THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
August 11, 2014
Guest: Christopher Farley, Henry Winkler, Marie Harf, Gloria Browne-
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks very much, Chris. Good to be
Thanks to you at home for staying with us. It`s good to be back.
Thanks to Steve Kornacki for filling in while I was away.
There`s a lot going on in the world obviously. A lot of it overseas,
none of which is good right now.
Also a lot of news at home, politics and otherwise.
There`s a ton of stuff to talk about tonight. And we do have a lot
planned for the show.
But the very unexpected and late breaking news that has come as a
real shock tonight, particularly to those of us who have grown up stewed in
American political and popular culture, is that one of the most
recognizable and iconic comedic talents of this generation or last few
generations has died unexpectedly today.
Robin Williams, age 63, died today in his home in northern
California, in what the Marin County sheriffs office is describing as a
suspected suicide. It`s hard to overstate the fame and the popularity that
Robin Williams achieved almost instantly, thanks to his remarkable
television debut in the late 1970s. It was February 1978 when he went from
being a relatively unknown comic to one of the most famous actors in
America. Thanks to his appearance as a space alien named Mork during the
fifth season of the humongously popular 1950s themed sitcom that was called
"Happy Days" which I watched basically on a loop throughout my entire
The Mork on "Happy Days" completely off the wall appearance freaked
audiences out in the best possible way and from that appearance came the
sitcom called "Mork & Mindy" which was an immediate sensation. If you were
an American who watched television in the late 1970s, early 1980s, you knew
chapter and verse about Mork from Ork and frenetic stream of consciousness,
turn on a time dime, manic comedic brilliance of Robin Williams.
His sitcom was huge. His appearances on late night talk shows were
huge, a bigger deal then than they are now I think. His standup comedy was
huger than huge.
I mean, there had been comic actors before who could do 1,000 voices
and comic characters before Robin Williams who were memorable and became
household names. But nobody had ever done them in one comedically coherent
rip, one after the other, right? With seemingly no unit, careening from
bit to bit to bit, voice to voice to voice, at a million miles an hour in
an almost unsustainable pace.
If he was not the first, he was among the first funny people to make
everyone in America sort of turn and ask each other, where does he come up
with all that stuff? And in that way, Robin Williams changed the way
people could be entertained. That style, the unique speed and range of
things that Robin Williams could put together in every performance, made
him almost instantly iconic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNNY CARSON, THE TONIGHT SHOW: Would you welcome Robin Williams?
People always think performers don`t get nervous.
ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Not at all. Really? Oh, no, really, not me,
CARSON: Is there some reason you don`t -- is it the fact you get
WILLIAMS: Very much so. I suffer from severe dyslexia, too. I was
the only child on my block on Halloween to go trick-or-trout. Look, here
comes that young Williams boy again. Better get some fish.
Here you go. Say hi to your mom and dad.
CARSON: Where -- where is home for you, or did you come from a home?
WILLIAMS: They sent -- all the people in the institution, Tommy, if
you haven`t taken your medication yet, it`s going to be fun.
CARSON: Be back at 12:00.
WILLIAMS: Be back at 12:00. All right, Mr. Williams, I`m real fine.
Look at this thing. Look, flipper. Right now there`s a saw man going,
what are you doing? Oh, God.
Relax, relax, relax. It`s OK. I`m on TV. You`re a nice man. You
won`t hurt me.
CARSON: No, no.
WILLIAMS: OK, thank you.
Don`t be afraid. The sores went away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Robin Williams` first ever appearance on the
"Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson in 1981. Imagine sitting down at the
Johnny Carson show, the first time you`ve ever been there and having the
chutzpa to do it the way he did.
But beyond his guts, and his comedy, his raw comedy, Robin Williams
also developed a real remarkable range as a performer which is part of the
reason he`ll be remembered for as long as he is going to be remembered. He
used his talent to do things other -- to do things other than make you
laugh. His voices and his comedic ability carried the movie "Good Morning,
Vietnam" in 1987 about a military disk jockey during the war.
But that was not a comedic movie, right? You weren`t just laughing
at that performance. Not even just at him. Two years later, he took a
more dramatic acting turn as a prep school teacher in "Dead Poet Society,"
that`s a performance for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.
MADDOW: Oh, we had a problem with the audio there. Don`t worry,
I`ll act it out. Later. No, I won`t.
