Guests: Chris Hayes, Bob Herbert
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend.
Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
What happened today in American politics requires a decoder ring, and
I`m here to provide you with it. What happened today in American politics
is what your uncle who watches FOX News all day is all worked up about.
This is one of those days where what happened today in politics mean
something totally different to the portion of Americans who watch FOX News
than it does to everybody else in the country. It`s one of those days if
you`re a person who gets your information about American politics from what
people say in the conservative media, today was like a five-inch tall
headline, day that will live in infamy, huge deal in American politics.
But if you`re not that, if you`re one of the more than 95 percent vast
majority of the country who at any moment is not watching FOX News, today
might not have made much sense. In 2012, this is a more and more important
thing about our country and our politics all the time. In 2012, we have
become a bifurcated country. We`re bifurcated between people who believe
what is in the conservative media is the news and everybody else in the
country who has a more heterogeneous diet.
And with more of these scandals that are cooked up on the right in
particular, these two groups of people cannot talk to each other. We don`t
understand what each other`s purported news stories mean.
Today was one of those days when they tried to drag something out of
the conservative media world where it`s been cooking for a year and they
tried to drag it into the mainstream, to see if it could survive in the
mainstream, to see if it could survive outside of the right wing world in
which it was incubated.
I do not know if it survived. I do not sure if it worked. I`m not
sure that anybody who doesn`t watch FOX News has any idea what`s going on
in today`s news.
But here is the story. In March 2010, which is a little over a year
after President Obama took office, right, Congress passed health reform.
There were months of not knowing if it was really going to happen, right
down to the very last few days, it`s still not sure if it was definitely
going to happen.
But finally, it was the third week in March of 2010 when it was clear
that Congress had finally figured out how to pass health reform. And on
the Friday morning of that third week in March, when it became clear it was
going to pass, a militia guy in Alabama freaked out about health reform on
his blog and he demanded conservatives opposed to health reform should take
to violence, to stop Congress from what it was doing.
He wrote on his blog, and I quote, `If you wish to send a message that
Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows. Break them
now. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night.
Break them in broad daylight, break them and await arrest in willful,
principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks, with sling shots,
break them with baseball bats, but break them.
The time has come to take your life, your liberty and that of your
children and grandchildren into your own two hands and act. It`s after
all, more humane than shooting them in self defense.
And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds,
thousands of Democrat party headquarters across the country, we might just
wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle
unnecessary. Break their windows. Break them now."
That was Friday morning, March 19th, 2010. Sometime later on in that
day, indeed, a large brick was thrown through a window at Democratic
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter`s district office in Niagara Falls, New
York. The window had to be -- as you can see there -- had to be boarded up
That same night, Friday night or possibly early Saturday morning,
another brick was thrown through a window at the Sedgwick County Democratic
Party office in Wichita, Kansas. That brick was reported to have anti-
Obama and anti-health care reform messages written on it.
Then, a day later, oh, look, there`s more. On Saturday night or maybe
early Sunday, another brick shattered glass doors at the Democratic Party
headquarters in Rochester, New York. I think we have a picture of the
Shortly after the health reform vote took place on Sunday, another
one, this time a fist-sized rock reportedly thrown through the front window
of the Hamilton County Democratic Party in Pleasant Ridge, Ohio.
Then at 2:40 in the morning, so late Sunday night/early Monday
morning, a few hours after the health reform bill, the front door and glass
panels were smashed out at Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords`
office in Tucson, Arizona.
That was all March 2010, right when health reform was passing. Of
course, as an aside, Gabrielle Giffords within a year went on to barely
survive an assassination attempt in her home district in Arizona. After
she resigned to work on her recovery earlier this year, her former staffer
Ron Barber was actually sworn in just this week in the House to replace
But in terms of the timing here, today, of course, is possibly also
the eve of the Supreme Court decision on health reform. Decision on
whether or not the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is going to
find health reform somehow unconstitutional. That ruling had been expected
as early as this Monday, this past Monday this week. The next possible
date on which they might issue the ruling is tomorrow morning. So, it
might happen tomorrow.
The thing about that timeframe there between health reform passing and
now this expected ruling from the Supreme Court, since health reform was
passed, all right, now that we`re possibly on the eve of the Supreme Court
ruling on its future, whatever happened to the "break their windows"
Despite some noises that he might be pursued by law enforcement, since
he was very proud and unapologetic about having tried to incite that
violence around the country, the "break their windows" militia/blogger guy
told "The Washington Post" that he had not been questioned by any law
enforcement agencies after the rash of Democratic attacks -- attacks on
Democratic offices he called for.
