All In With Chris Hayes, Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: May 19, 2015
Guest: Robert Costa, Jess McIntosh, Nick Confessore, Phillip Agnew, Herb
Boyd, Bill Carter
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN --
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I made a mistake, plain
HAYES: Hillary Clinton enters the Iraq debate on the trail.
Congressman Barney Frank on the question of knowing what we know now.
Then, how Nicki Minaj`s bar mitzvah gig explains presidential speaking
Plus, Bill Carter on the end of Letterman.
BILL CARTER: His impact is enormous. You see the cross comedy.
HAYES: Why LeBron James` parenting skills is in the news today.
KYRIE IRVING, CAVALIERS: I don`t know how to really answer that
HAYES: On what would have been his 90th birthday, the legacy of
Malcolm X on the Black Lives Matter movement.
ALL IN starts right now.
HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
Today for the first time since declaring her 2016 presidential run,
Hillary Clinton discussed the vote she made in 2002 when she was a senator
to authorize the Iraq war. She enters the fray as the disastrous 2003
invasion of Iraq has appropriately, though somewhat surprisingly, become a
major issue on the campaign trail, particularly among Republicans.
It all kicked off last Monday when presumptive GOP presidential
candidate Jeb Bush was asked on FOX News if knowing what we know now, he
would have authorized an invasion of Iraq and Bush said yes.
He then spent the next three days trying to explain that answer.
First saying he misinterpreted the question and then dismissing it as a,
quote, "hypothetical", before reversing himself before saying he would not
have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now.
Rand Paul and Rick Santorum, among others, hammered Bush for his
inability to offer a clear answer, while another GOP presidential hopeful,
Marco Rubio, struggled Sunday when he got the very same question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Was it a mistake
to go to war with Iraq?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It was not a mistake for the president
to decide to go into Iraq, because at the time, he was told --
WALLACE: I`m not asking you that. I`m asking you --
RUBIO: In hindsight.
RUBIO: Well, the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein is
WALLACE: So, was it a mistake or not?
RUBIO: But I wouldn`t characterize it -- but I don`t understand the
question you`re asking, because the president --
WALLACE: I`m asking you, knowing -- as we sit here in 2015 --
RUBIO: No, but that`s not the way presidents -- a president cannot
make decision on what someone might know in the future.
WALLACE: I understand. But that`s what I`m asking you. Was it a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Rubio eventually adopted what has become the consensus
position among Republican presidential candidates. George W. Bush made the
right decision to invade Iraq based on the intelligence he had at the time,
but we now know that intelligence was flawed so, yes, he may have made a
But it`s that faulty intelligence, not the president, that deserves
the blame. It is true there were problems with the intelligence. It`s
also true the Bush administration manipulated that intelligence at nearly
every turn to push the country into that war. As the Senate Intelligence
Committee concluded in 2008 in the words of committee chairman Jay
Rockefeller, the Bush administration repeatedly presented intelligence as
fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-
As for Hillary Clinton who was damaged in her first presidential
campaign by her vote to authorize the Iraq war, in her refusal to repudiate
it, she is trying to keep her answer as simple as possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Look, I know that there have been a lot of questions about
Iraq posed to candidates over the last weeks. I`ve made it very clear that
I made a mistake, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There`s a bigger question at play here than whether that
specific vote was a mistake. The question about how fear works in a
democracy and why it is so hard to learn our lessons when it comes to war.
Joining me now from the campaign trail in Iowa, "Washington Post"
national reporter Robert Costa, and from the Washington, D.C., Emily`s List
spokesperson Jess McIntosh.
Robert, let me start with you. You were there today when Secretary
Clinton took questions. She clearly was prepared for that question. Are
you surprised covering this campaign the way the Iraq issue has erupted?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I`m not surprised at all. You
hear from Democratic voters and from Republicans outside of Clinton`s
event. They want to hear more about Iraq. They look at what`s unfolding
with the Islamic State. And it`s not just about past decisions but future
HAYES: You know, Jess, I thought that obviously if anyone is prepared
to deal with Iraq and reckoning with that it is, I think, Hillary Clinton
because she already ran a presidential campaign that she lost largely
because of her vote on Iraq. So, you saw that today. There wasn`t a ton
And yet at the same time, I can`t help the nature of the Democratic
primary this time around is that we`re not getting as of yet the kind of
debate you`re getting on the Republican side because the field just isn`t
JESS MCINTOSH, EMILY`S LIST: Well, first off, I was surprised to see
the Iraq war sort of explode on the stage at this point in 2015, largely
because I expected Jeb Bush to have an answer to that question.
MCINTOSH: I mean, yes, Hillary has run for president before and has
spent way more time talking about this issue. She should definitely be
prepared as he clearly is to talk about it.
It was his brother that made the decision. So, the idea that he
didn`t have an answer -- and I think really exposed how the Republican
Party doesn`t really -- I mean, their answer is just absolutely stretched
to the limits. I think because being in favor of the Iraq war in 2016 is
so unpalatable to any part.