Robin Williams in "Dead Poet Society" in 1989, that was a performance
that earned him an Oscar nomination. After "Dead Poet Society", Robin
Williams found huge commercial success in "Mrs. Doubtfire," in "The Fisher
King" in 1997, he won an Oscar as his role as a psychologist to Matt
Damon`s troubled unknown genius in the movie "Good Will Hunting."
You just think about the range. Incredible that an actor who had
made such a wide and indelible impression for his outrageous over the top
100-mile an hour hilarity, he could get all the way from that to the most
considered, most controlled, most mature character play and make you
believe that he was that guy, too.
It was reported just last month even as he continued to work in
movies and on TV and on Broadway that Robin Williams had checked himself
into a drug rehab program. His publicist issued this statement tonight.
Quote, "Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling
severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family
respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this difficult
Joining us is Christopher Farley. He`s a senior editorial director
at "The Wall Street Journal", where he oversees the newspaper`s "Speak
Easy" culture blog.
Mr. Farley, thanks for coming in. I appreciate it.
CHRISTOPHER FARLEY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: He always -- Robin Williams always seemed like, like when
Johnny Carson said, did you come from a home? He always seemed like he was
a person where you could not imagine he came from somewhere. It didn`t
seem like there was anybody before him who was ever like him.
How should we understand him in terms of a continuum of performers?
FARLEY: That`s a great point, because a lot of people that try to
follow in the footsteps of comics like Jerry Seinfeld, someone like Richard
Pryor who spawned a lot of imitators, not always successful. But someone
like Robin Williams, he really was someone who was so unique that people
would like to have his kind of success, but no one has been able to follow
in his exact footsteps as a comic. He`s someone who really is someone
who`s a brand unto himself.
I mean, he had wild success. I mean, $5 billion worldwide, that`s
gross of his movies; $3 billion in the U.S. made a lot of money. People
would like to be like him no one has really managed to be exactly like him.
MADDOW: Did he -- did he -- both his comedic style and acting
capacity, did he change over time or just expand? Because it seems to me
that even in his later work, there was still the recognizable manic energy
in that bit to bit to bit speed that you saw in him in the late `70s.
FARLEY: He did manage to stretch himself continually throughout his
career. I remember early on one of the first big features I ever did was a
story on "Awakenings". I spent a lot of time with Oliver Sacks, the
neurologist at the center of the movie, who Robin Williams portrays.
Oliver Sacks is a very low key kind of guy, not a manic humorist. He`s a
Like I think of himself, how is Robin Williams going to play this
guy? And, of course, he did, to great effect and to great acclaim because
he had that other gear. And only two years before that, he`d appeared on
Broadway in "Waiting for Godot", opposite Steve Martin, playing in a great
This is a guy who could always find another gear. Yes, he was a
comic but laid the groundwork for other comics to stretch themselves, not
just to be funny men but also be taken seriously as actors. Not a lot have
been able to do that but he set a standard for an actor, an actor who could
be taken seriously, also to be funny as well.
MADDOW: Yes, a man who I think made comics seen as more whole
performers than they would have seen before, and because of what he was
able to personally do.
Christopher Farley, senior editorial editor at the "Wall Street
Journal" -- thanks for helping us out tonight. I appreciate it.
Joining us by home is the actor/director, Henry Winkler, who was
there playing Fonzie on "Happy Days" when Robin Williams` career exploded
on screen in 1978 in that amazing debut.
Henry Winkler, thank you so much for taking time with us on this
tough night. I really appreciate you calling in.
HENRY WINKLER, ACTOR (via telephone): Thanks, Rachel.
First of all, can I just say --
WINKLER: -- that the entire Winkler family, all of our thoughts are
with the Williams family.
MADDOW: Can I ask you about how you first met him and your first
impressions when you first encountered him as then a not at all famous
WINKLER: We had a script about an alien, Mork from Ork. Gary
Marshall, I believe that his son, his young son said, hey, dad, wouldn`t to
be funny if Fonzie met an alien? So, they wrote this script and they
couldn`t find the right actor to play him.
Now, we rehearsed Monday from 10:00 in the morning until Friday 4:00
in the afternoon and then we shot the show Friday night 7:00. Wednesday,
we still didn`t have an actor.
