Guests: Chris Hayes, Evan Kohlmann, Sarah Stoesz
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, she was, of course, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, as well as being a senator from the great state of New York. Hillary Clinton was, in fact, a very popular senator from the state of New York. As she left office, she had an approval rating of 70 percent.
Hillary Clinton‘s success as a senator in New York was attributed not just to her name recognition, not just to her overall skills as a politician, but also to the fairly atypical for a Democrat focus that she had on the more conservative areas of her state. The geographically larger, politically much less influential conservative parts of New York state. As many fundraisers and events as she held in New York City, Hillary Clinton as a candidate for the Senate and later as a senator could just as often be found in the rural, more conservative counties that are collectively known as Upstate New York even if they aren‘t all up.
And while all of that helped Hillary Clinton on Election Day, in a district like New York‘s 26th district, for example, even a run away New York politics hit like Hillary Clinton could not overcome that district‘s demographics. And Hillary Clinton‘s Senate run in New York, she lost every single county in New York 26th to her Republican opponent—every single one except for just one county.
New York 26th was essentially designed to be an unquestionably Republican district. It was redistricted by the state legislature in Albany about a decade ago specifically to make it safe for Republicans. It has 30,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats.
New York is a blue state, but New York 26th, this one district, is decidedly not a blue district. When John Kerry beat George W. Bush in New York state by 19 points in 2004, Kerry still lost New York 26th by double digits. When Barack Obama beat John McCain in New York state by 25 points in 2008, Barack Obama still lost New York 26th.
When that district‘s long time powerful Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds retired in 2008, he handed the seat off to a Republican businessman who was thought to be able to hold on to that as long as he wanted it. New York 26th is just that kind of district. In 2010, that Republican congressman won that district by a 48-point margin. Not that he got 48 percent of the vote, there were 48 points between him and the Democrat.
But then this happened, oh, yes. A 48-point margin is nothing compared to an embarrassing, flexing, shirtless photo on Gawker.com. And so, Republican Congressman Christopher Lee of the legendary New York‘s 26th -- of New York‘s 26th district, three months ago today, resigned in the quickest political scandal of the year so far. Two weeks from tomorrow, there will be a special election in New York 26th to replace the shirtless Christopher Lee.
And in this reddest of red districts, with a built-in cushion of 30,000 Republican votes, the Republican nominee universally described as a well-liked state legislature with no scandals to her name, shirtless or otherwise, she really ought to be a shoo-in here. The race is a statistical tie. What? Yes. A seat that has been Republican for nearly two decades, a district that is not only red, but deep red and designed to be that way—a district designed to be impenetrably red is now producing polling results like this.
It shows the Democrat in this race, Kathy Hochul, leading by four points. The margin of error in this poll is three points. The poll shows her up by four.
Previously, the biggest poll in this race had been the one by Sienna College two weeks ago. That showed the Republican, Jane Corwin, up by five points, but with a 4.5 point margin of error. That miniature lead it appears, at least from the new Public Policy Polling data out today, it appears that lead has been erased.
How did this happen? How did this get so close? How on earth the Democrats even have a shot of contesting this House seat? How is this possible?
Democrats have a shot at even being in the running for taking this red, red seat because of the two ginormous, fire-breathing problems that the Republican problem has this year. I mean, other than having no conceivable presidential candidate. They will get one of these eventually. But they‘ve got these two other problems regardless of their candidate.
Number one is that there is a schism in their party. Every time the Republican establishment picks a candidate, some local guy in a three-corner hat starts getting funded by some out of state conservative millionaire or P.R. firm somewhere as a Tea Party challenger to the Republican establishment.
You may remember the other big New York State special election—remember the place where Republicans has held that seat since the Civil War. That seat went Democratic because there was a Tea Party challenger who split the right wing vote. That was New York 23.
There was some of that going on in this race, too. A lavishly self-financed, self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate is draining some support from the Republican candidacy that is undoubtedly helping the Democrat‘s chances here. That is one of the Republican Party‘s challenges.
I think that‘s the story of 2010 more than it is the story of 2011. But, honestly, that problem does persist for Republicans and it is playing a factor in this race.
But the other factor, it seems to be the main thing that is driving this race. The main thing that is driving this most unexpectedly pro-Democratic outcome in Upstate New York, the thing that is starting to get this race national coverage, the thing that since Speaker of the House John Boehner, the highest ranking Republican in the land, to this tiny rural district in New York today to try to save this supposedly super safe Republican seat, the other giant problem Republicans have in politics this is year is Republican policy.
