The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/18/10
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: That‘s “COUNTDOWN” for this, the
2,574th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in
Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. I‘ll be back with a live 10:00 p.m. edition of
“COUNTDOWN.” Do it again at 10:00.
And now, continuing our primary night coverage—ladies and
gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thanks very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
It is election night and we are about to update all of the information
we got about tonight‘s key races.
But later, we will be welcoming Admiral Thad Allen of the U.S. Coast
Guard. He is overseeing the federal response to the B.P. oil disaster in
the Gulf. The damage became clear today is now a lot less what if and a
lot more “oh, no.” Thad Allen will be joining us later on this hour.
Senator Barbara Boxer of California will also join us this hour as
well to talk about who is responsible for the B.P. Gulf disaster and what
Plus, a tribute to the latest member of Congress from the Republican
revolution class of 1994 to kersplat into a giant, horrible puddle of his
own self-righteous hypocrisy.
That is all coming up this hour.
But, we begin tonight with Decision 2010. It is primary night in
Pennsylvania, in Arkansas, in Kentucky and in Oregon.
In Kentucky, the Republican primary for retiring Senator Jim Bunning‘s
seat has been called by the “Associated Press.” The winner is Rand Paul,
the son of cult figure congressman—and I mean that in a good way—Ron
Paul. With at this point, 77 percent of precincts reporting, Rand Paul has
60 percent of the vote while Kentucky secretary of state, Trey Grayson, has
35 percent of the vote.
There‘s also an important Democratic primary for that Senate seat in
Kentucky. Lieutenant governor and former Senate candidate, Daniel
Mongiardo, is facing off against state attorney general, Jack Conway. With
77 percent of the vote in – 77 percent of precincts reporting, at this
point, Jack Conway is ahead of Daniel Mongiardo, 46 percent to 41 percent.
We will keep an eye on that one.
In Pennsylvania, incumbent Democratic Senator Arlen Specter is facing
a stiff challenge from Congressman Joe Sestak. Polls closed an hour ago.
And right now, with 6 percent of precincts reporting, we‘re looking Arlen
Specter ahead, 59 percent to 42 percent, over Joe Sestak. But again, those
are very, very early numbers. Don‘t jump to conclusion about that – 6
percent of precincts reporting.
In Arkansas, incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln has also
encountered some sturdy opposition to her re-nomination. She is facing the
Democratic lieutenant governor of Arkansas, Bill Halter. Polls closed 30
minutes ago. At this point, we are not able to report any significant
percentage of precincts reporting. We will keep an eye on those numbers as
they come in.
There will be one House seat decided tonight. Not a primary but an
actual election, a special election. The winner will go to Washington—
at least until November. That race is Pennsylvania‘s 12th district. It
was previously represented by the late Congressman John Murtha.
Democrats are hoping that Mark Critz will keep the seat for the
Democratic Party. Republicans are pitting their considerable hopes for
that seat on the challenger Tim Burns. So far, again, we are not able to
report any significant percentage of precincts reporting. But Mark Critz,
the Democrat, versus Tim Burns, the Republican, for Jack Murtha‘s 12th
district seat in Pennsylvania. We‘ll watch that as the night unfolds.
All of these races have been portrayed from time to time as national
bellwethers, as indicators of what might happen nationally in the midterm
elections in November. To be frank, it‘s not clear that any of these races
is a bellwether for anything except maybe in terms of voter turnout and
enthusiasm. Those may be the key numbers from tonight‘s contests. If
voters are motivated to turn out for primaries, it stands to reason that
they are also likely to show up in greater numbers in the general election.
So far, we have no precise measurements of turnout from today.
Officials in Kentucky anecdotally reported low voter turnout today,
possibly because of some rainy weather there. Some conflicting reports
also about turnout in Pennsylvania. Light earlier in the day, may have
picked up in the evening.