WINKLER: Wednesday afternoon, Bobby Hoffman who was the casting
director brought a young actor, first time, usually did standup to the set
to start rehearsal.
And I`m telling you, Rachel, no hyperbole. You knew you were in the
presence of somebody very special, of some -- of greatness. And, you know,
somebody said earlier in the show that he had chutzpa.
And it was not chutzpa. It was not nerve. He needed -- it was his
soul. It was the way he was put on the earth.
You said something to him. He sucked it in and he blew it out and it
came out so with originality and so powerfully and so funny that your jaw
MADDOW: What was he like privately? I mean, was that -- in terms of
that, you`re saying that`s sort of part of his soul, sort of who he was as
a person, not just as a character?
MADDOW: What was it like interacting with him when the cameras were
WINKLER: It was just -- it was just Robin the being.
WINKLER: And how he was off the set he was boundlessly energy,
filled with energy. He never stopped working. He would go to the clubs at
night and do his act and work on his acts. He would act all day and do the
show with us, or eventually his own show.
And then he -- we saw that he was limitless. That he could do great
drama. He could do drama with comedy. He could do comedy.
It was -- he was a miracle. And I`m not kidding. I mean, it took
your breath away. And how was he when he was just talking to you? He was
as quiet and as gentle as the breeze.
You -- no matter when you saw him, no matter how long it was in
between the times you saw him, you were first met with a hug. He`d talk to
you like you were the only human being in the world at the moment.
MADDOW: Henry Winkler, actor and director, longtime friend of Robin
Williams -- I know this is a very tough night for everybody who was friends
with him. Thank you for talking to us about it. I really appreciate it,
WINKLER: Thanks for asking.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Robin Williams, again, the shocking news today, dead of an apparent
suicide, according to the sheriff`s office in Marin County in his home in
northern California at the age of 63.
All right. There`s a lot of other big news tonight. We`re going to
be right back.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, every once in a while, a story breaks that makes
government, makes news about the government, all of a sudden, into the most
lurid and fascinating thing in the entire world. It only happens once
every few years but when it does happen, it`s like a beneficent gift of
safe for work pornography from the news gods. Here in the news business,
you have to read this stuff. It`s work.
Usually, it`s an individual politician doing something lurid and
sleazy and simultaneously fascinating, but it`s not always just an
individual. You know, the typical thing is like, OK, the governor of South
Carolina says he`s hiking the Appalachian Trail, fascinating enough that
he`s not hiking the Appalachian Trail and that nobody in the state knows
where he is, nobody, while he`s governor.
But then lurid turn, it turns out secretly he`s in Argentina with his
mistress. That`s one of these stories.
Or that time the governor of New Jersey was not just having his own
affair, he was having an affair with the Israeli guy who he picked for the
job of homeland security chief in the state of New Jersey.
Or there was that time the Bush administration randomly gave a White
House press pass to the bald hooker guy, the guy from militarystud.com.
Yes, see, there are not all that many types of these stories, but
when they happen, they do tend to be memorable even years later.
And in my short but happy working life in the media so far, the
single-most memorable one of these stories, the most memorable of all of
them, was the late George W. Bush administration scandal in the Department
of the Interior that led to headlines like this, "Sex, lies, oil, gas and a
toaster oven." This one, "Snorting speed off of toaster ovens." Or this
one, "Sex, drug use, and graft." Or this one, "Oil, sex and money.
Federal agency accused of sleazy anti antics."
Look at this, "Houston Chronicle," September 10th, 2008. Dateline:
Washington. "A program director allegedly snorts crystal meth off a
toaster oven, a marking supervisor sells sex toys to her employees. Senior
executives allegedly rig contract bids for a pal. Such is the culture the
Interior Department`s inspector says she found at the Minerals Management
Service, the federal agency responsible for handling billions of dollars a
year in revenue from offshore oil and gas leases."
So, as the fall of 2008, the inspector general at the Department of
the Interior released three reports all at once about some astonishing
behavior at a few offices at that federal agency. Over one four-year
period during the George W. Bush administration, nearly a third in one of
the agency`s offices reportedly took an array of gifts from the oil
companies that they were supposedly regulating, a third of all the
employees in the office. This was the same office with the federal
official reportedly snorting crystal meth off toaster oven, multiple
employees having one-night stands with oil industry employees.
