back to those 2012 maps, you start to think -- hmm, maybe
more states need a mechanism to patrol partisan gerrymandering. They need
a rule that you can enforce.
You know, I never thought I`d say this, but it`s one part of election
law where we should actually look to Florida as an example. Gulp.
Joining us now is Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women
Voters of Florida.
Ms. McNabb, thank you for being here tonight.
DEIRDRE MACNAB, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF FLORIDA: Good evening,
Ari. It`s a pleasure.
MELBER: Tell me, did you get everything you wanted in the ruling and
does it help actually prevent this abuse going forward?
MACNAB: Ari, we were very pleased with the ruling. I would say we
were, in fact, thrilled. This is a major win for the Florida voters
yesterday. And we think it`s also exciting because it sets a very
important precedent for the nation and so many other states that are
grappling with the devastating impact of gerrymandering.
MELBER: What is that precedent?
MACNAB: The precedent is: we were able to get -- this was a citizen-
led petition drive that took a number of years. We were able to get two
amendments in our state constitution that set very clear rules for the
legislators in terms of how the districts would be drawn so they could to
longer put into place incumbent protection plans making sure that they were
re-elected over and over again.
What happened in yesterday`s court decision was basically it was very
-- it was made very clear to the legislature that those amendments have
teeth. And they must, in fact, follow them.
So, this is thrilling news for Florida voters. This has been, I will
tell you, a 72-year battle for the league of women voters. It was the very
first issue that our members seized on when we began the organization in
the state of Florida, and it has been an issue that has been so important.
Our members have never stopped at any point. And we are just so
excited to see these amendments in the Constitution and to see the
decisiveness of the court ruling yesterday.
MELBER: Yes, you say decisive. You say that it had teeth. That
really comes through in reading this ruling. A real rejection of what
Republicans were doing down there.
And also, I want to read more from it. The judge said redistricting
was done with the intent of benefiting the Republican Party, but also
importantly, quote, "To enable it usually to defeat the candidates
preferred by minorities", end quote. It was a reference to the fact that
some of these districts were drawn to actually cabin or cage or limit black
voters to a certain area.
Can you walk us through the significance of that? And why if people
don`t understand that immediately, hey, why was the Republican Party trying
to push around where black voters would ultimately vote?
MACNAB: Well, Ari, when these amendments were drafted, they were
drafted with great care and very -- a lot of thoughtfulness with regard to
the need to really protect minority representation and not in any way
diminish minority representation in the state of Florida. The techniques
that have been used historically are packing minorities into large mega
districts. Thereby creates more of, in this case, Republican districts
And that was what the judge identified in his ruling, and he used
very strong language as well. And I think the judge is -- I can`t improve
on what the judge said. He used very strong language including conspire.
He said that the legislature made a mockery of their bold assertions.
And I was sitting in the audience when they said this over and over
again. This was going to be the most open and transparent redistricting
process the state had ever seen. So, he very kindly made note of the fact
that the plaintiffs and League of Women Voters and other organizations
worked so hard to draw the curtain back and make sure that the people of
Florida could see that there was a shadow process going on despite all this
talk of openness and transparency and public input.
MELBER: Yes, and I think in that respect, the state has done
something important. The league has obviously been enforcing it which is
people feel sometimes helpless with all of the shenanigans, redistricting,
the gerrymandering. You have a standard, if you can enforce it, then the
politicians actually can get these maps thrown out, and that seems to be a
victory for democracy.
Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters in Florida --
thanks for your time tonight.
MACNAB: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: And the scariest topic in the world now, with 85 percent
less Armageddon -- we`ll explain. That`s next.
MELBER: And just ahead, an American revolutionary hero, versus his
polar opposite in Congress. Stay with us.
MELBER: We all know "NBC Nightly News" is a real treasure,
especially classic NBC News, when Tom Brokaw was always happy to land a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Radioactive steel is a problem in
other parts of the country. A big batch of the hot steel got out of a
plant in Mexico and into table legs among other things. Now, some of those
legs are holding up tables in restaurants.
Dennis Murphy tonight on the nationwide hunt for the hot legs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The hot legs.
That segment was from February 1984, a few months after a load of
junkyard metal in Juarez, Mexico, sparked a nuclear crisis described as
somewhere between Three Mile Island and the Chernobyl disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: A Florida health inspector swept a Miami warehouse with a
Geiger counter looking for metal table legs emitting radiation. In
Seattle, inspector checked cartons of table parts. Across the country,
from California to Boston, health officials are tracking 12,000 cast iron
tables. They were sold to restaurants by a company called Falcon Products
of St. Louis.
The table parts were made of contaminated scrap metal from Juarez,
Mexico. The recycled iron had been exposed to pellets of radioactive
Cobalt 60 which had been scattered about the junkyard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Thousands of little metal pellets that look like cake
decorations than nuclear waste basically ended up in the junkyard in Juarez
after a handyman had hold (ph) some old hospital equipment. That old
medical equipment was loaded with cobalt 60, a radioactive isotope that`s
used in radiation therapy for cancer patience. A handyman ended up selling
that radioactive material to the junkyard for about $10 and the junkyard
then sold it to two different foundries that without knowing it at the
time, mix the radioactive material into metal that was used to make rebar
and iron table legs, among other things.
