THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 25, 2013
Guests: John Lewis, Bill Burton
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
It is Election Day in the state of Massachusetts. Bay Staters today
went to the polls to pick their new United States senator to replace John
Kerry, who`s now secretary of state. The polls in Massachusetts closed
almost exactly one hour ago.
And as far as we know, right now, it`s undecided, 49 percent of the
vote in. Right now, Ed Markey leads Gabriel Gomez, 51 percent to 48
percent. But again, that is 49 percent of the vote in at this point. And
so, we do not yet have any sort of winner to announce.
The results of tonight`s election in Massachusetts will end the short
Senate tenure of Mo Cowen, who you see on the left there. Mo Cowen was
picked essentially as a place holder for the seat by Massachusetts Governor
Mr. Cowen promised not to run for the seat on a permanent basis.
He`s spent his months on Capitol Hill essentially keeping his head down,
keeping the business of the Massachusetts Senate seat rolling. He`s been
voting basically the way John Kerry would have voted and he`s been keeping
the seat warm for the duly elected next U.S. senator from Massachusetts who
has been chosen by the voters of Massachusetts today.
Again, the polls closed an hour and a minute ago. We`ll keep you
posted as we get further news.
But again, right now with 49 percent of the vote in, Ed Markey, the
Democratic candidate, leading Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate, by
51 percent to 48 percent. We`ll keep you posted.
Now on the other side of Capitol Hill today from the Senate, on the
House side of Capitol Hill today, today was the day when they had to make a
decision about Stan Musial. Stan Musial, the baseball player who played
for the St. Louis Cardinals, quite possibly one of the greatest hitters of
all-time, baseball legend, a legendary hitter, a legendary gentleman,
legendary nice guy. For 22 years, Stan the man played for just one team,
played for the Cardinals. He loved the Cardinals and his fans loved him
And a few months ago, Stan Musial passed away at the age of 92 after
a life well-lived.
There`s a new bridge, a new beautiful bridge being built on the
Mississippi River. It connects the state of St. Louis to the state of
Missouri, across the mighty Mississippi. And St. Louis, which is the home
of Stan Musial`s St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis sits on the Mississippi
River and when it came time to propose a name for the new bridge, Missouri
lawmakers agreed that this new bridge should be called the Stan Musial
Bridge. It should be named after the St. Louis baseball legend.
Well, across the riverbank on the other side of the bridge, in
Illinois, lawmakers there decided, Stan Musial is nice and all, but it`s
not like they care about him that much in Illinois. In Illinois, they
instead want to honor American veterans. They want to call the bridge the
Veterans Memorial Bridge. So, the two states on the two sides of the
bridge disagree. They have a border dispute over the name of this bridge
which, after all, they both sort of have a right to name since the bridge
goes between their two states.
Honestly, though, if you think about this, this is not the most
difficult dilemma in the world, right? One side wants to name it the Stan
Musial Bridge, one side wants to name it the Veterans Bridge. Stan Musial
is, himself, a veteran. So this is not exactly a problem, right?
You can just call it the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge and
everybody would be happy. Problem solved.
But because these two states did propose different names, the final
choice of the name is apparently now a federal issue. It has to be decided
by Congress. So, today, in the House of Representatives in Washington,
Congress considered this vexing challenge of what to name this bridge. How
can we possibly name this bridge the obvious thing it obviously should be
And, yes, members of Congress from both states, from both parties in
both states, agree that it really ought to just be freaking called the Stan
Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. And so, yes, congress considered it today
and they debated and they voted that the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial
Bridge just should be the name. Congress was able to do that. Maybe.
Now, it has to go to Senate where who knows, anything could happen.
And will it be filibustered? Then if it passes there, it will go to the
president for his signature then maybe, maybe we will have confirmation
that even this Congress can manage the achievement of saying, OK, whatever,
to something that is already obviously been decided already and is
basically fine with everybody concerned.
This is the level of decision-making that our Congress can reliably
handle right now. Maybe.
So, when President Obama made his big announcement today about
climate change, and pollution, the reason it`s such a big deal is because
the things he announced do not depend on Congress. So these policy changes
he announced today are things that actually will happen because nobody has
to count on Congress to make that true.