And according to the inspector general, one program director telling
a subordinate that if she could score him some coke during a performance
appraisal period, he would increase her performance award. It`s very
simple. Good job. You got your boss some coke. That`s an excellent
Part of the reason the 2008 meth off the toaster oven scandal is so
memorable is that it was so freaking lurid, right? And it wasn`t that it
was just person, it was apparently way that whole office worked during the
Bush administration and they did it for years. It was just amazing.
But the other reason that that thing, the toaster oven meth thing has
become a hall of fame lurid government scandal is because of where it
happened. It happened in the Department of the Interior, the world`s most
benign sounding major government agency. It`s like the committee of
committees budget agency. It means that the Department of the Interior, in
the United States the Department of Interior is responsible for managing
natural resources, managing federal lands, issues related to Alaska, native
Hawaiians and Indians. The Department of Interior is also responsible for
management of U.S. territories overseas. The Department of the Interior is
about as low profile as agencies get in the United States. There are never
any headlines about the Department of the Interior.
The current secretary of the interior, for example, is this person.
Can you put a name in the face?
You are not alone. That`s no offense to our nation`s interior
secretary, Sally Jewell. It`s just the Department of the Interior is
almost inherently a low-profile thing.
Interestingly, that is anomalous for us among nations. That is
anomalous when you compare us to the rest of the world, because in the rest
of the world when there is an interior minister or interior secretary, that
job in other countries tends to actually be the most high-profile position
in government other than whoever is the head of the government.
In countries like France and Italy, the minister of the interior is
responsible for basically every major administrative thing that happens in
the interior of the country`s borders. That`s what interior means in that
context. It means the department of here. They`re in charge of running
the country`s elections, they`re in charge of homeland security, they`re in
charge of policing, they`re in charge of administering local government.
In some places, they`re in charge of the whole justice system.
The minister of the interior in most countries is like our secretary
of homeland security, our attorney general, our head of the immigration
services and secretary of state who runs elections in every state in the
country all rolled up into one person.
In Britain, the position is called the home secretary. And it means
roughly that you`re in charge of home. You`re in charge of Britain. And
that job tends, in Britain and around the world, to be the highest profile
politician in the country other than the country`s president or prime
Well, in the great nation of Iraq, this is the man who is minister of
the interior. And if you looks familiar, that is because he also, for the
last eight years, has been the prime minister of Iraq. Once he was prime
minister, he decided he would make himself interior minister, too. So,
he`s in charge of the overall government but also declared he was in charge
of the myriad responsibilities of the interior minister. He also declared
himself at one point to be the defense minister and declared himself to be
the head of the Iraqi armed forces, which would be the equivalent to our
chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
So, if you want to make a comparison, I mean, the Iraqi government
and the U.S. government are obviously very different things, but there, the
division of labor has become shall we say simpler, right? While Nouri al
Maliki has been prime minister for these past eight years, it`s been very
simple as to who`s in charge of pretty much everything in the country.
But that apparently ended today because today, the Iraqi president
picked another Shiite leader from Nouri al Maliki`s same party to replace
Nouri al Maliki as prime minister. They`re ousting him. This happened
after much haggling among the Iraqi parliament and a couple of missed
But the announcement was made in this formal ceremony today. The new
prime minister has support of the ruling coalition in parliament. He was
their choice. He`s accepted the job.
And technically, that means that Nouri al Maliki, prime minister,
interior minister, defense minister, and head of the armed forces, Nouri al
Maliki has been replaced.
And under the Iraqi constitution, over the next 30 days he`s supposed
to prepare to hand over power to his successor. That is how it is supposed
But last night, in this eerie late night TV broadcast, Mr. Maliki
stood silent and glowering while a couple dozen remaining supporters in
parliament announced actually Nouri al Maliki would not be stepping down as
What was explained in that broadcast, which happened in the middle of
the night local time, was that Mr. Al Maliki was going to fight to stay in
power. He was not going to fight to give up power. The way he was going
to fight was to bring a lawsuit. He was going to fight this out in the
At daybreak, it became apparent that Mr. Maliki wasn`t just filing a
lawsuit. He had also directed tanks and armored personnel carriers and
Iraqi special forces units to fan out across the Green Zone in Baghdad,
what used to be called the Green Zone, where the government buildings and
ministries are and also to checkpoints across the capital city, apparently,
because they`re not just planning on fighting it out in the courts. They
also may be planning on fighting it out in the streets.
