THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 30, 2014
Guest: Dahlia Lithwick, Welton Gaddy, Paul Rieckhoff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I`m outraged by the very suggestion.
Thank you very much.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: How dare you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Chris.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Last week, we finished off the week last week by Republicans in
Congress saying they were going to sue President Obama. Well, today
President Obama made a surprise announcement in which he brushed them right
back on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If House Republicans
are really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best
solution to that is passing bills. Pass a bill. Solve a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking in the Rose Garden today. This was
a surprise and sort of surprisingly emotional announcement from the
president. Emotional enough that at one point he used the word "darn" and
sounded like he meant it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I take executive action only when we have a serious problem,
a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this
situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for
our security, is bad for our economy, and is bad for our future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama almost never says the word "darn." I looked
it up and found it three times in White House transcripts over all of these
years he`s been president.
But he did seen darn angry today at Congress, and no president ever
really likes Congress. Every Congress frustrates every president.
But no president has ever before had to deal with a Congress like
this one in one very specific sense. There has never been a Congress in
the history of Congress that has done less than this one we`ve got now. I
don`t mean that as an epithet. It`s a matter of a historic fact.
I mean, the record holder for the least legislation passed, the least
action taken by any Congress in U.S. history is the last Congress that
wrapped up last year. The current Congress that we`re in right now is on
pace to beat even that record. And so, yes, every president gets annoyed
with Congress, but this one has sunk to a whole new level of you`re making
me crazy, man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House
Republicans had allowed a simple yes or no vote on this bill, or for that
matter, any bill. They`d be following the will of the majority of the
American people who support reform.
And instead, they`ve proven again and again that they`re unwilling to
stand up to the Tea Party in order to do what`s best for the country. And
the worst part about it is a bunch of them know better. There are others
in the Republican caucus in the House who are arguing that they can`t act
because they`re mad at me about using my executive authority too broadly.
This also makes no sense. I don`t prefer taking administrative
action. I`d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face. Certainly
that`s true on immigration.
I`ve made that clear multiple times. I would love nothing more than
bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk, so I
can sign it.
That`s true about immigration. That`s true about the minimum wage.
It`s true about equal pay.
There are a whole bunch of things where I would greatly prefer
Congress actually do something.
I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a
serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation,
the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our
security, it`s bad for our economy, and it`s bad for our future.
So, while I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the
excuses and act, and I hope their constituents will, too, America cannot
wait forever for them to act. And that`s why today, I`m beginning a new
effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president making a surprise announcement. This is a
speech they did not announce in advance before today, a speech in which the
president said he has sort of started a process by which at the end of
summer, he`s going to get advice on what he can do alone without Congress
to reform the immigration system in this country since Congress is not
going to act on that issue, itself.
And, again, this is right after House Republicans said they were
going to sue him for doing too much, himself. And if there`s any doubt
that today`s announcement in the Rose Garden was a rejoinder to that
threatened lawsuit from the House Republicans, check this out. Look at
This was a statement put out by the White House today explaining why
there was going to be this late addition to the president`s schedule that
we didn`t know about before. Why the president was suddenly going to be
appearing in the Rose Garden to make this announcement. The statement, of
course, as is their habit, from an unnamed White House official but it
names John Boehner specifically as the reason this announcement had to
This is the very top of the statement. Quote, "Last week, Speaker
Boehner informed President Obama that the House will not take a vote on
immigration reform this year. Today, in a statement at the White House,
the president will address the Republican leadership`s unwillingness to --"
blah, blah, blah, blah.
So, the White House is saying, oh, you`re going to sue the president,
you`re going to sue the White House? You don`t like executive action? You
want the Congress to do these things instead of the president doing these
things? Well, you`re the Congress. And you`re not doing anything and
that`s why the president has to act to clean up the messes that you will
They put it right specifically on something John Boehner told the
president, they say last week, about yet another thing that Congress is not
going to take any action on.
