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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

January 16, 2013

Guests: Cory Booker

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. Thank you my friend.
Appreciate it.

SCHULTZ: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour.

On the morning of January 18th, 1989, that was a Wednesday morning,
this is what America woke up to.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NBC news at sunrise with Deborah Norville.

California this morning, officials still have no clue as to why a gunman
sprayed an elementary school playground with automatic weapons fire. He
killed five children and wounded 32 others before he took his own life.
More from NBC`s David Burrington.

the wounded youngsters were from Southeast Asia, children of refugees.
Authorities have been hard pressed to explain how such a tragedy is
possible in this country.


MADDOW: The five kids who died in that mass shooting back in 1989
were all between the ages of six and nine. The gunman was a 26-year-old
man who killed himself on the scene that day. The weapon he used on that
Stockton, California schoolyard, almost 25 years ago, was an ak-47 assault

The country was shocked by what happened that day in Stockton. Less
than two months after that happened, the then president of the United
States, George H. W. Bush, Poppy Bush, took executive action as president
to ban the importation of some semiautomatic weapons. Weapons that could
be considered assault weapons. Guns that he determined were not suitable
for sporting purposes, which meant the president had the power to block
them from being imported. President Bush had the power to do under the gun
control act of 1968 which said and says that foreign-made weapons could
only be imported to this country for civilian use if that civilian use was
generally recognized as being a sporting purpose.

It was already the law, but he took executive action under that law to
ban the importation of specific weapons. The gun control act of 1968 that
gave him that power was passed in the wake of Robert Kennedy and Martin
Luther King. And it is what gave George H. W. Bush to take that executive
action that he took banning some rifles. In 1989, two months after that
schoolyard massacre in Stockton, California.

Years later in 1998, President Clinton followed in his predecessors`
footsteps. Under that same existing federal 1968 law, President Clinton in
1998, took executive action as president to ban the importation of more
than 50 different kinds of semiautomatic assault weapons. This was in
addition to what Poppy Bush had done and it was in addition to the assault
weapons ban that President Clinton had signed after passed through Congress
four years prior. This was further action taken by the president alone in
1998. He joined Poppy Bush as being a modern president who took executive
action to ban the importation of certain kinds of guns.

Well today, President Obama became yet another modern president to use
his executive authority for reform of gun-related laws or at least gun
related practices. President Obama today did not use his authority as
president in oust specifically aggressive away as his predecessors did.

And I mean that in this sense. None of the executive actions that
President Obama did today have anything to do with banning specific
weapons, banning the importation of specific weapons the way that previous
presidents did. What distinguishes what President Obama did today is the
breath of policy changes that he enacted and that he proposed. He has
proposed a policy changes on school safety, on mental health treatment, on
existing background check system that we already got in this country. And,
yes, on some access to some specific types of fire power in this country.
But that is just one part of this very broad-based package of things that
he has proposed.

And that is what is ground breaking today. It is the breath of what
he has proposed. It is that he has gone wider than any other president,
not that he has gone farther than any other president toward restricting
certain guns, he has gone wider in terms of his ambition in tackling this
problem holistically.

Now, many of the executive actions the president proposed today are
being denounced as tyranny on the right, but there are things like
publicizing or reminding relevant stake holders in the country about laws
that already exist. President, for example, will ask the ATF to send an
open letter to licensed gun dealers giving them guidance on how best to
facility background checks, if they choose to.

The department of health and human services will write a letter of the
healthcare providers making sure that everybody knows that under existing
law, mental health professionals can report people who may pose a direct
and credible threat of violence.

It is OK to do that already under existing law. One of the
president`s executive actions today calls for a letter to remind everybody
of that existing law, otherwise known as tyranny. Impeach him.

The president`s announcement today was not just executive actions, it
was also calling on Congress to pass legislative members. So, some of the
areas so much the president wants change includes some executive action,
some of it is congressional action he is proposing. For example, he`s
calling for the department of justice to provide incentives under the
existing cops program for police department to hire school resource
officers. That means officers who are specially trained. That
encouragement will happen from the justice department and the president can
order that happen as a matter of his executive authority.

But, at the same time, he`s also asking Congress for something. He`s
also asking Congress for $150 million for school districts and law
enforcement agencies so that they can spend the money to hire resource
officers and psychologists and counselors.


speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving
law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health
community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence. We will
help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop
emergency preparedness plans.