Forget about -- the reason why the Democratic Party isn`t debating
this is because there`s no debate within the Democratic Party about it.
There`s little debate within the Republican electorate about it. So, the
fact the candidates are tying themselves into knots making their positions
palatable right now bodes really ill for the next 18 months.
HAYES: Yes, let`s be clear, Robert. My read on the situation as it`s
unfolding in the last week and I`m curious your take being sort of on the
trail is the candidates have been led by -- it`s the kind of process of a
stand-up comedian trying out material. I mean, the candidates have been
led by the way these lines are working or not working has led them to the -
- yes, obviously, it was a mistake position. That was not the opening bid
from the candidates.
COSTA: That`s exactly right. This wasn`t a consuming issue, but it
was fascinating to be outside the Clinton event and inside. Inside, of
course, reporters were asking Clinton if she had any regrets and she gave
her usual answer. But outside, there were a lot of Democrats who have
questions for Secretary Clinton about Iraq, about the trade deal before
Congress. They don`t really see a serious primary threat for her from the
So, all their angst has really nowhere to go and they still appreciate
Clinton and like her.
HAYES: That is really interesting and that gets me, Jess, on this
issue that I think sort of hovers over all of this. We are having a
technical debate about this question, the question knowing what we know
now, right? And then another technical debate about the intelligence.
But the broader thing is about what the U.S. does and how it conducts
foreign policy and whether war is a good idea generally. I mean --
HAYES: How ready was --
COSTA: Where is Rand Paul? No one is making a counter argue. The
hawkish strain is fading out at the Democratic Party, and that was a long
time ago. And it`s fading out of the Republican Party. But no one yet on
the right is taking up that argument.
MCINTOSH: As much fun as it is to watch the Republican field twist in
the wind over this question, it really is fun, I think there are more
important questions like the men who manipulated the intelligence that led
us into the Iraq war, whether or not Bush made a mistake in trusting that
intelligence, will those men be part of your foreign policy advising team
if you are president?
HAYES: Or how about this, how about the Libya intervention which we
know secretary of state Clinton pushed for, is on the record for, which is,
I think, very difficult to view as a success in any way, shape or form as
ISIS takes a stranglehold there, as Libya is essentially in ruins. And
yet, no one seems to want to litigate that. People want to talk about
Benghazi. They want to talk about Iraq.
Here is a very real thing that happened, the woman who is running
actually participated in and as far as I can tell is not getting litigated
COSTA: She did get a question today on the trail about Sidney
Blumenthal and the kind of advice she was getting as Libya unfolded. So,
it`s bubbling you up but it`s not a central debate.
HAYES: But, Robert, the Sidney Blumenthal is an adviser who had
freelance e-mails, we`re going to talk about that a little bit. But that
to me is the perfect point, right? Everything is getting debated in this
technical sense as opposed to like the deep reckoning that amazingly to me
in some ways to me 2015, it seems we still haven`t had what Iraq meant,
what foreign policy has meant to the region which is a flame right now.
COSTA: So true.
HAYE: And there`s no reckoning to be as large as the problems that
have been created.
COSTA: It`s a conversation about syntax. It`s not one about vision
on either side.
COSTA: Even someone, when we look at the Bush struggle to answer the
question, who is next in line for momentum, Senator Rubio, he`s an advocate
for muscular foreign policy. He`s getting mired in the weeds. There`s no
real debate about the big picture about the U.S. role in the world.
HAYES: And, Jess, that`s my question that will be interesting to see
play out in the Democratic primary is, do people come to play that role,
right, to stand up on a debate stage and say defend the Libya intervention,
Secretary Clinton, defend the role that we`ve played, or JSOC forces, or et
cetera, in terms of a broader picture of what exactly we`re doing?
MCINTOSH: Well, she`s not going to be alone on that debate stage. We
have critical thinkers in the party who are looking at the race or are
already in the race and I expect we`re going to have a really long time to
have those discussions. Right now, she`s in the early stages of her
campaign where she wants to make sure that she is setting the tone. And
that tone is taking the questions that are being given to her by the
everyday Iowans that she`s meeting with, and she`s got some tough ones
today. It`s not like they`re pulling their punches.
HAYES: Robert Costa --
COSTA: It`s more the economic --
HAYES: Yes, that is also true. I mean, look, when you`re on the
trail most of the questions you`re going to get are going to be about jobs
and about the economy.
MCINTOSH: And that`s great to frame the campaign that way.
HAYES: No question. Robert Costa and Jess McIntosh, thank you both.
All right. The question being asked of presidential candidates on
Iraq whether they would have authorized the invasion, knowing what we know
now, ignores the fact that it turns out there were a lot of Americans who
oppose the war knowing what we knew back then, hundreds of thousands, in
fact, took to the street to protest the war. More than 150 members of
Congress took a stand against it including Nancy Pelosi who was asked about
her access yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: At the time when we were taking a
vote, I was a senior Democrat, I had been the senior Democrat on the
Intelligence Committee. My statement at the time was the intelligence does
not support the threat. So, the terminology, knowing what we know now --
no, knowing what we knew then, there was no -- this intelligence did not
support the threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank,
who also voted against the Iraq war. He`s an NBC contributor, author of
the new memoir "Frank."
