'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, February 2nd, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: February 2, 2015
Guest: Ryan Grim, Johnny Isakson
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I think it is a fair question whether or
not you are sort of emotional reaction to that ad did make you want to buy
panty liners more than before you saw that ad.
HAYES: I hadn`t considered it until Mike asked me. So, I have to
think on that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mortgaged my house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No place to live.
MADDOW: That`s right. It will all be water tight. All right.
Thanks you, guys. Amazing.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
I should tell you, anyone who wants to send me personal
congratulations on the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, because I`m
convinced I did it somehow, you can send those congratulations to my e-mail
Also, I should tell you -- see how my finger looks like a funny shape.
I have a giant band-aid on my finger because I was really excited watching
the Super Bowl, watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl last night while I
was simultaneously grating cheese.
Exactly. So, that`s why I have the funny-shaped band-aid on my
OK. We`ll dispatch with that.
At the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, the Republican
candidate for president, Mitt Romney, he took a trip to London. This is
the summer of 2012, and Mitt Romney`s 2012 trip to London went very poorly.
This picture I always thought shows exactly how poorly it went. This
is pretty much the best summary ever written about how that trip went.
Don`t look at the -- what`s going on in this photo is that Mitt Romney is
doing a joint appearance with the leader of the Labour Party at that time
in Britain. His name is Ed Milliband.
How do you think Ed Milliband feels about Mitt Romney`s visit with him
at this exact moment?
During this joint appearance, Mitt Romney appeared to forget Ed
Milliband`s name. He described him in that appearance as "Mr. Leader",
which sounds like a nice complimentary thing. That`s not a term used in
Britain. Nobody knew what Mitt Romney was talking about. To the British
press, it basically seemed like Mitt Romney might have thought this guy`s
name was "Ed Leader" instead of Ed Milliband.
So, it`s very insulting to his host, and very awkward. And that`s how
he felt about it.
On that same trip, Mr. Romney also did an interview in which he
disparaged British preparations for the Summer Olympics. They`re about to
host the Summer Olympics. Mitt Romney in an interview cited his own
experience with the Salt Lake City Games and he said during his visit to
London that he has seen in Britain, quote, "a few things that were
disconcerting" about the British preparation for the Olympic Games that
That prompted this response from British Prime Minister David Cameron,
quote, "We are holding the Olympic Games in one of the busiest active
bustling cities in the world. Of course, it`s easier if you hold Olympic
Games in the middle of nowhere." Or as we call can it, Utah.
On that same trip, all in one trip, Mitt Romney also bragged publicly
to British reporters that he had been given a security briefing by the head
of MI6. Now, MI6 is roughly the equivalent in Britain to our CIA here,
except MI6 is way more secret than our CIA is. The politicians are never
supposed to say the name MI6 or even admit that MI6 exists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciated the
insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and
opposition here, as well as the head of MI6, as we discussed Syria and the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That meeting, whether or not it`s with the head of MI6, it
had not been on Mr. Romney`s public schedule while he was in London. It
was supposed to be a secret. He definitely was not supposed to talk about
it with reporters, and even if he had still found it too irresistible that
he had to tell them he had the meeting, you are still not supposed to say
it was with the head of MI6.
Anonymous British officials who met with Mitt Romney on that trip told
"The Daily Mail" that his trip was, quote, "a total car crash". They told
the press that he was, quote, "worse than Sarah Palin", and that they said
in meeting with him, they found him to be, quote, "apparently devoid of
charm, warmth, humor or sincerity."
Mitt Romney, in the summer of 2012 when he was running for president,
he just had a terrible, terrible trip to London. "The Sun" tabloid
newspaper summed up their take on him, thus, "Mitt the twit: Wannabe U.S.
The headlines were just terrible. I mean, over there and over here,
"Mitt Romney`s Olympics gaffe overshadows his visit to London." "Mitt
Romney visits London while stumbling on almost every front." "Mitt
Romney`s Olympic stumbles in London." "Mitt Romney trip begins in
That trip actually inspired the hashtag #Romneyshambles which trended
both in Britain and the United States while he was there. Hey, Americans,
this Mitt person is some sort of American Borat, right? #Romneyshambles.
Which is terrible -- terrible, terrible trip. But it might not have
been his fault. It might just be something about the mix of London and
You may remember, just a few weeks ago, the American TV channel FOX
News, they became a laughingstock all over Britain when they put somebody
on the air who insisted that there were parts of England where only Muslims
were allowed, including he said the entire major city of Birmingham. That
led to a very funny, online response where British people tried to explain
the this Birmingham allegation from the FOX News perspective. The hashtag
on that meme was #FOXNewsfacts.
