'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: February 3, 2015
Guest: Carl Krawitt, Gus Rosendale, Kate Zernike, Cecilia Peck, Steve
Clemons, Laith Alkhouri, Shane Harris, Gus Rosendale
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, we`re going to be covering more
about that crash, including an eyewitness who actually saw the whole thing
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: Good.
O`DONNELL: That`s coming up in our program. Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, in Amazon`s brilliant comedy series about politicians,
"Alpha House", Penn Jillette was cast as a libertarian candidate for
Senate. Now, we`ve got to figure out how to get him cast as a real
libertarian candidate for president who is not afraid to tell the truth
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENN JILLETTE, COMEDIAN: Hi, I`m Penn, this is my partner Teller. You may
have heard autism causes autism in one out of 110 children. (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) that. Total (EXPLETIVE DELETED). It doesn`t.
But let`s imagine it does. We`ll compare two groups of children. Teller`s
group gets no vaccination. My group does. I use this flexi-glass to
represent the vaccination. That`s my bad.
My vaccination wall knocked one of the children out of line. That`s our
own one in 110 with autism.
In the 1920s, before the theory vaccinations was common, there were 13,000
to 15,000 deaths a year from that disease. If you got it, your chances of
dying were about 40 percent.
In 1952, just before the vaccine became common, there were 58,000 cases of
polio. If you get unlucky, you might end up perfectly disabled or dead.
Meningitis, hepatitis A and B, flu, mumps, whooping cough, pneumonia,
rotavirus, rubella, small pox, tetanus, chickenpox, chickenpox.
We have vaccinations against all of them. Which side do you want your
child to stand on?
So, even if vaccination did cause autism, which (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
Anti-vaccination would still be (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Republican chairman of the subcommittee in the House of
Representatives today asked four of the nation`s top public health
officials if parents should vaccinate their children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Should parents have their children
vaccinated, Dr. Schuchat?
DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT: Vaccines save lives and the best way to prepare is to
protect their children from vaccine preventable diseases?
MURPHY: Dr. Midthun, yes, or no? Yes?
DR. KAREN MIDTHUN: Yes, I have three children they were all vaccinated on
time with all of the recommended vaccines?
MURPHY: Dr. Robinson?
DR. ROBINSON: Absolutely.
MURPHY: Dr. Fauci?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIH: Definitely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Centers for Disease Control say there were 644 cases of
measles in the United States in 2014, compared to less than 100 in the year
2000, when the disease was declared eliminated in the United States.
That`s a 600 percent increase.
The measles outbreak that began in December at Disneyland has infected 102
people, 59 are in California, which, like many states, legally allows
parents to refuse to vaccinate their children for religious or personal
beliefs, no matter what those beliefs are.
Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at and told
"The New York Times" the outbreak was 100 percent connected to the anti-
immunization campaign. It wouldn`t have happened otherwise. It wouldn`t
have gone anywhere, he said. There are some pretty dumb people out there.
Orange County, California, has now barred unvaccinated students from going
to school and a father of a 6-year-old boy with leukemia in Northern
California has asked the superintendent of Marin County Schools to do the
Carl Krawitt`s 6-year-old son Rhett is in remission but has a compromised
immune system because of the cancer treatment and can`t get the vaccine,
which puts him at risk of being infected.
Joining me now is Carl.
Carl, tell me what you think your legal options are here. Does the school
system have the authority to ban unvaccinated children?
CARL KRAWITT, WANTS UNVACCINATED KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL: The school system has
the authority to ban any unvaccinated child in the event of a measles
outbreak. But our request is to be proactive and not let that happen. And
ban those children that are unvaccinated because of a personal belief
exemption. Not children like my son who can`t be vaccinated for medical
O`DONNELL: Now, there are some children like your son who have had cancer
treatments who cannot be vaccinated, they`re too vulnerable to accept these
vaccinations. Are you saying that they should be allowed to go to school,
even though they are unvaccinated, with full legitimate reason to be
KRAWITT: Yes, as long as there`s not an outbreak in the school. Meaning,
the regular day-to-day life that we all knew for many, many years, when
this disease was eradicated, which is because of herd immunity, there was
no measles. And therefore, those children are protected by the herd
immunity of the community.
So, I would never expect a child to be kept home from school. Our son was
kept home from school because his immune system was so low that any illness
could have an affect on his health. But at that time when his immune
system is high enough, of course, we want him to go to school and we want
to be around other children and socialize like a regular kid.
O`DONNELL: What do you say to those parents who say I don`t want to take
the chance of vaccinating my child?
KRAWITT: I say read the science books, that the risk is very low. We all
know that. And I also say, don`t go to public school then. You know, they
-- I often ask the questions, who responsibility is it to isolate their
children for fear of an illness? Is it mine because my child can`t be
immunized for medical reasons? Or is it the person who is defying science
and has this fear that something bad is going to happen if they immunize
their child? And my opinion is, it`s that person that can keep their child
O`DONNELL: What kind of reaction are you getting to this proposal in Marin
KRAWITT: We are getting overwhelming support. But not just overwhelming
support, our news story has actually made people vaccinate their children.
I mean, the superintendent of schools today called me and he said, Carl,
I`ve got to tell you something, our numbers are down almost 50, 60, 70
percent. Of all the people we had on record that were not immunized for
reasons of bad records, or they didn`t have their second or third shot,
even some of the personal belief exemptions, a lot of them have gone out
O`DONNELL: Carl Krawitt, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And
good luck with your son.
Joining me now is former Vermont governor, Dr. Howard Dean.
Dr. Dean, it has been fascinating to watch the way this conversation has
gone politically over the last couple of days. We -- let`s listen to what
Rand Paul started saying about this the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`ve heard of many tragic cases of walking,
talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after
vaccines. I`m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea, I think they`re a good
thing. But I think the parents should have some input. The state doesn`t
own the children, parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now, Dr. Dean, you were very critical of that yesterday, and he
seems to be moderating some of his comments now.
DR. HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Well, the thing that`s so
disturbing about it, this is a guy with a medical education. If you have a
medical education, the science is really clear about this. The discussion
about autism or, quote-unquote, "mental conditions" that he -- it was the
phrase he used -- related to vaccines has been completely discredited.
That was a scientific paper that was published in and retracted and
debunked and the scientist is not -- is not been respected ever since. It
was a fraud.
And so, for a doctor, I think it was a higher bar for Rand Paul than there
is for Chris Christie. Chris Christie made a bunch of, you know, pandering
statements to the public because he thought he was going to run into
trouble with conservatives in Iowa. He`s not expected to know much about
medicine, why should he? He`s not a physician.
Rand Paul is a physician. He should know better. And he -- I just was --
my confidence in him, not that I had a lot any way, was absolutely shaken
by what he said. It`s just -- it`s flatly untrue.
O`DONNELL: Well, I get the feeling he definitely heard your criticism of
his comments yesterday on this network, because he issued a written
statement today -- his staff issued a statement saying, "I did not say
vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related. I did
not allege causation."
And, Dr. Dean, he may not have specifically, in the language of the
sentence`s alleged causation yesterday, but he certainly implied it. He
said he knew people after their kids had vaccinations.
DEAN: In some ways, the denial is more damaging than the actual statement,
because everybody knows what he said. They saw him on television. For him
to try to pretend he didn`t say what everybody saw him say is a big
O`DONNELL: And, you know, the hearing today, the subcommittee hearing in
the House, I have to say in general, reason prevailed, even among most
Republicans, including some tea party types who you might expect to echo
Tea Party or libertarian feelings. Not so much today in that hearing.
But these presidential candidates struggle -- are struggling with this, and
we`ve seen Chris Christie struggle with it.
Do you think they`re going to find their way in the next few days to solid
DEAN: Well, I don`t think this is going to be a major issue. Here`s the
problem with this stuff, or these guys. You know, this is not a major
political issue. Who would have thought we would be talking about measles
vaccines? The big problem for them is their own personal credibility. If
they flip-flop around on stuff like this, what will they do in the White
House? That`s a problem they`re all going to have. So, I think the issue
will go away, but the character issue will not.
