THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
May 8, 2013
Guests: Frank Rich, Rosa Brooks
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I`ll be back in an hour. I got to go prep that.
Thank you, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We will try to be
a breath of fresh air or at least will try to breathe through this next
All right. At exactly this time last night on this show, we reported
that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had hit its highest point ever.
Yesterday was the first time ever that the Dow had closed over 15,000,
which is a remarkable achievement for that collection of numbers. It had
never been that high ever.
Even more remarkable, though, it turns out maybe it wasn`t a fluke or
at least it wasn`t a one-day fluke, because today the Dow went up even
further and it stayed up above 15,000, so we have not only hit the 15,000
milestone, we are staying above it. And whether or not you care about the
stock market or think that is an important economic measure of either the
stock market as a whole or of economic behavior as a whole, it is
undeniably a new high, a landmark achievement.
And on the day that the stock market hit that high, that landmark
achievement, conservatives who find themselves on the mailing list of the
group Citizens United -- yes, the same group from the Supreme Court case --
conservatives who signed up to receive Citizens United e-mails, got this e-
mail from the group in their inbox yesterday.
Subject line, "Obama`s latest screw up may lead to impeachment."
Impeachment? Click, open.
"Dear concerned reader: Fearing the very worst, the nation`s super
rich are unloading their stocks at an alarming rate. The super rich are
unloading their stocks because Obama has wrecked the stock market."
So, on the day the stock market went through the roof and crossed
15,000 for the first time ever, subscribers to the Citizens United mailing
list received this damning indictment of the Obama presidency and how it
has tanked the market.
You see what this communist, socialist, Marxist president has done to
sink the market. You have to impeach him now. He`s done it on purpose.
Think Progress is the one who noticed the timing of this appeal sent
out to this e-mail list, but the timing irony of this one really does just
put an exclamation point on what is always true about these things, which
is their resistance to factual confrontation, right? Apparently there is a
right wing conspiracy theory that President Obama is tanking the stock
market on purpose as a way of destroying capitalism.
Against that conspiracy theory, the record high achievement of the
stock market under President Obama is just no barrier to making that claim.
For the birthers, no fact, no birth certificate, no birth announcement
in the local paper could never disprove to them the self evident conspiracy
of the president`s birth being faked.
From our conspiracy theory clearinghouse friends at "World Net Daily,"
which is where Rick Santorum works now. He came in second in the
Republican president primary, now works at "World Net Daily."
Over at "World Net Daily", nothing could ever disprove to them their
conspiracy that they uncovered to hide the fact that President Obama is not
only secretly gay, but President Obama was secretly gay married, even
before everybody knew there was such a thing as gay marriage and he killed
all his gay boyfriends, obviously.
So, sure. To you, the facts may appear otherwise about President
Obama, but other at "World Net Daily", they have proved this one to their
own satisfaction -- using photos and things, and photos of things.
Is this stuff crazy? Yes, of course, it is crazy, but it feels great,
doesn`t it? Ideologically it`s comforting to kind of wrap yourself up in
And there is a market for this stuff because of it and the market of
this stuff does not stop at the fringe. And watching that fringe weave
itself into the mainstream of Republican politics has been one of the most
important ideological hallmarks of the Obama years.
And in that spirit, I want to take a moment here to give some un-
snarky and serious kudos to Laura Ingraham, who is a conservative talk
radio host, but one who I think does a very good job, and last week, she
had on her show Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe. He was pushing one of the
most recent conservative conspiracy theories that the Obama administration
is buying as much ammunition as they can get their hands on so there`s none
left for the rest of us.
See, that`s how they are really going to disarm us, by taking away all
the bullets, then the Obama government can wage unopposed violent war on
the disarmed populous of the United States. Open your eyes, sheeple!
But in hosting Senator Inhofe to spell all this out, Laura Ingraham,
the talk show host, God bless her, actually asked the senator useful
follow-up questions to try to get him to explain exactly how this
conspiracy works. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: What are they going to do if they
want to violate our Second Amendment rights, do it with ammo.
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO HOST: Can you explain this to me? What do they
need it for?
INHOFE: Well, they don`t. That`s the point.
INGRAHAM: But it had been purchased before Obama by the federal
INHOFE: No, not these numbers, now, Laura. Not these numbers. And
the best evidence of that is look what happened to the supply. The supply
is gone, and where did they go, the supply some of it, of course, people
INGRHAM: Buying up.
INHOFE: -- that we have a president who wants to take it away. Yes,
they`re buying it up, but not to those proportions.