So, are you tearing your hair out at this "knowing what we know now"
question as if, you know, obviously the natural thing to conclude at the
time was that, of course, you had to go to war based on the intelligence as
if you didn`t exist, as if Nancy Pelosi didn`t exist and hundreds of
thousands of people and the nations across the world were all screaming no,
no, no, please don`t do this.
BARNEY FRANK (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Chris, to be honest, the
only hair pulling I see right now, and I have to tell you this, is many
people in the media who were so upset Hillary Clinton isn`t getting
attacked from the left the way Mitt Romney was from the right. I`m kind of
glad, frankly, and I think the reason you`re not going to see virulent
debate as much on the Democratic side we are more in agreement and that
includes on foreign policy.
As for Libya, we were all wrong on Libya to my stand. Here was a
situation in Libya, in Iraq what you had was -- and you`re right. It
wasn`t about intelligence. This was Dick Cheney making stuff up in defense
of his world view that America had to bring order to the world. I was
disappointed in some of the Democrats.
But it if you look at who voted for it, take John Kerry who made his
career as an anti-war crusader, who voted against George H.W. Bush`s
intervention into Kuwait which retrospectively looks reasonable. He voted
for the war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, Joe Biden.
The reason it`s very simple in my judgment and it`s not a predictor of
how they will go in the future, which is what you`re looking for, by the
`80s and `90s and especially after McGovern`s disaster, there was a view
among all kinds of political experts that for a Democratic liberal to get
elected president, he or she had to show toughness on the military field.
So, you look at who voted for the Iraq war on the Democratic side, the
major supporters on the side you would expect them to vote no were people
running for president. I wish I hadn`t done that. But now, the can
country shifted, so I don`t see them doing that again.
As to Libya --
HAYES: Wait a second. Isn`t that an indictment? It seems something
to gloss it over and say, well, look, the reason they did it is because
they wanted to be president. So --
FRANK: Yes. It`s an indictment of democracy, it is true.
HAYES: No, it`s indictment -- no, I`m sorry. Don`t let them off the
hook. It`s an indictment of the people who made that vote.
FRANK: Yes, it`s an indictment of the people who made the vote but
what does it say about the future? It says that when people are very
interested in running for president and believe strongly in a whole set of
issues, that they will be influenced strongly by what they perceive to be
FRANK: You cannot -- frankly, you`re shocked there were politics
Let me make this one point whether it`s about war or any other
decision. If you don`t want a decision to be made politically, don`t ask
535 politicians to make it. And what I say is, yes, I voted against him,
against that. But what I am trying to differentiate is this, to what
extent -- you asked a fair question -- is this a predictor of what people
will do in the future?
And I think if you look at those Democrats who voted
uncharacteristically for this particular war because they thought it was so
popular that you couldn`t run for president unless you were for it, that
does not say how they will vote in the future. You want to make a moral
judgment on them, you can do that, but that does not, to me, invalidate the
argument about the future.
HAYES: Here is the bigger issue. The bigger issue is this sort of
broader lessons learned, right, the predictor of the future and where the
center of the country`s politics are, and if and how we have learned to
avoid this kind of thing.
FRANK: I believe we have. I believe -- we are seeing the debate in
the presidential election with Republicans overwhelmingly critical of
President Obama and Secretary Clinton for not being sufficiently
aggressive, for not continuing the troops in Iraq.
So, yes, look, I`m further along on that. I agree with you on much of
this. But I don`t want to deny this is a very important issue. You start
with Lindsey Graham who I think would invade Chicago if he woke up in a bad
mad and then not pay for it and worry about the deficit.
But here is the deal: every Republican president, Marco Rubio with his
muscular foreign policy, every Republican presidential candidate is
critical of Obama and Clinton for not doing enough. Now, I would like
Obama and Clinton to do even less militarily. I`m critical of Obama for
giving into the pressure to go back in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that will
be a major issue next year.
I do want to say about Libya, by the way. I don`t know, maybe you
were critical of Libya intervention. Very few people were.
Yes, it turned out badly. I thought it was a good idea to get rid of
a terrible dictator. I think it turned out to have been a mistake given
how -- but as far as the Republicans and anybody else is concerned, I don`t
remember any member of Congress speaking out against that.
So, when you`re looking for someone to attack Hillary Clinton because
she supported the overthrow of Gadhafi, I don`t know who that`s going to
be. I don`t think it was anybody in politics.
I`m just making a factual statement to you. There`s nobody there to
make that claim because nobody was on that side.
HAYES: You`re right. All I`m saying is what I want, what I`m driving
at, to bottle the sentence I thought it was going to work out well when we
did this intervention "X," right? It`s that sentence. Of course, everyone
thinks the intervention we`re doing at that moment will work out well. And
FRANK: Does that mean, excuse me, are you for no intervention
anywhere? In fact, some interventions do work out well. I now think
George H.W. Bush`s intervention to expel Saddam Hussein from the cruelty he
was inflicting on Kuwait was a good idea. That was my mistake. I voted
FRANK: I think George H.W. Bush handled it well. I though President
Bill Clinton`s use of airpower to free the Bosnians from what was going on
in the former Yugoslavia, that was a good idea.
