'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, February 13th, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: February 13, 2015
Guest: Reena Khrais, Jim Moore, Robert Costa
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. Enjoy your
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. You are going to get the latest on
KORNACKI: You got it. OK. All the time.
HAYES: I`m going to go check it out, all right.
KORNACKI: All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us for this hour.
Rachel has the night off and there is some big news on the West Coast
tonight in the state of Oregon. Something that we have been watching for
and something that the Oregon press has been waiting for and today it
finally happened. Governor John Kitzhaber giving in and announcing just
hours ago that he will resign from office, effective next Wednesday.
Kitzhaber didn`t make this announcement on camera. In fact, he made no
public appearances at all today. His office instead putting out a written
statement as well as an audio file of the governor reading that statement
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KITZHABER (D) OREGON: I`m announcing today that I will resign as
governor of the state of Oregon. It is not in my nature to walk away from
a job that I`ve undertaken. It is to stand and fight to the cause. And
so, I apologize to all of those people who gave up their face, time, energy
and resources to elect to a fourth term last year and who have supported me
over the past three decades. I must also say that it`s deeply troubling to
me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great
state art, where a person can be charged, tried and convicted and sentenced
by media with no due process and no independent verification of the
Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very
institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career, and indeed
my entire adult life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Kitzhaber going on to say that he is confident that he has not
broken any laws or done anything dishonest. But that reading from his
statement here, the escalating media frenzy has clearly reached the point
of no return.
Kitzhaber says he will step down officially as of next Wednesday morning
10:00 a.m. local time, 10 a.m. in Oregon. John Kitzhaber is 67 years old.
He spent what feels like a lifetime in politics in Oregon politics. He was
on his way to becoming the second longest serving governor in the history
of the United States if he had finished out his current term. That would
have been 16 years in office for John Kitzhaber. He`s a Democrat. He was
just elected in November for the fourth time in Oregon. On the national
stage, he is best known for his work on health reform. In practical terms,
the rollout of Obamacare in Oregon was a disaster. As it was in many
places, but the ideas that Kitzhaber championed were considered for a time
to be a blueprint for other states.
For the past several months, though, Kitzhaber has been beset by troubles,
mostly concerning his girlfriend and pay to play corruption allegations
about her, about her relationship with him, about her relationship with the
state of Oregon. And on official level, specifically whether she was paid
by interest groups to advocate for policies in Kitzhaber`s administration
while she was also serving in an unofficial capacity as the state`s first
lady. That situation led to an ethics investigation and a state criminal
investigation, then a demand from the state`s largest newspaper that
Kitzhaber resigned his job immediately. Until this afternoon, Kitzhaber
had been fiercely resisting that demand. Here, for instance, is what he
had to say on Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you been considering resigning?
JOHN KITZHABER: No, I have not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has not crossed your mind at all?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Again, this was Wednesday night, that was just 48 hours ago when
John Kitzhaber said that in public. Behind the scenes, though, for these
past 48 hours, for these past few weeks, in fact, a very different story
has been playing out. And Kitzhaber now joins the likes of other recent
governors who have resigned amid political scandal. New York`s Eliot
Spitzer and New Jersey`s Jim McGreevey come to mind. Also joins the
company of governors who resigned for reasons we still don`t fully
And of course, there are also governors who`ve managed to ride out high
profile scandals and to remain in office. South Carolina`s Mark Sanford
was caught cheating on his wife, but he refused to resign, and now he
serves in Congress. In 2013, Bob McDonnell of Virginia apologized for
accepting loans and gifts from a powerful CEO while in office. He was,
though, able to serve out the remain of his term, but then when that term
ended he was officially indicted. He`s since been convicted and sentenced.
Texas Governor Rick Perry was also indicted last summer on two
controversial felony abuse of power charges. There are even some
Democrats, though, who say Perry should not have been charged with any
crime. Which probably helps to explain why he had no trouble finishing at
his third and final term as governor of Texas.
Now Oregon`s constitution does not allow for the impeachment of a governor,
so Kitzhaber could technically have stuck around for a while and try and
ride this storm out. But the political realities for him have been only
getting more dire. The first big domino was last week with more
allegations coming about his girlfriend`s role in his administration. The
state`s largest newspaper, "The Oregonian" responding to those revelations
by calling on the governor to step down. Then yesterday, perhaps the fatal
blow. Kitzhaber`s most loyal Democratic supporters including the state
treasurer joining the resignation calls turning on their long-time ally.
