THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
October 11, 2013
Guest: John Stanton, Eric Schlosser
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
All right. This is going to be kind of a fun show. This is going to
be one of those shows where something might go terrifically technically
wrong, in which case, it might even be more fun than if it works. I`m just
All right. Today in our nation`s capital, it rained. Dreary morning
commute in the D.C. area today. Because it was raining hard at times this
morning, that meant the rainy morning come meet around the beltway from
Virginia to Maryland and the D.C. area, it went at a rather dreary, raining
But today was special. Today was also supposed to be the day of the
massive freedom truckers protest ride, where they were going to bring
Washington to its knees with a massive convoy style protest that was going
to shut down the Washington Beltway. Remember that movie, convoy, from
1978? I loved that movie.
The conservative TV network, FOX News Channel, has been hyping the
trucker protest all week. The trucker protest organizer said they expected
thousands of truckers to take part today.
One radio host who was helping to hype the trucker protest in the
conservative media said he thought if 3,000 truckers turned out, that would
inspire a nationwide general strike of 100 million Americans to, quote,
"get out on the street, get out on the roads and demand that our
legislature follow the Constitution."
That did not happen. Just a few guys showed up and they have not yet
inspired a general strike of 100 million Americans.
Virginia state police spokesperson said today, quote, "it was pretty
much a nonevent."
A Maryland State Highway Administration said the same thing. Their
spokesperson told "The Washington Post," quote, "nothing materialized."
So, basically, it was a rainy day commute. Maryland says there were a
few accidents around college park, but that was because of the rain, not
the truckers. That said, though, the truckers protest got so much hype,
particularly in the conservative media, that I think a lot of people local
news felt like even though it didn`t really turn out to be much of
anything, it`s been hyped so much they had to go cover it. They had to go
at least cover the few guys who showed up.
REPORTER: They started early this morning, they say they plan to go
through the weekend here and what they are basically doing is just driving
over this speed, the minimum speed limit so that they`re not cited for
impeding traffic. It`s their way of demonstrating against the Obama
administration and Congress, not because of the budget impasse, but for a
variety of grievances.
JOHN JOHNSON: Ain`t nobody that wants anything violent to happen.
Everybody`s talking about, you know, oh, we need a civil war, we need a
revolution, stuff like that. We need a peaceful revolution is what we
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody knows about the Crosby Stills Nash song,
you know, the four dead in Ohio. How about the four dead in Benghazi?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay out of the our health care. Let the doctors
handle that. Don`t get into things they don`t understand.
REPORTER: So, you see they have a variety of issues they`re upset
about. Mr. Johnson there that you saw was actually cited by Maryland State
Police for going 39 miles per hour. Virginia state police say they`ve had
no issues since this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sherrie Ly is live in Woodbridge, Virginia, with
a closer look now. And, Sherrie, have you seen many more truckers for the
cause this morning?
REPORTER: Well, Allison and Sarah, we have not seen a whole lot of
those truckers coming through. We understand they`re up around the beltway
area, but given the numbers, they may be very easy to miss if you`re out
there. No impact on traffic so far.
REPORTER: The biggest issue out here has been people driving too fast
for these very slick conditions.
MADDOW: So, the trucker protest did not turn out to be as exciting as
the right was hoping it was going to be.
Tomorrow, it`s supposed to be more rain in the D.C. area. Tomorrow`s
stunt is supposed to be Glenn Beck picking up trash. The former FOX News
host who now does a thing on the Internet machine, he says he will pick up
trash tomorrow at Washington landmarks along with a Tea Party group. The
press release says the only reason federal monuments and parks are closed
during the federal shutdown is because, quote, "The Obama administration
has petulantly tried to make the shutdown some political gain."
They believe that the shutdown of the government doesn`t actually shut
down things run by the federal government, except for the ones President
Obama feels petulant about. So, those are the ones to which they will send
Glenn Beck tomorrow to collect trash.
This is actually the press release from the event which was sent out
for FreedomWorks. A little awkward for FreedomWorks specifically to be
doing an event with Glenn Beck right now, trash related or otherwise,
because Rosie Gray of "BuzzFeed" today just reported on why in this sort of
moment of Tea Party glory that we were having as a nation, with the
government shutdown and the Republicans hurdling the country towards
default and hitting the debt ceiling, that the Tea Party, no nothing
confrontational politics really bringing the country to its knees in a way
they have long fantasized about.
