THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
July 14, 2014
Guest: Alan Gomez, Andrew Ross Sorkin, David Boucher
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Rachel has the night off.
I`ll start by asking if you remember the kiss. In case you haven`t
heard the story, it starts back in November 2004. It`s when George W. Bush
was re-elected as president over John Kerry. In the following February,
that`s February of 2005, Bush was set to give his first State of the Union
address since being re-elected.
Obviously, this was a big deal -- the first speech to set the course
of his second term as president. It was February 2nd, 2005. That was the
date to be exact.
And after Bush finished delivering that speech, that State of the
Union Address, he made his way up along the aisle in the House chamber and
toward the exits. The scene you`ve seen on TV every year, it seems. Those
members of Congress, they reach out, they try to shake his hand, they try
to get a word in with him. Maybe try to get their picture taken. Maybe
try to get on the news while the president is trying to leave the building.
On his way out that night back on February 2nd, 2005, Bush spotted
one particular senator who he wanted to stop, who he wanted to talk to. So
he stopped, he leaned over, and he put his hand on Joe Lieberman of
Connecticut and then as you see there, he kissed him. It was an unexpected
move. Got a lot of attention.
It ended up playing a big role in the history of American politics
for the past decade because Joe Lieberman was still a full fledged Democrat
back then. He`d been his party`s candidate for vice president back in
2000. He`d run for president, himself, in 2004.
In 2005, Democrats were starting to turn on him, because it was then
that the Iraq War was spiraling out of control, and Lieberman wouldn`t stop
standing with Bush. That`s why Bush was so happy to see him in the chamber
To those Democrats who were starting to turn on Lieberman, this was a
big moment. This was an image that crystallized their feelings. This was
the ultimate symbol of just how close to Bush Lieberman had become.
And so, following year, in 2006, when Lieberman ran for re- re-
election in Connecticut, he got a challenge in the Democratic primary and
his opponents put that infamous kiss image, they put on buttons, they put
in on flyers, they put it in ads. The image was a big reason that
Lieberman went down in that Democratic primary. Why he lost his party`s
support. Why he ended up spending the rest of his time in the Senate as an
And now, here`s the thing. There was actually around that same time,
around that time of that kiss, there was actually another Democrat who
George W. Bush also looked forward to seeing during his State of the Union
Addresses. And he made that very clear the year after the Lieberman kiss.
This was in the 2006 State of the Union Address.
Right after Bush had finished his speech, he was also making his way
out of the Capitol. He was trying to exit. He was working his way through
the crowds and that`s when he saw his other favorite Democrat, Texas
congressman named Henry Cuellar. What he`s doing isn`t a kiss, but we
could call it more of a cusping of Mr. Cuellar`s cheeks. We can call a
clasp. It was the clasp.
It was less famous than the kiss, but it`s very significant right
now. The clasp.
The thing is, when that picture was taken, Henry Cuellar was running
for re-election in Texas. And his primary was in March of that year. It
was just a month after that picture was taken. That picture, that clasp,
it did happen a few months before in the heat of a primary campaign when he
was being challenged in the Democratic primary.
The picture could have been toxic to Henry Cuellar. It could have
been the equivalent to the kiss. It could have been what the kiss was to
Joe Lieberman. Henry Cuellar was facing the same basic charge Lieberman
was facing in Connecticut.
Liberals who believed he was way too close, way too friendly to
George W. Bush and wanted him gone. In Henry Cuellar`s case, it didn`t
Here`s the Henry Cuellar story. In the 2000 presidential election,
when he was a state representative in Texas, Cuellar chose to back then-
Republican Governor George W. Bush for president over his own party`s
candidate, Al Gore. He was basically a Bush surrogate.
Bush campaign proceeded to use Cuellar in Bush for president ad
campaign to attack Gore, quoting Cuellar from the "Associated Press" back
then, saying, quote, "As a Democratic member of the House Appropriations
Committee, Cuellar said by criticizing the state`s fiscal health, Gore is
attacking us, the legislature."
Following year in 2001, Republican Governor Rick Perry appointed
Henry Cuellar secretary of state in Texas. It`s a position he held
basically for the next year.
In 2004, though he did back John Kerry over Bush that year, Cuellar
decided to run for Congress against not just anyone but -- not against any
Democrat but the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Ciro
Rodriguez was his name. And Cuellar ran in that primary. It turns out, it
was a very contentious race and it was over the initial tally gave
Rodriguez a 145-vote lead. But after a recount, Cuellar moved ahead by 58
So, the race ended up going to court and in the end, Henry Cuellar
was declared the winner of the seat. He upset Ciro Rodriguez, sitting
Democratic member of Congress, in a primary.
In 2006, Ciro Rodriguez came back to try to get his revenge.
Cuellar, of course, by then had infuriated national liberal groups. The
conservative group, the Club for Growth, you`ve probably heard of them,
they came in and endorsed Henry Cuellar. I was actually reporting on that
race back then when I was at "Roll Call." It`s the very first time ever
the Club for Growth endorsed a Democrat.