Part of designing a seat to be a safe Republican seat is drawing your district lines in such a way that you make sure you include a lot of older voters in the district. There are 30,000 more registered Republicans in New York 26, yes. But a naked majority of all the voters in that district are over the age of 45. And this year, that‘s not a good thing for Republicans.
The Republican candidate in this race, no matter who likes her or how much they like her, no matter how much support she‘s getting from John Boehner or from anybody else, she, like all other Republicans right now, was backed into saying that she supports the Paul Ryan thing. She supports the plan to kill Medicare. And so, kersplat—Jane Corwin, the Republican in this race, said she would vote for the Paul Ryan budget to kill Medicare.
And the Democrat in this case will not shut up about it—I should say, will not stop talking about it, will not let the Republican get away from it. That‘s a nice way to say it. That‘s what I meant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Jane Corwin said she would vote for the 2012 Republican budget that would essentially end Medicare. Seniors would have to pay $6,400 more for the same coverage. But the plan Jane Corwin supports would cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. The budget would overwhelmingly benefit the rich.
Kathy Hochul says cut the deficit, but do it the right way. Protect Medicare and no more tax breaks for multimillionaires.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even though this is supposedly one of the safest of the safe Republican districts, voters in this district, like voters across the country, really do not like the House Republican idea of killing Medicare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We‘ve got two weeks to go. Two weeks where we‘ve got to win this race. You know, forget all about the polls, polls have never elected anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You‘re going to hear a lot about that “forget about all the polls” talk from John Boehner this year and I‘m guessing next year, because a vote to kill Medicare is not the kind of thing that anybody is ever going to let Republicans forget in politics. And the Republicans are starting to figure that out, but they‘re figuring it out belatedly. They‘re figuring it out after they took that vote on it.
One of the things that went largely unnoticed last week as the nation was riveted to the story of Osama bin Laden‘s demise was that John Boehner and the House Republicans dropped their plan to kill Medicare. That means they are apparently going to stop defending it. They‘re going to stop pushing for it. They‘re going to stop trying to fix the very desperately broken messaging on it.
But, again, here‘s the problem, Mr. Boehner—this is after they had almost every single House Republican vote to kill Medicare. And they had hapless Republican candidates, like New York 26‘s Jane Corwin, endorse the plan to kill Medicare.
New York 26 is one of those places where even the most skilled Democratic politicians working as hard as they possibly can essentially have no chance of winning. New York 26 is the kind of place where becoming the Republican Party‘s nominee, even if you‘re Rick Lazio, becomes is same thing as winning the election.
Now, the ongoing Tea Party schism within the Republican Party does pose a challenge for Republicans, that will continue to be a challenge for them throughout this year and next. But the threat of somewhere like New York 26 is going blue—that takes something bigger. That takes Republican political malpractice of stupendous magnitude.
Democrats could never pull off something like this on their own. Only Republicans could put themselves in this position.
Remember how Hillary Clinton had that book “It Takes a Village”? In this case, this year, it what supposed to be this deep red district, it does not take a village. It takes a Boehner.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and an MSNBC contributor.
Chris, it‘s good to see you. Thanks for being with us.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, too.
MADDOW: Is Kathy Hochul of New York 26 writing the Democratic Party their new playbook for the next election cycle?
HAYES: Yes, I think she is. I mean, it is—it was such a miscalculation. It‘s such an overreach. It was so massively foolhardy and hubristic for them to do what they did. Particularly when, as you and I spoke about on this very program, (a), it was never going to get passed by the Senate, (b), it was essentially a symbolic vote. And now the vote is there, just rotting on their lawn and they can‘t run away from the stench of it.
So, I think that—and what‘s interesting to me about this race is there‘s two elements of this. There‘s the facts of what actually is going to drive the outcome if Hochul polls this out. And part of it has to do with this somewhat nutty candidate Jack Davis, who you mentioned. Part of it has do with the fact that people are disgruntled with incumbents across the board, approval rating for congressional Republicans are bad, for the president is bad. They‘re not happy with anyone.
So, part of it is how the election is interpreted in Washington. We saw this with Scott Brown where the election was understood in the Beltway as a referendum on health care and almost killed off the chances for health care. This could be viewed and you‘re already seeing political observer start to understand this as a kind of referendum on the Ryan budget.
And if it does that, it has a profound effect on the psychology of both parties going forward.