And there are real questions as to what parts of the Iraqi military
and how much of the Iraqi military and how many of the Iraqi establishment
as a whole is loyal enough to Nouri al Maliki that he might reasonably be
able to mount some sort of military coup, if that`s how he wants to try to
hold on to power.
But if the militant group, ISIS, wants to overthrow the government
of Iraq, or wants to destabilize the government of Iraq, there have been
moments in the last 24 hours with armored personnel carriers and tanks
fanning out across the capital city, there have been moments in the last 24
hours where it sort of feels like if somebody`s goal is to undermine or
destabilize this government, that might be a moot point. They`re doing a
pretty good job of that, themselves.
A year ago last August, a year ago last August, President Obama gave
a statement in the Rose Garden about wanting to use American military force
in one of the countries that borders Iraq. This time last year, last
August, President Obama said, decided that the U.S. should make a military
intervention in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After careful
deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military
action against Syrian regime targets. Our military has positioned assets
in the region. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me we are
prepared to strike whenever we choose.
But having made my decision as commander-in-chief based on what I am
convinced is our national security interests, I`m also mindful I`m the
president of the world`s oldest constitutional democracy. I`ve long
believed our power is rooted not just in our military might but in our
example, as a government of the people, for the people. And that`s why
I`ve made a second decision. I will seek authorization for the use of
force from the American people`s representatives in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A year ago, this past august, president Obama said that he
had made a decision that we should intervene militarily in Syria. He laid
out the case about why we should intervene, for what the U.S. military
should do in terms of that intervention what he thought that intervention
But then he said, this was important, he said, actually, this is what
I want to do but I want Congress to authorize it. So pay Congress. Let`s
And, Congress, which had been clamoring for some sort of an American
response to the atrocities in Syria and the Syrian civil war, when Congress
was actually asked to vote on the matter, to authorize this thing they have
been clamoring for, all of a sudden, they found they had much less to say
on the matter. And so, when President Obama said I`d like to it, you guys
authorize it, Congress never voted to authorize that force and the United
States did not bomb Syria.
We did lead an international effort to get Syria to give up its
chemical weapons. That worked and thank God it did. But after the
president said I`m ready to bomb, Congress, are you with me? Congress was
not with him. We did not bomb.
Now, the Sunni militant group, ISIS, or ISIL, which operates in both
Syria and Iraq and says the whole region is a big Islamic caliphate under
their control, that group now controls geographically, about 1/3 of the
nation of Iraq, and they`re pairing their military advances and their
terrorizing of local populations with an increasing international media
effort, making their case that they are an Islamic caliphate and their
leader is ruler of all Muslims on earth.
But, also, they`re trying to explain their strategy and what it is
they are hoping to elicit in terms of a response from the rest of the world
to what they are doing in Iraq and Syria. If you`re familiar with the
concept of an Internet troll, somebody who says things that are designed to
be the most inflammatory thing possible, to try to get a rise out of you,
targeting you to try to make you respond to upset you the most so they can
see you at your worst when you`re most upset, you mad, bro? Familiar with
the concept of an Internet troll? That is how ISIS is now using
international media to taunt and provoke the United States into please
getting involved in some sort of American direct war against them. They
want that more than anything.
This is some remarkable footage shot by Vice Media, which embedded
one of their correspondents with the ISIS rebels inside Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, VICE NEWS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say to America, that the Islamic Caliphate has
been established. And we will not stop. Don`t be cowards and attack us
with drones. Instead send your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq.
We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag
of Allah in the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God willing, the Caliphate has been established,
and we are going to invade you as you invaded us. We will capture your
women and you captured our women.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God willing, this general will fight infidels and
apostates, the Americans and their allies. God willing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Footage from Vice News. God willing send troops to fight
us. God willing. That is what they want more than anything.
As of two months ago, roughly, the United States has now sent several
hundred troops to Iraq. Not to fight ISIS militants directly but to
increase the capacity of Iraqi forces to fight them more effectively.
As of late last week, U.S. pilots and remote piloted aircraft, aka,
drones, are directly launching American airstrikes against ISIS, against
this rebel group, Starting at 1:10 p.m. Eastern time today, in quick
secession, we got this announcement that`s scrolling here. These
announcements of four separate U.S. airstrikes against is checkpoints and
vehicles, including armored personnel carriers and armed trucks and what
some call a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle which is something
everybody else in the world calls a Humvee.
