'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 26, 2014
Guest: Wesley Lowery, Ryan Grim, Jess Bravin
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: It was really upsetting. And I`ve never
(AUDIO GAP) to this one. And so, I just want to say thank you, the viewer,
to watching. Thank you to all the people in my family who I`m going to be
with, and my daughter who turns 3 on Friday.
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks for that thought.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
HAYES: You too.
KORNACKI: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
hour. Rachel has the night off. And happy Thanksgiving Eve to all of you.
So, it was at the height of the presidential race back in the summer
of 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama was crisscrossing the country making a
case for why he should be elected president of the United States. The
American economy back then was imploding. Russia and Georgia were on the
verge of war. The United States was engaged in direct talks with North
Korea on the subject of nuclear disarmament. It was a very busy time in
America. It was a very busy time in the world. It was a very busy time in
the news business.
And in the middle of all this, with all of this more swirling in the
air, there was actually a moment in the middle of all this that it seemed
that all anyone wanted to ask Barack Obama about was a cartoon -- a cartoon
that was on the cover of a magazine called "The New Yorker."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATHENA JONES, NBC: The upcoming issue of "The New Yorker" has a
picture of you and your wife on the cover. Have you seen it? If not, I
can show it to you on my computer. It shows Michelle with an Afro and an
AK-47and the two you doing the fist bump with you in a sort of turban-type
thing on top. I wondered if you`ve seen it or if you have a response to
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no response to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, the title of that art on a "New Yorker" cover was the
politics of fear. And that came out shortly after a FOX News commentator
had wondered aloud on television, had wondered if Barack and Michelle Obama
had given each other a, quote, "terrorist fist jab". So, that "New Yorker"
cover captured that moment in American political and media life, the
conversation that was happening in our country right then, not just in
politics but the culture at large.
And this is something that the cover of "The New Yorker" is good for.
This was the cover of "The New Yorker" after Osama bin Laden was killed
back in 2011. Even if you never read a word of the magazine, "New Yorker"
covers are themselves a phenomenon.
This was the cover during the glitchy and disastrous Obamacare rollout
just over a year ago.
When the world had discovered that Mitt Romney once strapped a dog to
the roof of his car during a family trip, this is how "The New Yorker"
encapsulated that bizarre story. That`s a Rick Santorum who`s on the roof
of the Romney family car, by the way.
After BP spilled almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf Coast,
that was the worst oil spill in American history, here was the cover from
"The New Yorker".
This was the issue right after 9/11. This is what they had in their
cover that week, in one of the most provocative covers in the history of
the magazine was probably this. It`s the Valentine`s Day issue from 1993.
This was back when New York City was grappling with some deep-seated,
seemingly intractable tensions between the city`s black and orthodox Jewish
populations. There had been rioting in New York City not long before this.
The Crown Heights riot, there`d been violence and looting. There was
simmering tension. And when this cover came out, well, it was
controversial, it was poignant, it was funny, it was provocative, it`s one
that more than a few people still remember and still talk about today 21
And that`s what just the right cover image can do. It can stand the
test of time. And so now, this week, this is the cover of the newest issue
of "The New Yorker." It`s called "Broken Arch".
And the artist who created this cover, his name is Bob Stack. He
lived in St. Louis for 17 years, and he says that watching the news right
now in his home state breaks his heart. Quote, "My hope is that the events
in Ferguson will provide a bridge and opportunity for the city and also for
the country to learn and to come together."
Last night and into this morning people poured out on to the streets
all over the country in solidarity with the folks who had been protesting
in Ferguson. From New York, in Boston, to Miami, Minneapolis, Atlanta, in
Portland, Oakland, L.A. -- people last night took to the streets and they
marched. In many places, people used their bodies to block traffic, to
close roads and highways.
In Los Angeles, they blocked the highway, the 101 Highway. In New
York, they stopped traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel. They closed the Brooklyn
Bridge also. They blocked both highways on either side of Manhattan. For
the most part, all of these protests were peaceful, although there were
bursts of violence.
In Oakland, California, protests grew more violent as the night wore
on. People started fires, some shattered windows. They threw bricks at
police officers. More than 90 people in all were arrested in Oakland as a
result of those protests last evening.
In Ferguson, there was some violence but the St. Louis County police
chief called it a much better night last night than the night before.
There were 44 arrests total that were made.
And this is a live shot right now in the city of Ferguson. These are
live images on Thanksgiving Eve. Right now, the streets are calm in
Ferguson. You can see the National Guard here outside the Ferguson Police
In downtown St. Louis today there was a dramatic confrontation between
protesters who had tried to make their way into city hall and police
officers who said that the crowd had, quote, "made contact" with the city
hall security guard and the crowd had to disperse.
Some in the crowd tried to question that order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTOR: Only because you decided that.
POLICE: Only because they assaulted our city marshals and forced
their way into the building.