MADDOW: And what do you think about—I mean, substantively, what do you think about that political observation? I mean, what I was so struck by was the high number of older voters in this district. It‘s a raw majority of voters who are over the age of 45. We‘ve got anecdotal evidence, of course, of older voters saying, generally, “I vote Republican, but I‘m not into what they are doing to Medicare and so, maybe I‘ll go Democratic on this one.”
Substantively, do you feel like that political observation about the importance of the Medicare vote is true?
HAYES: I do. I think—I basically think it‘s two things. I think you‘re exactly right that—I think the Republicans thought: (a), that they had seniors in their camp squarely enough they could pull this off;
(b), they overestimated just how much 2010 was a referendum; and (c), they tried to be too clever by half in this completely disingenuous and craven way in which they carved out people over 55 in the Ryan budget. So, that their thought was they could go around to these don‘t worry, we‘re just screwing everyone younger than you. Don‘t worry about it.
But it turns out you can‘t do that. That‘s just too clever by half. So, I think that‘s a part of it. But part of it also is that I think we can lose sight of this because we‘re focused on this kind of principled ideological aspects of an election, you know, the economy is still terrible. And people are still really unhappy with their representation, generally. They‘re just really restless and disapproving of everyone they put in office.
You have independents in this district in the PPP poll saying they want to see a Democrat by 40, what is, 49 to 43 or something. They want to see this representative be a Democrat. That‘s a massive swing from just a few months earlier. So, part of that, yes, I think is a Ryan budget. Part of it is that the fact what the economy continues to be this just sort of open wound in the body politics that for some reason, no one seems to be bringing themselves to address.
MADDOW: Briefly, Chris, I am—I am stuck on my hypothesis of John Boehner being bad at his job, which I always feel bad saying because I don‘t mean it that he‘s bad a person. I mean, that he‘s at being speaker.
MADDOW: Is there any way in which it makes political sense to have forced Republicans to vote to kill Medicare before abandoning the idea?
MADDOW: Don‘t you—don‘t you say you‘re going to do it not make anybody vote and then let people take whatever position is convenient in their district?
HAYES: Complete and total political malpractice.
HAYES: Yes. I mean, if you look back at health care, right—health care, the affordable care act was not that popular. It was not popular when it passed. And one of the things that people were saying after Scott Brown was, you already voted for it. You are—if this is an unpopular bill, it‘s going to be hung around your neck either way. So, you might as well get universal health care out of it and ultimately thank God that argument won the day.
In this case, it never had a chance of passing. I honestly don‘t understand what they could have been thinking to make everybody in the caucus take that vote. It‘s really, really—every day that passes, it looks like a more and more foolish idea.
MADDOW: I will continue to ask Speaker Boehner if he would like to come on this program and discuss it with me and then maybe we can get an explanation.
MADDOW: In the meantime, we‘ll keep making stuff up.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and MSNBC contributor—Chris, thank you. Appreciate it.
HAYES: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, last week, under the cover of the Osama bin laden news cloud, not only did House Republicans quietly and inexplicably drop their kill Medicare thing after making all the House Republicans vote on it, conservatives elsewhere in the country passed some of the biggest big government legislation and weirdest big government legislation that I have heard about in years. Details, next.
MADDOW: In South Dakota, there‘s only one abortion provider, operating in one corner of the state. And there‘s not a doctor working there every day. Typically, it‘s just once a week. So, once a week, a woman can go to this one place, to this one Planned Parenthood clinic, in this one part of the state, to get their women off and drive seven or eight hours one way to get there.
When a woman arrives, if she wants access to this supposedly constitutionally protected right, first, she has to sit through an anti-abortion lecture written by the state legislature. She is required by South Dakota law when she arrives at this clinic to be given a lecture that is designed to talk her out of her decision. The lecture will include her being shown a booklet on fetal development and shown information on a state Web site that directs her to so-called crisis pregnancy centers that are also going to try to talk her out of getting an abortion.
Then, after the state-mandated politician scripted lecture, she has to wait 24 hours before the procedure can actually be provided. So, if she‘s one of those patients who has driven seven or eight hours to this one clinic in the corner of the state, she‘d better get a hotel room or sleep in the car maybe.
Once the 24-hour waiting period is up, the doctor is required to offer the woman a medically unnecessary sonogram and to record her response to that offer in her medical records. Then, it‘s time for another state-mandated lecture written by politicians.