The state Senate president and the House speaker both personally met with
Kitzhaber yesterday and told him that it was over, time to go. And they
left that meeting convinced that he was, in fact, ready to resign. But
then suddenly, as soon as that meeting was over, it seemed like Kitzhaber
was making one final play to hang on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. PETER COURTNEY, (D-OR) SENATE PRESIDENT: 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 - to have a transition period with the secretary of state. I
supported that. He noted me - it would 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
you about it, because he swore me to secrecy. I told my wife late that
night what I told. And the 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 - 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)
KORNACKI: Now, that was yesterday. Kitzhaber seeming to tell state
leaders that he was quitting his job and then backtracking from that. That
Kitzhaber did have any chance of surviving, this what you are looking at
right now, probably ended it. "The Willamette Week" newspaper reporting
that the governor`s office, just last week, tried to have all of his
personal e-mails deleted from government servers. That request from the
governor`s office so shocking to the techs who would have caught to carry
out the request that they refused to do it. Resignation watch gripped
Oregon all day on Thursday, all night as well, until this morning, that`s
the news breaking that he was ready to resign, this time for real.
And there`s no lieutenant governor in Oregon, so when a governor resigns
from office, the next in line is actually the secretary of state. The
secretary of state right now in Oregon is a Democrat named Kate Brown. And
just a few days ago, Brown was in Washington D.C. heading up a conference
for the National Association of Secretaries of State. She says that while
she was at that conference, the governor called her back to Oregon telling
her it was an emergency. So, she got on a plane on Wednesday. But when
she got back to Oregon and sat down with Kitzhaber in his office she says
"He asked me why I came back early from Washington D.C. Which I found
strange. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. The governor told me
he was not resigning after which he began a discussion about transition."
Continuing from her statement, "This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented
situation. I informed the governor that I am ready and my staff will be
ready should he resign."
That was Kate Brown, the secretary of state in Oregon. Next in line to be
governor. That was her yesterday. Yesterday when confusion and chaos
reigned in Oregon state capital. But now in less than a week, Kate Brown
is going to become the 38th governor in the history of Oregon. And she
will do so with many questions about Kitzhaber still hanging in the air.
He is now reportedly the subject of an ongoing FBI probe as well as a probe
by the state attorney general. Just in the past hour or so, we`re also
getting reports of federal criminal subpoenas delivered after the governor
resigned today. Demanding records related to the governor and to his
Meanwhile, the governor to be, Kate Brown, is getting ready for her new
job. She is an interesting figure in her own right. She served six years
as the state`s top election official, the secretary of state, she also
served in the Oregon legislature for almost two decades. Becoming the
first woman during that time to serve as the state senate majority leader.
Also, according to her official bio, her main goals as secretary of state
have been to remove barriers for voter registration to promote growth for
business and for entrepreneurs. Also, apparently, according to her bio,
she likes yoga. It remains to be seen what kind of a governor she will be.
Today she made only this brief statement to reporters.
KATE BROWN, (D) OREGON SECRETARY OF STATE: This is truly a sad day for the
state of Oregon, but I have confidence that legislatures will come together
to move Oregon forward. I know you all have a lot of questions, and I
would like to answer those questions as soon as possible. As you can
imagine, between now and Wednesday, we have a lot of work to be done and
that is what I will go back and do it. Thank you.
KORNACKI: And so now, Oregon is going to get a new governor. The old one
is stepping down. A new one is taking his place. The state is also
becoming something of a national test case. We have seen plenty of
scandals take down plenty of governors before. But have we ever seen one
like this. Joining us now, his Dr. Jim Moore, the director of Tom McCall
Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University in Oregon.
Dr. Moore, thanks for joining us tonight. So, let me just start with this.
We played that audio file from the governor, the soon to be ex-governor
that was released today, and he said today among other things, that he has
been "charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media." This all
happened very fast. I think people, especially nationally, are still
trying to figure this out. Does the governor have a point there? Is there
a chance that we don`t fully understand even what he is being accused of?
JIM MOORE, PACIFIC UNIVERSITY, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: Yes, there`s
absolutely that chance. But it is partly his fault. In fact, a lot of it
is his fault. The media for the past four months, beginning with - week
and then the Oregonian and other newspapers have done a really strong job
in uncovering things, has found a lot of things that don`t look right, but
they have not looked underneath to see if there is an alternative story of
if there is an explanation that makes sense underneath.
And the governor during that entire time, during his campaign and then when
he became governor again, has basically refused to give a narrative that
makes sense out of any of that. So, yes, there`s been a rush to judgment,
it looks like a media thing, but the thing is he didn`t act on the other
side. He didn`t say no, this is what`s going on, and so we were left with
a deafening silence from his side.