O`DONNELL: And Hillary Clinton took advantage of it politically when she
said, the science is clear, the earth is round, the sky is blue, vaccines
She`s trying to suggest that the position you`re hearing from Chris
Christie, from Rand Paul, is so absurd, it`s like saying the earth isn`t
DEAN: Well, it`s equivocating on an issue that`s been settled and it`s
also taking advantage of parents who are genuinely scared. There are
parents who still believe this, and you`ve got to work with them to
convince them this isn`t so. You can`t just tell them, no, no, no, it`s
not so. But people need to be reassured.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Howard Dean, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
Coming up, we have breaking news in the New York area where a train has
collided with an SUV. At least six people are dead. We will have a live
And tonight, an update on the story we first told you about this summer.
You will find out what has happened to the officer who did this to a
And Republican presidential candidates are now lining up to confess about
their personal illegal use of drugs. Tweet me your guesses about who is
now confessing to using pot back when they were young and foolish.
And 50 years later, a full 50 years later, we will finally have a second
novel from the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird."
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news in Valhalla, New York, tonight. About an
hour north of New York City, six people are confirmed dead and at least 12
people injured after a train collided with a Jeep Cherokee. According to
reports, the gates came down on top of the vehicle, which was stopped on
the tracks. The driver got out to look at the rear of the car. Got back
in, and drove forward, then was struck by the train.
Six people are confirmed dead. The female driver of the Jeep Cherokee and
five passengers on the train. About 400 passengers were rerouted by bus.
Joining me now by phone, from the crash site is WNBC reporter Gus
Gus, what`s the latest there?
GUS ROSENDALE, WNBC REPORTER (via telephone): Well, Lawrence, the MTA,
which controls that railroad, said the female driver of the Jeep was
outside of her car when she was hit and killed instantly. What we`re
hearing from passengers onboard the train, their accounts depending very
much on where they were seated. If they were in one in the rear cars, they
feel just a slight jolt and wasn`t fully aware of what`s going on.
Then, I talked to one man who was in the fourth car. He says he felt an
enormous crash, and that very soon after that collision, the train care
started to fill with smoke. There was a brief announcement, he said from
the conductor, and then essentially radio silence. So, you have this
commuter trained, at the height of the rush hour, a lot of people were
standing on board this train, and then hundreds of people were forced to
smash through emergency windows, forcing doors open, and then trying to
jump down to the ground outside.
And as they got out of the train, they saw and I think you`re seeing some
of the chopper video as well, that that vehicle had been hit by the train
and pushed back essentially 10 car lengths. And as that happened, it burst
into flames and it was creating some of the devastating damage that we saw
O`DONNELL: Gus, how long of a line of sight did the train operator have on
this vehicle? Was this a situation of the train coming around a bend and
suddenly thereupon a car?
ROSENDALE: It`s somewhat unclear at this point. I don`t know how fast the
train was going. It`s certainly not the height of speed, given that you`re
going through small towns. So, the speed would be lower. The gates were
In terms of visibility, we don`t know. We`ve been looking at the maps.
There seems to be a slight bend there. It doesn`t seem like a through
straightaway. But in terms of how much time the engineer would have had to
apply the brakes and slow down, that`s something we`re not clear on at this
O`DONNELL: The NTSB just announced they`re sending a team to the site
immediately. Gus Rosendale, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
We will bring you updates on this story as new information becomes
Up next, some difficult news for Chris Christie on the front page of
today`s "New York Times."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: No questions today.
REPORTER: In your meetings, did you discuss the Islamic State at all?
CHRISTIE: Is there stuff that you didn`t understand about new questions?
REPORTER: Governor, would you put troops on the ground to fight ISIS?
REPORTER: Is there a reason you won`t take questions today?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A more talkative Chris Christie once explained his try of
accepting lavish gifts this way, "I relish these experiences and exposures
for my kids. I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can."
An article on today`s front page of "The New York Times" chronicles Chris
Christie`s fondness for luxury benefits. The governor, a Republican now
preparing a run for president, shot to national prominence, as a cheese
steak on the boardwalk. Everyone who bluntly preached transparency and
austerity as the antidote to bloated state budgets. But throughout his
career and public service, Mr. Christie has indulged a taste that runs more
towards champagne at the four seasons. He has also quietly let others pay
Including his three-day trip to London this week, that was paid for by the
non-profit group Choose New Jersey, which according to the New Jersey
record, has, quote, "backing from some of the state`s largest public
utilities, labor unions, law firms, and contractors." Some that received
multi-million dollar contracts and tax breaks from the state.
At times, New Jersey taxpayers have also footed the bill, including his
trip to the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, airfare for four passengers
came to $8,146. Mr. Christie`s hotel for three nights cost $3,371.
And last month, a report found that the state police security that
accompanies Chris Christie everywhere he goes cost New Jersey taxpayers
nearly $1 million for the first four years and nine months of his
A New Jersey watch dog reports, quote, "The current average monthly travel
cost to protect Christie for a single month are 50 percent more than former
Governor Jon Corzine`s entire final year in office, according to state
Joining me now, Kate Zernike, one of the reporters who wrote today`s "New
York Times" piece on Chris Christie.
Kate, you know, when I look at these things, what always strikes me about
it, having worked in the Senate, is that all this would be completely
illegal. Every single thing he does if he was in Cory Booker`s position as
New Jersey`s representative in the United States Senate or in the House of
You can`t bring spouses on trips. He -- you have a depiction of him
loading up Sheldon Adelson`s -- one of his private planes to fly to Israel
with his wife, three of his four kids, his --
KATE ZERNIKE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Mother in law.
O`DONNELL: Keep going.
ZERNIKE: His father, stepmother, law partner.
O`DONNELL: It`s like Thanksgiving dinner in the plane. I mean, that would
be wildly criminal for a senator. But governors can just get away with it?
ZERNIKE: Well, the governors mostly do. More important to that is Sheldon
Adelson was then the most prominent backer, most prominent, most prominent
opponent of online gaming, of which New Jersey was the most prominent
state, the only state proposing to legalize it.
So, you`ve got him taking a gift from someone who is lobbying against this.
The governor`s office said that he was not lobbying directly. But,
clearly, it`s a gift and there was lobbying going on.
So, I do think the ethical conflicts are really striking here.
O`DONNELL: This group, this Promote New Jersey group, was actually his
idea. This group of big money entities with New Jersey interests who got
together and said, let`s create a fund that we can pay for his travel.
ZERNIKE: Right. And under state pay-to-play laws, those companies are not
allowed to donate directly to him.
O`DONNELL: To a campaign.
ZERNIKE: To a campaign.
ZERNIKE: So, the other thing, he`s put very a close confidant as head of
that group. They paid for him to go to London this week. Interestingly
enough, London is a place where presidential candidates in 2012 got more
money than -- from American expatriates than anywhere. But it`s also a
place where Choose New Jersey said, you know, business interest in New
jersey isn`t very high. So, you sort of have to question why the governor
would go to London in the first place on this.
O`DONNELL: Well, he said London is one of his favorite tourist places.
O`DONNELL: It`s very interesting that when he`s on a presidential debate
stage, he`s going to be on there with some United States senators who can`t
do any of this. And know that.
ZERNIKE: Well, if you were president, you couldn`t do this.
O`DONNELL: Right. And so, you don`t have to because you have Air Force
One. It`s a whole different game when you`re president.
But it`s going to be interesting to see if they go after him on this kind
of thing, knowing that, you know, the rules they live under is so much
ZERNIKE: Well, I also think there`s a pattern here. You know, when he was
U.S. attorney, he was criticized by the inspector general for staying at
hotels that doubled the government rate he was allowed to use, not taking
away (INAUDIBLE) getting those rooms.
So, this is something we`ve been seen before. We saw it with the Jerry
Jones story, when he accepted tickets and a plane ride to the Dallas
Cowboys game. He said he`s a friend of mine. This is my favorite team
There`s a certain pattern of, because I can. I think that`s what is going
to be a problem for him overall. It`s a sort of lack, you know, it`s a
lack of, well, it`s probably not the right -- even by appearances, this is
not going to look good for me. That`s going to be --
O`DONNELL: I guess I was really stunned by the part where he`s actually
abusing the expense account of the Justice Department. The one group you
do not want to fool with on this kind of thing.