So, are you telling me no intervention is ever justified? I don`t
think that`s a sustainable position intellectually.
HAYES: No, well, I don`t think -- well, it`s certainly not a
sustainable position politically, and intellectually, we can talk about it.
But the point --
FRANK: Oh, you sound like Marco Rubio. We can talk about it, talk
about it. Are you for saying we should never intervene militarily?
HAYES: I think we intervene -- I think the record, let`s talk about
the records since 2001.
FRANK: No, let`s talk about my question that you don`t want to
HAYES: Yes, I want to answer it.
FRANK: Well, answer it. Are there ever times when you think we
should never intervene?
HAYES: Yes, of course there are. We should have fought World War II.
FRANK: But nothing since then?
HAYES: Let`s look --
FRANK: What about Korea?
HAYES: I don`t know. Let`s look at 2001 --
FRANK: You don`t know?
HAYES: I want to talk about this. Let`s look at 2001 on, right,
FRANK: All right.
HAYES: -- we`re talking about the post war on terror, right?
HAYES: The war that everyone said was the good war, that was 100
percent morally justified which is the war are in Afghanistan, I don`t --
you know, they murdered our citizens, we went in there. That war turned
So, the question is, what lessons have we learned?
FRANK: I think -- here is the deal with Afghanistan. People haven`t
learned the lessons about trying to bring order. I supported the war in
Afghanistan. I think it should have ended when Osama bin Laden was killed
and when there was a significant diminution of the capacity of those people
who wanted to attack us.
The problem was war`s purposes got broadened into getting rid of the
Taliban running Afghanistan. George Bush was perfectly happy to co-exist
with the Taliban for a while.
So, I do think had we not gone in there after Osama bin Laden you
would have seen a continued pattern of attacks not just on America.
Remember, he started by killing hundreds of Africans, (INAUDIBLE) Africans.
So, I think there was a moral reason to go and get rid of this mass
murderer. But it should have stopped at that point.
HAYES: All right. Former Congressman Barney Frank and I having the
debate on foreign policy that I would like to see actually on the debate
Thank you very much. We`ll continue this some other time.
We`ll be right back.
HAYES: In order to really enjoy campaign season, you have to separate
the substance of a politician`s answer to an interviewer`s question from
the art of spin, misdirection and stylistically -- just stylistically --
you just have to tip your cap to Governor Chris Christie`s take on his
abysmal polling numbers. His explanation is something along the lines of
the spurned citizens of New Jersey are lashing out at the mere notion that
he might leave them for the presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS HOST: The polls in New Jersey right now say by
a 65 percent to 29 percent margin, that New Jersey voters say you would not
make a good president. Now, they know you the best. Why shouldn`t we
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: They want me to stay. A lot of
those people in the 65 percent want me to stay. I`ve heard that from lots
of people at town hall meetings. Don`t leave to run for president because
we want you to stay.
KELLY: But they say you would not make a good president.
CHRISTIE: Well, no, I think people hear the question they want to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes. That last part is so true.
HAYES: A kid in New York City had his bar mitzvah and it got a lot of
publicity thanks to this Instagram photo of pop star Nicki Minaj surrounded
by a group of pubescent boys or little hunks as she calls them on the
Now, this is Nicki Minaj, one of the top grossing hip-hop acts in the
world with Matt, the bar mitzvah boy, wishing him mazel tov on his big day.
Matt the is the son of Matt Murstein, the son of Andrew Murstein, wealthy
cofounder and president of Medallion Financial Corp., which finances taxi
And this is Nicki Minaj performing a censured version of her hit
"Super Bass" at Matt Murstein`s bar mitzvah on April 25nd.
Now, you maybe asking yourself, how on earth did this happen? Why is
Nicki Minaj there? The answer, because she got paid, a lot. According to
"Newsweek", the elder Murstein is contractually forbidden to reveal what he
shelled out, but the magazine estimates Minaj`s booking fee was in $300,000
to $500,000 range.
Here`s the thing, that exist in the world today. There are some very
rich people out there with a lot of money in their hands, who hire famous
people to come to their events basically I think just to show they can. I
mean, for example, hedge funder Raj Rajaratnam, now in prison for insider
trading who according to Deal Breaker, once paid county star Kenny Rogers
an undisclosed sum to sing his classic "The Gambler" over and over again at
his birthday party.
After the 12th rendition, Rogers reportedly called it quits although
his agent later claimed he sang the song not dozen of times but only a few.
That`s the world we live in. It`s pretty much how I understand
headlines like this one from last night about the enormous speaking fees
Hillary Clinton collected in Silicon Valley. On one occasion, according to
"The Post", Clinton delivered a 20-minute talk at an eBay conference that
earned her $315,000. Why pay almost 16 grand a minute for what`s possibly
just an abbreviated version of her stump speech? Because she`s Hillary
Clinton, because they can.