The doctor is required by South Dakota law to read her an anti-abortion script that includes a laundry list of medically dubious or scientifically disputed claims about the health risks of abortion, at least one of which has essentially been suspended pending the outcome of a lawsuit. Then, after that, she is required to sit and wait after that lecture for two more hours. Only after that can a woman in South Dakota have access to abortion services.
That‘s the law in South Dakota right now. That‘s what you have to do right now if you are an American woman who wants to access your supposedly constitutionally protected right to an abortion in the great state of South Dakota. And, remember, that doctor‘s only there once a week. So, time it out wisely.
However, on March 22nd, South Dakota‘s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, signed into law what is probably the most creatively draconian anti-abortion law in the country. Under this new law, there is a new three-day waiting period between when the woman first meets with the doctor and when she can get an abortion.
What does that mean for the women who drive seven or eight hours to the corner of the state to South Dakota‘s one and only abortion provider? What does it mean for the doctor that clinic, that clinic fly in about once a week to provide that service? It means that what they‘re calling a three-day waiting period is actually for all intents and purposes more like a week-long waiting period, as best as we can tell.
We‘ve been asking around in the state. No one is exactly sure how this is expected to work yet.
The new law doesn‘t just extend the waiting period to three days. It tells women what they have to do with that time. Get this, under the new law, during the time in between the first state-mandated scripted lecture and the second state-mandated scripted lecture and putting her decision whether or not to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound in her permanent medical records, during the new 72-hour waiting period between all of those obstacles, a woman seeking an abortion will be forced by the state to visit a so-called crisis pregnancy center, where she will be lectured at by anti-abortion activists about why she should not be having an abortion.
Crisis pregnancy centers are not health centers. They are not counseling centers. They‘re not medical in any way. They‘re, generally speaking, anti-abortion organizations run by anti-abortion activists whose mission is to stop people from having abortions.
In 2006, congressional investigation targeting centers that received federal funding found 87 percent of the centers that were contacted by investigators posing as pregnant teenagers provided false or misleading information to those supposed pregnant teenagers about abortion. The law in South Dakota that forces women to go to a crisis pregnancy center to discuss their decision to have an abortion with anti-abortion activists before they‘re allowed access to the state‘s already limited abortion services, this new law takes effect July 1st.
So, here‘s the awkward part beyond all that—so far, none of these crisis pregnancy centers have registered with the state to become part of the new law, to be the place where women are forced to go to when they want an abortion.
What does that mean for the law? Again, nobody‘s quite sure. South Dakota‘s attorney general refusing to clarify to the “Argus Leader” whether abortions would be prohibited if no pregnancy center registers with the state, saying, quote, “We plan on addressing only the issues that arise and become an actually controversy.”
I would very much like to see what counts as an actual controversy in South Dakota these days.
Joining us now is Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Sarah, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate your time.
SARAH STOESZ, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Yes. You‘re welcome, Rachel.
Thanks for your interest in this subject.
MADDOW: Did I—I mean, it‘s very awkward to come up with all of the logistics to explaining how you could get an abortion in South Dakota. I can‘t imagine doing it while under the pressure of trying to decide whether or not to get one. Did I explain that accurately?
STOESZ: Yes, you pretty much did explain it accurately—except for the fact that many women who are unintentionally pregnant and were seeking abortion also have to arrange for child care, they have to arrange to get off of work. They have to arrange their financial circumstances.
So, the mere logistics that the state puts in front of them are one set of problems that they have to overcome. They also have their own personal challenges that they have to overcome.
So, it‘s a very, very complicated situation for women who found themselves unintentionally pregnant in the state of South Dakota. It‘s hard.
MADDOW: In terms of those crisis pregnancy centers, and with the state legislature mandating that women go to there and sit through whatever it is they have to say before they‘re allowed to get this procedure, do you think that if none of those pregnancy centers, crisis pregnancy centers, if none of them register, there‘s a possibility that they could in effect make abortion services unavailable in South Dakota?
STOESZ: Well, there be certainly is that possibility. Although, remember, they have until tend of June to register. So, we don‘t actually know yet what they‘re going to do.
But in point of fact, what the legislature and the politicians in South Dakota generally are attempting to do with this law is to functionally overturn Roe so that abortion access becomes very, very difficult. Even if crisis pregnancy centers agree to participate in this whole charade, it will be quite difficult for women to obtain abortion under this whole law, particularly the 72-hour waiting period.
