All In With Chris Hayes, Monday, February 16, 2015
Read the transcript from the Monday show
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: February 16, 2015
Guest: Graeme Wood, Edward Norton, David Sampliner, Dorian Warren
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN.
The ISIS Libya branch murders Egyptian Christians. And Egypt counters
with airstrikes. Tonight, what is really wants and how to stop it?
Then, the trouble with the King Obama argument.
KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: This man has done more to reconstitute the
HAYES: When it comes to waging war --
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think we should not restrain the
president of the United States.
HAYES: Plus, ranking the presidents on presidents day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not going to do it.
HAYES: And he was one of the stars of the "SNL" 40 spectacular.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This week`s hottest club in New York is called
HAYES: Tonight, my exclusive interview with Edward Norton about his
new Netflix project and about last night.
(on camera): How was this all brought logistically together?
EDWARD NORTON, ACTOR: There`s like everybody else who was involved,
and then Eddie Murphy alone.
HAYES: ALL IN starts right now.
HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
Tonight, new evidence ISIS is expanding beyond its base in Iraq and
Syria. Over the weekend, video appeared online bearing the logo of ISIS`
media arm, and the title, "A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the
Cross." And while it has all the hallmarks of other brutal videos ISIS has
released, slick production values, militants dressed in black, speaking
fluent English, by ubiquitous orange jumpsuit. This video appears to take
place on the coast of Libya, 1,000 miles from ISIS held territory in Syria
It appears to show the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians who came to
Libya from Egypt to look for work and had been abducted last month.
In a TV appearance last night, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
vowed to retaliate. And early today, the Egyptian military announced it
had conducted air strikes on ISIS inside Libya carrying out what it termed,
quote, "revenge for the blood of Egyptians and retribution from the killers
In the wake of the attacks, Libyan media is reporting that at least 35
Egyptians were kidnapped today in what appears to be a roundup in areas
controlled by ISIS and other militants.
Almost four years after Libya`s Arab spring uprising and the NATO air
campaign that helped topple Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, the country has
descended into civil war. Libya`s divided into two rival governments, a
secular one, recognized by the international community, and Islamist
government that rules from the capital of Tripoli.
And amid the many gaps in those two camps` authorities, various
militias hold sway, and ISIS has managed to gain a foothold. Now, if that
sounds familiar, that`s because it`s the trajectory followed by ISIS in
Syria and Iraq. With Syria in particular, the parallel are striking. In
both Libya and Syria, you had secular strongmen, Moammar Gadhafi and Bashar
al Assad, who built their reputations in part on standing up to the West.
Both of those dictators were the targets of peaceful uprisings during the
Arab spring, which gave way to violent reprisals by the government and
ultimately all-out civil war.
But there`s one key difference in the way the two conflicts have
panned out, in Libya, the U.S. and allies intervening, ultimately resulting
in the defeat and Gadhafi`s death.
In Syria, however, despite strenuous calls from critics and at times
members of his own administration, President Obama has resisted getting the
U.S. military directly involved in efforts to overthrow Bashar al Assad.
And yet somehow, these two places, Libya and Syria, which have
effectively been test cases for different approaches to U.S. foreign policy
in the region, somehow they appear to have converged in the same chaotic
and brutal end result. It raises some disquieting questions as we have a
debate about an authorization of use of military force about the U.S.`s
ability to effect outcomes in the region and whether U.S. influence is a
lot more circumscribed than anyone in Washington is willing to admit.
Joining me now: NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin.
Libya is a situation in which there was an intervention, and then, of
course, the Benghazi attack, which probably spooked U.S. security officials
to sort of pull back. What do we make of what Libya is now when we think
about how the Obama administration has managed the Arab spring?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the short
answer to both of those comparisons is they have one thing in common, they
are both failed states. The underlying message is that regardless of the
approach in the early stages of the engagement, how long and how committed
does the international community stay in that process to make sure that the
state does not collapse?
What we saw in Libya is that, yes, there was a central government that
was a dictatorship and certainly controlled the territory and the people
underneath it. In the wake of the Arab uprising and the wake of that NATO
liberation, if you will, or NATO campaign to help the rebels, there was a
disengagement following that and following the Benghazi attack. They did
not want to get involved. It was too dangerous perhaps. They wanted to
see the central government kind of exert itself. That failed. And what we
saw in Libya now is a failed state.
HAYES: But do critics of the intervention to begin with, who at the
time back in 2011 said that was a bad idea, part of the criticism was you
not have, U.S., West, NATO, proven yourself particularly committed or adept
at any kind of nation-building or sustained commitment in this region, so
don`t go blowing things up if you`re not going have follow-through, and
then we saw what happened.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. I mean, the question that we have struggled to
answer in this country is what about the day after, what about the next
day. Who`s in charge? Who`s going to build this up? Who`s going to
create the capacity of a central government to address all of these issues?