MADDOW: For the record, that is kind of what the NRA has been
demanding remember the NRA came out after Newtown demanding that there must
be armed officers in schools. They put out a scary sci-fi style four-
minute video today demanding that there will be more armed officers in
school. And then, President Obama calmly today said, yes, sure. If
schools want to have more armed officers in school, sure, they can do that.
We`ll just have to do a whole bunch of other things, too. But your idea?
Sure, that`s something we can do.

In response, the NRA is telling its members that they will stand and
fight. That this will be the war of the century between them this
president who just said yes to what they want. Whew, we got what we
wanted. Those bastards, tyranny, and pigeon.

MADDOW: It took vice president Joe Biden less than one month to meet
with 229 groups, not 229 people, 229 groups in the process of coming up
with this menu of options from which President Obama assembled this plan
today. And the speed of this effort continues to outpace even the
administration`s own expectations. Remember, the president said he wanted
recommendations from the vice president by the end of this month. It`s not
the end of the month yet. Vice president Biden initially said, actually,
you won`t get them at the end of the month. You`re going to get them
early. You`re going to get them half way through the month. You are going
to get them on the 15th. He then turned his recommendations in early. He
gave President Obama his recommendations on the 14th.

And now, today, the 16th, based on what the president outlined today,
legislation is due to hit Congress next week, even before the time that
President Obama initially said he just wanted to start considering what the
recommendations might be. By that time, the Senate is already due to have
started hearings on not just recommendations, but actual legislation that
they are putting forward. The political common wisdom, of course, which I
think is probably true is that speed is of the essence here in terms of the
political will to get anything done. It has been one month and two days
since the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. And the sense of urgency that
there must be a response to that tragedy, maybe things with each passing
day, that at least what we worry.

But the president today made the case for acting quickly, not on
political ground but on humanitarian grounds.


OBAMA: In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults
were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook elementary, more than 900 of our
fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun, 900 in the past
month. And every day we wait, that number will keep growing.


MADDOW: The president speaking today to the urgency of the matter.

What the president proposed today ended up taking Washington by
surprise. Took political observers by surprise. Generally speaking,
people in Washington has an expected him to factoring into his proposals,
the widespread Washington cynicism that nothing can really be done on this
issue. They expected him to in low, try for something very small, very non
controversial and very specific so we can call it a win and then move on
because you can`t really do anything in this issue, not really.

The president did not do that. The president proposed not the most
aggressive gun regulation that we had ever have proposed in this country
But he proposed the most wide-ranging, most holistic, most comprehensive
approach to the overall problem of gun violence that we have in this

And the accommodation that he made in his remarks about the political
realities of this issue were not about how hard it is to get it done
because of the other side. They were not about the self-proclaimed, self
fulfilling cliche prophecy of the gun lobby`s power to stop anything from
happening on this issue.

The political dynamic to which the president paid tribute today was
not the NRA is so powerful. A gun lobby wants to stop us. What he paid
tribute to today was the power of the American people to influence Congress
to say yes to some things that even Congress is not inclined to say yes to
for other more craving reasons.


OBAMA: The only way we can change is if the American people demand
it. And by the way, that doesn`t just mean from certain parts of the
country. We`re going to need voices in those areas and those congressional
districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to
say this is important.

This will not happen unless the American people demand it. If parents
and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsman, if
responsible gun owners, if American of every background stands up and says
enough, we suffered too much pain and cared too much about our children to
allow this to continue, then change will come.

You know, in the letter that Julia wrote me, she said I know that laws
have to be passed by congress. But I beg you to try very hardly. Julie, I
will try very hard. But she`s right. The most important changes we can
make depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up
for a vote and the American people need to make sure that they do. Get
them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal
background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they
support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity
magazines. And if they say no, ask them why not. Ask them what`s more
important. Doing whatever it takes to get A grade from the gun lobby that
funds their campaigns or giving parents some piece of mind when they
dropped their child off for first grade.


MADDOW: First grade and let there will be no doubt. That President
Obama sees the moment of political possibility here has been created by the
country`s conscience being shocked by what happened at Newtown.


OBAMA: And when I visited Newtown last month, I spent some private
time with many of the families who lost children that day: and one was the
family of Grace McDonald. Grace`s parents are here. Grace was 7-years-old
when she was struck down. Just a gorgeous, caring, joyful little girl.
I`m told she won`t pick. She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a

And so, just before I left, Chris, her father, gave me one of her
paintings. And I hung it in my private study just off the oval office.
And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace. And I think
about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her. And,
most of all, I think about how when it comes to protecting the most
vulnerable among us, we must act now, for Grace, for the 25 innocent
children and devoted educators who have so much left to give.