FreedomWorks, in the middle of all of this, has been nowhere to be
seen. And it turns out, according to a new reporting from "BuzzFeed",
that`s because FreedomWorks with broke, after being founded by the
billionaire Koch brothers and raising more than $40 million last year,
after firing Dick Armey and being able to afford to give him $8 million to
make him go away when they fired him, FreedomWorks now is broke. They
reportedly just had to take out a $1 million line of credit in order to try
to keep their thing together. $1 million coincidentally is also the amount
of money that FreedomWorks has just given to Glenn Beck, so that they can
be paid corporate sponsors of his Internet TV show. They`re having to take
a loan for a million dollars because they have done things like pay Glenn
Beck a million dollars.
But that does buy them the right to appear alongside Glenn Beck at the
trash event tomorrow in the rain in Washington, D.C. And you thought your
shutdown week was going poorly.
I mean, FreedomWorks really is in the kind of disarray it seems they
are in, it might help to explain the confused messaging from them.
I mean, their even tomorrow, the trash event, the Glenn Beck trash
event is essentially to say they are for the shutdown. They`ve been
advocating for the shutdown all this time. They`re all for the shutdown.
They`re not against the shutdown at all. But they are outraged by the
It`s confusing, right? It`s a very confusing message. FreedomWorks
and Glenn Beck picking up trash is a confusing thing.
It`s not just them being confusing right now as we head into the
second weekend of the government shutdown, the messages from other right
wing groups are even more central to this fight are getting more confusing
as well. If there`s one group that`s been right out in front of the get
rid of Obamacare at all costs caucus, that, of course, would have to be
Heritage Action. They`re the group that bought half a million dollars in
ads against Republican members of Congress to pressure them to take a hard
line, to pressure them to shutdown the government as a way of trying to
And Heritage Action comes into this fight with a long history of
advocating against raising the debt ceiling. They`ve called raising the
debt ceiling just a nonstarter, something that shouldn`t be discussed from
the beginning. So, Heritage Action, if you`re trying to get a grip on
their position, they came into this thinking absolutely, do not raise the
debt ceiling. This is all about Obamacare for us, pour everything you have
into the Obamacare fight and do not raise the debt ceiling.
But now, this week, heritage action has changed their minds on the
debt ceiling part. So, instead of don`t raise the debt ceiling, now, they
have decided as of this week, please do raise the debt ceiling. Heritage
Action announced that they`re actually just fine with raising the debt
ceiling because it`s still about Obamacare for them, and that will somehow
help them get rid of Obamacare.
So, this is Heritage Foundation. Don`t raise the debt ceiling, now,
please do raise the debt ceiling. But for them, it`s all about Obamacare.
Next up, in terms of influence, probably the Club for Growth. The
Grover Norquist anti-tax conservative group, they also had a change of
heart this week. The Club for Growth used to be all about refusing to
raise the debt ceiling. For them, it`s not about Obamacare. It`s about
all sorts of other stuff. But their message all along has been do not
raise the debt ceiling.
This week though, the Club for Growth also announced that -- look away
if Republicans do decide to raise the debt ceiling.
So, it`s still not about Obamacare for them, but now, their new
message is please do increase it. We want lots of non-Obamacare related
things, but don`t hit the debt ceiling on our account. That was their
message change this week.
Now, the Koch brothers funded Americans for Prosperity Group, they get
points for consistency in their devotion to hard core shutting everything
down. They want the government shut down. They do not want to raise the
debt ceiling. They want none of that.
So, for them, it is not particularly about Obamacare. It`s not really
about Obamacare for them. But they are definitely willing to hit the debt
ceiling for all the other stuff they want.
So, that`s AFP. At least they have stayed the same. They`re funded,
though, by the Koch brothers, right? And the Koch brothers, they have
been funding not just AFP, but they`ve been funding to the tone of hundreds
of millions of dollars, basically all of the groups that have been
demanding a government shutdown as a way of trying to killing Obamacare.
They funded all of these groups. They funded Heritage Action. They
funded AFP. They funded all Tea Party groups. All these groups that have
been government shutdown as a way of trying to kill Obamacare.
Shut down the government, right? Shut down the government, it`s all
about Obamacare. They`ve spent over $200 million in a year on these groups
that have been pushing for a government shutdown over Obamacare. But this
week, they changed their mind and decided actually, we do not want a
government shutdown anymore. Please do not shut down the government over
Obamacare. They wrote a nice letter to the senate saying we never meant
that, we take it all back.
They wrote a letter to the Senate saying, yes, we still sure hate
Obamacare, but whatever made you think we want a government shutdown? Just
because we spent over $200 million trying to get that.
In terms of the actual Republicans inside Congress, it`s the freshman
House Republican, Mark Meadows from North Carolina who you recall wrote the
initial leader demanding the shutdown, wrote the letter to John Boehner,
right. He rallied 80 other House Republicans to demand the shutdown over
Obamacare in the first place.
So, Mark Meadows is staying firm right now as of wanting the shutdown.