PROTESTOR: Maybe a psychotic person. Not one of us.
POLICE: Well, unfortunately, sometimes -- sometimes, a bad apple
ruins the whole barrel, I`m afraid.
PROTESTOR: Like Darren Wilson! That`s the bad apple.
POLICE: Yes, I pretty much decided it. Yes. So, now, it`s time to
PROTESTOR: So, the guy you took --
POLICE: This is an unlawful assembly. Anybody who remains is subject
to arrest and/or other actions up to and including the deployment of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Three people were arrested today during those protests in
downtown St. Louis.
On the ground in Ferguson, on the ground in the city of St. Louis and
across the country, people have been protesting the grand jury`s decision
not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
But this story also is continuing to unfold in a very important way --
continuing to unfold away from the streets and away from the scenes of all
those protests because when that local prosecutor announced the grand
jury`s decision not to indict Wilson back on Monday night, that prosecutor
also made the decision to release thousands of pages of documents,
thousands of interviews, pieces of evidence that had been presented to that
grand jury in this case, the grand jury that decided not to pursue a case.
It`s a surprising decision. Something you basically never see.
Evidence and testimony presented to a grand jury is generally not made
available for the public to view. But here it was. It was made public in
a flood of paper. Something like 4,700 documents in all, all released at
So, now, people and journalists, everyone across the country it seems
is combing through that stuff, trying to find some of what they`re looking
for. A lot of it is jaw dropping.
Today, "The Washington Post" published this piece. It`s based on the,
quote, "voluminous testimony released in the aftermath of the grand jury`s
decision." And "The Post" found that Officer Wilson left the scene of the
shooting, he returned to the police station unescorted, washed the blood
off his hands and placed his recently fired pistol into the evidence bag
himself. "The Post" found that the police interviews with Officer Wilson
were not taped.
An investigator with the St. Louis County medical examiner`s office
opted not to take measurements at the scene of the shooting. He said it
was, quote, "self-explanatory what had happened there." And that same
investigator was the one whose battery died in his camera and this is why
he was not able to take any pictures at the scene of the shooting. And
instead, he had to rely on pictures taken by the police department. This
in a shooting investigation involving a police officer.
Also, according to "The Washington Post", there was no police officer
back at the police station to take a photograph of Officer Wilson before he
washed the blood off his hands. When asked if it was common practice to
let someone involved in a shooting incident like this handle and package
evidence himself, like his own gun, a detective testified that it was not
customary to do that and the St. Louis County Police Department, but that
he didn`t know about Ferguson.
And there are lots of revelations in this "Washington Post" story. We
know about them only because these reporters at "The Post" have spent the
past few days combing through all this material, all of that information
released by the prosecutor, finding all the relevant information, the
context that we need to understand what happened here, not just during the
shooting, but in its aftermath. How this was handled by law enforcement
after the shooting happened.
This story continues to unfold. It continues on the streets. It
continues in and around Ferguson. It continues all around this country.
And it is also now in the hands of reporters or anyone else, for that
matter, who wants to pore over any or all of the documents we have in this
For better or worse, we have all of that information publicly
When people have started digging into it, what they found so far has
Joining us now from Ferguson is Wesley Lowery. He`s been covering the
events there for "The Washington Post."
Wesley, thanks for being with us tonight.
Well, let me just start. I mean, the scene behind you now looks,
compared to the past two nights, positively tranquil. In terms of the law
enforcement presence there tonight, the National Guard presence and
protesters and their presence, what are we looking at in a wider area
around you right now?
WESLEY LOWERY, THE WASHINGTON POST: Of course, it`s a very calm night
so far tonight in Ferguson. It`s been a very calm tranquil day. Right
now, there`s a quiet memorial happening at the site where Michael Brown was
killed. This, in fact, has been a moving memorial. It started at the site
in Shaw in St. Louis where Vonderrit Myers was killed in October. It moved
to the site of Jimmy Powell, another police shooting that happened eight
days after Mike Brown and they`ve now arrived at Canfield.
In some ways, things are very, very calm here today. We`re not seeing
massive protests outside the police department. We`re not seen a massive
protest presence at the site of the Brown shooting. The National Guard
remain here guarding the police department and kind of keeping a watchful
eye over the protester, but very calm.
KORNACKI: So, let me ask you about this story in your paper, in "The
Washington Post", about all of these -- wherever you want to call them,
errors, oversights, omissions. You have the officer himself, Darren Wilson
who basically packaged his own evidence. You don`t have measurements being
taken at the crime scene. When you add all these together, is there reason
to think or reason to suspect it had all of the proper or normal protocols
been followed here, that maybe there would have been more for this grand
jury to look at, for this prosecutor to look at that could have resulted in
LOWERY: What we know is that there`s certainly -- there`s certainly
pieces of evidence that no longer exist. You know, we`re led to believe
that Darren Wilson had blood on his hands, on his arms, but that was washed
off. A big issue in the months since the shooting has been how far away
was Michael Brown`s body from Darren Wilson and from Darren Wilson`s
cruiser because so much of this narrative is Brown running away and either
turning around and surrendering or turning around and charging.