Now, I know this for a fact because I know the people that are, you
know, are concerned about this, and so -- so there`s no downside, if I`m
wrong on this.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The last part of this, I feel like I want to preserve it in
Lucite and make a plaque out of it and give it to people as an award. He
says, I know this for a fact because I know people are concerned about
this, so, you know, there`s no downside if I`m wrong.
But this is not just something that hatched from the mind of Senator
James "Mountain" Inhofe of Oklahoma. It`s not just something he says on
conservative talk radio to get people excited, even though if he does
occasionally confuse the host.
Senator Inhofe has introduced legislation based on this conspiracy
theory. It`s called the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act
of 2013. Among other things, it would prohibit the federal government to
purchase or possess at any one time more rounds of ammunition than the
monthly average of the number of rounds of ammunition purchase by the
covered agency during the period of January 1st, 2001, and ending on
December 31st, 2009.
In other words, the Obama administration will henceforth be disallowed
from buying anymore ammunition than the Bush administration did. How
terrifying would it be if the first black president bought more bullets
than the previous white president? We have to stop that from happening,
Today, the other Republican senator from Oklahoma, Senator Tom Coburn
withdrew at the last minute his proposed legislation that is also based on
the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is buying up all the
ammo. Senator Coburn`s legislation would have created a federal registry
for federally owned guns and ammunition. It`s a federal registry, but only
for the guns and ammo owned by the federal government.
When Senator Coburn started getting asked why exactly he wants to
start tracking guns and ammo, Senator Coburn withdrew the legislation today
showing it was, quote, "a show of goodwill."
Every time there`s a big event in the country now, even if it`s a
seemingly, totally a political event, the political reaction on the right,
you can see it at work, goes very quickly to the question of whether it
could possibly be an Obama administration conspiracy.
It just comes with the territory these days. It`s been woven into the
way that the right approaches even day-to-day news. So, like when the
Boston marathon bombing happed, the story for the right and for some
members of the Republican Party in Congress was not that the Boston
marathon was bombed, the real story there, the real story we ought to be
talking about there, is the Boston marathon bombing conspiracy and scandal.
Three days after the Boston bombing before the suspects were caught,
before the city of Boston was under that lockdown just days after the
bombing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before a
House committee, House Committee on Homeland Security. It was a hearing
that was supposed to be about the department`s budget. But because of what
was going on in Boston and around the country, and concern about Boston,
the secretary ended up answering questions about the investigation into the
bombing, or she tried to when she could make sense of the questions, which
proved to be difficult in the case of South Carolina Republican Congressman
Congressman Duncan seemed to be trying to make the case that the Obama
administration was deporting someone that they should not be deporting --
well, for reasons that made no sense at least to Janet Napolitano.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLIAN: We`ve got this guy who was
there, we know he was there. He was arrested -- detained in the hospital,
covered with blood. He was at the scene, yet we`re going to deport him.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If I might,
Representative, I am unaware of anyone who is being deported for national
security concerns at all related to Boston. I don`t know where that rumor
DUNCAN: I`m not saying it`s related to Boston, but he is being
NAPOLITANO: Like I said, again, I don`t even think he was technically
a person of interest or a suspect. That was awash.
DUNCAN: Wouldn`t you agree with me that it`s negligent for us as
American administration to deport someone who was reportedly at the scene
of the bombing and we`re going to deport him, not to be able to question
him anymore. Is that not negligence?
NAPOLITANO: I`m not going to answer that question. It`s so full with
misstatements and misapprehensions that it`s just not worthy of an answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDO: Obviously, she`s hiding something, right?
For clarity, let`s turn to where the congressman got this conspiracy
theory in the first place. Let`s turn to Glenn Beck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: Janet Napolitano yesterday was asked about
the Saudi national and his pending deportation. She refused to answer.
Why was the president meeting with somebody unscheduled earlier this
week, a Saudi official? Who is this Saudi man who was in the hospital,
given a new international cell phone and apologized to, according to him in
Saudi press, who is he, I wonder? Why would anyone link to the bombings be
Let me just say this to those at the highest echelons of government
that know the tagging system. They know all about events, not files,
events. Let me send this message very clear, we know who this Saudi
national. You have until Monday. We have information on who this man is.
And listen to me carefully, in your little event world, we know he is
a very bad, bad, bad man. I know that doesn`t make any sense to you right
now, but on Monday, it will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Friday, April 19th. Then the Monday after that
passed, does it still not make much sense? That`s OK.