He`s the guy who asked for it in the first place. But now, he has an
interesting change of heart, because he still wants to shut down the
government, but for him, it was all about Obamacare. Now, it`s no longer
about Obamacare. He said after he got the shutdown, that for him, it`s no
longer about Obamacare anymore.
That seems to also be sort of where the House Republican leadership
is. They still want the shutdown, used to be about Obamacare, now, they
say it`s not about Obamacare. They`re not even negotiating about that
anymore. They`re still trying to figure out what it is about now.
On the debt ceiling part of it though, John Boehner`s whole idea all
year long is that he didn`t want to fight about the shutdown. He wanted to
fight about the debt ceiling. He wanted to not raise the debt ceiling
without a big ransom paid by the Democrats and the president on all sorts
of things. So, he didn`t care about Obamacare specifically. So, it`s not
about Obamacare, right?
But there`s all sorts of specific stuff that he wanted to get for the
debt ceiling. Maybe even that specific stuff. Just other stuff. He
wanted to get something, but he didn`t want to raise the debt ceiling.
That`s where he thought he had the most leverage. That`s been pretty much
his position all year.
Well, now, in the second week of getting crushed in the polls and
making no progress toward anything that he purports to want, for John
Boehner, it is still not about Obamacare, but John Boehner`s new idea is
maybe just for a few days, let`s raise the debt ceiling. We could just do
it for a couple of days, couple of weeks, give me some of what I want,
maybe? Good plan?
That brings us to the Senate Republican, who met today with President
Obama. They completely reject what the House Republicans are saying. For
them, it is not about Obamacare. They say we`re never going to defend
Obamacare. Why are we fighting about that?
But they don`t want to raise the debt ceiling, not even for just a few
days without some concession. So, same goes for them for the government
shutdown. The only way they want the government reopen, the only way they
want the debt ceiling raised is if they get their other demands met.
So, it`s not about Obamacare for them. It`s -- they need something,
but they are willing to open up the government.
So, can you keep track of that? I mean, one by one, if you`re the
kind of Republican in Congress, God bless you, who likes to or needs to
take cues from right wing activist groups, or even if you`re just looking
for cues from your colleagues in Congress, it is hard to imagine what those
cues are telling you to do, all those contradictory instructions, right?
It`s hard to imagine if you`re a Republican in Congress. But even
without the Republicans, petty the poor Republicans, petty the White House,
right? Trying to figure out what it is that the other side wants, if
you`re from the outside looking in at the right, right now, trying figure
out what they want -- this is our summary of their demands as best we can
figure them. This is what they`re saying they want.
And this is just the mainstream stuff. This isn`t going to the fringy
group like the trucker who says he wants to drive around the Washington
Beltway all weekend because of Benghazi. This is not including like
Michele Bachmann, for example, who said this week in Congress that she is
legislating to get America well-positioned for the apocalypse because we
have now entered the end times.
This is just the current or recently positions of Republican
congressional leadership and the main conservative interest groups that
Republicans are listening to right now in Washington. This is a collection
of what they want. This is what they say is important to them.
This is why the government is shutdown for 11 days and counting now,
and why we are hurtling toward hitting the debt ceiling and the intended
prospect of catastrophic, international, unprecedented, economic
conflagration, because of this very clear message.
The big idea in Republican politics for the past few years is the
collapse of internal organization in that party, right? I mean, TV
networks and talk radio guys and rich billionaires who are willing to spend
on campaigns and activism, they can get Republican members of Congress to
jump much more than their own ostensible party leadership can.
And because of that, there`s no real leadership inside the party,
right? There`s no internal coherence to what they`re doing and that makes
for messages so mixed that it is sometimes a hilarious exercise to try to
figure out what they are saying and it is hilarious that this is their
purported message right now, right? It is hilarious, except for the fact
this mess is what House Republicans are trying to read right now as their
instruction manual, their detailed instruction manual for reopening the
federal government and avoiding a catastrophic default disaster that would
crash the world economy and destroy the dollar for a generation or more.
They`re looking for a way out of this mess by reading what this crowd
is telling them to do. Good luck to us all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS POLITICAL PRODUCER: There was NBC News/"Wall
Street Journal" poll that came out yesterday that shows significance damage
to the GOP brand. Is that how you view it? Have you been doing the right
thing or do you think you`ve done damage to your party?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, you know, the polling has varied and
I`ll know that poll was very heavily weighted with an awful lot of
Democrats, with an awful lot of Obama supporters and 20 percent of the
people polled were government workers. If you look at the sample that they
surveyed, 20 percent of the people they talked to were government
employees, 20 percent of this country are not government employees.
