'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, September 25th, 2014
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: September 25, 2014
Guest: Sherrilyn Ifill
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning, Chris. Thank you.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
All right. Here is my personal Eric Holder moment. It was not a personal
moment that I had with Eric Holder. He was not there but it was about Eric
Holder and it was personal. And it was very, very clarifying.
It was 2010, I was in Alaska. We were up there to cover the Joe Miller,
Lisa Murkowski U.S. Senate race that year. And up until the very last
minutes of that trip to Alaska, it looked like I had gone there to talk to
Lisa Murkowski and that`s it. Looked like I was not going to get an
interview with the other guy, with Joe Miller himself.
But at one point on that trip, I did find myself on the streets of
Anchorage in the middle of the next best thing to Joe Miller. I found
myself in the middle of a crowd of Joe Miller`s Tea Party supporters. And
they agreed to talk to me and this is how that went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Good luck you, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eric Holder, and we disagree with that.
MADDOW: She what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rode it to confirm Eric Holder.
MADDOW: And why are you against that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we`re --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he`s anti-gun attorney general this country has
MADDOW: What`s he done against guns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at this point, well, it`s what he hasn`t done
against guns? Let`s ask that question. Let`s look at his voting record
beforehand. And I`m sure you guys --
MADDOW: Eric Holder wasn`t an elected official.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I`m asking is look at what --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vote for Joe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at what --
MADDOW: What`s he done on guns that you`re upset about, though? Just so -
- I mean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly -- I`m not -- I don`t know enough about him
to answer that truthfully, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can I just ask why are you upset about Eric Holder?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he`s anti-gun.
MADDOW: What has he done that`s anti-gun?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t have all the facts but I know that he is
MADDOW: There`s no specific thing that he`s done that you guys are upset
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, just look at his press releases.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s all I can say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at this press release.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Press releases look where he`s coming from.
MADDOW: I will. But what press release? Like about what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything. Just type into Google, Eric Holder and
Second Amendment or Eric Holder and firearms. And you`ll find plenty of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a perfect man-on-the-street encapsulation of what Eric
Holder brought out in American conservatives as attorney general. He made
them so angry and so upset. He was the number one issue for them in an
Alaska Senate primary. He was enemy number one. Even worse than President
Obama himself. Even if they could never quite put their finger on exactly
what it was, about -- why do we hate him so much?
Eighty-two different people have had the job of attorney general over the
course of the history of the United States. And 80 out of the 82 of them
have been white men. The one African American man we have ever had as
attorney general of the United States is Eric Holder. The one woman we`ve
ever had as attorney general of the United States is Janet Reno. And both
of them were so viscerally hated and so vilified by the right, that it
occasionally lost local coherence. It was pure emotion to the point where
it became almost pathological. Visceral thing.
I mean, the tenor of the vitriol against the Janet Reno over the years is
perhaps best represented by a joke made by Senator John McCain in 1998. I
will not read out loud Senator McCain`s joke but -- there we go. But I
will point out that Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the president and
first lady of the United States, was a teenager at the time that John
McCain made this joke about her.
This was John McCain at his classiest. But it`s also fairly representative
in terms of the way conservatives and Republicans talk about and felt about
Janet Reno. The right hated Janet Reno so badly that they just couldn`t
see straight. She was the only woman who has ever been attorney general of
the United States. The only African American to ever be attorney general
of the United States.
Today he announced his retirement from the job. His tenure in office --
during his tenure in office, he, too, got Republicans so upset, so over
excited so overwhelmed with their emotional hatred for him that things with
Eric Holder, like with Janet Reno, they sometimes didn`t just get
vituperative and over the top. They sometimes got weird and hard to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You don`t have access to the FBI files.
You don`t know what the FBI did, you don`t know what the FBI`s interaction
was with the -- with the Russians. I know what the FBI did. You cannot
know what I know. That`s all.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, thank you, Mr.
Chairman. And that is simply the -- I did not assert what they did or did
not do. I asserted what --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman --
GOHMERT: My point -- I cannot have a --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order.
GOHMERT: He`s challenged my character --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, regular order please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend.
