November 27, 2013
Guest: Gov. Steve Beshear, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Ilyse Hogue, Marc
Santora, Jeff Gardere, Dana Milbank
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: To be fixed or not to be fixed?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in tonight for Chris Matthews.
Leading off: This is a major weekend for the White House and
supporters of the Affordable Care Act. The White House has marked November
30th as the deadline for fixing many of the glitches that plague the health
care law`s Web site, problems that have prevented large numbers of people
from logging on and shopping for new health care plans.
Many Republicans have already written off the law as doomed to
failure. But polls show that most Americans still believe the law can and
will be fixed. And so this weekend is shaping up to be a major test.
What`s indisputable is that while the national exchange has stumbled
out of the gate, the picture is different in a number of states that are
managing their own enrollments. As Politico reports, 98,000 people have
enrolled in Washington state. Nearly 80,000 people have signed up for
private health plans in California. And New York has seen more than 75,000
In Kentucky, there have also been encouraging numbers -- 60,000 people
have signed up as of yesterday. Of those, nearly 49,000 qualify for
Steve Beshear is the governor of Kentucky. Howard Fineman is the
editorial director of the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC political analyst.
Governor, you`ve only -- you`re the only one in the South who has
taken the position that you have with regard to expansion of Medicaid and
building your own exchange. If others were to emulate your approach, would
they, too, be having success?
GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: Certainly, they would, Michael.
You know, we`ve done this right. We`ve done it simple, straightforward,
and it`s working like a charm.
I mean, since we kicked it off October 1, we`ve had now 500,000
visitors on our Web site, about 150,000 calling in to our call center to
get the information. People are hungry for affordable health care. And
when they can get it, like they can in Kentucky, it`s exciting for them.
It`s exciting for us. We`ve had over a thousand small businesses that are
in the process of signing up so that their employees can get insurance.
So this is going to work. It`s working in Kentucky. It will work at
some point every place else. And it`s a process, Michael. You know, it`s
not one of these things where you can set up an artificial deadline and
say, OK, it`s a success or failure at that deadline.
This is going to take two or three years before we really get
everything done and most of these people enrolled.
SMERCONISH: Governor, those who are Medicaid recipients, signing up
for the expansion of the Medicaid program, where would they have been
previously? Would they have been provided no coverage? Would they have
been those showing up at an ER and treating it as a primary care practice?
Help me understand who they are and what change is now taking place in
BESHEAR: Well, Michael, like I tell everybody that I talk to, look,
we`ve got 640,000 Kentuckians that don`t have any health care coverage, and
a good part of those qualify for the Medicaid program.
You know, those folks aren`t a bunch of aliens from some distant
planet. They`re our neighbors and friends. They`re folks that we shop in
the grocery with, we go to church with, we sit in the bleachers on Friday
night and watch our kids play baseball and football and basketball. You
know, some of them are our family members.
These are folks that are working every day to support their families,
and they get up every morning and roll the dice, just hoping and praying
that they don`t get sick because they know that they`re one bad diagnosis
away from bankruptcy.
SMERCONISH: And Howard Fineman...
BESHEAR: Nobody deserves to live like that.
SMERCONISH: And Howard, I don`t mean to disparage those folks who are
taking advantage of the Medicaid expansion. Quite to the contrary. But I
guess my thought is that the economic model behind the Affordable Care Act
-- it requires that the young invincibles are also a part of the drill and
they, too, need to be signing up in order for this to be successful.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, that`s true, Michael, and that`s the problem with the shortfalls on
the Web site and the rollout on the national level because that -- the
national model won`t work. But what`s the governor say about Kentucky?
SMERCONISH: Exactly, and...
SMERCONISH: Go ahead.
BESHEAR: Michael, they`re -- 41 percent of the folks signing up here
are under the age of 35. So the young people are signing up.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Governor, I want to show you something and ask you
to respond to it. Congressman Tim Huelskamp -- he doesn`t like the fact
that the White House is trying to get states like Kansas to expand their
Medicaid programs. And here`s what he told "The New York Times." "We
don`t need the likes of Kathleen Sebelius or Barack Obama telling us what
we should like or need, `Obama care` is on life support, and President
Obama keeps giving it another jolt to keep it alive."
You would say what, sir?
BESHEAR: I would say just look at the facts. You know, you go to
these states where our exchanges are working, people are signing up in
droves. And that`s what`s going to happen once they get the federal
exchange set up.
You know, forget about the politics. You know, as governors, we don`t
have time to worry about all these ideological battles. I`ve got 4.3
million people to take care of, and I`m going to take care of these 640,000
because we`re going to end up with a healthier workforce, and therefore a
more productive workforce, and it`ll attract more jobs for Kentucky.