Joining us now from Philly is NBC News correspondent and Pennsylvania
news veteran, Andrea Mitchell, host of “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS” which airs
right here on MSNBC every day at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Andrea, it‘s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
ANDREA MITCHELL, “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS” HOST: Great to see you.
Thank you. This looks like a very close election, Rachel.
MADDOW: Yes. And I know you spoke with both Senator Specter and
Congressman Sestak during your show today. It was riveting.
Which one seemed more confident to you? Which one do you think has
more reason to be confident about their get the out effort and the
enthusiasm of their voters?
MITCHELL: I think neither. That is the ugly fact of this election.
Both were very nervous. And I have known them both for quite a while,
Specter a lot longer than Joe Sestak. But I covered him pretty intensely
when he was first running for Congress and was supporting Hillary Clinton
in the race against Barack Obama.
And they are both very, very nervous, because, first of all, Specter
has all the advantage of the Democratic Party, the White House, the
governor, the mayor, the labor unions, the whole city organization here in
Philadelphia. Every ballot had his name on it.
That said, he is a new Democrat. He‘s actually an old Democrat. He
was a Democrat until 1966. But now, he is, in fact, a new Democrat as of
last year—converted, switched, whatever you want to call it.
And that really cuts against the grain with people who are suspicious
of politicians in general right now and doesn‘t help him with the voters.
That said, he has voted Democratic values over and over again despite the
campaign advertisements—devastating campaign advertisement from Joe
Sestak showing him with George W. Bush. If you really look at his record,
he has voted for Pennsylvania, the governor has said over and over again.
And if you look at the numbers, it‘s true. He is the one who was the
critical vote, one of the, you know, important votes, obviously, for the
stimulus and the health care bills for President Obama. And, in fact, for
NIH funding. Really key issues—the $10 billion that‘s part of the
stimulus bill that went to cancer research.
So, Specter has a lot that he can argue about, but it is an anti-
incumbent year, and he is more of an incumbent than Joe Sestak, even though
they are both members of Congress in a sense.
MADDOW: Congressman Sestak‘s challenge to Senator Specter has been
broadly construed as a challenge from the left, although I don‘t think
anyone would confuse Admiral Sestak with, say, me in terms of being that
far-left on the number line. I‘ve also seen some polls—
MITCHELL: Not even close, Rachel.
MADDOW: Not even close, I know.
But I‘ve also seen some polling, some interesting polling showing that
more conservative identified Democratic voters in Pennsylvania were
actually leaning in Sestak‘s direction. Are you able to get any sense how
liberal versus conservative Democrats may be deciding between these two
MITCHELL: I think there are other issues. It‘s not so much
ideological as a referendum on Arlen Specter. There is an age issue which
Sestak has raised pretty aggressively. Specter is 80 years old. He has
twice suffered from cancer and is a cancer survivor. He is a fighter.
And that age issue has argued against him with those who say this is a
change election. That‘s what Sestak is trying to argue. But a lot of
people—I went all over to the polling places, to the different
precincts, and people don‘t really know Joe Sestak. He‘s not well-known
outside of his congressional district, despite a lot of television
advertising that came on late and very, very smart television advertising
that really played and some would say unfairly played to Specter‘s
strengths, took things out of context. That‘s Specter‘s response to that.
Specter has had a lot of money and a lot of support, but did not have
President Obama. And I got to tell you that Bob Brady, the congressman who
is the party leader here in Philadelphia, a lot of anger on the part of the
party leadership. They won‘t say it overtly, but certainly, the governor
and others didn‘t get a promise from the president to come in, but they
were told he wouldn‘t be coming in. But with an election this close,
Barack Obama flying into Pennsylvania, into Philadelphia in particular, to
get out the vote in the last 24, 48 hours, instead of flying over it which
he literally did to go to Youngstown, Ohio. That would have made a big
Joe Biden, often referred to as a third senator from Philadelphia
because he is from neighboring Wilmington, just a commute away, and he was
here last night giving the commencement address for his daughter at the
University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and did not have a
campaign rally. That is deeply felt. There‘s a loyalty issue here.