GOHMERT: When you attack somebody`s integrity and say they made statements
that were not true, then of course that is -- raises a point of personal
privilege. But the attorney general failed to answer my questions about
what was --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. The gentleman --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
GOHMERT: -- aspersions on my asparagus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What was that at the end there? That was May of last year. Texas
Congressman Louie Gohmert so flustered by how upset he is, by the presence
of Eric Holder that he accused the attorney general of -- just the end part
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. Gentleman --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
GOHMERT: Aspersions on my asparagus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Aspersions on my asparagus. Silence.
That was last year, in May. Then this year, almost a year later in April,
Eric Holder and Louie Gohmert met again in the same room in Congress. And
the follow-up exchange between aspersions on my asparagus guy and the
attorney general of the United States, the follow-up exchange between the
two of them produced undoubtedly the greatest sound bite yet from any
member of the Obama cabinet. For the duration of the Obama presidency,
nobody in his cabinet has ever had a piece of tape as good as this. This
is as good as it gets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: That`s obviously a matter that is under consideration by the
courts. Now we have taken a position on that. I wouldn`t want to get into
something that, as I said, a pending matter.
GOHMERT: Well --
It is your opinion that matters on whether you tell -- attorneys general
how to act in the states? Or how you approach businesses or individuals
that have this biblical view that the president had when he was a senator
in 2008. So I thought it was rather important.
Well, let me ask you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the gentleman --
HOLDER: Good luck with your asparagus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Good luck with your asparagus. Eric Holder, throughout his tenure
as attorney general, has made Republicans see red. He`s driven them to
destruction. I mean, they accused him of casting aspersions on their
asparagus. They held him in contempt of Congress. The first time that`s
ever done to a cabinet officer. But interestingly, the contempt vote was
kind of an interesting, historical anomaly other than the fact that it had
never happened before to a member of Congress. The count itself was a
You know how there are 400 something members of Congress? So close votes
in Congress. They`re usually 200 something to 200 something. In this
case, the vote on Eric Holder was 255 to 67? Which means it did pass but
that`s a weird number of people to be voting on something inside the House
And that is because the vast majority of the Democratic members of Congress
was so disgusted by that contempt vote against Eric Holder that they didn`t
even bother to vote no. They instead just walked out of Congress in a
giant group in protest and refuse to have any part in the whole spectacle.
And so, yes, when the history of our nation`s first black attorney general
is written, a lot of it will have to be about how Republicans and
conservatives hated him with such unharnessed, raw vitriol that the stuff
they threw at him was even more flammable than the typical stuff that they
throw at the nation`s first black president.
But even so, even as the absorber of all that opprobrium, even as this
lightning rod or a heat shield for the president even, as some people have
said about him. Even with all of that, this attorney general will also
have to go down in history as one of the more consequential attorneys
general of the modern era. It was Attorney General Eric Holder who called
the incredibly restrictive Texas voter ID law a poll tax.
As attorney general, he successfully sued Texas and South Carolina to stop
their discriminatory voter ID laws in 2012. The same year, he successfully
sued Florida to stop them from getting rid of their early voting. After
the conservative majority on the Supreme Court effectively killed the
Voting Rights Act, undaunted Attorney General Eric Holder sued Texas again
and also North Carolina. And he also had the Justice Department join
lawsuits against Ohio and Wisconsin to put the Justice Department squarely
on the side of voting rights as it became mainstream Republican politics to
Finally, rolling back the sentencing disparities and the sentencing
hysteria that turned our nation`s war on drugs into the largest prison
population on earth, that was Attorney General Eric Holder. Letting two
states legalized pot even though pot is still illegal as a federal matter,
that was Attorney General Eric Holder. Refusing to defend the anti-gay
Defense of Marriage Act and putting the Justice Department on the side of
equal marriage for the first time ever, that was Attorney General Eric
Getting the FBI to start taping their interrogations for the first time
ever in the history of that opaque agency, that is Attorney General Eric
Holder. Unprecedented federal investigation and oversight of local police
departments to get them to stop discriminatory policing, that was Attorney
General Eric Holder. Oh, and rebuilding the Department of Justice that was
a smoking hulk when he got there. That, too, is Attorney General Eric
Very deep in the coverage today about Eric Holder submitting his
resignation, there was this interesting detail about the first thing he`s
going to do now that he`s announced his resignation. He sort of goes into
a lame duck period now, right, where he has announced that he is retiring
but the understanding is that he`ll stay around until his replacement can
be confirmed by the Senate.
