THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 13, 2013
Guest: Donald McEachin, David Saperstein
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us
Today, as you probably know, was a really, really busy news day.
There`s a lot going on.
The administration released the enrollment numbers for the Affordable
Care Act. It turns out in the first months of Obamacare going into effect,
over 100,000 people enrolled in new health insurance plans. President
Obama had tried to set expectations low for what the first enrollment
numbers would be. His speech last month in Boston, for example, noted that
in the first month of sign-ups for the Massachusetts version of health
reform, only 100 people signed none the whole first month.
But in Massachusetts, eventually, the glitches got ironed out, and
enrollment numbers went up. And now, in Massachusetts, there`s essentially
universal coverage in the state.
That state version of health reform is, of course, the template for
our efforts now at national reform. But the first numbers for the first
month are out as of today, 100,000 people signed up in the first month. In
addition, another one million people were determined to be eligible for
getting a new plan from the new marketplaces for health insurance. But
they have not chosen a plan yet.
The overall reform idea is for everybody to get health insurance over
time. Republicans today are rejoicing in the low early numbers from month
one today, praying nobody else signs up to get health insurance, but we`ll
see how it goes. History tells us these things do tend to start slowly.
Also in Washington today, you just heard on "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes,
they also saw the introduction of a landmark new piece of federal
legislation that would try to protect women`s access to abortion, for
change -- protecting it, not curtailing it. At a time when Republicans
have rolled back abortion more aggressively than at any time since Roe
versus Wade, the bill introduced today by Senator Richard Blumenthal and
other Democrats would federally protect women`s ability to access abortion,
by heading off state efforts to close down clinics and to otherwise impede
access to what is supposed to be a constitutionally protected right.
Honestly despite Senator Blumenthal`s enthusiasm on Chris`s show just
moments ago, that bill is not assumed to go anywhere soon, at least as long
as Republicans control the House. If that bill ever does pass, though, it
would be the first federal legislation to advance and protect abortion
rights in this country in almost 20 years.
Today, the U.S. Senate hosted confirmation hearings for President
Obama`s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security, former Defense
Department top lawyer Jeh Johnson. Tomorrow, the Senate will hold
confirmation hearings for President Obama`s nominee for the Federal
Reserve, Janet Yellen. Both of these nominees, Jeh Johnson and Janet
Yellen, are expected to be confirmed by the Senate pretty easily, but
confirmation hearings are always fun.
Earlier today in southwest Oregon, a bomb went off. A homemade
explosive seems to have been fashioned out of a large propane tank. The
blast shattered windows and sparked a fire at the county district
attorney`s office in Medford, Oregon. But nobody was injured. Police say
if the bomb had gone off in the way it seems it was intended to go off, it
probably could have leveled the building. Somebody was seen running away
from the site of that explosion early this morning in Oregon but nobody has
There is a lot of news today, political news and otherwise. But for
my money, the most bizarre news of all today, political and otherwise,
comes out of the great state of Idaho.
Here is Idaho. Boise is Idaho` state capital, the state`s largest
city. And in southwest Boise this past year, they elected a new state
representative. They pretty much always elect Republicans. But they
elected a new Republican rep last November. His name is Mark Patterson.
He calls himself a constitutional Republican. He is a Ron Paul guy in
He got a really big boost in his race for state legislature when he
was endorsed by Idaho`s new high profile, very conservative congressman,
Raul Labrador. It`s a top thing on Mark Patterson`s campaign Web site. "I
am proud to endorse," says Raul Labrador.
But pretty much right after Mark Patterson got elected in Boise, there
were some signs of trouble. NBC`s Channel 7, locally, started turning up
some weird stuff about his background. His Web site, for example, had
described him as having been a student at the University of Southern
California, having gone to USC. It turns out he never went to USC.
His Web site also described him as a petroleum engineer. It turns out
he is not a petroleum engineer. He`s not an engineer at all.
His Web site also described him as a professional bicyclist. He was
not a professional bicyclist, as KTVB found out, quote, "He had no
professional license, even though he did ride a bike." Representative
Patterson insists that he does remember to be paid to be an endorser for
bike lubricant at one sometime, and that should count toward him being a
professional bicyclist. And even though he took down the claims that he
went to USC and that he was a petroleum engineer, he took down those claims
because he didn`t go to USC and he isn`t an engineer. His Web site still
today insists that he was a professional bicyclist.