Kate Zernike, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Coming up, an NYPD officer who was caught on video doing this to a LAST
WORD guest, former guest of this show, gets indicted. That`s coming up.
But first, we`re going to have details about the second novel, the second
novel to be written by Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird."
The second novel comes just 50 years after her first novel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now gentlemen, in this country, our courts are the
great levelers. In our courts, all men are created equal. I`m no idealist
to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and of our jury system.
That`s no idea to me. That is a living, working reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, author Harper Lee finally publishes
again. It was announced today more than publishing "To Kill a
Mockingbird," which has sold more than a million copies, 88-year-old Harper
Lee will publish her second novel.
The reclusive author said in a statement today, "In the mid-1950s, I
completed a novel called `Go Set a Watchman`. It features the character
known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort.
My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout`s childhood, persuaded
me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout.
I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn`t realized it
had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer
Tonja Carter discovered it.
After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I
trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of
publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after
all these years."
"Go Set a Watchman" will be released July 14th.
You can pre-order the book now. It is already number one on both
Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Joining me now is Cecilia Peck Bowle.
She is the daughter of Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his performance
as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Cecilia, this is an amazing day. The world has been waiting only 50 years
for this book. You know Harper Lee. And this is whether she`s been close
to your family over the years.
What can you tell us about how she decided to do this.
CECILIA PECK, GREGORY PECK`S DAUGHTER: You know, Lawrence, she did think
the book -- the manuscript had been lost. In those days, there was
obviously only one typed manuscript.
And she had kept track of it through several moves but lost it around 1980.
And it was just discovered in a secure place where she had actually hidden
it, along with her original manuscript of "To Kill a Mockingbird." So, she
had to decide whether to publish it or not. And I think it`s so exciting
that we`re going to get to read this book.
O`DONNELL: Among the many documentaries you`ve now done is my personal
favorite called "A Conversation with Gregory Peck." And I want to show a
piece of that where your dad is telling us about how he used the watch in
"To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee`s father being a lawyer, and how
Harper Lee talked to him a bit about her father.
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY PECK, ACTOR: I had visited Monroeville. And I`ve gotten
acquainted with him. And I borrowed the mannerism.
And he did a habit of fiddling with that watch, which he had this strung
across from one vest pocket to the other, through the buttonhole in the
middle. And he did it in the courtroom.
And he did it in the courtroom. And I borrowed that mannerism in the trial
scene, not with his watch, with a prop watch.
I fiddled with that watch, and give me time to think straight. And after
he died -- unfortunately, he did not live to see the film -- she gave me
his watch. Harper gave me his watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Cecilia, Greg and Harper Lee were very close. Tell us about
PECK: Well, you know, they`re both from --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
-- small towns in the United States. And, I think, when they met, it
wasn`t just between Harper and my dad, but everyone on that film. It was
though they all came together for a reason.
And they formed a life-long friendship. And it was like a family really
that included Alan Pakula and Bob Mulligan and everybody who was involved
in the film.
So, I was a little tiny girl on the set of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and I`ve
known Harper my whole life. She, I think, was probably my father and
mother`s very dearest friend. And --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
-- when our son, Harper, was born, she would come and read to him in New
York. And, you know, she was my advisor on a lot of things --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
-- through my whole life. And we`re still very close.
O`DONNELL: I`ve had the pleasure --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
of seeing your father`s version of the script, with all of his handwritten
notes on every page, and stunning detail all the way through.
And as I`ve once revealed on this show before, on the very final page of
the script, in his hand, his note says, "Fairness, stubbornness, courage,
That`s what that whole story, that character came down to for him.
PECK: Yes, that`s how he summed it up in those words. And I -- the
script, which is at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has
notes on every page about how he saw the character, what he would have done
if he were -- if he were Atticus.
I think he really, you know, put all of himself into that part. And it was
probably the closest character to himself that he ever played.
O`DONNELL: Well, Harper Lee had that wonderful quote, where she said,
"Atticus gave him an opportunity to play himself."
PECK: You know, I think I got to really grow up with Atticus Finch, you
know. Of all the girls in the world who wish they had --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
-- Atticus as their father, I got to have him. And I think he became
Atticus and Atticus became him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Maybe it informed his -- the way he parented myself and my brother, he
really -- you know, if he had been that lawyer in the 1930s in the south,
he would have taken on that case. He would have -- he would have been
O`DONNELL: Cecilia Peck, thank you very, very much for joining us on this
Coming up in the "Rewrite," politicians lying about their personal drug
use. And a group of firefighters, later in the program, who went above and
beyond the call of duty and inspired the hashtag, shovelitforward.
We have breaking news from Jordan at this hour. There are reports that
Jordan has just executed an Iraqi prisoner it had hoped to exchange with a
-- for a Jordanian pilot, was killed by the Islamic State militants.
Earlier today, the Islamic State released a 22-minute video showing the
burning of that Jordanian pilot, burned to death. The execution apparently
happened January 3rd.
We`ll be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: When I was in England, I
experimented with marijuana a time or two and didn`t like it, and didn`t
inhale, and never tried it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s "Rewrite," politicians lying about drug use.
Whenever you hear politicians lie about their personal history with drug
use, what they`re really trying to say is, "I would like to be president of
the United States."
Nothing creates more media interest in your personal drug use than running
for president. And there is no higher incentive to lie about your personal
drug use than running for president.
The latest entry in the art form comes from Senator Ted Cruz, whose staff
issued this statement to the daily mail --
TEXT: "Teenagers are often known for their lack of judgment. And Senator
Cruz was no exception. When he was a teenager, he foolishly experimented
with marijuana. It was a mistake. And he`s never tried it since."
We don`t know whether Ted Cruz was 13 or 19 when he experimented with
marijuana. We do not know exactly what experiments he conducted.
We don`t know how many experiments he conducted, whether they were in high
school or college. If he stays in the presidential campaign long enough
and the political media summons enough interest in his candidacy, he will
be asked a few more precise questions about marijuana and other drugs.
He will be asked how often he experimented with marijuana in the seven-year
period he left open in his very vague answer, the kind of answer a
politician gives when he`s very uncomfortable with the truth.
But Ted Cruz, like everyone else running for president, will live under the
protection of Bill Clinton, who gave the most laughably, ludicrous answer
in the history of the question.
Ever since Clinton`s preposterous, "I did not inhale" answer, all a
politician has to do is be less ridiculous than Bill Clinton was in
answering that question.
Rand Paul passed the Clinton ridiculous test in December when he said this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE INTERVIEWER: Did you smoke marijuana.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Let`s just say I wasn`t a choir boy when I
was in college, and that I can recognize that kids make mistakes. And I
can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Politicians are schooled by their handlers into getting that
word, "mistake," in there whenever they talk about their illegal drug use.
President George W. Bush often mangled words to the point where he
sometimes actually sounded high.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: There`s an old saying in
Tennessee, I know it`s in Texas -- probably in Tennessee -- that says,
"Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you." If you fool me, you can`t get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Can we hear it again. No? OK. But as much as he mangled
words, when he first faced the question of his drug use in his first
presidential campaign, George W. Bush`s answer was pure Texas poetry --
TEXT: "When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish."
When he was later pressed on the question of cocaine use, George W. Bush
stayed absolutely silent and just waited a couple of weeks. That`s all it
took for the political media to just move on.
His little brother, Jeb, gave a refreshingly direct answer to the question
to "The Boston Globe" this weekend in an article about his days at the Bush
Family Boarding School in Andover, Massachusetts. Jeb said --
TEXT: "I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover. Bush
said both of which could have led to expulsion. It was pretty common."
Notice how Jeb Bush simply said it was simply common, where he was supposed
to say, it was a mistake. He didn`t even say it was foolish. He just said
it was pretty common.
And he equated it with alcohol use, which I really admire. I`m so glad he
joined those two things.
Now, the most honest answer ever given to the drug use question came from
Barack Obama. And he gave it long before anyone ever asked him the
question, long before we ever saw Barack Obama give a speech, long before
he was running for president.
He had written the answer in a book called, "Dreams from My Father." It
stands today as the finest literary work ever authored by a president of
the United States.