Joining me now, Nick Confessore, political reporter for "The New York
Times" who covers money and politics.
The speaking fees thing is an interesting angle of this right, because
it`s money flowing in some ways the opposite direction or it`s distinct
from raising money for a campaign, right? It`s just this income.
What is your understanding of this world and why it`s as lucrative as
NICK CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I have mixed feelings on
this. In the scheme of things that a politician can do to monetize their
public service and the fame they have, because their public service, you
know, having a speech and giving it over and over again at trade
associations is not the worst thing you can do.
HAYES: Right. There`s things that you can do to be like more
pernicious, right? You could like --
CONFESSORE: Like serving on corporate boards and working your
connections in government to make things happen for the company or a
lobbying or whatever.
CONFESSORE: You know, I think in some cases, these events are big
conferences and the conferences want a big draw and they want people to pay
the conference fees so it pays for itself. In some cases, though, for
example, financial firms will pay her to come speak. It`s both a draw but
also a conversation they`re going to have about income equality and how
she`ll approach it.
And when you combine that with the fact that the same financial firm
is contributing to the family foundation, as maybe kind of raising money
for her campaign, it begins to feel like the beginning of a relationship
that is being built.
HAYES: Right. That is the question. How much of this is a
relationship, how transactional is it, how much are we dealing with
influence pedaling and, yes, I show up, give my spiel, get back on my jet.
And you brought up the foundation which I`m glad you did. First,
before we get to that, I want to just note Hillary Clinton responded to
questions about speaking fees when she took questions today. This is what
she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Bill and I have been blessed and we`re very grateful for the
opportunities that we had, but we`ve never forgotten where we came from and
we`ve never forgotten the kind of country that we want to see for our
granddaughter, and that means that we`re going to fight to make sure
everybody has the same chances to live up to his or her own God-given
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes, basically, we`re Americans and we`re hustling. You`re an
American, too. We all hustle.
CONFESSORE: I`m trying to achieve the day I can get paid a quarter of
a million dollars to give a broiler plate speech for 45 minutes. I mean,
God bless. If you can make that happen, do it. I do think --
HAYES: It`s called the American dream, Nick, for a reason.
CONFESSORE: It`s a weird political approach to tell people the way
you can ID with them, right, is that -- you know, your dream was to make
money this way. It`s an exotic thing. It`s not a bad thing.
HAYES: It`s weirdly politically honest in the sense like -- the core
is, look, we`re on our grind. We`re hustling. You`re hustling. We`re all
hustlers. We`re Americans. That`s basically the pitch.
OK. So, you mentioned the foundation. This is something I`ve been
thinking about and wanting -- right? I think that a combination of the way
the foundation has comported itself with lax checks on sort of -- who might
be expecting favors for giving money, right, and the way the conservative
media has covered the foundation has combined to kind of turn the
foundation into like a super PAC in the imagination of people. Like, oh,
you give money to the Clinton Foundation, like you`re giving money to
Like, whatever you want to say about the Clinton Foundation, they
really do buy mosquito nets for people in Africa, they really do get people
clean water and AIDS drugs, and all these things. I think it`s -- the
coverage has turned it into something that whatever problems there are,
like it`s still ultimately a charity.
CONFESSORE: Yes, it`s being analogized to all kinds of political
institutions. The problem is, I will say, they hire people at the
foundation who are like old political friends of theirs to do stuff. It
becomes like a holding pen, first of all, for their campaigns.
Second of all, the thing that is the strength of the foundation is
also kind of the weakness in the sense that it is designed for Bill Clinton
to be with Bill Clinton, to convene, to hold summits, to be a post-
president, which is part of having power and prestige in politics.
CONFESSORE: And so the thing that makes it effective as an
institution that has charity --
HAYES: How many people -- right, that`s answer.
CONFESSORE: And so it`s this stage in which all these different kinds
of transactions, good and bad, can happen. That`s why I think some of that
HAYES: All right. Nick Confessore, it`s a pleasure. Thank you.
Still ahead on the eve of David Letterman`s last ever show, I talk
with veteran TV reporter Bill Carter about Letterman`s impact on late
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW: I`m a little shocked, frankly, Dave. I`m kind of
disappointed. The fact is these last two jokes are the intellectual
property of NBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Professional athletes have to face all sorts of questions
from reporters, most of which can be generally answered with some
combination of the words, one game at a time, 110 percent, et cetera. Last
night Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers was
being interviewed during the few days` lull before his team faces
the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals. He was asked, we
think, whether his teammate Lebron James was a father figure for the team
or maybe he was asked if Lebron James is actually his father. It seemed to
be one part awful question and one part misunderstanding.
It led to a little exchange we found really funny to watch today in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you call Lebron a great father?
KYRIE IRVING, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: A what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: yes, he did.
IRVING: A great father -- oh, a great father. Oh, I thought -- I --
it`s Irving`s dad -- that`s completely wrong. I thought you
said a great father to him. I was like, what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Called him a great father.