KORNACKI: And it`s so interesting what you are saying, because Kitzhaber,
as we said in that intro, in his fourth term, two different stances, the
governor of Oregon. This is the guy who`s been around the block when
you`re talking about politics, can you tell us a little bit about his
girlfriend? She is I think 20 years younger than him, obviously in the
middle of this. Their relationship, their history together. There was
some controversy in the fall campaign last year about she`d been part of
some green card for cash scheme about 20 years ago. When did she come into
his life, and what affects has she had?
MOORE: She came into his life in 2002. She was a candidate for a state
legislative position. And they met. That is also - that`s the year that
he left the governorship. So, he was working with candidates across the
states. They met. They have apparently been an item now for ten years.
And during that time, she runs her own business. She is basically an
energy and environmental consultant, and she was - had clients and things
like that. But as the governor looked like he was going to run for a third
term, after two terms of someone else, all of a sudden, she started getting
different contracts and when she became the first lady, as he called her,
the payment for her contracts went up. And so that is what raised red
flags. But what has she done for him? You know, his first two terms, he
was known as a really reclusive guy. He did not go out and campaign for
Democrats who are running for the legislature. He kept to himself, third
term comes in eight years later with Silvia Hayes at his side. He was
gregarious, he was wanting to talk to people. He wanted to work with the
media on things. He had big ideas, it was like a whole different person.
And it turns out that person is the reason that he asked to resign.
KORNACKI: And so, when did this - again, this has happened so quickly. We
had - in England there was something, you know, a little unusual going on
last fall. I don`t think anybody at least nationally a measurement was
going to lead to this. When was the big break in this thing? At what
point in the last few weeks and the last few months did you look at this
and say, well, this guy is actually in trouble here?
MOORE: Well, the reason the Oregonian ran its editorial last week is a
story came out that show that Cylvia Hayes, the governor`s fianc‚e, had
gotten a job because lobbyists who had worked with the governor on various
things had gotten her that job. Those lobbyists then were hired by the
governor to be on his staff. And at the same time, the job that she was
doing was stuff that she was actually advising the governor on what he
ought to do on. So, she was being paid to lobby and also being paid and
being the first lady to try to decide what the policies were. So, she was
working both sides of the door. The Oregonian said that`s a step too far.
That`s when they called for his resignation. Even with that, there could
have been good excuses for that, but once again, deafening silence from the
governor`s side. And so we were left for this whole thing to take the
course we`ve seen in the last ten days.
KORNACKI: And we have now as we say, a word of the subpoena, a word of the
federal investigation potentially. I mean the possibility of this
ultimately - some kind of jail time, maybe even for the governor, is that
something people are talking about?
MOORE: You`ll be - but when you look at it, I`m - you know, I`ve looked at
the law really closely. I`ve learned more about the Oregon constitution
and this particular set of laws in the last ten days. It is just amazing.
It`s hard to see what he has done. Oregon like many states when you get
into ethics kinds of things, the laws are purposely left with gray areas.
That`s because the legislature passes them, and they have to negotiate to
get that done, and also because they can`t anticipate what`s going to come
up as they`re looking at things down the road. There is lots of grey area.
So, the governor could be liable for things, but it looks more like Cylvia
Hayes may be the one who is in trouble. Specifically, it looks like she
did not claim all of her income on her income taxes. And so, I don`t know
about the FBI, but the IRS is certainly interested in that particular
KORNACKI: I imagine they are. Dr. Jim Moore, the director of the Tom
McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University in Oregon,
appreciate your time tonight.
MOORE: You`re welcome.
KORNACKI: All right. Lots ahead in the show tonight, including an update
on that triple murder down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We have a live
report from Chapel Hill, that`s coming up. And one of the most astonishing
newspaper corrections that I think we have ever seen, that`s coming up as
well. So, stay with us.
KORNACKI: So, everybody here at the "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" loves local
newspapers. Likes to celebrate the righters and the editors who do the
basic work of covering local issues. So, the readers can be better
informed citizens. That basic work includes giving citizens a voice, then
making sure that the citizen`s voice is represented accurately. Case in
point, this correction to a letter to the editor published this week in the
"Lexington Dispatch." That`s a local newspaper in North Carolina. It`s a
correction that ironically we discovered on the Internet. But here it is,
"Boyd Thomas` letter Saturday contained an error in the headline. He does
not believe President Obama is the antichrist who will come after seven
kings according to revelations, he thinks Obama could be the seventh king."
Do we noted it? And we can`t say enough, subscribe to your local paper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ABU SALHA, FATHER OF SISTER`S KILLED: We belong here. We have blended
our blood with this soil. We raised our children to honor any country they
live in and to be loyal to their community. President Obama by
acknowledging our pain and calling us assures us, for what he stood and
what this country stands for. And this is really an honor to show our
families where we came from and the world that we were not wrong when we
came here and we believed in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s Dr. Muhammad Abu Salha, speaking earlier this evening.