I mean, imagine what would happen if Congress was where we had to
make these kinds of decisions on this kind of issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: We don`t know what those
other cycles were caused by in the past. It could be dinosaur flatulence,
you know? Or who knows?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who knows? It could be dinosaur farts. That`s basically
Congress right now. In particular, that is the Republicans who are in
control of the half of Congress that is the House.
And because of that, today we`re getting a list of policy changes on
climate change, which are mostly pretty centrist lower common denominator
policy changes. But the one most important thing they all have in common
is that they are executive actions that avoid the dinosaur flatulence death
spiral of nonsense that is the U.S. Congress. But that void, that place
where hard decisions don`t go to die, hard decisions going to be laughed at
there. That void is where the Supreme Court of the United States today
threw voting rights, in the most consequential blow against civil rights
law in a generation.
Last night on this show we highlighted one example of how the Voting
Rights Act works. This is a community college district in the greater
Houston area. They tried to change the way they conduct elections in this
district. They tried to cut the number of polling places in this district
from 84 polling places down to 12. And the list of 12 proposed new polling
places had one very notable feature. The new list made if really easy to
vote if you were a white person and really hard to vote if you were not a
Look, the site with the smallest proportion of minority voters, so
the whitest voting site was set up to serve 6,500 voters. The most heavily
minority site serves over 67,000 voters. The big new election idea in this
election district in Texas was that the most heavily minority polling place
should serve 10 times as many voters as the whitest polling place.
The Justice Department told that election district in Texas that they
could not do that. They could not make that change. The Justice
Department looked at that plan and told them to try again, to try to find a
way that was more fair.
That happened because Texas officials have to get an advanced OK from
the Justice Department before they change their election laws, because of
Texas` history of racial discrimination in elections. Discrimination like,
oh, say, making the polling places for black and brown people handle 10
times as many voters as the polling places for white people.
Because Texas has done and has kept doing stuff like that, Texas
needs preclearance when they make changes. If they think they should not
be on that preclearance list anymore, Texas could apply to opt out. They
could try to prove that they are not trying to discriminate anymore. Texas
has not been able to opt out.
And so, the Justice Department was able to block that plan in that
greater Houston area college district. Also, the Justice Department was
able to block Texas Republicans` voter ID plan.
Rick Perry signed this law when he was trying to make a splash
running for president. But the Justice Department said the Texas voter ID
law would be a disaster in terms of racial discrimination in Texas
elections. Since Hispanic registered voters are more than twice as likely
as non-Hispanic registered voters to lack the ID that would be required to
vote in Texas under the new law.
So, Texas plans like that. New laws to block Hispanics from voting
at more than double the rate of non-Hispanics or killing 80 percent of the
polling places and setting up new ones where white people get 10 times the
service as non white people. Plans like these from the last few years in
Texas, they were blocked from ever coming into effect, even though Texas
wanted to do them, they were blocked from coming into effect because the
Justice Department could block them, because of the Voting Rights Act.
As of today, that`s over. The court did not change anything about
the basic idea that some places could not be trusted to make new election
laws on their own. They should have to get preclearance from the Justice
Department. The court left that in place theoretically, but they
invalidated the existing list of places that qualify for that kind of
special scrutiny. They threw that part of it instead to Congress.
In its infinite wisdom to come up with a new way of identifying
places that need that special scrutiny of preclearance in order to change
their laws. And until Congress gets around to working on that, it is open
season on voting rights right now in America.
In Texas, today, the Republican attorney general announced, "With
today`s decision, the state`s voter ID law will take effect immediately."
In Mississippi today, same thing, the Republican attorney general
announcing, "The process for implementation of voter ID begins today."
In Alabama today, same thing, the Republican attorney general and
Republican secretary of state announcing, "Voter ID will be the first
process that we will go through under this new ruling."
North Carolina, same deal. Republicans had been holding back from
voter ID there because they knew it would be too racially discriminatory to
pass the preclearance requirement. Now that that requirement is gone, hey,
full steam ahead. Now we can go with the full bill, says the Republican
rules committee chairman in North Carolina`s Republican-controlled Senate.
Why stop just with voter ID, he says? He predicted an omnibus voting
bill would surface in the Senate next week that could go beyond voter ID to
include issues such as reducing early voting, eliminating Sunday voting and
barring same-day voter registration.