The book doesn`t contain the whole truth of Barack Obama`s life. Books
can`t do that. But it is, by far, the most honest and open book and artful
book ever written by a president.
"I fell back on the couch and lit a cigarette, watching the match burn down
until it --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
-- tickled my fingertips, then feeling the prick on the skin as I pinched
the flame dead. `What`s the trick,` the man asks. The trick is not caring
that it hurts."
"I tried to remember where I`d heard the line but it was lost to me now
like a forgotten face. No matter, Billie Holiday knew the same trick."
"It was in that torn up, trembling voice of hers. And I had learned it,
too. That`s what my last two years in high school had been about."
"After Ray went off to junior college somewhere, then I set the books aside
and I had stopped writing to my father. And he`d stop writing back."
"I had grown tired of writing to untangle a mess that wasn`t of my making.
I had learned not to care. I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those
"Pot had helped, and booze, maybe a little blow when you could afford it.
Not smack, though. Mickey, my potential initiator, had been just a little
too eager for me to go through with that."
"He said he could do it blindfolded, but he was shaking like a faulty
engine when he said. Maybe he was just cold. We were standing in a meat
freezer in the back of a deli where he worked."
"And it couldn`t have been more than 20 degrees in there, but he didn`t
look like he was shaking from the cold. It looked more like he was
sweating -- his face, shiny and tight."
"He had pulled out the needle and the tubing. And I`d looked at him,
standing there, surrounded by big slabs of salami and roast beef."
"And right then, an image popped into my head of an air bubble, shiny and
round like a pearl, rolling quietly through a vein and stopping my heart --
junkie, pothead, that`s where I`ve been headed, the final fatal role of a
young would-be black man."
"Except the highs hadn`t been above that. Me, trying to prove what a down
brother I was. Not by then, anyway."
"I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push
questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the
landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory."
"I had discovered that it didn`t make any difference whether you smoked
reefer in the white classmate`s sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of
some brother you`ve met down at the gym or on the beach with a couple of
Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their
time looking for an excuse to brawl."
"Nobody asked you whether your father was a fat cat executive who cheated
on his wife, or some laid-off Joe who slapped you around whenever he
bothered to come home."
"You might just be bored or alone. Everybody was welcomed into the club of
disaffection. And if the high didn`t solve whatever it was getting you
down, it could at least help you laugh at the world`s ongoing folly and see
through all the hypocrisy and bull and cheap moralism."
No one running for president on president on the Democrat or Republican
side, this time, has ever or will ever write or say anything that honest,
which is not to say, you will not hear some novel approaches to the drug
Republican Senator Marco Rubio is trying to get away with refusing to
answer the question, while claiming a noble position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Have you ever smoked marijuana.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You know why I never answer that question.
REPORTER: Why not.
RUBIO: I`ll tell you why I never answer that question.
If I tell you that I haven`t, you won`t believe me. And if I tell you that
I did, then kids who look up to me, "So, I can smoke marijuana because look
how he made it."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: If Marco Rubio`s presidential candidacy survives long enough,
that answer to the drug question will not survive. He will be pressed for
And if you do hear anything more from Marco Rubio, or any other
presidential candidates this time about drug use, it`s not going to sound
like this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, NBC HOST: I have to ask this question. Remember, Senator, you
are under oath. Did you inhale.
OBAMA: You know, I was telling somebody who asked this question. I said,
that was the point.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We have more breaking news from Jordan tonight. Jordan has
executed now two prisoners that they had hoped to exchange for a Jordanian
pilot who was killed by the Islamic State militants.
Earlier today, the Islamic State released a 22-minute video showing the
burning to death of that Jordanian pilot. The execution reportedly
happened on January 3rd.
That`s apparently when that pilot was burned to death. Joining me now on
the phone is "The Antlantic`s" Steve Clemons.
Steve, we`ve been wondering all day what the Jordanian reaction was
going to be. It seems we now have it.
STEVE CLEMONS, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE ATLANTIC (via telephone): Well, Jordan
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
-- the anger, the frustration is palpable in Amman and throughout Jordan.
There has been, before this -- because there had been so much trepidation
and, actually, so much desire to exchange this terrorist that they had been
holding in Amman for this pilot, who was executed, who was burned alive,
that the king was in trouble.
But, today, the king and the leadership in Amman showed resolve and
strength. And I think they`ve turned a very unstable situation in Jordan
into iron-resolve, into responding to ISIS.
It`s remarkable turnaround in the basic temperature inside that country.
O`DONNELL: But, Steve, they were working on trying to pull off this --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
-- exchange. And all they were waiting for in Jordan was proof of life,
something that could show them that their pilot was, indeed, still alive.
CLEMONS: Yes, there was a lot of hope among many Jordanian citizens that
he might still be alive. But I believe that many terror watchers feared
that he did die on January 3rd.
They noticed some minor social media traffic that had indicated that
someone that ISIS had held had been burned. And so, the worry had been, by
the Jordanian authorities, that he was not alive.
And I think they adroitly asked for proof of life. They never received
And they went through this odd antic with the two Japanese hostages that
they held, saying that they would trade them for Sajida al-Rishawi, who was
And I think that Jordan showed itself to be strong. But I have to say
that, you know, yesterday, I had the Foreign Minister of Qatar in my
I had a number of senior U.S. government officials who, then, were worrying
about the death of this pilot, the potential death. We didn`t know that it
happened yesterday, that it could move Jordan out of the coalition against
ISIS, that it could destabilize Jordan and the king.
But if you look at the reaction through that country today, it`s a
remarkable strong coming together.
And I have to say, Jordan, of all countries in the Middle East, has borne
the biggest brunt of carrying the refugees that have run out of Syria, out
of Iraq. And so, the place is bursting with emotion right now over this.
O`DONNELL: And, Steve, people have been watching the Islamic State`s march
(END VIDEO CLIP)
-- and wondering when the moment will come, if it can come, where they will
go too far with one of the other regimes in the area.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Might this that moment.
CLEMONS: It might be a key moment. But as anyone who looks at this
situation in Iraq, Syria, and the way it has touched Turkey, Lebanon and,
of course, Jordan, one of fears that military strategists that are planning
a major spring offensive against ISIS in Iraq, pushing it out of hand bar,
ISIS rolls across into these other pockets of instability and embed itself
in other places, like Jordan.
So, it`s very important that ISIS be squeezed from every corner. And I
think that the kind of reaction you see in Jordan today demonstrates a
It strengthens the hand of the government in making the hard choices ahead.
And I think it will increase the confidence of the United States and
western powers, that the neighborhood will become toxic for ISIS, and that
there would be greater investment by the neighborhood in creating greater
problems and pressure on ISIS as the western European powers and American
forces try to pound them from a different direction.
So, I think it helps enormously in the eventual run against ISIS. But
we`ll have to see how it unfolds.
But that was what some of the discussions in Washington were about this
week -- was how ISIS can be squeezed from multiple corners, and how you
strengthen the resolve, particularly of Arab states.
So, the timing of this is rather important. And this may have backfired in
a big way on ISIS, at least, many of us watching this hope so.
O`DONNELL: The President spoke today after learning that the Jordanian
pilot had been burned to death, had been executed. I think we have the
But what he actually said was, "I think we will double the vigilance and
determination on the part of the global coalition to make sure that they
are degraded, meaning ISIS, ultimately defeated."
And also, just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they are
operating off of -- it`s bankrupt.
Steve, the Islamic State has done these executions in the most flamboyant
way, the most attention-getting way they possibly can. It seems they have
decided that beheadings were no longer enough.
They had to go to another level, another version of this. And so, they
burnt him to death. They actually burnt the pilot to death.
It took 22 minutes of video time to do it. And what does that tell us --
the fact that the Islamic State decided it had to move to another
attention-getting methodology at this point.
CLEMONS: I think it -- this may sound strange but from briefings that I`ve
had recently, I think ISIS is finding itself under pressure. These kinds
of spectacular killings attract people from around the world.
And they`re trying to compete with other jihadist and extreme Islamist
groups for attention, for funds, for resources, for support and trying to
demonstrate that they are the cutting edge, globally, of this movement.