There was no answer back in 2011. There was certainly no clear answer
back at the time of the NATO intervention.
And this is something that a lot of the strong men in the region
constantly point at. They constantly criticize the West for saying, great,
you have an answer for the short-term, but what do you do about the day
And it`s something that has scared the international community into
action in Syria. There was no clear answer. The alternatives that started
to appear in Syria really scared the international community, and some of
them were hard core al Qaeda affiliates, some of them were Islamists, some
of them were ISIS, and as a result of that, there was this kind of
paralysis that gripped the international community about what to do.
HAYES: You have covered Tahrir Square, you`ve covered the Arab
spring. We are seeing this phase in which it`s retrenchment in Egypt with
a military strongman in the figure of Sisi, chaos in other places, very
little tangible democratic flowers. Tunisia is probably the closest to a
MOHYELDIN: The only one.
HAYES: The only one. OK.
What about the theory that whatever we do, it`s not our story to tell,
and we are fundamentally unable to impose any kind of shape on the outcome?
MOHYELDIN: Well, I would say the words of the outgoing Chuck Hagel,
who said that America`s influence in the Middle East is certainly waning.
It certainly does not have the same kind of clout it used to have with its
ability to shape political outcomes or realities on the ground. That
doesn`t mean that the U.S. doesn`t have tremendous influence, but it`s not
with the same ease as it used to be.
We`re seeing these governments collapse, decentralize, and as a result
the traditional mode of communication that the U.S. had to rely on
influence is no longer concentrated in the hand of one individual.
But the Arab spring has not panned out the way people had hoped for.
It has not. Every country has had a different trajectory. Yemen is very
different than Libya, different than Syria, certainly different in Egypt
and Tunisia. Don`t forget about Bahrain. They struggled as well with
efforts to reform that country.
But at the end of the day, the underlying current has proven to be the
biggest challenge for the United States. How do you deal with all of these
things that have now started to emerge to the surface?
HAYES: And I guess in summation, the way this debate gets phrased is
critics saying, we should have pushed this button, and my feeling is maybe
there`s no button to push.
MOHYELDIN: Yes. There is no single -- there is no formula cookie
cutter approach to every one of these countries. So, you have to have kind
of a tailor-made to each country based on values, I guess.
HAYES: Thank you, Ayman. Always a pleasure.
MOHYELDIN: My pleasure.
HAYES: All right. With the appearance of the video purported to show
ISIS in Libya, there is evidence they are setting up outside of what has
been the bounds of their so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. As "New
York Times" reported this week, U.S. intelligence officials say the group
is expanding beyond its base to establish militant affiliates in
Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, and there are less formal pledges of
support from, quote, "probably at least a couple hundred extremists in
Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen."
It`s not clear how much they are in the style of al Qaeda, and to what
extent they are seeking to capitalize on the vicious branding of ISIS. A
new feature in the March issue of "The Atlantic" entitled "What ISIS Really
Wants" argues that ISIS and its adherents around the world subscribe for a
most part to a remarkably coherent ideology, an ideology rooted in a
literal reading of Islam harkening back to the middle ages, and here in
U.S., we`d do well to pay attention.
Joining me now the author of that, Graeme Wood, contributing editor of
Good to have you here, Graeme.
GRAEME WOOD, THE ATLANTIC: Thank you.
HAYES: You talk about it basically being a kind of apocalyptic
millenarian fundamentalist vision of Islam returning to its eighth century
WOOD: Yes, that`s well put. And you can see that really in all of
the rhetoric that the Islamic State puts out, including the video of the 21
Christians who were killed over the weekend. It`s not just one of the
rhetorical modes that ISIS uses. It really is the only one.
And the message was laced with apocalyptic rhetoric, quotations from
Hadith. It is the way it justifies itself.
HAYES: One of these things actually from the article, there`s a part
of the message where they talk about Rome, right, sort of warning to Rome,
that actually in this kind of apocalyptic ideology, that actually, this
final confrontation, this kind of end of days battle with Rome happens
actually in a city in Syria.
WOOD: Yes, it`s a particular city which is strategically completely
unimportant, except it is mentioned Hadith as the site of a major showdown
battle that will happen. The crusaders will be defeated and Rome itself
falls to the Islamic State.
HAYES: So, there`s seem to me -- again, I`m not there. I`m not
reporting from the ground there. But from all of that I`ve reading and
sort of talking to people that have been there, reporting on it, there`s
sort of two things happening in terms of ISIS, right? There`s the kind of
propaganda wing and the ideology, and then there`s just a lot of Sunni
militants, right? Folks who are providing a lot of the military strategy
and troops who are sort of alienated from the Iraqi government. How much
is that fused together or how much we know about how it`s fused together?