And it resulted on things like this, "The city is now called birming
because ham is not halal. FOXNewsfacts." "Birmingham has a chain of fast
food restaurants called Birqa king. #FOXNewsfacts." This one was sort of a
photo one, "Jam jars across Britain are becoming radicalized." See jam
jars in tiny little burqas. It`s very funny.
The British prime minister had to weigh in again, in this case saying
about the FOX News terrorism expert who made these claims about Britain,
quote, "Frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April
Fools Day. This guy is clearly an idiot."
Now, you heard about this when it happened, FOX News within a couple
of days, I think to a lot of people`s surprise, they profusely apologized
on multiple FOX News shows using multiple FOX News hosts. They said over
and over again that they were sorry for having made this allegation, they
would never book that guy again. What he said was not true. They were
very sorry for having propagated those false claims about their being for
no-go zones for non-Muslims in Britain.
So, it was news when FOX did it, and Britain all collectively pointed
and laughed at FOX News. It was I think even bigger news when FOX took a
rare step and profusely apologized for having done it.
But then right after the FOX News apology, literally the day after FOX
News started to apologizing for this, an American politician named Bobby
Jindal, governor of Louisiana, man who wants to run for president in 2016,
he went to London, danger, danger, danger, and he gave a speech what about
he still believed to be these no-go zones for non-Muslims, even though it
had been the funniest news story in Britain for a week by the time he got
And even though the source of that false information, FOX News, had
himself retracted the accusation and said they were sorry.
Bobby Jindal apparently had his noise cancelling head phones on or
something, he didn`t know it, and he went over there once the whole thing
had been debunked, and gave a speech trying to revive it.
London and American politicians not a good mix. Now, it has happened
again, happened today. Honestly, the pattern here is bad. If you are an
American politician who wants to be president, think of London as quick
I mean, feel free to go and look. Drink warm beer, enjoy yourself but
don`t speak when you are there. It never goes well.
Things started off a little bit okay, sort of, for New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie. He went to a soccer match wearing a red and white scarf.
That wasn`t too bad.
There was also some rhyme and reason to his trip. New Jersey, that
state, has always had a health care industry, drug manufacturers, medical
device manufacturers. They have a good chunk of the New Jersey economy.
So, it therefore made sense as part of this trade mission to attract
international business interest in New Jersey, the state`s governor upon
arriving in Britain would find a way to manufacture -- visit the
manufacturer of a vaccine. He specifically went to the manufacturer of a
Plus, while he was touring the flu vaccine facility, he got to wear
the safety glasses and the lab coat can. All made him look smart, right?
So, you are trying to look presidential. This is good. It`s all
going well, right? If you`re running for president, and you do a photo op
at a place that makes vaccines, there are good things about this.
But if you do that kind of a photo-op, at a place that makes vaccines,
while the United States of America is undergoing a big serious epidemic of
a disease that can be prevented by vaccines that people aren`t taking for
some inexplicable reason, then even if it is in another country, where
you`re doing this photo-op, you as a candidate for president are going to
get asked about vaccines, and whether or not people should take vaccines.
And so, you should probably have an answer ready for that inevitable
question, Governor Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Governor, this company makes vaccines. There`s debate
going on right now in the United States, the measles outbreak caused in
part by people not vaccinating their kids. Do you think Americans should
vaccinate their kids? Is the measles vaccine safe?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: All I can say is that we
vaccinated ours. So, that`s the best expression I can give you my opinion.
It is much more important I think what you think as a parent than what you
think as a public official. And that`s what we do.
But I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice
in things as well. So, that`s the balance the government has to decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Parents need to have a measure of choice in things as well.
Christie may have wanted the story of his London trip to be about him
looking presidential abroad, or him in a lab coat in safety glasses,
drumming up business for New Jersey, looking smart, right. But ended up
instead being about Chris Christie appearing to support the super dangerous
new trend of American parents deciding that their kids shouldn`t be
vaccinated against the measles.
His office then had to go back later in the day and clarify his
remarks saying, of course parents should vaccinate their kids against
measles. He didn`t mean to suggest anything different than that.
By then, this is a big story and not at all what Chris Christie wanted
his trip to London to be all about. Apparently, though, it is dangerous
when American politicians go to London. They say stuff that gets them in
And this, in fact, today with Chris Christie became a big enough story
over the course of the day, particularly with the follow up comments from
his office disavowing his earlier remarks, that became a big enough story
over the course of the day when Chris Christie was in London today, that
the story actually spread across the pond, spread back to the United States
and also seems to have infected Rand Paul, and maybe in a worse way.