They might not have been able get away with racially discriminatory
policies like that before today, but as of 10:00 a.m. today -- go for it.
The flood gates are open. The flood gates are open. Anything these states
with a history of racial discrimination could not get away with before,
because they were covered under the Voting Rights Act, and the Justice
Department blocked them, now they can go ahead.
And they are. Day one, they`re already rushing forward and there`s
nothing to stop them, unless Congress fixes it. What are the odds of
Congress fixing it? No, really. What are the odds?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: The Voting Rights Act that broke
the segregationist lock on the ballot box rose from the courage shown on a
Selma bridge one Sunday afternoon in March of 1965. On that day, African-
Americans, including a member of the United States Congress, John Lewis --
BUSH: -- marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a protest
intended to highlight the unfair practice that kept him off the voter
Today we renew a bill. My administration will vigorously enforce the
provisions of this law and we will defend it in court.
BUSH: I am proud to sign the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and
Amendments Act of 2006.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The vote in the Senate that made it possible for then-
President George W. Bush to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act seven years
ago, that voice was 98-0, famously. In the Senate, it was unanimous.
In the House, it was not unanimous. It was still an overwhelming
vote, but there were 33 no votes in the House, 33 Republicans in the House
who voted no that year. And of those 33 House Republicans who voted
against the Voting Rights Act, 19 of them are still in House as Republican
members of Congress.
And occasionally, House Republicans do pipe up on this issue. As
Georgia Republican Paul Broun did last year when he introduced an amendment
to block the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. He brought it up in the
middle of the night, tried to get it passed as part of a big spending bill.
And John Lewis, that Democratic Georgia congressman beaten to an inch
of his life on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in a demonstration that became a
conflagration of police violence, which is how we got the Voting Rights Act
in the first place, John Lewis was there in the House in the middle of the
night last year, in May of last year, to answer Paul Broun when Powell
Broun tried to block enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
And when John Lewis confronted him on the floor of the House, Paul
Broun just collapsed, apologizing and stuttering and wishing he had not
brought it up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Maybe some we need to study a little
contemporary history dealing with the question of voting rights. Just
think, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it was almost impossible for
many people in the state of Georgia, in Alabama, in Virginia, in Texas, to
register to vote, to participate in a democratic process.
It`s shameful that you would come here tonight and say to the
Department of Justice that you must not use one penny, one cent, one dime,
one dollar, to carry out the mandate of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: I apologize to my dear friend from
Georgia if he`s gotten angry with this amendment. It`s never my intent to
do so, and I`m going to ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So which is it now, Republican Party? Are you Paul Broun
stuttering and apologizing and saying he never meant any offense, taking it
Or are you Paul Broun introducing the stealth amendment in the middle
of the night trying to kill the Voting Rights Act? Are you every single
Republican in the United States Senate voting to reauthorize the Voting
Rights Act, standing proudly by as your Republican president, when he`s --
with your Republican president as he signs it, or are you the 33 House
Republicans who that same year voted no, voted to kill the Voting Rights
Are you the Republican House Majority Eric Cantor marching with John
Lewis this past year to re-enact what happened on the Edmund Pettus Bridge,
to re-enact the human toll and the human endurance of violence that brought
us the Voting Rights Act?
Or are you these Republican state officials in Alabama, in
Mississippi, in North Carolina, in Texas, rushing ahead today with the laws
that were too racist for the Voting Rights Act to allow, but that now can
be forced through because the Voting Rights Act is dead, dead unless
Republicans in Congress agree that it should be saved?
Which Republican Party are you?
In a blistering, long, incredulous descent from the court`s ruling
today, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said that the court erred
egregiously. She said the court dramatically overreached. She said,
quote, "Hubris is a fit word for today`s demolition of the Voting Rights
John Lewis put it in terms just as stark. He said, "The Supreme
Court put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act." The thing about
this dagger in the heart, though, is that the patient with the dagger in
the heart is still alive. And the doctor standing over the body thinking
about what to do next turns out is a Republican.
The Voting Rights Act did not have Section 5 struck down.
Preclearance still exists theoretically. The Voting Rights Act can be
saved right away if Congress decides to save it.
The Democrats want to save it, unanimously. The Democrats, they
control the Senate, their judiciary chairman in the Senate today said he`ll
get to work immediately on legislation to save it. The Republicans control
the House so far their judiciary chairman has said nothing.