MADDOW: Are you going to sue about this new law? Are you working on a lawsuit?
STOESZ: We absolutely are going to sue. As you said in your introduction, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of abortion care in the state of South Dakota. We have to fly doctors to the clinic, which is located in Sioux Falls. It‘s very, very challenging for us to be there for the women of South Dakota.
But we are quite determined that we will not abandon the women and that we will do what it takes to continue to provide services to them. And so, that means we will file a lawsuit, yes.
MADDOW: There has been sort of a landslide this year of really draconian anti-abortion bills coming out of Republican health state legislatures. But the provision in this law that requires women to visit crisis pregnancy centers stands out. It‘s one of the reasons we‘re highlighting this one, even there are so many of these draconian laws. The crisis pregnancy centers are a lot of different things and a lot of different places. But I imagine—I do not imagine a crisis pregnancy center being the sort of place an abortion provider would feel comfortable referring his or her patients.
What‘s been your relationship with these groups?
STOESZ: We believe that these centers are functioned in a way that is just frankly quite unethical. They are not licensed. They are not regulated. The people that work there are not trained.
The centers are not covered by HIIPA privacy laws. So, the patients are not protected. The privacy is not protected.
No one is watching the quality of what goes on in those centers. And from our point of view, referring a woman who is already struggling with the circumstances of her life, looking at terminating an unintended pregnancy, and then forcing her to go to a center that engages in a behavior that is unethical, unlicensed, unregulated and doesn‘t guard her pregnancy is just not something that we‘re prepared to do.
We just won‘t do it. We find the whole notion that a woman would be subjected to something like that to be shocking and brutalizing and coercive. And we just won‘t participate in that kind of thing. That‘s why we‘re filing the lawsuit.
MADDOW: Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parent for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota—thank you very much for joining us.
STOESZ: You are welcome.
MADDOW: You‘re going uphill here. Good luck to you. Thank you.
STOESZ: Yes, you‘re welcome. Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: I should also mention in case you‘re keeping track at home of the whole, like, will of the voters thing, South Dakota voters have rejected abortion bans twice when they‘ve been put to a vote as ballot initiatives recently. But that‘s not stopping the legislature.
The most aggressive roll back of women‘s rights is happening in Republican-controlled state governments like South Dakota. But don‘t worry, fans of really, really, really, really, really big government, Republicans in Washington, D.C. are doing their best to keep up at the federal level.
That story and one powerful response to it, next.
MADDOW: Before states like South Dakota began passing extreme laws to make it harder and maybe even impossible to get an abortion there, we had this guy, Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, an anti-abortion Republican for whom we, for some reason, have on file this rather awesome college photo. In 1976, not long after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, that there was a constitutional right to have an abortion that states could not infringe, Congressman Hyde wrote a measure that bans federal funding for abortion. The Hyde Amendment had the affect of putting abortion out of reach for most women who can‘t gather the money to pay for it themselves.
If you are poor or disabled, you can get government help for all manner of medical treatment in this country, but except for extreme circumstances like rape or incest, you cannot get help from the federal government for ending a pregnancy. That is a medical decision. It is a one size fits all, unilaterally moral decision made for you by the government.
So, this is Congressman Henry Hyde, whose name has become kind of a shorthand for limiting women‘s constitutional rights in America.
And this is Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Democrat of from New York state, who has been coming at this issue from the other side of the debate for a long time, including quite ferociously last week. On Wednesday, Republicans in Congress considered a bill to make the Hyde Amendment even more severe than it already. Among other provisions H.R. 3, that‘s three as in this is the third item on the Republicans to-do list for the whole list year, H.R. 3 would raise taxes. H.R. 3 would raise taxes on any company whose employee health plan covers abortion.
It would raise their taxes by taking away the credit that companies get for insuring their employees. Before the vote, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter stood up and said she has never had to debate someone‘s appendectomy or someone‘s vasectomy. She then made this argument for small government, for individual freedom, and against the legacy of Henry Hyde.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), NEW YORK: I served in three legislatures and every one of them was always men in blue suits who knew very little about the life-altering experience of pregnancy and birth who demanded this kind of action. I‘ve often spoken in support of a woman‘s right to access an abortion and had many people, including some of my own constituents, who disagree with me and that‘s fine.