The medical examiner took no measurements. And again, I think that no
matter what you believe happened in this altercation between Brown and
Darren Wilson, I think most reasonable people are willing to raise an
eyebrow at the idea that Darren Wilson after discharging his weapon a dozen
times at Michael Brown and shooting and killing him, then continued to
handle the weapon use to kill Michael Brown.
In any other type of shooting, that would be beyond the realm of
belief that -- you know, Steve, if I were to shoot you, that I would then
have access to the weapon after the police arrive for more than an hour to
do who knows what with.
KORNACKI: And that particular issue there with the gun, that seems
sort of central to the conflicting versions of events we`ve heard here
because the case of Officer Wilson, correct me if I`m wrong here, that
there was a struggle and Michael Brown had his hands on the gun at one
point. So, if you could fingerprint that gun, you could probably
corroborate that story or find out if it`s not true.
LOWERY: Well, exactly. Michael Brown not only had his hands on the
gun but was so strong he had control over the weapon. Well, that would
lead most reasonable people to believe that there might be some type of DNA
evidence on that gun. Fingerprints, DNA, according to the grand jury
transcripts that my colleagues and myself have pored over, the police had a
choice. They could either test for DNA or they could test for
fingerprints. They could only do one of them. They couldn`t do both.
They chose a test for DNA.
However, at no point in the transcripts for the grand jury does
McCulloch or the other prosecutors present what the findings of those
testings were. So, what we know is that the gun was tested for Michael
Brown`s DNA but we have no clue if his DNA was found on the gun. That
would seem to be a crucial piece of evidence one way or the other.
KORNACKI: Wesley, very quickly here. Is there -- look, this is a
town -- we say city a lot. But there`s just 20,000 people. This is not
the biggest metropolis in the world.
LOWERY: One homicide a year.
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, is this the sort of thing where we could look
at all these flaws and basically say, you know what, they never deal with
this kind of thing. Everybody was kind of making it up on the fly and this
is what`s going to happen.
LOWERY: I think if we watch at how the police here handle many
elements, whether it`d be it the crowd control, whether it`d be the initial
investigation, whether it`d be the movement of the body that day, we can
see that this was in a lot of ways, a situation they weren`t quite prepared
That said St. Louis County police had a lot to do with this
investigation. Ferguson PD handed it over to them on the first day, within
the first hour. St. Louis County police handled a lot of homicides, a lot
of shootings. So, I think there are some reasonable questions here that
can`t necessarily be explained away by, oh, this is a small town suburb
somewhere, they don`t know what to do.
KORNACKI: All right. Wesley Lowery, Washington Post" reporter
covering events in Ferguson -- thanks for your time. Happy Thanksgiving to
LOWERY: Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. We have a lot more ahead tonight, including
some much needed good news out of Ferguson.
We`re now officially also on White House veto watch. Details on that,
KORNACKI: So, I want to show you something. This right here -- this
is my very first library card. It`s the Groton Public Library. Groton,
Massachusetts, not Groton, Connecticut. I`ve had it since I was 8 years
old. I carry it in my wallet everywhere I go, mostly because I never throw
anything in my wallet out.
And actually, if you go on the Web site for the Groton Public Library,
it reads up in the corner, "Groton Public Library, open to all." That`s
the thing about libraries they`re there for everyone in the community. For
anyone in the community, for you, for me, for everyone. And right now,
about 1,100 miles southwest of Groton, Massachusetts, the Ferguson,
Missouri Municipal Library, is doing just that and more.
Trust me, you`re going to want to hear this story. The good news out
of Ferguson, that`s next.
KORNACKI: So, yesterday was anything but a normal run of the mill day
in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests against the grand jury decision in the
Michael Brown shooting case had turned violent overnight. Many businesses
were shuttered. They called off school yesterday for most of the kids in
It was supposed to be a shortened week anyway because of the
Thanksgiving holiday. But now, that short school week would be even
shorter. School kids often end up essentially as innocent bystanders when
it comes to situations like this, when school has to be canceled because of
something unrelated happening in a community.
But in Ferguson, up with of the city`s institutions has stepped up to
help. This is the Ferguson Municipal Library which is located on
Florissant Road, right in the heart of the city`s downtown. It`s just down
the road in fact from the Ferguson Police Department where a lot of the
action the last two nights has been centered.
Now, yesterday, after the worst of the unrest, Ferguson library made a
point of being open. They tweeted out early in the morning that they would
be open all day with Wi-Fi, water, rest and knowledge. Library staff was
in place at 9:00 a.m. with over 50 volunteers, 50 parents, teachers,
retired folks, all of them pitching in to help giving out free lunches to
school kids, even having story time for some of the younger kids.