And so, that was the context for George W. Bush clasping Henry
Cuellar at his 2006 State of the Union Address. He sees his old buddy
before that 2006 election and gives that buddy a good luck clasp. Cuellar
ended up surviving, though, in spite of the clasp. Democrats after that
election stopped trying to oust him. For as long as he wanted to, they
figured he was going to be representing that slice of South Texas in
But now, flash forward to right now, all these years later, we are
being reminded why he drove Democrats nuts in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Congressman, by that, I take it you mean he
should be seeing the border?
REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS (via telephone): Well, I hope that
doesn`t become a President Obama`s Katrina moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should the president be going to the border
today? He`s in Texas.
CUELLAR: Absolutely. He will be 500 miles from Dallas, and in fact,
he`ll be 242 miles from Austin, Texas. the other fund-raiser that he`ll be
having. So, he`s so close to the border.
Let me say this. When I saw -- I hate to use the word bizarre, but
under the circumstances when he is shown playing pool in Colorado, drinking
a beer, and he can`t even go 242 miles to the Texas border?
UNIDENTIFID MALE: Congressman, President Obama is visiting Texas
today but not going to the border. Is that a mistake?
CUELLAR: I think it is. Look, he`s going to be in Austin 242 miles
away from the border. He`s going to be in Dallas, 500 miles away from the
border. Last night, we saw some of the photographs where he was in
Colorado drinking a beer, playing pool. I mean, the outtakes are just
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think he looks detached at this moment?
CUELLAR: Yes, unfortunately, I think he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: We`ve been hearing a lot from Congressman Henry Cuellar in
the last few weeks during this border crisis. He`s a Democrat. He`s a
member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He has emerged as an
unusually blunt critic of President Obama.
A lot of the attention he gets stems from the fact that he`s a member
of the president`s own party. Any Republican, after all, can attack the
administration and say that the president is detached or bizarre or
whatever. But when a Democrat does it, it becomes much bigger news. It`s
much more powerful when a Democrat does it about a Democratic president.
Today, we learned that Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn and
Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar are now prepared to release a
bipartisan, bicameral bill to deal with the current border crisis. It`s a
bipartisan proposal being introduced in Congress tomorrow.
The bill would essentially rewrite the current 2008 George W. Bush
law so that minors from Central American countries can be treated like
those from Mexico and Canada. They can be deported more quickly.
Under the plan, unaccompanied minors from any country would be able
to have an immigration court hearing within seven days of their processing
by Health and Human Services and an immigration judge would be required to
rule on their case within three days.
While it appears the administration isn`t totally against this bill,
they have yet to officially get behind it, many Democrats, including the
Hispanic Caucus, have indicated they don`t have plans to support the
Now, we asked Congressman Cuellar to come on the show tonight, but he
said he had a scheduling conflict.
So, what are the prospects of this bill getting through Congress?
Joining us now is Alan Gomez. He`s a reporter who`s covering
immigration issues for "USA Today".
Alan, thanks for being here today.
So, let`s start with this bill and just -- if you can help us
understand it a little bit, because right now, we`re hearing so much about
this 2008 law that`s in effect that basically treats unaccompanied minors
coming in from the Central American countries different than unaccompanied
minors that might come in from Mexico, say. What specifically would happen
if this bill were enacted? What would happen to an unaccompanied minor
coming in from Central America that`s not happening right now?
ALLEN GOMEZ, USA TODAY: Well, to put it very simply, right now, they
wait about two years before they get a hearing to determine whether they`re
going to stay in the country or whether they`re going to go back. This
would make that about a two-week process.
The way the law is written now, if you come from a contiguous state,
that means either Mexico or Canada, and obviously, we`re talking about
Mexico here, that process can be just a matter of days. A border patrol
agent can make the determination of whether you qualify for asylum, for
refugee statuses or any of the number of visas that are available for kids
who are trying to get here and they can immediately hand them over.
Part of the reasoning is that we can do that safely and directly to
Mexican officials and we know they`re going to take care of them. The
reason this law was introduced back in 2008 is that it`s a more involved
process. Obviously, it involves a plane flight. It involves looking at
the specific cases that they`re facing back home. We don`t have the same
relationship with these governments that we do with Mexico.
So, the thinking was, let`s have more protections for these kids so
when we send them back, we know it`s a safer situation. We know -- we
understand better where they`re headed.
So, what they`re trying to do now with this bill is to treat all
those other kids as we treat kids from Mexico or Canada. Speed up that
process and make it a lot quicker.
The law itself actually doesn`t require that they face an immigration
judge. But that`s usually the practice. They end up being here so long.
They end up going before a judge. This law would actually require that for
the first time. So it kind of balances it out.
They do have the guarantee where they`re going to see a judge, but
it`s going to be a heck of a lot quicker.