He called for them, he claimed credit for them. After it was done
actually, he continued to threaten more.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE VANDERBOEGH: There are rifles being cleaned right now. Do you
folks understand that?
HOST: Being what? Claimed from where?
VANDERBOEGH: There are rifles being taken out of the closet and
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Being the break their windows, cleaning our rifles,
incitement to violence guy from the health reform fight, did bring this
blogger guy some measure of fame on the fringe. He kept threatening civil
war and armed sedition on right wing talk radio. He was booked as a
speaker at an open carry rally -- an openly carry your firearms rally that
was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.
That was classy timing.
But since then, this blogger guy, the break your windows guy,
incidentally his name is Mike Vanderboegh, since then he has moved on to a
new thing. He has moved on to promulgating a new conspiracy theory about
President Obama taking away your guns.
And so it has come to pass that your uncle who watches FOX News all
day is worked up about something today. And so it has come to pass that in
the span of 27 months since he told everyone to go break everyone`s windows
in Democratic Party headquarters since health reform passed, in the stage
of 27 months, the "break their windows", militia/blogger guy has now become
the man who has led Republicans in the United States Congress to vote the
attorney general of the United States in contempt of Congress today. It`s
This armed resistance, break their windows, break them now guy, is
where the whole Fast and Furious thing came from. If you don`t know
anything about the Fast and Furious thing, you are forgiven. But if you
have heard about it from your uncle or because you happen to be visiting
tonight from FOX -- hello, I hope you will forgive me while I explain that
Fast and Furious refers to a law enforcement strategy that started during
the George W. Bush administration. It was a program to let some sketchy
gun sales go through in the hopes that following those guns after they were
sold could lead the ATF to Mexican drug kingpins that they could arrest.
Now, whatever you think of that style of law enforcement program and
that George W. Bush administration starting it and the Obama administration
continuing it, to this militia blogger guy, to the "break their windows,
break them now" guy, this got re-imagined as a conspiracy to eliminate the
Second Amendment, to take away your guns by selling them to people on the
If it doesn`t sound like it makes sense, it`s because it doesn`t make
sense. To the fevered mind of a full time conspiracy theorist who sees
himself oz part of an armed American resistance movement, that is what he
made up. And, boy, has he gone places with it.
This is the way he would explain it on his blog. He called it the Gun
Walker Program. Obama`s gun walker was a deliberate conspiracy versus the
The gun confiscationists had danced in the blood of every mass
shooting and gotten nowhere to their chagrin and frustration. What was
needed was a game changer, something that fit the meme of "we`ve got to
tighten up on gun owners, gun stores, and gun shows because they`re feeding
Mexico was perfect. If there weren`t enough semiautomatic assault
rifles in Mexico, the ATF could fix that. And the murders could flo0ow,
justifying the policy change of cracking down on assault rifles, gun shows
and the like."
This is crazy, right? I mean, the theory here is the Obama
administration sold too many guns in order to create gun violence, in order
to cause revulsion in the American people about the horrible thing those
guns are doing in order to make people feel more positive about gun
control, so then they could get away with taking everyone`s guns away
secretly, some day, after they stop selling the extra guns to get there.
They`re being super lax in gun control as a conspiracy in order to be super
tough on gun control.
What? Yes, what? This is a theory. This is a theory cooked up by
the break their windows guy. And this is the Republicans Fast and Furious
thing that led to today`s political news.
This guy, Vanderboegh, became the FOX News Channel authority on the
subject of the Fast and Furious investigation. Here he is being
interviewed on FOX News about Fast and Furious. Look at him identifying
himself as an online journalist.
Remember, this is the break their windows, break them now guy. Mr.
Vanderboegh expounded his conspiracy theory on FOX News. He said it
directly to Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He said it to Senator Chuck
Grassley of Iowa.
These guys apparently listened to it, and believed it, and Republicans
in Congress have been running with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: My suspicion is that they don`t like
the Second Amendment the way it is, and they want to do everything they can
to hurt guns and restrict guns, and so, they could have been building a
case for that, but I can`t prove that.