HUNT: So, you would take issue with methodology as opposed to the
CRUZ: I think it was a poll, if you seek out liberal Obama supporters
and ask them their views, they`re going to tell you they`re liberal Obama
supporters. That`s not reflective of where the country is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just ask President Romney. The polls are skewed.
The Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the architects, of
course, of the shutdown, telling NBC News Kasie Hunt today that the polls
are skewed, specifically the new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll is
skewed and secretly, people actually love the government shutdown.
You heard Senator Cruz say that the new NBC polls which says Americans
overwhelmingly blame Republicans for the shutdown and hate it, he says the
poll cannot be trusted because 20 percent of the people polled were
government employees and according to him, quote, "20 percent of the people
of this country are not government employees."
It turns out, yes, actually, they are. About 20 percent of the
country is, in fact, employed by the government at some level like cops or
firefighters or members of the military or teachers. They would turn up as
government employees, 20 percent of the country, which is why the poll has
that sample size.
But Republican Senator Ted Cruz does not believe it. The polls must
be skewed. He`s sure of it.
Joining us now is John Stanton, Washington bureau chief of "BuzzFeed".
Mr. Stanton, it`s good to have you here tonight. Thanks for being
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: It`s good to see you.
MADDOW: So, unskewing the polls is back. I have to ask you is this
is a widespread thing you are hearing from Republican sources right now
that they don`t believe the polling. The polling must secretly be on their
side, even though it doesn`t seem this way or is this just a Ted Cruz
STANTON: No, I think this is just Ted Cruz frankly. Republicans are
mostly broken into two camps on this. They see the polls are doing badly
and they are terrified about what that means. And then you have other
Republicans who see the polls. They believe what they`re doing is morally
right and the polls be dammed.
And so, there are few Republicans that you`re going to run into and
believe the shutdown is doing any favors politically, other than apparently
MADDOW: John, we tried to map today what the most influential
conservative interest groups are telling Republicans in Congress to do now,
are telling them what to focus on and how to tactically move ahead. I
expected that we would see them all sort of falling in line with some new
strategy that we might be able to map based on what signals they`re
sending. It turns out, at least as best as we can map, they`re all saying
completely, completely incoherent things if you try to mix them into one
At this point, do House Republicans care what these lobbying groups
are telling them? Does it matter they`re getting a lot of cross signals?
STANTON: No, they don`t. For House Republicans, particular for the
sort of core of 40 or 50 members that are really sort of driving this
entire process, there is one thing and one thing only they care about, not
Obamacare. They want to get rid of Obamacare, or defund it, or delay it
sort of in the way that could become permanent.
And all these other things are sort of extraneous to them. In fact, a
number of them like Congressman Paul Brown today said if there is a deal,
that does not include a delay or a defunding of Obamacare, he will not vote
for it, and there are a lot of these guys that feel this way. I think that
the outside groups are finding themselves in the position in a lot of ways
similar to what John Boehner has, which is he`s got these guys and they
have these people now they have sort of created and helped bring along and
they have become sort of their own entity that care about the thing that
they care about, and it doesn`t matter what the people that have helped
them get their say.
MADDOW: It doesn`t seem like the plan in either the House or Senate
right now is to actually move forward on anything that puts Obamacare out
front. It seems everything that we`re hearing in terms of what deal might
be offered by the Republicans, whether or not Democrats are going to accept
it is well passed focusing on Obamacare. So, does this mean those 50 or 60
House Republicans that you`re describing, sort of Paul Broun guys, that
they`re going to be left out in the cold no matter what happened?
STANTON: Well, that`s a great question. I think certainly in the
Senate, that`s what the senate would like to do. Most have gotten well
past the point where they feel at all acceptable, they want to try to do
something. I think leadership in the House certainly feels that way, they
say. You know, that they look at what`s going on and they understand the
damage they`re doing to the party and the damage they`re doing, frankly, to
the long-term prospects of repealing Obamacare or replacing it with
something they feel is better.
The problem I think is that leadership in the House understands that
to a certain degree, the unity you`re seeing amongst the Republican
conference is based on the fact that leadership is doing what these folks
want them to do and they understand that the moment they move away from
that is going to reopen this old wound that has been there for the last
three years, putting themselves and the Tea Party for the wing of the
party, and again, it`s unclear to me whether or not they can pull that off,
short of using a sort of smaller group of members to work with Democrats to
pass something that can get through Senate into the White House.
MADDOW: John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed, I have to
say, John, I have to give you special props. We called you tonight to ask
you to be on the show, I know you were at a bar where a bondage convention
was letting out. It`s difficult to do the pre-interview.
So, I want to thank you for soldiering through that for us, big boy.