The library held what they call an ad hoc school day. This is all
something they did for an entire week back in August after the Ferguson
school district delayed the start of their school year because of the
protests on the streets back then.
Back then and now, the library invited teachers to come in. And they
spread the word to parents around town whose kids couldn`t go into school.
And so, yesterday, the library also opened its doors to local businesses.
Staffers from the Missouri secretary of state`s office were on hand to help
business owners organize and preserve records for any of the damage they
might have suffered this week.
And then, today, the library made space for the Missouri Department of
Insurance to help businesses file insurance claims.
The library`s director Scott Bonner told us that the library stayed
open as late as they thought was safe on Monday. That was on the night of
the decision from the grand jury. But the library kept their doors open
right up to 8:00 p.m., moments before the grand jury announcement. And he
made the decision to open the library the next morning so there would be a
place for the community to gather and to collect themselves.
And this is just what libraries are supposed to do. That`s what the
Ferguson library director told us when we called him. He said this is what
they exist for, staying open during this weeks` turmoil in his words was,
quote, "nothing different in kind."
The regular schools in Ferguson remain closed next week means the
Ferguson library is going to keep their ad hoc school going as well. This
is going to keep right on.
And here`s the thing -- just by being open this week, by doing pretty
much what they do every day, by doing it amidst incredible upheaval in the
larger community, by doing that the Ferguson Library made a difference, not
just for people in Ferguson but the people around the country.
In the Web site for the Ferguson Library, you can find a donation
button that was added this summer when people around the country asked how
they could help out. And now, in the last two days, 7,000 people have all
across the United States have clicked to make donations. Staff of the
library told us that most gave small amounts, maybe $5, maybe $10. People
gave what they could.
They didn`t just give money. Also from all over the country, people
are sending books, college kids in Olympia, Washington, made bookmarks.
They sent them in the mail to the library. The staff at the Ferguson
Library say they have been staggered by the outpour of support. In fact
that it`s been so enormous, they might now be able to hire another full-
time employee, another full-time employee, because right now, they only
Back in August, the Ferguson Library put up this sign, quote, "During
difficult times, the library is a quiet oasis where we can catch our
breath, learn and think about what to do next. Please help keep our oasis
peaceful and serene." And today, that sign is still up.
KORNACKI: So, on the week of Thanksgiving back in 1998, ABC News took
a poll and asked Americans about their Thanksgiving plans that year. And
specifically, they asked Americans about Thanksgiving dinner and they gave
them two choices. Who would you rather play host to for dinner, Monica
Lewinsky or Ken Starr?
Now, remember this was 1998. Congress was just getting ready to
impeach Bill Clinton after he lied about an affair with a White House
intern. So, ABC wanted to know, who would you rather share turkey and
cranberry sauce with? That White House intern Monica Lewinsky, or the
independent counsel whose investigation had turned up evidence of the
affair, Kenneth Starr.
And the answer from the American people was a resounding neither -- 32
percent said Lewinsky, 32 percent said Starr, and 35 percent insisted on a
third option, they didn`t want to spend anytime with neither one of them.
And that`s one of the fun things about the holiday season. You get polls
like this and every now and then they make you laugh.
"The Huffington Post" Web site today rounded up some of the best
Thanksgiving polls from the last few decades. Like this one. So,
"Washington Post"/ABC News poll from Thanksgiving week back in 1993, that`s
the very first year of Bill Clinton`s presidency.
The poll asked people what they were thankful for in their lives.
Topping that list that year, 99 percent of Americans said they were
thankful for their family. Not much of a surprise there. That was number
one on the list.
And tied for number one, also coming in at 99 percent was freedom of
religion. People saying they were thankful for that. Ninety-seven percent
said they were thankful for freedom of the press. That`s something we
appreciate, 95 percent said thankful for their television.
Then, check this out, look what came in next, look what came in right
after family, religion, the press and television, look what was next on the
list of what Americans were thankful for back in 1993. You`ll never guess.
Seventy-seven percent of Americans that year, more than three out of
every four said they were either very thankful or somewhat thankful for
How do people feel about Congress today? This is from the Gallup Poll
that was just released after this midterm election. Congress clocking in
with a 15 percent approval rating. Fifteen percent, and actually, that is
up from its approval rating at this same time last year when it was down in
single digits such as 9 percent.
So, those kinds of numbers, 15 percent, 9 percent, numbers far below
the 77 percent who were thankful for Congress just two decades ago, that
helps to explain why on the eve of Thanksgiving 2014, the world gets to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I take about eight
quarts of water, half a dozen bay leaves, kosher salt, a little palmful of
peppercorns, take a big head of garlic, cut it in half. And the real
secret, 16 ounces of pure maple syrup.