KORNACKI: So, where are the politics, sort of, on Capitol Hill and
in Washington about this? We have, I guess the Congressional Hispanic
Congress is already denouncing the proposal. They`re going out there and
saying Congressman Cuellar does not speak for us on this. At the same time
KORNACKI: -- I`ve seen reporting that the white house has basically
indicated, and they`ve done this in this sort of indirect way, they won`t
say it officially but have people tell reporters off the record. The White
House seems to be sending the message that, hey, we`d like Congress to do
this, we`d like to tie it to this funding request.
Is this something the White House wants but doesn`t want to come out
and say they want right now?
GOMEZ: Well, exactly what you`re saying. The -- they were the first
ones to actually bring this up. This was about a week ago when the
president made that speech in the Rose Garden, a week ago Monday, and he
announced he was going to be asking for some more money. And he said he
was going to be looking for some changes into the laws.
You know, we found out that it was specifically this law and it was
this very thing we`re talking about, being able to treat these Central
HAYES: Why is the White House so hesitant to say that publicly and
to publicly embrace it? What`s keeping them back politically?
GOMEZ: I`m not sure about that. But I can tell you that as soon as
that kind of broke out, all of a sudden, they started getting blowback from
a lot of Democrats on the Hill. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the
Judiciary Committee in the Senate, who orchestrated the immigration bill
last year that passed the Senate, he said he would fight, quote, "tooth and
nail" to oppose it. Other senators have been ling up. Dick Durbin, a
close ally of the White House, had said he wants more money for kids to get
lawyers. Other Democrats in both chambers are saying that this is really
an unfair trade-off, just to get some money to take care of these kids.
So, the blowback has been pretty sharp and been pretty heated just in
the last couple days since this start materializing.
KORNACKI: And what about -- so, we went through some of the history
here. I remember when I was covering Congress in `06 when Cuellar beat
Rodriguez in the primary. You know, a lot of people thought he was going
to lose that primary. He bragged to us. I just gave him a South Texas
beating. I remember that`s the expression he used.
So, obviously, you know, he`s been getting a lot of, you know, sort
of blowback within the Democratic Party for the last couple of weeks, for
how he has been talking about the president and the president`s handling of
the immigration crisis, the border crisis right now.
With his fingerprints on a bill like this, does that actually make it
more radioactive with Democrats? Is that how they`re now responding to
GOMEZ: Yes, I mean, you can see it a couple of different ways here.
I mean, when you look at the sort of traditional party breakdown, once you
get right to the border, things get a little different. So, on the one
hand, we`re talking about Henry Cuellar as if he`s a staunch Republican
trying to hammer on these immigrants. But at the same time, he`s one of
the strongest opponents of extending the border wall. He says it`s an old
solution that can`t really work and that`s a traditional Republican thing
to be pushing for to secure the border.
So, he`s got this -- his brother`s a sheriff down there along the
border. I mean, he understands these issues very well. So, it`s -- and
it`s very complicated -- when you start talking to the folks down along the
border, about what they think needs to work and what they think can solve
KORNACKI: Alan, I`m just curious, though, he really has, it seems,
gone out of his way in the last couple weeks to be going after President
Obama to be picking a public fight with -- what are the politics of that?
It`s a Democratic district he comes from.
Is there a political angle, you know, behind this? Is there some
history with him and Obama maybe that we done don`t know about?
GOMEZ: I mean, as far as their history together, I`m not really
sure. He`s in a safe district. He, you know, last year, he won with,
like, 67 percent in the Democratic primary and he ran unopposed the year
before that, there wasn`t even opposition in the Democratic Party.
So, I think, obviously, he`s a little insulated. He has the
opportunity to do things other Democrats cannot do.
So, what his point in doing this, why he`s kind of making this point?
As the clip you showed, when he`s talking about the president`s actions as
being bizarre, when he brings up that question of, is this Obama`s Katrina
moment? I mean, those are Republican talking points they`ve been parroting
the last week or so.
So, yes, you wonder where he`s coming from. I`m not exactly sure
what the impetus of his push is. But I can tell you, it`s not that he`s
worried about his district. So, whether he`s looking for another office or
if this is what he truly believes and wants to push to get things done --
you know, it would be nice for him to get out here to explain this a little
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, every Republicans` favorite Democrat, they
said that about Lieberman a decade ago and the last two weeks, certainly,
I`ve been hearing it about Henry Cuellar.
Anyway, Alan Gomez, reporter for "USA Today" -- thank you very much
for helping us understand this tonight. Appreciate.
GOMEZ: Thank you.
KORNACKI: That we`ve got lots more ahead, including multibillion
dollar bank fines. The rise of Elizabeth Warren as the Democrat`s go-to
red state campaigner, believe it or not. And a Chris Christie you have
never heard before and possibly neither has he.
But first, a one more thing regarding the crisis of Central American
kids coming into the country without documentation. United States today
deported 21 girls and boys from Honduras, back to their home country on a
charter flight, departed from New Mexico for San Pedro Sula, that`s the
city with the highest murder rate in the world. Children reportedly range
in age from 18 months to 15 years old. This was the first such deportation
flight since president Obama pledged to fast track the return of
undocumented immigrant kids to their home countries.