One of the things that we`ve seen, which has been very interesting, is the
kinds of pressure that we, and our allies, have been putting on ISIS, had
been resulting in defections and -
O`DONNELL: Let me just interrupt for a moment here. I just have to alert
the audience that it is now 11:00 p.m. Eastern. We would normally be
concluding this program, but we are going to continue our live coverage of
the developments in Jordan tonight.
Joining me now on the phone is Ayman Mohyeldin. Ayman what do we know
about what has occurred there tonight?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC FOREIGN CORRSEPONDENT: Lawrence we`ve gotten
confirmation now from the Jordanian government officially from the Ministry
of Interior, that shortly after dawn in Jordan, the Jordanian government
carried out the
execution of two convicted terrorists that it had in its custody.
The identity of these two individuals, one of them known to us very much so
because it was on the name list that Jordan had offered up to exchange for
that Jordanian pilot. She is known as Sajida al-Rishawi, a convicted
would-be suicide bomber, who was part of a series of bombings that took
place back in 2005 of course did not detonate to the Jordanian authorities
arrested her. She has been on death row since 2006.
And Jordan had offered to exchange and release for that pilot after the
news came out today that he has been in fact executed. The Jordanian
authority now confirmed they have executed her. It is also being widely
reported on all Jordanian state television news outlets as well as the news
In addition to Sajida al-Rishawi, the Jordanian government also confirmed
that they have executed Ziyad Karboli, another individual who is believed
to have been a right-hand man of a (INAUDIBLE) who was one of the most
notorious figures of the Iraq war and who was killed in an a U.S. air
He also was believed to have been a senior operative within that
organization that Jordan had arrested and he had also been on death trial
for some time. Now, his name also was known to officials that certainly
known to people have been following the story for the past couple of days,
but the fact is that the Jordanian government this evening has confirmed
that it had gone
ahead with the execution of these two individuals.
And although they don`t officially say, that it is widely believed that in
response to the execution of the Jordanian pilot that was confirmed earlier
O`DONNELL: And Ayman, it`s so striking that all of this is happening on a
day when Jordan`s King Abdullah met in the Oval Office with President
Obama. Does that trip to Washington have anything to do, do you think with
the Islamic State`s timing on releasing this video today?
MOHYELDIN: Well, there`s no doubt that the Islamic State in the past has
been very sharp with its messaging and its propaganda value is certainly
been a key objective of the organization whatever it`s made its statements
in the past.
I would be very comfortable in saying that they were probably aware the
Jordanian King was in Jordan -- was in United States didn`t schedule to
meet with President Obama scheduled to a profile meeting and that was not
lost on them in trying to get maximum attention for their action today.
Jordanian officials believe, again, this is according to the armed forces
that put out a statement earlier, they believe the execution of the pilot
happened some time ago, as far back as early January. The timing of
releasing the execution of this pilot`s video certainly speaks for itself,
given the fact that the King was already in the United States today.
And also another point to keep in mind, the video itself, the propaganda
video that was released around the execution showed a lot of previous
meetings that the Jordanian King had with President Obama, it showed it had
several news clips of the two leaders` meeting. It also showed images of
the Jordanian Armed Forces working alongside with U.S. Armed Forces to try
to illustrate that strong relationship between the two.
There is no doubt that Jordanian and government today feeling a little bit
of pressure on the streets given that the anger that has been directed
toward ISIS for the execution of this pilot acted very swiftly in response
to that execution by carrying out its own set of execution.
So, the timing as you say, Lawrence is actually not lost on both parties,
one ISIS for carrying out that execution on the day that the Jordanian King
was in the United States, and two, the Jordanian government acting swiftly
with its own execution as people have been taking to the street at the
course of the night demanding swift action.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by phone by Laith Alkhouri terrorism expert.
Laith what is your reaction to Jordan`s swift response to the discovery
that their pilot had been burned to death?
LAITH ALKHOURI, TERRORISM EXPERT: As you said it Lawrence, I mean it was a
very swift reaction. I think the Jordanian government carried out what it
had promised, which is if the Jordanian pilot was not returned, Sajid al-
Rishawi unlike the others whether affiliated or not, who are on death row
already would be executed.
It`s not only just a response to the killing of the -- of Muath al-
Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot, but I think the Jordanian government needed
to make a point to the international community that it`s still committed to
the war on terror, it is still committed to being an ally of the United
States to combat this cancer in the region.
O`DONNELL: And Laith the -- you`ve studied the Islamic State`s methods,
especially their public relations methods, their need to get a certain kind
of attention. Much has been said today about this change in methodology
from beheading to now burning to death and the very elaborate video, highly
produced video that recorded that horrible burning to death today.
O`DONNELL: What do you make of this change of technique and even the
enhanced production values in this video?
ALKHOURI: You know, indeed. I mean, the video had a high production
value, but I think the point of burning Muath al-Kasasbeh alive was this.
I mean, it was clear message from video that just as we are caged in Syria
and Iraq, being bombarded by your bombs under rockets of fire, we are going
to do the same with the best of our capability. It`s a symbolic
retaliation against the Jordanian involvement in this U.S.-led coalition
targeting the Islamic State.
It was merely symbolic to show that, you know, beheading will no longer
just work. It is not as effective for, you know, charred (ph) purposes.
This is a lot more residual, it`s a lot more excruciating, and it`s
obviously a very clear message that the Islamic State is not backing off,
and it`s also that it`s putting the Arab armies that are part of this U.S.-
led coalition in the same bracket as what they call the crusader armies.
O`DONNELL: And Laith, what do you expect to be the reaction in Jordan
among the people of Jordan?
ALKHOURI: You know, the reaction, for the most part as what I`ve seen so
far has been in support of the family of the pilot. They have, you know,
gone to the streets and said, "We are all Muath. We support his sacrifice
against this terror group." However, there has been a slight negative
backlash against the Jordanian government because some people believe that
the Jordanian government did not do enough to negotiate his release.
So, there has been, you know, a mixed reaction, but I feel that the
Jordanian street is in support of the government. They believe that ISIS
is not only a cancer in the region, but it`s also giving really close to
O`DONNELL: We have images on our screen now of people in Jordan holding up
pictures of the pilot in early -- those -- that is, of course, earlier
today because of the time zone differences. But clearly at that stage in
that particular demonstration, that was very supportive of the pilot.
Laith, what do you expect now to be the Islamic State`s reaction to what
has happened with these two executions?
ALKHOURI: You know, the -- at the end of the video they put out today,
they had a list of a few dozen Air -- a Jordanian Air Force officers. They
put it on a hit list essentially, and they called out for -- essentially,
for -- offer this in Jordan to take revenge against every single Air Force
pilot. They put their names, they put their locations, they put their
addresses, they put their ranks, and they offered 100 gold dinars for every
person who would kill one pilot. So clearly, the Islamic State is
capitalizing on this action and is calling for more.
O`DONNELL: And how much -- how many assets does the Islamic State have in
ALKHOURI: I mean, obviously, it is very difficult to ascertain, but
throughout the last four years of the Syrian conflict and essentially
toward the last couple of years of Islamic State operating in Syria, it has
attracted many Jordanians to come across the border and join the ranks.
But it`s also found acceptance among a number of Jordanians in places like
the province of Ma`an where a number of, you know, radical Salafist (ph)
have demonstrated their -- not only pledge of allegiance to the Islamic
State`s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but they have demonstrated resentment
against the Jordanian government.
The fear of -- The fear would be if these operatives or if these radical
individuals would act now and would start operating inside of Jordan.
O`DONNELL: Laith Alkhouri, thanks for joining us. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with more live coverage of the situation in Jordan
tonight. We`re joined now by Shane Harris of The Daily Beast who joined by
phone. Shane, what do we know about the Jordanian pilot who we now know
today was executed some weeks ago?
SHANE HARRIS, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, we`re hearing tonight that he
probably was killed possibly as early as January 3rd, maybe around the 8th
of this month as well, first week of January. There have been reports
coming out both from intelligence, National Security Sources that we have
as well as people who are on the ground and then retreating around January
8th that ISIS is bragging about having killed a Jordanian pilot. And in
fact having burned him alive.
