THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 26, 2014
Guests: Daniel Miller; John Walsh
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for
the next hour.
If there`s about to be a large volcanic eruption. If you live near an
active volcano and it is about to blow big time. Apparently, one of the
ways a volcano lets you know ahead of time it`s about to blow is that the
same forces that are about to cause the volcanic eruption also cause
earthquakes ahead of time. It doesn`t happen every time, but that is what
happened in March 1980 on the slopes of the giant active volcano between
Portland Oregon and Olympia Washington that`s called Mt. St. Helens.
Watch this footage that we have before that volcano erupted. We knew it
was coming. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what the volcano area looked like today,
covered with clouds, but a flume of gas harbored over the summit, the
rumblings could be heard for miles and earthquakes sent herds of wild elk
into confused flight. All houses close to the mountain have been evacuated
except for one. An 83-year-old man by the name of Harry Truman refuses to
leave, says he`s not scared. He describes what the quakes are like.
HARRY TRUMAN, 83-YEAR-OLD: A little uncanny, they just shake. In bed,
you`re protected, you`re on two, three layers of springs. (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was 34 years ago this week. That was March 1980. And those
little earthquakes that Mr. Truman was feeling, said he may didn`t know if
it made him feel drunk or what. Those small earthquakes that he was
feeling, small eruptions of gas at Mt. St. Helens they were seeing. It
turns out they were not a false alarm. They were in fact signs that an
eruption was coming. And on May 18th, 1980, just a few weeks after that
footage was shot, that eruption happened and it was huge and it was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Good evening, the Mt. St. Helens volcano
erupted today. It was the worst eruption of that mountain in 123 years.
At least five people were killed fleeing down the mountainside and more
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: At 8:32 this morning, Mt. St. Helens
shuddered with a strong earthquake. The explosion was heard more than 100
miles away. The volcano then spewed out a huge cloud of ash, two miles
across and up to 10 miles in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The force of the blast at least as big as the
Hiroshima bomb, 100 million tons of rock blown off the top. Possibly, as
much blown up from below. What happened, this bulging twisting north face
of the mountain seen here before the blast exploded laterally. The force
and heat of the event totally destroyed an area eight miles long, 15 miles
Volcanic ash was carried as far as the Dakotas today. In Spokane, 200
miles east, the dust was so thick, some people wore gas masks. Below Mt.
St. Helens, total desolation, not a tree standing. People caught in this
area died yesterday including presumably the only resident who refused to
leave and became a folk hero, 83-year-old Harry Truman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: 83-year-old Harry Truman obviously not the former president, but
that man who refused to evacuate in advance of that volcanic eruption, Mr.
Truman was later confirmed who have died in the eruption. His whole camp
where he lived on the banks of the volcano was buried in 150 feet of
In total 57 people were killed when Mt. St. Helens blew up in 1980. It is
still the worst natural disaster on record in the state of Washington.
Nobody yet knows what the death toll is ultimately going to be for the
giant landslide in Snohomish county, just north of Seattle, Washington this
week. but if rescuers worst fears are realized. What lapped at this site,
on this Stillaguamish River, it may rival Mt. St. Helens in terms of the
human toll of that tragedy.
It`s been four days now since this hillside collapsed into the valley
below. Forty nine homes were in the path of the landslide and are known to
have been destroyed, 49 houses. A total of eight people were rescued from
the scene on the first day, including this 4-year-old boy. You can see
from footage taken from the helicopter, a 4-year-old boy, who was spotted
by first responders wading through the mud alone. That little boy was
saved. He was pulled to safety from above as you can see here. But his
father and his three brother and sisters are all still missing.
The rescue efforts have been heroic from the very first day at this
disaster. Now, that we are at day five, in part it is the endurance, the
physical endurance of the rescuers who have been at it day after day that
is part of their heroism now. They`ve been using tools that are both high-
tech and very, very low tech.
In some places even today they are just digging with their hands. Rescue
dogs are being used extensively to try to pinpoint locations over the dogs
may be able to smell humans so then human rescuers can come in and focus
their digging efforts there.