Be right back.
KORNACKI: Almost one month ago exactly, on the afternoon of June
17th, some surprising news broke that immediately became front page
headlines. This was news leaking of the capture of one of the suspected
ring leaders of the attacks on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
U.S. Special Forces has taken Ahmed Abu Khattala into custody in a
secret raid just a few days before and that big news sort of upstaged
another announcement the Obama administration was hoping to deliver that
same day, because that same someday when the Justice Department planned to
break the news that the federal government was going to sue one of the
country`s largest banks.
Lead prosecutor for the DOJ had been flown in from Colorado, a press
conference room had been booked in preparation for the announcement that
they were going to go after Citigroup for its role in the financial crisis.
DOJ hoped the suit would send a clear public message, message that the
Obama administration was serious about holding Wall Street accountable.
But then at the last minute, prosecutors pulled back, because they feared
that the Benghazi news was taking over the day. So, Justice Department
officials decided to postpone filing their suit.
This was a suit that had been in the works since Citigroup balked at
a reported $12 billion settlement demand from the Justice Department.
Bank`s original offer had been far less -- far less gigantic, $360 million.
So, they were at an impasse, and the bank was told to be ready for a
When the Benghazi arrest happened, the suit didn`t come. And that
allowed more time for negotiation, culminating in today`s announcement that
Citigroup will be shelling out $7 billion to pay for their financial sins.
This case, knowingly selling investments and bad mortgages that brought the
U.S. economy to its knees six years ago now. Settlement includes a record
$4 billion. That`s $4 billion with a B -- a $4 billion penalty for their
misdeeds, along with $2.5 billion earmarked for so-called consumer relief,
that reportedly will go to helping those struggling to pay their mortgages
and to finance affordable housing.
Today`s announcement is the latest of Justice Department settlements
with the big banks. November, JPMorgan Chase settled for a landmark $13
billion, a sizable chunk of the fines and fees that big banks have agreed
to pay in the fallout from the credit crisis.
"Wall Street Journal" has been keeping a stunning tally of the
payouts which top more than $100 billion, that`s as of today. Bank of
America is leading the pack so far having already forked over $56 billion
in various settlements since 2010. And they are still in negotiations with
the Department of Justice about what they owe the federal government.
The mortgage settlements are the last of the unfinished business from
the collapse of 2008, disaster that caused upwards of $14 trillion in
economic damage, which is an amount of money too abstract, too enormous to
comprehend. If we`re able to compare that double digit trillion-dollar
figure with $100 billion in fees that big banks have paid out, it raises
the question of, whether the punishment has fit the crime. Have the too
big to fail banks made any real changes to ensure another crisis is not
just around the corner?
Well, joining us now is Andrew Ross Sorkin. He`s "New York Times"
columnist and co-host of "Squawk Box" on CNBC.
Andrew, thanks for joining us.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
KORNACKI: OK. Headline this morning, $7 billion settlement, fine,
however you want to phrase that. OK. Another headline this afternoon,
Citi`s stock goes up.
KORNACKI: So, this isn`t a real punishment, right?
SORKIN: It`s not a real punishment. Look, this is too little, too
Had they wanted to do this in 2009 when homes were being foreclosed
upon, perhaps we could argue that this is the right type of thing that
happened. But if you really look at what happened here, who`s paying this?
Nobody`s going to jail.
The shareholders of Citigroup today, not the shareholders who were
there, by the way, six, seven, eight years ago, they`re the ones that are
paying for this. And so, like at this situation, and I say, it looks to me
very much like the executives of Citigroup using shareholder money, not
their own, have effectively bribed the government to say, go away.
And on the other side, to some extent, I would argue, if I wanted to
argue the other point, I would say, the government clearly not having a
case against any individual or at least not deciding to bring one, has
decided to bribe Citigroup and their shareholders so that they can come up
with a statement and a press release.
KORNACKI: So, what is -- let`s look at this -- $2.5 billion in
consumer relief. That`s the -- what does not mean? $2.5 billion sounds
like a big -- what does that mean to the consumer? Will they feel it?
SORKIN: No. That`s why I said if they had done this five years ago,
you could have felt it. What`s almost comical about this at this point is
that Citigroup has very little mortgage business. In fact, they don`t have
mortgages to change the structure of. In fact, so much so that what
they`re doing now, part of the deal, is they`re going to subsidize,
effectively, affordable housing, which has basically nothing to do with
By the way, the case itself was actually about defrauding investors,
it wasn`t, oddly enough, about defrauding -- so, I`m not sure -- the
punishment fits the crime, I`m not sure the crime -- it`s just, the whole
KORNACKI: I mean, it reminds me -- I was saying to somebody earlier
it reminds me of a scene from the "Sopranos." Tony Soprano would beat up
the guy and throw a couple 20 dollar bills at him. Go get your jaw fixed
And it was sort of like, hey, it means nothing to me. It`s the money
I have to fork over to do what I really want to do.
