'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, May 20th, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: May 20, 2015
Guest: Megan Rice
CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN: Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, thank you so much
for your time.
ERNEST MONIZ, ENERGY SECRETARY: Thank you.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Chris, I will admit to being a little
house proud about the reporting that we have done on this show.
HAYES: Literally the only place in America, outside of trade press on
nuclear weapons is THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW for your updates on the state of
America`s nuclear arms. That is not an exaggeration.
MADDOW: Which is both good and bad, to the extent that my obsession
doesn`t translate to a national news program. But hearing you bring it up
to the nation`s energy secretary, in my name, is like I got a little weepy
with pride. That was very exciting. Thank you.
MADDOW: That was really nice, anyway.
So, that`s it for tonight. I`m going to go home with my emotions.
Anyway, thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. I have it
This is the lesser prairie chicken. It`s adorable, right? I think
it`s the lesser prairie chicken while dating. This is like lesser prairie
chicken showing off, making the moves.
Lesser prairie chicken is not actually a chicken. Technically, it`s a
grouse. Still, obviously very cute. If you`re another grouse, probably
very sexy. The lesser prairie chicken.
This is Senator Rand Paul, the lesser prairie senator from the state
of Kentucky. Senator Paul right now is in hour number eight of one of his
patented not exactly a filibusters. In so doing, Senator Paul is providing
I believe a great public service in terms of illuminating what does and
doesn`t get the luxury of political attention in this country.
Senator Paul is doing that today, and I have to tell you, so is the
aforementioned lesser prairie chicken. This is Congresswoman Jackie Speier
of California. Now, you see there`s another guy sitting off her left elbow
there? That guy looks like an unrelated bystander to what Jackie Speier is
about to do.
But keep your eye on him, because he has an important job here that he
doesn`t seem that psyched about. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: One of our most solemn duties in
Congress is dealing with emerging national security threats. We eliminated
bin Laden. We`re making progress in weakening ISIL. And unfortunately, my
colleagues on the other side of the aisle have alerted us to a new threat
emerging deep in the heart of the Western United States, a sort of feathery
sleeper cell that just can`t wait to disrupt our way of life.
What is inspiring so much fear? The lesser prairie chicken.
Listening to this debate, you would think that the lesser prairie chicken
was singlehandedly provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Not just living
on the prairie, and doing the occasional little dance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I love that C-Span has to widen the shot for the poor staffer
whose kind of like, watching his nose, pretending he`s not really doing it.
The poor staffer whose job it is to hold up the picture of the lesser
prairie chicken armed with a grenade launcher. Chicken Qaeda, the
What Jackie Speier and her good staffer did in that stunt, what
they`re doing is the fact that Republicans in Congress decided this year,
that the defense bill would be an excellent hook -- a convenient pointless,
legislative hold into which they could stuff all sorts of things that have
nothing to do with defense, even though it`s the defense bill.
Republicans, particularly the excitable Kansas Congressman Tim
Huelskamp apparently are very upset with the lesser prairie chicken. Other
Republicans apparently have it out for a different lesser known animal, the
American burying beetle. And for a variety of reasons, Republicans decided
this year, that the defense bill would be a great way to get the American
burying beetle and the lesser prairie chicken banned from getting any sort
of federal protection.
They thought they should do that stuff in the defense bill, because
who would dare vote against something as important as the defense bill.
So, let`s just stick all this chicken and beetle stuff, and anything else
we can find into the defense bill and pass it that way, who cares about the
defense bill? Who cares what`s in it?
This week, the capital of Anbar province in Iraq, as well as one of
Iraq`s most archeologically important cities, they both fell to ISIS.
American troops are engaged in an air war, of course, against ISIS both in
Iraq and in Syria. But ISIS made dramatic gains in Iraq this week.
This past weekend, American Delta Force commandos put boots on the
ground inside Syria, they flew in in Black Hawk helicopters and raided an
ISIS leader`s compound in Syria. They apparently engaged in some pretty
intense on the ground fighting there. They killed the ISIS leader and they
took his wife as a prisoner.
You might remember everybody talking about how much everybody agree
that there would be no boots on the ground in Syria. There were U.S. boots
on the ground this past week in Syria.