I put it in a pot and bring it to where it`s about to boil and turn it
off. Take a bucket, put a bag in there, put the turkey in there after I
rinse it off, put the brine over it. Brine has to be cool. Put it outside
if it`s cold enough or put it in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.
Take it out, rinse it off, first half of the cooking time I cook the
bird breast down, and then halfway through I go in and literally pick it
and turn it over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s House Speaker John Boehner brining a turkey in a
video released today by his office. That`s the kind of thing the leaders
in an institution that`s universally detested as Congress will go to do in
an effort to try to forge some kind of connection with everyday Americans.
Maybe if they see John Boehner brining a turkey, maybe they`ll see him as
more as a person than a politician from an institution they hate.
But there`s also this motive. Boehner and his party need as many
Americans on their side as they can get right now because they`re
essentially at war with President Obama, and that war is about to kick up
yet another notch to a brand new level that we haven`t seen before in the
last six years. That story is next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Now, I only cook my bird to 160 max. Then I take it out,
put foil over it, let it sit for at least an hour. It`s the resting time
that really works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: OK. Chart imitates life. This is one of Rachel`s favorite
segments. Since I`m sitting in for her, I`m going to steal it for the
Now, last week, one of the bigger stories in American politics was the
U.S. Senate voting on the Keystone XL pipeline, specifically on a bill to
approve construction of that pipeline. Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu`s
bill needed 60 votes to pass. It didn`t get them. It came up one vote
short. It got just 59.
Now, ordinarily, that would be a huge deal. There`s been years of
buildup for a Keystone vote. There it was finally, on the floor of the
Senate last week, and it was defeated by just one vote. So, a major
dramatic moment -- at least you`d think.
But here`s the thing: that vote was just delaying the inevitable
because Republicans won control of the Senate in this month`s midterm
elections, and once they officially take over control of the chamber in
January, and you can bet that they`re going to hold a brand new vote on
Keystone. Then, at that time, they will actually have those 60 votes they
need to pass. And then when that happens, it will mean a showdown with the
president, because President Obama has been very clear about the fact that
he doesn`t support this legislation.
Right before that vote last week, here`s what White House Press
Secretary Josh Earnest had to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That`s certainly is a
piece of legislation that the president doesn`t support because the
president believes that this is something that should be determined through
the State Department and the regular process that is in place to evaluate
projects like this. But again, I`m not in a position to issue veto threats
here, but as you rightly point out, there are similar pieces of legislation
that have been introduced in this Congress where the president`s senior
advisers have recommended a veto.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: President`s senior advisers have recommended a veto.
That`s a veto threat.
So, had the Keystone pipeline bill gotten just one more vote in the
Senate, the bill would have passed, it would have gone to Obama`s desk and
he`d be getting ready to take out his pen and officially veto it.
Now comes this -- congressional negotiators from both parties are
working on a new tax cut deal. Yesterday as details of that deal emerged,
the White House issued another veto threat.
Now, details from the supposedly pending deal include permanent tax
breaks for corporations, no permanent tax breaks for low income families.
So, that is two vetoes threatened by the White House in the course of just
And if that feels like it`s something new, two veto threats in two
weeks, something we haven`t heard before in the last six year, the words
"Obama" and "veto" being used in the same sentence, if it feels that way,
it`s for good reason, because that is the case.
Take a look at this. These are the total number of votes from each of
the previous 12 presidents. This is more than 80 years of presidential
veto history right here in this chart. "The USA Today" actually keeps
these numbers on their Web site.
So, way over there on the left, that is FDR. He holds the veto crown,
the all time veto crown was 635. That number is so huge we couldn`t fit
the bar on this graph. FDR broke the chart. And I guess that`s what`s
going to happen when you get elected four times and you serve more than 12
years as president.
Then after FDR, you got Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, and the
numbers start to drop. They start to dwindle down nearly the double
digits. Nixon had 43 vetoes, about five years. Clinton issued 37 in eight
And then, check this out. This is the total number of vetoes so far
for President Obama. Look at that, two, two lonely little vetoes in six
years as president. That is it. One of those was on mortgage notarization
bill, the other on a spending bill.
If you`re squinting to even see the bar for Obama`s two vetoes on the
screen, I think we can zoom in a thousand times and maybe help you see it.
There you go. That is it. You can see it right there.
President Obama has the fewest number of vetoes of any modern
president, and that is by far. Ronald Reagan had 78 vetoes over his eight
years in office, Bush Sr. had 44 in four years, and Obama has only two.
But here`s the thing about the two tiny vetoes, they`re about to get a
lot of company in the next two years because that count will explode as
soon as January comes and Republicans, for the first time since Obama
became president, Republicans official take control of both houses of
When they do that in January, they will start to send bills to the
president`s desk. Bills that in many cases he`s not going to like. He`ll
probably start with the Keystone pipeline or taxes or something on
healthcare, where it ends, how he`ll deal with it all -- well, that`s a big
story to be watching for the next two years.