MADDOW: Because of that tragedy in Newtown, we all knew that the
president would be making proposals today about reform, about guns and gun
legislation included in that reform. We did not know that what he was
going to propose would be something this week.

Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker joins us next.



Americans support common sense gun regulations. And, clearly, the White
House was listening. On the legislative side, we asked for background
checks for all gun sales and that is in the president`s plan. We asked for
restrictions on military style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity
magazines, and that`s there as well. We asked for tougher penalties for
gun traffickers. It`s in there. On the executive side, we urged him to
appoint an ATF director, increased prosecutions for those who lie on
background checks, direct federal agencies to fill in the gaps on the
background check data system and remove restrictions on gun violence date
and research. And the president is doing all of those things.


MADDOW: All of those things. Mayor Bloomberg has been a rather
pungent critic of President Obama specifically on this issue. Not after
today. Mayor Bloomberg, of course, is the founder of mayor`s against
illegal guns. He`s mayor of America`s largest city. And today, he thanked
President Obama and vice president Biden for surprising everyone with the
breath of their reform recommendations for combating gun violence. The
recommendations included and even went beyond the seven-step plan that this
mayor`s group has been pressing for. One of the highest profile members of
that group mayor is leader of New Jersey from largest city, Newark, New
Jersey is Mayor Cory Booker.

Mister Mayor, thank you for being here.

actually a historic night to be here. I`m great and be honored.

MADDOW: You said when you sat down, this was the Barack Obama that I
was expecting.

BOOKER: This is the guy I love.

MADDOW: I was expecting this is the guy you love. This is the guy
you support.

BOOKER: And he really went big. He went broad. And he understands
there`s no easy switch to flip. No one solution to this problem. You
really need a broader base, across-the-base, comprehensive approach.

Mayor Bloomberg, who I always joke and called the OB one Canopy mayor,
pulled us together years ago, put together a list of common sense
solutions. He paid a Republican pollster to poll gun owners and found out
that these solutions are things that gun owners agree with. His plan has
that and more in it.

And as you and I were saying when I sat down, the powerful thing for
me is studying the problem which we used to not being able to do to know
where the guns really covering in Newark actually come from. Most evidence
shows that gun retailer is only about four percent of them are sourcing so
many weapons in my city here in New York City. Even letting the CDC is
starting an inquiry and study what causes gun violence. Is it video games
or is it something else?

So, this is a comprehensive approach, amazing job done by the vice
president. Incredible courage by the president where it`s not courage to
me. Its courage by the president. But where it`s common sense to me is
that most Americans, when you go through this, they agree. And perhaps,
the one they put right up front and I`ve been holding onto this with such
joy, the one right on top is simply to say that you should not be able to
buy a gun in the United States of America without a background check.

Seventy four percent of NRA members agree with that, over 80 percent
of gun owners. Because those gaping loopholes in the background check law
allow a terrorist who`s on the no-fly list who can`t fly to a gun show but
they allow personal go a gun show and buy a trunk-load full of weapons.
This is a comprehensive approach. It`s a thoughtful approach.

And what I appreciated, you know, Newtown grievous and tragic. But, I
love the fact that the president pointed, there has been 900 people, people
in my city already. Were still in January, we`ve had people killed by gun
violence in my city that I believe is preventable if we do the things that
are in this proposal.

MADDOW: You`re highlighting that issue of the background check. And
let me take that as an example. In 1994, we had an assault weapons ban
that ended up having some effect. It`s cuddled it with some reduction in
gun violence, but it was also seen having tons of loopholes. It has being
very hard to implement, not only designed loopholes but just -- it was hard
to do. It was hard to get done.

With the gun -- with the background check, gun show loophole and the
other things the president has tried to do. Some of it with executive
action and some of what he`s asking Congress to do. Is it good enough?
Will we just loopholes again? Can it be done? Is it too complicated? Is
it too big a country to do something that requires that level of skill by
government agencies to manage a data base that good?

BOOKER: It makes a difference. And I said before, you can see some
of the data. Women who are murdered by gunfire are 50 percent of them are
people that are murdered by people they know. And those are people who
domestic violence have misdemeanors or worse or domestic violence. When
those folks can`t access that secondary market, where states have closed
that down, it has dropped that level of murders down 40 percent. So,
there`s no perfect solution. But doing things like this that are
thoughtful, sensible and common sense actually do make a difference.