After some rescuers themselves had to be rescued from the mud on the first
day of the landslide. There`s been an intense focus on trying to move
people around on site in a way that they can do the work of trying to find
people without themselves becoming victims of the slide. They`ve used
zodiac rafts on site. They`ve also used vehicles that are essentially like
hover crafts. They have used very sensitive high-tech listening devices,
as well as remote cameras so they can insert into small spaces at the
cameras can look around even if the rescuers themselves can`t get into the
small spaces to see if anyone is there, anybody who could be rescued or
whose body could be recovered.
But for all of the hundreds of people on site, for all the herculean effort
that has been expended here, no one has been found alive since the first
On the first day, three people were pulled alive out of the air. Three
people were pulled out of the area and confirmed dead. Five more bodies
were pulled out the next day on Sunday. Six bodies were recovered on
Monday. Yesterday two more bodies were recovered.
One of the things that has been truly scary about this disaster, one of the
things that, frankly, has made it grow as a national story rather than
recede since it happened, is not only been the growing death toll in the
disaster, the death toll stands at 16 confirmed dead. But it`s also the
expectation and the worry that that death toll may rise, and potentially
that it may rise significantly.
Last night Snohomish county rescuers reported that while they have
recovered two more bodies yesterday, bringing that death toll to 16, they
also spotted eight additional bodies that they have not been able to safely
recover. They will not add those eight people to the list of confirmed
dead until they can recover those bodies. But when that happens, it is
expected that that will be bring the total death toll to 24.
Beyond that, there is a list of missing persons, people who were believed
to have potentially been in the area of the spill at the time that it
happened. Those are people who are still unaccounted for. The list of
missing started at 18, but it has steadily risen to where it stood earlier
today, at 176.
As of tonight, as of just moments ago, that number has now been revised
down to 90. Ninety people still considered missing.
Part of the emergency response to this disaster has been to tap law
enforcement officers who have experience in missing person`s cases.
Essentially to treat everybody on that list of 90 people as a missing
person who can hopefully be identified alive and well, somewhere. They`re
also trying to clear up any potential duplicate names on the list in the
hopes that the looming and very scary number of at least 90 people missing,
they`re hoping that that number can be brought way down.
But there were 100 -- excuse me, there were 49 houses known to be in the
path of that wall of mud, when it came down. The square mile that is the
rescue and recovery scene, the place that they are searching that has been
inundated with all of that earth. They say the rescue and recovery area,
it`s a square mile. They say it is covered at minimum in 15 feet of soil
and mud and debris, at minimum. But a lot of the search area, the mud is
40 feet deep. That`s the depth of a four story building, that`s what
The local press in the pacific northwest has done an incredible job of
documenting the rescue efforts so far, covering the heartbreak of the 16
people who are known to have been killed and the many dozens more who are
feared lost. But the local coverage has also increasingly turned to the
question why these 49 homes that were destroyed in the disaster were there
in the first place, why people had been allowed to build their homes there.
This exact same spot on the Stillaguamish River has seen landslides before,
and not just once or twice. This is an aerial picture posted from "The New
York Times" that shows the still visible scene. This is before the
landslide this weekend.
And in the before picture, you can still see the visible scene from the
last massive landslide on that hill which happened in 2006. But before
that flight in 2006, there was also a huge landslide on the same mountain
on the same bend of the river in 1967. Before that, there was another huge
landslide there in 1951. Before that, there was another huge landslide
there in 1949, all at the same spot.
In the 1950s, after the two first big landslides of the modern era, in
1950s, the "Seattle Times" reports that two state agencies in Washington
contracted with an engineering firm to study whether that landslide site
would ever be safe. The engineering firm suggested that maybe there were a
few things that may be done to try to shore up that bend in the river, that
side of the mountain. But they concluded that any fix would likely be
Quote "it`s almost impossible from a practical standpoint to stabilize this
slide. The slope will continue to slide." That was in the 1950s they said
Fast forward 50 years. In 1999, again, a report prepared by the U.S. army
corps of engineers warned that quote "the potential for a large
catastrophic failure at this location."
The following year, the year 2000, another expert offers a similarly dire
warning for the army corps of engineers, saying the slide area posed a
significant risk to human lives and private property since human
development of the flood plane in this area has steadily increased since
the last major slide in 1967.