And to give a preview of it, let`s bring in Ryan Grim. He`s the
Washington, D.C. bureau chief for "The Huffington Post".
Ryan, thanks for joining us tonight.
So, let me just start with. We talked about it for a second there.
The word that was leaking yesterday of this supposed deal on tax cuts
between Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, and Republicans, this
thing that prompted the White House to issue a veto threat. No surprise
the White House would have issues with something Republicans are trying to
But Harry Reid`s potential involvement, the potential involvement of
Democrats in this, can you tell us what`s going on here?
RYAN GRIM, HUFFINGTON POST: What it seems like happened is that word
leaked out before the deal had finally been reached and Republicans may
have had certain motivations to get that out, to try to maybe box in what
the gains they made in the negotiations so far.
But then White House did what it hasn`t done much in the past, which
is come out and, like you said, issue that veto threat. In the past, they
used to say, well, we`re not really going to, you know, comment on whether
we`re going to veto a bill until it passes one of the chambers or not.
Now, here they are issuing a threat just based on some leaks and possibly
some inaccurate leaks because the talks are actually still ongoing.
So, what`s happening here? Why is the White House doing this?
One of the theories that Senate Democrats are kicking around is that
they think that the president might actually want to veto these tax
extenders so that they get punted into the next year and so, they can be
done as a big package together with corporate tax reform.
If you get these extenders done, then K Street and New York doesn`t
really have that much of a motivation to do corporate tax reform. If you
still have to get these extenders done, then there`s a reason. And as we
all know, Obama has been chasing this white whale of a big deal where he
can sit down with McConnell and Boehner and hash out some piece of
legislation for his entire six years, and the thinking is maybe he wants to
try again for his seventh year.
KORNACKI: Yes. Let`s talk about how that`s going to play out. So,
in January, the big difference is the story since 2011, since Republicans
got the House, is somebody gets out of the Republican House, it dies in the
Democratic Senate and never gets to President Obama`s desk.
Now, there`s at least the opportunity for Republicans maybe with the
help of a handful of Democrats to get something through the Senate, get it
on Obama`s desk, put him in the position of having to decide it. So, we
can talk about the Keystone pipeline here. let`s say that gets to his desk
in January. He said he wants to veto it.
It also gives him the opportunity to do some bargaining if he wants
to. Are there things that we`re getting signs from the White House they
would be willing to give up, to trade, to take in exchange for putting his
signature on like the Keystone pipeline?
GRIM: I think that`s right. You`re going to see a kind of game
played where Republicans, with a couple of conservative Democrats are going
to pass a few talking point type bills. Keystone is going to be one of
them. That will get through the House, it will get through the Senate like
you said, then he will veto that.
And then, the real negotiations start. Now, he has vetoed it. They
can go back home and say they passed Keystone, now, they`re going to sit
down and say, OK, well, what kind of renewable energy credits can we throw
in with Keystone, what do you want? We`ll back off your ozone rule, back
off the carbon rules.
You know, whatever it is, I don`t know if there are enough incentives
that Republicans can put in with Keystone at this point to get him to sign
it, but it becomes the kind of chip that he can put on the table.
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, is it something -- we`re talking more
specifically about energy policy there, though. Could he broaden it out?
I mean, minimum wage is something he`s been talking about for a couple of
years now. Could he get minimum wage combined with something like this?
GRIM: I mean, theoretically, he could. But you have to think about
the lobbies that are involved here. And in order to get the green groups
to sign off on something like this, they`re going to want green stuff.
You know, they`re sympathetic to the minimum wage as much as anybody
else is, you know, but they have their own constituencies, an awful hard
sell to them to say, you know, give up this thing you`ve been calling game
over for the planet in order to get minimum wage or more subsidies for
exchanges or, you know, whatever it might be. The kind of constituent
politics come into play there. But theoretically, it would certainly be
KORNACKI: It`s interesting. A brand new dynamic years seven and
eight of the Obama presidency, we`ll be dealing with something brand new in
Anyway, Ryan Grim, Washington, D.C. bureau chief of "The Huffington
Post", thanks for joining us tonight. Happy Thanksgiving to you.
GRIM: And you too.
KORNACKI: All right. Still ahead tonight, I get to live out one of my
lifelong dreams on live television. I don`t know if this is going to work.
You know what? It`s going to work because we want it to work. We want to
give a try. That`s straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve become something of a social media rock
star. All of you, after this lecture, should go out and look at the blog,
the notorious --
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Tumblr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kempler (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: You got that? It`s a Tumblr, not a blog, the Supreme Court
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the star of the Notorious RBG. That`s what
it`s called. It features the Notorious RBG jack-o-lantern, features kids
dressed up like the Supreme Court justice.
Also recently, John Oliver`s HBO show "Last Week Tonight" offered
footage of the nine Supreme Court justices as dogs. So there you can see
the Chihuahua version of Ruth Bader Ginsburg if you want.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the court by Bill Clinton back in
1993, 21 years ago now. She`s survived two separate battles with cancer.