John Boehner`s office today at first would not even confirm that John
Boehner and the president had had this conversation last week about
immigration. Wait, wait, I did what now? I said who? It`s causing you to
Later in the day, the speaker`s office put out a statement saying
that all John Boehner had done when he talked to the president last week
was say the same thing he always said on immigration. He wasn`t trying to
If this lawsuit threat, what the president called that lawsuit stunt,
if that was intended to scare the president or intimidate the White House
into them not doing much anymore, to doing less with the executive branch,
the president`s response to that little shove from House Republicans last
week was to shove back and shove back harder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`ve told Speaker Boehner that even as I take those steps
that I can, within my existing legal authorities, to make the immigration
system work better, I`m going to continue to reach out to House Republicans
in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a
comprehensive bill. Maybe it will be after the midterms when they`re less
worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year.
Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner. I`ve been
consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill
that I don`t consider perfect. And the Senate bill was a good example of
the capacity to compromise and get this done. The only thing I can`t do is
stand by and do nothing while waiting for them to get their act together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In terms of the specifics, President Obama today said that
Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
will be tasked with giving the president a list of things that he can
legally do, himself, to try to fix the immigration system. Again, acting
alone and without Congress. The president today said, quote, "If Congress
will not do their job, at least we can do ours. I expect the
recommendations from the attorney general and Secretary Johnson before the
end of the summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without
I should tell you at this point that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh
Johnson is going to be here on this show on Wednesday. He`s going to be
here live on Wednesday night show. So we may be able to find out more
about what that might look like.
But beyond the specific policy questions around immigration, this
fight, this type of fight where the president asked Congress to pass
legislation, Congress does nothing, then the president seeks a way to it or
at least part of it on his own, that apparently is the second term of the
I mean, today dramatically on immigration, Congress will not act on
immigration so the president says that he will. Congress also would not
raise the minimum wage, so the president raised it for companies that have
federal contracts because that is what was in his power to do. Congress
would not pass a low on women and men getting paid the same for doing the
same work, so the president acted again to at least make that policy change
for companies with federal contracts.
Congress would not act on the DREAM Act and so, the president, this
was in his first term, but acted to delay deportation for immigrant kids.
Congress would not act on student loan reform, so the president acted alone
to make student loans easier to pay back.
On climate, not only has Congress not acted, Congress pretends it
doesn`t even understand what the issue means. It goes la, la, la, la when
it comes up. So, the president and the administration pursued new anti-
pollution rules to do what they can without Congress.
Just tonight, even after the immigration announcement, the president
said he would take up another issue on which Congress has refused to act.
He said he would act alone to make it illegal for companies that have
federal contracts to discriminate based on their employees` sexual
orientation or gender identity. And we knew about the sexual orientation
part of this before, but the president announced tonight that executive
order will also include gender identity.
There is something unique about the Obama presidency, and, again, I
do not mean this as an epithet. I mean this as a historical description of
fact. What is unique about the Obama presidency in terms of the powers of
our government is the fact he is governing alongside a Congress that is
historically different from every other Congress we have ever had. No
Congress has ever done what this Congress has done. That is they that
refuse to pass any substantive legislation at all.
So, it is an interesting experiment in American democracy it turns
out. I mean, in the event that Congress chooses to stop governing, how
much governing than the other parts of the government do to pick up the
slack? That`s the experiment we`re all part of right now.
At the Supreme Court, the five conservative justices in the court`s
majority today ruled that some companies are exempt from regulations about
health insurance in Obamacare. It`s a weird ruling. We`ll be talking
about this more later. But it`s kind of a weird ruling because the
justices in the majority -- they went out of their way to say that your
religious objections can only get you out of one part of this one law.
They said specifically only contraception laws are subject to
religious beliefs. Other laws aren`t. So, if you`re lucky enough to be
employed at a company where five or fewer people hold at least 50 percent
of the stock in the company and those people have religious beliefs about
what kind of contraception you should be using, well, your boss is the one
who gets to decide what kind of contraception you can have regardless of
what you think or your doctor thinks is best for you. And that kind of
religious belief exception to the law only applies when it`s contraception.
The five conservative male justices who issued this ruling today said
if the government thinks it is so important for women to have access to
contraception, the government should directly provide women access to those
forms of contraception which religiously motivated employers would
otherwise block their employees from getting. The government should just
provide access to that contraception directly. Government should two it.
That shouldn`t be controversial at all, right? I mean, certain forms
of contraception which the religious right has decided are the equivalent
of abortion, the government should just pay for that stuff directly.