Then again, warned again in 2010, which was four years ago, a report
prepared for the county, for Snohomish county itself, warned that again
this specific hillside area was one of the highest risk places in the whole
county for destructive landslides. And now just as it did four previous
times in the last 65 years, the side of that mountain has come crashing
In day five of searching for survivors, the immediate hope is still to try
to find signs of life. The next stage will be to try to recover the dead.
And then at some point this will have to be reckoned with as a failure of
policy, for why those dozens of homes were there at all. Given the
repeated and emphatic due diligence that was done at the federal level and
at the state level and at the local level, warning over and over and over
again over a period of generations in Clarian terms, warning that this was
going to happen.
Joining us now is Daniel Miller. He is a geo morphologist with Earth
Systems Institute which conducted that 1999 study on the landslide area for
the U.S. army corps of engineers. That was the one that predicted a large
catastrophic failure at this site.
Dr. Daniel Miller, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
DANIEL MILLER, GEO MORPHOLOGIST, EARTH SYSTEMS INSTITUTE: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: Obviously, this is an ongoing tragedy. This is not over. We
can`t look back at it with hindsight except to those warnings. Is it fair
to characterize this as a site where it was repeatedly warned there would
likely be future landslides?
MILLER: I think it`s fair to characterize it that way, yes.
MADDOW: The head of the Snohomish county department of management told
reporters Monday, again, in the midst of this disaster, that the area was
considered very safe, that this all came out of nowhere.
As far as you understand it, was it widely understood in the region that
there had been these repeated warnings?
MILLER: I think anyone that had lived there very long was aware of these
landslides. All of the people that I worked with there were quite aware of
these landslides. I don`t think that anybody had any idea that something
of this magnitude could occur?
MADDOW: When you described the potential for a large catastrophic failure
in your report in 1999, obviously you`re speaking as a scientist and you
mean that in the technical sense. I look at this as a laymen and think
that`s a large catastrophic failure. Are you saying you weren`t imaging
something on this scale?
MILLER: Analysis that we did for that project suggested that there was a
potential for very large volume of soil to fail from the western margin of
the landslide. It suggests that it wasn`t currently completely unstable,
but that if conditions continue to evolve, that could be stabilized and
For that study, we were looking solely at the potential for sediment to the
river. We didn`t translate that then to an assessment of risk for the
areas down slope. But that information was available. We just didn`t take
it to the next step.
MADDOW: One of the things that has been raised by some of the residents of
this area has expressed frustration and upset to the press saying that they
did not feel adequately warned about the risk here. One of the concerns
that they have raised is that they say there`s been a lot quite a lot of
logging, timbering on that mountain, and that they believe, at least
anecdotally, that maybe that had something to do with causing this current
Is it reasonable to look at factors like that in terms of why this happened
when it did?
MILLER: It`s certainly reasonable. And in fact, prior to 1999 study, we
did another study in 1996 to examine the factors that affect that
particular landslide. Timber harvest was one of the things that we
examined. And we certainly found that there`s the potential that could
have an effect. But it was minor compared to other factors like erosion of
the toe and erosion of the body of the landslide by streams. So it`s
certainly a potential effect.
MADDOW: As a scientist, when you look at phenomena like this, and when
you, especially look back at the history of this particular site, do you
think there`s a reasonable public policy case to make that governments
should use the kind of data that you provided for example, to say that this
area will be zoned in such a way that it`s not fit for human has been
taking, this should be left as an area that`s considered to be inherently
unstable and humans should not put themselves in risk in living in an area
like this? Would you feel like that as the reasonable response?
MILLER: Well, in hindsight that is a reasonable response. But, you know,
if somebody had asked me that two weeks ago, it might have been -- I might
have given a different answer. I mean, you strive with what happened with
Mt. St. Helens. You know, in the Pacific northwest, we`ve chosen to live
in a really dynamic landscape. And so, we`ve all chosen to accept a
certain level of risk in our lives.