SMERCONISH: Howard, help me understand the politics, if the governor
doesn`t mind, because I`m trying to square the success that he`s having
with Mitch McConnell, you know, jolly-stomping on the grave of "Obama
care." Put the two of those together.
FINEMAN: Well, the governor knows Kentucky politics better than I,
though I do know it a little bit. And I would say even though the governor
doesn`t want to put politics in the equation, the fact is, there`s a very
important Senate race in Kentucky next year.
Mitch McConnell is known for his opposition to "Obama care." I think
one of the things that the governor is doing is trying to provide a
positive example of how it works in Kentucky, which I must say is not going
to be irrelevant in that Senate race next year.
SMERCONISH: You know, gentlemen, there`s a new CNN poll out today
that shows that a majority of Americans still say they oppose the law, 58
percent, versus 40 percent who say they favor it.
But this is interesting. If you dig deeper into those numbers, you
see that they are not as black and white as critics might want you to
believe. Of the people who oppose the law, 14 percent say they oppose it
because it`s not liberal enough, meaning they want the law to go further.
Only 41 percent say they oppose the law because it`s too liberal or goes
In other words, put the 40 percent together with the 14 percent, and
you get a completely different reaction from the polling data, one that
suggests that people still believe in this and want it to succeed.
Governor, does that square with what you hear and see on the ground in
BESHEAR: It certainly does. You know, you`ve had a mound of
misinformation being thrown out there for months, and people are confused.
People here in Kentucky are confused. But I`m so glad to tell you that
Kentuckians decided to find out for themselves. And so they went on the
Web site. They called the toll-free number. They sat down with our
And you know, when they did that, they said, Wow, I can get affordable
health coverage. And they`re signing up. They`re walking away with a huge
smile on their face. And it`s going to make a huge difference in the
history of our state.
SMERCONISH: Howard, how important is the weekend coming up, with the
fact that there`s this self-imposed deadline of Saturday, and presumably, a
lot of folks are going to take a look. There`s the prospect that perhaps
the site could crash.
How important in terms of the long-term play here is what plays out
FINEMAN: Well, I think it`s important. I think the -- as everyone
says, the rollout has been a disaster on a national basis, as opposed to
islands of progress like Kentucky and Washington state, et cetera.
And it could long-term affect the economics of it. It could make the
rates higher next year if not enough healthy people sign up. You recall
that the president said the other -- the other day that he advised people
to discuss the Affordable Care Act at Thanksgiving dinner. I don`t think
that`s a topic people are probably going to want to argue about at
FINEMAN: And I`ve talked to tech people who have told me that it`s
inexcusable that the administration did not design the site, the national
site, for what`s called a Super Bowl size event, which means at least
100,000 people on the site at the same time. Even if they get to 50,000,
it`s nowhere near they should -- where they should be.
It sounds trivial on one level, but if they turn off too many young
and healthy people, if they turn off those so-called invincibles, it could
pose a long-range risk to the economics of the program, which is going to
make it an even more bitter fight in years to come.
SMERCONISH: Senator Ted Cruz frequently tells stories about the many
the Texans who come up to him, scared about being kicked off their current
insurance plan. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: When I go back to Texas, I travel the
state, and I see people all the time who -- who come up to me, men and
women across Texas, and they grab me by the shoulder, and they`re afraid.
They say, Ted, you know, I just lost my health insurance. I`ve got a child
with diabetes. I need my health insurance. I`m scared. Please stop this
from happening. Those are real facts.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: And what do you say to them? I looked at the list
of bills that you`ve sponsored. There`s not one that offers a solution to
the current problems with health care except to get rid of the existing
law. Is that enough?
CRUZ: Well, that`s the only solution that will work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And of course, Senator Cruz he has little to say about
all those children with diabetes and other illnesses in his state who have
no insurance and who`d be helped by the new health care law.
Here are the facts about Texas. And this is according to U.S. Census
Bureau data. Quote, "In addition to having the highest rate of people
without health insurance in the nation, Texas also has the largest number
of children without health insurance and the highest rate of poor adults
without health insurance. More than 852,000 Texas children lacked health
insurance in 2012."
Governor, you face some of those same obstacles, and yet your approach
in Kentucky is significantly different than that being offered in Texas.
BESHEAR: You know, you`ve got to put the politics aside because this
isn`t political to me. This is a moral decision that I made that people
deserve this health care. We can afford it.
As a matter of fact, I did an economic study of it before I expanded
Medicaid, and Price Waterhouse Coopers came in and told me, said, Governor,
you can`t afford not to expand Medicaid because it`s going to create 17,000
new jobs. It`s going to put about $15 billion into your economy over the
next eight years.