REP. TIM WALBERG (R), MICHIGAN: Frankly, I believe it was set up to
deal with Second Amendment liberties of law-abiding citizens and pushing
into a perception that it was the problem of the Second Amendment as
opposed to law enforcement.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Very clearly, they made a crisis
and they`re using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people`s Second
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: To somehow -- somehow being the key term there, right?
The idea is by selling guns, the Obama administration is going to
block people from selling guns, right? It`s obvious.
Take the blinders off, America. They`re being super lax on gun
control for gun control.
See, if you were a person who watched FOX News all day, it is possible
you have been marinating in this conspiracy theory for long enough now that
this seems feasible. And so, therefore, today`s vote to hold the attorney
general under contempt over this scandal is somehow understandable to you.
For the rest of us, however, it`s kind of like this moment I once had
on a Greyhound Bus, when I finally -- I was on a very long, overnight
Greyhound Bus ride. It`s a long story. But I finally allowed myself to
look and confirm my suspicion that the person sitting near me who was
speaking very ostentatiously loudly on the cell phone for the entire
Greyhound overnight bus ride which I shared with them was actually just
speaking into a brick of aluminum foil that was shaped like a phone.
That`s what this is like. If you care to look, yes, this is exactly
as crazy as it seems. This is a very strange and implausible and perhaps
impossibly implausibly, cockamamie, make your cell phone out of aluminum
foil thing that has animated the right for more than a year now.
This is a conspiracy theory that was cooked up by the guy who told
people to go break people`s windows after health reform passed.
But the right is hardwired to believe stuff like this. Not just your
uncle, all of them, and it can be easy to forget on the right, they`re
susceptible enough to conspiracy theories like this in their closed loop
fact-free universe of conservative media. It can be easy to forget that
unless you listen to what the conversation sounds like in right wing media
I went to Anchorage during the 2010 elections, right? Remember when
we went up to Anchorage, do a reporting trip to try to cover the Joe Miller
primary against Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.
We went to Anchorage in October 2010. And I experienced this first
hand on the issue of gun politics, when I ran into a group of protesters on
the street who said they were protesting against Lisa Murkowski because of
something having to do with guns -- something having to do with guns that
made a ton of sense to them but did not translate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Good luck, you guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you know that Lisa confirmed Eric
Holder and we disagree with that.
MADDOW: She what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She confirmed Eric Holder.
MADDOW: Why are you against that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s the most anti-gun attorney general this
country has ever had.
MADDOW: What`s he done against guns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What hasn`t done against guns? Let`s ask that
question. Let`s look at what his voting record beforehand.
MADDOW: Eric Holder wasn`t elected official.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I`m asking is look at what his record is with
Obama then. Look at what his --
MADDOW: What he`s done on guns that you`re upset about, though?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly, I don`t know enough about him to
answer that truthfully.
MADDOW: Can I ask why you`re upset about Eric Holder?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he`s antigun.
MADDOW: What has he done that`s anti-gun?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t have all the facts but I know that he is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Agitated people protesting on the street who are not good at
explaining their views can be forgiven for sounding nonspecific or even a
little crazy about these things.
But what those folks were articulating to me in Anchorage before the
2010 election when they were agitating for Joe Miller and against Lisa
Murkowski, that`s -- it`s not just a random street protester view on the
right. What those people were telling me on that street corner in
Anchorage is how the right talks about the Obama administration even when
they`re standing at podiums.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: When he got elected, they concocted a scheme to
stay away from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep and play us for
fools in 2012. Well, gun owners are not fools and we are not fooled.
We see the president`s strategy crystal clear. Get re-elected and
with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying
our firearms freedom, erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights
and exercise it from the U.S. Constitution. That`s their agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne
LaPierre, speaking at the annual CPAC conference about the general concept
that the reason you know President Obama is going to take away your guns is
because he hasn`t done anything to take aware you guns. See? It`s a
What does he say? "They concocted a scheme to lull gun owners to
sleep by not taking away their guns." That`s how you know they`re coming
They believe in abstract sense, that the reason you know President
Obama is coming after you guns is because he hasn`t. That`s what they
believe in the abstract, it`s exactly what this Fast and Furious thing is
in this specific.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIERRE: An attempt to blame the Second Amendment, blame American
gun owners and give more gun legislation here in the United States. I
mean, that sounds more like a South American dictatorship than it does what
we expect from our Department of Justice in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Or it sounds like something that might be cooked up in the
addled, cartoonishly paranoid mind guy who`s whole living is predicated on
you being afraid of stuff that`s actually happening.