They have never, however, tried by law to enforce upon me what they themselves believe. Once I was at a meeting in my district and I was asked by a man who was strongly opposed to a woman‘s right to chose, what should be done about that. And my response to him was simple and personal and still applies today. I asked him that if God forbid he ever finds himself in a difficult position of having to decide whether or not his wife needed to have an abortion either because the health of the fetus or the mother was in danger, or because of another personal or private matter, is he willing to say to people gathered in the hospital and doing a discussion, no decision can be made until Louise Slaughter gets here, because Congress will make that decision?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Congress did go on to pass H.R. 3, the bill Ms. Slaughter argued against there. Republicans voted for it unanimously. Now, the bill will go on to the United States Senate, where the Democrats still hold the majority and where Republicans sponsor, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, says he doesn‘t think he‘s got the votes to pass it.
But it does say something intense about this relentless campaign against abortion rights that Republicans are waging this year. It said something intense about that, that Senator Wicker and his 20 male co-sponsors plus one woman that they‘re willing to try. They are willing to raise taxes in order to further attack abortion rights this year. And in case you‘re keeping track, the unemployment rate stands at 9 percent.
MADDOW: After U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden last weekend at a compound in Pakistan, three of his widows were left at the compound after the raid and taken into Pakistani custody. NBC News reports that U.S. intelligence officials will be given access to those women or at the very least, to the information that Pakistan has already gathered from them.
The Pentagon on Saturday released some of what they took from the compound, videotape, some showing Osama bin Laden gray-bearded and weirdly hunched over under a blanket, watching himself on television while clutching a remote control. Other video is showing him with a freshly dyed black beard rehearsing messages. All of the tapes had the audio removed.
Last week, CIA chief, Leon Panetta, suggested that Pakistan‘s military an intelligence services were either complicit in sheltering bin Laden or they were incompetent. Then, this weekend Pakistani media named the man that Pakistani officials claimed was the CIA chief in Islamabad. U.S. officials telling “The Washington Post” that, quote, “They suspected that the name—although erroneous in part—may have been deliberately leaked by Pakistan‘s intelligence service in retaliation for U.S. criticism following the bin Laden raid.”
President Obama carefully downplayed his own criticism of Pakistan in his interview that aired on “60 Minutes” last night, though, he did leave open the possibility of Pakistani government complicity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don‘t know who or what they support network was. We don‘t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government. And that‘s something that we have to investigate and more importantly the Pakistani government has to investigate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pakistan‘s prime minister this morning, in a speech to parliament, said that he had ordered an investigation into how bin Laden managed to hide out for years in $1 million compound surrounded by former members of the Pakistan‘s military and the Pakistan equivalent of West Point. But he called allegations of Pakistani government complicity in sheltering Mr. Bin Laden as, quote, “absurd.”
Joining us now is NBC News terrorism analyst, Evan Kohlmann.
Evan, thanks very much for being here. Appreciate your time.
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: What do you think is the intelligence value of the five bin Laden tapes that were released by the government this weekend? Why release those tapes?
KOHLMANN: Well, I think the purpose of releasing this is to knock bin Laden down a notch, to show him as a bumbling idiot basically as opposed to a sophisticated terrorist leader meandering across the mountains with his loyal followers.
The idea is this is a human being. The problem, though, is that to really get that point across, you need the audio. If you want to show him bumbling through a speech and messing it up, you actually have to hear that, because right now, all we have are a few images of bin Laden staring off to the side, to the left. It doesn‘t have the full impact. I think it may have a more impact actually in the mind of U.S. officials than it will in the target audience that we‘re trying to reach.
MADDOW: In terms of the Pakistani response for the second time since December, now Pakistani officials have apparently leaked the identity or at least a partially correct identity of the CIA‘s Islamabad station chief. U.S. officials suspect both of these come from the Pakistani intelligence service.
How does that sort of thing materially affect our collaborative work or competitive work in some cases with Pakistan?
KOHLMANN: It‘s not going to help things. That‘s for sure. And I think that‘s kind of the question here, is that the Pakistanis are accusing the United States of waging a war without their consent. But I think the real question is: why are the Pakistanis so hesitant? In fact, fighting so hard against trying to crack down on the al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. We have mainstream Pakistani politicians who are talking about trying to make a peace treaty with the Pakistani Taliban—at the same time, when they‘re murdering—forget about Americans—they are murdering hundreds of innocent Muslims in Pakistan.
The math is not there in terms of the math here. There are far more Pakistanis being killed by the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda than there are in U.S. missile strikes.
So, I think the Pakistani government needs to start thinking about the future. There are some people who say, look, they are saying crazy things in order to flatter a certain section of the Pakistani population who are very upset about the invasion of sovereignty and perhaps naturally so.