Once this Chris Christie story about him appearing to question
vaccinations for measles, once this story took off today, you know, other
would be 2016 contenders like Rand Paul again should have known that they
would be asked about this thing. You ought to have an answer ready,
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m not anti-vaccine at all.
Particularly most of them ought to be voluntary. I was annoyed when my
kids were born that they wanted them to take hepatitis B in the neonatal
area. And it`s like, that`s a sexually transmitted disease or blood born
disease, and I didn`t like them getting 10 vaccines at once. So, I
actually delayed my kids` vaccines and had them staggered over time.
LAURA INGRAHAM: Smart. I should have done that before I got my kids
vaccine. I should have talked to you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I should have talked to you because you are a doctor after
Rand Paul is not that kind of doctor. Rand Paul for years was a
member of a conspiracy theory-laden alternative doctor`s association called
the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Sounds like a very
straightforward group. Always pick names that make them sound upstanding.
But this association is a group that says that HIV does not cause
AIDS. They say that it is evil and immoral for doctors to participate in
Medicare. And they say, yes, vaccines cause autism and therefore, you
maybe shouldn`t vaccinate your kids.
So this conspiracy theory group, called the American Association of
Physicians and Surgeons. Here`s Rand Paul talking to them in 2009. This
was posted online today by "BuzzFeed".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Thank you very much for having me. Catherine neglected to
mention one thing I`m not a newcomer to AAPS. I have been a member since
1990, I think. It could have been when with I was in medical school but at
least since 1990. I used a lot of AAPS literature when I talk. In fact, I
just met --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rand Paul addressing the Association American Physicians and
Surgeons, anti-vaccine, conspiracy theory laden doctor`s association, he`s
addressing them here in 2009, telling them he had belonged to that group
for years, for almost 20 years at that point and maybe longer.
Today, as the CDC announced that we are up over 100 cases of measles
in 14 states now because people are inexplicably afraid of the vaccine
because they believe scientifically untrue conspiracy theories about that
Today, as Chris Christie had his whole London trip overshadowed by his
own woolly and confused initial statements of whether kids should be
vaccinated against measles, today, Rand Paul, who has a history of
associating with far fringe conspiracy theorists on this issue, Rand Paul
was asked first about vaccinating against measles on right wing talk radio.
That was what you just heard there, and obviously, there`s going to be a
follow up to that.
So, h was asked about it again in a follow up on CNBC, and look what
he said when he was asked to clarify on CNBC today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal
children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky today really did say that on
CNBC. And he wants you to think of him as a doctor as he is running for
Senator Rand Paul until today was seen, I guess by some people as sort
of a top tier presidential candidate. Honestly, with this thing he did
today, he totally pulled a Michele Bachmann.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELE BACHMANN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s a woman
came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was
given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation
as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is Michele Bachmann during the 2012 presidential
campaign. The last she was heard of in that campaign. After she said that
even the right, that loves Michele Bachmann, even when she says crazy
stuff, even the right basically said that was a disqualifying ignorant and
dangerous remark for somebody running for president of the United States.
And the conservative magazine "The Weekly Standard," quote, "Bachmann
seemed to go off the deep end." At the conservative blog, "Hot Air", it
was, quote, "The most charitable analysis that can be offered in this case
for Bachmann is that she got duped into repeating a vaccine scare urban
legend on national television."
Even on right wing talk radio, even on the Rush Limbaugh show, what
Michelle Bachmann did back in 2012, that was too much too far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I will tell you, Michele
Bachmann may have blown it today. She may have jumped the shark today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On that same radio show, Mr. Limbaugh went on to say, quote,
"There is no evidence the vaccine causes mental retardation". That was the
Rush Limbaugh show in 2011.
This is not a partisan thing. It didn`t used to be a partisan thing
at least. I mean, vaccinations, this hasn`t been like global warming,
right, where is a scientific consensus and conservatives decided not to
believe it or say they don`t believe it for political reasons.
But is that now what we are getting on public health and specifically
on vaccines? I mean, does it make sense in the internal logic of the
I mean, if you think of their internal logic, right, if you deny the
science on climate change, that at least gets you the Koch brothers, right?
And the Koch brothers and other corporate interest who don`t want steps to
be taken to fight climate change, they will give you money and give you
support and praise you in return for you denying the science of climate
But if you deny the science on measles, what does that get you? What
does that get you on the right?