What type of parental role has he played with you and your teammates?
You were right the first
Parental role? Honestly, I`m -- he`s -- I don`t know how to really
answer that question. He`s been a great leader for us. I have one father.
That`s my dad, Drederick Irving. But for us in terms of learning the
nuances of the game and also how to win on the court and also how to carry
ourselves off the court, I feel he`s been a great influence in that role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Lebron James is 30 years old, Kyrie Irving is 23 years old,
that`s a seven-year difference, making the father figure thing
kind of hard.
One might imagine there`s a little bit of a mentorship happening
there. But with seven years between them you`d be hard-pressed to imagine
Lebron James as a father figure to Kyrie Irving.
A reporter may have been listening to one too many lectures in the
media about absentee fathers. For the record, Kyrie Irving was
raised by his father, Drederick Irving, after his mother died when he was
only a child. And I suspect his father will be watching his son`s next
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: Welcome back
to the program, Paul. Thank you very much for stopping by.
PAUL NEWMAN, ACTOR; Where the hell are the singing cats? I`m in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Despite an absence of singing cats, The Late Show with David
Letterman premiered on CBS on August 30, 1993. And I remember watching
that show even as a teenager understood what a big deal it
was. Tomorrow not only marks the final Late Show, but it also marked the
end of a career in late night television that spanned over three decades.
I met up with a man who literally wrote the book on the late night
wars, veteran media reporter Bill Carter outside the Ed Sullivan theater to
discuss how Letterman changed the late night landscape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All right, so tomorrow is the big final night.
BILL CARTER, AUTHOR: Yeah.
HAYES: It`s funny. I was remembering, I think I found myself
emotionally affected by it even though I don`t know David Letterman. Why
is it emotionally affecting me? And then I realized it was because I
remember watching the first one from here, and that`s a long time ago.
CARTER: It is. And I remember being here standing on the street of
the day of it. And it was a hot day and a guy from Minnesota came and he
had carved Dave`s head in a thing of butter.
HAYES: I remember that.
CARTER: And it was melting here on the street and it was a huge
scene, just like it`s going to be tomorrow.
HAYES: Yeah. It`s a huge -- it`s already a huge scene here today.
That moment was such a distinct moment in pop cultural history not just in
television history or late night. Obviously, you wrote extensively about
this. What was it about that sort of period, that rivalry that got set up,
the competition, all the attention?
CARTER: It was all these things coming together, because obviously
the idea of whoever is going to succeed Johnny Carson was a huge thing.
But then when David Letterman, who was expected to get it for 11 years and
didn`t get it, then it became sort of -- it was this whole almost
Shakespearean aspect to it, like the royalty that the kingdom had turned
CARTER: The kingdom had turned over.
HAYES: Like a war of succession.
CARTER: It was. It was like that, but there were also these two guys
had such interconnected lives. Because Dave had learned how to do stand-up
watching Jay, Jay had learned how to do TV watching
Dave. He became Dave`s favorite guest when he was on the Late Show.
HAYES: Jay was on all the time.
CARTER: All the time.
So, they had this interconnection. And that was part of it. But
also, it was a network taking on The Tonight Show, really taking
it on, and a network had never succeeded doing that ever before.
HAYES: And so what happens is it succeeds from a ratings standpoint
in the beginning, and then...
CARTER: It always succeeded from a rate -- but it was number one
HAYES: And then Jay moves ahead.
HAYES: And I -- it`s really interesting to listen to Letterman now.
CARTER: Yeah, well, it`s always interesting.
HAYES: Well, I`ve been reading all these interviews that he`s doing
and you realize that, like, him being number two, it`s still at some level
mad to him. It`s like, you want to say, you`re David Letterman, who the F
CARTER: Well, he never cared about anything so much ever in his
entire life as getting The Tonight Show.
From the time he was a young guy in Indiana it was his dream to
do it. And he only told -- started telling people after he started doing
stand-up comedy, but that was his dream. So, not to get that always nagged
at him and it scarred him. And it is to say he picks at the scar, like he
couldn`t let it go. He couldn`t let it go -- even though he succeeded 00
and the guy was making over $30 million a year. He was so influential.
He was way are more influential than any other talk show host.
HAYES: Exactly. He`s beloved and everyone sort of coming up in that
generation of comics cites him.
CARTER: Of course. And his impact is enormous. You see it across
comedy, because it`s not just in late night, you see it in commercials, the
attitude, the sort of ironic detachment.
HAYES: Yeah, what is that. What is the -- how would you characterize
CARTER: It is this sort of -- I`m in this thing but I`m also
commenting on it from the outside and making it sort of a parody about but
I`m also taking part in it.
HAYES: And there`s also I think the comedic sensibility that he
really had when he was doing "The Late Show" after "The Tonight Show"
that brought over a little bit which you see everywhere. It`s so
ubiquitous in advertising which is the kind of like something is funny
because it`s random and I`m going to hold it out there long enough that you
think about it and it becomes funny.
CARTER: Right. Exactly.
It`s not -- they used to call that found humor on the Letterman Show.