SORKIN: I think that`s the answer. That`s become the cost of doing
business. That`s what this has become.
KORNACKI: Is there any way the government could have extracted more?
Why is the government settling for so little if Citibank --
SORKIN: I`m not sure if it`s so little. I`m not sure what the right
Look, I`m not somebody who believes that corporations are people, to
use an over cliched expression. If there`s a crime, they should go after
the people who are responsible for the crime and then they should go after
KORNACKI: Do you think there were crimes?
SORKIN: Oh, I`m sure there were crimes here.
KORNACKI: Why -- what`s been the reluctance there?
SORKIN: I think they went after this too late. They didn`t go after
this aggressively enough. And ultimately, the crimes that did happen
probably were too far down the chain to make the impact that they wanted to
in terms of getting that poster boy. That`s what they wanted and they
don`t have it.
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, I think Holder was saying today there`s
still the possibility of some kind of criminal --
SORKIN: Yes, but that`s --
KORNACKI: It`s not going to happen, is it?
SORKIN: It`s very difficult to believe. The statute of limitations
has kind of run out. The Dodd/Frank legislation tries to extend it. But
anybody who brings a case is going to then, of course, face a whole other
legal challenge. Just on the fact of whether they can actually bring the
case or not.
KORNACKI: So, Citibank, the other big banks, Wall Street, five or
six years. Okay.
SORKIN: Five or six years.
KORNACKI: We`ve had Dodd/Frank, all these incremental settlements
here and there. Right now, has Wall Street, has the big banks, has
Citibank changed in any fundamental way that we can feel good about versus
five or six years ago?
SORKIN: So, here`s the good news -- the answer is actually yes. If
you asked me two, three years ago I would have said no. But I do think
that Wall Street has changed to a large degree. Citigroup looks like a
very different firm than it did then. There is less risk being taken in
the firm than before.
Having said that, there are other risks now building up in the system
-- in other places frankly that aren`t regulated. And so, will we have
another crisis? Of course, we`ll have another crisis. Will it be a
banking crisis? Maybe not.
KORNACKI: So, it`s the rearview mirror problem. Looking at the last
thing and forgetting about the thing --
SORKIN: The ultimate problem every single time.
KORNACKI: On that optimistic note, Andrew Ross Sorkin --
SORKIN: Sorry to depress you.
KORNACKI: -- "New York Times" columnist and author, co-host of
"Squawk Box" on CNBC -- thanks for being here.
OK. Let`s say you are a Democrat, say you`re running for office.
Which party big wig do you want out on the trail with you right now? Think
about that for a second and ask yourself if you`re really sure. We`ll
explain why just ahead.
KORNACKI: There are obvious reasons that New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie became a national star in the Republican Party. Years before his
prominent leadership in the crisis management of Superstorm Sandy in 2012,
way before his administration became entangled in whatever that was at the
George Washington Bridge, before the committees, before the U.S. attorneys,
before all the rest of what`s been a politically challenging 2014, before
all of that, there was this Chris Christie, circa 2010.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is who I am. Like it or
not, you guys are stuck with me for four years and I`m going to say things
directly when you ask me questions, I`m going to answer them directly,
straightly, bluntly, and nobody in New Jersey is going to have to wonder
where I am on an issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Chris Christie and he knew it was his political
trump card. The idea was no matter what people thought of where he stood
on issues, they liked his pugnacious style enough they elected him governor
twice. That makes Chris Christie most recent evolution pretty remarkable
because Chris Christie has now been out there making news as only a
politician like Chris Christie could, by not letting anyone know what he
Now, why would that be the case? The story, coming up.
KORNACKI: Heading into the 2008 presidential election, the
Democratic Party did not have a clear, obvious presidential nominee.
Democrats had a couple of leading choices and the race between them ended
up staying close for months. Barack Obama tended to do better in the
states that allotted delegates in a caucus system. Hillary Clinton did
better in the states that had primaries.
Even though Clinton ended up losing overall, there were some states
where she just plain shellacked Obama and one of those states stands out.
At the very end of that campaign, when it was clear Obama had the delegates
he was going to need to win the nomination, even then, he nonetheless lost
the West Virginia primary to Clinton by 41 points, 20 percent of the voters
in West Virginia that day actually identified race as a factor in their
In 2012, four years later, President Obama returned to the Democratic
primary ballot in West Virginia. This time as the incumbent. This time as
the clear favorite with no Clinton running against him, with no big-name
Democrat of any kind running against him.
But technically, the president wasn`t running unopposed in that
Democratic primary. He was actually running against someone named Keith
Judd of Texarkana, Texas. By Texarkana, Texas, that actually means the
federal correctional institution in Texarkana, Texas, because Keith Judd
was a federal prisoner, a convicted felon who was serving a sentence of 210
months for extortion.