This is just three days after his two daughters and his son-in-law were
murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And for the first time today
President Obama spoke out about those killings, issuing a statement that
read in part, "no one in the United States of America should ever be
targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they
worship." The president`s words acknowledging the question hanging over
this case. Were these three victims, all of them shot execution style,
were they targeted because they were Muslims? At yesterday`s funeral for
the slain students Dr. Abu Salha told mourners "This has hate crime written
all over it." And today, Muslim leaders held the prayer meeting at the
U.S. Capitol, then worked the halls pushing for a hate crimes
investigation. The FBI hasn`t gone that far yet. But it has now opened a
preliminary inquiry, which Attorney General Eric Holder says will determine
whether any hate crime laws were broken.
Meanwhile, we learned more today about the man charged with these three
murders. Craig Stephen Hicks, he`s a neighbor of two of the victims.
Police seized a dozen guns from Hicks` apartment. Found four handguns, two
shotguns, six rifles, including a military style AR-15. They also found
cases of ammunition. Hicks had an additional pistol with him when he
turned himself in about an hour after those shootings on Tuesday evening.
Local authorities have so far said evidence points to a long-running
parking dispute between Hicks and the victims. Other neighbors have
described him as angry and abusive towards everyone regardless of religion
or ethnicity. Hicks`s wife has hinted at mental health problems. Adding
extra poignancy to the tragedy has been a recording of one of the victims
that emerged just yesterday.
Yusor Abu Salha who died Tuesday with her husband and her sister spoke to
the public radio oral history project StoryCorps in Durham, North Carolina,
just last summer. And here she is with her former elementary school
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUSOR ABU-SALHA: Growing up in America has been such a blessing, and, you
know, although in some ways I do stand out, such as, you know, the hijab I
wear on my head. The head covering. There are still so many ways that I
feel so embedded in the fabric that is, you know, our culture and that`s
the beautiful thing here is that - it doesn`t matter where you come from.
There is so many different people from so many different places of
different backgrounds and religions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
ABU-SALHA: But here we are all one.
KORNACKI: And joining us now is Reema Khrais, she`s a reporter for WUNC,
North Carolina public radio. It was her station that found and posted that
StoryCorps interview. You were just hearing, Reema. Thanks for joining us
Well, let me start with this. So, we have parallel investigations going on
right now. The local authorities are investigating this, the FBI is
looking into this. It is unusual, I think, in any case to have both of
them looking into it at the same time. Is there a sense here of any time
table for when one of these will produce some kind of an answer to this -
this question about whether this was a hate crime.
KHRAIS: I thank you first of all for having me. I have not heard any
timetable yet. Of course, the Chapel Hill police have been looking into
this since it occurred Tuesday night and we heard from the family almost
immediately saying that more needs to be done and that the FBI is looking
into this a little bit more. And when the Chapel Hill police first looked
into it, as you mentioned, they said it was over a parking dispute which
the family came out and immediately said, you know, this is insulting,
outrageous, and insensitive for you to say that it is over a parking
dispute. And now, again, the FBI is stepping in but we do not have any
really signal on when that will end or how long that will last.
KORNACKI: Yeah, and I`m curious about that. I mean the family obviously
has made some very strong statements on this. And I think this is one of
those situations where people look at it just on face value and are very
suspicious of what led to this and the idea of a parking dispute, I think,
strikes people instinctively, maybe as a little suspicious. But besides,
you know, there are Facebook postings from this man who turned himself in,
where he seems to bash all religion completely. Besides that, are there
other sort of specific and concrete reasons to suspect this was more than a
KHRAIS: So, I talked with one of the friends of Yusor Abu-Salha. She was
a dental - she was going to become a dental student and join her husband in
the - she was a newlywed. And so, I talked with one of her friends who
said, you know, I have no doubt in my mind that this is a hate crime. I
remember when she texted me after she had some friends over, and her
neighbor came by, Craig Hicks came by and said your friends are being
really disruptive and disrespectful. And as he was saying that, he held
his hand over his pocket where there was a gun. And I`ve heard over and
again, from different friends who said that Yusor Abu-Salha had told them
that she felt like Craig Hicks hated him - hated her. And they`ve said,
you know, if my friend says that - that he hated us, then I believe that.
And we heard from Suzanne Barakat this morning on "Morning Joe." She - she
said that they said it was outrageous for them to call it to say that this
was over a parking dispute, them - over a parking dispute. And she said
that Deah Barakat who was her brother had even made a map of the different
parking spots and had highlighted which ones his friends could not park in
because the neighbor had approached him and his wife in the past saying
that he was upset over this.