And really, who are you to judge? Now, though, comes the dark part of
this story. Which is that Republican State Representative Mark Patterson,
it turns out, has twice been arrested and charged with forcible rape. One
of those times in Ohio, he was acquitted. He was found not guilty of those
But the other time he was arrested and charged with rape he pled
guilty. He pled guilty specifically to assault with intent to commit rape.
Although the state of Florida misspelled the word "commit" when they said
what he pled to.
So, he was initially charged with forcible rape, he pled guilty to
assault with intent to commit rape. He did some time in jail and he did
sometime in probation. And because of the sentence and the plea bargain
that went along with it, under Florida law, this all happened in Tampa,
Florida, this went down on Mark Patterson`s record as withheld judgment on
the assault to intent rape charge.
So, fast forward to 2007 and across the country to Idaho. And in
2007, soon to be state Representative Mark Patterson applies for a license
to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Idaho. He presumably does not
mention on his application the rape issue in his past, since Idaho law says
you can`t get a weapons permit if you have committed, say, assault with
intent to commit a serious felony, like for example, rape.
So, apparently, he did not mention that on his application in 2007 or
presumably again on his application in 2012. The application in Idaho
specifically asks you, have you ever held -- excuse me, have you ever had a
withheld judgment for a criminal offense which would disqualify you from
obtaining a concealed weapon license?
In order to get a gun permit in Idaho, Representative Mark Patterson
had to have said no to that question. But if he said no to that, that is a
lie. His past rape charge, his guilty plea means he should have been
turned down when he applied for a concealed weapons permit.
So, now, the Idaho sheriff to whom he has applied for the gun permit
has revoked the permit, saying basically, you know, having a violent felony
on your record means you can`t have a weapons permit. And you certainly
can`t lie about your violent felony record in order to get a weapons
This is not a hard call, right? Whether or not you understand or have
respect for the arcane laws related to guns in this country, this is kind
of an easy one. Even if you were acquitted, the second time you were
arrested for forcible rape, that one time you pled guilty to assault with
intent to rape, that means you cannot have a concealed weapons permit ever,
anywhere, even if you are a newly elected state representative.
So, who knows why he was able to get away with lying on that
application once, and at least for a while on his second try, too. But
eventually the sheriff in Ada County, Idaho, found him out.
And now this weekend, the Idaho statesman has done a big long feature
on the past rape charges and the guilty plea and the revocation of his
concealed carry permit.
And you know, it all has to be a really embarrassing time, right? We
posted links to the "Idaho Statesman" reporting on this story, which is
really incredible work. But in part because of the "Idaho Statesman`s"
incredible journalism on this story, because it is happening in his little
hometown of Boise, Idaho, this has got to be very embarrassing for this
He is freshman lawmaker. He`s part of the Ron Paul wing of the party.
He`s endorsed by the highest profile Idaho politician in Washington since
Larry Craig and wide stance thing. Boise has got to be mortified by this
guy, right? Having elected a guy didn`t actually go to that college, who
isn`t actually an engineer, and who pretty isn`t even a professional
bicyclist, although let`s argue about it, and oh, hey, now, do you want to
hear about the rape charges, too?
In a normal world, this is the part where the guy steps down to spend
more time with his family or whatever. But because this is not a real
world, because this is our world now, this is not any normal world that you
might even expect to find in non-magical real as fiction, because this is
our world now, the rape charges the Republican lawman caught lying about it
has launched a counter attack, saying this is all just trumped up bit of
police retaliation from some legislation he sponsored, because he is the
guy who sponsored legislation that would have sent Idaho cops to jail,
would have put the cops in jail if Idaho law enforcement officers attempted
to enforce federal gun laws in the state of Idaho.
He says because he sponsored that legislation, this whole ruckus now
is just the man coming for him and his guns in retaliation. That sheriff
who discovered my rape conviction was just, as he says, "angry about being
exposed as an opponent of the Second Amendment."
Twenty-five years ago this week, on November 10th, 1988, the president
named Ronald Reagan signed a piece of legislation called the Undetectable
Firearms Act of 1988. It essentially made illegal guns or any guns made
with so little metal that they could not be spotted by metal detectors.
Ronald Reagan signed that law in 1988, long enough ago now, that it is due
to expire next month, just as we are facing new 3D printing technology that
makes plastic guns more of a reality now than ever before. It was 25 years
ago this week that President Reagan signed that ban, 25 years.