This is the cornerstone of American civil rights law. This is legacy
time. What are you guys going to do?
Congressman John Lewis joins us next.
MADDOW: Breaking news for you in the special election tonight to
fill the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by now Secretary of State John
Kerry. "The Associated Press" has now declared that Democratic Congressman
Ed Markey has won the U.S. special election for that Senate seat in
Massachusetts. Polls leading up to this contest had indicated that
Congressman Markey was comfortably ahead of his Republican rival, Gabriel
But now, it is official. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Ed
Markey ahead 54 percent to 46 percent and "The A.P." has called the race.
Senator-elect Markey will serve out the term that John Kerry won in
2008. And then, next year, he will be up for re-election for a full term.
Gabriel Gomez is already hinting that he wants to run again the next
time around. Why the Republicans would run the same guy again that just
lost tonight is, who knows? That`s their own private Idaho.
But, again, tonight, the breaking news that Democrat Ed Markey is the
new U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Senator, what`s your reaction to Supreme Court ruling on
the Voting Rights Act?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I haven`t read
it yet. Obviously, it`s an important bill that passed back in the `60s, at
a time when he had very different America than we have today.
My state is not covered by the Voting Rights Act. There may be
others who want to comment on it. At this point, I think I`m just going to
have to read it first, but I would say I do think America is very different
today from what it was in the 1960s.
Anybody else want to comment on that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, nobody wants to talk about it? All the other
Republican senators standing there with him. Nobody.
U.S. Supreme Court ruling today on the Voting Rights Act left in
place the basic idea that some states, some counties, have sketchy enough
records with regards to racial discrimination and elections that they
should have to get preapproval from the Justice Department if they want to
make changes to election laws.
But the court threw out existing lists of what those places are which
means nobody needs to get preclearance anymore. Nobody is getting any
scrutiny at all with changing their election laws until Congress manages to
find a new way to figure out who ought to be on that list. With reins off
Republican governors and state legislatures are already today, the day of
the ruling, rolling out new round of ways to make voting harder in ways
that are racially discriminatory enough that they could not have done them
when the Voting Rights Act was still in effect yesterday.
Joining us now is John Lewis, congressman of Georgia, one of the 13
original freedom riders and a civil rights activist who nearly died trying
to secure every Americans` right to vote.
Congressman John Lewis, thank you so much for being with us.
LEWIS: Thank you very much, Rachel, for having me tonight.
MADDOW: You called this Supreme Court ruling a dagger in the heart
of the Voting Rights Act when you first heard about it today. Since then,
have you heard anything from your colleagues in Washington that gives you
any more hope about saving this law?
LEWIS: Several of my colleagues on the Democratic side have said
that we must go back and reauthorize the act the same way that we did in
2006. And I did read a statement that the majority leader, Eric Cantor,
made that because of his trip to Selma last March, that was moving to him,
it had a profound impact on him, that he would take a serious look at the
decision and whether we should reauthorize that section of the Voting
Rights Act of 1965.
MADDOW: Do you agree that if Congress was able to act, maybe that
showing of support from Congressman Cantor means that Republicans might be
willing to do it, if Congress could act post-haste, could that limit the
amount of damage that I know you think has been done to voting rights in
the protection of minority voting rights in this country in particular by
LEWIS: Well, I think it`s important for us to act now. If we fail
to act, the hopes and dreams and aspiration of many people to participate
in a Democratic process would be denied. So it is my hope that Democrats
and Republicans members of the House that we would come together in a
bipartisan fashion and fix it. Today, it is shocking, it`s unbelievable.
It makes me so sad to see we have to fight this fight all over again.
If somebody told me on August 6th, 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson
signed the act into law that we would be fighting this fight, this battle
again in 2013.
MADDOW: What do you make of John Roberts` argent and the majority
ruling in this case? Chief Justice Roberts arguing that essentially this
laws a vestige of an earlier era, that the kind of discrimination that
justified this type of remedy in the first place no longer require this
kind of remedy? We need some different way of approaching these matters
now, times have changed.
LEWIS: Well, the only thing I would have said to Justice Roberts if
I had an opportunity to talk with him, I would say not to forget the past.