It started off today with Chris Christie being the latest would-be
presidential contender who had a very bad day in London and got very, very
bad press in London. This crossed back to this side of the Atlantic. This
has become now a bigger and worrying question about whether there is a
whole, new and really important part of the scientific consensus that
conservatives are going to stop believing in for some inexplicable
political reason that makes sense only inside their world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: I`ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal
children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In that same CNBC interview today when Rand Paul said that
about vaccines, he also said this a couple of moments later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: The whole purpose of doing this is to bring money home.
KELLY EVANS: I`m sorry. Go ahead.
PAUL: Quiet. Calm down a bit here, Kelly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Calm down, Kelly. Hush. Calm down? She didn`t look
Rand Paul had a bad day in the press today. But it was a bad day in
the press for a lot of reasons today and we have more on that ahead.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: Do you feel there should be a requirement
that parents get their kids vaccinated?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Measles is preventable.
I understand that there are families that in some families are concerned
about the effect of vaccinations. The science is, you know, pretty
undisputable. We`ve looked at this again and again. There`s every reason
to get vaccinated. There aren`t reasons to not get vaccinated.
GUTHRIE: Are you telling parents, you should get your kids
OBAMA: You should get your kids vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama telling "The Today Show`s" Savannah Guthrie
that parents should get their children vaccinated, that the science about
that is clear. The president making remarks in his pre-Super Bowl
interview this weekend.
But that clarity from him, that direct message, get your kids
vaccinated, that is a very different message than we`ve heard from
Republican presidential hopefuls Chris Christie and Rand Paul today.
Joining us now is Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for "The
Ryan, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, when Governor Christie said today, parents should be able
to choose whether or not to vaccinate their kids, who exactly is he
appealing to or was this just a screw up?
GRIM: I think what he was doing there is -- I think he flashed back
immediately to his last public health intervention, a complete debacle
during the Ebola freak out, where he basically detained this New Jersey
nurse for a matter of several weeks saying like, look, you have been to
Africa. We`re not letting you out of here. She is like, I don`t have
So, you know, he completely stripped her of all civil liberties. He
then, you know, was completely embarrassed at the way that unfolded. So,
now, I think he overreacted to his initial overreaction. He is thinking,
OK, politically, how do I respond this time, and he started thinking about
kind of the parent`s choice movement and these anti-vaxxers that are out
there, and he wanted to throw them a little bone at the end there.
He wasn`t prepared for the question. As you could tell, the way that
his office came out a couple of hours later, and good for them, by the way,
and came out and said that`s not what the governor meant. Everybody should
get the measles vaccine.
MADDOW: You reference parents choice groups and anti-vaccination
activists. Are they significant enough number? Are they politically
potent and I guess politically partisan enough that Republican politicians
are running for president will be wanting to court those groups?
GRIM: It`s a very diverse group. So, it would -- it would be hard if
a politician actually sat down and made the disgustingly immoral
calculations, OK, how am I going to win this small set of anti-vaccine
people. Never mind it causes an outbreak.
I think it actually is pretty difficult because the group of people --
their concerns don`t overlap a ton. A lot of them aren`t even voting in
the Republican primary, for instance. You`ll find plenty of them either
sitting it out completely because they don`t trust the government, period,
or you`ll find them actually voting in Democratic primaries.
So, you know, the only kind of overlap here is the kind of anti-
authority, anti-government, and anti-science bent that you see among a lot
of the climate change deniers. You know, that was very much generated and
fuelled by the Koch brothers.
MADDOW: So, if that`s the -- if that`s the story in terms of chasing
any potential political upside here, there`s also the downside here. What
Rand Paul said today was much closer to Michele Bachmann ala 2011 than it
was even to what Chris Christie said today. He really went out there
further. It turns out he had been a long time member of a conspiracy
theory group that is anti-vaccination, that also thinks that HIV doesn`t
I mean, does that potentially play poorly for him inside mainstream
Republican politics? Looking back at 2011, I was surprised how poorly it
played even for Michele Bachmann.
GRIM: It does. I think people are going to take, you know,
politicians are going to take from today that they should probably stick to
just climate change denialism. This gets much too complicated because
everybody has -- not everybody but a lot of people have children.
Everybody was a child at some point. Nobody wants to get measles, or mumps
or rubella, things that we thought were completely gone, for absolutely no
reason, or so that some kid can be on some bizarre organic diet that`s
going to build up his immune system.
And, you know, it plays to Rand Paul`s deeper weaknesses, which are
that he has a consistent world view when it`s on the intellectual level.
But the second it`s applied to reality, it starts causing a lot of problems
for him. You know, 90 percent to 95 percent of parents are vaccinating
their kids. So, this is a vanishingly small number but it`s a dangerous
number because it`s gone beyond the 0.3 percent that would be protected by
MADDOW: Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for "The Huffington Post"
-- Ryan, thanks. Appreciate your being here.