But I think you have to wonder, if the Pakistani government‘s message to its people is the United States is our enemy. We‘re hostile. We‘re angry that the United States has invaded our territory. We‘re more angry at the United States than we are at al Qaeda—what is the message to the Pakistani people? Don‘t trust the United States.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens in al Qaeda next, what is your understanding about what‘s likely to happen with the leadership vacuum there? Do you believe that Ayman al-Zawahiri is likely to step up from the number two position to number one? Or will there be competition for that spot?
KOHLMANN: You know, I‘ve said that this is not a democracy. If it was a democracy, I don‘t think it would be Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. But the way that leaders are chosen in al Qaeda is simple. There‘s a Shura council. They are the top leaders of al Qaeda who get together and say, you‘re the next one.
And so far, for the last five, six, seven years, there‘s been no doubt about the next one. It‘s Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Does that mean he‘ll be an effective leader? Well, I don‘t know.
And it will be he‘s effective as bin Laden was? Probably not. He‘s a petulant guy. He‘s not terribly well-liked. He‘s not charismatic. He doesn‘t have that unifying image that bin Laden did.
But there are very succession and rules here. And I got to tell you, for the people that really know, most of us would be shocked to see anyone other than Zawahiri take that position.
MADDOW: I couldn‘t be more delighted to hear it. I have to say, for everything that I‘ve heard about, and it sounds like he‘ll be—he‘ll have a lot of challenges. The more he has the better.
KOHLMANN: Insha‘Allah. God willing.
MADDOW: Evan Kohlmann, NBC News terrorism analyst—thanks for your help, Evan.
KOHLMANN: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: We will be right back.
MADDOW: Clay Jones is an editorial cartoonist for “The Freelance Star” newspaper in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is his latest political cartoon I saw posted at Slate.com today. In the class “foreign policy,” school kid George W. Bush with giant ears gets a D-minus. And school kid Barack Obama, with different giant ears gets an A, with lots of plus signs after it.
This cartoon is post-death of bin Laden, right?
The teacher looks at the papers and says to school kid Obama, “A plus, plus, plus? You must have cheated off George.”
Whether or not you feel like George W. Bush deserved a D-minus in foreign policy or that Barack Obama deserves an A-plus, whatever, I think Mr. Clay Jones in this political cartoon nailed the Beltway media reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden. This is exactly how the Beltway media is approaching the politics of bin Laden‘s death. And I can prove it. That‘s next.
MADDOW: I will admit right off the bat this is petty. I‘ll admit it. But it is also true and it has got to drive Democrats in the White House absolutely nuts.
Here it is: Republican Senator Dick Lugar, Republican former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, Republican former Congressman Tom Davis, the Bush administration‘s CIA director, General Michael Hayden, the Bush administration‘s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, the Bush administration‘s homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration‘s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, the Bush administration‘s vice president, Dick Cheney, the Bush administration‘s vice president‘s daughter, Liz Cheney—the week the Obama administration announces it has killed Osama bin Laden, that‘s the guest list on the Sunday morning political talk shows to talk about it.
The Sunday shows are supposedly the apex of political debate—the pulsing, throbbing heart of what‘s going on in American politics. Is the biggest story in American politics right now retirees from the Bush administration and how they feel about stuff? Plus, Dick Lugar?
Honestly, this is the roster? This is Sunday morning in all of its thundering seriousness?
Now, among those nine Bush administration officials and other Republican politicians, there were three outliers: Senator John Kerry, also a former White House communications director named Anita Dunn, and one current White House official Tom Donilon, the national security adviser. So, there were those three.
But the week the Obama administration announces that bin Laden is dead, the invitees to the adult‘s table, the measure of serious and importance in Washington is three-to-one, Bush administration and Republican officials. Why is that?
MADDOW: The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate of any country in the world. We like to spend money locking people up here. We put more of our own citizens in prison than any other country in the world. USA, USA, USA!
That said, only a small proportion of those locked up in the U.S. are locked up by the federal government. In federal prison, most of the Americans in prison are in prisons that are run by the states.
So, in the most incarcerated country on earth, what‘s the most incarcerated place in the country? It is not that easy to find out. It‘s not the kind of thing that states like to brag about. Even if you love the idea of locking a lot of people up, you probably still don‘t like the idea of paying to lock a lot of people up. So, it is not a readily available figure.