I can tell you, it apparently involves something about Michelle Obama
and visiting a person in the hospital and maybe he was from Saudi Arabia
and maybe he was the real bomber and maybe it was a huge cover-up who was
responsible for the bombing and Michelle Obama personally was protecting
that person because maybe the White House arranged the bombing of the
marathon for political purposes that obviously are too obvious to have to
If that -- that is the theory, Glenn Beck, you have until Monday and
then it will all be exposed.
Remember right before the election, the reaction on the right to the
unemployment rate going under 8 percent? Obviously, the answer cannot be,
yay, the unemployment rate is dropping, and it can`t be, yes, this might be
good for the country but we on the right see this is bad for us
politically, except it makes the president not look so bad.
That would be a normal political reaction. In today`s right wing, the
reaction was that there had to have been a conspiracy by the Obama
administration to rig the unemployment rate for political purposes.
The same congressman, Jeff Duncan, who asked Janet Napolitano those
incomprehensible questions about the real bomber and the Boston bombing
conspiracy scandal cover-up, that same congressman has also now sponsored
legislation that would get rid of the unemployment rate. It would
effectively eliminate the unemployment rate and any measure of economic
growth or the size of the economy by prohibiting the Census Bureau from
gathering the information, including the unemployment rate, because, hey,
who needs that, and besides, that gives them less to manipulate for
Today in Congress, the attack on the diplomatic mission at Benghazi in
Libya, the attack that killed four Americans. Today, the line from the
Republicans in Congress was that was not something that should be seen as
an attack, that is something that should be seen as a conspiracy and a
This investigation is perhaps the most organized concerted effort that
House Republicans have made on anything in Congress since they took control
of the House. They have voted to repeal Obamacare 39 times. They just
announced there will be a 40th vote to do that next week. You know, why
But in terms of working on their own ideas, the Benghazi hearing is
pretty much it. This is the most ambitious thing they have done, and the
idea here is this was not an attack on the U.S., what happened in Benghazi
should be seen as a political conspiracy engineered by the Obama
administration and maybe hopefully by Hillary Clinton, but maybe only if
she`s going to run for president.
Yes, the attack in Benghazi was engineered by the administration
because somehow it was good for them. So, if President Obama`s not going
to be impeached because he tanked the stock market, he will definitely be
impeached because of Benghazi. Or actually, he might -- you know what?
He`ll resign because of Benghazi. That will be perfect.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS: As the information and facts begin to come
out, it will become so obvious that there was a concerted and very, very
deliberate attempt to mislead this country and its people to lie to
Congress, as well as to you, and I believe that before it`s all over, this
president will not fill out his full term.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I can`t exactly explain how it`s going to happen, but I`m
pretty sure it`s going to happen. It`s magic, if you say Benghazi enough,
if you teach enough people who only type with the cap locks key on Twitter,
to spell Benghazi, that "H" is really hard, then eventually President Obama
will be impeached, or will resign, and then we will get all of our
ammunition back and finally get to meet his gay husband.
Joining us now is Frank Rich, "New York Magazine`s" writer at large,
his latest column "Whitewash," looks at the Republican Party`s attempts to
change its image while they enact restrictive new voting laws.
Frank, thank you so much for being here.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to be here, as always.
MADDOW: I am looking forward to meet the secret gay husband.
RICH: I know. Do you think we`ve met him before? I wonder if he`s
working on a sitcom in Hollywood.
MADDOW: The Benghazi conspiracy theory is one that I cannot reverse
engineer. I can`t follow it to the conclusions of its accusers to figure
out why it is that the Obama administration would have before an election
faked their response to the attack in the way that they did so as to gin up
better political consequences for them.
RICH: It doesn`t make any sense -- the accusation makes no sense
politically at all, and why the Republicans keep beating it is also
unclear. It was supposed to win Romney the election, right? He was
supposed to make a great show about Benghazi at the debate. That
Then, Hillary Clinton is actually a Democrat who`s popular now with
Republicans and no longer in office. And so they keep beating her up and
she`s taken responsibility for, obviously, the mistakes that did happen
there. And so I don`t know -- I keep hoping they are going to back track
to the other 9/11, and find out what Bush was doing in Texas when he got
intelligence reports saying that al Qaeda was going to attack America in
the summer of 2001.
MADDOW: Well, one of the big smoking guns that the Republicans have
been waving on this week is the damning assertion from former Vice
President Dick Cheney, that because it was the anniversary of September
11th, there never should have been an attack anywhere, because they should
have been able to thwart an attack anywhere in the world, because everybody
in the world should have been on such high alert. He said, we were always
on very high alert on every 9/11 anniversary.