From behind bars he described himself as, quote, "a candidate with
Even though he`s just a classic political gadfly, Keith Judd somehow
got his name on the ball lot in West Virginia in 2012. When he did, he did
great. He got 41 percent of the vote. He didn`t win the primary, but he
did better in West Virginia in 2012 as a convict than Barack Obama did in
2008 as a United States senator.
Keith Judd, the candidate who was sitting in prison actually won 10
whole counties in that Democratic primary, 10 whole counties against the
president of the United States. He did well enough that he bothered trying
to contest the results. Or maybe that was just a way of passing time
because he was bored.
In any case, come November in the general election, president Obama
lost West Virginia to Mitt Romney by 27 points. The president lost every
single county in West Virginia, all 55 of them.
Safe to say that West Virginia really, really doesn`t like Barack
Now, that we are in the heart of this year`s midterm election
campaign, you can start to see, state by state, where the president is
unpopular, at least where he`s an iffy proposition politically. You can
see that sometimes you can see that by direct polling, sometimes you can
see it by how the candidates from his own Democratic Party are reacting to
In Arkansas, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, has one of the toughest
fights for re-election this year. He`s campaigning hard but not with
In Colorado, President Obama showed up for a fundraising event last
week, fundraising event for Democratic Senator Mark Udall. But Mark Udall
was nowhere to be seen. He stayed in Washington, which his campaign
insisted was not a political decision but which sure looked like one in the
And yesterday in Alaska, Democratic Senator Mark Begich described
himself to the "Washington Post" as a sharp object sent to the capitol to
jab at President Obama. Quote, "Sort of, I`ll be a thorn in his
posterior." Senator Begich told "The Post," "There`s times when I`m a total
thorn, you know, and he doesn`t appreciate it."
It makes a certain pure political sense for Democratic politicians to
steer clear of his party`s president when the president is not popular in
their home state especially if you`re campaigning in a state that Obama
lost by a lot.
What`s interesting, though, is who some of these Democrats do think
helps them this year. President Obama lost in Kentucky last time around by
22 points. He is very unpopular in Kentucky. So, last month, the
Democratic hopeful for the Senate there brought in Senator Elizabeth Warren
instead. Alison Lundergan-Grimes campaigning with a liberal Democrat from
Elizabeth Warren brought her populist economic message to Kentucky
and the Democrat there was happy to have it. Just today, in West Virginia,
a state where Barack Obama remains as unpopular as ever, in West Virginia,
where coal is king and Obama is seen as the destroyer, in that state,
today, the Democratic Senate hopeful called on Elizabeth Warren for help.
You won`t find Natalie Tennant campaigning for the Senate with President
Obama. You will find her betting that Elizabeth Warren will boost her
campaign and her brand of populism is still popular.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You can talk to them about
what is at stake in this election. What it means for the families of West
Virginia. What it means for the future of West Virginia.
If West Virginia decides to send a senator to Washington who`s going
to be there to fight for Wall Street for those who`ve already made it. Or
what it will mean for West Virginia to have a person who will get up every
morning and go to work to absolutely work her heart out for the families of
I`m here because I believe in democracy. I believe in what we can do
together. I believe in Natalie Tennant.
She`s going to be your next senator. Make it happen.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
WARREN: Make it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Elizabeth Warren, Democrats` surprising new campaign
weapon in red states.
Joining us now is David Boucher. He`s the capitol bureau chief for
"The Charleston Daily Mail" in West Virginia.
Dave, thanks for joining us.
So, when I look at a state like West Virginia, Kentucky, a lot of
these red states where control of the Senate is sort of going to be
determined this year, the prevailing logic there for I don`t know how long,
has been a Democrat who wants to win West Virginia has to get as far away
as humanly possible from anyone who is associated with the National
Democratic Party. Make it the West Virginia Democratic Party and not the
National Democratic Party, and now I see Elizabeth Warren, who is probably
tone of the most popular figures in the National Democratic Party, coming
to West Virginia.
What can she do there that no other national Democrat can do?
DAVID BOUCHER, CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL: Well, the argument from the
Tennant campaign is she can come in and be a, quote, "champion for the
middle class." So, they expect that senator warren`s message, and you
mentioned it several times, a populist message, will resonate with the
residents and voters of West Virginia.
A vast majority or a large amount of West Virginia`s population
relies on some of the welfare or social programs that National Democrats
tend to promote and historically Democrats have, you know, done very well
in the state. And so, they`re hoping that Senator Warren`s policy stances
on some of these issues will sort of resonate with those voters as opposed
to some of her stances on the president`s energy policy.
KORNACKI: So, I mean, the conventional wisdom about this race has
been -- this is the Senate seat that Jay Rockefeller, long-serving
Democrat, he`s retiring this year. Basically the assumption in Washington
is that Republicans, Congressman Shelley Moore Capito is there candidate,
the assumption is, she`s going to win the race because West Virginia at the
federal level has become such a Republican state.
Do you see it that way?