Right? Congress will have no problem enacting that. Senate Democrats
today did actually make noises after the Hobby Lobby ruling they would act
in Congress to restore lost access to contraception the court just imposed.
What to you think the likelihood is, this Congress that has done less
than any Congress ever in the history of Congress, is actually going to act
to make sure that American women get access to contraception? Particularly
the kinds of contraception that people on the far religious right think is
the same as abortion? Do you think that will be the one thing this
Congress can get done in an election year?
Maybe they`ll do it all in a rush before the August recess. Yes,
right. This particular Congress can`t even keep the lights on.
This particular Congress can`t do the easy stuff. This particular
Congress cannot even do the stuff that nobody cares about. Let alone the
stuff that makes people protest in the streets and set their hair on fire.
And so once again, we are back to it. We are back to the question of
the second term of the presidency of Barack H. Obama. If Congress won`t,
can he do it without them or is it now true forever if you want an IUD you
have to ask your boss?
If presidential action is now the only policy recourse in a
Washington that has otherwise stopped doing the work of governing, how much
presidential action is possible?
MADDOW: Just after 10:00 a.m. Eastern today, the Supreme Court ruled
in the Hobby Lobby case that when it comes to access to contraception, a
company like Hobby Lobby can cite its religious beliefs as a reason to not
follow part of a law. And to therefore deny their employees insurance
coverage for contraception, coverage that those employees would otherwise
Shortly after the ruling, an employee of Hobby Lobby sent us this
letter, which our source tells us was distributed companywide to all the
thousands of people who work for that company. "Dear employee family". To
be clear, this is not sent to the family that owns Hobby Lobby. This is a
letter sent to their employees of whom there are about 13,000. They`re not
all members of the Green family or have the same religious beliefs of the
Nevertheless, "Dear employee family," it starts, "we`re thrilled with
today`s Supreme Court decision and what it means for the protection of
religious liberty in our nation. We look forward to continuing to operate
our family business in accordance with our faith and principles. We`re
grateful to continue to provide an excellent work experience for our
thousands of valued employees across the country." Excellent work
experience now with 100 percent less access to the range of contraceptive
methods that you or your doctor might want to choose from to find the one
that`s best for you.
Interesting thing about this ruling today, do you remember how in
Bush v. Gore, when the court decided Bush v. Gore, they had this weird
provision in that ruling where they said this ruling only applies to this
specific case? This ruling, Bush v. Gore cannot be a precedent for
anything else, it only applies to this one presidential election in which
we choose George W. Bush to be president?
Well, today`s ruling says that it also only applies to this one case.
It says that only the issue of contraception is subject to exceptions on
religious grounds. The ruling says explicitly, if a company objects on
religious grounds to some other health insurance regulation like covering
blood transfusions or vaccines or something, the ruling says explicitly
there would be no religious exemption available for that. There`s only
religious exemptions from birth control rules.
How does that make sense?
Joining us now is the person to whom we turn when things don`t make
sense to me, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com.
Dahlia, thanks very much for being here tonight. I really appreciate
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM: It`s my pleasure.
MADDOW: So, the court`s majority opinion today insists that this is
a narrow ruling, that you can only get a religious exemption specifically
from laws about contraception. Do I understand that right? And does that
LITHWICK: It`s certainly asserted in the majority opinion that is
penned by Samuel Alito. He says all this other bad stuff that Ruth Bader
Ginsburg in her dissent really kind of unspooled the parade of horribles,
you know, Jehovah`s Witnesses and blood transfusions, and scientologists,
mental health air. He said, none of that is going to happen because it`s
not going to happen.
So, it`s a little bit strange reading the opinion. You wait for him
to explain some legal principle or rule that both cabins this to closely
held corporations, you know, small family corporations like the Greens.
And that cabins is to contraception and it`s not there. It`s just
kind of we really feel good about this one. That`s a little worrisome to
MADDOW: And to that point, I guess they`re saying it doesn`t apply
to blood transfusions or mental health care or vaccines or any other thing.