Not to forget the history.
I would invite him and the other four members of the court to walk in
my shoes, to travel with me through Alabama, through the delta of
Mississippi, through southwest Georgia. And not just walk in my shoes, but
walk in the shoes of others that stood in those unmovable lines. There`s
some history there. We cannot forget that history.
As Justice Ginsburg said, if we tend to forget it, we will repeat it.
In another period in our history, more than 100 years ago, people of color,
African-American, former slaves, could register, they could vote. They ran
for office. They got elected. And a few years later, they lost it.
We cannot go back. We must go forward.
MADDOW: Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, thank you for your time
tonight. I`m sure this has been just an emotionally exhausting day for
you, sir. Thank you for being with us.
LEWIS: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Here is a live shot from Austin, Texas, where we are in
the middle of a real life nonstop talking filibuster to try to stop the
proposed antiabortion legislation that`s being pushed by Republicans in
Texas. This is happening right now. This is live, and the Democrats are
winning. We`ve got details on that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES HENSON, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN: This was such a big
session for following the legislature on Twitter and I don`t know if
anybody`s ever gone back, as it was leaking out and people were speculating
about whether you were going to do it or not. People were tweeting about
your shoes, whether you wore shoes for standing.
STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D), TEXAS: Right. As you can see, I have my
typical shoes on right now.
HENSON: No filibuster today?
DAVIS: No filibuster today, but when I came on that night, I had
flat shoes on. It`s the first time I`ve worn flat shoes on the Senate
HENSON: One of the reporters, one of the female reporters, I bet
she`s going to do it, she`s wearing flats. It turned out to be right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was from the first time that Texas Democratic State
Senator Wendy Davis brought the state of Texas to a standstill with a one-
woman filibuster. That was 2011 when she singlehandedly saved billions of
dollars for education in Texas by filibustering Republican efforts to cut
And filibustering in Texas is hard. The rules say only one person
can filibuster, so you can`t trade off with a colleague to get any relief.
You cannot sit down. You cannot eat.
You cannot touch the podium or the desk where you are standing. You
cannot lean on anything. You cannot leave even for a second for any reason
including having to go to the bathroom. You cannot just read the telephone
You have to stay on the topic of the bill you are filibustering.
Filibustering in Texas is hard, so, yes, do not wear high heels if you are
going to do it.
Having learned that lesson the last time, today in the Texas
legislature, that same state senator, Wendy Davis, she wore sneakers. And
she wasn`t shy about them. Look nice.
Wendy Davis has spent all day, all day today, all day alone on her
own not stopping, not eating, not drinking, not leaving, not peeing --
forgive me, not leaning, not straying from the topic. Texas Senator Wendy
Davis has spent all day today personally filibustering the Republican bill
that Democrats otherwise had no shot of stopping.
Governor Rick Perry called a special legislative session in part to
try to pass antiabortion legislation that Republicans couldn`t get passed
in the regular session. The abortion bill would ban abortions statewide in
Texas at 20 weeks. It would shut down more than 80 percent of the state`s
clinics. There would be zero access to legal abortion of any kind in all
of West Texas which is giant.
And so this, right now, is Wendy Davis, right now, she started
speaking and standing there about nine hours ago. Earlier in the day, she
read testimony from men and women across the state who had wanted to
testify against the Republican bills last week, but they were not allowed
At one point, she broke down in tears while she was reading a letter
from one woman who had to have an abortion when doctors discovered severe
abnormalities with the child that she wanted but that could not live
outside the womb.
Republicans tried at one point to end her filibuster by saying she
wasn`t staying on topic because she started talking about the financial
impact of the antiabortion bill, but they had no luck there. Wendy Davis
was allowed to proceed.
This is what it has looked like today in the Senate gallery. I think
we`ve got the gallery shot, don`t we? Every spectator seat has been filled
in the gallery. There`s been people there wearing orange shirts in
solidarity with filibuster. There`s been a long line of people waiting to
get in all day to watch the state senator talk without stopping, stand
without stopping for 13 hours. Just like they did on Thursday night, and,
again, on Sunday night, hundreds and hundreds of Texans, again, showed up
today at the state capitol to protest this Republican effort to ram through
the country`s most sweeping abortion restrictions and to support the
Democrats who are trying to stop it.