It`s been 20 years since the bill was passed that was named for
President Reagan`s press secretary, who was shot in the head and paralyzed
and very nearly killed in the assassination attempt on President Reagan by
John Hinckley, Jr. That bill was called the Brady bill, and established
the principle of people having to pass background checks in order to buy a
gun. Since John Hinckley had been under psychiatric care and just
previously been arrested on gun charges, before he was able to walk into a
Texas pawnshop and buy a pistol, no questions asked, and he then used that
pistol to shoot the president and a Secret Service agent and a D.C. police
officer, and press secretary, Jim Brady.
The Brady Campaign is still around. And right now, the Brady Campaign
is keeping up their efforts to try to apply background checks to all gun
purchases, not just the ones from licensed gun dealers. On the 20th
anniversary of the Brady Bill being signed into law, they just released
this ad. And I`ll tell you, I think personally, no offense intended, but I
think most animated political ads really suck, but I think this one is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARACTER: Meet Mr. Bad Guy, he has done a lot of really bad things,
but the one thing he uses is a gun, good thing a Brady background check
blocks him from getting the gun at the gun store. No gun for you, but he
is not going to stop. He is a bad guy, not a quitter.
So, he goes online where he doesn`t even need a background check to
buy a gun. Score for Mr. Bad Guy. And ta-da, now he can do even badder
bad guy things. And just think, 40 percent of gun sales happen just like
this. Thousands every day. No Brady background check.
So, why wouldn`t Congress fix this? Maybe they`re rooting for the bad
Tell Congress to stop helping bad guys get guns. Sign the petition
the finish the job and demand Brady background checks on all gun sales.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Usually, animation in a political ad is short hand for: don`t
bother watching this, because this is going to be lame, but that is a
really good ad, released this week on the 20th anniversary of Brady
background checks being required at gun stores if not anywhere else.
But, of course, the real politic of this issue right now in our
country is less easy peasy, like the ad says, and more like Idaho. Because
do you want to know what the resolution is to the story of the Republican
state representative who it turns out was charged with forcible rape twice,
and who pled guilty to assault with intent to rape, and then lied about
that on his gun application twice, and then got caught lying about it by
the local sheriff. Do you want to know how the story ends?
The guy gets to keep his gun. He gets to keep his concealed carry
permit, after all, even though, you know, rape, and lying about it, even
guilty plea to a violent felony. He gets to keep the gun and keep the
concealed weapons permit, because turns out there is a state law that says
if you`re an elected official in Idaho, one of 3,000 elected officials in
Idaho, at every level down to dog catcher, if you are an elected official
in Idaho, there is a state law that says the legal requirements for getting
a gun permit in that state don`t apply to you.
The local press? This is coverage from the local CBS affiliate
looking into this, they have been trying to figure out why elected
officials are exempt from the law about guns. But nobody seems to know.
Elected officials are just exempt from the law for whatever reason.
And so, when aliens come to earth, who are we going to pick to explain
to them that this I what happened to the oldest and most stable democracy
on Earth, that once upon a time, even conservatives in that country
supported an outright ban on certain dangerous kinds of weapons. And even
conservatives supported at least checking to see if people were, say,
violent felons before agreeing to let them have a gun.
Once upon a time, everybody pretty much agreed that made sense. But
then, within one generation of that normalcy, in one generation in less
than 30 years, this country became the place where the response by law to
the violence attempted rapist elected official who lied about it and who
got caught lying about it -- the only legal response to that man is: sorry,
sir. Here`s your gun. Here is your gun, sir. Here`s your concealed
weapons permit. Really sorry for the inconvenience.
That`s the only possible legal response to the guy who pled guilty to
assault with attempt to rape. Sorry, sir, here is your gun.
How can this possibly be who we are right now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Facing mounting allegations that he accepted bribes and
kickbacks, Connecticut Governor John Roland today called it quits.
FORMER GOV. JOHN ROLAND (R), CONNECTICUT: The months leading to this
have been difficult for all of us. I acknowledge that my poor judgment has
brought us here.
REPORTER: Once the nation`s youngest serving governor, John Roland
was a rising star as the GOP looked for help in New England.
JOHN LENDER: He was a young, smart, politically adept governor, who
was viewed as somebody with a future nationally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Connecticut Republican John Roland was first elected to state
legislature when he was only 23 years old. He was first elected as
governor of Connecticut when he was only 37 years old. And for two and a
half terms as Connecticut governor, it was pretty much smooth sailing for
John Roland, rising star.