Mr. LaPierre`s organization, the National Rifle Association, announced
before the vote today on whether or not Attorney General Holder should be
held in contempt in the Fast and Furious thing. NRA announced that the
vote would be scored as part of their ratings from the National Rifle
So your rating as a member of Congress from the NRA will be hurt if
you don`t vote to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for this crazy
Naturally, the vote in the House committee on Holder today was party
line. Every single Republican voted to hold the attorney general in
contempt over this crazy conspiracy theory that the Obama administration
allowed guns to be sold in Mexico in order to upset people so guns couldn`t
be sold anymore. That the Second Amendment was going to be eliminated
because they upset people by gun violence when they promulgated in order to
upset you, so they can get away with gun control.
FOX News and the echo chamber that it elevates is an important
phenomenon in American politics. There`s a whole world of things that are
presented as plausible over there that don`t translate at all to the rest
of the world that doesn`t watch FOX News, but inside that bizarre factually
suffocated bubble of opportunistic, paranoid, cockamamie, factless, "break
their windows" nonsense is most of the Republican Party of the United
States of America.
Today was a strange day in American politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIERRE: When he got elected, they concocted a scheme to stay away
from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep and play us for fools in 2012.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your oversight of an agency of a department, of
individual leaders in that department, have not been held accountable.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, with all due respect, and I mean
this with great respect, the notion this was an operation set up to do
something to impinge upon Second Amendment rights of my fellow citizens is
ISSA: The clerk will report.
CLERK: Twenty-three ayes, 17 nos.
ISSA: The ayes have it. And a contempt report is ordered reported to
the House. Without objection so ordered, the committee stands adjourned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Party line vote in one Republican controlled House committee
today to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The
speaker of the House, John Boehner, a vote in the full House on that matter
will be held next week.
It`s all about a conspiracy theory marinated on the right, essentially
alone in right wing media that the Fast and Furious gun-running program in
the Southwest was somehow a conspiracy to take away Second Amendment rights
by upsetting people about gun violence.
Joining us now is Bob Herbert, former columnist with the "New York
Times." He`s now senior distinguished fellow at the Demos Center for
Public Policy and Advocacy.
Bob, thank you for being here.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: It`s great to be here, although I have to tell
you, Rachel, it is not fair to have to comment on this story in public
because once you immerse yourself in this issue, it`s like being on acid.
It`s unbelievably crazy.
MADDOW: Let me say that that is true of a lot of gun issues. Gun
issues I have always described at the great un-Googleable. It`s not
possible to get rational, unbiased, real information about what is going on
with gun laws, particularly about gun politics in this country, because
when you Google it, you`re so deep in conspiracy theory land that you get
no real information.
This Fast and Furious I think is a subset of that, but yes, party line
100 percent of Republicans voting on it today. Voting for it -- voting to
hold attorney general in contempt over it. Is this the fringe becoming
mainstream, or is there something else going on?
HERBERT: The Republican Party is hooked up with the fringe a long
time ago. The Republican Party, a mainstream party in the sense we only
have two parties. But it is not mainstream if you`re thinking about the
way most Americans think about most important issue.
But what`s important to look at here is what are senators like -- what
are people like Issa and Grassley doing riding the wave of this guy,
Vanderboegh, for example. Vanderboegh comes up with something that is
utter madness, and big shots in the Republican Party just pounce on it and
then ultimately, it leads them to a contempt citation against the attorney
general of the United States?
I mean, that is just madness. We need to understand, one, this was
not a Holder operation. This sting, which was a terrible sting, it ended
tragically and that sort of thick. But Holder ordered an end to this. The
people in charge of the sting were either fired or reassigned.
There is an I.G. investigation in the Justice Department and Congress
is investigating it. I don`t have any problem with that at all.
But the idea this had something to do with the Obama administration
wanting to underline Second Amendment rights is madness of the higher
For people like me who are very much in favor of enforcing gun control
laws and would like gun control laws strengthened, who would like to make
it more difficult for people to access guns, Obama has been a terrible
disappointment. The Brady Campaign gave him an F for his performance in
terms of gun control. So it`s just madness to talk about him undermining
the Second Amendment. He`s done nothing of the sort.
MADDOW: But in terms of real policy concerns and the real
responsibilities of governing, I was focused today on that, too, on the
issue that, you know, if you really are interested in gun policy and not
just interested in conspiracies about this, the Brady Campaign has given
him an F. They have done nothing to increase gun control at all, whether
or not you think that`s a good idea.