I, for example, live in Seattle and I know that at some point we`re going
to be struck by a very large earthquake and that`s going to have
devastating consequences as well. So I work to quantify these risks. I
think we do have the responsibility to ensure that everyone is aware of the
level of risk of the consequences of something happening so that they make
informed decisions about the risk that they take. I`m not -- clearly, I
mean, we`re not successful in communicating all this information in this
case. That is something we need to improve on, I think.
MADDOW: Dr. Daniel Miller of the Earth Systems Institute at a San
Francisco native, and as somebody who`s house in New York city was flooded
with 14 feet of water in super storm Sandy, talking about living with risk
is something that I absolutely empathize with, sir.
Thank you very much for helping us understand this. Thank you.
MILLER: You are welcome.
MADDOW: A lot of other news around the world tonight. A banner day for
people who root out political corruption, for example. But again, the
breaking news that we just had tonight on the situation in Snohomish
county, just north of Seattle, is that the terrifying list of 176 people
still missing in the very, very unfortunate and deadly landslide there in
north of Seattle.
The list of the missing, of people unaccounted for at that site has been
downgraded tonight from 176 to a still very high number of 90. That is the
new list of missing tonight in Washington state. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: In 2012 in California, Republicans basically became extinct.
Functionally after the 2012 election in California, it no longer mattered
if elected Republicans showed up to work at the state capital. Because
Democrats won so many seats in that election they could do anything they
wanted without a single Republican vote on anything.
Democrats, not only had the governorship and large majorities in both the
assembly and the Senate they had super majorities, they had enough to
override a veto if they ever wanted to even though the governor was also a
They also had enough to enact to anything they wanted that was budget
related or tax related for the state. Even though those things in
California require a two-thirds vote in both houses.
Democrats just had everything. They had over two-thirds of the seats in
both the state assembly and the state Senate following their huge successes
in 2012. And then, of course, by the law of political complacency, you
know that things had to start going horribly wrong.
Democratic senator Roderick Wright, January 28th, he was convicted of eight
felonies. He had first been indicted in 2010 and then in January he got
convicted eight times over. But Senator Wright would not resign his Senate
seat. His fellow Democrat did strip him of his committee assignments.
They put him on a leave of absence, but he`s still being paid his state
senator salary and he still technically holds the seat. They debated
kicking him out of the Senate. But his fellow Democrats voted that they
did not want to.
And this is the most amazing part, actually. Look at this. The state
Senate president, a Democratic senator, Darrell Steinberg, explained after
that vote. Quote "the integrity of this institution," meaning the senate,
"the integrity of this institutions cannot tolerate a convicted felon in
its ranks. But at this time Senator Wright is not a convicted felon."
Actually, he totally was a convicted felon. He was convicted of eight
different felonies, in January, and being convicted of a felony is usually
what people think makes you a convicted felon. I don`t know, apparently
that`s splitting hairs to California Senate Democrats so the California
senate Democrats voted to let the felon keep his seats in the state Senate.
And he still hold it today.
And then, you deserve another one, the Democrats in California have that
precious super majority by two seats in the state senate. Well, here is
state senator number two explaining why they don`t have that super majority
"The Sacramento Bee" help fully explains this, noting that when the Senate
convened in late February this year one seat was conspicuously empty,
because Senator Ron Calderon was to use the official parliaments excused on
personal business. His personal business was, that he was being arraigned
in Los Angeles on federal corruption charges that could imprison him for
So the Democrats had their super majority by two seats, one senator gets
eight felony convictions. The second gets a 24 count felony corruption
indictment. And then neither of them quit the Senate, and their fellow
Democrats in the state Senate refused to kick either of them out. And so,
California taxpayers are paying the salaries for these two guys and the
Democrats can`t replace them. Incidentally, they`re both from very
Democratic districts so it wouldn`t be hard to replace them with other
But these seats held by the felon and by the 24 count indictment guy, those
seats are not being -- they`re still being held by those guys but those
guys are not coming to work. They`re on leaves of absences while they`re
dealing with their, you know, problems. Because those guys aren`t showing
up to work every day, that`s how the Democrats lost the super majority in
the most populous state in the nation.