STANTON: It was a little tough. It was a pink bondage bonding. So,
you know, that`s a tough thing to do.
MADDOW: I love your life. I love your life.
John Stanton, thank you very much.
All right. Seriously, true story, bondage convention.
The old line used to be, "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in
line." Now, nobody cares what Democrats are falling into, but Republicans
are definitely not falling in line. Democrats are -- Republicans are
seemingly falling apart, which means everybody is getting their predictions
wrong about what Republicans are going to do next.
We`ve got important details on that straight ahead.
Plus, we`ve got Eric Schlosser tonight for the interview, for an
astonishing story that has nothing at all to do with the shutdown, but it
might keep you up late tonight.
Hold on. It`s all coming up.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SANDY RIOS: The implications of this are pretty frightening and, of
course, it`s interesting that this is the country from which our president
hails, this is lineage. We know his cousin Raila Odinga was -- is a Muslim
communist. It`s just amazing. I think he`s the prime minister right now.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The country from which our president hails is called the
United States which does not have a prime minister named Odinga, or
anything else, we don`t even have a prime minister. But the fact that the
specific proportion of the American right does not know turns out to be
important for understanding why the government shutdown did not get fixed
today and why I think it is not likely to be fixed anytime soon.
And that story is coming up.
MADDOW: In 2007, an Air Force crew at Minot Air Force Base in Minot,
North Dakota, was supposed to load missiles without the nuclear warheads on
them on to a B-52 bomber, so those missies could be transferred down to
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. The Minot crew did not follow the
correct procedures for handling nuclear capable missiles and it turns out
they loaded the wrong missiles on to that B-52. They accidentally loaded
on to that plane, six missiles with live nuclear warheads on them.
The B-52 pilot, clueless about what they were carrying, flew down to
Louisiana. They landed at Barksdale and they left those six live nuclear-
tipped missiles sitting unguarded on the tarmac in Louisiana for nine hour,
until somebody finally realized, oh, my stars, these are not what we think
That debacle cost the secretary of the Air Force and Air Force chief
of staff their jobs. Nuclear operations at Minot were suspended because,
hey, it turns out, temporarily misplacing live nuclear warheads is a
fireable offense. That seems good.
So Minot temporarily lost their right to safeguard our nuclear
weapons. When Minot tried to earn it back, they failed. They failed their
comeback inspection. They got an unsatisfactory rating, which is not
surprising considering the inspectors finding that, quote, "security
personnel could not be bothered to stop playing video games on their cell
phones" during the inspection.
A couple of months later, a second Air Force base protecting nuclear
weapons failed its nuclear safety inspection. That happened five years
ago. From Minot to Barksdale losing the nukes thing was bad enough. The
aftermath was even maybe worse. Since that incident did not seem to jolt
the Air Force to any feeling of concern.
Then Secretary of Defense Bob Gates was plainly and vocally horrified.
He announced that taking care of and securing our aging and rather useless
nuclear weapons would henceforth become more of a priority. Inspections
would be rigorous. Commanders would be held to account. The Obama
administration would spend billions of dollars more on the nuclear weapons
mission. Bob Gates essentially said never again, this would never happen
Well, fast forward to this year, 2013. President Obama`s in his
second term. "Breaking Bad" is over. Alec Baldwin is the newest MSNBC
More than five years have passed since the terrifying, potentially
world ending oops at Minot Air Force Base, right? More than five years to
fix what ails the security apparatus protecting our thousands of nuclear
weapons, and in March of this year, Minot failed again. The nuclear
missing wing earned three D grades.
The commander there said the United States was suffering from a rot in
the nuclear weapons handling force. Seventeen officers were taken off
launch control duty at Minot.
In June, the commander in charge of training the nuclear missile
cruise at Minot was relieved of his post. Thanks, sir, we`ll take it from
In August, it was another Air Force base that handles nuclear weapons,
at Malmstrom, Montana, which failed another nuclear surety inspection.
That was their third inspection failure in the past five years.
Then last week, the military`s number two guy in charge of nuclear
weapons got fired after they found out he was using counterfeit poker chips
at an Indian casino.
Now, after the number two guy in charge of our nuclear weapons for the
United States military lost his job because of the counterfeit chips in the
Indian casino thing, now, today, the number one guy in charge of nuclear
weapons got fired, too, and it was not for the same thing. We do not know
what his firing is about, but we know what it`s not about. NBC News has
been told his firing was not about sexual impropriety or drug use or
criminal conduct of any kind or gambling.