But is the true that a rationally based administration ends up being
constrained to the point where they can do zero on the policy issue because
even when they do zero, that`s construed as some sort of act of aggression?
HERBERT: I don`t think so. I think that, you know, whether it was
the Obama administration or if it was another Democratic administration, I
believe they could have done more on gun control in a number of other
I think that the forces who are opposed to some of the things that the
Republican Party stands for should be fighting harder against the
Republican Party, should be fighting back harder on some of the issues.
And if you take gun control, for example, this is like an unbelievably
important issue. The Republicans talk about being concerned about this
agent who was killed and it`s your right to be concerned about that.
But 100,000 Americans are shot every year. And 30,000, more than
30,000 die. And these are a result of homicides, suicides, and gun
accidents. Your viewers ought to understand if they watch your show,
during the course of this show, three Americans will die from gun shot
wounds because three Americans die from gun shot wounds every hour. So,
this is an incredibly important issue.
So, if the Republicans are concerned about what happens when guns get
into the wrong hands, they should pay attention to the 100,000 Americans
who are affected by this.
MADDOW: But any discussion on how to deal with that in policy is so
backwards through the telescope, that doing nothing is construed as
secretly plotting to do too much.
HERBERT: Exactly, and not only that. What they really want to do is
undermine the legitimacy of the people who do not agree with them, soy they
want to undermine the legitimacy of Eric Holder, of Barack Obama, and
ultimately the Democratic Party.
MADDOW: By lining up with their "break their windows" militia/blogger
guy, a good way to assert your own credibility.
This is just an incredible story. Bob Herbert, former columnist to
"The New York Times," now at Demos -- Bob, thank you so much.
HERBERT: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. You know the expression, he was born on the
third, thought he hit a triple? My friend Chris Hayes has written a
spectacular book in part about that phenomenon. It`s called "Twilight of
Chris is here to explain, just ahead. It`s great. Hold on.
MADDOW: The best new thing in the world today includes a sporting
event in Washington, D.C. that I promise you was called in a play by play
sense with more authority and better sourcing than any sporting event in
Washington, D.C. has ever been called before. Details ahead. Best new
thing in the world.
MADDOW: OK, look at this chart for a second. The yellow part on the
left, that is the richest people in the country. The richest quintile, the
orange is the second richest, the red is the middle, so on. The poorest
group of people in the country is the gray there on the right.
If you ask Americans what this graph means -- if you ask Americans how
would you like the wealth in this country to be distributed, ideally, what
would be best? This is what Americans say they would like it to be like in
So, as you can see, Americans say, you know, even ideally, we get that
the richest people in the country are going to control more money than the
poorest people in the country. That`s our system, that`s capitalism. So,
yellow, richest, get a bigger share of the pie than the poorest, the little
This is what Americans say they would like our country to be like.
That said, we realize that the rich really have gotten richer. And so,
when you ask Americans instead, not what you want things to be like, but
what income in this country really is like, this is what we tell pollsters,
we really they think it actually is. This is what we think it is.
Here`s what it really is in real life.
Yes. We are totally incorrect ion terms of how unequal we think we
are as a society. We are way more unequal than we think we are. And what
we say we want to be is radically more equal than we are and radically more
equal than we have deluded ourselves into thinking we are, but in fact we
"Mother Jones" published this graft together, like this last year.
It`s based on a giant survey by a Harvard business professor and a
behavioral economist. I have kept this graph in my book marks in my
computer ever since. I think this is amazing and really important.
It may also be key to fixing one of the scariest things written about
the future of our country in a very long time.
The great Chris Hayes who you know from this network has a new book
out called "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy." And in
this new book, Chris makes the case that people who are supposed to be good
at stuff in our country are no longer good at stuff. We`re sort of
calcified in a way in this country that we count on an elite to do
everything, but for a very important reason, our elite sucks -- and it`s
kind of hard to argue with him on that.
I mean, what elite institution is in good shape in our country if you
judge by our recent history. If you judge by the first decade of the
century, what Chris calls the decade of fail -- well, it starts with the
Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, an institution that embodies an ideal of
pure, dispassionate, elite cogitation, handed to the presidency to a
favored choice of a slim, five-person majority in a ruling whose legal
logic was so tortured the court itself announced it could not be used as
Then the American security apparatus, the largest in the world, failed
to prevent 19 men with knives and box cutters from pulling off the greatest
mass murder in U.S. history. Just a few months later, Enron and Arthur
Anderson imploded. At the time, Enron was the largest corporate bankruptcy
in the history of the nation, what once was the hottest company in America
was revealed to be an elaborate fraud, aided and abetted by one of the most
trusted accounting firms in the entire world.