But at the Web site of the Sentencing Project, they‘ve got this cool, nifty rollover map where you can get the incarceration rate for every state in the country just by moving your mouse around the country. And you can see when you do it that way that the use of prison in this country all essentially just drips down to the Southeast and it pools in Louisiana. All of the highest rates of incarceration are in the Southeast, but the closer you get to Louisiana, the higher your rate of locking up your citizens more or less.
The national average per 100,000 population is about 500 people in prison -- 500 nationally. Louisiana is at 881. The only states that come anywhere near Louisiana in terms of how much of their population they lock up are the states that touch Louisiana or that try to—Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma. They are vaguely in competition with Louisiana but are left way behind.
In the country that locks up more people than anywhere in the world, by a mile, Louisiana locks up more people than anywhere else by a mile.
During the Confederacy, during the course of the Civil War, Louisiana as a Confederate state had three different state capitals. They had to keep giving up their state capitals and founding new ones as Union troops kept invading them and taking them over in succession. The only Confederate Louisiana state capital that Union troops did not take over, as far as I understand it, was the city of Shreveport, tucked up into the far northwest corner of the state. Shreveport held on even after Robert E. Lee surrendered in April, 1865. They held on as long as they could.
In the reconstruction era just after the Civil War, Caddo Parish earned the nickname the “bloody Caddo” for its high proportion of black citizens who were murdered.
Congressional inquiries and historians documented the white posses and paramilitary organizations that maintained Caddo parish as the last stand of the Confederacy in more ways than one.
In 1902, Caddo Parish gifted a parcel of land to the daughters of the Confederacy to put up this monument. It is a monument to Caddo Parish being supposedly the last place on land where the Confederate flag was lowered after the South lost the war. The monument has busts of four Confederate generals, Confederate general its corner. Its top has an anonymous Confederate soldier holding a rifle. Cleo, the muse of history, is depicted below the words “Lest we forget.”
That monument went up in front of the courthouse in 1902. In 1951, in case, the meaning wasn‘t clear enough, with those four Confederate generals and all the rest—in 1951, they added to it—they added a flag pole and the Confederate flag. And there it stands, still, outside the Caddo Parish courthouse today in 2011.
Two years ago this week, a 30-year resident of Shreveport named Carl
Staples was summoned to jury duty at that courthouse, the one with the
confederate monument and flag out front. Mr. Staples called the parish
clerk‘s office to say he did not want to attend jury duty because of that
Confederate flag out front. The clerk told him a warrant would be interest
a warrant for his arrest would be issued if he did not show up to serve.
So, Carl Staples went to the courthouse to fulfill his civic responsibility. He ended up in the case of an African-American man accused of killing a white man.
During the jury selection process, Mr. Staples restated his objection to the Confederate flag flying yards away. He told the courtroom that it was a symbol of one of the most heinous crimes ever committed to another member of the human race and I just don‘t see how you could say that. I mean, you‘re here for justice and then again you overlook this great injustice by continuing to fly this flag.
The prosecutor in the case moved to strike Carl Staples from the jury, saying that based on those comments, he could not be fair in the case. The judge granted the motion. There were seven remaining qualified black prospective jurors. The prosecution successfully moved to strike five of them.
But Carl Staples was taken off that jury specifically because of his stated objections to the Confederate flag flying outside the courthouse. The jury in the end consisted of 11 white people and one African-American, one African-American woman. The man on trial in the case is named Felton Dorsey. He was eventually convicted. He was sentenced to death.
And Mr. Dorsey maintains that he is innocent of the crime for which he has been sentenced to die. He is challenging his conviction and sentence. Today, Felton Dorsey‘s attorney from the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, his attorney, incidentally, is a white woman attorney who is from Caddo Parish, she argued at the Louisiana state Supreme Court in New Orleans today that Mr. Dorsey‘s conviction should be overturned.
Carl Staples was struck off that jury explicitly because he objected to the Confederate flag flying outside that courtroom. And so, in the most highly incarcerated state of the most highly incarcerated country on earth, where 32 percent of Louisiana‘s population is black but 70 percent of its prison population is black, do we accept that it is a prerequisite for serving on a jury that you do not object to doing so under the Confederate flag?
Louisiana Supreme Court started mulling that over today. I thought we stopped mulling over stuff like this 146 years ago this spring at Appomattox, but we will keep you posted on what they figure out in New Orleans.
Thanks for being with us tonight. Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”
Have a good one.
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