It was not scripted. It was just some idea they had that sounded funny.
And if you put Dave in that situation, he would make it funny, like he`d go
to a store that was just bulbs, right, just bulbs and then he`d order
shade. I want a lamp shade. And they said, no, we only have bulbs. And
he would just do something out of
nothing. And they looked for that. They looked for crazy ideas. Like,
one idea he particularly liked was they took a humidifier and a
dehumidifier and let them fight each other. It`s just a funny idea.
And that to me -- that is -- you see now in Fallon particularly, he`s
kind of self-contained bits like that. Like, that was before Ia thing
could go viral, but if the internet -- if Hulu had been round then that
completely would have done that.
CARTER: In those days it went viral through word of mouth, everybody
would say, did you see what Letterman did night and that`s how it went
viral. We see Jimmy Fallon do a contest with a guest. Dave did elevator
races with the guests. He questioned guests, instead of putting them in
chairs, he put them in barber chairs. He wanted to mix up the format.
That`s one of the things he did. And you can see everybody else doing
HAYES: He -- one of the things I read in an interview was talking
about, they would do all these weird things and clearly they had so much
freedom following Carson. And then you can -- he talked with about the
pressure when they came over here and talking about when you have two
options to do the weird thing or the conventional thing, you struggle over
it but obviously in retrospect you want to do the weird thing.
Was he -- did the convention, did the ratings pressure, do you think,
affect what this show became?
CARTER: It did partly because there was a period of time they looked
so closely into what The Tonight Show was doing and if Tonight booked
somebody they would try to book somebody who is different and similar. And
it became like what big thing can we do. And it was too splashy in some
ways, because a lot of the best ideas that Dave did were small, small
ideas. And they tried to do bigger and more
elaborate ideas all the time. And I don`t think that was his strength. I
think it was much more him being clever and witty.
HAYES: One of the things that strikes me now that I couldn`t
appreciate before until I became a television broadcaster was the hardest
thing to do on TV is to be natural, is to be calm. The adrenaline kicks in
and people that are really good at it -- Carson was the master of this,
coolness, Letterman is, to me, the most remarkable thing as a broadcaster.
CARTER: There`s no doubt.
HAYES: He sits there and it`s become truer and truer. If you look at
early stuff, he`s much -- he has much more nervous energy. But now at this
stage in his career he sits there -- I`ll never forget the monologue he did
after 9/11 where he just came out and he just talked.
CARTER: Talked. Unscripted.
HAYES: And he`s just so present. And that`s a really inimitable
CARTER: And the word that many of the people around him have used is
authentic. That`s him. He`s authentic. A lot of times hosts are doing a
little version of themselves, or they`re certainly performing. But this
guy is real. And the guests have really liked that. And sometimes it
scared them because he was very intense. And if they didn`t -- if they
weren`t pleasing him, he`d let them know. But it was real. There was much
more of a real connection going on
And the really strange thing about that is that Dave off the stage was
very diffident. And he didn`t really like interacting much with people.
When he was on the air he came alive. And he said to me on several
occasions he never felt fully alive except for one hour a day, when he made
HAYES: My thanks to Bill Carter for a great conversation.
Still ahead on what would have been his 90th birthday, why Malcolm X
is still an icon to today`s Black Lives Matter activists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALCOLM X, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Every time you have a case of
police brutality where the officer inflicts pain upon its victim, a Negro
victim, they always turn around and accuse the Negro of attacking them or
insulting them. This is a patter that has followed in every case of police
brutality across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was from 1962 from a man who is as relevant today as he
was then, Malcolm Little, born May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska to a Baptist
minister who was a follower of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey and a
mother who in Malcolm`s own words looked like a white woman.
Malcolm Little would change his name to Malcolm X telling writer Alex
Haley, quote, for me my "X" replaces the white slave master name of Little
which some blue-eyed devil named Little has imposed upon my paternal
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALCOLM X: Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who
taught you to hate the color of your skin to such an extent that you bleach
to get like the white man. Who taught to you hate the shape of your nose
and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top
of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught to you hate your own
(END VIDE OCLIP)
HAYES: During a pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm X transformed himself
again, converting to become a Sunni Muslim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALCOLM X: The young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever
else there is, you`re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution,
a time when there has to be a time of change. People in power have misused
it, and now there has to be a change, and a better world has to be built,
and the only way it`s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I,
for one, will join in with anyone, I don`t care what color you are, as long
as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this Earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: As we watch the 21st Century civil rights movement galvanize
over Black Lives Matter, at times it appears the young people have looked
back at Malcolm X for inspiration. Joining me now Philip Agnew, mission
director of Dream Defenders, and Herb Boyd, journalist and co-editor of the
book "The Diary of Malcolm X."
In just a moment, we`ll talk about things you should know but perhaps
don`t about Malcolm X. Stick around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALCOLM X: I think the people in this part of the world will do well
to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King and give him what he`s asking for and
give it to him fast before some other faction comes along and tries to do
it another way. What he`s asking for is right (inaudible). And if he
can`t get it the way he`s trying to get it, then it`s going to be gotten
one way or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: A press conference in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Malcolm X
advocated support of Dr. King`s demand for black voter registration. Still
with me Phillip Agnew and Herb Boyd.