So this was a win/win situation for Kentucky. It is for every state.
If they could just get over the politics and look at their people, they
would be doing this right now.
SMERCONISH: Howard, one of the big problem, one of the impediments is
that folks who have alternatives and opportunities, they can`t see them.
I`m one of those people because I`ve invested a lot of time at the Web
site. I was verbally told there are nine different plans that are
available to my family, but until I can download it and print it out, all I
know is I get to a screen that freezes.
FINEMAN: Yes. It`s...
BESHEAR: Yes, and...
FINEMAN: There`s no -- there`s no sugar coating the fact that it`s --
on the national level, it remains pretty much of a mess. And I know the
president`s attitude is that he`s going to soldier on, soldier through and
get these problems solved. And I would anticipate that over the next
couple years, that might be the case.
But he`s running into a situation -- to look at the politics for a
minute -- where he`s got the 2014 elections coming up. If the rates are
jacked up significantly, in part, even beyond where they might otherwise
have been, because of problems with signing up people who can pay -- not
just people who need the big subsidies of Medicaid, but people who can pay
into the system -- it`s going to skew the economics of it and mean that the
rates are going to be higher than otherwise.
And those new rates will be announced in the fall of 2014, right
before the mid-term elections. That could pose a real problem for the
president`s own party and might send a message that makes the last two
years of his administration very contentious ones over yet this same issue.
SMERCONISH: Governor, a quick final thought from you, sir?
BESHEAR: You know, Michael, the same arguments were made against
Medicare in 1965. The same arguments were made against Social Security
back in the `30s. Today, those programs are an essential fabric of our
It`s going to be the same way with the Affordable Care Act. It is
going to take a while and you`ve got to soldier through this because it is
a process. But in the end, this is going to work. And I`m proud of the
president for shouldering through.
SMERCONISH: Thank you...
BESHEAR: You know, he`s going to have to keep pushing, and he will.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Governor Beshear. Thank you, Howard Fineman.
BESHEAR: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Coming up, the new court fight over contraception. Do
corporations have the right to deny insurance coverage based on the
religious beliefs of the corporation`s owners? We`re going to have that
Also, garbage bags covering windows, communicating with his mother
only through e-mail, an obsession with violent video games. Why did no one
see that Adam Lanza was a danger to himself and to those around him?
And we`ll have a treat for you "Anchorman" fans out there. Some
anchorman afternoon delight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALES (SINGING): Rubbing sticks and stones together
makes the sparks ignite and the thought of loving you is getting so
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And finally, "Let me Finish" tonight with a personal
story, me versus the Healthcare.gov Web site.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. The winner of Ohio has won every
presidential election since 1964. And Quinnipiac has new poll numbers out
of the Buckeye State. So let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."
Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie neck and neck in the poll, with
Clinton`s 1-point lead well within the margin of error. Clinton has a much
larger lead, 9 points, over Florida`s freshman senator, Marco Rubio. Her
lead extends to double digits against Kentucky senator Rand Paul. That
would be 50 to 40. The former first lady and senator from New York easily
tops Jeb Bush, should he decide to try and become the third Bush in the
And look at this. It`s no contest, at least not right now, between
Clinton and Texas senator Ted Cruz. It`s Hillary by 15, 50 to 35.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We want to take a closer look
tonight at the new issue before the Supreme Court involving the Affordable
Care Act. The court will consider whether a company can refuse to offer
contraceptive health care, as is mandated by the Affordable Care Act, on
the grounds that doing so would violate its religious freedom.
Now, here`s the background. The company Hobby Lobby is an Oklahoma-
based crafts business with about 13,000 employees. It was founded by
people of faith. They close on Sundays. Its stores play religious music,
and its employees get free spiritual counseling.
Now, the company`s founder says, "We believe whole-heartedly that it
is by God`s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has been successful.
Therefore, we seek to honor him in all that we do."
In making their case, attorneys for the company said that the
Affordable Care Act left the owners with two bad choices. They must either
violate their faith by covering the mandated contraceptives or pay
crippling fines that would destroy their livelihood.
A circuit court rules for Hobby Lobby, but in a similar case involving
a cabinet-making company owned by Mennonite Christians, another circuit
court ruled the other way. So now the Supreme Court will decide.
Joining me, Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. That`s an
organization that has worked to elect pro-life candidates.
Marjorie, let me start with you. Can a for-profit business object to
a law on a religious basis? And if so, why?
MARJORIE DANNENFELSER, SUSAN B. ANTHONY LIST: Of course they can
because if all else fails, we should just go ahead and consult with the
U.S. Constitution. It`s why we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. It`s the
foundation of liberty in our country.