And that was before today, that was before shrimp boy, behold Raymond
Shrimp Boy Chow, one of the most notorious gangsters from the bad old days
of San Francisco`s Chinatown from the 1970s and `80s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Chow was 16 when his family moved to San
Francisco in 1976. The smallest of five brothers, his grandmother called
him (INAUDIBLE) or shrimp boy. He says when students at Galileo high
school make fun of his poor English, he shot one of them in the leg. By
age 18 Chow was behind bars for robbery. In the mid 1980s he was out of
prison and was back controlling the gambling den.
In this photo, a young rimed Chow hosts the then new technology that
brought the gang down, his cell phone. Based on wiretaps, gang members
were charged with racketeering, heroin smuggling and murder for hire. Chow
was convicted of gun running and sentenced to 23 years in federal prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, eventually Raymond "shrimp boy" Chow turned states evidence
against another gangster and so he got out of prison early in 2006. He`s
had a fairly high profile existence since then, claiming he`s turned over a
new leaf. He says he is now a force for good in the community.
Well today, at 5:30 a.m. local time, FBI agents descended on his home and
his offices and arrested him along with 26 other people across northern
California in a huge corruption, gun running, racketeering, drug
trafficking sting. And at least one accusation of murder for hire.
Hundreds of police officers and FBI agents were involved in dozens of
simultaneous raids across northern California today. And one of the people
arrested was yet another Democratic state senator from the great state of
California, makes him number three. State Senator Leland Yee. He is a
fixture of bay area Democratic politics. He is a leading Democratic
candidate this year for the statewide office as secretary of state. That,
at least, is probably not going to happen now not when the most resonant
images of you as a public officials, as one of you in handcuffs being
conveyed to the federal courthouse downtown.
Although, all 26 suspects were arraigned today on a way array of charges
Senator Lee specifically was charged with public corruption with soliciting
funds from what turned out to be undercover FBI operatives. The senator
allegedly offering to help the operatives in the state Capital in
Sacramento in exchange for them giving him campaign cash.
So California out of 40 state senators total, out of 28 Democratic state
senators, there are now three Democratic state senators with federal
criminal indictments against them, just this session, resulting already in
eight felony convictions.
And yes, the Republican party is essentially defunct in most of California
and probably beyond reviving. But if anything can bring them back, it`s
probably days like this.
Incidentally, this happens on the same day the Democrats in Rhode Island
had to choose a new speaker of the house after their last one resigned to
the post following a day of still unexplained FBI raids on his home and his
office. It also happens on the same day that the FBI arrests and indicts
the Democratic mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina after only four months on
A federal sting operation in Charlotte, stretching back to his days on the
Charlotte city council allegedly found the mayor soliciting and accepting
bribes. And the indictment in his case, it`s like a series of rejected
scenes from American hustle.
Look at this. January 17th, 2013 the undercover informant gives Mr. Cannon
$12,500 in cash by placing it on the coffee table in front of him, saying,
well, there`s the 12.5 under the radar. When the undercover informant
presented the case, Mr. Cannon looks nervously toward the window and
covered the money with a folder. Cannon`s reaction caused undercover
informant to closed the window blinds. After undercover informant closed
the window blinds, Mr. cannon placed the money near his ear and fanned the
So like that`s how he`s counting the money maybe? I think it`s only 12.4.
Federal officials and statewide office holders of the Republican persuasion
have had a really good run of public corruption and other scandals
recently. Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie., Pat Corey, Tray Raydell (ph),
Scott Walker, Michael Grim, and none of the Democrats who got done today by
the FBI was a federal official or statewide elected. But still, today was
basically democratic catch up day on the reasons why the word politician
has become an insult in our country. Today, the Democrats did their part,
smelled by partisanship. Seriously, smell it.
MADDOW: There can be only one. There can be only one haircut in the
United States Senate from the great state of Montana. Why the state of
Montana`s representation in the United States has just become an issue of
national importance beyond the eerie hairdo thing. That is coming up
tonight in just a moment.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The first veteran of the Iraq war to get elected to Congress was
Patrick Murphy. He served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 with the 82nd airborne.