GRIM: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Stay with us. We`ve got much more ahead tonight.
MADDOW: On New Year`s Day, Senator Harry Reid was working out at home
using a resistant band of some kind, when the darn thing snapped. It sent
him hurdling across the room. He broke ribs. He broke a bunch of bones in
his face. He`s seriously damaged his right eye.
Well, just a few days ago, Senator Reid had surgery in part to try to
save the sight in that damaged right eye. It`s still apparently
inconclusive as to whether his vision has been saved. But nevertheless,
look, there was Harry Reid back at work today on the Senate floor. Behold
the eye patch.
He got a big welcome from his colleagues. Big welcome back.
The senator`s office tells NBC News tonight that Senator Reid is,
quote, "seeing more than he was before the surgery, but his eyesight hasn`t
fully returned," and that, quote, "it is still day to day whether or not he
will be able to see."
Apparently, either way it is not going to keep him from working as he
fights back from that terrible injury.
Continued best wishes for your recovery, Senator Reid. If you need a
reason to feel hopeful about things that could be possible, I have
something to be hopeful about. Our next guest can tell you a little bit of
hope that I feel about Washington.
A little -- our next guest can tell you that miracles can even happen
for Washington, because our next guest for the interview tonight is a real
live Republican elected official, a conservative elected official who
agreed to be a guest on this show with absolutely no trickery on my part.
I swear. A miracle, a living miracle is about to happen right here on this
MADDOW: We have caught a unicorn. We have found in the wild and
captured tonight a thing that is not supposed to exist in nature anymore.
We have found something in Washington that is absolutely, 100 percent
totally nonpartisan. We found it in Congress.
I know. I know you don`t believe me. But this is the most
nonpartisan thing imaginable and it is about to happen. Yes, in our
You might remember a few weeks ago, we had a couple of conservative
Texas Republicans on the show. A mom and dad named Richard and Susan
Selke. And we had them on the show because of a powerful appeal that they
made to another conservative Republican, a senator, one senator, who was
blocking the passage of a bill that was named after Richard Selke`s --
Richard and Susan Selke`s son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD SELKE, CLAY HUNT`S STEPFATHER: Dr. Coburn, my name is Richard
Selke and this is my wife, Susan. Susan and I are conservative Republicans
from the state of Texas.
And what I would say to you is thank you for your vigilance over our
budget. But this is an exception. If I had $22 million in the bank right
now, I`d write that check.
I don`t have it. You don`t have it. But what you do have is you have
power. All you have to do is not say no. All you have to do is allow this
bill to unanimously pass the Senate today or tomorrow, hopefully, by the
end of the session.
Would you please do that? Would you please do that for Susan and for
me, for Clay, and for every other vet who`s passed on or is still with us.
These are valuable, valuable, precious children of God and precious,
precious members of our society.
It`s on your back. This is personal. Please, please don`t say no.
Thank you. I hope we have the opportunity to meet some day soon. God
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Susan and Richard Selke made that powerful appeal to Senator
Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. They appealed to him to stop blocking the Clay
Hunt Veteran Suicide Prevention bill, which he was singlehandedly
preventing from passing in the last Congress.
Senator Coburn did not heed their call. He blocked the bill until the
very end. And then when Clay Hunt`s mom and step dad came on the show to
talk about that, you might remember I basically lost it on the air and got
all vercleft (ph) and couldn`t properly finish the interview because I was
moved by the loss of their son to suicide after he came home from Iraq in
The reason that was embarrassing for me, is because parents like the
Selkes don`t need some TV host emoting about their story, right? That is
not what they`re asking for. They`re asking for explanatory help in making
their case. They are not asking for people to get upset.
What they asked for and what Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
asked for and got from every other member of the United States Congress
other than Tom Coburn was a short, sharp specific bill to plug up the gaps
in the system that Clay Hunt fell through when he came home from Iraq and
Afghanistan. He tried to get help for what he was going through after his
deployments but he could not get the help he need. A bill to fix those
gaps -- that`s what his parents asked for in their son`s name.
And now that Tom Coburn is retired from the Senate, that bill is what
the Selkes and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are finally getting, and it is
the rarest of all political things. It is a 100 percent nonpartisan thing.
Since the bill failed the first time, the Senate has changed to
Republican control. You might think that would change the politics of
something like this is considered, but you know what? On the veterans
committee, this is how new Republican control sounds right now in that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA), VETERANS AFFAIRS CMTE. CHAIR: This is
going to be the most bipartisan committee in the United States Senate.
