'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, August 1st, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
August 1, 2014
Guest: Christina Bellantoni, Siobhan Gorman
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. I don`t think we
can top that. We`re going to try. Have a great weekend.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: You, too.
KORNACKI: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel
has the night off.
Now, I don`t know if you can make a ski slope out of three data
points but we`re going to try. Check this out: 44 percent. That`s how
much of the Latino vote that George W. Bush got in the 2004 presidential
election. During that campaign, Bush had come out in favor of a guest
When he hit that number, when he hit the 44 percent number among
Latino voters, that became a high water mark for a Republican presidential
candidate among Latino voters. Not even Ronald Reagan back in 1984. That
was the year he won 49 states in what was an epic landslide, not even
Ronald Reagan did as well as George W. Bush did in 2004.
Now, here`s the next number, next data point: 31 percent. It`s how
much of the Latino vote that John McCain got in 2008. McCain, if you
remember, did a big about-face on issue of immigration during that
campaign. He started out leading the push for a path to citizenship and
then he fierce revolt from the right and his disavowed his own plan, his
own plan for a path for citizenship. And then after doing that, he got
only 31 percent of the Latino vote and he lost the election to Barack
OK. Third data point, 27 percent -- 27 percent of the Latino vote is
what Mitt Romney got in 2012. Just 27 percent.
It`s very hard to win a presidential election when you do that badly
with members of such a big group, so Romney, like McCain, lost the
And, again, I don`t know if you can call three data points a ski
slope. But this downward slide, from that 44 percent that Bush got in
2004, to the 31 percent that McCain got in 2008, all the way down to the 27
percent that Mitt Romney got two years ago, that is not the kind of pattern
that any political party ever wants to see.
Now, in the case of Mitt Romney, in 2012, there`s a reason. There`s
very little question why it happened. There`s a reason why it happened.
Reason had to do with this. He spent the Republican primary season that
year piling up sound bites like these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We went to the
company and said, look, you can`t have any illegals working on our
property. I`m running for office, for Pete`s sake, I can`t have illegals.
Amnesty is a magnet. When we have had in the past, programs that
have said that people who come here illegally are going to get to stay
illegally for the rest of their life, that`s only going to encourage more
people to come here illegally.
If I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I
veto it? And the answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: So this was how Mitt Romney got the Republican nomination
in 2012. This is how he won over all those skeptical conservatives.
Remember this thing? All those skeptical conservatives who weren`t really
sure if he was one of them.
He spent the primary season playing the tough guy, the toughest of
the tough guys on the issue of immigration reform. And, of course, when
the primary season ended, anyone could see that this was going to cost him
big in the general election. This maybe was even going to cost him enough
votes to doom his candidacy.
So, as Romney emerged from that Republican primary season, where he
said all of those hard line things about immigration, Republicans on
Capitol Hill decided to try to throw him a lifeline. The plan was to have
Republican Senator Marco Rubio introduce a bill that would offer protection
to some of those young DREAMers, these are children who`ve been brought to
this country at a young age by undocumented parents. Romney was then going
to endorse the plan that Rubio drew up.
And here was the beautiful part of this -- President Obama was
already taking heat at this moment for the record number of deportations
that had occurred on his watch. The deporter in chief, that`s the term
some critics were already calling him.
So, Republicans saw a golden opportunity. They would be the ones
offering a helping hand to the young and idealistic DREAMers and Obama
would be forced to sign their bill. This is how they were going to undo
all of that damage that Mitt Romney had done to himself on the issue of
immigration in the primaries.
The only problem, deporter in chief didn`t want to play along.
Instead, President Obama did something. He headed them off. He used a
preemptive measure. He took executive action.
In June of 2012 with great fanfare, President Obama announced his own
miniature DREAM Act. This affected more than 800,000 people. Instead of
deporting those DREAMers, the president directed his administration to
offer them a legal means to stay in this country. Republicans had blocked
legislative attempts to do that, so President Obama used his executive
authority to defer hundreds of thousands of deportations. Essentially on
his say so.
People lined up for applications throughout the U.S. This was a big
deal. This was in the middle of the presidential campaign.
And with that executive action by President Obama, Mitt Romney`s
grand strategy for winning back some of the Latino vote that he had lost,
that grand strategy exploded on the spot. He couldn`t come out and say he
was against what Obama had just done. That would have been more
politically suicidal than anything he said in the primaries, but he also
couldn`t really say he was for it, because after all, he`d hung his
campaign on never saying that Obama was right about anything.
So, Mitt Romney was stuck and it was obviously immediately, it was
obvious when he was asked if as president he would abide by the executive
action that Obama had just taken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you do about it?