The air war, the U.S. air war and the coalition air war against ISIS
continues. It`s in its eighth month now. The U.S. portion of this air
war, which is the lion`s portion of the air war, it involves thousands of
U.S. troops, including one F-18 crew that had to be rescued from the waters
of the Persian Gulf recently after their fighter jet crashed into the sea
after taking off from a U.S. aircraft carrier.
The war that the United States military is waging against ISIS in Iraq
and Syria is dangerous, it is complex, it is expensive. To the extent it
counts on Iraqi ground troops to be able to do most of the fighting against
ISIS on their own soil. Well, this week, as ISIS took the Anbar province
city of Ramadi, when that happened this week, once again, Iraqi troops on
the ground turned and ran in the face of those ISIS fighters advancing.
The Iraqi government is mostly Shiite. The Iraqi army is mostly
Shiite. The Iranian trained militias who Iraq hopes will be able to do the
fighting against ISIS on the ground, they`re also Shiite.
But ISIS is Sunni. And so is the population of most of Anbar
province, which is where ISIS took over the capital city.
Now, one Sunni sheikh is directing the U.S. Congress, asking for the
U.S. Congress to start arming and supporting the Sunni tribes in Anbar
directly, instead of U.S. support going through the Iraqi government, which
they say is Shiite, isn`t doing anything to protect them at all. So they
would like to deal with the U.S. Congress and U.S. government directly.
So, whether or not you see that as complicated, it is undoubtedly
difficult, right? I mean, there`s a lot to argue about in terms of the
strategy, in terms of the cost, in terms of whether or not what we are
doing this as a war effort is working, whether we should be doing something
else instead if anything, right? There`s a lot to debate.
But there`s also the lesser prairie chicken, and that`s more important
to Congress. Even as they put that prairie chicken in -- that poor little
burying beetle thing into the defense bill, Congress this week decided that
the defense bill would be an inappropriate place to waste time voting on or
even talking about our ongoing war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
I mean, in terms of having some -- I mean, this is a nitty-gritty
thing. This is a specific thing. It`s not an abstract concept. In terms
of having some political attention, some national debate about national
defense, in Congress there is room in that debate for the lesser prairie
chicken, but not for the war, which led to Congressman Jim McGovern blowing
his top in Congress, in one of the greater things I have seen from the
floor of the House in months if not years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don`t know what we`re doing
in Afghanistan or we`re doing in Iraq again, or what we`re doing in Syria
now if it isn`t supposedly in the name of the national defense of our
country. I mean, this is -- this is the -- this is the bill considered by
the armed services committee. If this is not an appropriate place to talk
about war, you know, and all the military equipment we`re sending halfway
around the world, I don`t know what bill is appropriate.
We are told over and over and over again that these are inappropriate
vehicles to talk about war. This is the Armed Services Committee. This is
the National Defense Authorization Act. This is the bill. This funds the
So, I mean, this notion that it doesn`t belong here, where the hell
does it belong? This is important stuff. And we treat war as if it`s
We have men and women in harm`s way, and we don`t even debate whether
or not the mission is something that we support or not. This is
ridiculous. This is disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Jim McGovern, this is disgraceful.
And now today in the Senate, it`s Rand Paul. Senator Rand Paul,
declared candidate for the Republican nomination for president.
Today, he took to the Senate floor at 1:18 p.m. Eastern Time, with a
chest pounding e-mail from his office, saying that he would be there for a
long time, he sent out a fund-raising e-mail as he took the Senate floor.
The fundraising email said, quote, "I will not back down, I will not yield
one inch in this fight so long as my legs can stand."
A spokeswoman said at the same time that he will speak until he can no
And so, Senator Paul has been there for about eight hours already
today. I mean, to be clear, he has not been continuously speaking the
whole time, and he has like, you know, water and stuff. "Politico" reports
that he just got himself some treats from the Senate candy desk. I
certainly hope so. Keep your blood sugar up.
Several senators from both parties have also joined him throughout the
day, so that Senator Paul can take a break without technically ceding the
floor, but he doesn`t have to keep speaking the whole time. They`ve
started speaking in his stead, to give him time for a little rest. Again,
senators from both parties doing that. But Senator Paul is technically
holding the floor with what is technically a long speech.
Senator Paul`s beef today, the reason he`s doing this, is that he says
Congress is pushing through the reauthorization of the Patriot Act without
sufficient debate. He wants the Patriot Act to not be reauthorized, but
either way, he wants it fully debated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: At the very least, we should debate.