Certainly, when you got 80,000 veterans a year committing suicide, which is
more veterans that have died in all of Iraq and all of Afghanistan since we
have been fighting, then you have a serious problem and this is
duplicative. This is emergency legislation that needs to help our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the new chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee
talking about a bill that we thought would pass tonight. Now because of
the East Coast snowstorm and few other things that will pass at noon
tomorrow, noon Eastern Time tomorrow.
And this small bill to try to fix the suicide prevention efforts for
our veterans, this thing is going to pass tomorrow at noon and it will go
to the president`s desk and it will be signed in to law without a partisan
whisper anywhere near it.
Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia who has helmed this in the Senate
from his new post heading the Veterans Committee since the Republicans took
over in the Senate, Senator Isakson is as conservative as they come.
Senator Isakson has sponsored legislation to abolish the IRS. He says
climate change is not manmade. He put out a blistering statement
condemning President Obama`s new budget as reckless, he says, and
But on veterans issues, what you have got is a political unicorn. An
apparently mythical beast that doesn`t have partisan colors on it even now,
even in this Congress, even this year, in this Washington. And so, this
thing is getting done for Clay Hunt and for his family and the for 22
veterans a day who are still falling to suicide.
Joining us now for the interview to prove a miracle is at hand is
conservative Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, chairman of the
Senate Veterans Committee.
Senator Isakson, thank you so much for being here.
ISAKSON: Thank you, Rachel. It`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: So, the Senate vote on this bill looks like it is finally
happening. We`re hearing noon tomorrow. I have to ask if you know if
anybody sort of plans to pull a Tom Coburn here, block this bill at the
last minute for any reason at all. Or do you think this will pass easily?
ISAKSON: I think it will be unanimous. And to Tom`s credit, we found
an answer to Tom`s problem on the 22 million. We found money within the
existing agency budget to pay for the Clay Hunt bill. So, Tom Coburn is
happy, our veterans are happy, and I (ph) is happy.
We`re just happy that we`re addressing one of the single largest
byproducts of the Afghanistan and Iraqi war, the tragedy of suicide among
MADDOW: Do you think that there have been substantive -- I mean
Senator Coburn put this hold on it, and as you said you addressed some
concerns that he had about paying for it. What I found remarkable is
Senator Coburn in putting that hold didn`t convince anybody else to vote
against this thing with him. Was there any objection to it in the Senate
last Congress other than his objection?
ISAKSON: Well, at that time I wasn`t chairman of the committee. So,
I`m not sure I was aware of every objection but Tom was the most
significant objection, which is why I took care of it, because I have a
high regard for him and his commitment.
MADDOW: You have said that this year, since taking over as chairman
at the Veterans Committee in the Senate will be the most bipartisan
committee in the U.S. Senate. As chairman, as the man with leadership
responsibilities in that committee, what do you need to do to make sure
ISAKSON: Make sure we understand our job is to see to it the people
who voluntarily sacrifice and risk their lives so we could be what we`re
doing what we`re doing today get absolutely every promise they have been
made by the United States government for their health care, for their
education and for their well being. I`m going to be committed to that,
whether they are a Democratic veteran, Republican veteran, a libertarian
veteran, or Rachel Maddow veteran, whatever it maybe.
MADDOW: Do you think that spirit of a mission-driven bipartisanship,
a part of policy where with being partisan just doesn`t smell right,
doesn`t feel right to anybody involved in it -- could that extend to other
areas the Senate is working on as well, or is this a veterans-only climate?
ISAKSON: No, no, I don`t think it`s veterans-only. Certainly in
terms of foreign policy and certainly our battle with ISIS and terror,
there are a number of areas where we need to lock arms as Americans and get
over our partisan differences and do what`s best for our country and our
MADDOW: Pretty much everybody agrees the Clay Hunt bill is a start.
I have been moved by the fact that Clay Hunt`s parents have been so
articulate and so tireless in advocating specifically from the position of
what their son went through and what he was trying to get and couldn`t get
in terms of his V.A. care. It`s also been moved by the fact that Iraq and
Afghanistan Veterans of America was integrally involved in creating what`s
in this legislation but it is just a start.
Is there a next piece on this agenda? If stuff can happen if the
Veterans Committee that can`t happen anywhere else because of that spirit
of bipartisanship, what`s the next step after this?
ISAKSON: The next step is going to be the accountability that this
bill calls for. So, we get reports from the outside auditors to look at
what the V.A. is doing in terms of mental health care follow through and
find out where we can improve it even more. This bill is about improving
and hopefully perfecting the follow-through of mental health patients as
they go through the V.A.