ROMNEY: Well, as you know, he was president for the last 3 1/2
years, did nothing on immigration. I`ve said, for instance, that those who
serve in the military, I would give permanent residency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, but would you appeal this?
ROMNEY: Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by
virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution with a legislation that
creates law which relates to these individuals such that they know what
their setting is going to be. Not just for the term of a president, but on
a permanent basis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won`t keep on about this, but just to make sure
I understand, would you leave this in place while you worked out a long-
term solution or just repeal it?
ROMNEY: We`ll look at that -- we`ll look at that setting as we reach
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It was painful to watch Mitt Romney go through that.
And for Republicans, it was infuriating. They never really got over
it, either. And that turns out to be really helpful information to
remember as Republicans in Congress now, this week, tonight, in the year
2014, stage 1 of the more riveting meltdowns in recent political history.
Because when you hear Republicans howling these days about President Obama
and his use of executive action or executive orders, some of that anger
comes from recent decisions, but a lot of it, probably most of it, really
goes back to that moment in the 2012 campaign. They were hopping mad about
Obama using his executive authority in immigration, using it in a way that
ruined their last best chance to make inroads with Latino voters.
They`ve only gotten madder about it since. House Speaker John
Boehner has used executive orders as a rallying cry for his base. Far
right Republicans have even talked about impeaching the president over his
And that`s a political nonstarter. Voters overwhelmingly say they
don`t want impeachment and neither does House Speaker John Boehner. But on
Wednesday, Boehner did get Republicans to vote for suing President Obama
over his use of executive orders -- suing the president for delaying part
of health reform which Republicans voted to repeal dozens of times. But on
Wednesday, they formally voted to sue the president for using his executive
authority to delay part of the health care law.
All but five Republicans lined up behind Boehner and passed the red
meat legislation. Republican Party was unified. They were unified and all
together on Wednesday.
And then, on Thursday, disaster, where tens of thousands of
unaccompanied kids having crossed into the U.S. now being held in
detention with that very real crisis playing out along our Southern border,
with all of that going on, Boehner announced yesterday morning that
Republicans would hold two votes related to the crisis. The first would
increase money for security at the border. And to get conservative votes
on board for that one, Boehner also scheduled a second vote, a vote on a
bill that would try to keep Obama from issuing executive orders. And it
specifically would curb that mini-DREAM Act he created with his executive
action back in 2012.
Two votes on two Republican bills. That was the plan, Boehner said.
But yesterday came. Yesterday went. And those votes in the House,
they never happened. Boehner had to yank his own bills off the floor
because he didn`t have the Republican support that he needed. He didn`t
have 218 Republicans to vote yes.
Republican Party essentially killed its own Republican bills, on its
own. And that was amazing. But what was stunning, really, is how the
Republican leadership responded to that failure yesterday. Having voted to
sue the president on Wednesday, over his unilateral actions, on Thursday
they told the president to take more unilateral actions. Quote, "There are
numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now without the
need for congressional action."
That sounds like Republicans calling for executive action the day
after condemning executive action. Just wait until you hear Republicans
try to explain it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a contradiction yesterday I`m still
struggling to understand. The leadership statement when the bill didn`t
pass essentially said, well, there are plenty of administrative things that
President Obama can do and should be doing at the border. And that was a
day after the House voted to sue President Obama for taking administrative
So, how does that -- how does that square?
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, I`m not going to disagree with
you, because it`s a point I made myself in conference. Look, you can`t say
on the one hand that the president`s overreaching by acting without
legislative authority and direction, and then refuse to give him
legislative authority and direction in another area. So I don`t disagree
with what you have to say at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: This is one of those Washington dramas that if you try to
make sense of it, you`re bound to get dizzy and pass out. The whole idea
of putting this border bill together, and passing it this week, John
Boehner`s whole idea was so that Republicans could then go on their August
vacation and tell everyone that they had stared in the face of a crisis on
the border and that they had done something, that hay had acted. That hay
And today, after that debacle on Thursday, they spent the morning
making minor changes to the bills, trying to get more support, intent on
finally getting them through.
One of the changes would phase out the president`s 2012 directive for
the DREAMers. That directive that took the wind out of Romney`s sails at
the height of the 2012 campaign, that Republicans have been cursing for two
And it looks like finally Boehner is getting what he wants tonight.
Yesterday`s spectacle scared enough Republicans into line for those two
bills to pass the House. Just minutes ago, House Republicans passed the
first of them. The second one is being debated as we speak.
But think of this. We`ve now just had 24 hours of drama and
recriminations and screaming headlines about pulled bills, and about chaos,
about finger pointing among Republicans in Congress.