KORNACKI: And what - do you have a sense, can you tell us, in the
community there how people are thinking about this? The idea of the
parking dispute versus the idea of this being something of a lot more
value. You know, turns into a hate crime. Do you have a sense from the
community where people are - how they are thinking about that?
KHRAIS: Yeah, so I went to a vigil Wednesday night, and that was the day
after they had been murdered. And they were all taking time to remember
Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha, Razan Abu Salha. And they were saying that,
I think from the Muslim community, at least, and for different communities,
it is a time for them to reflect on how this impacts them. And I know I
talked with some Muslims who I think really validated how some of their
fears that they feel around being Muslim, and how people perceive them, and
I think they`re trying to reflect on that right now. And I know that at
one point one of the friends of Yusor Abu-Salha said Muslims lives matter,
black lives matter, all lives matter. Sort of echoing the hashtag that
we`ve seen, of black lives matter after the shootings of Eric Garner and
Michael Brown. So, you know, there is definitely a conversation that`s
happening right now about that. Lots of people in the Muslim community are
just outraged and confused, I think.
KORNACKI: All right. Reena Khrais. She`s a reporter for WUNC, North
Carolina public radio. Thanks for taking your time tonight.
KHRAIS: Thank you for having me.
KORNACKI: All right, and still ahead tonight when the vice president of
the United States travels the country, it is not necessarily national news,
but when this particular vice president travels this country and travels to
Iowa specifically, it raises all sorts of alarm bells about 2016. More on
that coming up.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Maybe you heard news this week about a
peace deal in Ukraine. What you`re about to see, though, is not that.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
KORNACKI: We spent a lot of time trying to figure out why these two
members of the Ukrainian parliament were punching each other in the face.
It turns out it was a political disagreement, but not the one that you`re
seeing headlines about between the Ukraine and Russia. That one, the big
one, may -- and may is the operative word here -- may actually be on its
way toward getting resolved.
After months of hardcore fighting between the Ukrainian troops and the pro-
Russian separatists who tried to take over parts of Eastern Ukraine,
leaders from both countries met this week and hash out an agreement to end
the turmoil. The talks went on for 17 hours. And at one point, Russian
President Vladimir Putin apparently snapped a pen or pencil in two out of
But eventually, they did hash out conditions for a ceasefire, and that
ceasefire is supposed to take effect at midnight on Saturday, just over 34
hours from now, although there is plenty of skepticism that it will last
And today ahead of that deadline, Russian activists have been blasting away
at a single disputed town in Ukraine, trying to take control over as much
territory as they can before that ceasefire begins. At least 26 people
have been killed in this new assault.
So, it remains to be seen whether this new will actually hold, whether the
ceasefire set for this weekend will actually happen, and whether it will
last, or whether it will fall apart the way the last ceasefire did. But
somehow the sides can make this work. They may have reached a political
end or at least a political pause in this long-running conflict.
Watch this space.
KORNACKI: All right, we have a traffic advisory for you tonight. It`s
this: if you find yourself in Des Moines, Iowa, tomorrow, if you`re driving
under this pedestrian bridge on Interstate 235, don`t be alarmed if you see
a group of very enthusiastic people furiously waving at your car and trying
to get you to honk your horn. If you happen to find yourself in that
situation, it means that you`re driving past a Honk and Wave rally being
organized by a group called Run Warren Run.
It`s a group that wants Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to throw her
hat in the ring to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.
Run Warren Run was created by the liberal group MoveOn.org. And they have
already opened up two official offices in Iowa. This despite the fact that
Warren has said publicly she isn`t running and that she won`t run. And
again, she`d hardly be the first politician to go back on a pledge like
that. And so, the Run Warren Run movement lives on.
And tomorrow, they will be out on that bridge, in the first in the nation
caucus state, pleading their case to anyone who happens to drive by. And,
by the way, the high temperature in Des Moines tomorrow, 18 degrees, below
Speaking of Iowa, Vice President Joe Biden just left that state. He was
there all day yesterday, this in a trip that looked very campaign-ish. The
vice president giving a speech and answering questions from the audience.
He also had a photo op at a local restaurant.
And he had some advice for the next Democratic nominee for president. His
advice: don`t distance yourself from President Obama, run on his record.
Quote, "Stand for what we have done." That`s what Joe Biden was telling
the crowd in Iowa.
On the Republican side, the presidential race has been alive and well in
Iowa for months now. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who says he may
wage what would be a very long shot campaign for the GOP nomination, he is
headed to Iowa next week.
And of the candidates who have unofficially been in the race for months,
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was also in Iowa this month. He said
his New Jersey bluntness will translate to voters in Iowa and across the
country. But the reviews from the locales haven`t exactly been dazzling so
far. The political director of the Iowa Republican Party writing this week
that Christie, quote, "seemed a little flat" during his trip.