We should debate whether or not we are going to relinquish our rights or
whether or not we`re going to have a full and able debate over whether or
not we can live within the Constitution or whether or not we have to go
around the Constitution.
Some have said it`s too late, it`s too late to even get this back.
There have been articles written in the last few weeks that say, whether
the Patriot Act expires or not, the government will just keep on doing what
Now, Article 2 gives the president executive branch different powers,
but these aren`t unlimited powers. Some think they are. Some say the
president has the absolute power when it comes to war.
Well, Article 2 comes after Article 1. In Article 1 Section 8, the
president was told that he doesn`t get to initiate war. The most basic of
powers with regard to war were not actually given to the president, they
were given to Congress.
What is sad about this, what`s going on now, is that Congress hasn`t
shown I think sufficient interest in what the executive branch does on a
host of things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Paul is right, of course, that Congress has
constitutional authority for making decisions about war. It`s not the
president`s prerogative, it`s Congress`s prerogative, constitutionally
Congress is not asserting that prerogative, not just on matters that
derive from the president`s war powers or things that have been done in the
name of things that seem like war, even if they`re not declared as war. I
mean, the issue of Congress abrogating its powers on matters related to war
is true directly on the war itself, let alone these other Patriot Act
provisions that at least in some sense theoretically derived from the
president`s powers to wage war.
I mean, you can get to extrapolatable distance, right, from the
constitutional point that Rand Paul is making about the Patriot Act. But
on the matter of the war itself, that`s not being debated either. That is
being excluded explicitly from the votes on defense bills that the Congress
has been taking over the last two weeks.
But as Rand Paul holds the floor tonight and raises money, in this one
man debate on the Patriot Act, it seems like it`s important to point out
he`s not actually filibustering the Patriot Act itself tonight. He`s not
What he delayed today by holding the floor was discussion and voting
on amendments to the trade bill. The trade bill is scheduled for a vote in
the Senate tomorrow at midday tomorrow, which is the next thing the Senate
is supposed to do. So, if Senator Rand Paul can hold out overnight until
noon tomorrow, he could succeed in delaying that one vote on the trade
bill, at least for some amount of time.
But that`s the best he could aim for in terms of what he is
technically going to accomplish here. He`s not actually going to change
anything about the Patriot Act here. His actions will have no effect on
that. He`s not filibustering that. He`s even starting his speech while
the Patriot Act is on the floor.
So, this is a pointed and undoubtedly tiring political stunt that he
is pulling today, to draw attention to Congress abrogating its
responsibilities to debate and act on national security issues. And he is
making the stand at a time when Congress really does have a terribly
serious and direct problem with that.
But materially, what he`s doing tonight will not affect the Patriot
Act about what he is speaking or the actual war which is still nowhere near
anyone`s agenda, except for the troops who are fighting it, and have been
already for eight months with Congress not saying beep about it.
Joining us now from the Capitol Hill is Frank Thorp. He`s NBC News
Capitol Hill producer.
Frank, it`s really nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL PRODUCER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I understand that Senator Paul is still on the Senate
floor. Do you have any expectation for how long this could go on?
THORP: Well, they haven`t said, obviously, but we`re expecting him to
go until at least after midnight. And the reality is, though, you know,
you had mentioned that he wasn`t going to be affecting the FISA bill. He -
- I mean, if I goes past midnight tonight, Senator McConnell is trying to
start the process for getting on the USA Freedom Act.
USA Freedom Act was the House bill that passed with 338 votes last
week, that would take the bulk collection of telephone metadata and move it
from being stored with the government, and instead have the telephone
companies store it instead. And so, Senator McConnell wanted to start the
process to get that vote going. And if Senator Rand Paul actually goes
past midnight tonight, he won`t be able to do that, he will only be able to
do that tomorrow.
So, technically, you know, his speech on the floor could delay the
consideration of that bill, but it only adds a day to the calendar, it only
makes the prospect of being here over the weekend even greater.
MADDOW: In terms of potential delay, that being basically the nuclear
consequence that he could cause by what he`s doing, how do his fellow
senators feel about that and what are their options?