Religious freedom says that our government cannot be the arbiter of
our consciences and that individuals are. We wouldn`t be the nation that
we are if we didn`t afford people like Hobby Lobby and the other business
the ability to abide their own conscience and provide what they think is
constitutionally acceptable or not to their own businesses.
SMERCONISH: What about the slippery slope argument? Surely, you know
this is going to be raised in this discussion. If you have a different
company that says, Well, we don`t want to provide HIV screening because our
biblical interpretation is at odds with same-sex couples?
DANNENFELSER: Again, it`s getting down to fundamentals. No one has
made the argument that we shouldn`t provide HIV screenings. We`re getting
down to the fundamentals of the Constitution here.
SMERCONISH: But respectfully...
SMERCONISH: But respectfully, if you`re saying that you`re going to
allow that privately held business, for-profit business, because of their
religious principle -- if you`re going to give them the latitude in case A,
how could you then distinguish not giving them the latitude in case B?
DANNENFELSER: Abortion-inducing drugs in (ph) contraception,
sterilization are the point that we`re arguing now. The question is
whether these are legitimately -- they are -- they -- whether it is OK for
these businesses, for these individuals to say, This defies my conscience
and it defies my conscience because I am -- I am of a faith that says it
undermines it. It is the killing of a human being. Should I be required
to provide that to my employees, or should I be allowed the individual
liberty that the Constitution provides to not do that?
SMERCONISH: Ilyse, let me ask you...
DANNENFELSER: This is not the case in -- and this is certainly not
the case when we`re talking about HIV screenings, which is clearly a basic
health care need.
SMERCONISH: Right. But...
SMERCONISH: Our judicial system is governed by precedents. And
precedents hold and therefore are applicable to cases that come after it.
Let me switch gears and ask Ilyse something.
Ilyse, for your position on this issue, isn`t the Citizens United case
problematic? In other words, if in Citizens United the Supreme Court has
recognized a speech right among corporations, doesn`t it then likely follow
that they also have a religious freedom right?
ILYSE HOGUE, PRESIDENT, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: That`s not the way
that we see it, Michael, no. And I think it`s not the way the majority of
Americans see it, because what`s not being denied is either Marjorie or the
head of Hobby Lobby`s religious freedom to make their own choices about
their own health care and their own family planning.
What`s at issue here -- and most Americans would agree our bosses
already have too much control over our lives -- whether we`re going to let
our bosses into our bedroom. This is a medical health issue. And 99
percent of American families have used contraception during the course of
their reproductive life, sometimes for family planning, sometimes for other
And we do not need our bosses coming between our doctors and our
family decisions about what`s best for our health and our family planning.
SMERCONISH: Marjorie, I don`t want to get too far into the weeds
legally on this. But you would agree with me, I take it, that Citizens
United is a case that`s going to help your argument, because that is the
way in which they have interpreted the First Amendment. And by logical
extension, if there`s a political speech right to a corporation, then
presumably there`s a religious freedom right as well.
DANNENFELSER: Speech is very different from -- from the issues at
The reason the appellate courts picked this up is that they
acknowledge a constitutional to right to religious freedom and conscience
and that when -- to force a business or an individual to provide a service
that they believe undermines their conscience is -- is simply wrong.
It`s the first time in history that this would happen. And, in fact,
there are many members of Congress that -- that are not currently in
Congress that thought this issue was resolved before the Obamacare law was
And, in fact, this is the last issue. This is the very hangup before
the law was passed. They thought -- ask Bart Stupak and ask Kathy
Dahlkemper whether they thought this was resolved. They are believing
Catholics. They would never have affirmed the idea that abortion-inducing
drugs should be required to be provided to -- to employees as a part of
SMERCONISH: But a contrary way of looking at it...
DANNENFELSER: And let me just -- let me just add this one thing.
SMERCONISH: Real quick.
DANNENFELSER: Access, Ilyse, access, Ilyse, is not provision.
And we just have to make a difference between that. And the Supreme
Court has already said that it`s not the same thing. You can go to any --
access is -- is clearly available to anyone. It`s the question of how it`s
provided, whether you...
SMERCONISH: But, Ilyse, Ilyse, a different interpretation of what
Marjorie is saying, a different interpretation would be one that says, wait
a minute, we aren`t imposing anything on those folks as individuals. They
can go out and they can take whatever stand that they would like to with
regard to contraception, but when they hang a shingle and when they do
business as a public entity and live within the laws of this country, then
they can`t sit back and arbitrarily make decisions for their work force.
Is that not the response?
HOGUE: I think that that`s absolutely correct, Michael.