BOUCHER: That`s certainly what you`ll hear state-level Republicans
in the Capito campaign talk about. "The Charleston Daily Mail"
commissioned a poll in may that showed Congresswoman Capito was up 11
points on Secretary of State Tennant and there was a consistent message
that West Virginia is slowly but surely turning into a Republican-
Congresswoman Capito has served in the Congress since 2000. She`s
handily defeated her last several opponents. And she`s faced similar
criticism of being a friend of Wall Street or being too close with bankers,
and that didn`t really derail any of her previous campaigns.
So, I think that the state-level Republicans here and the Capito
campaign are quite confident in where they stand in the race today.
KORNACKI: So how do you think the event went today? I mean, you
mentioned it a little bit in the first answer there. I mean, there is some
tension where, for instance, one of the reasons President Obama is so
unpopular in West Virginia has to do with coal, has to do with his
When you get to the idea of moving away from coal, moving away from
fossil fuels, Elizabeth Warren is right there with the president, right
there with sort of these environmentalists who politicians in West Virginia
tend to rail against. Certainly, Natalie Tennant being one of them.
Was there some awkwardness today? Was there any tension because of
BOUCHER: Well, actually, the event where the senator spoke with
Secretary Tennant was in Shepherdstown, which is about as far east as you
can get in West Virginia. It`s approximately six or seven hours from the
coal fields region of the state. And so, from what I was told, that there
was about 450 supporters at the event, and that there were, you know, quite
a few people there who agreed with the message according to several media
reports and the campaign.
Today in Charleston, Congresswoman Capito appeared with
Representative Paul Ryan at a roundtable event with some local leaders in
business, and that was -- the Tennant event was also central to that
roundtable, pointing out Warren`s, again, stances on energy policy.
KORNACKI: And so, talk a little bit, if you would, also, just the
evolution of West Virginia, because it`s so fascinating to me. I wonder if
there`s a state that has swung more dramatically to one party from another
in a shorter time than West Virginia. I remember in 1988 Michael Dukakis
getting crushed nationally and still won West Virginia. Walter Mondale
almost won West Virginia in 1984.
And now, we`re talking about it as, you know, one of the most solidly
Republican state in the presidential elections. I mean, -- look at all the
stuff there we just put out about President Obama and his standing in the
state. What is behind that? What is behind that shift?
BOUCHER: Well, I think some of the rhetoric amongst politicos on
both sides of the aisle kind of comes back to just a general feeling that
federal policy has shifted away from West Virginia families. There are
labor unions and teacher unions and just unions in general, had a huge
influence in the state for a long time and helped control the state for
But just with shifts, most people point to the coal industry, with
some declines in the coal industry. People have started to align more with
the Republicans and typically, or just historically, Democrats and a lot of
people in West Virginia have had conservative social values. And so
especially leading up to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush,
Republicans noticed that there could be a chance for some pickups in the
state and they have continued to do better and better at the federal level.
KORNACKI: All right. David Boucher, he`s capital bureau chief for
"The Charleston Daily Mail", thanks very much for helping us figure this
out tonight. I appreciate the time.
Took a freedom of information request for the public to learn certain
details about the Central Intelligence Agency that will probably make you
feel closer to America`s most famous spying organization than you ever knew
KORNACKI: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s battles with his
state`s Supreme Court are borderline legendary. His efforts to shift the
balance of that court have been some of the most impassioned and most
covered clashes in New Jersey politics these last few years. After all,
this New Jersey State Supreme Court has long enjoyed a reputation as one of
the most liberal state Supreme Courts in America which has long made it a
favorite punching bag for Republicans in New Jersey, including Chris
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CHRISTIE: As a fundamental principle, I do not believe that it is
the role of the State Supreme Court to determine what programs the state
should and should not be funding. The court should not be dictating how
taxpayer dollars are spent and prioritizing certain programs over others.
The Supreme Court is not the legislature.
I`ve read the opinion, I`ve read both the majority opinion, the
dissenting opinion. I think that what it is, is an example once again of
liberal activist judges running amok.
I don`t think the ruling was appropriate. I think it was wrong. I
think it`s typical, Eric, of what the problem we see in the New Jersey
Supreme Court and it`s just another example of judicial supremacy rather
than having the government run by the people we actually vote for. So, I
thought it was a bad decision.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: Suffice to say, there is no love lost between Governor
Christie and his state`s Supreme Court.
When the court hasn`t ruled the way he wants, he has had zero problem
airing his grievances, airing them loudly and repeatedly. So given how
much he`s railed against his own estimate Supreme Court decisions when
Christie was asked recently for his thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court`s
Hobby Lobby ruling, you`d probably figure he had a strong opinion or two.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the Supreme Court right in its decision?