THORP: Well, I mean, you know, a lot of them say, this is the
prerogative to speak out against the FISA provisions that he opposes. You
know, Senator John Thune, I asked him specifically this question. And he
said, well, I`d rather him do it now than do it on the weekend, because as
you had mentioned, he`s doing this speech on the trade bill. If he really
wanted to filibuster or delay the FISA bill, he could speak on the FISA
So, what`s happening now is, he`s going to speak we`re going to have
votes tomorrow. He has to stop by noon tomorrow at the latest. It would
be impressive if he were to make it that far. But it`s unclear if he`ll
make it that far. They`ll have a vote on the fast track trade bill
sometime tomorrow morning, as late as 1:00 in the afternoon, and they`ll
move on to FISA.
MADDOW: And Senator Paul will presumably have a lot more e-mail
addresses on his e-mail list and have greater fund-raising opportunities
derived from this. But in terms of other material consequence, the time is
so tight at the end of the session now, in terms of the end of this session
before this next vacation, wanting to go home for Memorial Day. It will be
interesting to see what happens, we won`t know what those consequences will
be until he stops talking.
Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer -- thank you, sir. I know
it`s going to be a long night.
THORP: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got lots more ahead on a very busy news
night. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: So, in this one state, their two U.S. senators are both
Republican. Governor, Republican, lieutenant governor, Republican,
secretary of state, Republican, attorney general, state treasurer, state
auditor, Republican, Republican, Republican. Their legislature is 3 to 1
And that state just did something shockingly liberal, and they seem
legitimately shocked they have just done it, but they just did it. And
that story is coming right up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. We have been wondering about this for days and days and
weeks and weeks, and we finally know, very exciting, possibly game changing
news tonight in the race for the Republican nomination for president.
By now, you will recognize our beloved running master tally of
declared and likely mainstream presidential candidates so far. We started
with 22. So far, we`ve only been able to poof three people off of our
template. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, former U.N. Ambassador John
Bolton, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
The other 19 people on this sheet, though, are all apparently still in
it. That`s created this awesome numerical challenge for the Republican
Party. How do you hold a debate with that many people in the running?
Today, we`ve got an answer. We now know how many of them are going to
be allowed into the first official Republican debate, and how those
candidates will be chosen and it has been decided by -- who else? -- FOX
And today, FOX News announced who`s going to get to be in it. To get
a spot in that all important first Republican debate, candidates, quote,
"Must place in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national
polls. So, average out the five most recent national polls, if you`re in
the top ten, you`re in, claim your podium.
And here`s a fun prospect. If there`s a tie in the polling, I mean, I
don`t know how many decimals they`re going to go to here, if there`s a tie,
they say the top ten could be more than ten, so like if three of these
candidates tie for tenth place, with 0.7 percent of the vote or something,
you could get a dozen podiums up there or more. So, let`s say there will
be approximately ten candidates in the first debate, probably less than a
dozen, but we don`t know.
The debate is a few months away yet. I will say if you were going to
do the averaging of the five most recent polls right now, these would be
your debate contenders: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted
Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Donald Trump and Rick
Rick Santorum would not make the cut. John Kasich loss out just a
fraction of a point. Oh, the cruel winds of polling fate. We would also
be left without Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, George Pataki.
So, George Pataki.
That is, though, until the following month when they can all get
together for a debate on CNN, because late this evening, CNN released their
criteria for the second Republican primary debate, which the network will
be hosting in September. So, FOX News in August, CNN in September. CNN
says they`re going to divide their debate into two parts. One with the
candidates who are polling in the top ten with tie breakers to make sure
there are just 10 people up there. They`ve only got 10 podiums.
And then there will be another heat with everybody else, which is
going to be the fun one, that`s the candidates who have at least 1 percent
in the polls. I don`t actually know how many podiums CNN has.
So, we get 10 candidates is the headliners in the CNN planet, the
rest, I think. I don`t know if they do them as an opening act or the late
show -- I don`t know, but everybody be kind to your bartender.
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH STEVE
KORNACKI". Steve, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being here on this
STEVE KORNACKI, UP: Sure.
MADDOW: I had no idea how this was going to work out. Was this the
most likely scenario all along and I didn`t see it coming?
KORNACKI: Well, the question was, how cute were they going to be with
the criteria? A lot of people, the name Carly Fiorina jumped out, because
there`s been some talk that Republicans are sensitive to the idea of having
a bunch of male Republicans on the stage bashing Hillary Clinton and
leaving out the one female candidate in the race.
MADDOW: And that`s one thing if you got three or four candidates up
there. But if you got 10 to 15 candidates up there and it`s all guys.