But interestingly, the very first thing on his schedule after making his
retirement announcement today? The next thing he`s going to do is that
he`s going to Scranton tomorrow. Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton,
Pennsylvania, is not having a justice crisis of national importance. There
isn`t like civil unrest in the streets of Scranton that the attorney
general has to jet in to try to calm.
No, the reason he`s going to Scranton tomorrow is because of the 93 U.S.
attorneys in the country, the one in Scranton is the only one that Eric
Holder hasn`t visited yet. And so he is completing his goal tomorrow of
personally visiting every one of the 93 U.S. attorneys` offices all over
the country during his tenure. As a sign of support for those federal
prosecutors. And encouragement to try to give them all a boost. To have
the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the nation come and see
their office and visit personally in their district.
It`s a totally fitting reminder that when Eric Holder arrived in Washington
as attorney general in the first place that pair of words, U.S. attorney,
was almost always followed by the word scandal. Because the previous
administration had used the Department of Justice, not so much as an
ideological laboratory, but more like an ideological burn pit. Instead of
professional federal prosecutors, the U.S. attorney job under George W.
Bush became something that you handed out to campaign donors.
Like -- if it`s an ambassadorship to an unimportant country. Career
prosecutors, career justice personnel, apolitical, competent, life-long
civil service employees were pushed out in order to make the Department of
Justice more like a branch of the Bush-Cheney campaign team. They saved
the worst for the civil rights division. They essentially decimated that
critical part of the department.
And so part of what Eric Holder had to do as a new attorney general was
start to rebuild the Justice Department, in many ways, from the ground up.
Because that`s what the Bush administration did to it. They ground it up.
Now since he`s been AG, Republicans have imagined themselves into a lot of
feverish scandals concerning Attorney General Eric Holder. Honestly the
one that came the closes to being a real scandal, the thing that led to the
contempt vote and all the rest of it, that was the Fast and Furious program
which Republicans got so upset about during his tenure, even that was
something that had been created during the George W. Bush administration.
I know, I could hear them screaming from across the street as they say it.
This is going to make people feel very uncomfortable. But the scandalous
Fast and Furious program, the scandal of Eric Holder`s tenure, Fast and
Furious, was created in the George W. Bush administration. Eric Holder is
actually the one who ended it. And that`s the biggest knock made out
against him. At least the biggest knock against him that even came close
to being something about policy and not just spitting and swearing in his
The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder made conservatives so
inexplicably angry, it is an important fact of his tenure of AG. It does
not always mean, however, that he always made liberals happy. Liberals
fault him for not prosecuting more criminal wrongdoing against the banks
and financial institutions that caused the economy to melt down. They
fault him for authorizing wiretaps of AP reporters and editors that were
way too broad and has still never been adequately explained.
He chose not to prosecute torture by CIA officers. The FBI is still
allowed to exonerate itself of all wrongdoing whenever it shoots somebody.
There`s definitely a critique of the Eric Holder tenure from the left. And
there`s more things to say from that direction as well.
The ridiculous political fact that he was forced to reverse a decision to
try alleged 9/11 perpetrators in federal court, that`s still hanging on
(INAUDIBLE) and will be forever, and as his tenure goes down in history,
that will be a big part of it.
I mean, had there not been such an outcry, had he been able to go ahead
with his plan to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other 9/11 guys in
federal court in the United States, by now, if we`re honest, those guys
would probably be tried, convicted and tucked neatly away in a federal
prison somewhere. Because he was turned back on that decision for
political reasons, instead their cases continue to languish and to be an
international spectacle of how we don`t actually know what we want to do
But Attorney General Eric Holder`s list of accomplishments is a long list.
On civil rights in particular, his tenure is going to be remembered not
just for what the Department of Justice did under his leadership, but also
for his willingness to speak bluntly and speak personally on hard truths
about civil rights and race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: The news of Trayvon Martin`s death last year and the discussions
that have taken place since then reminded me of my father`s words so many
years ago. And they brought me back to a number of experiences that I had
as a young man when I was pulled over twice and my car searched on the New
Jersey turnpike when I`m sure I wasn`t speeding.
Or while I was stopped by a police officer when I was simply running to
catch a movie at night in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. I was, at the
time of that last incident, a federal prosecutor. So --
Trayvon`s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation
with my own 15-year-old son. Like my dad did with me. This was a father-
son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father
who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world. I had
to do this to protect my boy.