And I also think that it`s really, really important to ask, where does
it end? We are talking about opening a door to our bosses saying, you know
what, I`m sorry, I can`t allow you to vaccinate your children on your own
insurance. These are people who work in craft stores or work for cabinet
makers. These aren`t corporate CEOs.
So, those $30 here or $50 there, $100 there actually add up. That`s
money that these people want to spend on their children`s education that
they already have. So I think it really is about, as Marjorie said,
HOGUE: ... but not -- not marginalizing one set of health care for
women as other from the kind of health care that all Americans deserve and
SMERCONISH: Tell me -- tell me about -- tell me about Justice
Kennedy`s view on this, and I could tell you how it ends.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Ilyse Hogue and Marjorie Dannenfelser.
HOGUE: Thank you. Happy holidays, Michael.
SMERCONISH: And to you. Thank you for that.
DANNENFELSER: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next: Stay classy -- the cast of "Anchorman 2."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Oh, boy, you all
ready for Thanksgiving?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LENO: Yes. It`s a great holiday.
You know, I read an interesting holiday fact today. In 1941, Congress
ruled the fourth Thursday in November would officially be observed as
Thanksgiving Day, thus making the last time Congress accomplished anything.
LENO: Isn`t that amazing?
LENO: And you can tell Thanksgiving is getting closer. In fact
today, five turkeys from the United States showed up at the Moscow airport
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Time now for the "Sideshow."
Jay Leno may think that Congress hasn`t accomplished much lately, but
it looks like John Boehner might be doing some work tomorrow, in the
kitchen, that is. Earlier this week, the speaker posted about his cooking
skills in "TIME" magazine, saying that he makes the best turkey brine
So, if you`re still in need of some culinary ideas for tomorrow, you
can find the speaker`s recipe on his Web site.
Next up: President Obama pardoned this year`s national Thanksgiving
turkey at the White House earlier today. And here`s a look at how the
ceremony played out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The office of the
presidency, as the most powerful position in the world, brings with it many
awesome and solemn responsibilities.
This is not one of them.
OBAMA: Eighty turkeys competed for the chance to make it to the White
House and stay off the Thanksgiving table. It was quite literally the
OBAMA: The competition was stiff, but we can officially declare that
Popcorn is the winner...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: ... proving -- there you go -- proving that even a turkey with
a funny name can find a place in politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And finally, Ron Burgundy may be a fictional character,
but he`s make journalism history. Next month, the Newseum in Washington,
D.C., will unveil "Anchorman: The Exhibit," which display props and
costumes from both movies, including Burgundy`s mustache brush and a
replica of the film`s news desk.
And those looking forward to the film`s release next month might
appreciate this. Earlier this week, the cast of the movie surprised an
audience in Australia with an impromptu rendition of "Afternoon Delight.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Would you guys like to sing a song with us?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FERRELL: Because there`s -- there`s a song that we`d -- we`d -- we`d
like to sing for you guys, if you will indulge us.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Staying classy.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
A sprawling storm barreling along the East Coast brought heavy rain,
snow and wind to some parts, making driving hazardous and forcing flight
cancellations at area airports.
High winds in the necessary area may keep the iconic high-flying
balloons in the Macy`s Thanksgiving Day Parade grounded. Officials will
decide at parade time tomorrow.
The first family brought the Thanksgiving spirit to one food bank in
the Washington, D.C., area. They handed out bundles of food, along with
presidential boxes of M&Ms -- back to HARDBALL.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It was almost a year ago that 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his way into
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In less than five
minutes, he murdered 20 small children and six adults in what became one of
the country`s deadliest school massacres.
This week, the state of Connecticut released its official report on
the rampage, but failed to answer the why question, why did Adam Lanza do
this? And why was intervention not a possibility?
The report notes that Lanza was afflicted with mental health problems,
including an obsession with violence, which should have sent off red flags.
Instead, his solitary behavior and potential for danger was often enabled
by the only person close to him, his mother, Nancy.
She became his first victim on the day when he shot her to death
before heading to elementary school. The release of this information is
sure to add to the anxiety in Newtown in the coming weeks, ahead of the
one-year anniversary. But it also continues to -- the debate over
effectiveness of our mental health care system.
Jeff Gardere is a psychologist and NBC News contributor. Marc Santora
is a reporter with "The New York Times" covering the Sandy Hook findings.
Dr. Gardere, often, people are reading this report and they`re saying,
well, it doesn`t answer the why question. My reaction was a little bit
different. It really doesn`t help us in terms of assessing risk factors.
There are many families across the country that have troubled young adults
within their midst. And they`re trying to read the tea leaves and
determine, well, is this young man, is this young woman really at risk of
causing injury to themselves or others?