All today`s airstrikes took place at or near Sinjar Mountain, which
is a site where tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been trapped and
murdered by the militants. Sinjar Mountain is also not incidentally very
near to Iraq`s border with Syria. That is not an accident. This militant
group controls a third of Iraq, but they also control significant territory
inside Syria. They have effectively opened the border to themselves in
that whole region for what they consider to be their own state.
So here`s the question: if the United States is conducting a
sustained bombing campaign now against this militant group, designed to
destroy this group or damage its ability to keep doing what it`s doing, can
that be achieved by bombing at all? However happy you feel about that
objective, can bombing achieve it? Can that be achieved? Can that
objective get there from the air?
If it can be achieved from the air, if it can be achieved by bombing,
can it be achieved by bombing them on only one side of a border that the
group does not acknowledge exists? Where the group exists fluidly between
the two sides of that border?
So, how long an operation is this going to be? How much damage does
ISIS have to sustain before the U.S. will consider our military objectives
to have been met?
Is it feasible to imagine that those objectives will be met by
bombing and if the United States is bombing in Iraq but not over the border
in Syria -- because remember, we decided not to bomb Syria. Congress was
handed that hot potato a year ago by the president and Congress promptly
ate it and we never heard about it ever again.
President Obama today made remarks supporting Iraq forming its new
government, ousting Nouri al Maliki and installing a new prime minister.
And in theory, if not, Iraq does as of today have a new government.
Today was the fourth day of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A campaign that
the president warned this weekend would not be a short campaign.
But from the perspective of the U.S. government, and the American
people, what is the point of the bombing? What is the strategic point of
the bombing? When will the United States consider the objectives of these
bombings to have been achieved?
If the point is to target and degrade ISIS in Iraq, can that be done
without also bombing in Syria? And if so, in fact, whether or not it
involves Syria, doesn`t the president believe he needs congressional
authorization in order to do this?
When he wanted to bomb Syria, alone, he said I can`t do this without
Congress. Now, we`re bombing into Iraq and not over the border in Syria.
What is the point here, and who decides it and when do we hear from
Congress on this?
Joining us now us Marie Harf, she`s deputy spokesperson for the U.S.
State Department and she never has to respond to an introduction that long.
Thank you very much for being here and for your patience.
MARIE HARF, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE SPOKESPERSON: Happy to be here,
Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, what is the overall strategy behind bombing ISIS? I
understand completely the case against is, why they are terrible, why it is
in the American people`s interest that they be stopped. How will these
bombing campaigns stop them?
HARF: Well, Rachel, as the president said, this bombing campaign has
some very limited objectives. The first is to improve the humanitarian
situation on Sinjar Mountain. Some of those strikes you showed from today,
in fact, were around Sinjar Mountain to help protect the people trapped on
that mountain. They`ve, as you know, been coupled with humanitarian aid
But also to protect our people in Irbil and protect our people in
Irbil, and the strategically important city of Irbil. We really wanted to
prevent ISIL`s very rapid move on Irbil. It happened really over the past
several days and that`s why you saw the president take very quick action
because there was an imminent threat to Irbil, where we have a number of
He did speak with congressional leaders. We`ve talked to Congress
quite a bit about this. They understood the need to move very quickly to
protect our people there.
And unlike Syria, the Iraqi government invited us in. They asked us
all different leaders in Iraq, religious leaders, government leaders,
tribal leaders, asked us to help in this case.
That`s why you`ve really seen where we could act for very urgent
humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people, as you mentioned,
potentially about to starve to death on this mountain, when we can bring
resources to bear quickly, unlike anyone else can. You saw the president
say we absolutely have to do so in.
MADDOW: In terms of that strategic and in some ways illegal decision
about the Iraqi government inviting the U.S. in, you say as opposed to
Syria, obviously when the president was talking about military intervention
in Syria last year, he was talking about moving against the government
forces of Bashar al Assad there.
I mean, what`s the strategic calculation, if you squeeze them hard
enough in Iraq, you`re just squeezing them further into Syria because they
can cross that border at will. They control that border.
HARF: Well, right. And strategically, as I mentioned, there are
very limited objectives to our current military action.