Just a few years after joining the court, she had cancer surgery. She
returned without missing a hearing.
She works out twice a week with a personal trainer. Supposedly she
can do 20 military push-ups. That`s 20 real push-ups.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the longest serving liberal on the Supreme
Court right now. There`s a bloc of four liberals on the court. She has
been there the longest of them.
Last month, the court`s five-member conservative majority decided to
let the controversial voter ID law in Texas stand, and that ruling was
published. It was published along with a fierce dissent that was written
by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was published at 5:00 in the morning, 5:00 a.m.
on a Saturday. That means that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had stayed up all night
Friday night that early Saturday morning writing that dissent.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is passionate. She`s strong and she`s also 81
years old. Because time is time and humans are mortal, she knows that
people wonder when she might step down. And some difficult political
realities go along with that speculation. She got asked about it directly
back in September.
An interview for "Elle" magazine said, quote, "I`m not sure how to ask
this, but a lot of people who admire and respect you wonder if you`ll
resign while President Obama is in office?" And the answer came back from
Justice Ginsburg, "Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this
very day given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this
year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the
She said she feels strong. She said she`s not stepping down any time
soon. That was September. That was before the election. That was back
when Democrats still controlled the Senate.
Democratic majority evaporated with the elections this month. And
come January, Republicans are going to control the Senate, and because they
control the Senate, it means they`re going to control the process for
picking nominees for the federal bench, for the Supreme Court. Already,
the elections have put Ruth Bader Ginsburg tenure on the court in a new
And then we got this morning`s news. During her routine workout
yesterday, Ruth Bader Ginsburg felt a little discomfort as a spokesman for
the court described it. She went to the hospital where doctors put a stent
in her right coronary artery. That`s a way of keeping the blood flowing
through that artery.
The Supreme Court today released a statement saying that Ginsburg is
resting comfortably and expects to be released from the hospital in the
next 48 hours.
Now, if this story plays out as everyone hopes, it means, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg will return back home soon. She`ll be back on her feet in no
time, back at work. Maybe she`ll do that with all the anxious eyes of the
nation`s liberals willing her to long and lasting health, because this
story does raise an uncomfortable subject. The window for trying to
replace her under a Democratic Senate and Democratic president -- excuse
me, a Democratic Senate has now pretty much closed. What follows now is a
path that is, at best, uncertain for any nominee for President Obama,
whether it`s for the high court or a federal bench or his new pick for
Joining us is now Jess Bravin. He`s the Supreme Court correspondent
for "The Wall Street Journal."
Jess, thanks for being with us tonight.
So, let me ask you if there had been -- we had that quote from Ruth
Bader Ginsburg which seemed pretty ironclad back in September, saying,
"Look, right now, I don`t like who he could appoint." I don`t imagine
she`s reassessed anything since the November elections. But have there
been any indications from her more recently on this subject?
JESS BRAVIN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: No, it`s been the same story
for the past couple years. I mean, there have been a few liberal law
professor and others who suggested that she retire strategically, create an
opening that President Obama could then fill. She`s not been interested in
doing that. And she`s made it clear she intends to stay on as long as her
And now, of course, with her hospitalization today, we`ve got to --
you know, wonder how long does that allow, you know? Her colleague John
Paul Stevens retired at age 90 and is still going strong. So, that
question remains open.
All we know is she wants to stay on as long as she says she can do the
KORNACKI: Yes. And, look, obviously, everybody wishes her nothing
but the best of health and in the longest possible life, but there is this
nightmare scenario for Democrats here where, for whatever reason, if Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, you know, is forced involuntarily to leave the court and
there`s a Republican president, that means the most liberal justice on the
court would then be replaced by presumably a conservative Republican
Do you agree with her assessment that if she were to have resigned
this year or in the past two years, that the president could not have
appointed a successor comparable to her in ideology?
BRAVIN: Well, it`s -- you know, it`s hard to say, because it depends
on how much of an issue the Republican minority would have made an Obama
nominee. I mean, over -- the past four Supreme Court nominees have had
pretty close to party line votes. Both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice
Samuel Alito were opposed by half or most Democrats when they were
appointed by President Bush. Most Republicans opposed Justice Sotomayor
and Justice Kagan, President Obama`s two appointees in his first term.
What would happen now when the president is in a weaker position and
Republicans are eager to try to fill that slot? Hard to say. They might
an older nominee who they think might not serve as long. There -- you
know, all kinds of questions.
But one point to keep in mind is that judicial appointments,
particularly Supreme Court appointments seem to matter a lot more to the
Republican base than they have to the Democratic base politically. It`s a
much bigger issue for Republicans than it is for the Democrats. And
because Republicans care so much more about these vacancies, it`s quite
likely they would make a big deal about it in the Senate.