MADDOW: And you think logistically we`re capable of pulling out?

BOOKER: I think that we cannot under estimate America`s ability to
change, to adopt, to get better. And so, I`m happy about the things that
are executive orders. But Congress has to show an equal level of courage.
And not even the people you think. But Congress people who are in strong
gun tradition districts should step up now and say hey, wait a minute, I
can get behind 80 percent of this, 90 percent of this. I`m going to be
part of the solutions because we all have one decision to make in life, one
decision. Either accept things the way they are or take responsibility for
changing them.

Nobody could accept this war we live in right now where America has to
- just proportionate level of violence that takes children from Newark to
Newtown on a chillingly regular basis. And so, congress people have to
step up and say, am I going to be a damn blocking the rivers of change or
am I going to be a part of it. Even f I don`t agree with the whole
package, will I stand up and say, this is unacceptable. I`m taking
responsibility for change. I`m going to champion the parts of this that
agree with.

MADDOW: Given that that is your world view, which has been the
hallmark of all of your time in public service the whole time I have known
you, what did you make of the sustainability of the beltway cynicism? This
whole idea that nothing can be done.

Just scanning through the front pages today, of all the beltway
process in this Obama made statement as soon as the president made a
statement, soon as the president made the statement. It was all, president
make the statement. It will never happen.

In some way or another, that was the essentially the entire reaction
from the beltway. I mean, when I look at the polls, I feel, like, wow,
America really wants this to happen.

BOOKER: Right.

MADDOW: I mean, that`s some of the PEW people that we`ve got right
there on the screen. I mean, is this like Mitt Romney thinking he`s going
to win even though the polls said otherwise? I mean, are these wishful
thinking as the beltway wants this not to be what America thinks, but this
is really what America wants and what they are going to get?

BOOKER: Well, look. I`ve seen this history. American history is a
perpetual testimony to the achievement of the impossible. We have a
country that has shown in the worst ingrained social problems, economic
problems. We banished poverty amongst our senior citizens by enacting
programs that have lifted and out of poverty.

I would have told you in a private conversation a year ago that I
would never have imagined four states saying enough is enough on things
like marriage equality and we should have a country that truly is equality
under the law.

So, I`m constantly buoyed by the testimony, the screaming testimony of
the American history that when we come together as a nation, there`s
nothing that we can`t do as be asking a problem, at proverbs says, even
when spider webs united, they can tie up a lion.

So, I`m, on this issue, I`m a prisoner of hope and the evidence says
we all have to say there`s something we can do, something that`s
individual. So if we just let Congress do this and surrender this idea
that politics is a spectator sport, which it is not, it is a full
participatory endeavor that necessitates all of our actions. If we just
sit back and watch on TV and give commentary about what`s going on, nothing
will change. We all need to step up.

MADDOW: Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, New Jersey.

You and I have to close a personal loop on something we started
talking about last time you here. Can you pull out for just one second?

BOOKER: Yes, absolutely.

MADDOW: We have to close that loop. We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: We`re back in Newark, New Jersey mayor, Cory Booker.

Cory, the last time that you were here, we are talking about gun buy
backs. And you said there was something going on in Newark.

BOOKER: Yes, it`s a really innovative program where we`ve taken the
actual weapons we recover from crime. What we used to just do is melt the
ban and get them labeled. Now, we`re using them of instrument of more buy
backs instrument of peace. And so, here`s actually, a piece of jewelry
with a serial number on it from an actual gun that we recovered from a

MADDOW: That`s the weapon`s serial number?

BOOKER: That`s the weapons serial number. It`s amazing. It has
Newark on the inside of the bracelet and the caliber collection, they`re
called. And the proceeds of large percentage of the proceeds goes to more
gun buy backs in Newark. And when we have gun buy backs, I know many
people pooh-pooh them, but we have parents that will bring in the guns of
their children, we have social activists that will convince guys to turn in
their guns. And so this is a (inaudible) one strategy. Remember, this is
not a cure-all. But everybody has the power to do something little,
something small and to make a difference. So I brought you and a certain
significant other that I like a lot, as well.

MADDOW: Oh, very good. You are - this is awesome. And we crashed
their Web site the last time we talked about them on the show.


MADDOW: People talk about them very gently.


MADDOW: (inaudible) so you can learn more about this. Has Newark on
the inside, the serial number on the outside, that`s awesome.


MADDOW: Congratulations, I know you`ve been waiting for this kind of
day in Washington for a long time.