The idea of all this from John Boehner`s standpoint was for
Republicans to show people they`d done something. But is anyone`s takeaway
from all this going to be, ah, that`s great, Republicans passed the bill?
Is their takeaway going to be, wow, Congress really is just as messed up as
we thought it was?
Average voters may not know or care whether it`s House Republicans or
House Democrats who are screwing up here, but they do know that Congress
isn`t working. If they absorb anything in the last 24 hours, it`s probably
And that, in turn, the fact that that`s what most people probably
take away from this, that makes it much easier for Obama to argue that he
has no choice but to do that one thing that Republicans want to stop him so
badly from doing -- to use executive action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: House Republicans
suggested that since they don`t expect to actually pass a bill that I can
sign, that I actually should go ahead and act on my own to solve the
problem. Keep in mind that just a few days earlier, they voted to sue me
for acting on my own. And then when they couldn`t pass a bill yesterday,
they put out a statement suggesting I should act on my own because they
couldn`t pass a bill.
They can`t pass the bill. They can`t even pass their own version of
the bill. So, that`s not a disagreement between me and the House
Republicans. That`s a disagreement between the House Republicans and the
And in circumstances where even basic, common sense, plain vanilla
legislation can`t pass because House Republicans consider it somehow a
compromise of their principles or giving Obama a victory, then we`ve got to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: There`s the president today saying he`s got to take steps
to address the border crisis during the upcoming congressional recess.
President says he has to act.
These are the same House Republicans who have been so enraged over
the president`s unilateral actions have just made more unilateral action
almost inevitable. The question now is how expansive that action might be.
The certainty, though, is Republicans are not going to like it.
Joining us now is Christina Bellantoni. She`s the editor in chief at
Christina, it`s great to have you with us tonight. And some breaking
news in your neck of the wood.
So, let`s start with the White House actually, just before we came on
the air, the White House put out a statement. We had the House an hour ago
passing the first of the two bills that the Republicans put together. The
second one apparently will be voted on and passed later tonight.
The White House calling this, quote, "partisan legislation that will
not address the problem and sure to be rejected by the Senate". And a
statement also reiterating the president`s call for Republicans to sit down
and address comprehensive immigration reform when they come back from their
So, Christina, the politics of this. From the Republican standpoint,
they get these two bills through tonight. The whole idea here was they
knew these were going to die in the Senate. The president was never going
to sign them. They wanted to say they did something.
From a political standpoint, given all the drama that it took just to
pass these two things, do they get the positive headline they even wanted
out of this?
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ROLL CALL: I mean, that`s a difficult question
to answer, because, no, of course not, right? We`re sitting here talking
about this. The only way it could have really been worse is if they were
doing this debate in this building behind me at 3:00, 4:00 in the morning
which certainly has happened in the last few hours as they`re trying to get
out of town for a long recess.
They`ve done that. They`ve pushed it to the brink. Both parties
have many, many times. So, at least they`re getting out of town in a
reasonable hour, I suppose.
But there`s also a sense of giving up, because when you look at these
debate and the amount of time that they allowed for debate on both the
procedural rule that sets the framework for debate and the actual bill,
they didn`t take nearly all of the time that they had allotted for them,
because nobody wanted to talk about it. You didn`t see the impassioned
floor speeches that you`d seen yesterday, that you`d seen in days
This was like, OK, we know what we`re going to do. We know we have
the votes. Let`s get out of here. And it doesn`t look good for anybody.
And in addition to what the White House said about not liking the
bill, even if it did pass the Senate, the president would veto it. So, it
is completely going nowhere. They all know that.
And the big issue here is what lawmakers hear when they go home to
their constituents. Funny things happen during August recesses. We saw it
during the health care town hall debates in 2010, right before those
elections, where you really saw a lot of intense scrutiny, or in 2009, the
year before health care passed when you really saw the scrutiny on the
health care bill. That`s when that legislation started to fall apart.
When lawmakers start hearing from the voters back home, that changes
things. So, who knows what they`re going to say when people get back
KORNACKI: Yes. Well, I mean, of course, they were in a hurry to
pass it tonight. If there`s one thing that gets lawmakers` attention these
days, it`s missed vacation time. I`ve certainly found that to be the case.
So, let`s look at sort of where it goes from here, because this is
the same week -- the irony of this is just so striking to me, that this is
the same week the Republican House votes to sue the president over his use
of executive action. This emerged as a huge rallying cry sort of within
the Republican Party to stop the president`s overreach.