RICH: Yes, except the original 9/11.
MADDOW: Right. Anniversary is the very important modifier there.
RICH: The idea this can be written out of history, that it was on
Cheney and Bush`s watch that the biggest domestic attack of our lifetime
happened and somehow that`s off the ledger, we`ll just begin the accounting
on September 12th, 2011, it`s so preposterous and it`s amazing in normal
public discourse they kind of get away with it. You know, you saw it a
little bit during the Bush library rollout. Nobody is quite really calling
them on it enough.
MADDOW: Do you think that is because on this stuff, on their hoarding
ammunition and we have to get the real Boston bomber and the, you know,
Benghazi was a scandal, not just an attack on the United States, on all of
this stuff, because we`ve got sort of a bifurcated media universe in which
Republicans are watching Republican media, they`re covering all that stuff
seriously, nobody else takes it seriously, therefore, there`s no
journalistic interaction with those stories, do they get away with stuff
they wouldn`t otherwise get away with assert something.
RICH: They do, but really only with their base. I mean, they should
know by now for all the pounding in Benghazi, including on the Hill now, it
really has just not seeped past their media sphere, the FOX News sphere.
MADDOW: Well, they see it as a fait accompli but they can`t explain
RICH: They can`t explain it and they are just not winning over any
converts to their position, but some of it, I think, even though it`s very
insular is dangerous. Go back to those two Oklahoma senators who are
talking about, you know, the government buying ammunition.
This is exactly the kind of conspiracy mongering that led to Timothy
McVeigh in Oklahoma, for goodness sakes, they had ammunition. They`re
going to have concentration camps, black helicopters to come after you, to
come after the Second Amendment. That`s sort of playing fire.
I mean, some of these crazy right wing militia types are very much
still out there, and these guys don`t even see the irony and two Republican
senators from Oklahoma, where that atrocity happened fanning these flames.
MADDOW: Frank Rich, New York magazine writer at large. Can you stay
with us for just a moment? We have another story coming up that is exactly
on what you are writing on at the moment and I would like to get your take
RICH: I`d be delighted.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Former South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford, the
man who did more to make the Appalachian Trail famous than anybody that`s
hiked it is on his way to Congress today after winning a special election
for the first congressional district seat last night in South Carolina.
That seat became vacant earlier this year when the guy who previously held,
Congressman Tim Scott, the guy on the left here, was promoted up to the
Senate by Governor Nikki Haley. She picked Tim Scott to fill the Senate
seat that was vacated by the guy on the right, Republican Senator Jim
Jim DeMint quit his Senate seat late last year because he got a better
offer, he took a job as the guy who runs the Heritage Foundation. Heritage
Foundation is a conservative think tank. It`s supposed font of serious
policy analysis and research from a right wing perspective.
It was kind of a weird hire for the Heritage Foundation, not because
Jim DeMint is not a famous guy, but maybe not because he`s not a capable.
But Jim DeMint was not the thinkiest United States senator out there.
Previously, he had owned an advertising firm.
Once he`s got to the Senate, his legislative agenda was things like
sponsoring the Commemorative Coins Reform Act. It would have forced
senators to pay for the printing costs of commemorative resolutions. Earth
shifting policy wonkery was not what Jim DeMint was known for in the
Jim DeMint was known as a campaigner. He was a guy who tried to get
other super duper conservatives Republicans elected. He backs candidates
like Sharron Angle in Nevada, remember here with the Second Amendment
remedies, Christine O`Donnell in Delaware, I am not a witch. Those
campaigns flamed out so brightly and magnificently that their glow can
still be seen in another galaxy today.
But the Heritage Foundation is in the news today because under Jim
DeMint`s leadership, as a think tank, it is trying to kill the prospect of
immigration reform, capital K, capital L, they are trying to kill it.
But the Heritage Foundation is not supposed to be a campaigning
organization. They are supposed to be a think tank. They are supposed to
be an august institution that deals with policy, facts, figures, and
complex data sets. They can`t appear to just be killing immigration with
just straight-up politics. They have to try to kill immigration reform
with something that looks like research, something that looks like a study
of some kind.
This is the Heritage Foundation`s brand spanking new study on
immigration reform, a study on immigrants really. It looks very serious
and has a boring name and everything. The fiscal cost of unlawful
immigrants and amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer.
Cracking it open to look at the report`s conclusions, we see that
immigrants are always on welfare, they just take, take, take, take, take.