There`s also the issue about whether it applies more widely to
contraception. I mean, if you`ve got a family held corporation, with
devoutly Roman Catholic family members running it and they are opposed to
not just contraception they believe is abortion but they are opposed to all
contraception -- doesn`t this ruling essentially open the door that they
can establish that as the rule for their employees` health insurance?
LITHWICK: It`s something that Ginsburg expressly says in dissent.
She says, at oral argument, the Green family was asked does your argument
change if it`s not 4 of the 20 types of contraception, if it`s all of them?
And the answer is no. The argument doesn`t change.
And there are cases in the pipeline of employers who want to say no
contraception. So I don`t think this can be limited to just plan B and
IUDs. I think there are equally strong deeply, deeply felt objections by
some employers in closely held corporations that are for-profits that are
going to come forward and say, zero, zero of the 20 are OK with us and the
court is going to have to contend with that. I don`t see how they get
MADDOW: And all of a sudden, there`s going to be a lot of pressure
on the issue of things beyond contraception, the same type of objection.
Let me just also ask you about the court`s suggested fix. I laughed
out loud when I first heard Pete Williams explain the court`s suggested fix
on this which is that the government should just pay directly for these
objectionable methods of contraception which some people in certain
religious traditions believe are abortion. That`s the fix to this. The
government pays directly and takes it essentially out of the employer
health insurance system. Not like there`s any controversy around the
government paying for things that people consider to be abortion, right?
I mean, how feasible is the court`s suggested fix here?
LITHWICK: Well, given we have the Hyde Amendment and Hyde Amendment
Plus, and then, plus, plus, we had to promise a thousand times that the
government, you know, is going to promise and promise and promise not to
get involved in the abortion business. It`s amazing to think they`re
simply going to say, but we will pay for everything that Hobby Lobby
refuses to pay for.
But the other thing that`s interesting in the Ginsburg dissent, she
says really, this is a fix, any time an employer doesn`t want to pay for
something, the taxpayer subsidizes it? What if an employer doesn`t want to
give a woman equal pay to a man? Does that become the taxpayer`s problem?
It`s the opposite of a fix. It`s the way of shifting burdens that
really terrifies the dissent.
MADDOW: This is the kind of ruling you look at the dissent and
think, oh, yes, this is definitely going to get overturned on appeal -- and
then, you realize, oh, God, there`s no appeal.
Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor for "Slate" -- thank you for helping
us understand this. I really appreciate it, Dahlia. Thanks.
MADDOW: All right. Lots still to come tonight, including the
importance -- the big, big, big deal importance of something called the
Piggie Park. That`s ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today was one of those summer news days where nobody was
really expecting anything. I mean, we knew there`d be Supreme Court
rulings this morning, last day of the term. But beyond that, I mean, come
on, it`s the Monday of the week of the Fourth of July. Basically nothing
was on the calendar.
But then, the president announced the new head of the V.A., and the
president threw a roundhouse at House Republicans and said he`s going to do
immigration reform on his own.
There was the notification to Congress that another 200 troops are
being sent to Iraq. The president`s letter says they`re going to help
secure the airport in Baghdad and the U.S. embassy.
Then, there was the terrible use from Israel from the bodies of the
three kidnapped teenagers apparently being found.
Then, there was the news from Ukraine where the Ukrainian president
declared an end to the cease-fire with Russia and said, and I quote, "We
It is the start of a holiday week, and today was not expected to have
nearly this much news in it. But it did. In the middle of this whirly gig
of a news cycle today, all of a sudden, this white suited, white-steeded
gentleman is of new and historic importance.
We`ve got that story coming up as well as Paul Rieckhoff here to
respond to the V.A. getting their new chief.
Lot`s still to come. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALLACE, FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR: In the name of the greatest
people that have ever plowed this Earth, I draw the line in the dust and
toss the garment before the feet of tyranny and I say segregation now,
segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Alabama Governor George Wallace declared at his inauguration
that racial segregation would always be the law of the land in Alabama.
Governor Wallace famously stood in a doorway to personally physically block
integration at the University of Alabama. He said it was a matter of
conscience. He said God had put his state in that crisis and God-fearing
Southerners should grasp their destiny and lead the nation forward into a
Listen for the way he invokes the divine here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We invite the Negro citizens of Alabama to work with us
from his separate racial station, as we will work with him, to develop, to
grow in individual freedom and enrichment. This is a basic heritage of my
religion of which I make full practice, for we are all the handiwork of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Wallace said that day, quote, "Southerners have
played a magnificent part in erecting this great divinely inspired system
of freedom and as God as our witness, Southerners will save it."