WOOD: Yes, they are closely connected. You certainly have a lot of
ideological sophistication and doctrinal enforcement within the Islamic
State. But you also have a lot of political current of disaffected Sunnis
in a region where Sunnis really in the last few years got the short end of
the stick. And so, you find a lot of people who are politically
disaffected and turn to the ideology as a result of that.
HAYES: In terms of the questions that`s posed: what does ISIS want?
I mean, I came away thinking they want war, and they want to fight
everyone, because fighting everyone is what they see themselves as destined
to do. It makes them bigger. It is fulfilling their legacy.
So, when you see the videos, you think what are they doing here? Do
they want a war with Egypt and the war with U.S., and the war of -- and the
answer I got from the article is yes.
WOOD: Yes, they do, absolutely.
And really all of the videos that we see of them consist of goading
the United States, goading NATO into attacking them. They really want to
have their rhetoric and their propaganda confirmed in its message that
there`s a war happening between Muslims and the rest of the world. And if
they have boots on the ground in Syria, then they`ll have exactly what they
say they are going to get.
HAYES: Part of the major destination in terms of their rivalry with
al Qaeda, a rivalry that at the times has been very bloody and at other
times sort of letter disputes is the fact that they have actually territory
there controlling which is part of their kind of branding advantage to
international jihadists, right? Come home to the caliphate. Al Qaeda has
the ideology we actually are doing it. We are cutting off these hands.
We`re bringing it back.
WOOD: Yes, al Qaeda was an underground terrorist network. It never
controlled territory really. And so, what is the caliphate is saying is we
have space that we can implement Sharia law in. And that is one of the
criteria for having a caliphate. Caliphate is something that al Qaeda
never thought it would achieve in the lifetime of, say, Osama bin Laden.
And sure enough, just a few years later, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has it.
HAYES: Graeme Wood of "The Atlantic" -- thank you very much. I
really appreciate it.
HAYES: For years, Republicans have complained that President Obama
acts on his own too much. They are now complaining that the legislation
the president has proposed doesn`t allow him to act on his own enough.
I`ll explain, ahead.
HAYES: Authorities in Denmark say a gunman who killed people in two
separate attacks in Copenhagen over the weekend might have been inspired by
the terror attacks in Paris last month. On Saturday, the gunman opened
fire at a forum on freedom of speech, which featured a Swedish cartoonist
who`s famously caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
The cartoonist was unharmed in the attack, but a documentary filmmaker
who was in attendance was killed.
NBC News has obtained an audio recording from the forum which captured
the moments that gunfire erupted. A warning, it is disturbing to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It is freedom of speech, but -- and the
turning point is, but -- why do we still say "but" when we --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Hours later, police say the same gunman killed a Jewish
security guard outside a synagogue. The suspected gunman was later killed
in a shootout with authorities on Sunday. Police say he had a history of
violence and weapons charges and gang ties. Police have not named the
suspected shooter but he is identified by Danish media and in court
proceedings as 22-year-old Omar Abdel El-Hussein.
"The Associated Press" reports El-Hussein had been released from jail
just weeks ago. The director of the Danish security services confirmed the
suspect was known to the agency before this weekend`s attacks. The Danish
prime minister said today there is no indication that the suspect was part
of an organized terror cell. He has vowed to protect Denmark`s Jewish
community and has urged Danish Jews not to follow calls from Israel to
Meanwhile, the prime minister was among tens of thousands of Danes who
gathered in Central Copenhagen for a memorial service to honor the victims
of this weekend`s attacks.
HAYES: Republicans hit the Sunday shows yesterday to discuss the
president`s proposed authorization to use military force against ISIS. And
the essence of their criticism is that the AUMF excessively restricts the
executive branch in waging war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president is
asking for less authority than he has today under previous authorizations.
I don`t think that`s smart. We need a robust strategy to take on ISIL. In
addition to our robust strategy, I think we need to have a robust
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think there`s a lot of skepticism
about the administration`s commitment to dealing with ISIS or Daesh or ISIL
or whatever you want to call them.
FORMER REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: He keeps talking about the
things he won`t do. He is drawing it into this year.
MCCAIN: I think we should not restrain the president of the United
States. The Congress has the power of the purse. If we don`t like what
the commander in chief is doing, we can cut off his funds for doing so.
But to restrain him in our authorization of him taking military action, I
think frankly is unconstitutional and eventually leads to 535 commanders-
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: Now, some of that criticism may or may not be true on the
merits of war-making. We`ll get to that in a moment.
But it is a little hard to square with the Republican Party and
conservative movement that have spent much of the last six years talking
about Barack Obama as an imperial president most notably with regard to his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: One of the most disturbing patterns we`ve
seen over the last five years is a consistent pattern of lawlessness from
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: He may have a pen and a phone,
but we have a Constitution.
REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The executive cannot make
exceptions and just enforce the laws he or she wants. That`s not who we
are as a people. We left monarchs. We left tyrants to come here. This is
a government by the people, for the people, and of the people.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He is not an imperial
president. And lawlessness will not be accepted by the American people.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is not a fight with the
Republicans. It`s a fight with the people who founded this republic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That the king couldn`t on his own do that, he
couldn`t just simply say, I`m going to dispense with the laws or suspend
their operations for a period of time. Our Founding Fathers knew this
history well. And the more the president acts outside the bounds of his
powers, the harder it becomes to actually achieve a solution.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: Now, this is part of a larger tension at the heart of
conservatism and the Republican Party. On one hand, a deep distrust of
government authority and excessive government, and yet at the same time, an
embrace of government at its most powerful and most invasive in the war-
making powers of the executive branch.
Joining me now to square this circle, MSNBC contributor Michael
Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
So, is there a contradiction here, Michael? It seems to me there is
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. No, there is. I think it`s
a bit of an apple and orange. There`s a difference between the president
taking executive action in the place of Congress, and the Congress giving
or wanting to give the president as much as authority as he possibly can
have to act, and I think that`s really where the fine line in the two
debates rest. One --
HAYES: But here`s the wrinkle, though, just to get here.
HAYES: Let`s keep in mind: the president is using this interpretation
of the 2001 AUMF to do what he`s doing now, and I heard nary a peep from
the constitutionalists in the Republican Party who want to rein them in.
STEELE: Well, but -- well, that`s because that is a very broad AUMF.
And, in fact, what you`ve heard the constitutionalists and some like-minded
Democrats, I might add, say the president already has the authority from
2002. He doesn`t need to come to this Congress to ask specifically for an
What this president wants to do is narrow the scope of the prior AUMF
and basically eliminate it to come back on the field with a different AUMF
that have -- use of military force that is more narrowly tailored, that has
limits -- that even the ranking member of the House, the Democrat ranking
member of the Senate Armed Services says he doesn`t accept the limitation
of just three years. Everyone acknowledges this is not going to get done
in three years. The president is looking for a window to close this just
as he`s walking out the door --
HAYES: Wait a second, this is crazy --
STEELE: -- and that`s not the way that Congress is looking at this.
HAYES: This is crazy to me. The debate right now is we need to
declare endless war in perpetuity. How dare you as a matter of
constitution and Democratic accountability put a time limit on a military
I mean, think about what the opposite of that is. What if it takes 30
years to defeat ISIS? Are we saying now in the year 2015 -- well, sorry,
kids, we`re going to be fighting ISIS for another 30 years?
STEELE: Yes. We likely could be.
HAYES: But that`s insane.
STEELE: Yes, it`s insane. But, look, the government has to deal with
the reality in front of it, Chris. You can`t just walk away from the
battlefield because you don`t like the timeline.
STEELE: The reality of it is you have an enemy that is prepared to
engage. You just had -- you just spent 15 minutes, two segments, talking
about the treacherousness and the dangers of the enemy we face. You think
you`re going to resolve that in three years?
HAYES: I think an important, strategic --
STEELE: Do you think ISIS is going to roll over and play dead in
HAYES: I think it`s important that just because your enemy wants to
get in a fight doesn`t mean you have to get in one too.
STEELE: That`s true. But you don`t think the enemy is going to bring
the fight to you?
So, the question you have to ask yourself, and the question that
Congress is legitimately asking, Mr. President, where are you going to draw
the line for this fight? Are we going to have it here? Are we going to
have it there? And what does that mean?
HAYES: So, here`s what I would say to you in return. If this is
idea, the idea is we need to be prepared to engage in a generational
struggle against these murderers country ruling a relatively small sliver
of territory in Iraq and Syria, if that`s the idea, then fine. Everyone
who wants that and says it may be generational, this is a formidable enemy,
we`re not going to be done in three years, then tell the American people
that`s what`s on the table, right?
I mean, be honest in that way. Prepare for yourselves for, we`ve had
13 years, 14 years of war. Prepare yourself for another 30 if that`s what
STEELE: Have you looked at the map? A relatively small sliver? I
think ISIS controls a little bit more of a small sliver of the territory
they have taken.
So, this is the reality that you have watched. You`ve watched Syria
fall. You`ve watched Lebanon now get engaged. You have this expansive
approach taken by this enemy.
Now, I think there is great cause and effect for the U.S. to actually
lead with others. Not by itself. And I think that`s a big -- well, should
be a big part of this AUMF as well. But the reality of it is, the
president is looking to narrow the scope, the Congress wants to give him
the same or more broad authority that the 2002 had.
HAYES: Look, we`re going to have an open-ended military commitment to
defeat ISIS, then people should be clear about that.
MSNBC Michael Steele who is being honest about that, and I appreciate
it. Thank you.
It`s Presidents Day, and that means it`s time to rank the best and
worst presidents this country has had since its founding, also an
opportunity to show you some great "Saturday Night Live" clips. So stay
tuned for that too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: What would you like to be
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Someone who used
whatever talent, Irin, she had to do her work to the very best of her
ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little
better through the use of whatever ability she had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is having a bit of a
cultural moment. Last year, she`s emerged as the true leader of liberal
wing of the Supreme Court and its ambassador to the world outside the
court, achieving meme-dom along the way. There`s the Notorious R.B.G.
Tumblr, which got it all started. Plus, there had been t-shirts and
Halloween costumes. Who can forget Ruth Baby Ginsburg? Someone even got a
pretty intricate tattoo, a permanent one of the justice there.
Justice Ginsberg has also been speaking out more in public, something
that Supreme Court justices should do more often, in my opinion. And our
own Irin Carmon got to talk with her in a wide-ranging interview in which
Justice Ginsberg let`s us know how she feels about people who think racism
is a thing of the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH BADER GINSBERG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: People who think you
could wave a magic wand and the legacy of the past will be over are blind.
Even though the days of state enforced segregation are gone, segregation
because of geographical boundaries remains.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You can watch more of that interview tonight on the Rachel
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL FERRELL, COMEDIAN: Those smarty pants types are never going to
understand speak first guys like us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, they`re all brains. You and me, we`re
all gut and balls.
FERRELL: Yeah. Yeah.
FERRELL: Every decision I ever made happened between my belly button
and the middle of my thighs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Saturday Night Live`s 40th anniversary last night have given
us a chance to litigate probably one of the most important debates of our
time on this President`s Day, who was the best fake president?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we reached the dining room, the president
reached out and tried to kiss me. He lifted his hand and put it on my
breast. And then my hand to his penis. That is hot.
FERRELL: I would like to address my remarks tonight to Mr. Osama bin
Laden. Buddy, you crewed up big time.
You see, you made a big mistake. If you`d had any brains you would
have challenged me to a game of Scrabble, or maybe a beard off. You might
have won that because I don`t have a beard. And when I do, it comes in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Governor Romney keeps mentioning this
five-point plan. But where is it, what are these five points.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you want to see them, OK. Here you go. This
is one, two, three, four, five. Right here, bam, that`s my plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I have a one point plan for you. Want to
see it? Here it is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, President Obama, put your finger down.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: and the best thing about my plan is you can sit on
it and spin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There are so many great fake presidents in SNL`s 40 year
history. Of course, the best one clearly Will Ferrell as George W. Bush.
So, I suppose we might as well talk about the other less important
debate that`s raging online today, the rankings of the actual presidents.
New rankings are out from American Political Science Association had
Lincoln, Washington, FDR ranked one, two, three, sounds about right to me.
Rounding out the top ten are Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry
Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton making the top ten, Andrew Jackson,
questionable, and Woodrow Wilson.
Scholars have President Obama ranked 18th sandwiched in between George
H.W. Bush and James Polk, the first thing ever to be sandwiched between
George H.W. Bush and James Polk.
Vox.com has their own, quote, ultimate semi-arbitrary ranking of
American presidents. In which Matt Yglesias breaks the presidents down
into categories like the all-time great, the good ones, which puts Obama in
the top 10, and then there are categories like, quote, laid the groundwork
for civil war, and the worst where we find Andrew Johnson, because as
Yglesias writes, quote, "Johnson`s deep-seated commitment to white
supremacy ended up giving back a huge share of what had been accomplished
during the Civil War.
When dealing with Presidential rankings there`s a qualitative
difference in how presidents are assessed. In 1996, The New York Times
magazine`s Arthur Schesslinger Jr. (ph), a long time historian who,
according to George Mason`s history news network, quote, "asked 32
historians, only one of whom was black, and two politicians, to rate the
presidents deciding whether they belonged in the categories of great, near
great, high average, average, below average or failure.
At the same time, a different team of researchers, Professors Hanes
Walton and Robert Smith asked 44 black political scientists and historians
about presidential leadership, asking them to sort the presidents into some
very different categories: White Supremacist, Racist, Racially Neutral,
Racially Ambivalent and Antiracist.
Joining me now to discuss the various ways we value president. Dorian
Warren, professor at Columbia University and an MSNBC contributor. Thank
you for doing double duty today. Great job at 4:00 p.m. today.
OK, so part of it is the evaluative framework, right. Like, how do we
come to it. And one of things I think we find is that Lincoln is the
greatest president because he passed the ultimate test on the moral issue
both as a sort of moral matter and also he won the Civil War and kept the
But it seems to me that when we talk about presidents and where they
stand, it is impossible to leave race for very long.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: You can`t -- I mean, I think the
was great here, because when you ask black political scientists versus
white political scientists, there`s a very -- race colors, so to speak, how
presidential leadership. And, frankly, it is useful to have a different
kind of framework that looks at presidents in terms of did they expand the
democracy for excluded groups, or did they retract the democracy.
HAYES: Right. There is like, there are these two different ways of
looking at presidents, right, did big stuff, right? Which I think is the
stuff that gets Woodrow Wilson and say Andrew Jackson in the top 10. Even
if big stuff is, in the case of Andrew Jackson...
HAYES: A campaign of ethnic cleansing.
And in the case of Woodrow Wilson, World War I.
And then there is this question of sort of expanding democracy -- I
think that is a really interesting metric, right. How do we think about
greatness being related to expanding the sort of circumference of democracy
in the U.S.
WARREN: And making America hold up to its true ideals in those
founding documents that of course were written by slave owners, right,
that`s the central contradiction of American democracy.
And the question is, for presidents, are you going to go the one route
expands, again, democracy, and create an inclusive democracy, or are we
going to retrench our democracy and kick people out?
HAYES: Do you have a favorite or like a sleeper?
WARREN: I do have a favorite. You know, I am a fellow at the
Roosevelt institute, so obviously I`m a big fan of Franklin Delano
Roosevelt, but I would say in light of all the controversy, LBJ is my
favorite for sure.
HAYES: Oh, that`s fascinating. Why?
WARREN: He expanded the democracy -- he passes that test. He
expanded -- in fact, one could argue LBJ made America a true democracy for
the first time in terms of allowing people the right to vote, people that
were declined, that were supposed to be citizens, black people who were
supposed to be citizens, he actually through the voting rights act, of
course there was a movement behind him, but he in presidential power, he
expanded the democracy for African-Americans and for other
And frankly he built on the Roosevelt legacy of a social welfare state
in this country.
HAYES: It`s interesting to think about Johnson -- how Johnson is
evaluated. Because I think what ends up happening to Johnson is the
further we get from the
Vietnam War, the more his stock rises. Because the Vietnam War, the things
accomplished are still with us, and the war is further in the past.
WARREN: That`s true. That is a mark. That is a mark on his
HAYES: At the time it would have been inconceivable for two liberals
to say LBJ -- was hated, hated.
WARREN: Yeah, but you know from the war on poverty, the `64 civil
rights act, the `65 civil rights act, housing legislation in 1968, the Fair
Housing Act, all of these things expanded opportunity and democracy for
formerly excluded citizens in this country.
HAYES: Barack Obama, 18 in that. I mean, it is sort of hard to tell
someone before they have finished. I think with Barack Obama so much of it
has to do with grading on the curve of what he inherited.
WARREN: There is that -- right, exactly. So we should grade him on a
curve for sure. But then you also have to consider what -- we`re in war.
You know, essentially, and we`re -- he is about to get authorization, even
though he says he has it. So that will be part of his legacy.
But then when you look at the other side, the question again did he
expand democracy for excluded groups? The answer is yes. And then when
you add in the ACA in terms of building on Johnson`s legacy and Roosevelt`s
legacy of providing health insurance for millions of Americans...
HAYES: Yeah, I think his domestic legislative agenda is going to be
in the top five.
WARREN: His ranking is going shoot up, I think, by the end.
HAYES: Dorian Warren, host of Nerding Out on Shift by MSNBC live on
Thursday at 11:00 eastern. Thank you very much.
WARREN: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Edward Norton will talk about being part of last night`s
incredible Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary show. Plus, a new
documentary he`s involved in ahead.
HAYES: If you haven`t been able to get enough of me tonight, I will
be on Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC at 1:35 a.m. Eastern. And if
you`re missing me between 9:00 p.m. and then, there`s always our Facebook
page, Facebook.com/allinwithchris, where you can check out the chat I did
today. Be sure to like us while you`re there.
We had a lively conversation about all of the other Chris Hayeses out
there, including the guitarist for Huey Lewis and the News. And if you`re
tired of me, which case here`s a commercial break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: It is the Midnight Couterie of Midnight Intruders starring
Owen Wilson as a man in danger.
EDWARD NORTON, ACTOR: Wow, what the heck. There`s a bunch of crazy
people standing in our yard.
Hey, huh, I think we`re about to get murdered.
ANNOUNCER: And his terrified wife, Gwyneth Paltrow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Last night, he hosted SNL, Edward Norton showed off his
incredible Owen Wilson impersonation in one of the great all-time Saturday
Night Live digital shorts, a home invasion horror movie in the distinctive
style of director Wes Anderson.
Last night, Norton turned up on the ridiculously star-studded SNL 40th
anniversary show shot here in 30 Rock, which we learned today was NBC`s top
rated prime time entertainment telecast, excluding post-Super Bowl shows in
more than eight years.
For the show, Norton took on signature SNL character, New York City
nightlife expert Stefan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORTON: Well ladies, when you want to hit the clubs this week`s
hottest club in New York is called Yank. Renovated by the third never
spoken of property brother Poppy, this club keeps thumping until you hear
sit Booboo sit, good dog. Ruff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Norton is up for an Academy Award for best supporting actor
for Birdman, also played an inspector in Grand Budapest Hotel, which is
I talked to him a bout what it was like to be part of SNL`s 40th
HAYES: All right, so it`s the day after the 40th anniversary Saturday
Night Live show.
NORTON: Yeah, I`m actually a much younger man than I look right now.
It`s just when you party with the Lorn Michaels crowd until the wee hours.
HAYES: I saw some social media posts of what looked like a pretty
amazing epic jam session that happened at some point at the after party.
So, all right, you were in -- you did Stefan.
NORTON: I did. Yeah, I dared to step into the large comic shoes of
HAYES: Can you talk a little about the logistics, because as someone
who puts on a television show every day, I spent the entire time nerdily
thinking in my head like how was this all brought logistically together, to
get these people whose schedules are insane like to all -- did you
NORTON: Well, there is like everybody else who was involved, and then
Murphy alone, you know what I mean, like wrangling that alone.
HAYES: Did you understand that moment, the Eddie Murphy moment?
Because a lot of people -- I didn`t understand it.
NORTON; I thought he was great. I thought he was very gracious.
And I think you know I kind of think you couldn`t say it better than
Chris Rock said it. I think that some people said something later like why
did they put such focus on that, but anybody that grew up on SNL,
everything that Chris said was really true, it was -- even within the
enormous kind of edifice and institution that SNL is, Eddie Murphy was for
a lot of people, he was a seismic shift and reinjection of excitement into
HAYES: It is funny because I didn`t know the story of basically how
he saved SNL until Chris Rock`s monologue.
I was sitting there on my laptop and I was like -- I like went to the
Wikipedia page. I was like, oh wow, I didn`t realize that the show was
NORTON: I thought Chris was, as he often is, eloquent and incisive
and pointed and I liked in a lot of ways -- I think when someone like Eddie
Murphy just comes out and just simply says like I`m proud of this and
really happy to be here, sometimes it`s so nice when people are not always
on, they just -- I love that
HAYES: It was an extremely human moment.
NORTON: It was, yeah, it was great. I mean, it was -- to even have
participated around the fringes of the institution of SNL in a way is a
privilege. I mean, you feel like you have been let into that -- a company
that is really special in some ways.
And they always, for people who are not the core of that, they -- Lorn
Michaels has created an incredibly generous -- I think there has always
been, I think, this real -- like people on that show say thank you to each
other. They -- I can`t explain it. They really lift each other up and
they lift you up and they
make you feel like you can do it.
HAYES: In some ways it is sort of -- there is no way it could survive
otherwise, because they`re asking people to come -- like such as yourself,
you`ve hosted before -- to come and take a huge risk, right?
NORTON: Yeah -- yes, yes...
HAYES: I mean, at like performative level, right?
NORTON; Well, they ask you to do something that is different in the
modern age -- live TV. In many ways, it is a real throwback and it has its
special magic and it still comes through in an age where everything can be
rewound and DRD`d and rewound and all of it.
But yeah there`s something -- you know, it`s -- when I did it I
thought about the great movie My Favorite Year where Peter O`Toole, you
know, there`s that great scene where Peter O`Toole says like, you know, I
feel good, I think we`re going
to get it in the first take and the guy goes like you better it`s live.
And you know he has his meltdown.
And you have this moment right before you do something like that where
you start -- you go, wait a minute like what am I about to do?
But someone really smart told me like look at the -- you know, take a
pause to look up past the hastily built sets and look at the audience and
look at how exciting it all is. And it is. You feel like you`re back in
the days of Sid Caesar, or that great old days of live television. And it
is really unlike anything else.
HAYES: I used to have my offices on that floor so I would be around
them all of the time -- on the eighth floor where the studio is. And it
always struck me that it had this like -- it almost felt like college
theater in the best way. Like here are the most -- these are the most
accomplished, this is the biggest deal franchise and the atmosphere of
everyone was like, we`re making a show together. It was very cool.