BOOKER: Yes. Thank you for your voice on this issue for years.

MADDOW: Thanks. I appreciate it.

BOOKER: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Are you ready for your word of the day? The word of the day
is troll. Troll, which can be used as a noun. It is more easily used in
relevant context today as a verb. As in trolling. In our relevant context
today, trolling means that you`re trying to get a rise out of somebody.
You`re trying to get them to take some bait. That you`re dangling with
nefarious hope. You`re doing something to provoke a negative or furious or
attacking reaction from somebody you are counting on getting it from. The
etymology of trolling is a little confused The way we use the word now,
especially online, it could come from Billy Goats Gruff, right, or the
Goats Gruff who are afraid or the funny little monster under the bridge.
They`re afraid of the troll. Or maybe the idea of trolling derives from
the high art of puttering along at a slow speed in a fishing boat, dragging
bait through the water hoping for a bit. Trolling. But whatever the roots
of the concept of trolling are, you know trolling when you see it.


ANN COULTER: OK, explain to me why retard is inappropriate?

MICHAEL SAVAGE: You want my health care, I`ll give you the Savage
health care -- take the chocolate out of that fat woman`s mouth!

RUSH LIMBAUGH: There is a movement on to normalize pedophilia.

MARK LEVIN: Since when the hell do we Americans believe in separation
of church and state?


MADDOW: Trolling is a key part of the conservative
entertainment/media business model. These guys say stuff all the time that
they do not intend to be persuasive. They`re not trying to explain
something or to bring people along to their way of thinking. They`re just
doing something to attract attention. And hopefully, condemnation and
outrage from the mainstream, and particularly from liberals. They want to
offend you. They seek to offend you. That is the point. They want the
attention. And they really want the condemnation. Because, you know, hey,
attention is attention and clicks are clicks on the Web site right? Bad
publicity is still publicity. But more importantly, the key part of their
base audience that they are trying to monetize likes anyone who gets
condemned by the mainstream. It`s a badge of honor. So, it makes people
sign up for the daily mega-dido (ph) buy gold newsletter or whatever. And
pay their $9.95 for "I Used to Be on TV, but now I`m on the Internet,
right? Sign up now for exclusive content you won`t buy in the lamestream
media that hates me!

It`s a schtick, right, it is a schtick that pays. And it pays big
dollars to big name conservatives and it pays small dollars to others.
Like, like this week maybe you saw there`s some poor guy trying to get
national attention for charging liberals more than conservatives at a
restaurant that he owns. He wants attention for his restaurant thing. He
wants some maybe some combative conservative business owner three states
away to hire him to cater or something. Just to stick a thumb in the eye
of all of those offended liberals! We`re counting on you being offended!
It`s a shtick, it is a tried and true shtick.

And that guy, the restaurant guy with the pay attention to me designed to
be offensive pricing publicity stunt, he is trolling. He is a troll. Ted
Nugent is a troll. Donald Trump is a troll. When you see the conservative
lady who used to be on "Saturday Night Live," now doing the Youtube song
about the communists in the White House. Look, look, it`s a troll. We see
trolling sometimes in elected officials, too. When a politician says
something deliberately provocative in front of an audience that they know
will be provoked, because they`re banking on firing up a smaller group of
people who enjoy the way that speaker can make that other audience mad.
Congressman Steve King is kind of a permanent troll.


REP. STEVEN KING (R ), IOWA: We could also electrify this wire with
the kind of current that wouldn`t kill somebody, but it would simply be a
discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with
livestock all the time.


MADDOW: Comparing immigrants to livestock and using a visual aid to
do so on the House floor. Trying to purposely offend people because he
wants the attention. He`s a troll. Here`s another.


HERMAN CAIN: A poet once said life can be a challenge, life can seem
impossible, but it`s never easy when there`s so much on the line.


MADDOW: When Herman Cain quoted Pokemon at the Fox News presidential
debate, he was being a troll. He was trolling the entire democratic
process at that point. Here`s another.


REP. ALLEN WEST (R, FLORIDA): I believe there`s about 78, to 81
members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist party.


MADDOW: Trolling. Congressman Allen West, former Congressman Allen
West begging America please be outraged by me, please condemn me. I will
say whatever it takes to earn that kind of attention, I live to cause
pointless outrage. I am a troll. The thing about trolling is that the
troll, by definition, is not serious, right? They`re not serious about
what they`re saying. By definition, they`re saying what they say only to
make somebody mad. They are not presenting a position they think should be
adopted, they are entertaining and satisfying and capitalizing on a tiny
targeted base that loves the fact that that person can cause outrage. That
they can drive otherwise serious people talking about serious things to be
seriously distracted. They love the distraction and the disruption. They
love deliberately causing it.