Whatever it is that caused him to be fired, it said to be an incident
of personal misbehavior that occurred several months ago. Beyond that, I
cannot tell you because I don`t know. But at this point, really, how are
we supposed to feel? Are we supposed to feel good that the Air Force is
watching over its commanders very closely and punishing bad behavior a lot
whenever it happens, or should we be terrified that so many people in high
ranking positions in charge of the most powerful weapons on earth are
failing inspections, losing weapons, committing crimes and doing things we
don`t understand but the military thinks are fireable offenses.
Should we be happy, or should we be terrified? Is both an option?
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Eric Schlosser. He`s the
award-winning investigative journalist, who`s author of the really
excellent new book, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus
Accident, and Illusion of Safety".
Mr. Schlosser, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate
you being here.
ERIC SCHLOSSER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: When most people think about nuclear weapons and handling
them, we imagine highly skilled people doing their j with a lot of focus.
What do you discover in the research for your book about the difference
between the reality of that work and the image?
SCHLOSSER: You know, we go in phases in which there is very careful
management of our arsenal, then phases in which it`s more lax. I mean, in
my book, I write about the 1970s. There were real problems with illegal
drug use among officers and enlisted men handling weapons. There were
people smoking pot in launch control centers, people who are using LSD and
also had a responsibility with nuclear weapons.
So, this isn`t a new problem, and when things got better. But
certainly in the last 15 years or so, the air force seems to have lost the
plot when it comes to the management of its arsenal and they`re clearly
serving moral problems, but most important, problems with the management at
the to top.
MADDOW: You write somewhat surprisingly, I`ve been fascinated with
nuclear weapons and mishaps involving nuclear weapons for a long time. So,
your book is fascinating to me, and also I think a real treasure in terms
of just deep research. One of the things I did not expect to find was your
relative praise for the navy over the Air Force. You say that the Navy`s
been better dealing with nuclear weapons handling than the Air Force has.
Why is that?
SCHLOSSER: Well, right now, most people don`t realize that the Navy
has more nuclear warheads than the Air Force. They`re on submarines and
there may be problems, we just hasn`t heard about them. But the culture of
the Navy started with Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear submarines.
And for some reason, the Air Force and its culture seems to have just gone
off the rails.
They had a much more gung-ho culture during the Cold War and now that
there doesn`t seem to be a point to these land-based missiles, there seems
to be moral problems. These land-based missiles are really only useful for
attacking Russia or China, and the head of the Global Strike Command, the
Air Force officer in charge of all of their nuclear weapons said recently
there was a remote possibility of Russia attacking us and our having to use
He said the greatest concern he had was of an accident and I think
he`s right. These are the most dangerous weapons as well as the most
powerful weapons we`ve built and if we`re going to have them, we need to
spare no expense in how we manage them.
MADDOW: In terms of the way we`ve dealt with problems, we`ve seen
secretary of the Air Force fired, Air Force chief of staff fired, multiple
command level officers fired, 17 launch control officers suspended all at
once, whole bases publicly shamed and stripped of their nuclear
responsibilities. That`s before these last two commanders were just fired
within the space of a week.
But even with all that accountability, the hits keep coming. Why
isn`t that negative reinforcement bringing about any change?
SCHLOSSER: Well, I`m hoping that this publicity will lead to a real
debate. We need a national debate over our nuclear weapons. How many
should we have? Why do we need them? How should they be deployed?
All of our weapons systems are ageing. Our missiles, the land-based
missiles, were supposed to be taken off duty in the 1980s. They`re still
on-duty. Our submarines are getting older.
The B-52 bomber, which is our principle nuclear bomber, hasn`t been
built since the Kennedy administration. So, I`m hoping we`ll have a real
national debate about why we have these weapons, how many we need, how they
should be deployed, and part of that will be to ensure the people who
manage them have the best training, the best morale, are compensated. I
think they have a most important job in our military, which is safeguarding
the most powerful weapons.
MADDOW: Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist and author of the
new book, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and
Illusion of Safety". Eric, I wrote about this topic a very little bit at
the end of the book that I published last year.
SCHLOSSER: I read your book. You were right on the mark.
MADDOW: Well, Damascus accident and the socket wrench setting off the
Damascus accident, that`s the central narrative point of your book is so
mind bending and I knew it already, but reading it and the way you put it,
it`s just -- it`s a real treasure, so thank you for doing this. It`s
really important work.
SCHLOSSER: Thank you very much. Thank you.
All right. OK. Still to come, the premier of the new Alec Baldwin
show which starts right at the top of the hour after this show. Tonight is
the firs night, it`s very exciting.
Also, important news about flying upside down through cloud banks.
Please stay with us. Happy Friday.
MADDOW: When human beings first began to fly, they strapped
themselves on to the wings. You became your own fuselage, give the
propeller a crank, and away you go, flying for at least a second. For the
next couple of decades as planes got faster and more sophisticated, the way
in which pilots flew really stayed simple. Spin propeller, take speed,
know your engines.