George Wallace was by no means the last racist to stand in the
doorway to try to preserve racial segregation.
That clip you just saw there from that inauguration. That was George
Wallace in 1963. In 1964, it was the owner of a South Carolina barbecue
chain who stood in the door of his restaurants, they were called Piggie
Park Restaurants. He stood in the door of the Piggie Park so that African-
Americans could not eat there.
Maurice Bessinger didn`t just think segregation was a good thing, he
thought segregation was biblical. He came from the school of slavery even
as a divine right. A divine right for white people and a not so bad
situation for black people. And the civil rights movement and the end to
legal racial segregation never changed his mind about that.
In this century, into the 2000s, he was still distributing pamphlets
at his Piggie Park restaurants with titles like "A Biblical View of
Slavery", while you waited for your ribs and your coleslaw, you could read
about the many African slaves who blessed the lord for allowing them to be
enslaved and sent to America.
This neo-Confederate titan of pulled pork told "The New York Times".
That black people ate better than his other customers because their
segregated dining room was actually in the kitchen. Maybe the food was
hotter when it got to them or something.
Maurice Bessinger still did hold those views about God ordaining
slavery and segregation as recently as the year 2000 and when he wrote a
book about it in 2001. This is the cover of his autobiography complete
with a giant stars and bars. He held these beliefs into the 21st century.
But in the 21st century, he could no longer enforce these beliefs at
his business. In the 1960s, Maurice Bessinger had taken his case for
divinely inspired racial segregation, he took his case to federal court,
argued the civil rights act contravenes the will of God. He had to be
allowed to ban black people from dining rooms in his restaurants because he
believed that God compelled that and the U.S. Supreme Court heard that
argument from Maurice Bessinger of the Piggie Park Barbecue empire of South
Carolina and the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that he actually had
no right to discriminate just because he said God told him to.
The court looked at the right of the barbecue guy to hold his
religious views and they looked at right of Americans to move freely in
society and rallied for other Americans not to be impeded by his religious
views however sincerely he held them. They ruled 8-0, 1968. It was
Almost two decades later, the federal court got another case. This
one from California. The founders of an evangelical private school
believed, they really, really believed that men are divinely appointed to
be the head of the household. And as a school, as an employer, they based
their HR practices on that belief.
In the 1970s, they started off paying male staffers more than female
staffers because men were supposed to support their families and women were
whatever. But after they realized that was probably illegal, they decided
instead what they would do is offer health benefits only to husbands or to
So, if you were unmarried, you could get health insurance with your
job there. If you were a married man, you could get health insurance with
your job there. If you were a married woman? No. Your husband is
supposed to take care of that.
And so at that evangelical school in California, a wife grudgingly
could be allowed to bring home a little bacon, but definitely no insurance.
In 1986, the federal courts looked at that religiously inspired
discrimination and said, no, you cannot deny people health benefits even if
you say God told you to.
The court looked at the right of the school to deny women health
coverage and the right of women to get the same benefits as men and they
ruled for equality. At the Piggie Park restaurants, the same kind of
religious inspiration to discriminate turned out not to be a legal
justification to discriminate. So, 1968 with integration, 1986 with work
benefits, and now, we have 2014, we have a very, very different decision in
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that your boss can refuse to
cover your birth control if that is what your boss thinks God would like to
have happen. The five members of the conservative majority voted that the
religious beliefs, or lack thereof, of a company`s employees, those are
effectively overruled by the religious beliefs of the boss. The boss`
religion determines what laws apply to his or her employees and his or her
business at least on this issue. A court today said it made no judgment as
to whether or not the religious beliefs against contraception in this case
were beliefs that were reasonable or scientifically accurate. The court
said their only job was to figure out if those beliefs were sincerely held.
You know Maurice Bessinger? He is dead now, but even dead, he might
still find this conclusion, because his belief as divinely ordained, that
was certainly sincerely held lifelong. Certainly, it was based in
religion. But in his case, that was not enough to deprive other people
from protection and rights that they were afforded under law. Now, though,
the court today said apparently religion is all you need.
Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy is the president of the Interfaith
Alliance. The Interfaith Alliance filed a brief in this case. Reverend
Gaddy, when this ruling came down from the Supreme Court today, released
this rather this blistering statement.
"The Supreme Court made a grave error today. The balance between
religious freedom and other compelling interests has always been tenuous.
But we may very well remember today`s decision as the moment that balance
was radically recalibrated. The First Amendment is at its best when it is
used to protect the rights of minorities from the whims of the powerful.
Today`s decision which gives the powerful the right to force their
religious beliefs on those around them, today`s decision is a far cry from
the best traditions of religious freedom."
Joining us now is the Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy. He`s president of
the Interfaith Alliance. Reverend Gaddy also serves as the pastor for
preaching and worship at Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana.
And full disclosure, he`s also my friend.
Welton, it`s nice to see you. Thank you very much for being here.
REV. C. WELTON GADDY, INTERFAITH ALLIANCE PRESIDENT: Hey, Rachel,
glad to see you.
MADDOW: You, too.
Why do you consider today`s ruling to be such a grave error? I was
struck by the starkness of the terms in which you put your response today.
GADDY: Because it is a grave error. I know that the words about it
that you`ve used tonight are that it`s a very narrow opinion, that it
focuses just on these medications related to abortion.
But, Rachel, this case, this decision, left unanswered so many
questions and the court basically said to corporations come on to us and
file your complaints disguised as religious convictions and we`ll tell you
whether you qualify or not. That is a dangerous way to go.
We don`t know what a close ownership is in a corporation. We know
that the "Wall Street Journal" and "Slate" says it could be as many as 90
percent of the organizations in this land. Think about that.
And the promise that this wasn`t going to heighten discrimination
that could be hidden under religion is simply not true. Do you want the
Supreme Court of the United States deciding what is a sincere religious
belief? That in itself is scary.
So, we don`t know where this is going. It`s very easy to see how
this ruling, though it is narrowly about contraception, can be taken in
courtrooms all across this nation and applied to all kinds of other
discriminatory behavior that has the disguise of religion. And the court
has invited that. That scares me. I think it`s a bad decision.
MADDOW: Well, one of the things I naught was very interesting about
the court asserting that this only applies to contraception is that the
Justice Alito writing in the majority explains some other things that
wouldn`t apply. He`s talked about Jehovah`s Witnesses and opposition to
blood transfusions or I believed he mentioned another religious group with
a potential objection to vaccinations.
Are the justices in effect putting themselves in the position of
saying these religious beliefs about contraception and/or abortion, these
are reasonable religious beliefs, but these other ones about the blood
transfusions or vaccines, we don`t take those as seriously and therefore
we`re sort of affording state protection to some beliefs, to some
religions, but not others?
GADDY: I actually tend to go more with what Justice Ginsburg wrote
than I do what Justice Alito wrote. I think that they protest too much,
and that`s why I am worried that what they are painting is a very narrow
little stretch of authority is going to expand exponentially.
And, Rachel, a part of the reason that people are confused about this
is because we`ve seen a campaign for at least five years, maybe 10 years,
in which people are trying to change the very definition of religious
Many of the people you saw today cheering for religious freedom are
the people we`ve engaged over the last five or 10 years opposing religious
freedom. So, if you`re losing when you`re opposing, you just change the
definition and then start cheering for it. And I think that is a lot of
what`s happening today.
The free exercise of religion in this nation is a guarantee of the
Constitution, but that free exercise of religion for one person stops when
that person`s free exercise compromises the freedom of another person. And
so, here we`re saying because there`s a close-knit family that believes
this, that their belief is sincere enough we can go with it. Now, anybody
else that has that kind of sincere belief will consider letting you do the
That`s not the role of the Supreme Court. And it is, I think, an
offense to what the Constitution promises us in the religion clauses to the
MADDOW: Reverend Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance.