KORNACKI: Do you -- do you think they would appreciate any difference
between -- if Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to resign, and President Obama is in
office. she`s a liberal, he`d appoint a liberal, the court stays balanced
versus, like, you know, if Scalia were to go, there`s a conservative and
he`s replacing with a liberal, then the balance of the court changes.
Would that factor into their -- how they posture on this?
BRAVIN: Absolutely yes. I think they would give President Obama
somewhat more leeway were it Justice Ginsburg or one of the other three
more liberal members of the court who step down. But if it were one of the
five conservative, I would expect the Republicans to fight very hard to
either keep that vacancy open until the next president takes off or insist
on some kind of compromise nominee or conservative that Obama would find
acceptable. It becomes a question of how much effort the White House wants
to put into these battles, as opposed to many other battles he`s going to
have in the remainder of his term.
KORNACKI: All right. Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for
"The Wall Street Journal", thanks for your time tonight. Have a great
BRAVIN: Of course. You too, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. Coming up, we will give you your holiday travel
forecast. It`s going to come with a twist because I`m doing the weather.
It`s going to be great, trust me. This is vital information. You`re not
going to want to miss it.
KORNACKI: All right. Tell me if you can spot a pattern here.
This is 2004. "Wild weather disrupts travel plans." That was a day
before Thanksgiving 2004.
This is 2005. "Weather threatens to continue to disrupt holiday
travel." A day before Thanksgiving in 2005.
Then in 2006, "Storm, floods hammer millions of Americans making
2007, day before Thanksgiving, "A sour Thanksgiving recipe: Record
travel, possible storm."
2008, here`s a change. The weather was actually fine in 2008.
And then, well, then right back in 2009, "Thanksgiving storm on the
2010, "Storm messes with Thanksgiving travel plans."
2011, "Weather delays wreak havoc on Thanksgiving travel."
2012, "Snow, wind may cause more Thanksgiving travel headaches."
And then last year, 2013, hey, look, more of the same, "Weather
walloping East Coast as 43 million travel for Thanksgiving."
I think this is what you call a pattern. Every year, the day before
Thanksgiving, the biggest single travel day of the entire year, every year
now for more than a decade, every single year, except in 2008, a giant
storm seems to arrive just in time to turn everyone`s travel plans into a
total and complete nightmare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: It was a miserable travel day for millions of Americans on
the move for Thanksgiving.
REPORTER: Forecasters predict that by tonight, some of the rain we`re
seeing north and west of where we are here in Newark will be turning into
sleet and snow. Of course, the concern is, what it`s going to do to heavy
Thanksgiving travel? Bad timing.
REPORTER: For some holiday travelers, getting to Thanksgiving dinner
is not going to be easy. There`s a real mess in the middle of the country.
Rain, ice and snow hit parts of the planes and upper Midwest Wednesday.
REPORTER: The rush is on. The Thanksgiving travel crunch is under
way and two powerful storm systems are already having a big impact on the
roads and airports nationwide.
AL ROKER: You can see snow wrapping around this system. So, we`re
gong to be looking at wind gusts tomorrow morning about 50 miles an hour,
which are going to wreak havoc with the airports from Washington, New York,
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: Every single year it`s like this, on this day. And so,
naturally, it`s happening again right now. The Thanksgiving travel curse
is back, and it is worse than ever.
And to show you exactly what we`re up against here, we decided it`s
time to dust off our favorite election season gadget, the big board, you
remember this thing? We`re going to repurpose it now, so that I can step
into the role I wanted to play since I watch Dick Albert on Channel 5 in
Boston doing the weather.
So, I`m going to get to play TV weatherman here. I think one more
thing to make this a complete reenactment. We need the weather ticker.
Can we get that at the bottom of screen here? Call that up.
There it is. There`s the weather ticker. This is officially now TV
weather center. We`re going to call it the storm center, is that what it
is? So this is the storm as it has progressed through the day, moving up
into the mid-Atlantic.
Right now, the last of the storm, the worst of the storm still in
northern New England. There are thousands without power in Maine. This
thing has left snow on the ground in some places, ice on the ground in
other places frazzled travelers everywhere. So, that`s the trajectory of
the storm. You can see.
Now, let`s take a look at what kind of snowfall we`re talking about
here. You can see the brunt of the storm right there, central New
Hampshire, look out Concord, look out Lake Winnipesauke. You could be
getting up to a foot of snow. Albany, New York, there you see, close to a
foot. So, that`s the heart of it in there in Central New England.
Let`s see what you`re looking at tomorrow. Quickly, what kind of a
Thanksgiving forecast. A lit bill of snow in the morning in Maine,
otherwise just cold temperatures. So, much better tomorrow.
And a happy Thanksgiving forecast for most of the country.
That does it for us tonight. I`m going to see you on my weekend show
"UP" this weekend.
And now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening to you, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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