But, then, came scandal -- gifts and loans and vacations and kitchen
cabinets, even a hot tub that the governor kept insisting he paid for
himself, but it turns out he did not. They came from state workers and
from contractors. They came from people who were essentially looking for
something from him or from the state.
The Connecticut legislature convened bipartisan hearings into whether
or not Governor John Roland should be impeached. Days before the decision
was due, Governor Roland resigned. He left office in disgrace.
But you know what? That was the least of his problems.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Connecticut`s former governor today pleaded
guilty to federal corruption charges that could send him to prison for up
to five years. John Roland, driven from office last summer, admitted to
accepting more than $100,000 worth of perks from state contractors. Once a
rising star in the GOP, Roland was even considered as a possible running
mate for President Bush back in 2000.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: John Roland, he really did get the hot tub and the kitchen
cabinets and lake house repairs and so on from people who really did hope
to do business with the state. And he really did go to prison for that for
nearly a year.
This week, in "The Washington Post," we got a small update on the
story of the nation`s current embattled former rising star Republican
governor. "The Post" reporting for the first time that Virginia Governor
Bob McDonnell got some work done on his house by the brother of the same
wealthy Virginia businessman whose gifts to Bob McDonnell and his family
have already put the governor under federal investigation. Prosecutors
have reportedly interviewed the contractor who did the work.
According to "The Post", quote, "He believed he was doing the work at
McDonnell`s home for free at the request of his brother." "The Post" says
the man told investigators that the first lady eventually asked him for a
bill, but that was months after he finished the work and long after the
federal investigation into the first family taking too many gifts was
already under way.
A spokesman for Bob McDonnell denies any wrongdoing in this case. And
maybe it`s just a small thing, $1,600 in home repairs after the $160,000 in
gifts and cash that the McDonnells got from the contractor guy`s brother.
Maybe it is nothing.
But if it turns out to be something, this is the kind of something
that can send you to prison. Ask John Roland, ask John Roland, aka,
federal prisoner number 15623-014.
This is the 10th time in the ongoing saga of Virginia Governor
McDonnell. Federal prosecutors are expected to announce sometime between
now and Thanksgiving, whether or not they are going to criminally indict
Governor McDonnell in this case. These are tense times for the Bob
McDonnell scandal. And these are also 10th time in Virginia politics in
general, in the closer that close race for attorney general in Virginia, we
are really down to it.
They counted the last of the ballots in that race last night. With
the counting of the last ballots, the Democratic candidate for the attorney
general appears to have run the race. The slimmest possible margin, 164
votes out of 2 million cast.
Mark Herring declared victory last night, if his lead, in fact, holds
up, Virginia Democrats will have made a sweep of statewide elected offices.
They will have taken the governor, the lieutenant governor, both senators
and the attorney general`s job. Those are all state-wide elected officials
in the state, and that has not happened for the Democrats in Virginia since
As close as this Virginia election was in terms of vote, it has been
just as contested in terms of how the votes are being counted. We have
been reporting on this show for a couple of days n now about a state order
that changed the way the ballots are counted in the biggest Virginia
county, the most important county for Democrats in Virginia. The order
came down from the state board of elections on Friday, which, of course, is
after the vote and in the middle of the ballots being counted.
The state board said it issued the order on advice from the office of
Attorney General ken Cuccinelli.
Now, Ken Cuccinelli himself was a candidate in this election. He run
for governor, of course. And he was the first attorney general in 30 years
in Virginia to not step down from the attorney general`s offers when he
decided to run for something else, and that has meant that Ken Cuccinelli
was both competing in this election and adjudicating the rules of how the
election would be conducted.
And look at this, we now know that he was not just competing in the
election and adjudicating its rules, Ken Cuccinelli has also been
fundraising for the Republican candidate for attorney general since
election night. He`s been fundraising for the guy whose race is now almost
certainly heading for a re-count. With ken Cuccinelli`s office setting the
rules for that counting.
Look, quote, "There is a recount effort that will require staff,
support and attorneys to fight that is sure to be a full legal onslaught
from the Democrats. I need you to click here to fund Mark Obenshain`s
recount fight right now."
Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general, sent that fundraising letter the
day after the election while the votes were still being counted. And
nobody made much of it until Virginia Democrats finally did today.