Immigrants are low achieving and uneducated immigrants will never
contribute to the economy in any meaningful way because they all have a
serious case of the poor`s.
Based on those conclusions and math so fuzzy that it might as well be
television static, the Heritage Foundation assigned a random number to what
would be the cost of immigration reform. Guess what, it would cost a
bazillion dollars -- $6 trillion is what they came up with. Their basic
argument is immigrants are parasites and their children will be, too.
Wait, there`s more. One of the two authors of the report is a guy
named Jason Richwine. Not a billionaire bond villain, he`s a doctor. Mr.
Richwine has a PhD from Harvard. In order to get that doctor a couple of
years ago, he, of course, had to write a dissertation. His dissertation
was called "IQ and Immigration Policy."
"Washington Post" "Wonkblog" today reporting that dissertation was a
treasure-trove of ideas straight out of the era of eugenics. Quote, "The
average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than
that of the white native population and the difference is likely to persist
over several generations."
Quote, "No one knows whether Hispanics will reach IQ parity with
whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low IQ
children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
The solution he proposes is an immigration system based on IQ
selection, but he says, don`t call it that. That would be politically
unseemly. Instead, it should be called skills-based immigration. People
won`t freak out if we call it a skills-based selection process.
This was academic research on immigration and his corresponding policy
conclusions from back in 2009. Basically, the foreign foreigners
immigrating to the United States lack the intellectual capacity to properly
contribute to white American society.
It`s innate. They are uneducated. They will always be uneducated.
So will their children be, based on those conclusions that he made back in
2009. It is not difficult to see where the basic idea of the new study
from the Heritage Foundation came from.
When asked about the authorship of their new immigration report and
his past dabbling in, well, what seems like eugenics, the Heritage
Foundation put out a statement today saying, quote, "Dr. Richwine did not
shape the methodology or the policy recommendations in the Heritage paper.
He provided quantitative support to the lead author."
So, don`t worry, our report is still totally legit. He just did the
counting part. He just did the quantitative part.
So, Mark Sanford, welcome to Washington, where you amazingly do not
have the most terrifying past. And immigration reform with enemies like
these, I think you might be just fine.
Back with us now is Frank Rich, "New York Magazine" writer at large.
Frank, thank you for sticking with us.
RICH: Glad to do it, of course.
MADDOW: The Heritage Foundation is operating here more as a political
operation than as a think tank operation, which should not be that
RICH: Of course.
MADDOW: The racial ties of the authorship of this report to current
politics, are those not going to be a big deal, or does this still have the
power to shock?
RICH: It does still have the power to shock, because, first of all,
we`re in this climate where the Republican Party, after the election, is
claiming great outreach to minorities and they are behind immigration
reform. Marco Rubio and DeMint were at one point joined at the hip.
RICH: But this just keeps coming. Remember in the 1990s when Charles
Murray -- excuse me, another academic -- did essentially a version of the
same study, only it was about African-Americans. The Bell Curve, it was
sponsored by conservative foundations. It made the case that essentially
they tried to downplay it, that blacks would never have the same IQs as
white, so had ratifications for affirmative action.
So, here`s the same history repeating itself, and it`s a fascinating
battle within the supposed reformers in the Republican Party and the base
exemplified by these clowns, if I may use that word, that word. How are
they going to do this? How are they going to square the circle?
They claim to be welcoming Latinos and are literally insulting their
intelligence and even unborn children`s intelligence, grandchildren that
aren`t even here yet. They`re already being called mentally inferior.
MADDOW: Not, yes -- exactly. Not only can I identify your racial
inferiority as a class, but I can tell you it that will persist and,
therefore, be very expensive.
The question, I guess, I have about how this moves forward in the
Republican Party is where the self policing mechanism is. So, it`s easy to
be on MSNBC and be a liberal and be horrified by this information and to be
shocked by it and talk about this as the basis, the basic intellectual
argument that Heritage is making here.
Can Republicans make arguments against racism in Republican contexts?
RICH: I don`t think they can. I mean, a few talk a good game, but
this, you know, presupposes that there is a Republican establishment that
somehow is going to be that policing mechanism, that they are going to be
people who stand up, but they are really afraid of the base.
And I think right now we`re seeing chaos really within the Republican
Party, different groups and Heritage is just one of them, vying for power
and everyone is sort of standing off of everyone else and there`s no -- the
center doesn`t hold. There`s no -- there`s no governing brain. Indeed,
the IQ problem may be at the very core or cortex of the Republican Party,
because it just isn`t there, back in there.