I am his father. And it is my responsibility to not burden him with the
baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Eric Holder speaking last year.
This year, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white
police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and then his body was left in the
street for hours afterwards, and that city erupted night after night for
weeks. It was a personal visit from Eric Holder, the attorney general, who
seemed to be the only one who could calm Ferguson down after those weeks of
Well, today as he announced his retirement, he was introduced by President
Obama and he received an extended, extended, extended ovation in the White
House. And then when he spoke, he was very emotional. He -- as you saw,
he is a man who is willing to speak in personal terms about hard things.
But I don`t -- not sure that we have ever seen him as emotional and as
personal in public as he was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Whatever my accomplishments, they could not have been achieved
without the love, support and guidance of two people who are not here with
me today. My parents, Eric and Miriam Holder, nurtured me and my
accomplished brother William, and made us believe in the value of
individual effort and the greatness of this nation.
My time in public service which now comes to an end would not have been
possible without the sacrifices too often unfair made by the best three
kids a father could ask for.
Thank you, Maya. Thank you, Brooke. And thank you, Buddy.
And finally, I want to thank the woman who sacrificed the most and allowed
me to follow my dreams. She`s the foundation of all that our family is and
the basis of all that I have become.
My wife, Sharon, is the unsung hero. And she is my life partner. Thank
you for all that you have done. I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After the attorney general finished that speech today, President
Obama gave him a hug and said to him off camera, as everybody else stood up
to give him that standing ovation, you could hear the president say, "Good
job. You got through it."
Eric Holder stepping down today from a very, very consequential tenure as
our nation`s first African-American attorney general and as the only
attorney general who has served thus far during the Obama administration.
There are two years left. How will they replace him? No, seriously. In a
technical sense, how will they replace him? That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Years ago, some of these same issues drove my father to sit down
with me to have a conversation which is no doubt familiar to many of you
about how, as a young black man, I should interact with the police. What
to say and how to conduct myself if I was ever stopped or confronted in a
way that I thought was unwarranted.
Now, I`m sure my father felt certain at that time that my parents`
generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder talking last year before the
Attorney General Eric Holder today announced his retirement. When he was
first nominated to be attorney general, he was confirmed pretty easily for
the post in 2009. But then he very quickly became a lightning rod for, if
we`re honest, occasionally unhinged criticism over these past five and a
half years. There is no bigger boogieman on the right than Attorney
General Eric Holder, and I`m including President Obama himself in that
What shoes does this attorney general leave to fill? And how difficult
will Republicans be able to make it to confirm anybody President Obama
might want to choose for the job after him?
Joining us now is Sherrilyn Ifill. She`s president and director-counsel of
the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Miss Ifill, thank you very much for being here. It`s a real pleasure to
have you here.
SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND PRESIDENT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What do you think Eric Holder`s most enduring legacy will be?
Obviously we know that the nation`s first African-American general, that
will always be the first line that`s ever said about him in the history
books. But what else is going to make history about him, too?
IFILL: Well, I think he has been so courageous and so bold in two areas
that I think are too often not really focused on when people think about
the attorney general of the United States. The first one is the civil
rights area that you talked about. What the attorney general has done in
the area of voting rights and his willingness to speak powerfully about the
importance of civil rights.
Many people may know that the attorney general`s sister in law was Vivian
Malone, the young woman who was the first student to desegregate the
University of Alabama. It was Governor Wallace standing in the courthouse
door against her. So he feels deeply in his personal self. And he was
willing to speak powerfully about civil rights.
You talk about the voting rights cases that he`s worked on. We`ve
litigated shoulder-to-shoulder with the Justice Department until the
attorney general`s leadership. The Texas voter ID case both in 2012 and
this year. That trial just ended on Monday. And the day of the Shelby
County decision, he had the civil rights legal teams into his office to say
we`re going to make sure that we protect the voting rights of racial
He already had a plan for how he was going to redeploy lawyers within the
department to ensure that those protections remained in place. So he`s
ever mindful of civil rights and he made it front and center.
And then the second thing which is maybe even more remarkable is the work
that he`s done around criminal justice. Remember, the attorney general is
the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. He -- himself is a
former U.S. attorney, a prosecutor, and yet he was willing with all of his
law enforcement bona fides to expend some of that capital to speak the
truth about over incarceration in this country, about overly long drug
And then to put his money where his mouth is and actually change real
policy. Going to his U.S. attorneys and instructing them to stop over
charging in drug cases involving non-violent drug offenders. That is huge.