KORNACKI: Right, she`s running probably about 13th place. So, if you
want to extend the criteria in some way that includes her, it`s hard to
leave out someone like George Pataki, who in the polling is about the same.
There are some obvious problems with this. First of all, the question
is, the average of five most recent polls. Which are they going to allow?
They didn`t actually say. So, like PPP, for instance, a pretty credible
firm, but a Democratic firm, I`m assuming they`re not going to include
that. A lot of these polling averages we look at right now do include PPP.
So, there`s a question of that.
The bigger problem I see, though, is this -- there`s no consensus
right now among pollsters, about who to include in these polls.
MADDOW: Who to even ask people of?
KORNACKI: The average poll, one will include George Pataki, one
won`t. One will include Carly Fiorina, one won`t. One will include Rick
Perry, one won`t.
So, Bush is on all of them. Rubio is on all of them. Rand Paul is in
all of them. But when, you get down near that cut line, around the 10
spot, you do not have any consensus right now about who to include in these
polls, these polls are going to be the basis of who to include in these
And the differential we`re talking about, between like seventh place
and 14th place in the Republican side right now is like two points. I
mean, margin of error stuff we`re talking about.
MADDOW: And this is an incredibly hilarious, but also important
decision, right? It`s one thing when we had, in previous election cycles,
you had, you know, two gazillions debates and they got -- everyone got to
call their own debate, people had them at their houses and you see who
showed up. Some of them were on TV, some of them on the Internet and some
of them were just in Glenn Beck`s mind.
When you have a lot of debate, that`s great. But in this case, they
have limited the number, if you`re not there, if you`re not on the stage,
especially if 10 other people are, you`re sort of de facto gone.
KORNACKI: We saw in 2012 the power of these debates. So, Newt
Gingrich is running at about 10 percent. Way back in South Carolina, the
Tuesday before that primary, that primary was on a Saturday, and he had
that debate moment with John King on CNN. John King asked him about extra-
marital affair, his marriage, he explodes on John King. He goes from 10 to
41 percent in the span of 3 or 4 days on the strength of the debate
Now, I know, if you talk about the people around Chris Christie for
instance, everybody is saying, you know, is Chris Christie done? Is he
buried as a presidential candidate?
His entire strategy rests on getting in the debate and getting one of
those moments. They think he`s capable of that, Christie, that
personality. Those YouTube moments he`s had the last few years. They
believe they`re going to get one of those moments on the stage.
So, what the -- all these candidates, you can look at them and sort of
make fun of them now, because they`re sitting at half a perfect and why are
they running, but they look at the debate with the same opportunity. If
Newt Gingrich could jump 30 points in three days, so can I.
MADDOW: Right. And they`ve all got now, they`ve got a do or die
polling threshold that they`ve got to hit. Thanks to FOX News deciding so,
or they`re basically gone.
KORNACKI: In many cases, they have to get included in those polls
MADDOW: Right. They`ve got to start lobbying the pollsters.
MADDOW: If you know a pollster, get them to delist their phone
Steve Kornacki, host of "UP", weekend mornings here on MSNBC -- Steve,
thank you so much.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
Much more ahead, including the shockingly liberal thing that
legislators just did in a very red state. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we`ve been the only national newscast over the past few
days. Frankly, just because we thought something important might be about
to happen here and we wanted to point at it. But now, it has finally
happened, we thought it might happen, and now it did.
Today, in the unlikely setting of Lincoln, Nebraska, a huge majority
of Nebraska`s legislature, voted to outlaw the death penalty in that state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. ERNIE CHAMBERS, NEBRASKA: The record should be crystal
clear on what it is we`re doing. It is historic. We have the opportunity
to take one small step for the legislature, a giant leap for civilization.
Thank you, Mr. President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator, oh, give him a break. That`s Nebraska Senator Ernie
Chambers who has been working to try to repeal the death penalty for 40
years in the Nebraska legislature. Don`t call time on him today, now that
he`s finally getting it done.
I`m getting it done with almost unbelievable numbers. In Nebraska,
they`ve got 49 legislators, they all sit in one house, which is technically
nonpartisan. But Republicans are thought to have basically 3-1 advantage
in the legislature.
And Senator Ernie Chambers is not a Republican. But look at the vote
that his bill got today. The vote is astonishing, 32-15. That`s a huge
majority, voting to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska. That was not
only a big enough vote to defeat a filibuster today. That is also a big
enough vote to override a promised veto from the state`s Republican
governor if those 32 voters hold.