MADDOW: One of the things you`ve been writing about, Frank, though,
is that the calculation here may be they`ve decided that they need a better
shine on policies, but they don`t actually need to numerically appeal to
minorities they don`t appeal to now in order to win the elections that they
think they need to win.
RICH: I think that`s always been the game. When I was writing my
piece, I came across a quote from a Reagan pollster in the 1980s saying as
the Reagan administration was formulating policies, while we don`t actually
have to win over African-American voters, black voters, we just have to
look as if we would like to win them over with spin.
And that`s what`s going on now. You know, you have the head of the
RNC doing -- it`s hard to believe in this day and age it`s still happening,
a listening tour where he`ll parachute into Brooklyn and go to a black
church and actually meet with 20 bona fide African-Americans and that`s
outreach and that`s supposed to substitute for policy or any actual
MADDOW: Watching what happens with this Heritage report, seeing
whether it`s just done in strategic policy, or whether there is actually a
condemnation of where this came from I think is going to be really
RICH: I don expect it, but we`ll see.
MADDOW: Frank Rich, "New York Magazine" writer at large -- Frank,
it`s always great to have you here.
RICH: Thanks for having me.
All right. The unlikely request for Republicans in Congress to give
even more power to Democratic President Obama. That story`s coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I have two things to tell you about. First, I`m going to be
on the Jimmy Fallon show tonight. If you want to know why I woke up with
the New York City Fire Department this morning or want to make a rye old
fashioned cocktail, that`s your one-stop shopping tonight. "Late Night
with Jimmy Fallon," 12:35 Eastern on NBC, I will be there wearing this
jacket. That`s one thing.
The other thing I have to tell you is, heist. Heist, there`s an
amazing heist story in the news today that is not ending the way that
anybody thought it was going to end, but we now know how it`s going to end.
Heist, that`s coming up.
MADDOW: The White House today announced nominations for a couple of
people you have never heard of to serve on a court you have probably never
heard of. There`s nothing wrong with that. It`s just taking care of the
business of governing.
But, now, officially for the record, we know that President Obama
would like these two to sit on the United States Tax Court. Not casting
aspersions on the tax court or on these very accomplished nominees, but one
measure of the fact these guys are not the highest profile nominees in the
world is the fact that in the headline on the White House press release
announcing these nominations today, they misspell one of the guy`s names.
The other guy`s name does get spelled right, but he is obscure enough if
you Google around to find out who he is, what pops up on Google even before
anything else about this nominations is this nice picture of a band playing
music at a California winery in 2006.
If that`s what you`re competing with for Google search results on your
own name and you`re losing that competition to music festivals at
California wineries from seven years ago, you may be a very esteemed
potential tax court judge, but you are not a high profile guy and your
nomination is not a high profile thing.
But even for nominations like this that are relatively insignificant
in the greater scale of governing, relatively obscure even, the president
still needs permission to go ahead with hires like this. He can`t just
pick the appointees he wants. He can only nominate people. The president
has to ask the Senate to let these guys have those jobs.
The presidency`s power to do even the very mundane stuff of governing
is pretty sharply constrained in lots of areas. Waging war since 9/11,
though, is not one of those areas. Three days after the 9/11 attacks,
Congress passed a very short piece of legislation that authorized the
president of the United States to use all necessary and appropriate force
against those who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist
attacks that occurred on September 11th, 2001.
Three days after 9/11, President Bush got that authorization. Within
weeks, we invaded Afghanistan, where we are today. But that authorization
for the president to use force to respond to 9/11 is still in effect now,
12 years later. It is still the underlying permission cited by both
President Bush and by this president for military actions of lots of
different types all over the world.
We`re now nearly 12 years out from that decision by Congress.
Washington is still today operating under the premise that the president is
still authorized to wage war anywhere in the world on his own say so
without asking anybody else`s permission, if he just clicks his heels
together three times and says "9/11" while he does it. And this fact has
given Congress a big new idea that they`ve just announced this week.
Next week, the Senate Armed Services Committee is going to hear
testimony on what we authorized the president to do after 9/11 and whether
we ought to just make that permanent now, now that we`re 12 years out of
9/11. Isn`t it kind of a farce that every act of war all over the world is
supposedly still about 9/11?
Hawks in Congress now are proposing we just take 9/11 out of it. Just
make that presidential authorization to use force anywhere in the world
without asking anyone, hawks in Congress are just proposing just making
that permanent, making that the new definition of what an American
president is and can do. What could possibly go wrong?