So we`re finding out now that he may in fact have been dead for quite some
time before this video was actually put on the internet today.
O`DONNELL: And the methodology as we`ve been talking about today is new
for the Islamic State of burning to death. What is the most reasonable
interpretation of why they changed this methodology?
HARRIS: Well, one interpretation as it`s posited to us, the people of the
Pentagon as well, is that in the Muslim faith, burning a body is not the
way to dispose of the dead. But the dead have to be buried and not by
burning him, it is possible they were trying to send a message that he was
not going to be given a proper burial it is almost sort of a sacrilege to
do it in this way. That`s one interpretation.
The other, frankly is that given at the beheading videos have attracted a
lot of attention. But frankly there have been many of them perhaps ISIS
felt that it was time to change the game and do something even more
dramatic and more horrific.
And, you know, having -- unfortunately to seeing a lot of these videos, I
can attest that this one was quite a lot more ghastly. They think and even
the previous ones that we`ve seen and quite more vivid as well. So if they
were trying to shock people even more than they have in the past, they may
O`DONNELL: And Shane, Jordan was ready apparently to make deal or a make
an exchange, prisoner exchange for their pilot and of course didn`t happen
because as it happens he was already dead. But it -- that means that the
Jordanian people were primed for the possibility of this exchange and the
pilot coming home safely. What do you imagine are the variety of reactions
we can expect among the Jordanian people to this?
HARRIS: I think, yeah, there`s already been tremendous outrage and upset
over his capture. There were protests in Amman that were allowed to
continue by the authorities. They were just quite unusual. But the big
question I think people are going to have now is that what point do the
Jordanians know he was in fact dead. And if they did know this and why
were they offering to engage in some kind of a negotiation? Did that
prolong the agony and the public rank are over this?
It`s possible we should add too that they had suspicions that he was dead
but no absolute confirmation. This is one reason that they wanted to see a
proof of life video. But obviously this is -- it`s kind of huge is from
Jordan which is already facing its own internal security challenges and
were the campaign against ISIS is quite unpopular.
Jordanian officials have been telling me today though that this is going to
strengthen their resolve, they do not plan to back down, we`ll see in
coming days whether that`s true and whether they maintained their role in
the coalition. It`s important to know that they did not stop participating
in air strikes with the U.S even after the pilot was killed -- oh sorry,
after he was captured.
O`DONNELL: Shane Harris, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We
will be right back.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with our live coverage of the Breaking News in
Jordan tonight we`re joined by phone now by NBC News Senior White House
Correspondent Chris Jansing.
Chris is there any word yet on the White House`s reaction to the two
executions that occurred in Jordan tonight apparently in retribution for
the execution of the Jordanian pilot?
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening,
Lawrence. I actually was with some administration officials tonight. Came
back, turned on your show and saw the banner I`ve only been watching it a
few minutes like I don`t see any direct reaction.
I can tell you, though, that this was something that had been anticipated.
Jordan`s president, as you know, has said immediately after this happened
that they would pay a price and a lot of what the world was watching and
certainly the coalition partners were watching was what effect would this
have because of course back in December, after the Jordanian pilot was
captured, the United Arab Emirates stopped participating in air strikes and
this is always been a somewhat (INAUDIBLE) coalition there`s always been a
lot of internal politics (INAUDIBLE) as you know.
And so, I think this (distracted) their swift retaliation such that Jordan
feels much like the president did, the President was having an event this
afternoon just as he was going into this event, which was to tout the
benefits of ObamaCare. He was at a table surrounded by people who had sent
him letters thanking him for their health care coverage. He had been
briefed on this, on the video itself and, of course, that was still in the
process of being authenticated at that point.
But you know, he used some very strong orders he has before, about
(INAUDIBLE) that send on death destruction and he has told (INAUDIBLE) when
she did the interview for the Super Bowl about how he had seen the videos
and how it only strengthened his resolve
And I can just tell you that in talking to administration officials today
and into tonight that is the feeling at the White House that they believe
it will strengthen the coalition which is not to say that they are not
aware of the fragility, in some ways, that this kind of brutality
O`DONNELL: Chris, I`ve been wondering do you have any indication from the
White House that the President revealing that he has actually seen some of
this execution videos by the Islamic State was a planned revelation or is
that something that just slipped out? Because one wonders if that isn`t
something that actually would then please the Islamic State to know that
their work has made it directly to the President`s office?
JANSING: Yeah, I think this is something obviously that members of the
administration knew that he had seen them and he had indicated that he was
being briefed and as all of these were in progress. I mean, it was in a
matter of something, one it was just several but I think it was a statement
to him of eventually bring the (INAUDIBLE) he don`t want to imply that I`m
speaking for what the President`s motivation was, but he is sitting then he
was clearly sending a message today.
(INAUDIBLE) is that going into the Oval Office And the brief time that we
were in there which the President (INAUDIBLE) Abdullah that how somber the
mood was and how determined and how quickly in the afternoon the
President`s mood, which, you know, he was hosting these Americans for whom
it was a big thrill to have several (INAUDIBLE) at the President let alone
be invited into the Roosevelt Room and when I was able to ask him that one
question at the end of what we (INAUDIBLE)
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the President.
JASING: A picture of that event but, you know, he quickly changed to being
very somber and I think that revelation was not something that was unlikely
and it was clearly meant to send a message.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the President had to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m sure this in fact, this video be authentic, it`s just one more
indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization. And it -
I think we will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of a
global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately
defeated. And it also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology
they are operating off of, it`s bankrupt.
We`re here to talk about how to make people healthier and make their lives
better. And this organization appears only interested in death and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by phone by NBC News Andrea Mitchell. Andrea,
the -- we`ve been waiting today, since we discovered that the Jordanian
pilot had been executed for what would be the Jordanian response on the
ground we now seem to have it.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I think it`s very clear that Jordan is
first of all, experiencing the horror, the shock. There has been support
for the king and for the royal family and this is something that would be
very, very important in that society.
This was a prominent family. The government had agreed to make the trade
of the very well-known hostage, the woman who was the attempted suicide
bomber, and that was something demanded and expected by the head of the
family, the father of the pilot. As this is a very important tribe in
And the fact that the King flew back, he clearly informed the President at
6:15 when they met this evening, 6:15 Eastern, and then flew back cutting
short his trip and basically signaled that they were not going to roll
over, that they were not going to back off of the coalition against the
This is an existential moment for Jordan. Jordan now has 800,000 refugees
from the Syrian civil war. They were today signing a memorandum of
understanding with Secretary Kerry for $1 billion in aid with an increase
of $400 million a year to help them sustain this refugee crisis, which is a
number of refugees are 21 percent of their total population now. Their
country is being overwhelmed.
And the fact that this brutality, you know, none of these executions have
been easy to take but this one so far exceeded the beheading season. It
seemed as though ISIS was outdoing itself for shock value. And that, I
think, has gotten exactly the contrary reaction I think that King Abdullah
having consulted with foreign relations and appropriations committees and
the committees from the outside of (INAUDIBLE). The White House having met
with the vice president and with Secretary Kerry today, flew home feeling
really empowered to face down this crisis.
O`DONNELL: And Andrea, with the different possible interpretations of
what`s occurred here in Jordan, are there -- will there be any domestic
strains for King Abdullah with this? I mean, for example, agreeing to that
the trade of prisoners which could be seen by some as weakness, it`s
something United States refuses to do. And then having come to that
willingness to make that kind of agreement, it turns out that negotiation
was going on in a completely fraudulent way by the other side because they
had killed the pilot weeks ago.
MITCHELL: I think in fact that strengthens the king. I mean, it`s only
interpreted both ways and this is really fraudulent is they`re difficult to
predict from over here exactly how it`s going to play out. I don`t feel
entirely comfortable making that judgment because I`m not on the ground and
I`m not talking to people there. But I have talked to a lot of people in
the region and Jordanians here as well as others from, you know, the
immediate neighborhood who has been in and out of Washington and of course,
I`ve covered it for many years. I know the king well and his colleagues
and Foreign Minister Judeh.