He`s pastor for preach and worship at the Northminster Baptist Church in
Welton, thank you very much for being with us. It`s good to see you,
GADDY: It`s good to see you. OK.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Lots ahead tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A graduate of West Point, General Shinseki served two combat
tours in Vietnam where he lost part of his foot and was awarded two Purple
Hearts and three Bronze Stars. Throughout his nearly four decades in the
United States Army, he won the respect and admiration of our men and women
in uniform because they have always been his highest priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can tell from no gray hair. That was 5 1/2 years ago.
President Obama nominating Eric Shinseki to be secretary of Veterans
President spent most of that speech talking about General Shinseki`s
four decades in the U.S. Army. He was a general, three Bronze Stars,
wounded in combat. All of that mattered very much for the job running the
V.A. because he was a good military man with an excellent military record.
He was needed to fix what was seen as a military problem.
Well, today, exactly one month after General Shinseki resigned, in
the midst of a continuing crisis of confidence in the V.A. and a scandal
not just about veterans` access to care about the V.A., but the V.A.
covering up the problem that veterans were not getting access to care.
Well, today, President Obama announced he was tapping a new choice
for V.A. secretary. His name is Robert McDonald. He`s a man with a
limited military background, but a very robust and polished big business
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What especially makes Bob the right choice to lead the V.A.
right now is his three decades of experience in building and managing one
of the world`s most recognized companies, Procter & Gamble. As CEO of
Procter & Gamble, Bob oversaw more than 120,000 employees with operations
around the world, selling products in more than 180 countries, in more than
2 million stores, reaching some 5 billion customers.
In his career, he`s taken over struggling business units, he knows
how to roll up his sleeves and gets to work putting an end to what doesn`t
work, adopting best practices that do, restructuring, making operations
more efficient and effective. In short, he`s about delivering better
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The new choice to run the V.A., Robert McDonald, he did go
to West Point. He spent five years as captain in the Army, but then he
spent 33 years working for Procter & Gamble.
Is that kind of very big business expertise what the V.A. needs at
the very top in order to fix its problems? Its problems are still
The report came in Friday from the assistant to the president, who
the white House sent to the V.A. to basically ride herd on them trying to
fix this problem, his assessment was brutal. He calls the scheduling
standards at the V.A. arbitrary, ill-defined, and misunderstood, little
transparency or accountability. Technology that is cumbersome and
outdated. Corrosive culture affecting both the pace at which they`re
providing care and the morale at the agency. Oh, and oh yes, the FBI
launched a criminal investigation into the V.A.`s scheduling practices.
Other than that, this job basically takes care of itself. So
welcome, new V.A. chief. Here`s the reins, ek!
Joining us now is Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Paul, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Good to
see you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: I know that you were surprised by this pick because I know
you put out a statement to that effect. But was this guy not on the radar
at all, did you have any expectations?
RIECKHOFF: No, he was on no one`s radar whatsoever. I mean, he
doesn`t come from the military, he`s not a retired general, he doesn`t come
from the health care space, he hasn`t served in Congress. It appears he`s
So, this was on nobody`s radar. But also the V.A. has been keeping
this close. I mean, they haven`t been opening up the process, haven`t been
meeting with veterans` groups. The president hasn`t reached out.
So, they`ve been working on this, it appears, a couple of weeks.
It`s good they finally got a nominee because the acting secretary`s been
there almost a month now.
RIECKHOFF: So, we needed a nominee, we need the Senate and Congress
to push it through quickly, and he needs to get to work because he might
have the hardest job in Washington right now.
MADDOW: They were so quiet about the selection process that I
assumed, wrongfully, that Sloan Gibson, the acting secretary, was going to
be tapped to take over on a permanent basis. How did he do? Or how had
he`d been doing as acting secretary?
RIECKHOFF: I think he`s done a good job, been very aggressive, been
transparent, reached out to veterans groups, went down to Phoenix. And
he`s classmate of Bob McDonald. So, they have a working history together.
I think a lot of folks hoped Sloan will stay there and continue that
But there are also about six or seven senior level positions open at
the V.A. So, McDonald is going to fill all those. He`s got to restore
confidence. And he`s got to do a total rebranding. I mean, his experience
at P&G may actually prove helpful because nobody has a worse brand in
America right now than the V.A.
So he`s got to turn that around, restore the confidence, and really
reach out in a very tough political climate and try to get things moving in
a short period of time because we`ve got a new president coming in and we
don`t know if that person will keep him.