The governor has a promise a veto. He should get the bill on his
desk, presently. And once he vetoes it, we will find out whether those 32
votes are going to hold.
I mean, honestly, even though this is Nebraska, I had a feeling this
is going to happen, that`s why we`ve been watching it. But now, here it
So, like we always say, watch this space, we`re going do have more on
this in the coming days, as the veto inevitably comes from the governor,
and as the pressure is going to get tense, as to whether or not that vote
that happened today is going to stand.
Anybody who tells you the news is predictable, that it`s always the
same old, same old, they have not been watching amazing stories like that
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: During last night`s show, we started to get in the first
pictures from the big oil spill on the California coast right outside Santa
Barbara. The initial images from the spill were gross and worrying.
And over the course of the day today, as the cleanup effort got going
it started to feel like the footage, the pictures that we were getting out
of that oil spill on the coast in California, the footage seemed more
dramatic than the headlines that were describing what just happened there.
It seemed like it looked worse than what they were saying.
And so, if you looked at pictures like this one today, for example,
which is in today`s "L.A. Times" and you thought, you know what, that looks
bigger than 21,000 gallons of oil, it turns out you were right, because
earlier tonight they upped the estimate of the amount of oil spilled on the
California coast yesterday, and it turns out they no longer think it`s like
21,000 gallons of oil, they think it`s more like five times that amount,
over 100,000 gallons.
But even as they upped that estimate tonight, it still seems like the
headlines in the reporting of the spill have not really caught up to how
bad it really is. For example, all day long today, it`s been reported that
there are no problems in terms of wildlife being affected by this big
mile`s long oil spill. But the pictures from the scene tell a different
story. This hazmat-suited oil spill cleanup guy holding up a dead oiled
fish to photograph Al Said (ph) with the "L.A. Times".
Lucy Nicholson (ph) reported for "Reuters" shooting this photo of an
oil covered lobster on Refugio State Beach. And then there`s this one,
another oil covered fish, this one also from the "Reuters" photographer.
Collecting and laying out samples of dead oiled wildlife on the beach that
they`re documenting and taking pictures of.
But still, the reporting basically all day today has been that no
animals have been known to be affected by this spill.
This was not a drilling spill or an oil train derailment or an Exxon
Valdez situation where you had an offshore oil tanker crashing or
something. This was a pipeline, buried underground on land right next to
the 101 Freeway in southern California. It was a few hundred yards from
The way they discovered this pipeline leak, the way it often happens
with the pipeline leak, is that they don`t know when it actually started,
but by about 11:30 a.m. local time yesterday, it had been going for long
enough it had produced a big stink, and a local woman called 911, when she
smelled what she thought was a gas smell or an oil smell.
First responders responded to her claims, these when they realized the
coast was covered in oil, and that coast -- that oil had come from
somewhere, run down the beach and started gushing into the Pacific Ocean.
By yesterday afternoon, they said the oil patch was four miles long
already, and moving quickly up the California coast.
By today, they said it was nine miles long, and they said they had to
significantly up the cleanup and containment effort, as well as ultimately
the estimate of how much oil had spilled.
This thing that burst is a 24-inch pipeline. It`s run by a Houston
company called Plains All American. The pipeline was built in 1991.
The county said today they thought this pipeline was supposed to have
some kind of automatic shutoff system that would shut the thing down
instantly, as soon as there was any infinitesimal change in the pressure in
the pipeline. That clearly did not happen.
And now, it`s clear that the scale of this thing is yet to be fully
understood. After that woman reported that bad smell at 11:30 yesterday
morning and the first responders came to check it out, they finally traced
the smell to the oil to where it was coming from, that faucet of gushing
oil in that broken pipeline, once they figured out where it was coming
from, once they figured out that it was the underground pipeline, the Coast
Guard says it took them another three hours to stop the leak. That`s once
they knew what it was that was leaking. How long was it leaking before
that poor woman even called 911?
There`s definitely more to come on this story, but at this point, one
of the challenges here is apparently going to be forcing ourselves to come
to terms with how big a disaster this actually is. To be continued.