One of the biggest problems about suicide is this, it is a stigmatize
affliction. A lot of people don`t want to talk about it. They don`t want
to share the fact they take their own life. We need professional
psychiatrists and psychologists and people in the V.A. who can identify
symptoms, can identify the people who are having trouble, and can follow
them and track them along the way to help bring them back to good solid
MADDOW: Senator Isakson, Republican of Georgia, chairman of the
Senate Veterans Committee, it is really great to have you here, sir.
Appreciate you being willing to do this. If you would tell other
Republicans the Senate that it`s OK to talk to me, I`ll send you a big box
ISAKSON: I`ll tell them you are the greatest.
MADDOW: All right. Senator, appreciate you being here.
It is a remarkable thing actually what Senator Isakson just said there
about what needs to happen next. If you go back and look at the
transcripts of Bernie Sanders being on the show when he was the chairman of
Veterans when the Democrats were in control, they are talking about the
same things. It is happening on veterans issues even if it can`t happen
somewhere else, but there is a place for real bipartisan or totally
nonpartisan policy and stuff can get done.
And I hope it`s an inspiration for other areas of policy, the veterans
groups have made this happen. They have changed politics in Washington.
So stuff can happen. It is a credit to them.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: OK. There`s lots ahead on tonight show, including the spy
novel action movie part of the show. We`ve also got some slightly
disturbing but technically newsworthy information that involves ear biting.
That`s the thing that bothers you and you don`t want to see it you may want
to watch the next segment or two like this.
That`s all ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Stolen information, leaked information. Always give you the
juiciest scoops, right? I mean, public announcements about stuff are
rarely as exciting or newsworthy as something that was never supposed to
get out but somehow nevertheless revealed.
It`s the truth about journalism. It`s the truth about politics. It`s
the truth about the news.
The problem inherent, though, in that truth is that stolen information
by definition is a single source thing, right? It can`t be corroborated.
It can`t be confirmed.
But the combination of the fact that something is juicy information,
and that we know the powers that be didn`t want this information to be
known, that can make us a little gullible when it comes to secret stuff.
Secret documents and leaked documents, we are inclined to believe them,
even when there is no way to check whether we really ought to.
In the 1990s, the United States government secretly worked up a plan
to take advantage of our natural inherent tendency to believe something
specifically because it is a stolen piece of information. The CIA sometime
in the `90s started to cook up this idea of using fake technical
information as essentially a dangle. They cook up some fake technical
information that would look on the surface like it would supposedly help in
the process of building a nuclear bomb.
But it would actually in real life do the opposite. They decided they
cook up these flawed plans that look real, but an important flaw in them
and they would shock these plans to Iran, as if they were real stolen
nuclear plants. They had a fatal, technical flaw. So, if the Iranians did
believe in these stolen supposedly documents and they did put them in
effect, they put these plans into action, they would actually thereby set
back their nuclear program in a way that would be really hard to fix. That
was the idea. That was the CIA plan.
So, the CIA had a Russian nuclear scientist secretly on their payroll.
They drew up these fake plans that had the big secret flaw in them. They
thought the Iranians wouldn`t spot the flaw, and in the year 2000, they
sent this Russian intermediary to shop these supposedly stolen plans to
Iran, and that`s where it all went horribly wrong, because the Russian
scientist guy did give the Iranians these plans for their nuclear weapons
but the Russian scientist guy also told the Iranians where the flaw was.
Told the Iranians where the wrong part was.
And so, this supposedly genius plan to set back Iran`s effort to build
a nuclear bomb, it might have actually helped Iran progress further on the
nuclear front, because once they knew to avoid that flaw that had been
deliberately placed in the plans, that the Russian guy tipped them off to,
well, once they worked around that flaw, the plans were actually helpful
for building centrifuges, which is they needed for their nuclear program.
It was a terrible intelligence phase plan. This too-clever-by-half
plan cooked up over the course of years turned out to backfire, turned out
to help the people that the U.S. was trying to hurt.
So, OK, try again. That happened in 2000.
In 2010, this time it wasn`t fatally flawed plans that they were going
to try to shop to the Iranians, this time it was a piece of software. In
2010, the U.S. managed to get a computer worm into Iran`s nuclear program.
It was basically a piece of software that Iran didn`t know had been
introduced into their computer system. But what it did when that worm went
to work is caused Iran`s nuclear centrifuges to spin out of control and
The Iranians did not know why their centrifuges were spinning out of
control and breaking. They didn`t know they were infected by this software
worm thing. They just knew that something was very, very wrong. Something
was so wrong that it was physically busting up their most sensitive nuclear
So, of the two plots, one of them worked, the virus one. One of them
did not work, the almost good but secretly flawed centrifuge plans.