Longer term to fight ISIL, there`s no American military solution
here. We can help the Iraqis and what we need to do now, what we`ve said
we`re doing, is giving them some time and space to regroup, to re-equip.
We`re helping them do that, and to get back on their feet, because long
term, there`s no American military solution to this challenge. The Iraqi
force need to be able to do this themselves.
And in terms of the Syria comparison, in Syria, we were talking about
limited strikes against the Assad regime after its use of chemical weapons,
which as you mentioned we were able to resolve diplomatically instead
which, of course, has been what we consider to be a fairly good success in
So, they`re just very different. We`re continuing to arm the
moderate opposition in Syria who is fighting ISIL, not just fighting the
regime. So, it`s a very different situation in Syria versus Iraq and we
have different tools we use in each of those countries.
MADDOW: I have to ask you about the issue about arming the Kurdish
forces. And I realize that`s somewhat sensitive in terms of what parts of
the U.S. government may be doing that and how much can be described. But
to the extent the U.S. has moved with some alacrity to defend Irbil and to
help the northern Iraqi regional government essentially maintain its
integrity, defend itself, including reportedly the pretty direct provision
of weapons -- is there a risk that the U.S. is ultimately contributing to
the breakup of Iraq essentially by rarifying and reinforcing a regional
government that would very happily be separate from the entire, the rest of
the Iraqi nation, if they had the wherewithal to do so?
HARF: Well, you know, one thing I think that`s been interesting over
these past few days, and in fact, heartening, is that the Iraqi security
forces have been assisting the Kurdish security forces, the Peshmerga, in a
way that`s truly unprecedented. We have never seen this kind of
The Iraqi security forces have been doing things like providing air
support, providing ammo, providing weapons from their own stockpiles to the
I think many people would have thought this was fairly unbelievable
if you said that even just a few weeks ago.
We also have existing stockpiles of weapons. We are working now to
expedite shipments to the Kurds.
Basically all of us are working together. It`s really a team effort
here. We know they need more weapons on the ground. Not just the Kurds
but the Iraqi security forces.
So, we`re actively seeing what more we can do. We know this is an
urgent challenge and we want to get them the tools they need because,
again, as I said, there`s no long term American military solution to this
challenge in Iraq. What we can do is help them. And that`s what we`re
But they have to stand up and step up and put a strategy in place
under this new government that really can address this threat long term.
MADDOW: Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department --
I appreciate you being here tonight, especially this late at night.
HARF: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Ahead, we`ve got the very latest on the
investigation into the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old by a policeman that
triggered riots in the St. Louis area. There`s new news on that tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The tension between police and the community in the St.
Louis area is simmering tonight in the wake of a fatal police officer
shooting of an unarmed teenager. Well, now, the FBI has gotten involved
and it turns out that`s a pretty important turn. We`ve got the latest on
that, coming up.
MADDOW: This is the Foothill Freeway. That`s major east/west
highway in San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, Route 210. On March
3rd, 1991, a man named Rodney King was driving down the Foothill Freeway
with two other passengers.
As he sped down the roads, officers tried to pursue him. He refused
to pull over. There was a high-speed chase. Several officers and patrol
car, a helicopter ultimately joined in.
Finally, officers cornered his car and the result was captured on
amateur video. That incident, that video, that beating became one of the
most famous pieces of police footage in U.S. history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN OLIVER, NBC NEWS REPORTER: The full tape shows the man
attempting to escape, but does not show him offering any resistance. After
the incident, King was hospitalized and is now in jail. His condition,
unknown. There was immediate criticism of the police.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Los Angeles Police Department members acted
Sunday morning as though they were members of a gang. It`s the kind of
activity that we will not tolerate in this city.
OLIVER: Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said he was shocked and
outraged. The police commission wants a full accounting and police chief
Daryl Gates said a full and complete investigation is under way.
DARYL GATES, POLICE CHIEF: I think even if we determine that the
officers were indeed out of line, in this case, it is an aberration.
OLIVER: But some critics say police brutality, particularly against
minorities in southern California is so prevalent a congressional
investigation is needed. The FBI has entered this case to determine if
King`s civil rights were violated.
Dan Oliver, NBC News, Los Angeles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Two days after that meeting, the FBI launched an
investigation into the Rodney King incident. The following week, then-U.S.
attorney general under then-President George H.W. Bush, he announced the
Justice Department would review every police brutality complaint to the
federal government over the previous six years.