No attorney general has done that in the past. I can`t imagine one who
would do it in the future.
Reorganizing the clemency process at the federal level to ensure that those
who are in jail for overly long terms for nonviolent drug offenders have an
option to use the clemency process. This is extraordinary. And he could
do it because he actually does real law enforcement bona fides but he can
only also do it because he was willing to be courageous and because he was
willing to set a tone and set a portfolio for himself as attorney general
that is not really like any that we`ve ever seen.
MADDOW: I think that`s a super important point in terms of him having
served at so many different levels of law enforcement. Not only was that
interesting in terms of what he came to believe needed to be done but he
then have the wherewithal and the know-how, the nets and bolts know-how to
know how to get it done in a way that would make real change.
Again, it`s an excellent point.
I want to ask you about his tone a little bit. We left off as the title of
this segment that quote from him to Louie Gohmert about good luck with your
asparagus. In part, because I feel like it`s the sort of under-appreciated
and interesting thing about him that he was so pugnacious with his critics
that he would -- you know, he said to Congressman Gohmert at one point,
don`t go there, buddy.
You know, he was willing to wave his finger at people. He was willing to
go toe-to-toe with people defending both himself and to respect for the
office. Do you feel like as a matter of sort of his public presentation
that that was a hard thing to calibrate given how upset the right always
was with him?
IFILL: Well, it was hard, I think, for him to calibrate. But I think what
many people appreciated about it is that it was just so honest. He was
just who he is and he was not willing to allow people to cross a certain
line with him.
And I have to tell you as an African American, for many of us, it was very
important for us to see this attorney general do that. As an African-
American man. When he was being attacked in ways that we found so
disrespectful, you know, attacks on whether or not he was intelligent.
Attacks on his integrity. And we all know that the president has had to
walk a fine line. He`s a politician. He`s the president of the United
States. And so in some ways, many of us have been very relieved to have
the attorney general be able to forcefully stand up for himself, many of us
felt in some ways that he was defending our collective dignity.
Because we don`t believe that he would have been attacked in the ways that
he was attacked and the disrespectful ways that he was attacked, some of
which you showed in the earlier sequences if he were not African-American.
And he himself was willing to say that. So that tone, that pugnacious tone
was important because it also held off, I think, some of the criticism that
came against him because he showed his willingness to fight it out.
But it was also important for those of us watching him for our own sense of
integrity and dignity and for his willingness to stand up to those who came
against him, and to say I`ll only allow you to go so far, even as the
attorney general of the United States.
MADDOW: That`s right. And he leave that office having not letting anybody
shrink it an inch by the way they attacked him in that role.
IFILL: That`s right.
MADDOW: Because of the way he thought on that.
Thank you for that point. That`s excellent.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and
Education Fund. It`s great to have you here tonight. Thank you very much.
IFILL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got lots more ahead tonight including best new
thing in the world that after a lot of back and forth has finally been
approved for family viewing. But it was a hard road to hell. Stay with
us. That`s ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: One cannot truly understand America without understanding the
historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get
to the heart of this country, one must examine its racial soul. Though
this nation has proudly thought of itself as a ethnic melting pot in things
racial we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be in too many
ways essentially a nation of cowards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, I know it. You know it. Let`s just admit it. We do not talk
enough on this show about Polish politics. Headlines have been dominated
recently by events in the Middle East, in Iraq and Syria, the ongoing war
between Russia and Ukraine, the near breakup of the United Kingdom.
And yet even with foreign politics dominating our show somehow Poland --
nothing. Well, that shameful failure ends tonight because it must.
Best new thing in the world is coming up right at the end of the show
tonight straight from Poland. It is one of the best things we`ve done in
this program in a very long time. I almost can`t wait.
MADDOW: So, they are coming back to vote. I thought it would never happen
but they are coming back to vote. More than a month after the airstrikes
started in Iraq, apparently that wasn`t enough to get them to come back and
vote on authorizing this thing, but now that it`s not just an air war in
Iraq, but also an air war in a second country, Syria, as well, they have
finally decided to end their vacation to come home interest their
legislative districts and they`re going to vote and, yes, it is a surprise.
Tomorrow, though, they are going to vote. It`s finally going to happen.