Trolls serve a purpose. But no one should ever think that they`re trying
to be taken seriously. As a think or a responsible party in the debate or

Another good example of this phenomenon, is the new advertisement from
the National Rifle Association.


UM: Are the president`s kids more important than yours? Then why is
he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools? His kids are
protected by armed guards in their schools?


MADDOW: Besides the obvious fact that presidents and their families
get Secret Service protection whether they want it or not, President Obama
does happen to be just fine with having armed security in schools if that`s
what schools want to do. He proposed funding just that kind of idea today.
But the NRA did not just put out a 30 second version of the safety of the
president`s daughters` advertisement today. On their Web site today, they
post even much longer version, it`s a four and a half minute long version
of the ad, which means it`s not for TV, it`s for their base. And in the
long version, the trolling gets really obvious. You can tell they are
trolling, because they spend more than a minute of this thing proving to
their own followers, to their own base how mad the rest of the world is at
the NRA for proposing the armed guards in schools. Which, by the way, the
president agrees with them and wants to pay for.


UM: This is a simple idea from a simple guy that we need not to spend
any time talking about it.

UM: There`s no research that says that putting more firearms in the
hands of trained or untrained professionals in a shootout is going to make
anybody who`s sitting around safer.

STEPHEN COLBERT: You, sir, are [bleep] in the head.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NRA: If it`s crazy to call for putting police
and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me


MADDOW: Please, call me crazy. I love it when you call me crazy.
That`s how I earn my troll food! That`s my all reason for being! Trolls
have a purpose in our politics. They help niche unpopular positions and
people fond of themselves and promote themselves as pseudo-political actors
by tricking people who ought to know better into punching down at them.

But if that is the way you are operating in our political system, if
you have to troll for it, if you`re going for purposeful outrage and
nothing more serious than that, it is also a pretty good evidence that
you`re not really all that relevant at the larger discussion that the
adults are having. And that`s what is going on with the NRA. And, you
know, the NRA has proved its political impotence in real politics, in
recent electoral politics. And they did it in stark, empirical terms. In
the 2012 election, the NRA`s main PAC spent $11 million on candidates; more
than 99 percent of what they spent was wasted. 0.83 percent of the NRA`s
money went to the results that they wanted in that election.

In a year that was not kind to conservative money groups, the NRA
distinguished itself. They showed themselves to be even a weaker political
force than Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce, who really stunk. The
NRA set a new bar for spending a lot and getting very little. We should
change the name of this graph to "Who is afraid of the NRA." And the
implicit answer should be nobody, not in politics, not anymore. Not if
you`re paying attention to what happened to the NRA in this last election.
And yet, when President Obama today announced his plan for reforming gun
laws, this was the reaction in the Beltway press.

"Obama guns plan meets fast resistance" and "why Obama`s gun plan may
be doomed." And NRA chief on Obama`s real agenda. Oh, yes, let`s go ask
the trolls. This is how we see the debate about gun laws in this country.
This is how the NRA has taught us to see the debate, with Democrats and law
enforcement and mayors and victims of violence and most of the American
people on one side and themselves, the NRA, as an equal and perhaps greater
force on the other. That`s how they have taught us to see it, and the
Beltway is happy to write that down. But I do not think that`s how the
debate is actually working now in real life.

Here`s another example. Look at this. This is the home page of "The
Hill" newspaper today in Washington, D.C. And they, like everybody else,
is reporting the news about President Obama calling for gun reform. But
can we zoom in on the other part of that screenshot there? Yes, this is
the ad on that page over on the right. "My son was murdered in the mass
shooting at Columbine." The front page of "The Hill" today, it`s sort of
the yearbook for members of Congress. This is an ad from Mayors Against
Illegal Guns, Mike Bloomberg`s group, which has already shown that it can
compete against the NRA and political races and win. And which today was
organized and right on time and being taken very, very seriously.

Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, co-host of MSNBC`s "The Cycle" and
he`s a senior writer for Steve, it`s always a pleasure. Thanks
for being here.


MADDOW: Do you think it is fair to call the NRA a troll? That they
are going for outrage here in order to please their base rather than trying
to persuade anybody?