So, that`s how we started, then there was the Iraq war, and then there
was Katrina and drowning of New Orleans, and then there was the collapse of
Wall Street and the collapse of housing and the onset of the greatest
depression since the Great Depression.
Quoting Chris, "The dysfunction revealed by the crisis decade extends
even past the government and the Fortune 500. The Catholic Church was
exposed for its systematic policy of protecting serial child rapists and
enabling them to victimize children.
Penn State University was forced to fire its believed football coach
and university president, after it was revealed that much of the school`s
sports and administrative hierarchy have looked the other way while former
assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly raped and abused young
boys on its own property.
Even baseball, our own national pastime, came to be viewed as little
more than a corrupt racket, as each week brought a new revelation of a star
who is taking performance-enhancing drugs, while owners, players and union
leadership colluded in a cover-up."
Quote, "I`m 31, an Iraq war veteran, a Penn State graduate, a
Catholic, a native of State College, an acquaintance of Sandusky`s, and a
product of a Second Mile foundation," wrote Thomas Day, days after the Penn
State scandal broke. "And I have fully lost faith in the leadership of my
Yes, right? Institutional collapse. Good reason to have faith in
nothing we are supposed to have faith in. The failure of everything run by
the elites in our country.
The novel and arresting thesis we are getting now from Chris Hayes in
this really important book is that we need better elites, which means there
has to be some room for there to be new ones, which is why this is a reason
to be cheerful actually. Yes, we have a spectacularly unequal society, we
have a spectacularly calcified elite, but Americans don`t want that.
Americans don`t want we`ve got now, and if we can figure out a way to get
the America we say we do want -- Chris says that is how we will free
ourselves from all our elite institutions being such epic catastrophic
failures. Interesting, right?
Joining us now for the interview, my friend and colleague, Chris
Hayes, the host of "UP WITH CHRIS," weekends on MSNBC, and the author of
the brand new blockbuster "Twilight of the Elites" -- Chris, it is great to
see you. Congratulations, man. You did it.
CHRIS HAYES, AUTHOR, "TWILIGHT OF THE ELITES": Thank you very much.
It`s wonderful to be here. It`s wonderful to see you healthy and happy and
in the anchor chair again.
MADDOW: Well, first, let me -- as I start with all of -- with guests
in situations like this, tell me what I got wrong about your thesis or at
least tell me if I got it right, that wanting more equality in the United
States is maybe a solution to us sucking so badly at everything we`re
supposed to be good at.
HAYES: Yes. I`m so glad that you showed that Dan Ariely data because
I think we do have a sense, and you hear this on the left a lot, you know,
America is unequal because Americans like it that way, because Americans
buy into this idea that it should be this way, that the job creators are
And I think that date is really interesting because it shows we have
more egalitarian impulses than we give ourselves credit for, that actually,
we underestimate just how unequal the society is and we want it to be more
equal. And if my analysis is right, and I`m partial to think it is, I
think that is the way out because ultimately, what we`re seeing in the fail
decade, what we`re seeing over the last 10 years, I think, is the
inevitable crises that extreme inequality of the kind we have had produces.
And the reason it produces it, and this is really important, is it
produces a society in which the elites have the social distance from the
people whose decisions that -- the people who experience the effects of
their decisions, and that`s a recipe for catastrophe. That`s all sorts of
examples of how that plays out.
MADDOW: So, you have to have an elite that has to earn it
essentially. You need to get back to meritocracy. You need to be in
charge of something because you have proven an ability to be good at being
in charge of that thing, and in order for that to be true, there has to be
more competition to get into the elite?
HAYES: So, we have a system of tremendous competition now. And part
of the problem is I think some of the pathologies that we have amongst our
elites, the Jamie Dimons of the world are a perfect example, is born by
this ceaseless competition. But we have a terrible combination of --it`s
kind of like the bailouts, right? The bailouts were the worst parts of
socialism and the worst part of capitalism. Our current elite, we have the
worst part of this ceaseless competition, but then we actually don`t have a
lot of accountability at the top.