Previously, the Justice Department had always handled police
brutality cases on an individual basis. They looked at cases at standalone
instances. They`ve never analyzed where the cases were filed and if there
were patterns of brutality within a department or a specific region of the
So, that announcement by the attorney general marked the first time
that the federal government looked into patterns of alleged brutality by
police departments. That was 23 years ago.
This past weekend, on Saturday, around noontime, an 18-year-old
unarmed teenager named Michael Brown was fatally shot multiple times in
Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer. We do not know much yet about
what exactly transpired. Police say there may have been some sort of
physical altercation, perhaps a struggle over the officer`s service weapon.
Ultimately, 18-year-old Mike Brown was shot multiple times in the
street several dozen feet from the officer`s patrol car. Broad daylight.
Witnesses say that Young Mr. Brown`s body lay in the street for hours
after he was killed. There were multiple witnesses to the aftermath of the
shooting. There reportedly were several people who saw the whole incident
The same day of the shooting, protesters in Ferguson took to the
streets protesting the use of force saying the killing of an unarmed
teenager is representative of deeper tensions between black residents in
Ferguson and the predominantly white police force in that town. The
protesters have been met by a strong police presence in riot gear. There`s
been armed response at times.
And while many, most of the protests have been peaceful, some
protests have turned violent. There was looting. Smashed car windows in
shops. Protests still going on today in Ferguson, Missouri.
This afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement
announcing that the FBI is launching an investigation into this shooting,
alongside local authorities and the Justice Department civil rights
division to look into exactly what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, this
past weekend and what federal civil rights implications there may be.
Over the past two decades, since the Rodney King beating, the federal
government has shown a pattern of getting more involved in investigations
of this sort. They have taken a more active role. Does it help?
More than 20 years later, how much have things really changed since
the 1990s? And what has the federal government done to try to address this
problem in a systemic way? Does it work?
Hold that thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY MCSPADDEN, VICTIM`S MOTHER: The violence needs to stop. The
support is all needed, all needed, but not the violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the mother of Michael Brown thanking the public for
their support but also pleading for a stop to the looting and the violence
that also has happened during protests against her son`s killing this
weekend just outside St. Louis.
Joining us now is Gloria Browne-Marshall. She`s associate professor
of constitutional law at John Jay College.
Professor Browne-Marshall, thank you for being here.
GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, the announcement today that the FBI and the Justice
Department civil rights division would be getting involved in this case,
sort of alongside the local investigation, is that something that the U.S.
government has been more willing to do over the past few years and has it
BROWNE-MARSHALL: Because of the Obama administration pushing Eric
Holder, U.S. attorney general, into certain priorities that include, will
include intermediate-type police departments and police actions, there is
more of a federal presence when it comes to these types of the issues. It
all depends on the administration and their priorities.
MADDOW: Does it help overall for there to be that kind of government
pressure and the attendant public attention to these things when they
BROWNE-MARSHALL: It helps. It helps greatly because it shows the
importance of not just a killing but a killing with a government hand. It
also shows that it`s more than just a local matter, it`s a federal matter.
And when the federal government intervenes it sends a message to the
whole country as well as all the police departments that there has to be a
change. If not, then it just gets pushed under the rug and the next thing
you know, there`s another incident. And they`re isolated as opposed to
having a general stance, pattern and practice that could be changed by
police policies nationwide.
MADDOW: So, we`ll be watching over the course of this investigation
to see if policy recommendations as well as the individual investigation.
BROWNE-MARSHALL: And forcing the police departments to actually
follow through and not just have another commission and then have it all go
under the rug. This way they have to have some type of oversight by the
federal government to make sure that there is a change in place.
MADDOW: Gloria Browne-Marshall, associate professor of
constitutional law at John Jay College -- I hope you come back and talk to
us about this as this unfolds. We obviously have only the very initial
basics here, but I hope you`ll come and talk with us about it again.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Obviously, there`s a ton going on in the news right now, but
the late-breaking news this evening, again, is the death by suspected
suicide of iconic comedian and actor Robin Williams. Robin Williams died
today at his home in Tiburon, California. The Marin County sheriff`s
department making the announcement tonight.
That`s it for our show but coverage continues now with Lawrence
O`Donnell on "THE LAST WORD."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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