KORNACKI: Yes, outrage to please their base, outrage to - outrage to
raise money. And it`s something we`ve seen before. And I`m actually --
I`m actually struck by something that happened I guess, 17, 18 years ago
back in 1995. And there was -- I forgot what the exact controversy was,
but the NRA referred to some federal agent as, quote, "jackbooted thugs."
If you remember, it was former President George Bush, George HW Bush at the
time, who, at that moment, resigned his lifelong membership in the NRA, he
was so disgusted by that kind of rhetoric. Now, at the time the NRA was
kind of ascending. You just had the 1994 midterms. Democrats kind of
believed that because of the assault weapons ban, because of the Brady
bill, they had lost. They were scared of the NRA, so George H.W. Bush
doing that didn`t have much of a political - measurable political impact.

But I`m thinking of the current debate right now. And the NRA is doing the
exact same thing now that it did in 1995, except gun control is on the
table now in a very serious way. And think of the politicians who are out
there who are like George H.W. Bush. That is to say, they have felt
political pressure for most of their career to sort of toe the NRA line.
They want to be anti-gun control. They don`t want to anger the NRA. But
right now, there`s enormous pressure and there is enormous opportunity to
vote for real gun control. The NRA is making it easy for politicians like
George Bush Sr. to say, you know what, these guys are a bunch of jokesters.
These guys are not taking it seriously. There`s been a real tragedy here
that requires a serious response, and I`m ready to take action X. So I
think the NRA could be hurting itself. They might raise a lot of money off
this, but they are hurting themselves politically.

MADDOW: And that actually, their -- their incentives here I actually
think make this make more sense. Because if you are the NRA, you know that
if President Obama got every single thing that he proposed today, America
would still be a nation with 300 million guns in it. Nobody is getting
their guns taken away. You still get people hunting and fishing, you still
get people target shooting, you still get people collecting weapons. You
don`t actually do anything to meaningfully take away the gun ownership base
that you`ve already got. You continue to exist as the National Rifle
Association. You`ve defined yourself as a hard-liner. You`ve defined the
president as a tyrant and you can therefore continue to raise even more
money than you`ve got now, and be slightly ineffective but definitely well-
monetized pressure group that exists for the long haul.

KORNACKI: Right. And so much of their success, really, for the last
20 years, since the 1994 midterm election, has been this appearance, this
idea that exists in the heads of Democratic politicians that you don`t mess
with these guys because you are going to lose at the polls if you do that.
And I think the most dangerous thing for the NRA to come out of the 2012
election now is that Democrats are sort of realizing that the voters they
were scared of losing by turning off the NRA, by going against the NRA,
they don`t necessarily need them to win elections anymore. You don`t need
to send John Kerry out goose hunting the weekend before the 2004 election
anymore. You don`t need Barack Obama signing a bill that makes it easier
to carry in national parks. You can go out there, and the Republicans have
been calling them the gun control party since 1994. Now you can be the gun
control party. You`re already paying the political price for it. You
might as well get some of the benefit that comes with it, too.

MADDOW: That`s exactly right. Steve Kornacki, very smart. Senior
writer at Salon, co-host of "The Cycle," airing at 3:00 Eastern weekdays
here on MSNBC. Steve, thank you. Spot on.

All right, the best new thing in the world tonight involves my
favorite live news moment, maybe ever. And it is coming up, and it has
nothing to do with guns. That`s coming up.


MADDOW: Map time. This is a map of North and West Africa, in terms
of these countries being in the news recently, there is a trend here,
right? In the last couple of years there have been regime-changing
revolutions, here in Egypt, and here in Libya and here in Tunisia. As we
talked about with NBC`s Richard Engel last night, there are al Qaeda
affiliated extremist groups now that have tried to take over parts of this
country, Mali. So the French this week sent French troops into Mali at the
Malian government`s request, to protect the capital and surrounding areas
from these Islamist rebels who are trying to topple the government there.
The French went in this weekend, then the French said on Monday they were
sending even more troops. The U.S. had reportedly been worried that the
French were going it alone. But then yesterday, on Tuesday, a whole bunch
of African countries said they, too, would send troops to help out. It was
mostly Nigeria, but also Niger, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and
Senegal, all sending troops.

At the same time, Algeria said they would let the French use their air
space for what they were doing in Mali. That was yesterday. And today
early this morning, there was an attack, and it`s now a major hostage
situation involving civilians from a bunch of other countries, civilians
including Americans. It happened in Algeria. At least three Americans and
about two dozen other foreigners taken hostage at a natural gas facility
partly owned by BP. The other hostages are reportedly from Norway,
Britain, Ireland, Canada, Japan and France.