I mean, think about the fact that we have seen more baseball players
before juries for lying about steroid use, than we have seen major bankers
before juries for the largest destruction of wealth in the history of the
country, right? We have a country that is incredibly, incredibly punitive
at the bottom, we put more people in prison than any other industrialized
democracy, almost any other country, we have a labor system in which you
can be fired because you give your boss the wrong look or call him dude.
And yet at the top, we see almost no accountability. We see the same
people who sold the Iraq war still dining out on that. We see the same
people that brought down Wall Street have jobs or are left with golden
So, that inequality of accountability produces really perverse
incentives for the decision makers at the top.
MADDOW: How do you see us getting toward an accountability that makes
the elite a better elite?
HAYES: A huge part of it, I think, is making the society more equal.
It gets back to the chart you showed in the beginning. We can`t have a
society in which the people at the top are that much -- are so removed from
the experience of ordinary life, and there`s all kinds of ways you can
think about shrinking it.
One of the pernicious effects of this you see play out, and you
basically wrote a book about this entire thing and identified this quite
well, which is think about the wars we have fought for 10 years, the
longest period of war in public history. I mean, the number of veterans in
Congress, right, is at historic lows. We have the people at the top of the
income strata and the educational strata are increasingly alienated and
removed from the folks that are asked to fight the war, to bear the burden
with record amounts of tours, et cetera, and that facilitates the length of
And so, what we have to do is figure out ways, come up with ways to
shrink that social distance to embed our elites in the same system that
everybody else is in.
MADDOW: So people feel the pain they`re inflicting with bad ideas in
their own lives in their own families` lives.
Chris Hayes is the author of "Twilight of the Elites," the host of
your must-watch weekend viewing, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," weekends from 8:00
to 10:00 Eastern right here on MSNBC.
And, Chris, when you asked me to read the book when it was still in
galleys, I said this is the next big thing we have been waiting for. I
really think that. I think that this is the concept we need to be debating
in terms of talking ability big picture structural stuff about the country
and the direction that we`re going. I think this is a huge achievement.
I`m really impressed. Congratulations, man.
HAYES: That means a lot, Rachel. Thank you so much.
All right. Best new thing in the world coming up. Never mind, see
MADDOW: New election results tonight in what is probably the most
watched, most highly anticipated county judicial race in the country. The
hotly contest Kreep versus Peed race, for superior judge in San Diego,
California. It is finally over, more than two weeks after election day.
They are still counting absentee ballots, but as of today, Gary Kreep
is more than a thousand votes ahead of Garland Peed, which means Kreep
The reason this has been the most watched race for county judge in
forever is because it`s Kreep versus Peed, which is amazing. But Garland
Peed is not just a judicial candidate with a distinctive last name. He`s a
27-year veteran prosecutor who was running for a county judgeship on the
strength of some pretty solid credentials.
Quoting from the "San Diego Union Tribune," quote, "For nearly 30
years, Garland Peed has been a capable prosecutor. Everybody who`s worked
with him likes him. He`s racked up every serious endorsement imaginable,
from the local D.A. to the local sheriff, from the San Diego police and
county deputies unions, to the judge whose seat he would have filled. And
yet, inexplicably, he appears to have lost to a guy named Kreep whom the
county bar says is unqualified."
So that`s the Peed in Kreep versus Peed -- a well-liked and respected
prosecutor with all the key endorsements, also the guy who lost.
The guy who won, the Kreep in Kreep versus Peed -- well, the local bar
association did, in fact, rate him as lacking qualifications to be a judge.
He`s also the guy behind this amazing birther infomercial called, "Where
was President Obama born?" Where for the low, low price of $30, Gary Kreep
will send a bunch of faxes to try to get to the bottom of the scandal of
the president`s true birthplace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY KREEP: We petitions congress to -- a petition campaign to block
the certifying of the Electoral College results until after our lawsuit had
a chance to be heard or Mr. Obama had produced proof that he was a natural-
born citizen. Unfortunately, Congress refused to do anything about that,
despite rumors that the at least one congressman was going to challenge the
results. No one in Congress did it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s Gary Kreep. The birther infomercial guy who solicits
30 bucks to send junk mail to state officials about Obama`s secret
foreignness. He is now going to be a judge, making $178,000 taxpayer a
year, for at least six years as a judge! Judge. As in judgment.
For some higher stakes birtherism, though, we have to turn to the Mitt
Romney for president campaign, where the co-chair of the Mitt Romney for
president campaign in the state of Arizona is this guy. He`s Arizona`s
secretary of state, which means he is in charge of elections in that state.