I speak, of course, about the British parliament, they have called off
their recess and coming back to vote in their parliament on whether or not
to authorize a British military campaign against ISIS. Their Prime
Minister David Cameron supports that campaign but British military forces
have not been participating in it thus far because parliament hasn`t voted
to authorized the British military to do that. That`s why they`re coming
back for a vote.
British newspapers say if the vote is yes, British warplanes will be ready
to take off immediately after the vote is taken.
Here? Not so much. Our Congress has not nearly as much interest in this
Although it felt like they might for a second today when we got this
headline from "The New York Times." look, Boehner says new Congress should
debate military action. Hey, then if you read that fast you might think,
wow, OK, the speaker of the House is changing his mind, Congress is going
to debate authorizing the war.
And then you slow down and you read it again and you realized word "new" is
doing a lot of work in that headline. What it means is that he doesn`t
want this existing Congress to debate this military action. He wants it to
be the new one, the next Congress, as in the one that isn`t elected yet
that will convene next year in 2015.
Speaker Boehner telling "The Times", quote, "Doing this with a whole group
of members who are on their way out the door, I don`t think that`s the
right way to handle this."
Of course, it wasn`t the right way to handle it before they went home for
their vacation in order to stand for re -- up until this point, we had been
operating under the assumption that our Congress basically had two options.
Now, that the war has started in Iraq and Syria and say it`s going to be a
years` long effort, we figure they had two option. Congress could come
back from the two-month vacation they just gave themselves and vote on
authorizing the war, like the Brits are doing, or if they really want the
to wuss out they could stay on vacation until the elections in November and
then come back after the elections in the lame duck session and vote on
authorizing the war then.
Today, John Boehner opened up door number three when he suggested, no, no,
how about next year instead? So, no vote on the war before it started. No
vote once it started and they were still in session. No vote once the war
expanded into a second country. No vote before the election, now he says
no vote after the election either.
It`s kind of feeling like maybe they don`t want to vote on this thing at
all -- which is amazing in its own right given the Constitution. What`s
more amazing, though, that while the leadership in Congress says ISIS, this
fight against ISIS is not their thing, it`s not their problem, they don`t
want to vote on it, they don`t want to debate it, they don`t want to do
anything about it, they just want to stay home and campaign instead --
while that is happening with this Congress, this is how Republicans are
campaigning for House seats right now across the country. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: We don`t know the growing threat we face today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they coming for us?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are actively working to come for us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there`s it`s no longer a fringe terrorist
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These fighters could be a significant threat to our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is an ad just released in multiple congressional
jurisdictions by the National Republican Campaign Committee.
Do you feel afraid of ISIS? Are they coming for us? Well, then vote for
us. We promise to go home and run ads like this to scare you instead of
meeting even the absolute barest minimum constitutional responsibility to
at least talk about this threat.
We are afraid to even talk about it. So, if you feel afraid, vote for us.
MADDOW: Can you referee a game while also playing in that game?
It seems like an obvious question with an obvious answer, but it has been a
central and unanswered question in the race for control of the United
States Senate this year. In the great state of Kansas, the tremendous
Senate election that`s unfolding there right now, this man, Kris Kobach,
describes himself as the referee in that race.
Mr. Kobach is the secretary of state and top elections official, a
Republican and as the self-described referee in that Senate race Kris
Kobach has made a serious of calls that all happened to favor his own side
in that Senate race, trying to force the Democrat who had been losing this
that race and who quit the race to try to stay in the race. And then
trying to order state Democrats to put a new Democrat on the ballot when
the Supreme Court said that the other guy had to be let go.
And Kris Kobach wants the Kansas Senate race to be a three-way race with
the incumbent Republican senator facing split opposition from both a
Democratic candidate and independent candidate. Kris Kobach wants to force
it to be a three-way race in Kansas and that, of course, would greatly help
the chances for the incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.
But in this race, Republican Kris Kobach is not only from the same party as
Senator Pat Roberts he`s also a member of Pat Roberts` campaign committee.
And so, Kris Kobach describes himself as the referee for the election
rules, but in terms of the Pat Roberts campaign, he is also sort of a
player in the game.
Well, this week, MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt went to Kansas
and she got an interview with Kris Kobach and she asked him about his dual
roles in this race. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You`re comfortable holding a
position essentially with Senator Roberts` campaign and being secretary of
state and deciding this case?