Just about all of the Republican candidates for president had been in and
out of Iowa in recent weeks, although with the notable exception of Jeb
Bush, who`s expected to be there for the first time in years next month.
Also in Iowa, in the last week, that a seemingly mundane moment that would
have huge consequences unfolded on television, in the interview with one of
those Republican candidates. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is pretty openly
running for president, and during the interview with the NBC station in
Iowa, there was one very telling exchange. Watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID PRICE, ANCHOR, WHO-TV: You have, I would think, a unique perspective
going into these caucuses because you got to watch your dad go through
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I got to speak at a couple. In fact, my
kids got to speak at a couple of the caucuses last time. So, yes --
PRICE: It`s like free training, right?
PAUL: We`re trying to copy you. In Kentucky, we may end up having a
presidential caucus this year. I don`t know if we`re going to copy Iowa.
We`re looking all the different caucuses to see which one works best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, Rand Paul is saying there that Kentucky, that his home state
of Kentucky might end up having a presidential caucus as opposed today a
presidential primary in 2016. Why is that a big deal?
Well, it`s a big deal because it could potentially save Rand Paul from
having to make what would be a wrenching choice for him -- a choice between
keeping his Senate seat or getting to run for president next year. This is
all because current Kentucky state law bars a candidate from appearing
twice on the same ballot in an election. So, you can`t run for two offices
at the same time. You have to pick one of them.
Here`s the problem for Rand Paul. His Senate seat is up in 2016. The
deadline to file as a candidate for reelection for that race is in January,
at the same time that the Republican primary season will just be getting
under way. So, under Kentucky law, Rand Paul can`t put his name on the
ballot for Senate if it`s also going to be on the ballot for president. He
would have to choose one office to run for.
Now, Paul had been hoping to get that law changed, but the Democrats who
control the Kentucky State House of Representatives, they made it clear
they`re not doing that. And so, that`s where the caucus thing comes from,
because in caucuses, there are no ballots. Caucuses are public meetings,
they are run by parties, they are not secret ballot elections.
Remember, the law in Kentucky says you can`t have your name on the ballot
for two different offices. But if Kentucky`s Republican Party were to
decide to stop holding a primary and instead to hold caucuses, well then
Paul`s dilemma would be solved. He can still put his name on ballot for
Senate. He could still compete in the caucuses for the Republican
presidential race. Only one ballot there with one race with Rand Paul`s
name on it.
And that explains this -- this week, "The Lexington Herald" newspaper
getting its hands on a letter from Rand Paul to the Republican Party in
Kentucky, urging them to adopt a caucus system in order to help him.
Quote, "You, as a member of the Kentucky Republican Central Committee, will
be the one to decide if you want to help me get an equal chance at the
So that explains why Rand Paul was excitedly telling that interviewer they
might have state caucuses of their own. You know, if it seems like a
really technical issue, well, it probably is, but it`s also, believe it or
not, this is also a huge moment and a huge decision for Rand Paul`s
presidential hopes. And it`s also a reminder that even though the election
is still a long way away, big things are happening right now that will
determine who is still standing and who isn`t a year from now.
Joining us now is Robert Costa. He`s national political reporter for "The
Robert, thanks for taking a few minutes tonight.
So, let`s start with this Rand Paul issue here in Kentucky. Is there a
sense of looking inside Kentucky that he is going to get his way on this?
That the Republicans will cooperate, give him the caucuses, and free him
from that decision?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I have spoken with several Rand Paul
allies, and, though, this is a majority state that Mitch McConnell won last
year, the state has really trended toward Rand Paul politically in the last
few years. You have Thomas Massie, a libertarian Republican congressman,
you know, elected (ph) Rand Paul in 2010. I think there is an appetite
among his base to get this done.
And they also know that the Paul family traditionally, Rand Paul and Ron
Paul, have done well in these caucus formats were a test of organizational
KORNACKI: So, what happens if he doesn`t get his way, though? If the
current law stays in place, the current procedure stays in place, and he`s
got to make that decision. I think the filing deadline for the Senate in
Kentucky next year is the end of January. At that point, only a few states
will have voted in presidential race. So, if Rand Paul is at all viable at
that point, that`s a brutal decision for him to have to make.
COSTA: It`s a very difficult decision. I think at this point, I was just
with Rand Paul for two-and-a-half days in Iowa. You get the sense that he
wants to run for president. That is his priority. But his father was able
to build a political base for decades because he had that perch in the
House. I think Rand Paul sees the value of a Senate seat. He doesn`t want
to just give it up.
KORNACKI: There`s some other news from the Republican presidential race.