CHRISTIE: Who knows, is the Supreme Court right? The fact is that
when you`re an executive, your Supreme Court makes a ruling and you`ve got
to live with it unless you can get the legislative body to change the law
or change the Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Chris Christie of all people saying, when your Supreme
Court makes a decision you`ve got to live with it. That`s a new one coming
Although actually, the idea of ducking a tough political question,
the idea of avoiding a potentially sensitive political issue, that does
seem to be something that Christie`s doing a lot of these days. It seems
like maybe it`s his new strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I`ve got a whole range of very different opinions on
different subjects. I believe I`m a conservative. There will be other
people who say, no, he`s a moderate. There`ll be other people in my state
who say, he`s crazy, he`s too far right.
The point is, like, why should I give an opinion on whether they`re
right or wrong? In the end of the day, they did what they did. This is
the way you get bogged down on those things. You know what? I don`t think
that`s the most central issue that we need to talk about this morning when
you look at the challenges that face our country. If I allow people to put
me into that box, shame on me, I`m not a good politician, I`m not a good
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, what this really sounds like, of course, is a guy
who`s getting ready to run for president, a guy who wants to walk the fence
to avoid chasing the base and saying something that will haunt him in a
general election for president. It`s the same formula he used when he was
approaching the debate over Syria as well as the debate over immigration.
Many people assume that bridgegate has sealed Chris Christie`s
political fate, there is at least one person who remains convinced he`s
still very much in the 2016 mix, and his name is Chris Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIIFED MALE: I work for the CIA. I am not a spy. I just read
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Robert Redford in the vastly underrated `70s spy
thriller, "Three Days of the Condor." His character code named Condor is a
CIA researcher who suddenly and quite unexpectedly finds his quiet office
job has turned into a mysterious and murderous whodunit, wherein he has to
both outrun and outsmart the bad guys whose identity he doesn`t know or
understand, avoid detection, and get Fay Dunaway to be his girlfriend.
And because this was the `70s, Redford achieves it all but he`s still
left disillusioned and uncertain whether in the grand scheme of things,
he`s really succeeded. It was a very philosophical movie.
"Three Days of the Condor" has one thing in common with basically
every other spy movie that`s ever been made. In it, the CIA agent is
unflappable, rattled by nothing, adept even under the scariest
You know the type. Crack foreign encryptions and successfully avoid
a shoot-out at your secret CIA offices, of course. Commandeer a cop car
with four armed officers inside then drive that same car while handcuff no
sweat. Pop culture has consistently portrayed CIA agents as the definition
of cool under pressure.
So, it raises the question, what actually does get under the CIA
skin? What irks them what eats at them, what unsettles the nerves of these
masters of composure? Is there anything big enough, anything scary enough,
anything dangerous enough to make them lose their cool?
Well, today, we found out. Quote, "The jazz salad was supposed to be
a Sonoma grape and prosciutto salad. This is one of my favorites, so I
stand in line and notice there are no grapes. Grapes are in the title of
I asked them about and the server pointed to the cherry tomatoes and
said they`re red grapes. I said, no, those are tomatoes. Should I get
grapes from the salad bar? She didn`t give an opinion but I did get grapes
from the salad bar."
It`s all starting to unfold like a John le Carre novel, isn`t it?
Here`s another, quote, "As of late, there seems to be a shortage of
almonds for the breakfast cereal such as oatmeal, cream of wheat. I`m sure
I`m speaking for myself as well as others, when I kindly request that
whomever is responsible for ordering food supplies note the level of usage
and increase the almond purchases/supplies as appropriate."
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and the rise of data
journalism, we now have access to all kinds of information that probably
otherwise would never have seen the light of day. And today, that means we
all know the cafeteria at the CIA is pretty much like the cafeteria at any
other office cubicle farm in America.
The Web site "Muck Rock" posted this set of documents awhile back and
today they reposted them so a bunch of people including us found it for the
first time. It is a treasure trove of CIA employee complaints,
specifically about the office cafeteria.
This is the stuff that rattles them. Quote, "Please put back the
individual packets of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Two times this the
week I heard folks make comments about these pump boxes. Comments have
been made indicating this process is cumbersome, a pain in the neck, is
causing frustration by some people. It would be appreciated by many to put
out the individual condiment packets."
Quote, "I had the Russian meal today and am disappointed. First of
all to try to be cute with a substitute, a backward R, a yeah (ph) for an
R, it`s tacky. Please realize many of us have really traveled to this
countries and when you provide food like you have today it causes me to not
support this kind of cuisine in the future."
Quote, "Last week and then again this week, I have talked to numerous
cafe employees to inform them the Pepsi coming out of the regular Pepsi
spout is Diet Pepsi. They have the wrong Pepsi tank hooked up to the wrong
Pepsi spout, yet no one has fixed this problem. Why is this problem not
The feedback really isn`t all bad. This person thanks the cafeteria
for finally fixing the salad dressing area. But the one thing to learn
from this cache of CIA office complaints is that all these folks need when
you`re not in the middle of some covert operation or drumming up classified
intelligence briefing is almonds on their cream of wheat, a few ketchup
packets, maybe a regular Pepsi.
Spies, they`re just like us, at least when it comes to complaining
about the company commissary.
Anyway, that does it for us tonight.
It`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
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