KRIS KOBACH (R), KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I would put position in
quotation marks. I`m one of the cast of thousands on a honorary committee
where, essentially, you know, Roberts people call the offices, all the
elected Republicans and say, would you be on our honorary committee? And
so, it`s a meaningless position.
And, of course, if we had any inkling there would be any controversy
surrounding a Senate race where people were, you know, potentially
violating our election laws, then, of course, I would have said no, I
can`t. But just to be courteous, you didn`t want to tell the senator no.
HUNT: And you don`t want to remove yourself now from the committee?
KOBACH: I mean, it would be a purely symbolic gesture at this point. So,
I mean, if people are into symbolism, then I think that`s important. But
the bottom line is, I have to enforce the law as it is written, not as some
people want it to be.
HUNT: But you`re going to stay as an honorary member?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So, that`s the Kris Kobach part of this Senate race.
The other new big factor here is that national Republicans have begun
jetting into Kansas in an effort to prop up the campaign of Pat Roberts
which looks like it`s in real trouble. At an appearance on behalf of
Senator Roberts this week, Kansas legend Bob Dole, he vocally went after
some other Republicans, specifically he blamed Senator Ted Cruz for
shutting down the government and costing Republicans crucial votes.
Then, this morning, at a pancake breakfast for Senator Roberts, former
half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, she championed Pat Roberts for
standing with Ted Cruz on the way to that same government shutdown over
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He, one of the few senators
fulfilling campaign promises, doing what the American people asked him to
do, standing there on the floor with Senator Ted Cruz to do what they could
to get rid of Obamacare, fulfilling his promise.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, which way does Pat Roberts want to play this, right? Does he
want to be a goat with Ted Cruz or want to be a folk hero with Ted Cruz?
The hard working Kasie Hunt put that question to Pat Roberts today. Watch
what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Senator Roberts, you campaigned in the last week with Bob Dole and
now, with Sarah Palin.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Sure.
HUNT: Bob Dole criticized the government shutdown and Ted Cruz. Sarah
Palin praised you for standing with that. Whose side are you on?
ROBERTS: Both. How about that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How about that?
Asked to choose between two seemingly irreconcilable ends for the shutdown
or against the shutdown, Pat Roberts picks both. How about that, Kansas?
Joining us now from Overland Park, Kansas, is Kasie Hunt, MSNBC political
correspondent, who seems to be having a really good time out there.
Kasie, thank you for joining us tonight.
HUNT: We`ve been having a wonderful time in here. Thanks for having me,
MADDOW: From your reporting on the ground in Kansas, watching all this
happening, how does it seem like things are going for Pat Roberts?
HUNT: Well, being on the ground here I would say it became abundantly
clear very quickly how difficult this race is going to be for Pat Roberts.
We were out in western Kansas with Bob Dole. It`s a conservative part of
the state, the area where Pat Roberts used to represent in the House and if
the voters there aren`t excited about him, it`s going to be hard for him to
get the traction that he needs to win this race. And the voters that I
talked to there, most of them had come to see Bob Dole, and a number of
Republicans said they were still trying to decide.
So, at this point, it`s for Roberts becoming a race against time, so they
did send in national operatives here to Kansas to try to redo his campaign,
once it became clear that Orman was going to be a real threat, but the
campaign they`re mounting now is one that, you know, under normal
circumstances they would have mounted six months ago. It`s their trying to
paint Orman as a liberal Democrat and try to turn this back into a
traditional partisan fight.
MADDOW: How is Orman holding up against the criticism? As you say, it`s
sort of being mounted against him later than it would in a typical
campaign. But how does he look as a candidate and how is he dealing with
this new wave of criticism now that they brought in all these national
HUNT: So, I spoke to Orman on this trip and he is somebody who comes
across as a pretty polished candidate for someone who is new to the arena.
He`s comfortable in a retail setting. He`s funny. He tells jokes.
You know, he`s still getting his footing under him in some ways. There are
some areas where he wasn`t 100 percent sure-footed in his answers, but I
think that what`s really going to be the test for him is how he continues
to handle how the Roberts campaign deals with their opposition research.
They`re starting to unload all of their negative attacks, you know, again,
a little bit late in the game.
They`re criticizing him for his business ties primarily. He is a
millionaire investor. He`ll be one of the richest men in the Senate if
he`s elected. And Roberts` campaign is focusing on his ties to a Goldman
Sachs board member who`s serving time for insider training.