MADDOW: In terms of business background, you have a business
background, yourself. And I know that you and I have talked a lot over the
years about the value of technocratic management.
Do you think that not coming from a big government agency, not coming
even from the big bureaucracy at the high levels of the military, but
rather coming from the private sector, it affords a very shiny experience
but is it the kind of experience you think is going to be relevant at
moving something that is after all headquartered in Washington?
RIECKHOFF: Well, it`s helpful that he comes from the outside, and
he`s got fresh eyes. But let`s be honest. You know, Procter & Gamble, I
said this before, it`s going to feel like driving a Ferrari compared to the
V.A. The V.A. is a very difficult bureaucracy, it`s very difficult to fire
people. There are questions about transparency.
And now, an ongoing FBI investigation. So, people will likely go to
I think we`ve got to take a bigger step back and understand Congress
has got to help, the president has got to help, the Department of Defense
is involved here too. If they don`t get those changes through, Superman
can`t run the V.A. effectively.
RIECKHOFF: So, this isn`t just a flip the switch and everything is
OK. This is going to be a long, hard fight. And the president`s really
got to keep his eye on the ball because he took his eye off it for about
MADDOW: It`s going to be something that takes a lot of finesse with
Congress in terms of getting stuff done. Right now, nobody has that
ability including anybody in Congress.
RIECKHOFF: Yes, the V.A. bill is stalled too. Sanders and McCain,
you know, trumpeted this big compromise. That`s stalled, too. We`ve got
to get that through and keep everybody`s eye on the ball as we now send
more people into Iraq. We`ve got to take care of the folks we sent over
there the first time.
MADDOW: That`s right. They went into that conference committee on
the V.A. bill, and then just poof.
MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of IAVA, Iraq
and Afghanistan Veterans of America -- thanks, man. Thanks.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you, appreciate it.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Eighteen days ago, three Israeli teenagers went missing.
The three were last entering a car at a known hitchhiking stop outside an
Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The three were studying at a
Today, the bodies of those three teenagers were found. They were
found buried under a pile of rocks in an open field near a Palestinian
village just north of Hebron. It`s about 12 miles from where they were
Israeli officials say the three are believed to have been murdered
shortly after their abduction.
Israel, so far, is blaming the militant group Hamas which controls
the Gaza Strip. Last week, Israeli authorities released the names of two
suspects they described in the case, both of whom are reportedly Hamas
Hamas has denied any direct involvement in the kidnapping and killing
of these three young men, but the group did at one point praise the
Tonight, following the discovery of the three bodies, Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency cabinet meeting. He
reportedly started the meeting by saying this, "With deep sorry, we found
three bodies this evening. They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood
by animals. Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay."
Tonight, President Obama released a statement extending condolences
to the families of the three murdered teenagers. President Obama also said
he urged all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize
Since the three first disappeared on June 12th, the Israeli military
has launched one of the largest and most aggressive military operations in
the West Bank in more than a decade. It`s called "Operation Brother`s
Keeper", 2,500 Israeli troops entering Hebron, the biggest Palestinian city
in the West Bank, conducting House searches and raids and arrests and
Through the course of this operation over the last two and a half
weeks, Israeli soldiers have arrested more than 400 Palestinians, mostly
members of Hamas. Five Palestinians have died during this operation.
Tonight, Israeli security forces have set up roadblocks and set up a
no-go zone around the town where the bodies were found.
This is the scene tonight in southern Gaza, where the Israeli
military is carrying out airstrikes. Tonight, a spokesman for Hamas told
AFP any attempt to carry out an escalation or a war would, quote, "open the
gates of hell" on Israel.
Tensions appear to be at an all-time high tonight in the West Bank.
All this comes on the heels of yet another breakdown in more U.S.-brokered
peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Those talks broke
down just about three months ago. But as of tonight, literally, as of this
moment, it is unclear what is going to happen next in this fragile and
fraught corner of the world. Things are never good but things tonight are
very, very much not good and also very much in flux. Nobody quite knows
what daybreak is going to bring.
We`ll keep you apprised of developments as this continues to unfold.
Thank you for being with us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Mr. O`Donnell.
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