How did you interpret that question, based on the report from the
JEFF GARDERE, NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think there were clear
signs that this young man, who had some sort of autism, a pervasive
developmental disorder, Asperger`s, as it`s also been called, had issues
with communication, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hypochondriasis, didn`t
like to be touched, so certainly had a lot of issues.
But it seemed, Michael, like he was getting worse and worse. He was
decompensating. And we see an overlay, possibly, of some psychosis. I
think the signs were there. The problem with the mental health system is,
unless a person is a clear danger to themselves or others, then we can`t
force-medicate and we can`t hospitalize.
So, they were stuck in a no-man`s land there. But, certainly, I agree
with you that there were indicators there and more help should have been
given to this mother or she should have done more by herself. And we know
that she made a lot of faux pas, especially introducing him and supporting
him with guns and with violent video games.
SMERCONISH: Well, you have the expertise. I do not. I`m just an
armchair psychologist. But it seemed to me she was probably furthering his
interests in the weapons as a means of protecting the relationship that she
had with him. And, ultimately, it cost her her life.
GARDERE: I certainly agree with you. It`s very clear to me that,
because you had these communication disorders, family members had abandoned
the two of them.
At this point, she felt this was the best way that she could connect
with him and try to keep some sort of a relationship with him and keep him
off the streets. But, of course, we see that was a fatal mistake.
SMERCONISH: Marc Santora, that report from the Connecticut State
Police was nearly 50 pages long. What did you take away with it? What did
you think was most significant in their findings?
MARC SANTORA, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, the report was basically
broken down in two sections, one dealing with the actual events of that
day, which I think we had a pretty clear picture of what happened, just had
some new detail.
But then really what was new were the details about both Adam Lanza`s
life and his relationship with his mother. And I think, while it`s -- we
don`t want to draw sweeping conclusions from snippets of their life, there
were signs going back all the way to the fifth grade that he had this
obsession with violence.
He wrote something called "The Big Book of Granny" in the fifth grade
which had -- the main character had a gun in her cane and would shoot
people. He collected clippings about mass killings dating back to 1891 and
would even make spreadsheets.
So, there are clear signs there. But even in the report, it`s not
clear how aware she was of some of his -- his more dangerous obsessions.
SMERCONISH: When Adam Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger`s disorder in
2005, he was described as having -- quote -- "significant social
impairments and extreme anxiety and lacked empathy and had very rigid
One witness indicated that the shooter did not have an emotional
connection to his mother. Recently, when his mother asked him if he would
feel bad if anything happened to her, he replied, "No."
In the school setting, the shooter had extreme anxiety and discomfort
with changes, noises, and physical contact with others. Tutoring,
desensitization and medication were recommended for Lanza, but he refused
to take the suggested medication and did not engage in behavior therapies.
Over time, he had multiple daily rituals, an inability to touch doorknobs,
repeated hand-washing and obsessive clothes hanging.
Dr. Gardere, if you knew what we know today about him preceding the
shooting, would you, as a health care professional, do you think, have been
able to meet the threshold in front of a court that said, this is a young
man who needs to have treatment, even treatment forced upon him, because he
was not a minor?
GARDERE: Well, we`re -- we`re talking about an Asperger`s here. And
we have to be very clear that there is no kind of a relationship between
Asperger`s, autism and violence. So what we`re seeing here are clearly
signs of the autism spectrum.
I don`t think it was enough to have to force medicate him. We don`t
see it in the report, but many clinicians believe that as this child was
getting older, there was a psychotic process that was beginning to develop.
He was at the age of onset as he was getting older as a teenager. So yes,
he should have had the behavior modification. The behavior treatment, not
enough to put him in a hospital, but certainly, you wanted to make his
life, get a better quality of life than what he was experience.
SMERCONISH: But, Marc Santora, if he`s 20 years old, and he`s of
majority status, you can`t force him to do anything. And this comes back
to the Dr. Gardere`s point that you`ve got to be able to show that he`s at
risk to himself or society.
MARC SANTORA, THE NEW YORK TIMES : No, and here you see where the
mother is clearly overwhelmed. He seemed to control her life. For
instance, he didn`t like the cat in the house, so they got rid of the cat.
He didn`t like holidays, so she couldn`t put up a Christmas tree.
People wouldn`t even come in the house to visit. She was thinking
about moving and selling the house, but since she wouldn`t let her in the
room, and he wouldn`t go to a hotel, she was thinking about buying an RV.
So, you could see obviously she was struggling and was overwhelmed
with what she had to deal with.
SMERCONISH: The report found that Adam Lanza submerged himself in a
culture of violence. Among the items that investigators found in the Lanza
home included, bookmarks pertaining to firearms, mass murder and
ammunition, two videos showing suicide by gunshot, movies depicting mass
shootings, the computer game titled "School Shooting", a five-second
dramatization video depicting children being shot, images of a shooter with
a rifle, shotgun and numerous magazines in his pockets, documents on
weapons and magazine capacity and large materials dealing with the
Columbine school shooting.