He was awarded a bronze star. He came home in 2004 and was elected to the
House in 2006 in a swing district in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Patrick Murphy went on to served two terms in Congress. He serve on the
intelligence committee and on the armed services committee as the first
and, at the time, one of the only Iraq war in Congress. It was a big deal
when Patrick Murphy worked hard as a member of Congress to try to end the
war that he served in. It was also a big deal given his military
background and his status as believe on democrat, when he took on a leading
in getting rid of the militaries anti-gay, don`t ask don`t tell policy.
Patrick Murphy again served two terms in Congress. Among other things he
now works here on MSNBC. He has a show that airs weekends here on MSNBC
called "taking the hill." And frankly, from a personal point of view, I
think it`s an honor that he works here and we got to work with him,
frankly. The first Iraq war veteran to make it to Congress, where he used
his time to Congress to try to end the war and try to help people who
served in it. He was the first Iraq war veteran in the house.
And now, here is the first Iraq war veteran in the Senate, his name is John
Walsh. And here he is being sworn in just a few weeks ago as the newest
member of the United States Senate. John Walsh was appointed to filled the
vacated senate seat of Democrat by Max Baucus who left the senate to become
the new U.S. ambassador to China.
Senator Walsh served in Iraq as commander of a combat infantry battalion
from 2004 to 2005. He too, was awarded a Bronze star. He served in the
Montana National Guard for three decades including as the adjutant general,
meaning the man in-charge. John Walsh was appointed to the Senate seat.
Come November he`s going to have to fight to keep it. Karl Rove`s Cross
Roads groups started running ads against him in Montana literally on the
day he was sworn in the Senate. He had to say Montana voters in question
his ability to lead, which is something to say.
Even though John Walsh is technically the incumbent senator from Montana,
the candidate -- republicans who are running against him already has four
times the amount of money that Senator Walsh has for the campaign this
But John Walsh doesn`t have the luxury of just campaigning for what is
going to be a hard fight to hold on to that seat. He is also now a serving
senator. He is brand spanking new serving senator. And as such and as the
first ever Iraq war veteran to serve in the United States Senate, he is
introducing new major legislation tomorrow. It`s a bill to up suicide
prevention efforts for American veterans.
The VA estimates that the number of veterans committing suicide is up to 22
every day, they say that the pace of suicide is even higher among veterans
under the age of 30. So that`s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America are group oava.org. They are
lobbying intensively on the issue of suicide this week in Washington,
they`re at the Pentagon, at the VA, on Capitol Hill. Tomorrow they will be
announcing the introduction of this new bill alongside Senator Walsh.
Alongside the only person in the United States Senate who knows exactly
what the veterans of those wars lived through, because he himself lived
through it too.
Joining us now is Senator John Walsh of Montana.
Senator Walsh, thank you very much for being with us. It`s nice to have
SEN. JOHN WALSH, MONTANA: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So why this issue? You obviously haven`t been in the United
States Senate very long. It has to be a major priority for you to move so
quickly on this issue?
WALSH: Well, Rachel, this is very personal to me. Like you mentioned I
commanded an infantry battalion in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. And when our
unit returned home, I had a young soldier that died by suicide. Sgt,
Christopher Dana who, you know, was over in Iraq with me through the entire
And so, this is a personal issue. And, you know, you also mentioned that
we have 22 veterans that are dying of suicide each day, you know. So we
have an epidemic in this country that needs to be solved and I want to
solve that problem.
MADDOW: It is hard to think of suicide as having a public policy solution.
I think a lot of issues like this, it`s hard to get your head around what
can be done from a public policy perspective to solve a problem that seems
so personal. That`s it. This bill is fairly comprehensive, it takes seven
different approaches to try to tackle it.
What do you think is the most important thing in the bill, what do you
think works or could most be done to prevent suicide among veterans.
WALSH: Well right now, we have a shortage of mental health care providers.
You know, we opened a brand new facility in Montana, we built it right next
to our VA hospital in Montana. And we couldn`t open that facility for over
a year, because we didn`t have the health care providers available. So we
need additional health care providers in this country to help us deal with
MADDOW: I know you have not been in the Senate all that long, even those
of us who haven`t been there, aren`t very optimistic about the Senate`s
capacity to actually create new policy, when you talk to other senators
about these ideas, now that these have been imploded and you`re going to
introduce this bill tomorrow. Are you getting push back on any of the
components of the bill? Do you see this as a matter that`s controversial
or hard fought?