At the same time, because of the way this all played out, because
they couldn`t get their signal straight, get their act together on this, it
really looks now like an inevitability that the president going to act with
executive action on two fronts now. One, to address the crisis at the
border because nothing is coming out of Congress. And then two, it seems
to me, this gives him a lot of leeway now, in terms of broader immigration
reform to act on his own, say, look, America, you saw what Congress is not
capable of doing, I have no choice but to do this.
BELLANTONI: That`s possible. But I will say the White House is
really concerned about what`s happening abroad right now, and domestic
policy executive actions that change what laws existing, what law`s in
place. I mean, what the House did tonight doesn`t actually change
The president isn`t forced to take any action to shore anything up or
to further, you know, push immigration reform that was passed by the Senate
last year and isn`t going to be passed by the House. He`s not under any
dire circumstance to do that. So they`re very much focused on not
inflaming any further tensions around the world. So, that`s one element of
The actual spending for mitigating what`s happening at the border
with children is something like he`s going to have to transfer the money
from somewhere. And that is not an easy situation for the president to
have. Again, as you`ve pointed out, Republicans have gone after him for
taking manners into his own hands.
So, it puts him in a tough spot. But at the same time, he`s not
actually forced to do anything for a while. It`s the sort of crisis/non-
And even some of the reporting that we saw coming across the border,
a lot of those numbers are being reported a month after the fact. So, some
of the numbers are actually down right now because it`s so hot with
children coming across the border and it`s the middle of summer. You`re
seeing fewer and fewer people come now than there were a few months ago
when the crisis was at its peak.
KORNACKI: All right. And, again, just to recap the breaking news at
this hour. There are two bills that Republicans are trying to pass through
the House tonight. The first one they have successfully gotten through
that provides more money at the border.
The second one they are debating right now. We are monitoring to see
if and when they bring that to a vote. That`s expected to happen sometime
tonight. That is a second bill that would essentially phase out the
deferred action program we described at the president implemented back in
2012. We` will keep on eye on that.
For now, we want to thank Christina Bellantoni. She`s the editor in
chief of my alma mater, "Roll Call." I used to work there.
Thanks for coming on tonight. Christina, appreciate that. Have a
And lots more ahead tonight, including escalating bipartisan outrage
over the CIA`s Senate computer hacking mess. We`ll have the very latest on
And later, we finally get our first look at a crucial piece of fancy
evidence connected to former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, at last.
You`re not going to want to miss this. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: When we talk about the do-nothing Congress these days,
usually it means we`re talking about the House of Representatives, the
people`s House, which makes it easy to forget sometimes that Congress is
actually a bicameral legislature. There are two chambers. There`s the
House and there`s the Senate.
And when it comes to the do-nothing label, well, there`s a lot of do-
nothingness to go around. Heading into this week out of all countries in
the world, the United States maintains diplomatic missions. There are 169
in total. One quarter of them, as of the start of this week, did not have
an ambassador from our country. That is 43 American embassies without a
This isn`t because there aren`t people who don`t want to do those
jobs. This isn`t because there aren`t people who are qualified for those
jobs. Nominees for just about all the vacant ambassador jobs have been
tapped by President Obama and they are standing by, suitcases and passports
in hand. They are ready to go.
But they`re stuck here. They`re stuck back home because of the
Senate, whose job it is to confirm the people the president nominates to be
U.S. ambassadors. U.S. Senate just can`t or just won`t get it together and
confirm any of them. Even places like Russia where you might have heard
that diplomatic relations have been a little tense lately, where this might
be an opportune moment for the U.S. to have an ambassador on the ground.
Nor in Guatemala, one of the three central American countries where all the
children coming to the border are from.
Now, earlier this week when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
was close to a vote on nearly a dozen ambassador nominees, Senator Bob
Menendez, he is the head of the committee, he found himself without enough
senators to make a quorum and without a quorum, you can`t hold a vote. So,
that means a bunch of senators decided they were not going to show up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE. CHAIR: Next order
of business is 11 nominees that I asked to be considered in block without
objection. Ambassador of the Republic of Guatemala, ambassador to the
French Republic and Principality of Monaco, Ireland, Moldova, Republic of
Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Mr. Allan Mustard to be ambassador to Turkmenistan,
Rwanda, Republic of Turkey.
Is there any -- Senator Corker, is there any --
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I got all the proxies here. These
folks are famously supported, so I look forward to us having enough members
to vote them out.
MENENDEZ: Any other members wishing to speak to any of these
nominees? OK. We have now come to the end where we need bodies to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So. That was Tuesday. And actually there ended up being
progress that day, because after that awkwardness, Menendez got his quorum
and a dozen would-be ambassadors moved from one step closer to actually
getting confirmed and being able to work.