Dr. Gardere, of that laundry list, what most alarmed you? What would
have been the red flag that would have caused to you say, we`ve got trouble
GARDERE: Well, I would think the obsessive amount of time on the
videos, and, of course, just the information, admiring and focusing in on
previous mass shootings. I think, to me, that was the red flag where he
should have then, at that point, gotten some sort of hospitalization or, or
But this mother was overwhelmed. I don`t think she knew how to handle
the situation. We`re seeing an overlay of several mental health issues
going on. It was just too much for her. And inevitably, it spelled her
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Jeff Gardere. Thank you, Marc Santoro. I
wish we had more time.
SANTORO: Thank you.
GARDERE: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Remember, if you want to follow me on Twitter, all you
need to do is learn how to spell Smerconish.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: A reminder. You can take MSNBC with you wherever you go
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We`ll be right back.
SMERCONISH: We`re back.
Tomorrow, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It`s a time to gather the family
around the dinner table and give thanks for our health, happiness, good
But in this cynical age, the holiday that`s supposed to resemble the
harmonious depictions times that you`d find in a Norman Rockwell painting
can actually become more like a scene out of "Meet the Parents". Tedious.
Awkward. Sometimes obligatory.
On that note, we`re going to imagine being a fly on the wall at three
political Thanksgivings, each with potential for backroom drama -- the
Bushes, the Cheneys, the Clintons. In these cases, the turkey might not be
the only thing raising their blood pressure.
With us now, Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post", Joy Reid with "The
Hey, let`s start with the Bushes. Here`s a family that clearly has a
lot to be thankful for. After all, two presidents from one family, that`s
nothing to sneeze at.
But tensions may lurk under the surface now that Jeb has an eye on the
White House himself. After all, it`s practically a family tradition. But
he couldn`t be very pleased when his own mother played down his prospects
Here`s how Barbara Bush responded when she was asked if Jeb`s should
run back in April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: He`s, by far, the best qualified
man, but no. There are just -- there are other people out there that are
very qualified. And we`ve had enough Bushes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)]
SMERCONISH: Joy Reid, if you were a fly on the wall tomorrow at the
Bushes, is this a subject do you think gets discussed?
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think Jeb is going to be sitting
on the other end of the table far from mom.
No, I mean, I think the other thing for Jeb Bush that`s really
unfortunate for his potential plan is that the neocons are back. I know
he`s got to probably want to reach across the table as he`s passing the
turkey and say, George, please get the neocons that your friends to stop
talking about things --
SMERCONISH: You`re talking about Iran among others, I`m sure.
REID: Over Iran, absolutely.
SMERCONISH: Dana, your assessment of how Thanksgiving plays itself
out at the Bush compound?
DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think the dynamic is that
you`ve got the older brother has crashed the car. And now, the number two
brother does not get to drive it to the prom. So, it`s -- that kind of
And the other problem is the older brother`s irritating everybody by
trying to draw their portrait. So, he`s really making -- adding insult to
injury to the poor younger brother.
SMERCONISH: You know, I think the guy`s got gift. I mean, I don`t
have a trained eye, but I look at those paintings. I was pretty darn
MILBANK: If only he had gone into art in the first place. Think
where the country might be today.
SMERCONISH: Next up, the Cheney family feud. Now, it`s depicted here
in what you`re talking a look. It`s got to be an uncomfortable situation
at best, since Mary Cheney publicly declined to support the candidacy of
her sister, Liz, over the issue of gay marriage.
This is more than just a wedge issue. It`s personal. "Politico"
magazine has built it as the race that broke the Cheney family.
Joy Reid, does it get discussed at Thanksgiving?
REID: Well, I can only imagine the most awkward moment is when Liz
tries to express her compassion for Mary and her poor family for, you know,
being gay and all that. I mean, it`s going to be awkward.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Dana, you know, there is a great piece in the times
that talked about, what is normalcy in 2013 around the Thanksgiving Day
table and otherwise. I`m sure you read it. Oddly, this Cheney dynamic
might be the most normal, the most Rockwellian for 2013 of all of them.
MILBANK: Perhaps or perhaps a little exaggerated as well. I think if
their Thanksgiving will be one of the few where you actually need
individual food tasters for each member of the family to make sure there is
no foul play.