Donald McEachin, who is a Democratic leader in the Virginia state
senate, wrote this today. He said, "Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli needs
to take his responsibilities seriously in this process and refrain from his
overt and extreme partisanship."
Quote, "I call on the attorney general to stop tainting the electoral
process and to refrain from fundraising for Senator Obenshain. I further
call on Senator Obenshain to recognize the importance of Virginians having
faith in this process, and then the eventual outcome, and to therefore ask
the attorney general to stop fundraising, and to conduct himself in a way
befitting an elected official with responsibilities."
Joining us now is Donald McEachin. He`s Virginia state senator from
Richmond. And he`s the leader of the senate`s Democratic caucus.
Senator McEachin, thank you very for being with us tonight.
STATE SEN. DONALD MCEACHIN (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you for having me,
MADDOW: Have you had any response from Republicans in general, or
from the attorney general specifically, to your statement today?
MCEACHIN: All I`ve heard so far is crickets, Rachel. There hasn`t
been a word said from either Attorney General Cuccinelli or Senator
MADDOW: When you say you want the attorney general to conduct himself
in a way befitting an elected official with responsibilities, to your mind,
what would that mean in this case?
MCEACHIN: Well, that would mean is that he puts partisan politics
aside and let Virginians have confidence in how this election process is
turning out. He is the chief legal officer in the commonwealth.
The first responsibility of any lawyer is to avoid the appearance of
impropriety, that here you are giving advice to a state agency, the state
board of elections on how to conduct themselves on what to do and how to do
it, and you`re fundraising for your Republican colleague. That`s just
wrong, and we`re calling on the attorney general to stop it.
MADDOW: It does feel like -- we were talking about this in the news
meeting today. The analogy that the producer came up with, which has stuck
with me all day, is the idea that you have learned that the umpire on your
baseball game has bet on the outcome, has a personal stake in the outcome.
And whether or not you think he or she is a good umpire, it`s very hard to
trust the way they`d be calling balls and strikes knowing that they`ve got
a personal stake in this.
It was Ken Cuccinelli`s decision not to step down as attorney general
when he decided to run for governor. Should it have been his decision or
should it be essentially a requirement of running for that kind of office
in the state, the requirement of the attorney general`s job
responsibilities that nobody is allowed to do this in the future?
MCEACHIN: Well, we`ve never had had to do that before. The Virginia
way has always been for the attorney general to step down. We called upon
him to do that this time around. We asked him to step aside as far as
giving advice to the various electoral boards across the state, he refused
to do so. And now, we found ourselves in this quandary where he is
actually raising money for his ticketmate while at the same time, as you so
eloquently said, he is calling the balls and strikes on the election
MADDOW: The last time we spoke, one of the things we talked about was
another decision that was defended by Ken Cuccinelli`s office, which was
the effort by the state board of elections to purge almost 60,000 voters
off the voter rolls very shortly before this election happened. And they
put out a list that some country officials said contained too many errors
to be rushed through before this election happened.
Did you see the effects of that purge in this election? How did that
play out ultimately on Election Day?
MCEACHIN: Well, I don`t think we`ll really know how that played out.
Obviously, this election was very close. It was close at the gubernatorial
level. It was close at the attorney general level. We wouldn`t ever know.
But really, the sad thing here, Rachel, is the faith of the people of the
commonwealth of Virginia in the electoral process.
It`s up to all of us as elected officials to make sure that that is
integrity. And the attorney general, by doing what he`s doing now, raising
money for Senator Obenshain, and Senator Obenshain accepting those monies,
that`s hurting our ability to restore confidence on our election process.
MADDOW: Donald McEachin, Virginia state senator, thank you for being
with us tonight, sir. Stay in touch as this continues to unfold in your
MCEACHIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks very much.
All right. We`ve got lots to come up tonight -- including way, way
more rapture than I would have ever expected, especially on a Wednesday.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: For at least the duration of his first presidential campaign
and his two terms as president, George W. Bush consistently and vigorously
and pretty successfully avoided running afoul of one specific group of
Americans. But it turns out it`s not too late to offend harm them, too.
Now, he is about to seriously run afoul of that group that he previously
got along with, like within about 24 hours of right now, there is going to
be a big fight.
Up next for the interview tonight is an American who is really
displeased by former President Bush`s plans for tomorrow night, plans that
it is hard to believe the former president really is going to keep.
Stay with us. That story is next.