The natural gas facility, we`ll show you, it`s here, in a remote part of
eastern Algeria. The group claiming responsibility for the attack says
this is retaliation for Algeria letting the French use Algerian air space
for their operations in Mali. The leader of the group that`s claimed
responsibility for the attack used to be affiliated with an al Qaeda
franchise that operates in that part of Africa, but he has reportedly
struck out on his own now. According to the Algerian government, the
hostage-takers were traveling in three cars with lots of guns. They first
tried to attack a bus transporting employees who worked at that plant.
When that failed, the attackers reportedly went to where the employees were
housed, and it was there at the residential quarters that they were able to
take between 20 and 40 people hostage, including the Americans.

There are many, many Algerians who work at the plant, too, and some of them
were reportedly captured at first, but they are being released, even as the
hostage-takers have been holding on to the foreigners. The State
Department here in the U.S. is not confirming any of the details about the
Americans who are being held. That`s for their own safety. But they have
issued a travel warning for Mali and now for neighboring Niger.

So we have got religious militant groups holding territory and advancing on
the rest of that country. We`ve got a Western military force intervening
to stop it. We`ve now got the expanding involvement of troops from a bunch
of different nearby nations. And in one of the neighboring nations that is
helping in a small way in that multinational effort, we now have got a
related but different militant group holding dozens of international
civilian hostages in retaliation. At a giant, multi, multi-nationally
owned natural gas facility. And this is happening outside of the Middle
East. Kinds of puts the whole idea of there being a debt ceiling crisis
into perspective, right? We`ll keep you posted.


MADDOW: OK, best new thing in the world today. House Republicans
left D.C. today for Williamsburg, Virginia to go to their annual retreat.
It is a three-day event, it is apparently titled the 2013 Congress of
tomorrow, which is a little weird, right? As opposed to the 2013 Congress
of last month? Anyway, it is their annual three-day retreat. It`s
pollster briefings and speeches and strategy sessions, and
reports that this year, there will be two motivational speakers for House
Republicans. One is a man who used to tour as a comedian with Garth
Brooks, the other is this man you see on your screen. His name is Erik
Weihenmayer. He is an adventurer. He`s famous for having been the world`s
first blind person to climb Mt. Everest. And is this story starting to
sound familiar? Blind mountain climber? Blind guy climbing Mount Everest?
Anybody remember one of the most awesome news bloopers of all time?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right after the break, we`re going to interview
Erik Weihenmayer, who climbed the highest mountain in the world, Mt.
Everest. But, he is gay -- I mean, he`s gay -- excuse me, he`s blind. So
we`ll hear about that coming up.


MADDOW: He is gay, I mean, blind. An Albuquerque news anchor in
2001, right, five years later the clip was uploaded to Youtube for some
reason, and a cajillion people got to enjoy the best gay, not gay joke of
all time. And yes, that is the same gay-blind mountain climber who will be
motivating America`s Republican members of Congress tonight. And the best
thing about all of this is that Erik Weihenmayer, who was the first blind
person to climb Everest and who is the famous blind athlete in the world,
and who really is not gay, Erik Weihenmayer has demonstrated nothing but
the best attitude about this blooper since he first heard it happening, as
it was happening.

This is reportedly the video of Mr. Weihenmayer listening to that tease
from that Albuquerque station during the broadcast as he waited for the
interview. As you can tell it is bad quality video, but you can see him
dying laughing as he hears the anchor say what she said.

Since this became a famous thing, Mr. Weihenmayer apparently even runs the
video of that blooper when he makes his motivational speeches. He finds it
hilarious. So House Republicans might be seeing this right now.

A couple of years after that blooper happened, the anchor who did it moved
to a Dallas station, and her new station staged a reunion, so years later
she finally got to explain to Erik Weihenmayer why she said what she did.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right before this story, we had done extensive
covering about the story of a woman who was gay, gay was in the head. And
we came out to the tease for you, and I was so excited, and boom, it
happened. And you were so gracious. We did the interview, we never talked
about it, and we moved on. And I`m sorry.

ERIK WEIHENMAYER: No, please, I should be thanking you. It is the
greatest thing ever.


MADDOW: It is the greatest thing ever, and the guy who thinks so is
motivating all of the Republican members of Congress right now as we speak.
Which is the best new thing in the world today, and you guys be careful.
Because gay is in the head. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with
Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night.


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