Also there today, in the Senate gallery was Cecile Richards. She`s
the national president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of former Texas
Governor Ann Richards.
What`s going on in Texas right now, this is a big deal. There are
about 3 1/2 hours maybe, three hours left in Wendy Davis` filibuster and
apparently is still going strong. Now, theoretically, Governor Rick Perry
could call another special session for the legislature if the Republicans
cannot stop her before midnight, which is when this session comes to an end
in Texas tonight.
But if they cannot stop her by midnight tonight and she keeps talking
all the way until midnight tonight, this round goes to the Texas Democrats.
They are winning this thing -- as Wendy Davis speaks, still, as we speak,
she`s doing it right now.
MADDOW: So, this morning the Supreme Court of the United States
pretty much gutted the foundation of American civil rights law. Tomorrow,
they are expected to issue their biggest landmark ruling ever on gay
For the last 10 hours, a Democratic state legislator has been
standing in the state Senate in Texas singlehandedly resisting the passage
of a draconian law.
And a new United States senator, Democrat Ed Markey, just got elected
So, what was the president up to all day? It turns out he was giving
a speech that on a lot of other days would have been the lead story in the
It`s been a busy day. Hold on. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: So, there was an early sign that something was wrong. There
was a visual clue. There`s President Obama standing at the podium about to
deliver his big speech on climate change today. And wait a second, what`s
wrong at the top? That`s what`s known in the bunting business as a wedgie.
Actually, I just made that up. I don`t even know if there is a
bunting business. But that`s what I would like to think of as a bunting
Like bunting number one and bunting number three are fine. But
bunting number two, the important one right above the president, bunting
wedgie. That was the first time maybe it was not the White House "A" team
doing the advance work for today`s big speech.
The next sign of that was an audible one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last year I took
office, or the year that I took office, my administration pledged to reduce
America`s greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent, from their 2005
levels by the end of this decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama essentially being forced to do his first
Carey Grant in North by Northwest impression, drowned out by the
unsettlingly close sound of airplanes, throughout the speech, over and over
again. They had the president speaking outdoors today at Georgetown which
apparently nobody on the advanced team noticed is right in the middle of
the flight path for national airport.
So after this one today with the bunting and the flight noises
drowning him out throughout the speech, and then a couple of weeks ago
somebody forgetting to president put the president`s speech on the podium
for him. He had to stand in front of the press -- people, people, can I
get my speech, people?
In terms of White House advanced work, I think somebody needs a pep
But in terms of the substance of the speech, President Obama had to
live up to what had been a dramatic pre-speech buildup. We were told far
in advance to expect something big.
On the same day that President Obama spoke about climate change and
other matters at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin last week, his aides
started leaking to the press back in this country that something big was
coming on that issue back home. We were told to expect a high-profile
presidential address on this issue.
And, then, over the weekend, the White House announced in an
elaborately produced video that address was coming not just soon, it was
coming this week. And then today was the day with the wedgie bunt and
airplanes flying overhead, President Obama took on the issue of climate
change in a way that he has not done this aggressively in at least this
much granular policy detail up until this point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming
judgment of science, of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements
has put all that to rest. I don`t have much patience for anyone who denies
that this challenge is real. We don`t have time for a meeting of the flat
The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before
it`s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world
that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your
grandchildren. As a president, as a father, and as an American, I`m here
to say we need to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When he says there, over the engine noise, we need to act, I
think what he really means is he plans to act. What the president
announced in this speech today were a series of concrete actions that he,
alone, is taking on this issue without Congress. Things like limiting the
amount of carbon pollution emitted by new and existing power plants, taking
federal action to increase fuel standards in new cars, increasing the
amount of renewable energy that is produced on federal lands.
The president announced today that was in the next seven years, the
federal government, itself, will get 20 percent of its energy from
renewable sources. And that may sound like an insider deal but it`s a big
deal in absolute terms because the federal government is one of the biggest
organizations on earth.
On the issue of the Keystone pipeline, the president said today he
will not approve its construction if it significantly increases the overall
problem of carbon pollution.
So this was a speech that had a lot of news and a lot of presidential
pronouncements that lots of people have been waiting for and, frankly,
pushing for, for a long time. And that leverage that has been exerted
essentially against the president on this issue, pushing him to do this, is
leverage that the president now would like to try to apply to the problem
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m going to need all after you to educate your classmates,
your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what`s at stake.
Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings.
Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the
circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. Convince those
in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to
adopt smarter practices.
Invest. Divest. Remind folks there`s no contradiction between a
sound environment and strong economic growth, and remind everyone who
represents you at every level of government that sheltering future
generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for
your vote. Make yourself heard on this issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Make yourself heard on this issue.
Joining us now is Bill Burton. He`s a former deputy press secretary
for the Obama administration. He`s now senior adviser to the League of
Conservation Voters which, itself, seems like an important part of the
political news here.
Bill, thank you so much for being here.
BILL BURTON, LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS: Hi. Thanks for having
me, Rachel, and, but, I don`t thank you for having me follow John Lewis and
MADDOW: Yes, I know, it`s kind of a big night.
Can I ask you a petty question, first, as a guy who was on the inside
of Obama communications?
BURTON: You can, because I think it`s going to give me the
opportunity to defend some of my friends. Please go ahead.
MADDOW: Nobody knew about the whole flight path thing? It seemed
like he was dodging crop dusters the entire speech. It was absolutely
completely distracting. And I`m not easily distracted from a policy
speech. That was crazy.
BURTON: Well, I was there at the speech. The thing that was most
distracting was the fact it was so hot.
BURTON: It was 110 degrees in there.
MADDOW: Put him inside.
BURTON: He was outside in a big city. There`s airplanes.
The folks on the presidential advance staff are hardworking folks.
They get there at 4:00 in the morning. They stay until 2:00 in the
morning. They have crazy jobs.
I don`t know if we can blame them for one little piece of bunting
getting blown away by the wind or airplanes outside in a big city. That`s
MADDOW: I say, you know, it`s going to be 100 degrees and you`re in
the flight path, inside. I`m an idiot, come on. Inside.
BURTON: When I was sitting there, I was sort of wishing that it was
inside, too. It`s a climate thing. You sort of have to be outside.
MADDOW: Bill, let me ask you about how you going from team Obama to
team conservation voters, which has been pushing the White House to be more
aggressive on issues like the ones we heard in this speech today. What is
your involvement in this issue? What was your decision to make that move?
And what do you do on this issue?
BURTON: Well, you know, after I left the White House and I did the
super PAC, I went to global strategy group where one of the big projects
that we`ve taken on is League of Conservation Voters and the fight to stop
the Keystone pipeline from moving forward. It`s something that, you know,
as the president laid out today, this is a generational issue.
And for me and for the folks who I work with, we thought it was
important to get involved with and it`s an important project, and today was
a critically important day for that in. It is an important project, today
was a critically important day for that fight.
MADDOW: Well, specifically on keystone, the president tied his
upcoming decision on Keystone to what the president had to say about
emissions. At did it mean in practical terms? What did you understand
what he was saying there?
BURTON: Well, the reason that that`s important is that he changed
the terms of the debate. It`s not about the politics. It`s not about what
the candidates are going to think, it`s about what science says that will
make our planet demonstrably worse off, if this project moves forward.
Now, for us, we think that yes, the science is there and shows that
it will make the climate far, far worse. And so, I think what we need to
do in the coming days, we need to show grass roots activity. We need to
show the scientific reasoning behind it. And make sure the decision-makers
at the State Department, the White House know that. The science is there,
we`re going to keep on this fight. Now, none of it is to distract from the
historic of this announcement today.
This is an amazing announcement. I know you called it lowest common
denominator policy earlier on the show. But a 17 percent reduction from
2005 levels from 2020 will make a phenomenal difference in the arc of
global climate change. So, this is a very important announcement today.
We`ve got another fight that`s coming down the road.
MADDOW: You know, the promises, what we got was meat on the bones
about actually getting there, about actually making policy changes that
will cut back and make a big impact in terms of those bottom lines.
I mean, over the past few years, we have heard consistently
aspirational statements from the president and administration what they
wanted to do. But we haven`t before today seen these very concrete changes
-- policy prescriptions, I guess for things that are not being asked from
Congress but things that are actually being done.
Do you understand what changed politically to make it OK to go ahead
with this today?