Daredevils, and fighter pilots, and male runners, they all believed
once you understood how to work the mechanics of your plane, you just
climbed in and flew, but in one important sense, they were wrong. It turns
out that human beings have a particular problem with flying that we didn`t
know we had before we tried flying, and the problem can be a very big one.
While flying in an airplane, if you can`t see the horizon, we humans
cannot necessarily tell if we are right side up on or a slant or upside
down. Our internal gyro scopes are not great at telling us that
information when we don`t have visual cues to confirm which way is up.
During World War II, the military discovered that when pilots would
fly into a fog or into heavy clouds, they sometimes would emerge on the
other side flying upside down with no idea they had been upside down or how
long they had been flying that way. Scary, right?
It`s also instructed. A psychology instructor named Herman Witkin
studied this and came up with a name for it. If you are the kind of person
who could tell when you were flying upside down, even in the pitch dark
with no way to see the horizon, then Herman Witkin said you were field
independent. The more likely to be able to find the shape on the left in
these squared grid on the right. That`s how they tested it. You are field
If you have a hard time finding the shape on the left and the grid on
right, then you are more likely to be called what Herman Witkin said was
field dependent, and thus, you are more likely to come zooming out of a
cloud bank upside down and very, very surprise.
Can you spot the shape on the left in the one on the right? Would you
know if you were flying upside down?
There`s two kinds of people in the world, at least in this sense. You
either see that shape or you don`t. You either stay right side up in the
cloud bank, or you don`t.
The very first pilots to realize our human weakness with this had
trouble convincing other people about it. The man actually standing in
this picture got sent to the loony bin twice with being so obsessed with
what he had suddenly about what humans could and couldn`t do. Nobody
wanted to believe this was true, but eventually, the people who figured out
it was true convinced everybody else.
And pilots fly with instruments now. We understand through no fault
of their own, pilots can be flying upside down or sideways and having no
idea about it. So, we take steps to overcome that human weakness.
That is how it worked out in aviation. But in politician, we`ve still
got people coming out of the cloud bank upside down and mystified about it
with no way to get themselves back to earth. Why some conservative
politicians think the shutdown is going great for Republicans even as the
rest of them see the disaster. That story is next.
MADDOW: This is the guy who started the government shutdown among the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You know, it`s interesting
when the more we find out, the more we realize how wrong the direction
we`re going. And so what we`re going to do is take back our country, 2012
is the time that we`re going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it
is, we`re going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Send him home to Kenya. That is Mark Meadows, freshman
Republican from North Carolina. Freshman, he was elected last year and he
was elected last year as a birther. 2012, long after most of the birther
movement had folded up their long form birth certificates and gone home,
good old Mark Meadows in North Carolina was still out there running and
campaigning openly in 2012 on birtherism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: If the president is not a natural born citizen, then
he does not control the military. So the question I have, if your
Congress, will you pursue some kind of an investigation to find out whether
or not this guy is really a citizen and entitled to those authority?
You know, I see it as -- if we do our job from a grassroots
standpoint, we won`t have to worry about it. You know what, we`ll send him
back home to Kenya or wherever it is. ]
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Despite his promises on the campaign trail, Congressman Mark
Meadows does not seem to have spent much time investigating the president`s
secret birth place in Kenya.
But Mark Meadows has really made a mark. He was he a birther
congressman, Mark Meadows, who wrote the letter last month demanding that
he make funding the government contingent on killing Obamacare, demanding
that John Boehner shutdown the government if Obamacare couldn`t be stopped.
Mark Meadows got 80 signatures in Congress for that letter, and John
Boehner shut down the government by exactly the means that Mark Meadows
demanded. And that is how we got to where we are now.
And the fact that this shutdown started with a guy who was still
running as a birther in 2012, ought to have been more of a signal than it
has been about this overall effort. And interestingly, it is the local
papers around the country that have started to pick up on this aspect,
maybe even more than the Beltway.
In Illinois, the paper in Springfield, "The Journal Register" tracked
down their two local Republican congressmen who signed on to the Mark
Meadows letter, and asked those congressmen, hey, are you guys signing on
for this guy for everything. You signed his shutdown letter. Are you
Staffers for both of those congressmen immediately tried to distance
their bosses from Mark Meadows, at least on the birther front. The office
of Congressman Rodney Davis told the Springfield paper, those birther
comments are highly wrong and highly disrespectful to the president. The
office of Congressman Aaron Schock said those comments by that member of
Congress are clearly disrespectful and Congressman Schock does not
associate himself with those comments at all.