MADDOW: We have very rarely if ever had a guest for the interview
here on this show who is coming here to our studio tonight straight from
federal prison. But we`ve got that happening tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In July 2012, three people broke into the Y12 national
security complex in Tennessee. It`s known as the Ft. Knox of America`s
uranium. It`s where we house all of our nuclear warhead uranium for our
One of those dastardly sneaks was snuck into Y12 was this woman,
Sister Megan Rice. She`s a nun. Along with two other protesters, Sister
Megan snuck into Y12. They spray painted some slogans, some anti-war
slogans, didn`t break anything necessarily, but they did make a little bit
of deliberate peaceful mess.
They then sat down and sang and they ate some snacks. And they waited
to be arrested, and they were arrested, and they were ultimately convicted
of destruction of government property and sabotage.
Sister Megan was sentenced to almost three years in prison, 35 months.
Her co-conspirators got five years in prison.
But now, having served just two years in prison, they are all free
suddenly. A federal appeals court last week decided to uphold their
convictions for destruction of property. The court overturned the more
serious conviction of sabotage, saying, quote, "If a defendant blew up a
building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons, the government
surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation`s ability to
attack or defend. But vague platitudes about a facilities crucial role in
the national defense are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage."
And so, yes, the octogenarian nun and her friends embarrassed the U.S.
government by breaking into this supposedly super secure site armed with
bolt cutters and some snacks. But the court ruled that in so doing, they
are not trying to materially interfere with the defense of the United
States of America. And so, on Saturday, the court ordered them released
immediately, after two years in federal prison, they finally get to go
Joining us now tonight for interview is Sister Megan Rice. Catholic
nun, anti-nuclear activist.
Sister Megan, thank you so much for being here.
SISTER MEGAN RICE, ANTI-NUCLEAR ACTIVIST: Thank you so much for
MADDOW: Your life is clearly a mission-driven, purpose-driven life.
Why did you decide to do that at Y12?
RICE: Having been out of the country most of my life, nearly 40 years
of it, and expecting to stay in West Africa, I was called to come back, and
I knew that if I had to live in the United States full time that I had to
do something about nuclear weapons or join those who are doing things to
control and reverse the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
MADDOW: When you engage in activism about nuclear weapons, how do you
know you`re doing the right thing? Not how do you know you`re trying to do
the right thing, how do you know it`s working?
RICE: Because I know the science of it, and I`ve been from a very
young age been exposed to the reality of nuclear energy and nuclear
MADDOW: You have spent two years in federal prison. Did you know
that that was a real prospect when you engaged in this?
MADDOW: You knew that, not just getting arrested but real federal
prison time was a prospect?
RICE: Absolutely. In this country the way it is, we know -- it`s an
assumption in fact.
MADDOW: Would you do it again now, knowing that`s what you would have
to go through?
RICE: Well, I mean if it were necessary, you do, surely. It
continues -- I mean, it`s not that you go to prison in order to end nuclear
weapons, but it just happens. The idea is that we have to convey the truth
that nuclear weapons are destructive of the planet.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens next for you, obviously, I am not
going to pry, but I assume you need some personal time to recover from what
you`ve been through. Do you have plans to continue your activism, continue
RICE: I don`t see it as -- I think it`s the shared responsibility of
everyone and it doesn`t really matter what -- of course it matters, but
whatever we`re doing to oppose and expose the evil of -- use of authority -
- of nuclear weapons is equally important, because there`s so many angles
of information that need to be exposed.
MADDOW: Sister Megan Rice, nuclear activist, Catholic nun, welcome
RICE: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: It`s good to have you.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand you`re looking for some unusual
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Today is an exciting day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, is it?
LETTERMAN: Yes, it is. Today, we have a dog that answers the phone.
We have a talking dog. We have a gold fish that spits. And we have a
gopher that darns, I believe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As opposed to damning.
LETTER: Yes, it`s great. Stupid pet tricks today. Also, we brought
in a slow motion disk of the replay of pet tricks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see.
LETTERMAN: That`s what television is all about, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that`s it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that`s it? Yes, we have a dog that answers the phone.
That was vary young comedian named David Letterman back in 1980 before
he had a late night show, explaining to a slightly bewildered interviewer
about what turned into one of his signature bits, not just pet tricks, but
specifically stupid pet tricks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETTERMAN: That`s a great looking dog. What is he going to do with
us tonight, Marty?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He walks a bag on his head.
He walks with a bag on his head, ladies and gentlemen. Yes! Yes!
Yes, sir. What a dog.