Again, we`re seeing things happening right now that have huge consequences
later. Here is a perfect example, some news that your newspaper, "The
Washington Post", reporting today about Jeb Bush and this massive behind
the scenes fundraising push that he`s been sort of trying to orchestrate.
The paper, your paper reporting that he could be leaving his opponents in
the dust in terms of the money that they are bringing in.
Could you shed a little light on what`s going on there and the effect that
COSTA: So, there`s a major battle for the Republican nomination about to
kick off. But there`s also an internal battle for that center right space
within the emerging primary, between Christie, Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott
Walker was part of it as well. And Bush knows because he has not been on a
ballot in over a decade, he needs to make moves financially, because he may
not be with the hearts of the conservative base, so he had 100,000 ticket
fundraiser in New York this week. He wants to raise close to $100 million
through his bundlers, and really push some of his rivals out and make them
wonder if they`re even going to run.
KORNACKI: In terms of -- I mean, that`s the private end. But I also
wonder about the public end of it. I think back to his brother, when
George W. was running for president, he also raised ridiculous money that
shocked everybody. Clearly, Jeb is trying to do the same thing here.
The other thing that George W. had for him was he brought out a lot of
major endorsements, a lot of the sort of the governors, the big state
governors, he lined up a lot of public support. I`m looking at today`s
Republican Party, I`m looking at Jeb Bush, I`m looking at all the suspicion
that exists among the base toward him, I`m saying, are there big named
Republicans who are going to be willing to come out in the near future and
say, Jeb Bush is my guy?
COSTA: No, because the field is too big. I was on Capitol Hill all day
and you get a sense a lot of Republicans in Congress and in governor`s
office, they don`t want to come out endorse Bush. Those who have a deep
family relationship with the Bushes, going back to 41 and 43, those donors
who became ambassadors, they`re with Jeb right now, but there is not some
mass Bush wave like there was in 1999, when everyone was flying down to
Austin and signing up for George W.
KORNACKI: And we said there in the intro, quickly, Chris Christie, he`s
been to Iowa a couple of times now. He spoke at that Steve King event a
few weeks. He is back there in the past week. The reviews maybe have not
been that encouraging so far.
How is Christie being received?
COSTA: I was five feet away from him as Governor Christie spoke.
Fascinating to watch. This is a guy who made his name in early 2010
yelling at public school teachers and those videos become viral videos on
The Christie I saw on Monday night, on West Des Moines at the Marriott
Hotel -- quiet, somber, going against his usual persona. He was trying to
be Iowa nice to a lot of those people who showed up and pay $25 a ticket.
It was a different Christie, but it was pretty flat in terms of the
reception. Not a lot of applause lines. I think people came in part to be
entertained and they weren`t.
KORNACKI: I got to tell you, that reminds me so much of Rudy Giuliani when
he ran for president. Everybody around Giuliani was so scared of mean,
angry Rudy Giuliani having some kind of outburst, and they basically took
the personality out of the guy, and he was a boring candidate in 2007.
COSTA: It`s the same people running the Christie political operation.
Mike DuHaime is Chris Christie`s chief political strategist, was also chief
strategist for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. Maria Comella, the spokesman for
Chris Christie, was also a spokesman for Giuliani. It`s the same circle.
I think Christie feels like she in a better position. He has chairman of
the RGA last year, has a lot more financial context. But still, when it
comes to his personality because of the bridge episode, because of the New
Jersey economy, he seems to be playing himself down and I`m not sure how
it`s going to play out.
KORNACKI: Yes, Chris Christie without that personality for better or
worse. Hard to imagine.
Anyway, Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington
Post", I really appreciate the time tonight.
COSTA: Thank you.
KORNACKI: All right. And still ahead tonight --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of
any foreign policy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I can see Russia from my house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Forty years of American politics all through the eyes of
"Saturday Night Live." That is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: Pro tip from police in the Netherlands:
"Look in your district to the rooftops. No snow? Possible #cannabis."
Guess which of these houses has a pot-growing operation under its roof?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: A couple of months ago, John Oliver used his new HBO show to
perform a public service. The Supreme Court is arguably one of the most
important institutions in America, but, of course, news coverage of the
court can be tough, because there are no cameras allowed inside.
So, John Oliver did this -- re-enactments with dogs. Here you see Supreme
Court Justice Scalia, and Justice Samuel Alito. Here`s the newest member
on the court, Justice Elena Kagan.
Folks over at HBO gave out more than ten minutes worth of this kind of
footage on YouTube. And the idea is you can use it to play along with the
audio that the Supreme Court releases when they`re holding oral arguments.
So, to show you how this works, here is Justice Ginsburg during oral
arguments for the land mark marriage equality case the United States v.