So, those congressmen do not agree with the birther part of the agenda
of the guy whose shutdown they signed on for. But it`s more important than
the Beltway gives it credit for, that this is where our current national
crisis sprung from. The failure to recognize that the shutdown really came
from the fringe, from the side that was still birther in 2010 has let, I
think, to a failure of good predictions at a time when we need them. It`s
a really historically important moment in American politics and we only
have very fuzzy ideas about what`s going to happen next.
This is the most mainstream story in the world, right? The federal
government is shutdown for two weeks now. We`re facing economic apocalypse
with the debt ceiling collapse, which is due on Thursday. And so, every
American has a stake in this very big story. And every local newspaper and
every anchor in every pundit in the country, every talking on every street
corner is trying to understand this crisis, trying to predict where this is
going to go.
And to do that accurately, you have to know where this crisis is come
from. And where this is coming from is not a mainstream place. The
mainstream and the rest of politics are playing with a different deck of
cards from the guys who started this thing.
They -- I don`t mean it in the derogatory way, I mean it in a
descriptive way -- they have a different set of values. They have a
different sense of what is normal. They have a different sense of what
counts as reasonable politics in America -- and failing to appreciate that,
means that we fail to develop reasonably accurate expectations for their
behavior. And that has become really important.
So, polling comes out. The Gallup poll and the NBC/"Wall Street
Journal" poll, and "The Washington Post"/ABC poll, and the CNN poll, and
the Pew Research Center polling, all of this new polling scientifically
polling Americans showing that Americans hate the shutdown and they blame
the Republicans for it. You might expect that to cause the Republicans to
alter their behavior or at least try to rebut the presumptions behind those
opinions in the polls.
But instead the response from the drivers of the shutdown is, polls,
those are skewed. We have our own poll. Ted Cruz did pay for his own poll
to rebut the other real ones. And in his own poll shows that Republicans
are doing great.
Jim DeMint on the occasion week two of the shutdown that has
infuriated the nation is still describing it as a temporary slow down.
There is no shutdown at all. In the wonderful of Jim DeMint, things are
Predicting their behavior can`t be done accurately if you think
they`re people who are not afraid by those poll numbers. They`re not
afraid by them. Consider where these guys are coming from. Look at the
people they hear from. Look at where Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint are spending
They`re both at the Values Voter Summit this weekend. Both Ted Cruz
and Jim DeMint sharing their schedule with birther luminaries, like
conservative talk show host Sandy Rios who has this to say about the recent
terror attack at that mall in Kenya.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RIOS: The implications of this are pretty frightening and, of course,
it`s interesting that this is the country from which our president hails,
this is his lineage. We know that his cousin, Raila Odinga, was -- is a
Muslim communist. It`s just amazing. I think he`s the prime minister
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, not the prime minister of Kenya anymore, not a
Muslim, not a communist, and not the president`s cousin.
Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint are spending the weekend with people like
Sandy Rios and birther who tend to sound more reasonable like Frank
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
FRANK GAFFNEY: On so many other points involved in this issue,
however, for example, where the president was born, there seems to have
been, well, a lack of documentation to say the least, to put it, again
charitably. What`s going on with that?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You want to know who`s doing the plenary session at that
Values Voter Summit with Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz this weekend? You want to
know? Yes. Yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: Are you out of your mind? America. I ask
you sincerely, are you out of your mind?
I mean, I really sincerely thought this weekend, maybe it`s time to
move to Canada. It`s time to move to Canada because these people are not
screwing around. If you don`t think they`re going to scoop people up, they
will. They`ve upped it now.
Now they`re putting a bigger fence around. Now they`re putting armed
guards around it. This is the beginning of teaching the American people a
lesson. Don`t you screw with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He used to be on TV. He`s now on the Internet machine, but
he will be hosting the afternoon session at the Values Voter Summit
tomorrow and then they can settle in for a breakout session with Joseph
Farrah who makes a living selling birther bumper stickers. Where is the
real birth certificate? Along with specialty items like the real birth
Joseph Farrah is also warning if it would come to this, because you
have a secret Muslim, gay, Chicago-style gangster president who was quite
frankly not even born was just found under a rock in the Serengeti.
This is where the drivers of the Republican government shutdown are
spending their weekend and this is their milieu. This crisis in Washington
right now is not a normal Republican versus Democrat fight that can be
understand through the lens of previous Republican versus Democrat fight.
If these were normal Democrats versus normal Republicans, this would be
resolved by now.
What happened inside the Republican Party is they really handed this
one over to the fringe and it means that anybody who is operating under
anything that we can learn from a previous political playbook is wrong.
There`s no way to make predictions about what happens now without
understanding where this all started.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again.
Now, it`s time for the premiere of "UP LATE WITH ALEC BALDWIN."
Have a great night.
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