And the fact is, they likely having very good intelligence sources, they
very well may have known that this Jordanian pilot was killed shortly after
his capture and killed in this brutal fashion. It`s the judgment of some
of our experts who follow all of this but the complexity of this 22 minutes
34 second video was graphic, could not have been done in recent days, could
not have been done quickly and that he was killed and killed in this brutal
fashion and then the video created terrify -- to scare, to break the
coalition, to divide the coalition, to say to the others (INAUDIBLE) to the
UAE or Moroccan`s or others who are, you know, less vulnerable to back down
and not keep picking on ISIS and not send more pilots into the air. Let
the Americans do it.
And, you know, I think what this very well may have been a negotiation
where they knew the pilot was dead but they made the offer and now it is on
ISIS having demanded this -- the proof of life, it`s now ISIS that shows
their brutality and that they were acting in bad faith all along. And so,
I think it could go down to the king`s favor.
O`DONNELL: Yes. So it basically puts King Abdullah in the position of
being able to say to his people said his country, "I tried everything that
I could to get that pilot back but look who I was dealing with".
MITCHELL: Exactly. And I`ve heard experts say and I don`t pretend to be
an expert on this but the burning of the body was particularly offensive so
that that is just another step in ISIS potentially infuriating. I think in
particular the Jordanians. Now, perhaps to those who are going to
(INAUDIBLE) sick-minded and be inspired by a brutal, horrific video
somewhere in the west to other potential followers, this could be a
successful propaganda tactic, that in Jordan this is a very prominent
family. This was a highly respected pilot, a young man, recently married,
was going to start his own family. I think that the Jordanian national
identity was very tied up at him and that this is bad fire.
O`DONNELL: And Andrea, do we have indications that the Islamic State knew
who this pilot was, who he was in Jordanian society?
MITCHELL: Oh, absolutely. He`s completely sophisticated and wired. I`m
so struck by these stories that The New York Times I guess was the first to
report it today and the Washington Post, the certification of the
underground railroad by which they extricated the young woman, the co-
conspirator and partner of the attacker on the kosher supermarket in Paris,
I mean the way they got her back across the border, she had motorcade, she
had bodyguards, it was a complete operation. This is a network...
O`DONNELL: Andrea, we`re going to have to break it there. Andrea
Mitchell, thank you very much for joining us. We`re now going live to our
other breaking news story tonight.
The train accident on Metro North here in New York. Six people dead.
THOMAS PRENDERGAST, MTA: (INAUDIBLE). As it was approaching a great
crossing immediately at this location, it came upon a car that was on the
crossing. It struck that car, which is about 400 feet down the track. The
car remained in front of the train. There was a fire and explosions and
emergency service personnel responded and got injured people off the train.
Some people self-evacuated. And that`s where we stand right now.
In terms of service for the morning, we`re putting together a service plan
for people who ride the Harlem line to the extent that they can get down to
White Plains and catch the service there, that`s what they should do. If
they`re north of Brewster, we`re going to have buses take them over to
Beacon on the Hudson line. And then the south of that point, we`re going
to bring trains down to, I believe Pleasantville and then bus them down the
White Plains. Governor?
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, D-NEW YORK: As you heard from Mr. Prendergast what we
know, what appears to have happened, now there`s going to be investigations
that follow up that determine all the facts but what appears to have
happened is a car was stopped on the tracks. It was hit by the train and
the resulting fire and explosion of hitting the car consumed the car, the
vehicle and then the first car of the train itself.
At this time, we believed the driver of the car has perished as well as six
people in the train itself. Again this is all preliminary information,
there`ll be follow up investigations as to exactly what happened, but as
far as the available eye witnesses and what can be put together, tonight
that`s what the situation looks to be.
Most importantly, you have seven people who started out today, to go about
their business and aren`t going to be making at home tonight, and it`s a
painful reminder to all of us how precious life is and sometimes how random
it can be.
This is truly ugly and brutal site, the track, the third rail of the track
came up from the explosion and went right through the car, so it is truly a
devastatingly ugly situation to see. I want to thank all the first
responders who were on site on the very difficult circumstances and are
doing a really phenomenal job to do everything that they can.
Other than that, any questions for myself or Mr. Prendergast?
PRENDERGAST: We have a call of this witness who`s claiming it was right
behind the car that was hit and that the gates would be a malfunction. Any
information on that?
CUOMO: We have not heard that, as I said, all we know from eyewitnesses, et
cetera, and the best facts that we had us that a car was stopped on the
tracks with the gates down and was then hit by the car. But there will be
records, these are electronic devices, so when people actually go through
the facts, we`ll know exactly what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry.
CUOMO: No, we didn`t know, the locomotive engineer was injured and he was
taken to a hospital to treat his injuries, he`s not one of the casualties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many injured at this point?
CUOMO: Don`t know, don`t know that number. The train normally leaves
Grand Central with about 655 people on it, that`s the count, usually.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Approximately what`s going to be seen in that train
doing at this point?
PRENDERGAST: I believe the maximum allowable speed is 60 miles an hour
here, so that could be distributed as going at, but as the governor said,
there`s an event report on the train, part of the investigation at the
National Transportation Safety Board is going to do is to make sure they
gather all those facts and ascertain them before we actually come to the --
draw on conclusions.
CUOMO: When you look at the damage done and the damage right at the fire,
it`s actually amazing that not more people were hurt on that train.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did the third rail somehow get in to that car?
PRENDERGAST: The third rail entered the floor of the car and the sections
of the third rail on the first car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any idea how that would happen?
PRENDERGAST: Well, the third rail stops at the grade crossing and so
that`s where the contact with the automobile was made and it entered
through the automobile and up through the floor of the car.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything else?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
O`DONELL: That was Governor Andrew Cuomo explaining what happened on the
Metro North Train crash on north of New York City, about an hour north of
New York City, that is the second busiest rail line in the United States,
the Long Island rail road being the busiest normal passenger load on that
train about 655 passengers, we have confirmed that six of them tonight are
dead. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: We are back with more Breaking News coverage of our live news
events tonight both the train crash in upstate New York and the situation
in Jordan. We`re joined again by phone by Steve Clemons.
Steve the reaction in Jordan to the execution of the two prisoners that
Jordan was ready to hand over in exchange for the Jordanian pilot who had
been captured by the Islamic state. We are seeing some of that, some video
of that reaction in the street.
It seems supportive of both of the pilot and King Abdullah. What is your
read of the complexities of the reaction to the situation in Jordan?
CLEMONS: Well as I think Laith said earlier the situation inside Jordan as
you`ve described it was complex and was tensed for the government because
there was a lot of criticism that the government was not doing enough to
move forward with the exchange of Rishawi for this pilot. And that he --
that there grew a lot of antipathy inside Jordan about what the cause of
allying with United States and others against ISIS were, that Jordan has
absorbed into its country many of the refugees from Syria in Iraq over the
years and received very little on a relative basis aid from the rest of the
At least not on par with the burden that Jordan has been carrying and those
stress signs were showing. And so, there was a fear in Washington, talked
about as just yesterday in meetings that I was participating in that if
this pilot had been alive, if he had been executed, have they not made the
trade, this might have exploded inside Jordan, might have become a
politically destabilizing factor for the government and the king and might
have resulted in Jordan withdrawing from the anti-ISIS coalition.
Now what you see unfolding is exactly the opposite of that. And I believe
-- I agree with Andrea Mitchell that while we have a lot to see how
unfolds, this appears at first glance to have strengthened the king and I
think it was very important that he and the government showed immediate
resolve in these executions and showing they will meet ISIS where they are
and that they will confront ISIS as harshly as ISIS has been behaving the
So, I think it`s rather important and heartening to see the Jordanian
people rally around their government, rally around what Muath represented
to them because it could have very easily gone the other directions. So
this is very important what you`re seeing in the street today because I
have to tell you, Washington policy makers at the top levels of government
were very, very worried that Jordan would have to step back.
O`DONNELL: And Steve, was there any feeling in the Jordanian government
that they should not negotiate with terrorists over this pilot?
CLEMONS: I believe that there is, in many cases, in all of this, you know,
a diversity of views. I think that -- you know, I think even I said
perhaps on your show or one of the other shows that, you know, thinking
that the pilot was alive, if they had in fact negotiated, given this woman
an acquiesce to ISIS` demands, that it would heighten the market, that it
O`DONNELL: Yes. Sure it would.