But the clock was ticking because that was Tuesday. The Senate was
set to shut down on Thursday, 48 hours later. It was set to head off out
of town for a month-long vacation.
So, Menendez frantically went to the floor of the Senate and he
pleaded with his colleagues for a batch vote, to vote on 25 nominees for
ambassadorships at once. To get them confirmed, to get them working, all
before the Senate skipped town. It was clear this time around that he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: I repeat, the criteria for confirming nominees should not
be determined by a sudden, just breaking crisis, with the urgent need to
fill a vacant post. Confirmation by crisis is not a strategy, and it is
not in the national security interest of the United States. The Senate
standoff that has left so many career foreign service nominees in political
and personal limbo is damaging our credibility, undermining our national
security, and it has to end now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, if there are magic words to get ambassadors
confirmed, those weren`t them. Because Republican Senator Mike Enzi then
blocked every attempt to get a floor vote to fill any of those vacancies.
Enzi blamed the Democrats. He`s still mad and Republicans are still
mad the Democrats changed the Senate rules last year when Republicans were
doing this same kind of blockade against President Obama`s nominees for
So, blocking Obama`s would-be ambassadors is, Enzi said, now a matter
of principle for Republicans.
As some of Obama`s picks for these posts are definitely political
appointees, they`re political in nature. These are loyal political allies
who are getting a reward for their political alliance with the president.
But the majority of them are what are called career Foreign Service
officers. These are people who serve under multiple administrations,
Republican administrations, Democratic administrations. They are not
These are people who have been at it for years. This afternoon, the
president addressed the issue in his brief press conference that was mostly
directed at Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There are a lot of things we could be arguing about on
policy. That`s what we should be doing as a democracy, but we shouldn`t be
having an argument about placing career diplomats with bipartisan support
in countries around the world where we have to have a presence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And so after all of this this week, we have some news for
you. The Senate actually did finally do something. They confirmed the
U.S. ambassador to Russia. That`s one down, 42 to go, and one long
vacation that`s already begun.
KORNACKI: We are going to take a live look right now at the floor of
the United States House of Representatives where there is a rather rare
Friday night session taking place. There`s some actual activity playing
out in the nation`s Capitol on this Friday night.
Now, right now, the House is in the middle of debating the second of
two bills that Republicans have been trying all week to muster enough votes
for. Earlier tonight, this is after yesterday, after an aborted attempt to
bring the bills to the floor yesterday -- earlier tonight, Republicans
successfully passed the first of these two bills.
This is a bill that would provide more money for border enforcement.
This is a bill that would also make it easier, change a 2008 law to make it
easier for officials to deport some of these children from Central America
that have been coming across the border. That passed on a largely party-
line vote of 223-189 within the last hour.
Now, the second bill is being debated. This is a bill Republican
leaders have introduced essentially to drum up support among conservative
members. It is a bill that would address the 2012 deferred action program
that President Obama implemented. This is a program that allows some
children who came to this country undocumented children who came to this
country illegally with their parents to stay. It defers deportations for
This bill would keep the president from expanding that program and it
would eventually phase that program out. We`re expecting a vote on that
provision imminently. We will bring you the result when we have it.
And just to let you know, this seems to be a purely symbolic exercise
because already the White House tonight has called both of these bills,
quote, "partisan legislation that will not address the problem." Senator
Harry Reid, he`s the majority leader in the U.S. Senate, he has said he,
quote, "can`t imagine the Senate taking up either one of these bills".
But still, the second of those two will be voted on very soon. We`ll
bring you the latest as we have it.
KORNACKI: And you`re looking live, to borrow a phrase from Brent
Musburger, at the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. That vote we
were just telling you about is now under way. This is the second of two
pieces of border security legislation Republicans are trying to pass the
House tonight. We will bring you the latest on that vote when it finishes.
It is now under way.
But now, we want to turn to a story involving the other chamber of
Congress. We want to go to a brief moment back in March of 2013 when it
was a legitimate news story -- a big news story that Rand Paul had to use
the bathroom. It was a legitimate news story because the moment that he
had to go to the bathroom also was the moment that it officially guaranteed
that we were going to get a new guy heading up the CIA.
Let me explain how that worked. It was just after midnight on March
7th, 2013. Rand Paul was on the Senate floor in what was the 12th hour of
a filibuster. Paul was against President Obama`s nominee to head the CIA.
He was so against it that he decided to stage one of those old-fashioned
real life talking filibusters. You don`t see him too much in Washington
Nomination couldn`t get a vote. It couldn`t get through until and
unless Rand Paul stopped talking. The nominee`s name was John Brennan.