(BEGIO VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREMER COURT JUSTICE: It`s, as Justice Kennedy
said, it affects every area of life. And so, you are really diminishing
what the state has said is marriage. You`re saying, you know, states,
there`s two kinds of marriage, the full marriage and sort of skim milk
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So that is how that`s supposed to work. You can decide whether
that quote is made better with the Chihuahua.
The 81-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg needs little help being interesting
these days. In the last few years, she`s crossed over into something of a
pop culture cult figure. She has a popular page, the Notorious RBG,
devoted to all things RBG. She`d actually fallen asleep at President
Obama`s State of the Union address. She`s done that more than once.
Yesterday, Justice Ginsburg explaining that this year`s address snooze was
caused by a bottle of California wine that fellow Justice Anthony Kennedy
had procured for their pre-speech dinner. She admitted she was not, quote,
"100 percent sober" during that address.
If any of that piques your interest, then I have some good news for you.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to be on this show next week. MSNBC`s
Irin Carmon interviewed her. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is going to air the
interview exclusively on Monday night.
KORNACKI: Sunday night on NBC, "Saturday Night Live" is going to be
celebrating its 40th anniversary. They`re going to be doing that with a 3
1/2-hour special that may be the largest collection of comedic talent in
It was nearly 40 years ago, back in the fall of 1975, that NBC debuted the
not ready for primetime players. Ever since, "SNL" has been at the
forefront, not just of comedy and satire, but also music, culture and
"SNL" has been on the air long enough to spoof, to lampoon and to humanize
seven different presidents, starting with -- I`m going to take you on a
little tour here -- Gerald Ford, played by Chevy Chase. This is back in
the fall of 1975. The first 46 ever Chevy Chase impersonation of Gerald
Ford, the first ever "SNL" impersonation of a president. Let`s take a look
at what people saw back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHEVY CHASE: If I don`t win, I will continue to win in the primaries, even
if there are none. And now for my second announcement --
CHASE: Live from New York, it`s Saturday night!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Gerald Ford had a maybe unfortunate reputation as a clumsy
president and Chevy Chase immortalized it by falling down in every skit
where he portrayed Gerald Ford.
After that, the next president, of course, was Jimmy Carter. But on
"Saturday Night Live," the next president was Dan Aykroyd. A little more
of a resemblance than you saw with Chevy Chase and Gerald Ford.
Jimmy Carter president for four years, was then followed by Ronald Reagan.
"SNL" had a lot of different people who took a shot at playing Reagan. Joe
Piscapo did it for a while. They brought in Robin William at one point.
But to me, at least the most memorable Reagan was Phil Hartman, the late
great Phil Hartman. And here`s my favorite Phil Hartman as Ronald Reagan
sketch from 1986. He portrayed Reagan in a very different light than
people were used to seeing him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL HARTMAN: The red countries are the countries we sell arms to. The
green countries are the country where is we wash our money. The blue
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, Mr. President, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s your 11:30 photo opportunity with the little girl
who sold the most Girl Scout cookies.
HARTMAN: Damn! OK, let`s get it over with. Anybody, out. Come on, move,
This is the part of the job I hate!
Hello, little girl, what`s your name?
HARTMAN: Lisa, if you`re that good of a sales lady, maybe I could use you
on Capitol Hill. Well, it was nice meeting you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Lisa. Come on.
HARTMAN: Back to work!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was truly Reagan as people had they have seen him before.
After Reagan, of course, came one of the most famous "SNL" impersonations,
Dana Carvey as George Bush Sr., always at war with the English language.
Then, of course, Bill Clinton. There were two actors who played Clinton,
most famously I think Darrell Hammond for the better part of the decade.
But Phil Hartman, the very versatile Phil Hartman, was Bill Clinton for the
first two years.
I want to show this clip, this was Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton. It`s Jan
Hooks as Hillary Clinton, and then, Dan Aykroyd comes back as Bob Dole in
this famous sketch ensued.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN AYKROYD: All right, Hillary, one more word out of you, you`re going to
be a stain on that back wall. Do you want to go?
JAN HOOKS: Hey, come on.
PHIL HARTMAN: Come on, you two. Come on.
AYKROYD: You stay out of this, Bill. I`m doing something you could have
done a long time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right. And to complete our tour, of curse, Will Farrell,
everybody remembers I think Will Farrell as George W. Bush back last
And now, Jay Pharoah has really taken over as Barack Obama. It was Fred
Armisen before that. Obama maybe has been a little tougher for "SNL" to
caricature, for comedians to caricature. But they still have two years to
figure that one out.
Anyway, that does it for us tonight. And as Rachel would say -- now, it`s
time for you to go to prison.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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