Now, do you want me to hold him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just pull that out.
LETTERMAN: OK, I`ll pull it out. Okay. Come on, Polly. Come on.
Come on. Unbelievable!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Play dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tonight, David Letterman is hosting his last show after 33
years. But when he started out, really, nobody could have predicted that
this guy would com become comedy`s Trojan horse, sneaking subversion to a
generation and more while disguised as an Indiana insurance salesman.
Instead of becoming a new voice of authority from his perch at late
night, a new version of the man on TV, David Letterman deliberately proceed
to break all of the rules of late night television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETTERMAN: We here at late night have a similar philosophy. It goes
like this. Give me an 80-ton hydraulic press and we can crush anything.
A little syrup, sure.
Hi. You want comedy? You want real comedy?
All right. Here we go. A parachute and a frozen turkey. Get ready
to laugh until your jaws lock up. Here we go.
I love the sound of that bowling ball hitting concrete. That`s all
right. Fine tune your aim here. It`s OK. That should do something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Why? Why not? It`s just TV. Why not do anything you want
David Letterman did not invent deliberate self-consciousness and
irony, right? I mean, black people, gay people, Jews, marginal groups of
all kinds that felt silence from -- of America have all used sarcastic
irony as a weapon of choice since the beginning of time.
Here was this insider guy, right, in one of the plum jobs in all of
entertainment cheerfully crushing his late night inheritance in his own
weird outsidery way five nights a week. Of course, as the years passed,
David Letterman went on to become an American cultural phenomenon and an
American cultural fixture and an American cultural institution. His
influence so ubiquitous, you can`t remember the country without him.
But just when it felt like everything in our culture was coated in
layers of irony that he, of course, helped to popularize, David Letterman
himself went the other way.
He didn`t just stick with irony, right? It went the other way showing
flashes of cantankerous piercing honesty that were barely hinted at by the
younger version of himself that got him to where he was.
LETTERMAN: Maybe you heard the big news, John McCain, Senator John
McCain, Republican candidate for president was supposed be on the program
tonight. Were you aware of that? Yes. But he had to cancel the show
because he is suspending his campaign because the economy is exploding.
LETTERMAN: So at the last minute, he calls and he says, oh, I can`t
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t make it.
LETTERMAN: I can`t make it. And I said, what -- what is the problem?
And he said, well, the economy, he said, the economy is about to crater.
So, we find out today he didn`t really leave until this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn`t go until this morning.
LETTERMAN: Thank you.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Can I give you an answer?
MCCAIN: I screwed up.
LETTERMAN: I`ve been away for a while. While I was gone, I had
quintuple bypass surgery on my heart! Plus, I got a haircut.
Ladies and gentlemen, after what I have been through, I am just happy
to be wearing clothing that opens in the front.
So keep this in mind. You`re talking to a dumb guy. So I`m just
going to ask you dumb guy questions.
LETTERMAN: What happened to al Qaeda and why does ISIS seem to hate
us more than al Qaeda, and why does al Qaeda hate us in the first place?
MADDOW: OK. Al Qaeda is still there. They hate us as much as ever.
But they also hate ISIS.
LETTERMAN: So they hate is.
MADDOW: Which is good. They hate ISIS. They think that ISIS is too
And when that message is coming from al Qaeda, you know it`s time to
LETTERMAN: I know you know exactly what happened. You know I know
you know. And what it was, was some kind of horseplay. Am I right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
LETTERMAN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I was told it was
I`ll just say this. When I say the words, ladies and gentlemen,
Barack Obama, president of the United States, and I look over and it`s you
walking over here, I get a little, you know, kind of a thing. It`s
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Dave, let me just
say this. And I mean this sincerely. And I know I speak for Michelle, she
probably had a chance to say it herself.
You know, we`ve grown up with you. The country, I think, has, you
know, after a tough day at the office or coming home from work knowing
you`ve been there to give us a little bit of joy, a little bit of laughter,
it has meant so much. And, you know, you`re part of all of us. And so --
LETTERMAN: Well, thank you.
OBAMA: For you to --
LETTERMAN: Thank you very much.
OBAMA: You`ve given us a great gift and we love you.
MADDOW: All that and a goldfish that spits and a dog that answers the
phone and another one that walks with a bag on his head. We will miss
every single thing about David Letterman. We will miss you, David
Letterman. Thank you for everything you`ve done.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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