CLEMONS: .that the fact that the people would continue to be kidnapped,
that ISIS would continue to play these games. And so I do believe there
were voices to that but they were quiet.
O`DONNELL: And Steve, the prominence of this pilot`s family, Andrea
Mitchell was educating us about that a great deal earlier in the hour. Did
you think that was -- that amplified the response in some way?
CLEMONS: I think it made him better known but I think it could have
backfired the other direction too because his father was very well-known,
he came from a powerful tribe that if the government did this for this
pilot because he was well-connected, what would the government do for those
people living inside Jordan that were not well-connected? There`s always
the tension in the societies between, you know, essentially if they haven`t
have not challenged.
So, I think it would be a mistake to think that just because he was from a
powerful family that the government might have proceeded with this that
there wouldn`t have been a backlash inside Jordan to that had they moved in
O`DONNELL: Steve, I would imagine King Abdullah has to be concerned with
how long lasting and how unifying the reaction to this might prove to be.
It could that, you know, there could be crowds of a certain size on the
street today and tonight about this. But a month from now, two months from
now, who`s going to be winning the argument about what Jordan`s involvement
in supporting U.S. policies in the region means to Jordan?
CLEMONS: There`s may be an unfair critique and I want to be careful, but I
think many people have perceived King Abdullah in Jordan to be a weak king,
a soft king, a doddering kind and someone who likes to spend more time in
Washington than Jordan.
This may be very well his moment where he rises to the occasion and he
begins to demonstrate a kind of resolve and behavior that reminds people of
King Hussein of Jordan who was such a key, vital, nimble fixture in Middle
Eastern politics. I think that this could very well be a transition point
for the kingdom and I think if the king and his advisors use this moment to
rally the world to recognize that Jordan has played this extraordinary role
taking in the region`s refugees for years and that at risk, you know, reach
the certain breaking point and they could turn that around and at the same
time join -- I think that there`s an anger, a palpable anger again that
Qatar Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah was in Washington yesterday met
The two of them released a statement, you know, talking about the
delegitimization of ISIS, the fight against ISIS, the efforts to defund and
cut off the funding sources for ISIS. That only works if every single one
of these governments has deep, deep resolve to do this and I think that
Jordan is a major pillar in this. And if Jordan can bring that around and
the king can look as if he`s crafted this new and different and harder
Jordan than this, then he comes out a really different kind of leader in
the region and ascends and I think a very important way that he just hasn`t
So, that is what I think the next two or three months hold as you ask and I
think, you know, it`s his moment either to lead or I think if he doesn`t
lead in this, then Jordan is going to have some real problems in the next
two, three months.
O`DONNELL: Steve, the -- in our coverage of the region, we`re always
emphasizing the news always seems to be emphasizing how unpopular the
United States is in the countries in the region outside of Israel. But
explain to us how the Jordanian people -- how is it that they support the
extent of the alliance with the United States that Jordan has had? Now,
it`s a kingdom. He -- the King Abdullah does not run for re-election, we
get that, but he does have to be sensitive to how much support his position
has among the people. And so, where does -- how would that support be
described among people in the street in Jordan who do support the king`s
position and relations in the United States?
CLEMONS: I think it`s a bet on modernity. Jordan and King Hussein has
invested in the education of the people. Fundamentally, now the kind of
instability issues you`re talking about, the way the king sort of makes
things move is dealing with, as in many of these governments, balancing
favors to tribes, positions to the various tribes, and trying to sort of
modernize their government and move it forward in a way that the people
feel that they`re getting a fair shakes from the political system.
Jordan has long had a problem and frankly, many think a worsening problem
in corruption and the question about competence of government. And I think
that the king has not made as much headways on those issues as many might
like. For when it comes to the partnership and alliance with the United
States, I think that that Jordan for a long time in part because it along
with Egypt has had peace with Israel and is unique in the region. They`ve
also been exposed to the modernity of that and they`d step forward and they
realize that they live in a sort of unique part of the region and Israel is
a part of that picture and the United States was the sculptor and architect
in event and essentially the security guarantor for that.
So the degree that there`s dislike of the United States or antipathy to the
United States that be -- that much bigger problem is not that. Its fear
throughout the region that that the United States is not playing the role
that it once used to play in the region and that a void has emerged that
groups like ISIS are felling or Iran and its transnational networks are
feeling. And that`s why there is, in many of these countries, less Jordan
than places like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others are in the
private sector continuing to send money and to privately support groups
like ISIS or now Al-Nusra because they believe that these groups are the
only check on growing Iranian power because the United States is absent and
that the United States is only bombing from the air and fundamentally is
not the kind of bold, decisive cutting-edge power that it used to be.
So, I would worry less about people not liking the United States than folks
in the region doubting America`s resolve to be engaged in the region.
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, thank you very much. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: We`re returning now to live breaking news coverage of the train
crash in Valhalla, New York, that`s about one hour north of New York City,
it is on the Metro-North commuter rail line, the second busiest commuter
rail line in the United States.
Six passengers on that train tonight are now dead. The train crashed into
a Jeep Cherokee which seems to be stuck on the tracks at a crossing. We
are joined now from that site by WNBC reporter Gus Rosendale.
Gus, there`s some confusion after the governor said that there were six
passengers that were dead and then he also said the driver is also dead.
Is it clear to us whether this is now a total of six or a total of seven?
GUS ROSENDALE, WNBC REPORTER: Lawrence, it has fluctuated throughout the
evening. The latest from the governor is that the total number is seven.
That was from a briefing from just about last half hour ago.
I`d like to say that it move over here because we have a truck coming
through. Excuse me. The governor pressed upon us that this was still very
early on in the investigation here but he said that number of loss here is
seven. The injury number about 12 here.
The latest of what we do know, around 6:30 here at a crossing in Valhalla,
just north of the city, Metro-North train heading north after making one
stop, collided with a Jeep Cherokee. For some reason, it`s unclear why the
Cherokee was on the tracks. We don`t know if it was stuck there, or
stalled there, why it was there.
Our local news chopper showed that the gates were down. The gates did
appear to be working. The female driver of that vehicle, the MTA, the
agency that runs the railroad here says that she was out of her vehicle
when she was hit and struck instantly. Six other people were killed.
We learned a little bit more about exactly the chaos. What happened
immediately after when the train hit that Jeep, it then also hit the third
rail as well. The third rail which (INAUDIBLE) the train went right
through the train car.
The governor here saying despite the tragic loss of life, it is truly
amazing that more people were not killed in all of this and you also have
to bear in mind, this was a packed commuter train. Hundreds of people on
board, the MTA says roughly on an average day, 650 people or so would be on
board. And most of them were able to exit the train safely and without too
O`DONNELL: Gus, the National Transportation Safety Board is there. We
will be learning more about these details certainly tomorrow. And then the
investigation will be ongoing to find out how this impact occurred.
The governor said that the maximum speed in that -- for the train in that
area was 60 miles an hour and what you`re seeing there, what would have
prevented the train from if you can tell us, seeing that Jeep Cherokee from
a distance were it had enough time to close down the breaks from 60 miles
ROSENDALE: We had talked earlier in the evening about visibility in
regards for some of the maps here. And it does appear that right before
this collision, there is a bit of bend this is not a straight away if you
will. So if the train was going 60 miles per hour and came around that
bend. And then all of the sudden the vehicle stopped in the tracks there
at a rate of 60 miles per hour if in fact there was a speed that was going
or something like that. The engineer would have had only a minute or so to
apply the breaks in a train like this.
So would not have stopped on a dime obviously and we do know that after the
impact the train did keep moving and that jeep was essentially dragged
about 40 feet even more underneath the train. And that`s what caused the
explosion and the fire that you eventually saw. So obviously the engineer
did not have a lot of time for whatever reason and could not stop in time
after seeing that truck.
O`DONNELL: And this is not the first problem they have had on that route
north of New York Gus.
Rosendale WNBC thank you very much for joining us tonight Gus on that
breaking news story. Our coverage of these stories will continue after
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2015 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: