'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, February 12th, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: February 12, 2015
Guest: Paul Rieckhoff, Diane Rosenbaum
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: -- this hour.
So governors almost never quit. Being a governor is a really good gig, why
would you quit if you were governor? That main question, just -- how hard
it is to imagine why somebody would give up that particular job.
That was one of the challenges for the news media when Alaska governor and
former Republican Party vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, decided to
quit in the middle of her first gubernatorial term in Alaska.
There just didn`t seem to be any good reason for her to quit as Alaska
governor. She was not under any real pressure to quit. Nobody expected
her to quit and then when she announced that she was quitting, for a long
time into her speech, nobody could quite figure out what she was saying
about whether she really was quitting, and if she was, why she was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: If I`ve learned one thing is that
life is about choices. And one chooses how to react to circumstances, you
can choose to engage in things that tear down or that build up, and I
choose to work very hard on a path for fruitfulness and for productivity.
I choose not to tear down and waste precious time but to build up this
state and our great country.
It may be tempting and more comfortable to just kind of keep your head down
and plot along and appease those who are demanding, hey, just sit down and
shut up, but that`s the worthless easy task out. That`s the quitter`s way
out. Only dead fish go with the flow. No productive fulfilled people
determine where to put their efforts choosing too wisely utilize precious
time to build up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And so I quit. That`s the quitter`s way. I quit it.
Quitting is a weird way to recommit yourself to the work of being governor
of Alaska, right. But that is how Governor Palin explained why she was
quitting. It was very confusing even very deep into her speech.
More typically governors have quit in modern times because of romantic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: I`m deeply sorry that I did not live up
to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker and to all those who
believe in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.
GOV. JIM MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: Given the circumstances surrounding
the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I
have decided the right course of action is to resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governors very rarely resign. It is big news whenever a governor
resigns. But the one that we might be in the midst of right now, the one
that may be happening right now, tonight, in the country, is sort of
somewhere between the romantic entanglement kind of un-quitting that we saw
from Jim McGreevey and Eliot Spitzer. It`s somewhere between romantic
entanglement quitting and to the Sarah Palin version of quitting which is
more like, huh, what`s going on here, I don`t understand.
Here`s my best understanding of what`s going on right now. But I have to
tell you, this story is still unfolding right now. So events may have
overtaken the story even by the time I get to the end of it. But
basically, as far as I can tell, here is what`s going on.
All right. There`s something called the National Association of
Secretaries of State. Secretary of State is the person who runs elections
in most states. Usually a state wide elected office. Almost every state
has one. And everything national association for those folks.
One of the secretaries of state from around the country is the president of
that organization that served as president for a one-year term. This week
in Washington the National Association of Secretaries of State has been
having their annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C.
I know it`s not the highest profile event in the world but still it ends up
being really important. Stay with me here.
The current president of the National Association of Secretaries of State
is named Kate Brown. She is the Secretary of State of the great state of
Oregon. And on Tuesday, in the middle of their winter meeting in D.C. for
this organization that she runs as president this year, she got a call in
Washington, a personal, direct one-on-one phone call from the governor of
her state, from the Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon.
And in that phone call on Tuesday, she says he asked her personally to
please fly back to Oregon immediately for a one-on-one meeting with him.
Leave this meeting that she`s chairing in Washington, come home, you need
to meet with me face-to-face right now.
Now Oregon doesn`t have a lieutenant governor. If the governor is forced
out of office or dies or has to resign for whatever reason, the next person
in the line of succession in the state is the secretary of state. John
Kitzhaber, the governor of Oregon, has been hit by an escalating series of
scandals over the past few months, almost all of those scandals concern his
Basically, the main allegations against him are pay-to-play corruption
allegations about his girlfriend, specifically whether she was paid by
various interest group to advocate for specific policies in the Kitzhaber
administration or even to try to implement those policies herself in her
unofficial role as first lady.
So there is an ongoing ethics investigation into Kitzhaber over these
allegations about his girlfriend. There had been report that there is an
open FBI investigation into the same allegations.
There`s been plenty of public pressure for him to resign over these
allegations including from the state`s largest newspaper, "The Oregonian."
There had been headlines like this in the local papers this week. Rumors
swirling that the governor is about to resign.
And so with all of that going on, that call from him personally to the
secretary of state, to the person who would take over and become governor
if he did resign, that call from him on Tuesday that she needed to leave
D.C. and race home to Oregon to meet with him face-to-face that was a
dramatic and portentous moment.
He made the call, she said, yes, sir. She told the National Association of
Secretaries of State, "I know I`m the president of this group and we`re
having our winter meeting but I`m sorry, I`ve got to go, emergency at home
in my state, I might have to become the governor."
So she flew home to Oregon on the first available flight. She was due to
arrive at 4:00 p.m.-esh yesterday. And then I will let her explain it
because she has now put out a statement explaining what happened. And if I
put it in my words, you might not believe it. Because it is so
unimaginably weird, it can`t possibly have happened. But this is what she
says happened. This is her official statement, look.
Quote, "Late Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from the governor while I
was in Washington D.C. at a Secretaries of State Conference. He asked me
to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and
alone. I got on a plane yesterday morning and arrived at 3:40 in the
afternoon. I was escorted directly into a meeting with the governor. It
was a brief meeting. He asked me, why I came back early from Washington
Wait. Huh? Governor calls her and says you need to come back early from
D.C. She says yes, sir. She comes back early from D.C., she walks into
his office, and he says, "What`s are you doing back early from D.C.?"
This is really weird, right? But wait, it gets weirder. Back to her
statement. OK. So, "He asked me why I came back early from Washington
D.C.," comma, "which I found strange."
"I asked him what he wanted to talk about, the governor told me he was not
resigning," comma, "After which he began a discussion about transition."
Now I guess transition can mean a lot of things? In this case it sounds
like he asked her to come back early from D.C. and then he said, why did
you come back early from D.C. And then he said I`m not resigning and then
he said let`s talk about what happens after I resign. He told her he`s not
resigning and then start to talking about what it`s going to be like when
the transition happens. When she becomes governor because he is no longer
There`s only one last line of the statement from this beleaguered and
confused secretary of state. The last line of her statement is, quote,
"This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation."
Yes, no kidding.
So the secretary of state had her drama yesterday with the governor, even
though he apparently did talk to her about transition in state government.
The governor then told reporters yesterday afternoon that he definitely
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you been considering resigning?
GOV. JOHN KITZHABER (D), OREGON: No, I have not.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It hasn`t crossed your mind at all?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So Tuesday he tells his would-be successor rush back home. Then
he pleads ignorance when she gets there. Yesterday he says he won`t
resign. Today the secretary of state put out her statement explaining what
happened there. And now the Democratic leaders of the Senate and the
House, both came forward -- John Kitzhaber is a Democrat, Oregon is a blue
The Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate both came forward early
today and said not only do they believe that Governor Kitzhaber should
resign, but they said they told him that to his face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, did you meet with the governor this
morning? And if so, what was discussed?
STATE SEN. PETER COURTNEY (D), OREGON SENATE PRESIDENT: I met with the
governor this morning, and the speaker and I both met with him, and I asked
him for his resignation, and the speaker asked him for his resignation.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did the governor say? Will he resign?
COURTNEY: He was struggling. He -- it`s unclear to me whether he will or
not. He met with me in this office on Tuesday and led me to believe he was
going to resign. He wanted to do it over have a transition period with the
secretary of state. I supported that. He noted me to come earlier in the
week. So I was ready to go, I even had a statement prepared, and so it was
going to take care of itself.
And then I could not tell anybody because he swore secrecy. I told my wife
late that night, what do I do. And next thing I know a bombshell happened
yesterday. What happened? What`s going on? The secretary of state is
coming back, I don`t know. And then all of a sudden, I`m not going to
resign. And I just said I can`t put --- I don`t know. I can`t fix this.
I can`t fix it, I can`t make it better. I can`t save anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the Democratic president of the state Senate in Oregon.
Democratic speaker of the House also says she asked Governor Kitzhaber to
resign this morning. These two leaders in the state legislature, in the
same party as governor, they made their request publicly, they also asked
the governor face to face if he would please resign.
The treasurer of the state, who`s the next highest elected official in the
state, also a statewide elected official, he also came out publicly today,
he also said Governor Kitzhaber should resign. And all of those calls for
the governor to resign today happened before the next bombshell about
Governor Kitzhaber landed in the press.
Specifically in the "Willamette Week," look, look at the headline.
"Governor John Kitzhaber`s Office Sought to Destroy Thousands of His E-
mails." This happened after all those calls for his resignation today.
It`s a heck of a scoop.
According to the "Willamette Week," one week ago today, the governor`s
executive assistant sent an e-mail, which has now been obtained by the
"Willamette Week," asking the tech folks in Oregon state government to
please destroy the governor`s e-mails.
The governor uses both his official e-mail account and his personal e-mail
account to do state business. That`s been revealed in previous documents
from his administration but this written request last week was to delete,
quote, "anything in the personal e-mail account from the state`s archives."
Remember, at this point the governor is already under an ethics
investigation, he is reportedly under an FBI investigation. And the day
after his office sent this request to the state government to destroy all
the governor`s personal e-mails and take him off the state servers, the
very next day is when the Oregon attorney general announced a state level
criminal investigation into the allegations against the governor.
But here`s the good news. Here`s the good news, Oregon. The governor`s
office sent that request one week ago today. "Please destroy my e-mails
while I`m in the midst of all these criminal investigations of my behavior.
You want to know what the good news this year? The guys in the tech
department of state government who received that request to destroy the
governor`s e-mails, they said no.
So congratulations, Oregon, you have some conscientious public servants,
including the field tech who got the request to destroy the governor`s e-
mails. He did not act on it and instead asked his supervisor what he
should do. You also have a conscientious public servant in that man`s
supervisor who also didn`t act on the request and asked his supervisor what
to do. You also have conscientious public servant in that guy`s supervisor
who also did not act on the request. Quote, "Take no action at this time."
Ultimately, the manager of the department in state government saying,
quote, "I am not willing to make the call, to delete information out of the
e-mail archive." And so the e-mails were not destroyed.
The e-mail survived and the investigations go forward, and you should know
that there`s no provision in Oregon state government to impeach a governor.
If he goes, he`s going to have to go on his own terms. It seemed at one
point, like he already was in the process of quitting but then he took
backsies (ph) in a way that most people did not understand. And the
reporting keeps flying out of the Oregon press, not only about the
allegations against Governor Kitzhaber but the bizarre way that they are
now being handled.
And the weirdest gubernatorial scandal in a very long time continues to be
totally unsettled as of tonight, at least it was when I started talking.
Let`s see if it still is.
Joining us now is Oregon state senator and Senate majority leader Diane
Miss Rosenbaum, this is very difficult time in your state, thank you for
being here to help us understand.
SEN. DIANE ROSENBAUM (D), OREGON: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: My impression as a total outsider to Oregon politics is that
Governor Kitzhaber by and large has been a very well respected public
servant. He`s been a public servant in the state Senate, an unprecedented
four terms as governor. He was just reelected in November. Even the
people who are criticizing him now seems to really care for him and think
he is a good a public servant.
What do you believe is going on with him?
ROSENBAUM: Well, absolutely, I have the utmost respect for the governor.
Not only has he done remarkably great things for the state of Oregon, but
he`s a national leader on health care, and is seen as I think one of the
foremost experts around the country.
I think he is struggling, it`s a very difficult time for our state and for
him personally. He`s got a difficult decision to make, and it can`t be
easy for him, both in terms of his legacy, the work he has done for the
state. The fact that we`ve just started a new legislative session and then
on a personal level as well.
MADDOW: In terms of the calls for his resignation, you know, there`s a lot
of it you have to expect as politic noise, but it was striking today to see
the state treasurer come out, the Senate president, the speaker of the
House, Democrats all come out and say, all of them with pretty obviously
heavy hearts that he really has to go.
It had seemed this week like he was planning to go, certainly the state
Senate president seems to have said that`s what the governor indicated to
What`s pulling in the other direction? Who is telling him not to resign?
ROSENBAUM: I can`t really answer that. I know that it`s been a very
difficult time for all of us. I think for those leaders that you just
mentioned, no one wants this to be the situation we`re facing and certainly
they didn`t come lightly to the decision to ask for his resignation.
MADDOW: You haven`t called for his resignation, and I can -- I can hear
that you`re not doing that now. I do have to ask if the "Willamette Week"
scoop today is born up, that the governor did ask for his personal e-mails
to be deleted off of all state servers, and he did it a week ago today, in
the midst of all these inquiries into his behavior.
Would that change your feelings about whether or not he might be able to
stay in office and be effective?
ROSENBAUM: Well, I think we just learned that information late this
afternoon. And it`s -- we`ve got a very strong public records law here in
Oregon and a process to deal with that. I don`t want to rush to judgment
but, you know, it certainly sounds like a serious matter.
MADDOW: Well, Democrat -- Democratic Senate -- excuse me -- Democratic
Senator Diane Rosenbaum, Senate Majority Leader in Oregon. I know this is
a difficult time. I do feel like things are moving very fast in the state.
Keep us apprised as best you can.
I`m not sure why we`re more interested in it than the rest of the national
news media at this point, if he does resign there`s going to be a huge
scrum, but thank you for helping us understand what`s going on right now.
I appreciate it.
ROSENBAUM: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I should also tell you that if you want proof that I`m a total
outsider to Oregon politics, it`s apparently "Willamette Week," instead of
not "Willamette Week." That`s how outsider I am to this story.
All right. Lot`s more ahead, including House Republicans stomping on the
brakes on confirming President Obama`s nominee to be the new attorney
Plus, President Obama putting his pen collection to good use today.
And later in the show "Fifty Shades of Grey." Those words apparently just
came out of my mount. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Look at this. Look. This is not -- look. This is not what you
want to see in front of you when you`re driving to work in the morning.
But this is what the sky looked like in several small Spanish towns
northwest of Barcelona today.
That terrifying apricot colored plume of smoke was caused by an explosion
at a chemical plant. Apparently two chemicals being delivered to a
chemical storage warehouse somehow got mixed together and exploded, and it
created that huge toxic, orangey, giant cloud.
Three people who worked at the plant were injured in the explosion. Sixty
thousand local residents were told to shut their windows and stay inside
while the toxic smoke dissipated.
Nobody meant for this -- look at that. Nobody meant for that thing to
happen today. This was not an attack. This was an accident. But things
go wrong all the time. Even with really dangerous and toxic stuff. Hold
MADDOW: There was a bill signing today at the White House. I know, this
is the rarest of all endangered species in Washington but it happens.
Today President Obama signed into law the Clay Hunt Veteran Suicide
Prevention Act. We`re going to have more on this later in the show tonight
but President Obama, when he was signing the bill today, he did that thing
that presidents often do when they sign a new piece of legislation. He
used many, many, many pens. He signs a little tiny piece of his name with
a pen, puts the pen back in the holder and he takes another, then he takes
another, then he takes another.
Looks like he has maybe a dozen pens there. And that so he can then give
those pens as mementos to people involved in or affected by the passage of
the bill. Here is a pen that was used to sign that legislation. Usually,
those folks who get the pens are the people who are standing around him as
The presidential pen is about to get a real workout even beyond that
because today it was that bill signing. But next, President Obama is
gearing up for his first presidential veto of major legislation. He`s
going to veto the bill that would force approval of the Keystone Pipeline.
That bill got final approval from Congress yesterday. It`s not clear
exactly when President Obama will veto it.
Republicans in Congress want to make as big a deal as possible about the
fact that he`s going to veto it. So they`re going to draw this out as long
as possible even though they have already technically passed the bill.
Once they do decide the president -- do decide to send it to President
Obama, and he does veto it as promised, Republicans now say they`re just
going to pass it again after the veto.
And they say they`re going to pass it again after the veto, and then if he
vetoes that they`re just going to pass it again and again and again and
again and again. Just like that. Repeal Obamacare bill that they`ve now
passed at least 56 times.
The pipeline bill`s chief sponsor Senator John Hoeven said maybe what
they`ll do next after the veto is they`ll attach the Keystone thing to some
other bill, or maybe they`ll put it into a must-pass appropriations bill,
or maybe they`ll put Keystone into every single bill in Congress from here
on out, who knows.
So this is going to start with President Obama`s veto, but then it`s going
to get really fun, so says Senator John Hoeven. And Senator John Hoeven
knows from pipeline, his home state of North Dakota has thousands of miles
of crude oil pipelines. That`s thousands of miles of natural gas
pipelines. They also have 20,000 miles of small pipelines called gathering
pipeline that served as the connectors between all those other pipelines
and the drilling sites where the stuff comes from.
Last month a drilling company discovered that one of its small gathering
pipelines near the town of Williston, North Dakota, had burst open. This
was a little pipeline. It`s only a four-inch pipeline. But when it burst,
it caused the state`s largest ever spill of toxic drilling brine. Three
million gallons of brine that`s 10 times as salty as seawater, full of
toxic gunk, and heavy metals and as crude oil mixed into it.
Three million gallons of it all dumped into a creek that feeds into the
Missouri River. The biggest ever spill of that kind.
Here`s the thing, though. That pipeline was less than a year old when it
burst. State-of-the-art pipeline, and it also never been inspected. And
now we know why. At the time that pipeline burst for all those 20,000
miles of pipeline in that state, the state of North Dakota had precisely
zero pipeline inspectors. Zero. The legislature approved funding for
three inspector jobs for those kind of pipelines but as of January when
that one burst, all of the pipeline jobs were vacant.
Now we covered this on the show last month after that giant brine spill.
And then we decided to try to find out who, if anyone, had applied for
these inspector jobs that the state has on the books but nobody was
actually in them. We made a formal request to the state to see the
applications of people who applied for those jobs. And it was some very
friendly, very helpful North Dakota officials who provided those
applications to us under their state`s Open Records Law.
Here`s what we learned. Between July and January, a total of 21 people
applied for those jobs. Twenty-one people applied for one of these three
pipeline inspector jobs listed by the state of North Dakota. Just last
month, they did fill one of the three jobs. So there`s now one inspector
for those 20,000 miles of gathering pipeline. As for the other two
positions, the states says they just have not found enough qualified
Now I obviously am no expert on what makes a qualified pipeline inspector.
There do seem to be some lovely hard-working folks with nice resumes among
the applicants that we have reviewed. There`s 21 applicants, come on,
State officials did decline to offer us their thoughts on why they`re
having trouble finding the right candidates even as people are applying for
the jobs. But consider this, the department that oversees the state`s
larger pipelines, they have explained what`s going on with their vacant
inspector jobs. They say they have trouble keeping inspectors for the
larger pipelines in the state because every time they get somebody into the
job, that person leaves for a better paying job in the oil industry.
That larger pipeline inspector position, that one is also open right now.
That job pays up to $96,000 a year. The one for the smaller pipelines,
that one pays $51,000 a year. $51,000 a year is good money, right? But
when you`re competing with the most profitable industry the earth has ever
known, yes, maybe $51 K isn`t enough to hold on to people. Yes. You might
have to pay a little more.
On that point on one North Dakota official told us, quote, "The pipeline
industry is a competitive industry. We have and will continue to work to
make the positions` salaries as competitive as possible."
But as of tonight, there are still these two open positions. And if there
are any experienced or aspiring pipeline inspectors out there, North Dakota
says they would like to know. From the job listing, do you have excellent
written and verbal communication skills, individual initiative, ability to
work effectively with diverse groups of people? Are you adaptable to the
northern plains climate? Any relevant pipeline experience?
If so we have posted the application at MADDOW blog. Seriously, North
Dakota needs you, the country needs you. But that`s basically the state-
of-the-art for how we deal with pipeline safety in this county right now in
Keystone, by the way, that`s a 36-inch pipeline. The one with the three
million gallon brine spill, that was four inches. But on the Keystone
matter, looks like a veto is on the way.
MADDOW: So, we don`t usually cover movie premieres, but one movie coming
out tonight, I`m told it is called "50 Shades of Grey." This movie has
caused a little bit of a stir all across the country, particularly it turns
out in the American South, where ticket sales are outpacing the rest of the
country, states like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other Deep South
states. Really? The Deep South in particular is really psyched for this
Which has led to awkwardness for one of the most powerful organizations in
conservative American politics.
This amazing story is coming up right at the end of the show. Please stay
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After 13 years, our combat
mission in Afghanistan is over and a new generation of veterans is coming
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How is this for timing? At the exact moment that President Obama
was saying that today at the White House, while he was saying that our
combat mission in Afghanistan is over and the veterans are coming home, at
the exact same time he was making those remarks, the "New York Times" was
posting online for the first time this story about how combat operations in
Afghanistan actually are back on and in kind of a big way.
The hook for their new story is a laptop that Special Operations forces
were able to obtain in October somewhere in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border
when they raided the home of an al Qaeda suspect. Apparently, that laptop
has been a treasure-trove of information on al Qaeda in that part of the
world. Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives and other militants who work with
them in that part of the world.
And according to "The New York Times," based on that trove of intelligence
found on that single laptop, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, going after these
militant groups, specifically, is apparently back in full swing. Quoting
from "The Times", "The spike in raids is at odds with policy declarations
in Washington where the Obama administration has deemed the American role
in the war essentially over."
Quote, "The raids appeared to have targeted a broad cross section of
Islamist militants. They have hit both al Qaeda and Taliban operatives,
going beyond the narrow counterterrorism mission that Obama administration
officials had said would continue after the formal end of American-led
combat operations last December."
The tempo of operations in Afghanistan right now according to one military
official who talked to "The Times" is, quote, "unprecedented for this time
It`s also unprecedented for a war that supposedly no longer exists, right?
So, that is awkward to be talking about the war being over in the midst of
this very detailed new reporting coming out simultaneously talking about
how the war is not at all over, in fact it is kicking way back up.
The other thing that happened while the "New York Times" was breaking that
story and while the president was mentioning the war being over, literally
in the same half-hour period, we also got a new secretary of defense,
Ashton Carter. Ash Carter, Rhodes scholar, physicist, lifetime Pentagon
wonk, he was confirmed in the Senate today 93-5.
Because there was such overwhelming support for Ash Carter`s nomination to
be defense secretary, his confirmation process, honestly, was not really
the occasion for any significant debate in Washington either about him or
about broader issues regarding national security, and the wars, and what
military is doing right now. I mean, that debate about the military fight
against ISIS is only just starting now in Congress more than six months and
more than 2,000 airstrikes into the ongoing military campaign that U.S.
troops are waging against ISIS. That debate is just now starting in
Congress in the last 48 hours with President Obama sending over his
proposed language to authorize that military force that we have been using
That debate, I believe, is long overdue, already though, even though it`s
just started, it`s already quickly become sort of unpredictable and
therefore interesting. Lawmakers from both parties already are coming down
on the president`s request for authorization to use military force in some
surprising and partisan -- surprising and unpredictable ways, at least
unpredictable in partisan terms.
Today, for example, we learned that Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton,
who`s a very high profile brand new member of the House from Massachusetts,
he`s a Marine Corps veteran who served four tours of duty in Iraq,
Congressman Seth Moulton signaled today that he will not support President
Obama`s request for military force. At least not the way it`s written
Seth Moulton said today that the American strategy to beat ISIS should be
lead by political efforts and diplomatic efforts locally in the Middle
East, in the region, and that American troops should be supporting those
efforts, not leading them.
Interesting, right? From a decorated combat veteran, one who is in the
president`s own party. Super interesting.
So, we are finally having a debate. Now, it does seem like that debate
ought to include at least some mention of what`s really going on in
Afghanistan where 10,000 troops are supposedly still there and it is
supposedly not a war. But it does not at all appear that the war has wound
down and combat operations are over even if they have changed the name of
what we`re doing over there.
I mean, clearly, the war in Afghanistan, at least in one level, is still
very much on. That may require further debate, maybe further legal
authorization as well, I don`t know.
Now, a little sunshiny ray of hope right here, the one reason to be
optimistic that maybe we as a country are capable of a real debate and real
decision making on any of these issues, one reason to be cheerful about
that prospect is these guys -- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
IAVA today proved that politics is still possible.
In a Congress in which nothing gets done, and everything is partisan to the
point of stupidity, and there can be substantive problem-solving whatsoever
that does not get subsumed into some dumb, divisive, obstructionist smoking
pit of failure, see for example the fact that the Homeland Security
Department is about to shut down and no one knows why -- in a Congress
where nothing gets done, in a Washington where nothing is possible, IAVA
and the family of Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, who took his own life after
coming home from two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, they did the impossible
today. They actually made politics work.
And today, they were at the White House today for the president to sign
into law a small, direct, constructive little piece of legislation that is
aimed at preventing veteran suicide. These guys were able to muscle this
through, this terrible dysfunctional Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And just to be clear about the bipartisanship here -- this is one
of those areas where we can`t have an argument. Now, Clay`s parents are
Texas Republicans. You know, I mean that is not just run-of-the-mill
Republican. And they worked with this entire spectrum, conservatives,
And that`s just a reminder of what we can accomplish when we take a break
from the partisan bickering that so often dominates this town and focus on
what matters to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Paul Rieckhoff, founder and president of Iraq
and Afghanistan Veterans of America, one of the key advocates behind
today`s passage of the Clay Hunt Act. He was at the bill-signing today at
the White House just over the president`s shoulder there.
Paul, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Congratulations, man.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IAVA: My pleasure, Rachel. And thank you. I just came
from where all of the vets are celebrating with Susan and Richard, at a
barbecue place here in D.C. and she asked me to pass thanks to you
personally for staying focused on this. And to all your viewers around the
country and around the world, who stood with us on this fight. This is a
real team win and we appreciate all the support that you and everybody
watching gave us.
MADDOW: I just been covering what you are doing and watching in amazement
as anything gets done in Washington, but also watching with real admiration
for the tenacity it took to get this done on the part of Clay`s family and
you guys. I mean, you`re a good advocate for your cause. I have seen you
pass stuff when I didn`t think anything could pass before. What is the
lesson learned here about how you did it?
RIECKHOFF: A total team effort. You know, bringing together people from
all different backgrounds and all across the country. Most of all this is
people power. If the people lead, the politicians will follow. All the
politicians were up there on stage but the real leaders were in the
audience. We had 40 veterans or so from around the country who are every
day people who took up this fight and kept pushing forward, and what we
learned overseas was asymmetrical warfare. What we`re applying back here
at home is asymmetrical advocacy and asymmetrical activism.
We`re using the media -- I mean, we`re on Fox and MSNBC. We`re using
social media extensively. We`re partnering with folks ranging from Lady
Gaga to Linkin Park, to Keil Connelly (ph), a NASCAR race driver.
But most of all, we`ve got people on the ground, around the country in
every city who are fighting for change and we`re sick of Washington being
broken. So, this is a win, it`s a big win, but it`s a first step.
We`ve got a long way to go. But we hope this is a shot in the arm to
Washington, but also gives people hope that things can get done if we stick
together, we work as a team and we stay focused on what matters. And
that`s principles, not politics.
MADDOW: Well, that`s honestly as an observer of politics, and a reporter
on politics, that`s sort of what I`m trying to figure out -- whether or not
you guys can do this stuff because you`re veterans, because of your skills
in getting it done, but also people feel about veterans in a way that can -
- is powerful enough to transcend politics, whether or not there is
anything that can transcend your issue area of focus and whether or not
this can work for other stuff. Do you feel like it could?
RIECKHOFF: We hope so. I mean, when I was standing up there today, I was
between Senator Blumenthal and Senator McCain. You probably won`t see them
stand together on a stage together again this year.
RIECKHOFF: And if we can be the one issue that brings them together,
that`s outstanding. But I think we`re ready to lead across this country.
And I think it`s also important to know, we`re leading outside of
Washington. We`re not going to wait for Washington because Washington has
been so dysfunctional.
So, this is really grassroots power. This is Mr. and Mrs. Smith going to
Washington. Susan Selke is a powerful advocate because she`s honest, and
truthful and she`s from outside the Beltway. And she is tough.
There`s an old saying that the only thing tougher than a marine is a
marine`s mom. And that`s what we saw tonight. She`s been so selfless and
such a true leader. She`s what this country is all about and I think she
personally has inspired people from all across the country to get involved.
MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of
America, celebrating tonight with IAVA and the Selkes -- Paul,
congratulations. Thanks for being here tonight, man.
REICKHOFF: Thank you, Rachel. We appreciate it so much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead. Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Amid unimaginable grief, Clay`s family, Jake, and his fellow
veterans, made it their mission to spare any more families the pain they
endured. So, they shared Clay`s story far and wide. They reached out to
members of Congress. And they lobbied and they testified and made personal
appeals. And thanks to their tireless efforts, we are particularly
grateful to Clay`s family, for being able to transform grief into action.
Today, I will sign the Clay Hunt Save Act into law.
MADDOW: A week ago tonight on this show, I made a very specific offer to
the good city of Salem, Oregon, and then this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: Salem is taking a step to help protect people from angry owls.
This hazard sign started as a gag on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," but now, the
city is actually going to install them in city parks. There have been four
instances where an owl has attacked joggers. Just last week, an owl
swooped down and stole a hat right off a man`s head. The city has
identified the birds as barn owls and that park goers should be especially
careful from dusk to dawn. The new signs are expected to be installed by
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It turns out they didn`t wait until Friday. The Salem Parks
Department really did take us up on our offer, and today, they -- look.
Behold. It actually happened. Look.
Our suggested beware of angry owls sign is now the official "Beware of
Angry Owl" sign in Bush`s Pasture Park in Salem, Oregon.
You know what? Write my obituary right now. If we have accomplished
nothing else on television, let this be the legacy of THE RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW, simply the coolest thing that ever happened to this show. Thank you,
MADDOW: OK. Just because you get there first doesn`t mean you get in
first. At least that`s not how it works in the United States Senate. Just
because Loretta Lynch was nominated to be attorney general nearly a month
before Ash Carter was nominated to be defense secretary doesn`t mean she
will get a confirmation vote before he does.
Loretta Lynch sailed through her confirmation hearings in the Senate.
Nobody laid a glove on Loretta Lynch. Because they couldn`t lay a glove on
her, the hearings ended up basically being about the current attorney
general instead of about her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: You`re not Eric Holder, are you?
LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: No, I`m not, sir.
CORNYN: So, no one is suggesting that you are, but of course, Attorney
General Holder`s record is heavy on our minds now.
(END VIDEO CLI)
MADDOW: Loretta Lynch, just like Ash Carter, she aced her confirmation
hearings in the Senate. But today, it was Ash Carter confirmed to become
the next secretary of defense, even though his nomination went up a month
later. Loretta lynch, apparently, Senate Republicans are having second
thoughts about her.
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to vote on her
nomination but at the last minute, they decided not to do it. Why the
change of heart? Nobody is saying.
Now, they`re not planning on giving her a final vote until March, until
five weeks after her confirmation hearings. There`s no indication before
now that she was going to have any trouble. I usually would finish a
report by saying, watch the space. In this case, really, watch this space,
with this Loretta Lynch confirmation delay, this really feels like an
outbreak of shenanigans is imminent.
MADDOW: Elvis was from Tupelo, Mississippi. The great swiveling pelvis of
rock and roll built his Graceland in Memphis, yes, but he was born and
raised in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The electronic music genius Diplo was also born in Tupelo. He grew up in
Miami but he`s apparently a Tupelo native.
Former WNBA star Tamika Whitmore, she was also born and raised in Tupelo,
The guy on the right here was not born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was from
Chattanooga. But he moved to Tupelo. His name was Frank Raines, and he
was a simultaneous talker. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has the ability, Carol, to no matter what I say,
talk right along with me, and can do it in any language, even though he may
not know the language in which the person is speaking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t even have to look at me to know that he`s
doing this. And (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He gets in your mind so you can`t talk after a while.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Frank Raines, the simultaneous talker. And Elvis, Diplo and
Tamika Whitmore, they are all from mighty Tupelo, Mississippi.
Also from Tupelo, Mississippi, these guys. The American Family
Association, our new favorite far right religious activist group, with the
guy who blames Hitler on the gays and says Jewish immigrants to America
should be forced to convert as a condition of coming to this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Number one, those who came to
our shores would be expected to adopt our religious values and our
traditions. That would mean Christianity. The religion of their homeland
and the god of their homeland, they would leave them behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From their home base in Tupelo, Mississippi, the folks at the
American Family Association have figured out how to make a real wonderful
living with running radio shows and leading crusades against Sponge Bob and
boycotting skinny model who is eat hamburgers in Super Bowl ads.
They reportedly also have been hauling leaders of the Republican Party
around on an expenses paid trip to Israel. After news got around that
Republicans, the National Republican Party convention was being hosted by
this Mississippi on that trip, both the Republican Party and the American
Family Association stopped talking about it.
We`ve been asking for weeks now whether Republicans went ahead with that
trip, by their own schedule, they should have gone and returned already.
But still, the Republican Party won`t answer our questions about that trip
to Israel, neither will the American Family Association in Tupelo.
That said, I`m sure they have plenty to work on besides answering questions
from liberal TV ladies. Por ejemplo, this is now being unleashed by Satan
on Cineplexs everywhere. From their headquarters in Tupelo, Mississippi,
the American Family Association has been busy this week fulminating against
"50 Shades of Grey", telling you and your mother and everybody else why
they must not see this movie. Quote, "A more apt title would be 50 shades
Now, it`s not for me to say whether you should see this movie or object to
it on whatever grounds you find convincing. But I can tell you that the
American Family Association, from its Tupelo, Mississippi headquarters,
most certainly wants you to not buy a ticket for "50 Shades of Grey."
But when they open their Mississippi newspaper in the Mississippi morning,
this is the news they`re seeing. "Mississippi, the most eager state in the
country to see `Fifty Shades of Grey"." Nowhere in this country are people
so hot to see this movie as the people of Mississippi. Advanced tickets
for this devil show have been selling there four times faster than the
In the home state of the American Family Association, which is very busy
telling everybody not to buy a ticket. The first theater in the country to
sell out for this movie, every ticket gone, is in Tupelo, Mississippi! The
actual backyard of the American Family Association.
Tonight in Tupelo, Mississippi, the first three shows of "Fifty Shades of
Grey" are completely sold out. Yes, American Family Association, your town
really wants to see "Fifty Shades of Grey" and they really don`t care what
you say about it.
But, we`d still like to hear your answers to our questions about that trip
you took with the Republican Party. So please check your inbox. Thank
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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