NORTON: Yeah, it shouldn`t work as well as it does, but it does. And
it`s an amazing group of people. They`re all so -- I actually thought the
joke, I can`t
remember who told the joke about like all of the shots of the cast out in
the city having fun was the biggest lie because they never leave, they
never get to go out.
When you do it, you realize this is like the hardest working bunch of
people in show business. They work really, really hard.
HAYES: Stick around, because when we come back we`re going to talk
about a new documentary narrated by Edward Norton about what it is to be a
man and a father in the 21st Century. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are having a little boy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you kneel?
DAVID SAMPLINER, FILMMAKER: Well, I`m thrilled.
I`m terrified, actually. I feel ready to be a parent, but being a
father to a son is not just being a parent, it means bringing a boy into
manhood, a place that I feel so far from myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Earlier today, I spoke with David Sampliner who wrote,
produced and directed a documentary called My Own Man. It debuts on
Netflix on March 6, which explores what it means to be a father and a man.
Also with us was Edward Norton, executive producer on that film and also
I opened the interview by asking David what prompted him to make the
SAMPLINER: I was at a point in my life where I suddenly felt like I
wasn`t where I wanted to be in my life. And I felt like I needed to make a
big change. And I -- it -- and someone actually said to me I think you
might be afraid of your own masculinity. And unfortunately it rang true.
HAYES: It`s funny. My wife and I talk about this all of the time
that there are -- the old models have been taken away, and new models are
sort of still forming in this -- you know, and even the easy -- easy --
difficult logistical things, like, which person in this relationship is
going to do this thing -- move for someone else`s job, which used to be
answered in the bad old days of patriarchy without a question. Now, like
is a question, right?
SAMPLINER: Right. We are not in charge anymore. Men share
everything now with women in the workplace and at home. And it`s amazing
that it`s just a generation -- my mother went to a fantastic university and
when she and everybody she knew graduated they were expected to stay home
and they all did.
And her daughter grew up in an entirely different world and her sons
grew up in an entirely different world and now we`re sharing it with women
in ways that was totally inconceivable for my parents.
HAYES: What drew you to the film?
NORTON: It struck me just that it was that rare thing that I like the
in almost kinds of work, which is was very personal to him. It was like he
taken the impulses he has as a filmmaker and applied them to something that
I could tell was a really deep personal exploration.
And I always think those kinds of films are the riskiest, but when
they work the best.
HAYES: Yeah, you end up -- this is like intensely personal film
about, a lot of it is about your relationship with your father. Like you
end up really exposing yourself emotionally in this movie.
SAMPLINER: I think -- I can say we`re trained not to be vulnerable.
NORTON: You know, it`s interesting, too, is as an actor, actors talk
about, I think really great actors even in the course of a career you`ll
see actors who get more and more comfortable with stripping away more and
more artifice, and being more naked in some sense, more -- and I think that
in this era of reality television, which is the furthest thing from
reality. It`s a highly managed, highly image projected, you know -- these
people who on reality television and are
obviously like playing to camera, enormously, it only highlights how
difficult it is in real documentary film to explore personal narrative and
have it come across with sincerity, have it come across as something that
is an authentic, like an authentic conversation with self. And that`s, I
think, one of the things that is really masterful about the film.
HAYES: And one of the things that forces you to do that I found in my
own life, is caring for a small human in which -- that strips a lot out of
performance out of you when you`re dealing with like vomit at three in the
morning. Because you`re -- it has this forcing mechanism on you to honest
and to be present in a way that nothing else I`ve encountered in my life
SAMPLINER: Yeah, becoming a father changed -- it happened during the
course of making the film and that of course entirely changed the film in
ways that I could never have imagined.
NORTON: The thing that is interesting, though, is that David was
asking prior to even the question of fatherhood, and what that drove -- the
urgency that drove in his own -- he was already asking, I think, a lot of
questions that are very -- as you pointed out -- very topical to our
generation. And even you know people talk about a film like Fight Club, or
look at a film now like Boyhood that is out, these questions about like
what does modern adulthood look like? And for our generation relative,
which relative to our parents has in some ways embraced some of the moments
of, quote, unquote adulthood later or in more attenuated way, that I think
a lot of people of our generation relate to this idea of reluctantly moving
into adulthood and having to confront a version of it that is very
So I think even before the question of parenthood came in, the thing
that I thought was very universal about this was that he was asking
questions about how we define ourselves as men that are very, very -- that
are very tangible I think to a lot of people our age.
HAYES: Edward and David, thank you very much.
My Own Man on Netflix. Really appreciate it.
HAYES: That is All In for this evening.
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