MADDOW: Hello, judo fans. I know you`re out there. I have seen our
Listen up, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW judo fans. On Sunday, November 24, the
USA Judo President`s Cup is coming to the Irving, Texas, to the Irving,
Texas Convention Center.
It`s a two-day event. Tickets are $12 for each day. There will be
363 judo competitors.
Despite how awesome that sounds, maybe that is not you thing. Maybe,
instead, you were really into wine, specifically you`re into Beaujolais.
Again, look for further than the Irving, Texas Convention Center, because
that is also the venue for the 30th Annual Beaujolais and Beyond Wine
Festival, which is next Friday. The price for that one is a little
steeper, $65 a pop, but presumably you get something to drink.
Say, though, that neither martial arts nor wine are your particular
thing. Say instead, your thing is converting members of the Jewish faith
to Christianity, because you believe doing so will lead to the second
coming of Jesus Christ on Earth, and therefore, the end of the world, the
end times, the rapture. Say, that`s your thing. And you`re free tomorrow
night and you have $100,000 burning a hole in your pocket.
If so, then you may want to check out the Messianic Jewish Bible
Institute`s annual banquet this year, which is also being held at the
Irving, Texas Convention Center; $100,000 buys you a ticket to the event,
in something called a president`s package. That president in this case if
President George W. Bush, who has agreed to be the keynote speaker at this
convert Jewish people mega fundraiser tomorrow night in Irving, Texas.
$100,000 buys you stuff like two premium tables for the speech, and 10
signed copies of President Bush`s recent book.
Even the cheapest seats for this event costs 100 bucks, but at that
rate you are not even guaranteed a seat in the room.
Since "Mother Jones" broke the news that President Bush would be
headlining this fundraising tomorrow night in Irving, Texas, there has
been an outpouring of criticism directed at the former president, including
from a lot of people who previously have enjoyed good relations with him,
like, for example, the Anti-Defamation League, whose president says now
that he is disappointed in President Bush`s decision. Abraham Foxman says
he hopes that Mr. Bush will change his mind and not speak at this event.
There has been a lot of criticism of President Bush`s decision from
Jewish newspapers, from Jewish leaders across the country. Irving, Texas,
is kind of near Dallas, Texas, leading members of the Dallas, Texas, Jewish
community put this out expressing their concern about the fact that
President Bush would not just be speaking at this event, he would be
helping this group raise lots and lots of money to do what they do.
They said the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute`s mission conflicts
with that of the recognized Jewish community. Quote, "We respectfully urge
him to reconsider this decision, to appear on behalf of the organization
whose purpose is to undermine the tenet of established Judaism."
After the overwhelming negatively response to this news about
President Bush fundraising for these guys, any mention of his appearance
has virtually disappeared from the Messianic Institute`s Web site. This is
one of the only vague references we could find tonight that the speaker
tomorrow at their fundraiser is kind of a big-deal guy, "Due to the high
profile level of our speakers, security measures will be in place."
We have screen grabs of what their fundraising page used to look like,
before somebody I think realized that publicity on this thing maybe wasn`t
We do not know if President Bush himself is being paid a speaking fee
for this event. That almost seems beside the point now.
Either way it is almost incomprehensible that this former president,
that any president has agreed to appear at a fundraiser for a group that
says, that Jewish leaders say is working to undermine the tenet of their
faith. It`s weird, right? It`s almost as if the former president didn`t
know what the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute does.
If you care to look, it is not hard to figure out what they do. If
you`re looking for that information, you can find it, because they state
their goals loudly and publicly and repeatedly. It`s not subtle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bible predicted the day would come, declared
the day would come when that blindness would come off of the eyes of the
people that it all begun with.
As the blindness comes off of the eyes of the Jewish people and the
days we`re living in, our job will get bigger and bigger and bigger until
all Israel shall be saved. Help us to raise up an army, an end time army
that will bring about God`s promised redemption of Israel.
The greatest blessing you can give a Jewish person is the gospel, and
then disciple them into an abundant life in the Lord. Every contribution
matters. If it`s a dollar, a hundred dollars, a thousand dollars, a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes resources -- it takes resources to expand
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just to recap.
The group`s goals are as follows: convert the blind, meaning the Jews,
into Christians, thus saving them in the process. Bring about the end
times by saving said Jews from Judaism, and, of course, raise money to do
all the above.