WALSH: Well, I think that my colleagues will realize that we do have a
problem and will join me in wanting to solve the problem, because we have
veterans all over this country. You know, this is not a partisan problem.
This is a problem that we have and we have to deal with it.
MADDOW: Senator Walsh, we think of veterans as having enormous political
capital. We think of veterans as being a nonpartisan and noncontroversial
issue where all Americans believe that we ought to do right by our
veterans. At least, we all believe we ought to say that.
As a veteran yourself and seeing groups like IAVA lobbying in Washington
this week, do you think that veterans in Washington get more than lip
service? Do they actually get listened to? I sort of feel like the more I
talk to veterans, the more I feel like they`re happy to have the thank yous
and to have to sort of plot it, but it doesn`t always translate to policy.
WALSH: Well, you have to take a look at what our men and women have
sacrificed. Not only the men and women, but their families. They
sacrificed a great deal for this country. They were willing to put their
lives on the line. And so, I think that this country owes them a great
deal of gratitude. And we need to show that by making sure the benefits
that they earned are there for them and their families when they need them.
MADDOW: Iraq war veteran United States senator John Walsh of Montana
sponsoring new legislation in lowering the rate of veteran suicides.
Senator Walsh, here on the program for the first time, I hope you`ll come
back, and thank you for your time tonight, sir.
WALSH: Thank you, Rachel, I definitely will.
MADDOW: Thank you. All right.
Though he is not known as a comic insult president, President Obama is
actually secretly very good at the art of insult, at the art of the
creative and strategic putdown. That story is newly important in
international terms tonight. And that story is coming up in just a moment,
complete with the thing that the president said about Mitch McConnell. Did
you hear that? Hold on. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: This year, the White House Correspondents dinner is going to on
Saturday May 3rd. It is the 100th year of their being a White House
Correspondence dinner. So, this one is probably a slightly bigger deal
Joel McHale is going to be the host this year, which should be great. He
is very funny. But of course, President Obama will also be there as well
delivering, as he always does, a few serious remarks but mostly stuff like
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some folks still don`t think
I spend enough time with Congress. Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch
McConnell they ask. Really? Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The specific skill that President Obama has been honing at the
White House correspondents dinner all these years has just come in handy.
In his escalating confrontation with President Vladimir Putin of Russian,
President Obama turns it up to stun with just a withering insult on the
international stage. That story and the tape showing it is next.
MADDOW: Behold, President Obama insulting a comedian.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, COMEDIAN: What is it like to be the last black
OBAMA: Seriously? What`s it like for this to be the last time you ever
talk to a president.
GALIFIANAKIS: You must kind of stink though, that you can`t run, you know,
OBAMA: You know, actually, I think it`s a good idea. You know, if I ran a
third time, it would sort of be like doing a third hangover movie. It
didn`t really work out, did it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it going to be hard when you`re no longer president
and people stop letting you win at basketball.
OBAMA: How`s it like having a three inch vertical.
GALIFIANAKIS: It`s a three-inch horizontal. So, you know, what I do if I
were president, Mr. President? I would make same-sex divorce illegal.
Then see how much you want it.
OBAMA: I think that`s why you are not president. And that is a good
GALIFIANAKIS: You said if you had a son, you would not let him play
football. What makes you think that he would want to play football? What
if he`s a nerd like you.
OBAMA: Do you think woman like Michelle would marry I`m a nerd? Why don`t
you ask her whether she thinks I`m a nerd?
GALIFIANAKIS: Can I?
OBAMA: No, I`m not going to let her near you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama and comedian Zach Galifianakis on the "Between Two
Ferns" comedy web show that apparently did work at the whole point of that
as a stunt which is to get lots of people to go to healthcare.gov, to see
about signing up for health insurance under the new health reform law.
The deadline for people to sign up for coverage this year is Monday, this
upcoming Monday. And the total number of people signed up by then will be
a crucial sign of the law`s success.