BURTON: Well, I don`t know that anything necessarily changed
politically. What we know is that, Congress, as you pointed out, has a
hard time naming the Stan Musial Veterans Bridge between Illinois and
Missouri, what the president did today was something he has been talking
about since the early days of the campaign when we all started with him,
January or February of 2007.
Now, there is a lot of different things that have been happening here
and there, the auto bailout, the fiscal, the financial industry bailout.
Two wars, there have been just a lot of things going on. And the president
has gotten to a point where, you know, we`ve got to act in order to, if
we`re going to get something aggressive done, the president knew he had to
act right now, and that`s why he did it.
MADDOW: In terms of the relationship between the scientific
consensus and the political consensus, the president today ridiculing the
flat society, people who deny that there is a problem to be addressed.
Do you think the political risk here lessen at all as a scientific
issue becomes more blatant?
BURTON: Well, 100 percent. And sometimes, the politics and the
science are not always on the same track as you know. But I think it is
interesting the speech was given on the same bay as the Markey-Gomez race
up in Massachusetts. Massachusetts isn`t the most purple state in the
nation, but it is a state where in this race, climate was on the ballot.
And if you look across the country, especially generationally, this
is an issue for which most Americans, especially of the younger persuasion,
this issue has been settled. But when you look at Republican leadership in
Washington, you look at McConnell, you look at John Boehner, you hear the
rhetoric, for them it`s not -- it`s still an issue of whether or not
climate change is right. Well, for most of America, that issue has been
settled. It`s what we`re going to do about it. So, I think that the
politics here, great for Democrats, because Republicans are isolating an
entire generation of voters.
MADDOW: Bill Burton, former deputy press secretary for the Obama
administration, now with the League of Conservation Voters, senior adviser
to them -- Bill, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
BURTON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I do actually think the last point Bill made there is
important. It is going to end up being interesting and important and maybe
a weird circumstantial coincidence that on the day that President Obama
announced all of this new policy on climate change, Ed Markey went to the
Senate. I mean, if there is an opposite number to James Inhofe, climate
denier in the Senate, it has been Ed Markey, climate championed in the
And Ed Markey, today graduated to the U.S. Senate, on the day that
President Obama made these huge promises in policy in this field. This may
be sort of a turning point day.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Right at the top of a Pentagon press conference today, the
Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, announced big news for the U.S.
Army. Right now, there are 45 combat brigades, excuse me, of active U.S.
duty soldiers. But the Army today announced that they are cutting those 44
brigades down to 33 brigades, as part of an overall effort to cut the size
of the army by 80,000 troops over the next few years. They are cutting out
Even after cutting 80,000 troops out of the army, we will still have
an army that is 10,000 soldiers larger than the force we had on 9/11.
Today in the war in Afghanistan, Taliban launched a major attack in
Kabul, specifically one of the parts of Kabul that is supposed to be one of
the safest parts of the city, where the presidential palace is, and the
U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters is.
One of two Taliban vehicles made it through a checkpoint into that
supposedly very secure area of capitol. The second Taliban vehicle was
then stopped and that is when the Taliban fighters started to shoot and
then blew up one of their vehicles. This was in broad daylight, early this
morning, in supposedly the safest and most heavily guarded place in that
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack right now. They said that
their real target was the CIA compound. Here is the most worrying part of
all of it, though, the reports that the attackers were driving the types of
vehicles that diplomats were driving there in Afghanistan and that other
people generally do not have.
More worryingly, also reports today that they had NATO ID cards.
Fake ID is not exactly a news flash in Afghanistan or anywhere, but fake
NATO IDs got enough to get in at least some of the presidential compound in
Afghanistan? That is very, very bad news.
I mean, I guess the alternative explanation is that the NATO IDs were
not fake, they were real, and the Taliban attackers were actually the guys
issued the IDs in the first place. If that`s the case, then that`s even
So yes, we are winding down the war in Afghanistan, there are awkward
diplomatic efforts underway to try to get peace talks. Responsibility for
security in Afghanistan has been handed off to the Afghans from U.S.-led
But there are 68,000 Americans still there, just in the military,
plus CIA, plus State Department, plus, journalists, plus contractors, plus
everybody else. And the winding down phase in Afghanistan is due to the
last still another year and a half. And it is still a hell of a dangerous
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Thanks for being with us.
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