This is not a new thing the group has been turning to after raising
money in the past. They have been doing this since the `90s. They`re very
proud of it. They`re trying to convert Jews around the world, including in
Israel, in order to bring about the end times. And they need more money to
And tomorrow, a former president of the United States will help them
further those goals by helping them raise many, many, many, many, many
dollars. A spokesperson for President Bush confirming to us tonight that
the former president`s plans have not changed. He is still planning to
keynote this fundraiser tomorrow night for the Messianic Jewish Bible
Institute in Texas.
Nobody can speak for all of the Jews all at once. But judging from
the response from the Jewish community and their own newspapers and their
own leaders, Jewish people in America are offended by this. Not every Jew,
of course, but this is offensive to a lot of people in the Jewish
community. It`s not hard to see why that would be the case.
Why would President Bush do this thing that could be perceived and is
being perceived as a hurtful thing to the Jewish community, a community he
has always had good relations with? It is as if he does not know that it
is hurtful and why it is.
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Rabbi David Saperstein.
He`s the director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform
Rabbi Saperstein, thank you very much for being here tonight. It`s an
honor to have you here.
RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN, RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER: Good to talk with
MADDOW: Why do you believe that President Bush should not speak to
the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute tomorrow? Why is this a bad idea?
SAPERSTEIN: I fully respect the depth and reach of his won religious
beliefs and he has a right to speak to everyone. But having the right to
do something doesn`t make it right or wise. And this decision is so
painful to many people in the Jewish community.
First, he is raising money for and endorsing an organization whose
primary purpose is to convert all Jews to a different religion. How do you
have a respectful relationship if the measure of success of one group is
the ending of the other group by having them convert away from their own
Secondly, the core theological principle is the rejection of
legitimacy or adequacy of the Jewish covenant with God.
And, third, and this is most troubling, this is part of the Jewish for
Jesus movement, which say you can be a Jew and a Christian at the same
time. That`s deceptive practices, trying to manipulate people. You cannot
be a Christian and Jew at the same time anymore than a Muslim and a
Christian, a Hindu and a Jew.
Let`s respect religions for what they are. And by throwing his stamp
of approval to this group, he is acting in a way that is disrespectful to
both Christians and Jews, as he has always done in the past, respect groups
for who they are.
MADDOW: Rabbi Saperstein, I know that you worked with President Bush
during his administration, the U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom. You were involved with the administration.
From your experience working with him and seeing the way he worked as
a politician, as a public figure, do you have any insight into why he would
decide to speak to this group? I am essentially asking if you have an
opinion about maybe he doesn`t -- whether or not he doesn`t know what he is
getting into here?
SAPERSTEIN: Well, perhaps he didn`t in the beginning. You`re right,
even though I represent the larger section that tends to be quite liberal
in its political views, the president was very comfortable working with
those issues we could find common ground, and we did.
I never heard him give any hint of anything other than respect for
Judaism and for Jews. He was a friend of the Jewish people, even those he
differed with politically.
That makes it more mystifying. Perhaps he didn`t understand. If
that`s the case, I really wish he would withdraw. I don`t think he
understood the pain that this causes. And he still has the opportunity to
respectfully say this was the wrong decision. I`m going to let this group
do its own work, but I don`t want to give my stamp of approval.
MADDOW: I honestly expected, because of -- I share your views about
the relationship between President Bush and the Jewish community. Just as
an observer, it always seemed like a constructive and mutually respectful
relationship in the past. And because of that, I expected him to have
dropped this by now.
Now, on the eve of the event, it seems like he`s not going to. If and
when he goes through with this, do you think this will be an ongoing
problem for President Bush and the Jewish community? Will this continue to
flake him and continue to force questions for him thereafter?
SAPERSTEIN: I think it will lead to his friends in the Jewish
community and those he encounters, asking why you did this, to give your
stamp of approval to say that Judaism, and Christianity are the same?
They`re really not.
We both believe in the monotheistic god, but the central core of
Judaism is a unity of that god, and it is a trinity for Christians.
Redemption is found through Jesus for Christians, through good deeds and
the observance of the commandments for Jews, the belief that Jesus was
divine for Christians, and a great moral teacher but human for Jews. And
that he was a messiah for Christians, and we reject that on the basis that
the messiah, when the messiah comes, it will be a message of justice and
peace for all.