What Paul opposed specifically about Brennan`s nomination to head the
CIA was the agency`s drone program, its unmanned drones. Drones, of
course, the CIA uses to secretly target and kill what it says are
terrorists but what many cases end up being innocent civilians killed as
collateral damage, in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.
And Paul was and Paul still is opposed to the drone program and he
wanted more information about the program brought to light. So
filibustering John Brennan`s nomination to run the CIA was going to be his
way of doing that. It was going to be his way of drawing attention to this
And since you can`t leave the Senate floor while you are
filibustering something, that`s what the rules say, Paul went on and on and
on for hour after hour until he got to the point that we will all
eventually get to, the point where you just can`t ignore nature`s call any
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: And I would go for another 12 hours to
try to break Strom Thurmond`s record, but I discovered there are some
limits to filibustering and I`m going to have to go take care of one of
those in a few moments here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And you probably remember that night if you think back
just over year ago, Rand Paul got a lot of attention because he staged that
Still, for all of that attention, this was a symbolic filibuster.
Everyone knew that John Brennan had the votes he needed to be confirmed as
the CIA director. The next day he was, indeed, confirmed. There were 63
senators who voted for him.
There were also, however, 34 who voted against him and 31 of those
were Republicans. So the narrative that took shape was the opposition to
John Brennan`s nomination as CIA chief was basically Republican opposition.
This was opposition that was inspired by Rand Paul.
But that`s actually not the full story on John Brennan, because
that`s not really where it all started. That`s not where the opposition
came from because actually last year wasn`t the first time that Brennan
faced vocal and public opposition as a potential Obama nominee. Right
after President Obama was first elected, this is back in 2008, this is
before he even took the oath of office, this is when he was first just
figuring out who he was going to appoint to what job in his administration.
Go all the way back to then, Obama`s team floated the name of John Brennan
to be the potential new head of the CIA.
And in a way when they did this, it made sense. Brennan was a
veteran of the agency. He had worked under the previous CIA director, a
man named George Tenet. So, he certainly knew the intelligence world very
But when his name was floated back in 2008, after the election, when
that happened, the outcry was swift and it was punishing. It was also
effective. And also, it didn`t come from Republicans. It came from
Democrats. It came from the left.
President Obama`s base, these are the people who just helped him to
win the election -- they were horrified that Obama was thinking of picking
someone connected to the Bush CIA, someone connected to the Bush CIA`s
enhanced interrogation program. Liberals revolted and Obama heard them
when they revolted.
And because of that, John Brennan didn`t become the CIA director back
in 2008. In late November of that year, he wrote a letter defending
himself against the charges he was responsible for the torture policy of
the Bush CIA. He said he had no decision-making authority at the CIA at
that time. And at the same time, he withdrew his nomination from
consideration, his potential nomination.
So that was the backdrop to that filibuster against John Brennan that
Rand Paul staged five years later, in March of last year, in March of 2013.
And now, this week, we`re discovering that that filibuster also
wasn`t the end of the story, because John Brennan is back in the news right
now in a very big way. He`s back in the news at the center of a gigantic
controversy, with the CIA that he runs now admitting this week that it has
spied on members of Congress. It is admitting to something that Brennan,
until very recently, was assuring everyone who talked about it, he was
assuring it was a crazy idea, the suggestion the CIA could do this.
But now, the CIA is admitting to trying to get the Justice Department
to prosecute congressional staffers based on its spying. John Brennan is
now apologizing for what his agency did, and also for what he, himself, did
when the allegations first merged earlier this year.
So, now, think about this -- it was about a year ago that Rand Paul
tried to derail his nomination. It was about a year ago that 31
Republicans stood with him and voted against Brennan. While most Democrats
did go along with his nomination last year, it`s not likely there`s a deep
reservoir of trust there. After all, back in 2008, it was Democrats stood
in his way of running the CIA.
So, now, add that together. The newer more recent Republican
opposition in all of those old suspicions from Democrats, and now factor in
this huge new scandal, the fact that Brennan`s CIA was spying on members of
Congress. Add all of that together and conclude John Brennan doesn`t have
many friends on Capitol Hill these days. And if he doesn`t have many
friends on Capitol Hill these days, and that puts President Obama, the guy
who appointed him in the first lace, that puts him in a tricky spot.
You got Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein railing against the CIA
on the Senate floor. You`ve got Democratic Senator Mark Udall now calling
for John Brennan`s resignation. You also got Senator Martin Heinrich, also
a Democrat in the Senate Intelligence Committee. You`ve got another
Democrat, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, calling for potential criminal charges
filed against whoever it was in the CIA who spied on the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: If a 19-year-old hacker searched Senate
files this way, that hacker would be sitting in jail right now. I want a
public accounting at this point. I want to know who authorized this act.