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Rosa Brooks. She`s a
national security law professor at Georgetown University, columnist for
"Foreign Policy" magazine. She spent four years with Michele Flournoy at
the Pentagon, in the Obama administration. Next week, she`s scheduled
testify before the Armed Services Committee about this question about the
president`s authority to wage war.
Rosa, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here.
ROSA BROOKS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: I feel like this is raising very big questions about what
kind of country we are and what kind of Constitution we have. Wouldn`t
this change the basic balance of power as laid out in the Constitution
about how we have wars?
BROOKS: You know, I guess Congress thinks they`ve got too much else
to do and they`d rather just delegate the whole war making policy to the
president entirely. It`s funny, yes, the Constitution gives Congress the
power to make war and make rules regulating the Army and Navy and so forth,
but to the extent we might get an expanded authorization to use military
force, which has a kind of forever war quality to it, that does look a lot
like Congress saying we can`t be bothered, you go figure it out, Mr.
MADDOW: Does it mean in practical terms we`re kind of -- I mean, this
again sounds dramatic, though -- that we`re just kind of declaring a
permanent state of war that the president can turn on and off at his own
say so and therefore we never really find out when our wars start or end
BROOKS: I`m not sure we find that out anyways these days regardless.
I mean, some ways, I actually think the whole issue about the authorization
to use military force is a little bit of a red herring here because I don`t
actually think there is -- even if the AUMF was repealed tomorrow, and
that`s something I think should happen.
But even if it went away completely, nobody doubts that the president
has the inherent constitutional authority to use military force to prevent
some kind of imminent attack against the United States, and nobody doubts
that if there was an attack against the United States, even something
remotely close to the 9/11 scale of the attack, that Congress would take
about five seconds to pass a new authorization to use military force if it
So, I think that`s a little bit of a red herring. I mean, I think
you`re right, the real issue here is we seem to have totally separate from
the issue of the AUMF and what happens to it, just drifted into a state of
permanent undefined conflict with an enemy that is equally undefined and
that`s got all kinds of problems with it.
MADDOW: If we are going to have hearings on this next week and if it
seems like from the roster it`s going to be big, serious hearings on this
subject, do you think we`re going to get at some of those central issues?
The fact that we know that a permanent authorization for use of military
force is on the table makes me feel very nudgy about what direction that`s
all going, but you`re right - I mean, I wrote a book about us drifting into
that, I called it "Drift."
I think these issues are big and need a debate and maybe even need a
big partisan debate, at least so it will be acrimonious enough to get some
BROOKS: I think that`s right. I mean, I actually think in some ways
the shocking thing is it`s taken us 12 years to start having this debate in
a meaningful way. Maybe it`s a good sign, though, that we`re now ready to
I mean, I think for a long time after 9/11, you couldn`t even ask the
question anymore of -- gosh, is the eternal war, law of war paradigm the
right way to think about the threat posed by terrorism, because you would
immediately get -- what, do you think it`s an ordinary crime? Well,
obviously, that`s insufficient, you fool.
MADDOW: Why do you love terrorists?
BROOKS: Yes. Why do you love -- and I think we have moved past that
to have, I hope, a somewhat candid and serious minded debate in which we
say, gee, you know, global terrorism`s threat today is sort of like war in
some ways, it`s sort of like crime in other ways, maybe we need to get past
this either/or stuff and figure out realistically what`s an effective
strategy for dealing with this that doesn`t over-rely on using
sledgehammers and military force and undervalue the other kinds of very
effective tools we do have to counter terrorists and disrupting terrorist
finance, for instance, disrupting terrorists communications.
So, I`m cautiously optimistic these hearings do represent some renewed
willingness to take a serious issue seriously. Maybe I`m going -- I mean,
I hope I`m not wrong, but I would like to think so.
MADDOW: Your optimism about it, you have moved me to feel more
optimistic about it. I guess I should feel that way by virtue of the fact
that you agreed to speak at hearing, but it still freaks me out. We shall
Rosa Brooks, national security law professor at Georgetown, former
counsel to Michelle Flournoy at the Pentagon -- thanks for being here.
It`s always great to see you.
BROOKS: Thanks, Rachel.
All right. Straight ahead, the coolest action movie heist/caper story
from Belgium that you`ll hear all week, or at least all day. That`s coming
MADDOW: I live in Massachusetts most of the time and that means that
I, like all people who live in Massachusetts, have been slightly obsessed
with an art heist that happened there in 1990. Thieves dressed like Boston
cops made off with 13 works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
in Boston. Art valued at a half billion dollars. The FBI thinks that
these guys were the culprits.