All right. One worked. One didn`t. They are both amazing in terms
of the spy novel drama of them, the gee whiz tech side of how these plans
But ultimately, when each of those stories came to life, the biggest
burst of drama around each of those CIA plots against Iran was, how come we
know about this? How did these actions get Iran become public knowledge?
In the Stuxnet case, that story about the computer worm that busted up
the Iranian centrifuges, Iran eventually knew a computer virus was behind
the damage, but it`s not clear whether the U.S. was still reaping rewards
from Iran not knowing who was behind it.
When it was revealed in this 2012 article in the "New York Times," was
the U.S. still benefitting from it? "The Times" took tons of heat in
Congress for publishing the story. On the Senate floor, John McCain said,
"Our friends are not the only ones who with read the `New York Times.` Our
enemies do, too." Senator John Kerry questioned whether the story served
America`s interest and whether the public did have a right to know.
A bipartisan group of House and Senate Intelligence Committee members
called for a leak investigation.
The other story, the one about the flawed supposedly stolen plans
being shopped to Iran by the faceless Russian scientist, that story
apparently had been spiked by "The New York Times" as early as 2003, before
"New York Times" reporter James Risen decided to put his reporting on that
plot in to his book "State of War." Last week, you may have seen headlines
about a former CIA officer convicted of leaking classified information to a
reporter. That was this case.
Jeffrey Sterling, ex-CIA, convicted of leaking the flawed centrifuge
plan story to James Risen, which he then published them in his book.
Sterling could be facing decades in prison for that leak.
So, these stories about our spy craft are as fascinating as spy novels
are, right? They are incredibly controversial in terms of when and how we
come about them and whether or not it hurts national security for these
things to be made publicly known.
But now, we got another one. This one happened in 2008. "Washington
Post" publishing this scoop this weekend about how the CIA and Israel`s
Mossad worked together to assassinate the leader of the Iranian-backed
terrorist group Hezbollah. The story "The Post" got from several former
intelligence officials is that the CIA and Mossad worked together to
monitor this guy in Syria, in Damascus for months. The night of the
planned assassination, they used facial recognition technology to confirm
it was him.
Then, as CIA agents monitored him on the ground, Mossad agents in Tel
Aviv remotely detonated a bomb that had been hidden in the spare tire of an
SUV. In order to make sure the bomb was big enough to kill him but small
enough to avoid hurting anybody else. The CIA tried it in a facility in
North Carolina, blowing up 25 test bombs in the process.
And once again, these dramatic larger than life, I can`t believe this
stuff really happens details about this plot fascinating, but also again,
real, interesting questions about why we are learning this now. Who has
told the "Washington Post" this happened? Is this somebody bragging,
essentially telling a war story because they want the intelligence agencies
involved to get credit for having done something that we wouldn`t otherwise
know about? Is this being leaked for some strategic reason, especially as
we are in the middle of this incredibly sensitive discussions with Iran?
Is this a sign to help those talks with Iran or hurt those talks with Iran?
"Washington Post" deserves credit for this incredible and incredibly
dramatic spy novel style scoop. But the fact it is their scoop and it`s
about super duper secret operation makes it impossible at this point for us
to interrogate the basics of the story, and it also raises really
interesting questions for us politically as a country about why this
incredibly dramatic story is being made known now, and by whom, and why.
What is the effect of telling us this thing we never knew before? Who does
it serve? Who does it serve for this to be public?
MADDOW: Happy, happy Groundhog Day. Naturally, this year, there is
controversy. Punxsutawney Phil is our nation`s groundhog of record, 7:25
this morning in Pennsylvania, Phil came out, saw his shadow, thereby
implicitly announced there will be six more weeks of winter.
But also today, at around the same time, we`ve got the opposite news
from Staten Island Chuck. He did not see his shadow. Nor did anyone drop
him and kill him this year. But by not seeing his shadow, that means
spring is on the way with.
So, Chuck is not as famous as Phil, but today, the Staten Island
groundhog delivered better news than Phil did. So which is it?
Here`s the tie breaker. Watch carefully. This is Sun Prairie,
Wisconsin`s Jimmy with the deciding
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JONATHAN FREUND, SUN PRAIRIE, WISCONSIN: He suggest -- he says
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jimmy, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin groundhog bites the mayor
really hard on ear, which I`ve checked the role book, means that winter is
now, on principle. Also, tetanus shots all around.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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