I want to know why they thought it was legal, and I want to know who is
going to be legally held responsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now tonight, the first Republican senator to all for
Brennan`s resignation has emerged, not surprisingly, it is Senator Rand
President today said he has, quote, "full confidence" in John Brennan
as director of the CIA, even as he went on to talk about the poor judgment
the CIA showed when it decided it was a good idea to spy on Congress.
Joining us now is Siobhan Gorman. She`s the intelligence
correspondent at "The Wall Street Journal."
Thanks for joining us tonight.
So, you know, you`ve got Mark Udall, Martin Heinrich, now we got Rand
Paul tonight. We outlined the history, Democratic and Republican in terms
of being suspicious of or even hostile toward John Brennan.
Is there a risk right now at this hour of this thing widening in a
very quick and big way in terms of senators speaking out?
SIOBHAN GORMAN, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think you will probably
hear more and more senators speaking out as they digest the inspector
general report that was partially made public yesterday. I haven`t heard
sort of enough of an outcry at this point that would suggest that his job
is under some sort of threat, but there have been calls now for a renewed
Justice Department investigation, things like that. And so, certainly, if
there were a new investigation that turned up something more significant,
you might see more momentum around that kind of thing.
KORNACKI: So, explain for people, who listen to this and maybe
haven`t been paying much attention. They`re probably wondering given the
Democratic opposition to Brennan, given the ties to the Bush
administration, how much Obama, himself, ran against that in 2008 -- given
all that, what is president Obama`s attachment to Brennan in the first
GORMAN: Well, Mr. Brennan was a very early convert to the Obama
campaign. He was a close adviser during the 2008 campaign on intelligence
matters. And he ran the -- well, I guess, he was a co-chair of the
transition team for intelligence matters in 2008. And because of that
work, he was considered to be possibly nominated for CIA director.
When he withdrew from that potential position, Mr. Obama installed
him as his top counterterrorism adviser and he and the president grew very,
very close. He is a very trusted adviser of the president, continues to
be. And that`s not something that the president`s probably going to walk
away from very quickly.
KORNACKI: So, the context for all of this is there is this torture
report that all of Washington`s been talking about that`s apparently going
to be released next week. This is a torture report the Senate has been
working on, very exhaustive, what exactly the CIA was doing in terms of --
you know, they call it enhanced interrogation.
President Obama himself today at his press conference called this
torture. That made headlines. After he made that statement, Dianne
Feinstein, Senator Dianne Feinstein said this report apparently is heavily
redacted at the behest of the CIA.
What do you make of president Obama coming out today and bluntly
saying, I think the words he used were, there were folks who were tortured?
GORMAN: Yes. I think he said, we tortured some folks.
KORNACKI: There it is. Yes.
GORMAN: And I think what we saw with President Obama today was
trying to walk this fine line where he was still strongly backing his
former adviser and now CIA Director John Brennan and the same time aligning
himself with Senate Democrats. And it`s tough to align yourself with two
parties who are battling it out right now. That seems to be what he was
doing in advance of this report, which is certainly going to catch people`s
attention from all the indications we`ve gotten.
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, tell us a little more fact what you`re
hearing about this report. Again, the idea of heavy redactions, Dianne
Feinstein coming out and saying this. Some people were looking at this and
saying, you know, is President Obama coming forward today and actually
using the word torture in this context? Is this as blunt as it`s going to
get when you look at all the redactions that might have taken place here?
GORMAN: Yes. I think what the Senate is going to have to decide,
what the Senate committee is going to have to decide, is how much they want
to push back on these redactions because the more they push back, the
longer the delay will be in actually making it public, which is something
they very much want to do.
And it`s tough to know what specifically we`ll learn from it. I
mean, there have been plenty of dribs and drabs of information that have
come out. So we have kind of the broad outlines. We know it`s highly
critical and we know it talks about the CIA misleading the Justice
Department and Congress. So, you know, it will be interesting to see what
details are actually ultimately made public.
KORNACKI: All right. Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent at
"The Wall Street Journal" -- appreciate your time tonight.
One of the wildest and one of the loudest American political events
of the year is coming up this weekend. I`ll tell you all about its right
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Daniel, you may be an
ear, nose and throat doctor, but you`ve misdiagnosed me, because when it
comes to me, you can`t hear the truth, you can`t smell the truth, and you
sure as hell can`t speak the truth.
Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, you all can holler all
you want, and I can hear you, but just like Wendell used to say, you know
what? Go ahead and chew on my hide. It only grows back tougher and I`ve
been around a while, and you`re looking at one tough son of a bitch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, here`s a programming note for you. This weekend
brings with it one of the more quirky traditions in American politics.