February last year, an alleged Connecticut mobster was arrested on
weapons and drug charges, and the FBI thought at the time that maybe he
would fess up to being connected to the heist. He did not fess up. And a
search of his house found none of the stolen art.
But then, this year, this March, the FBI came out to say they had new
leads in this case. They offered a $5 million reward for the return of the
Meanwhile, that Connecticut mobster is scheduled to be sentenced
tomorrow on other charges that are not related to the art heist, but every
time he appears in public, somebody hopes that this time he`s going to fess
up to saying what happened to that $500 million worth of art stolen from
Obsessions with art heists are fun. Every once in a while when you`re
obsessed with some pre-existing heist, an even shinier heist comes along to
distract you, one that actually gets solved. That`s coming up next.
MADDOW: More than 80 percent of all the diamonds in the world pass
through Belgium, specifically they pass through the city of Antwerp in
Belgium. About a decade ago, in February 2003, the diamond vaults inside
Belgium`s Antwerp Diamond Center were plundered by a ring of Italian jewel
thieves. They somehow first got in through the rear of the main building,
once inside they had to beat a combination lock, a key lock, a heat
detector, a motion detect, a light detector and every other freaking
detector known to mankind, but they did it.
The theft was so seamless, so professionally executed that when the
security guards came to unlock the main vault door the next morning, he
found it already open, littered with jewels that the thieves had left
behind. And that heist, a decade ago, they made off with an estimated $100
million worth of diamonds and other jewels.
The gang of five burglars that carried out that heist were headed by
the guy with the best name in heists ever. His name was Leonardo
Notarbartolo. Mr. Notarbartolo eventually did get caught. But what was
stolen in that heist was never found -- $100 million worth of diamonds and
gold and jewelry and other loot all poof.
Even after he was arrested, Mr. Notarbartolo denied his involvement in
the crime for a long time. But in 2009, he did a tell-all for "Wired"
magazine, including the details about how he cracked the vault. All of
that is in "Wired" magazine`s article, which is linked at "Maddow Blog"
tonight or you just wait for the movie, the forthcoming film will be
produced and possibly directed by JJ Abrams who made "Lost" and "Star Trek"
and "Mission Impossible: The Ghost Protocol."
It`s amazing, right? The most amazing heist ever, until the next one.
It happened again in the same place, and this is the heist that took the
big surprise turn in the news today.
So it was February this year, the Helvetic Airways passenger jet was
on the tarmac in Brussels, preparing for takeoff. Brussels is about 25
miles away from Antwerp, which is the diamond capital. The passengers on
the jet were settling in, flights attendants going through their final
security. Outside the aircraft, Brink security guards finished loading on
to the cargo hold of the plane a very valuable shipment of cut and uncut
diamonds worth 50 million bucks.
As they were finishing loading the diamonds from the armored car into
the plane, suddenly out of nowhere, two what appear to be police cars
roared up to the aircraft, lights flashing, eight armed men in police
uniforms exited the vehicles, and that was first sign maybe they were not
actually police, because they were balaclavas covering their faces.
They pried open the cargo door of the plane. They snatched the 120
packages of diamonds. With the diamonds in tow, they got back into their
vehicles. They sped away. It turns they cut a hole in the airport fence,
they drove right through it. Authorities later found a van they think was
used as the getaway car, found it burned and abandoned on the side of the
From tip to tail, the whole heist lasted five minutes. It was like
clock work. Nobody got hurt. Nobody got caught. It was over basically as
soon as it started.
It went off so seamlessly, in fact, that the passengers on the plane
saw nothing. They had no idea anything at all had happened until somebody
got on the P.A. and told them their flight was cancelled.
I`m going to be late. My flight got canceled because I was part of a
$50 million diamond heist that Gene Hackman planned in a really good movie
in the late `70s.
So, that was February. And for three months since then, it has been
nothing, it looked like these really very organized thieves got away with
But now, after three months of silence from the police, today, we got
the surprise ending. Police in Belgium, France, and Switzerland, without
warning, hundreds of police swooped in on suspects simultaneously in three
countries. At least 31 suspects arrested. All at once in Belgium,
Switzerland and France.
Police say they recovered large sums of money and luxury vehicles and
some of the diamonds. They do say they got the guys who did it, though,
all of them. Even if they didn`t get all the diamonds, they got enough of
them that they`re value is still too much to add up as yet.
And as Steven Soderbergh has not already auctioned the movie rights
for this heist, somebody should text him tonight, Antwerp is spelled A-N-T-
W-E-R-P and it is pronounced heist! Heist!
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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