Philip, let me start with you. How do you understand what lessons you
draw from Malcolm X, how relevant do you feel that he is to folks like
yourself who are organizing today?
PHILLIP AGNEW, DREAM DEFENDERS: Malcolm X is extremely relevant. And
I`ll tell you a few reasons why. He was uncompromising in his indictment
of this country`s savagery. He was an inspirational figure to a generation
of black nationalists while striking fear in the hearts of white liberals
and white conservatives around this country. He was uncompromising in his
indictment of the hypocrisy of our two party system.
And he believed that this country would not redeem itself. And so he
decided to take the issues of this country and elevate them to the
international level building solidarity with international anti-colonial
African movements and Palestinian liberation movement, el Haz Malik al
Shabazz (ph) was the most hated Muslim in America before America learned to
hate all Muslims. And I think Malcolm X wasn`t a man ahead of his time, he
was right on time. And that`s why they had to take him out before his
time. And there is a number of lessons
from Brother Malcolm Little that we can take and he still inspires a
generation of people for those reasons.
HAYES: You edited -- helped to edit his diary. He is -- I spent a
lot of today looking at clips of him. His charisma is genuinely
remarkable. I mean, obviously people know that, right. He was instantly
iconic figure, incredibly charismatic. But you can`t just overstate how
electric he is. His presence is remarkable.
HERB BOYD, AUTHOR: No doubt about it.
You know, I was looking at the David Letterman segment. Malcolm would
have had great fun with David Letterman. That would have been like a fine
repartee there. He would have had an opportunity to share some of his
impressions within the context of humor, because Malcolm had a great sense
HAYES: That is one of the things that comes through when you watch
the clips in that this idea of him as sort of rage filled or dour, he is
extremely playful. In fact, much of the success of his
rhetoric is in humor.
Also, you have to understand that it was not done -- it was a
wicked sense of humor, kind of a sardonic humor, and always an opportunity
to teach through that, because it was always like metaphorically he was
talking about this system in a way.
So it was a way to he could kind of reduce some of that stuff, and of
course not to minimize the righteous indignation that he had, but at the
same time he kind of bring you in, to suck you in and then suddenly drop it
on you in the sense like, oh, in terms of his attack on this system.
And he said -- he called it American dollarism, you dig it.
The march on Washington, he called it a farce on Washington.
So he could play along with words at the same time.
But, you know, if you talk about a chicken, he had this one little
story he used to tell about a chicken and a duck. He said a chicken can`t
have a duck egg, can`t have it. It`s not possible. He was talking about
how the possibility of black Americans ever having total freedom within
this system. It won`t happen.
But however, if a chicken ever did have a duck egg, that would
certainly be a revolutionary chicken.
HAYES: Do you think part of the appeal -- Ta-Nehisi Coates has
written about this and others, Phillip, the figure of Malcolm X, this
figure of tremendous discipline, right. I mean, preaching a discipline,
self-discipline, there`s always impeccable dress and this is a great little
find of an FBI informant writing about Malcolm
X who is being paid by the government to essentially spy on him saying
this, "brother Malcolm is an expert organizer and untiring worker. He`s
fearless and cannot be intimidated. He has most of the answers at his
fingertips and should be carefully dealt with. He is not likely to violate
any ordinance or laws. He neither smokes nor drinks and is of high moral
That`s just a striking bit of biography from an FBI informant who is
following him around.
AGNEW: Well, he was a paradoxical figure. He was somebody that
embodied all of the contradictions of black America. And when people were
thinking that black leaders were some monolithic thing, they were one way,
they could only do one thing, he exhibited to a generation of black
nationalists the contrasting qualities that make up black America. And you
saw in the FBI files the high level of
respect that they had for his discipline. And he exuded while he was at
home and he exuded that out in the world. And that`s why he remains an
iconic figure for everyone, including myself.
He`s somebody -- his autobiography opened up my eyes to an entire new
world of being. And that`s why we regard him -- and that`s why the media
wants to portray him as a demagogue or somebody who was a hatemonger, but
he told us at one time that the media, if you`re not careful, will have you
thinking the oppressed are the oppressor, and the oppressor are the
oppressed. So he had an intimate knowledge of the media. And he was able
to use that with his sense of humor to our favor. And so that`s we`ll
always love him, always remember him.
HAYES: It is amazing to me how playful his performance of himself was
in contrast to the way that I think he is remembered.
BOYD: I think one of the things, and certainly Phillip stands as a
solid continuation of Malcolm`s ideas and thoughts, it`s such amazing to
find some young people out there so expressive and can speak with the kind
of -- speak to power like Malcolm did.
These young people have -- if Phillip is emblematic of that, we have
nothing to worry about in carrying on the legacy of Malcolm X.
HAYES: Phillip Agnew and Herb Boyd, thank you very much. That`s All
In for this evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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