It`s an all-out, laugh and tumble, political jeer fest known as Fancy Farm.
Now, if you`ve never heard of Fancy Farm, it`s probably the
equivalent of the British House of Commons. That`s where politicians hurl
insult at each other in a very public forum.
The annual Fancy Farm picnic takes place in a decidedly more low key
location. It`s in the tiny town of Fancy Farm, Kentucky, and it`s hosted
by the St. Jerome Catholic Church. This is the tiny of western Kentucky,
but this is anything but a low key event.
And this year, this weekend, it`s going to be the center of the
American political universe. Kentucky happens to be the home of the
closest, the nastiest, the biggest Senate race of the year, with Alison
Lundergan Grimes challenging the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Now, every year, for the past 100 years or so, Kentucky politicians
have attended the picnic to shake hands and talk up the crowd. But these
are not your everyday boring political stump speeches. Politicians joke
around, they insult one another. Generally, they just loosen up in a way
you would normally never see.
The crowd is pretty much free to shout things at them, to heckle
them, to cheer them on, or to chant over them as loudly as they want. This
is basically a political free for all.
Now, 20,000 people are expected to take place in the events tomorrow,
and to enjoy several thousand pounds of barbecue pork and of chicken and of
mutton, to play raffle and bingo games and do their best to drown out the
speeches of the candidates they don`t like. After that impassioned speech
before a particularly tough Fancy Farm crowd back in 2009, the one we just
showed you there, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway had to apologize
for his use of foul language.
Democratic consultant told "The Lexington Herald Leader" afterwards,
quote, "The main thing for a candidate to understand about Fancy Farm is
you don`t want to do any harm to yourself". And that is a legitimate
warning, because Fancy Warm is one of the rowdiest political events of the
year in Kentucky or anywhere.
Kentucky politicians who show up to speak basically do so at their
own risk. It is very easy to get swept up in the mood of the crowd, to say
something you don`t mean or to react poorly to the heckling of the
As the Kentucky Democratic Party chairman notes, quote, "That`s the
whole point. It`s a rite of passage, to go down there and not to get
flustered. The second you look off into the crowd or you start paying
attention to what someone is yelling at you, you are off your game and then
people are even more vicious."
So, politicians have come around with stinging insults to help them
keep their cool.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at the ballot box, so they launched a
political witch hunt to stop us. Oh, look, I believe we have the lead
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D-KY), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: If Senator
McConnell had his way, his version of Kentucky health care for our seniors
and grandmothers would be to walk it off. Let`s just tell it like it is.
If the doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he`d refuse to
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I want to say how nice
it is, how nice it is to see Jerry Lundergan back in the game. Like the
loyal Democrat he is, he`s taking orders from the Obama campaign on how to
run his daughter`s campaign.
They told him to make a pitch on the Internet for the women`s vote
and he sent a check to Anthony Weiner.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: And so, tomorrow, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
and his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, are going to face
off at the Fancy Farm picnic again. They are currently neck and neck in
the polls. This is just a few months before the midterm election.
For both candidates, showing up to Fancy Farm tomorrow is an absolute
political must. Senator Rand Paul, the attorney general of the state,
Conway, they`re also expected to speak. Fancy Farm organizers are
reportedly hoping for a slightly quieter crowd this year. After all, this
is supposed to be a church event.
But really, what fun would that be? So even if you despise political
speeches, these speeches are actually legitimately fun to watch. You can
find out which insults were hurled this weekend on my show. You knew the
plug was coming somewhere. It would be on my show "UP WITH STEVE
KORNACKI", right here on MSNBC.
KORNACKI: We have an update now to our top story. Just moments ago,
House Republicans narrowly passed the second piece of their border agenda.
Earlier tonight, House Republicans managed to pass a border funding
bill that they had to yank from the House floor yesterday.
But the price of getting Republicans to vote for that bill was also
to vote on a second bill, also an entirely symbolic bill, to essentially
end President Obama`s 2012 executive order that defers deportations for so-
called DREAMers. These are immigrants who are brought to the United States
illegally as kids. This bill would keep the president from expanding that
program and would eventually phase the program out entirely.
Now, again, neither of these bills are going after tonight. Senate
Democratic Leader Harry Reid said tonight that he can`t imagine picking up
either one of them and the White House is dismissing them as, quote,
"partisan legislation that will not address the problem."
But, again, the news of the moment here is that the House has voted
on the second of two border bills and passed by a vote of 216-192.
That does it for us tonight. Now, as Rachel would tell you if she
were here -- we`ve got to go to prison.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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