Two hundred tons of the stuff was eventually found across 16
different states, and back in Mexico over 100 homes had to be completely
torn down because they had been built with that radioactive rebar. It took
the better part of the year to contain the nuclear material from that
As a result of that incident, the U.S. installed radiation detectors
along the border with Mexico, and there hasn`t been another cross border
incident since it turns out that radioactive material goes missing a lot in
Mexico. Just this past fall, on Thanksgiving Day, a truck carrying another
old radiotherapy machine was hijacked while it was on its way from Tijuana
to Mexico City for disposable at a special facility for storing nuclear
Now, having no idea what they had taken, those hijackers ended up
abandoning the cargo in the field, in a small farming town, about an hour
outside of Mexico City. The six men thought to have been the hijackers
were admitted to the hospital with signs of radiation poisoning. And after
a few days of sitting in that, and field authorities used a robotic arm to
recover the radioactive material.
Now, just last week, another small amount of radioactive material
went missing from a stolen truck in Mexico City, only to be recovered just
a few hours later.
In both of those incidents, Mexican authorities followed official
protocol. They alerted the International Atomic Energy Agency. They
notified Border Patrol.
And part of the concern when something like this happens is that the
radioactive material would be harmful to anyone who accidentally or
unknowingly comes into contact with it.
But, of course, another major concern is that the material might be
taken by someone trying to get their hands on highly radioactive material.
So this week when the news broke of another incident of nuclear material
going loose, this time in Iraq of all places, the headlines were
understandably pretty panicked, terror group seizes uranium compounds.
Material could be used for a dirty bomb.
Sunni militants who have been fighting the Iraqi government got their
hands on about 88 pounds of uranium compounds. That amount can fit into a
bucket sized container. They took it from a University in the Northern
Iraqi city of Mosul where the militants have taken control. The uranium
was used for research at that university and it is thought to be low grade.
After the Sunni militants seized that material, the Iraqi government
notified the IAEA under the protocol and officials from the agency, they
were able to determine that the material did not present a significant
safety security or nuclear proliferation risk. All right.
But that scientific conclusion didn`t reach all of America`s
politicians. Just today, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York
warned that the Sunni militants could be building a dirty bomb and he said
we should be very concerned. When you put Iraqi militants and stolen
nuclear material in the same sentence, you can see why many would be
But Peter King isn`t just anybody. He`s the former chair of the
Homeland Security Committee. So, he ought to understand the point that the
militants grab depleted uranium and as the name depleted uranium suggests,
it`s not uranium at the top of its game. It actually has low
radioactivity, and can`t be used to make a nuclear weapon.
Now, if circulated, it surely can be a health hazard, though most
likely to those people carrying it, in this case, it would be those
But what they have seized such a small amount that it would not be
enough to even make a rudimentary dirty bomb, which you would need much
more radioactive material in order to construct. And if you recall, Iraq
doesn`t have any material that can be used to build a nuclear bomb that we
know of. They haven`t had much of anything like that since U.N. weapons
inspector inspectors carted it away in the `90s after the very first Gulf
None of which has to suggest that Sunni militants wouldn`t like to
acquire nuclear materials or build dirty bombs, but at least in this
instance, it doesn`t appear they got what they needed.
MELBER: All right. We are not done yet. We have some late
developments tonight on one of the top stories of the evening, those
prospects of immigration reform getting through Congress.
Tonight, we can confirm for you there is a movement within Congress
to grant citizenship to at least one immigrant of Spanish descent. Here he
is, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Bernardo de Galvez y
Madrid, former viceroy of New Spain. If he were alive today he would be
nearly 268 years.
During the Revolutionary War, General Galvez recruited and led troops
through battles from Baton Rouge, all the way through Pensacola, knocking
out British naval bases along the Gulf Coast.
Bernardo here was even recognized for his great efforts by George
Washington and way back in the day, the Continental Congress. He is the
namesake of Galveston, Texas.
You would think that would be enough recognition, but now, 227 years
after he passed, a resolution has passed the House Judiciary Committee to
grant him honorary citizenship -- with whatever he can do with that, we
don`t know -- for his role in helping America during the Revolutionary War.
Now, this is sort of funny because Republican Congressman Eric Cantor
just killed a bill that would actually do the same thing for immigrants
that are serving our country right now. Do you remember that? It wasn`t
even two months ago, members of Congress wanted to attach the ENLIST Act to
the National Defense Act. Eric Cantor was taking fire from that primary
challenger he had for being soft on immigration. So, he refused to even
bring the ENLIST Act to the floor. He just killed it.
Now, that didn`t save his seat as we were reminiscing earlier
tonight. And Congress still can`t get the ENLIST Act to the floor.
So, apparently, you can`t get citizenship for fighting for this
country unless it was 200 years ago and you get at least a major port city
named after you, preferably in a red state.
If you fought in a war two centuries ago, welcome to the team. If
you want to defend this country right now or in the future -- this Congress
is telling you sorry, we`re all out. Berdnardo got the last one.
All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again
Monday. You can see me and "THE CYCLE" co-hosts weekday afternoons at 3:00
Eastern, Toure, Abby and Krystal there.
And now, folks, as Rachel would say -- you got to go to prison. Good
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