Also, it will always be a footnote about the success of that law that one
of the ways the president got lots of young people to sign up for health
coverage at the end was by doing this skit where he repeatedly insulted
President Obama is not a particularly jocular guy. His personality is that
he`s basically kind of reserved. So there`s not that many instances on
record of him insulting people. This is probably the most famous one.
This one happened before he was president. This one, though, I`ve got to
say, I was never sure he did mean what he said as an insult, even though
that`s definitely the way it came out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this
stage tonight who see the resume and like it but are hesitating on the
likability issue where they seem to like Barack Obama more?
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that hurts my feelings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry, senator. I`m sorry.
CLINTON: But isle try to go on. He`s very likable. I`ll agree with that.
I don`t think I`m that bad.
OBAMA: You`re likable enough, Hillary.
CLINTON: I appreciate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m not sure she did appreciate that. But I`m also not sure that
he meant it as that much an insult when he said it. Not like he very
obviously meant it when he unloaded on everyone`s least favorite non
seneschal real estate tycoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Donald Trump is here tonight. Now, I know that he`s taken some
flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birther
certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that`s because he can
finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like did we fake
the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are biggie
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama at the White House correspondent dinner. That was
in 2011. Two years later, it was also at the White House correspondent
dinner 2013 when the president saved a special poke in the eye for the top
Republican in the United States Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Some folks still don`t think I spend enough time with congress.
Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell, they ask. Really? Why
don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama does not frequently insult people, but when he
does, and he`s able to do it in a joking way, he seems to enjoy it. In
talking about Mitt Romney in 2013, the president almost seemed to enjoy it
a little too much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: He said that he`s very supportive of this new budget and he even
called it marvelous, which is a word you don`t often hear when it comes to
describing a budget. It`s a word you don`t often hear generally. So
here`s what this marvelous budget does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And he cracks himself up. The Barack Obama presidential insult is
a weapon that is very infrequently used, but it is used with relish when he
does it. By our otherwise rather reserved, rather formal president. And
our president just did it again.
The president`s trip to Europe continues this week. Yesterday on that trip
an ABC news reporter asked President Obama about the aforementioned
marvelous Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney`s claims during the presidential
campaign that America`s number one geopolitical foe is Russia. Now that
Russia is behaving so abominably toward Ukraine, the question are asks, was
Mitt Romney right? This was the president`s response, complete with
throwing some more rare and serious presidential shade at Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: In right of recent developments, do you think
Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America`s biggest
geopolitical foe, if not Russia, who?
OBAMA: With respect to Mr. Romney`s assertion that Russia is our number
one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that America has got a
whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening
some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness.
Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for
decades since the breakup of the soviet union. And, you know, we have
considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don`t need to invade
them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The
fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bear these
violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama yesterday in the Netherlands explaining that
Russia is basically a gnat on the butt of an elephant. Calling Russia, in
his words, merely a regional power that does not rise to the level of a
major challenge for the United States. Saying that that Vladimir Putin`s
recent actions, yes, to serve condemnation and punishment, but Putin`s
aggression should not be mistaken as a sign of strength. It should instead
be seen as a rather pitiful form of weakness. President saying, we don`t
have to invade out neighboring countries to have influenced on them.
Today in Brussels, President Obama made that point again in a formal
address. And he made the point in an even more pointed way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Understand as well, this is not another cold war that we`re
entering into. After all, unlike the soviet union, Russia leads no bloc of
nations, no global ideology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama saying today this isn`t another cold war in part
because Russia is not important enough to fight another cold war with.
The keenest Kremlin watchers that I have spoken to during this whole Russia
crisis, people who have been trying to figure out Vladimir Putin`s next
move, the things you hear most consistently from these folks now is how
really desperately vain President Putin is. How he values his image and
specifically the image of his strength above all else. And that`s where
he`s most vulnerable.
Now, our president is uncorking his very rarely used power of insult to
mock Vladimir Putin`s weakness and deride poor little Russia as a regional
power with no standing as an international force.
What will this do in practical terms? We have no idea yet. But
nonmilitary war between us and Russia is not just an economic one, it`s
very clearly a psychological one as well. And that part of the battle is
officially joined. Neener, neener.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great
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