And the Orman campaign sort of went underground for a little while as those
allegations first surfaced. His team has been very focused on trying to
push back against those. So, we`ll see if they continue to be able to
weather those attacks successfully or whether Roberts starts to get
traction and starts to push Orman`s numbers back down to earth.
Roberts himself is really unpopular. So, at this point, it`s kind of
become potentially becoming a race to the bottom.
MADDOW: MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt live for us tonight in
Kansas. Kasie, thanks very much. It`s great to have you here.
HUNT: Thanks very much, Rachel. Nice to see you.
MADDOW: You, too.
This is one of those races where it`s like -- you know, OK, the whole
Senate, the control of the Senate did on the line and so you might be
covering every boring Senate race around the country because every one of
them potentially could be the one that controls the Senate.
But in this case, it wouldn`t matter if nothing else was on the line. This
Kansas Senate race is so off the hook, it`s unbelievable that it`s
happening in Kansas.
All right, as promised next, the best new thing in the world. The epic
pure joy of the best new thing in the world tonight is worth staying here
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK, I`ve been looking forward to this all day. Best new thing in
the world -- this is one of those stories that seems like it might be going
somewhere terrible. I swear it has a happy ending. It really is the best
new thing in the world today.
It`s also a story that seems like it may be could be just an elaborate
metaphor for something political or something. It might be. You could
make it that.
But you know what? It is purely excellent on its own terms. I urge you to
just take it as the pure joy that it is.
OK, it starts in Poland, in Poznan in western Poland, where the town`s
pride and joy is its zoo. Lions and tigers and bears, right, also
elephants and giraffes. And at the zoo, they have a whole section for farm
animals. In that section, you will find these two love birds, who have
lived in the farm animal section of that western Poland zoo for the past
The donkey on the left is named Napoleon. His lady friend on the right is
And the zoo loves these donkeys. The zoo calls Napoleon and Antosia their
pair of lovable donkeys. They market them. They love them. They`ve been
together for ten years.
It has to be said, though, that Napoleon and Antosia -- they are very
loving as a couple. Throughout their decade-long relationship, they have
produced six offspring thus far, the youngest just two months old. Ten
years on, the magic is still there clearly.
The problem is that Napoleon and Antosia while loving each other very much
and very frequently, they live in a zoo and apparently, some of the
visitors of the zoo have taken offense to the point where they have
complained at what they are seeing between these two donkeys.
They have complained to this woman, a local politician with the
conservative law and justice party in Poland. After she got the "donkeys
are making too much love" complaint, she said that she too was horrified by
the donkeys in love showing their love for each other at the zoo. And as a
politician, because she was so grossed out by these donkeys doing this
thing, she prevailed upon the zoo`s director that the zoo should separate
them. Put them in separate pens, basically so they could not do the deed.
And look at them. Pining for one another from across the chain link fence,
after ten years of never being apart.
Are you feeling outrage? I`m feeling outrage. And a significant chunk of
the Polish public got outraged as well.
These are some of the Facebook fan pages created in honor of Napoleon and
Antosia in Poland pleading with the zoo to end the forced separation.
Thousands of Polish citizens see signed on to a petition to reunite them
even though the local surplus politician was so offended by them doing it.
And then Poland`s 24 hour cable news outlet caught up with the depressed
donkeys and it all turned out to be such bad press for the zoo, that this
morning, just one week after the separation was imposed, the zoo announced
that they had a change of heart.
I`ve got their actual statement here. This was their statement. They said
it was, quote, "never our intention for animals to feel uncomfortable
because of their natural behaviors." And so tah-dah! Look, best new thing
in the world. This morning, Napoleon and Antosia were reunited along with
their youngest foal. They`re all together again as a family.
This is the photo caption from Polskie Radio Public News, "Napoleon the
donkey with legs in the air is clearly delighted to have his Antosia back
in the pen." Of course, how do they know? Maybe he just needed to scratch
an itch, who knows?
Also, I think I should tell you I think that`s her and not him with her
legs in the air like she just don`t care. Because you know what? It
Either way, 10 years on, for this couple, the magic is obviously still
there. These donkeys are honeymooners for life and now, everybody can just
live, eat, sleep, raise their donkey baby and be in love without input from
easily offended human politicians. The end. See? I told you, literally
the best new thing in the world today.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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