They`re irreconcilable and he should respect both religions enough to
say, I don`t want to be a part of those who say these are one and the same,
as a means of converting Jews to Christianity. I really hope he will
rethink this and withdraw, Rachel.
MADDOW: Rabbi David Saperstein, director and council of the Religious
Action Center of Reform Judaism, I realize this is a sort of a painful
issue, and this is an awkward confrontation with somebody you didn`t expect
to have it with. I really appreciate you helping us to understand tonight,
sir. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We have a best new thing in the world coming up tonight,
which frankly we need. I`m still not over our first segment tonight. I`m
still not over it. But we`ve got a best new thing in the world and that`s
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That this nation under God shall have a new birth
of freedom. And that government by the people, of the people, for the
people switch that -- shall not perish from this Earth. I was so close.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to get it all in one? I thought that was
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. We`re done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not the best new thing in the world today, them
flubbing the Gettysburg address. But that is close to the best new thing
in the world today. Hold on, that gets better.
Best new thing, coming up.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today.
All right. Earlier this year when the president spoke on the 50th
anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech at the march on Washington,
President Obama admitted afterwards to some jitters to feeling the weight
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there were a
couple things I was thinking. Certainly leading up to the speech, I was
thinking -- you generally should not try to follow one of the two greatest
speeches in American history, because it puts a little pressure on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So one of the two greatest speeches is Dr. King`s, what`s the
other one? I had a suspicion I knew what he thought was the other one. We
checked with the White House tonight and sure enough, they confirmed the
Gettysburg address. President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg 150 years
ago this month. The actual anniversary is next week.
President Lincoln delivered that brief, gorgeous speech right in the
middle of the civil war, dedicating a cemetery on the side of a battlefield
that had seen tremendous loss of American life. You might have had to
memorize the address in school, a lot of kids still do it.
It`s actually not that hard to memorize, because a lot of the lines
are already so memorable. There just aren`t that many lines. It`s short.
Well, this is learntheaddress.org. This is part of a project
spearheaded by the genius documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Learn the
Address, it`s basically asking anybody who`s interested, to recite it on
video and upload it. It`s very, very cool.
Well, this week, Learn the Address put out a mashup of some videos
they collected of people reading the speech. And it is awesome. And I am
in a tiny bit of it, which is really cool.
I want to show this to you, but this is still not the best new thing
in the world today. That comes after.
Anyway, here`s what they put out.
OBAMA: Four score and seven years ago --
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: Our fathers brought forth on this
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: A new nation conceived in liberty -
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: And dedicated to the proposition that
all men are created equal.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, we are engaged in a great civil war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Testing whether that nation or any nation so
conceived and dedicated can long endure.
DAVID GREGORY: We are met on ape great battlefield of that war.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), DEMOCRATIC LEADER: We have come to dedicate
a portion of that field as a final resting place.
BILL GATES: For those who here gave their lives that that nation
TAYLOR SWIFT: It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do
JONATHAN JARVIS: But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate.
RICHARD TRUMKA: We cannot consecrate.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: We cannot hallow this ground.
MADDOW: The brave men living and dead who struggled here have
USHER: Far but our poor power to add or detract.
CONAN O`BRIEN: The world will little note or long remember what we
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: They can never forget what they did
BOB SCHIEFFER: It is for us the living.
GWEN IFILL: To be dedicated here to the unfinished work.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Which they who fought here have thus nobly advanced.
UMA THURMAN: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great
task remaining before us.
BILL O`REILLY: That from these honored dead, we take increased
devotion to that cause.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: For which they gave the last full
measure of devotion.
DAVID DINKINS: That we here highly resolve that these dead should not
have died in vain.
CARTER: That this nation under God.
G.W. BUSH: Shall have a new birth of freedom.
CLINTON: That government of the people.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: By the people, for the people.
OBAMA: Shall not perish from the Earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See what I mean, short, beautiful. Even with cable news
dorks doing part of it, it`s just amazing. But that is not the best new
thing in the world today, no.
After getting all the living presidents to participate, sitting
members of Congress, the head of the National Park Service, here is the
headline about this project posted on Web site of ABC News. Look at this.
This is so great. Look at their headline.
"Taylor Swift and all five living presidents recite Gettysburg
address." Repeating our top story -- Taylor Swift and all five living
presidents recite the Gettysburg address.
Nothing against Taylor Swift. I will let you finish. But that
headline is the best new thing in the world today. ABC News, you win. You
win, you win.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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