He made national headlines last month with news of his work to verify
President Obama`s birthplace.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KEN BENNETT, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: I believe that the president
was born in Hawaii. Or at least I hope he was. I`m not asking for the
certified copy of the birth certificate at all. I sent in a request asking
them to just confirm or verify whether they have a birth certificate in
their records for Barack Hussein Obama II born on August 4th, 1961, to
whatever his parent`s names are and whatever hospital and whatever else is
on the -- just basically asked them to say, do you have a document that has
all of those elements on it or in it?
And I was frankly expecting that they would very quickly and very
simply say, yes. Eight weeks later, they haven`t said -- I can`t seem to
get them to say yes.
MIKE BROOMHEAD: If you don`t get an answer from Hawaii in time, if
they won`t comply, if they refuse to comply with this, will you remove the
president from the ballot? Will you exclude him from the ballot?
BENNETT: That`s possible.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Arizona`s top election official, investigating President
Obama`s birth records and threatening to keep the president off the 2012
ballot in Arizona.
Ken Bennett was ultimately convinced that President Obama was, in
fact, born in Hawaii. He ultimately even apologized for embarrassing the
state of Arizona with that episode of birther pandering shenanigans, and it
might have ended with that.
But, apparently no. This week, evidence of a new variant of
birtherism coming from the same guy, peddling a brand-new, extra wing-
nutty, triple axle toe, loop conspiracy theory about President Obama and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: Now, I know there`s a lot of people that I have a lot of --
are very skeptical as to whether the president was born in Hawaii.
Personally, I believe he was.
I actually think he was fibbing about being born in Kenya when he was
trying to get into college and doing things like writing a book and on and
on and on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The new theory is that Obama was born in the United States,
but he lies about being born in Kenya! For, you know, getting into college
and writing books and stuff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: So there was weird stuff going on. I actually think it was
happening back in his college days, because I think he has spent $1.5
million or $2 million through attorneys to have all of the college records
and all of that stuff sealed. So if you`re spending money to seal
something, that`s probably where the hanky-panky was going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So the president is born in Hawaii, just like his records
say, only he secretly hasn`t said that all along, but he`s secretly
pretending to be Kenyan before he was secretly Kenyan after he spent $1.5
million or perhaps $2 million -- a lot of money, anyway -- covering up his
false college records, which are secret affirmative action, not really from
Kenya, about him being fake born, maybe not in Hawaii, maybe secret
somewhere else, like Kenya. It`s all very bad, according to the top
elections official in the state of Arizona.
Again, this is not from an infomercial guy. That`s the guy who`s just
been elected a superior court judge in San Diego. Thanks, San Diego.
This, no, this is from the guy who was in charge of elections for the
state of Arizona and who is the Mitt Romney campaign co-chair for the state
of Arizona. Arizona, which is a state in America, which is probably the
country you live in.
We ask the Romney campaign today if Mitt Romney agrees with his
Arizona campaign co-chair on these matters. We will let you know if we
hear back from them on that. Also, I will then eat my hat.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. This is NBC`s White House
producer, Shanna Thomas. She played right field today for the press corps
team in the annual charity softball game that pits female members of
Congress against female members of the Washington press corps.
In addition to working for NBC, Shanna is a senior agent in the
collective called Improv Everywhere, which means she does things like
becoming an out of the blue bridesmaid in a surprise wedding that Improv
Everywhere threw for a couple they did not know who got married at city
So my day, Shanna Thomas is a successful journalist at NBC News.
She`s also a merry prankster in her off-time.
But among the fun facts Shanna listed about herself in the press
materials for today`s game was this, Shanna says she, quote, "went to a
performing arts high school with Beyonce, so she`ll never be the most
successful person from that school. This is a constant source of
We followed up with Shanna today to ask if she had proof of the
Beyonce connection. Shanna told us she doesn`t have a yearbook for
example, because she sold it to somebody who wanted the yearbook in order
to get Beyonce`s picture, this picture, apparently. Shanna said she sold
her yearbook for $400.
So to Shanna Thomas who worries about being the less successful
graduate of the high school for the performing and visual arts in Houston,
Texas, Shanna, I`m here to tell you, you are the best new thing in the
world today. I`m sorry, Beyonce, there`s no contest.
And, by the way, Shanna`s team the Flacks, beat the Congress 13-10.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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