But I do suspect they will rally in the end as they decide to how to
dispose of the body that Dick Cheney shot when he was trying to hunt for
SMERCONISH: I`ve seen so many stories that say, stay away from
politics come tomorrow. But these three families, you don`t think, Joy,
they would be able to get through the meal without discussing what`s going
REID: No, it`s got. I mean, there is no way. The thing for Mary
Cheney is even more awkward is that she is trying to get more front and
center on issues of gay rights which a lot of the gay rights community
explained she hadn`t been. So, it`s got to be awkward.
And Liz is so nakedly ambitious. She may actually try to push Mary
Cheney back in the closet during the dinner.
SMERCONISH: Finally, the Clinton family Thanksgiving, the irony here
is that the Clintons may be the most likely to have a drama-free
Thanksgiving this year.
What`s going on there, Dana Milbank?
MILBANK: You know, it is surprisingly a low drama time for the
Clintons, but it could be a culinary drama because the vegan former
president is going to want to eat his tofurkey. And his wife is getting
ready to run for president is only going to want to eat red meat. So, it
might not be as smooth as you expect.
SMERCONISH: Joy, assess Thanksgiving at the Clinton table?
REID: I`m not sure I can ever compete with Dana Milbank. I think
he`s a lot funnier than me. But I mean, I think the reality is Hillary is
probably going to want to get to her meal and bill Clinton is not going to
want to stop talking and giving her campaign advice and she`s eventually
going to want to like put an entire turkey into his mouth and make him stop
SMERCONISH: OK. We have a minute left, this is a serious question.
You can be a guest at one of these three tables. Where are you going and
MILBANK: I am going to put on my hunting vest and go to see the
Cheneys. As you`ve pointed out, that is the classic American Thanksgiving
in the year 2013. And I`d like to be a part of that.
SMERCONISH: Joy Reid, where are you tomorrow if you had druthers, the
REID: I`ve got to go to the most fascinating political mind in the
business and go hang out with the Clintons, man.
SMERCONISH: Because you want to hear the big dog?
REID: I`ve got to hear the big dog. Hillary is not going to want to
let him talk. So, I`ll listen to what he had to say.
SMERCONISH: Yes, I was thinking the same thing that, you know, you
probably wouldn`t get a word in edgewise, not that you really need to.
Just to sit back and listen to what he is offering, could be worth the
price of admission. Although I`d love to hang out with Bush 41.
REID: It`s kind of sad that no one wants to hang out with our third
choice here? That`s kind of sad. Maybe you should go, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I`d take any of the above but I`m spoken for tomorrow.
I hope you two have a great day.
MILBANK: You, too. Thanks.
REID: You, too. Happy Thanksgiving.
SMERCONISH: Thank you so much, Dana Milbank and Joy Reid.
When we return, let me finish with my own very personal experience
with the health care Web site.
You are watching HARDBALL. This is the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this.
Saturday marks the administration`s self-imposed deadline for making
the Obamacare Web site work. I`m sure hoping so, because for the last
month and a half, I have been in health care purgatory.
Since sunrise, on the day of the launch, October 1st, I have attempted
to shop at health care insurance at Healthcare.gov. One and a half month
later, I still haven`t been successful in getting quotes online of
Mine have been a Kafkaesque nightmare of Internet denial and telephone
And this has not been some journalistic folly. I am legitimately in
the market for health insurance and have been optimistic about my ability
to get a competitive rate as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
For the first few weeks, I couldn`t gain access to the site. The
screen was all white space with no information and one day, eureka, I got
to the home page. But when I was next asked for a user name and password,
the screen froze.
Days later, my next roadblock came when I could input data and now it
was time to finalize my application but data I had repeatedly inputted was
not saving. I was constantly back to square one.
Finally, I called the toll free number and walked through my
application with an operator who took all of my information.
After 45 minutes, she was able to quote for me nine different plans
for my family, including an Independence Blue Cross Keystone HMO plan for
about $2,000 a month with no deductible and another, an Independence Blue
Cross PPO, that was also less coverage for half that price.
She assured me all the information I had provided would be inputted
into the online application and merged with my online endeavors via my
Social Security number just as soon as the bugs were out of the Web site,
whereupon, I`d be able to go online, review all nine plans that were
available to me. That was great news, except for the fact that a few days
later when I finally could access the Web site, none of the data that I had
provided over the phone was on my application, and I had to start all over
When I finally inputted all of my information, I was now asked to
prove my identity by uploading my driver`s license. It seems that my
multiple efforts to get a quote convinced the computer model that I was a
fraud. Hey, if a crook invests this much time trying to impersonate me, I
say he deserves my insurance.
So, my fingers are crossed for this weekend. I`m convinced the
conversation will change in this country just as soon as people can
competitively shop. Apparently, I`m going to have nine choices. Now, if I
could only see them, specially, because mental health is now provided and
after this process, I need some.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Have a great
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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