The White House before the polls closed suggesting to Chuck Todd and
other reporters, well, Specter asked us to convert—to become a Democrat
because he was afraid to run against Pat Toomey, the very conservative
Republican and one assumed a great strength to the Republican (INAUDIBLE)
tonight. That is not the scenario that local leaders here say, they say—
Mayor Nutter and others—they were there at one of the very first
Recovery Act events here in Philadelphia when Joe Biden for years trying to
woo Specter because he really was a Democrat, they felt, at heart and Biden
approached him in front of a lot of people, witnesses, I was actually at
And so, they say it was not Specter approaching the White House as
they put out today. It was the White House wooing him. And they think
it‘s a matter of loyalty and that he‘s really been disturbed by the
MADDOW: NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, joining us live from Philadelphia.
Andrea, thank you for joining us now. We‘ll see you at 11:00 p.m. Eastern,
where we will be live once again with the latest results. Appreciate it.
MITCHELL: You bet.
MADDOW: Joining us now on the state of the rest of the primary races,
NBC and MSNBC political director, Chuck Todd.
Hello, Mr. Todd. Thanks for joining us.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: How are you, Rachel?
MADDOW: I‘m great.
You know, it‘s striking to me, talking to Andrea there about Arlen
Specter and how he got himself into this position. Specter, obviously,
famously leaving the Republican Party and explaining in totally blunt
terms, “I‘d lose a Republican primary,” now looking down the barrel of a
very difficult Democratic primary.
Are you able to add anything to us in terms—add anything to our
reporting in terms of where we expect Specter v. Sestak to go tonight?
TODD: Well, I can tell you this, is that the turnout models have all
been moved up. The late—there was a late surge in turnout. So, the
Democratic Party apparatus folks I‘ve talked to at the White House sort of
relieved. They saw those early turnout numbers, you know, they get these
reports from different places in the field, not only made them nervous
Specter, although, again—they, at this point, don‘t have a huge
preference. What it really made a difference about was this idea that
maybe the Democratic base wasn‘t enthused and, of course, that would have a
create huge problems in the special congressional election. I know
we‘re going to talk about that in a minute.
But now, they actually think they may get a turnout higher than the
Rendell/Bob Casey, Jr. primary in 2002. And I bring that up because that
was—those are two political heavyweights. And so, to get a turnout like
that is sort of a sense of relief by those who—look, we actually have to
see the ballots counted.
MADDOW: Chuck, let me just interrupt you first—
TODD: It‘s a sense of relief.
MADDOW: – let me just interrupt for just one second to make a call.
“A.P.” has just called the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, no
surprise here, for Pat Toomey. Again, not a surprise, but I wanted to make
sure we got that call on the air as soon as we got it.
Go ahead, Chuck.
TODD: No, no, no. That‘s fine.
And it‘s just that they were worried. So, the idea that they might
actually get more Democrats to show up in this primary than, say, in that
big Rendell/Casey primary tells them, well, maybe there is an enthusiastic
Democratic base out there.
And, frankly, if you poll folks, all those smart folks in Washington,
on the Democratic side, they will sit there and say, a lot of them can make
a better argument for Sestak in the general because they say Pat Toomey,
who you—we just called now as a Republican nominee, he knew how he was
going to run against Specter. He‘s been there too long, been in
Washington. He had the easy campaign to run. It‘s a different race with
MADDOW: Looking at the 12th district in Pennsylvania, an actual
special election to send somebody to Washington is Democrat Mark Critz,
long time staffer to John Murtha, versus Republican Tim Burns. Obviously,
that one is—the most interesting because it does have the most immediate
effect on what actually happens in Washington.
That said, neither of these men are very well known. But of them
actually quite conservative running against health care reform—
MADDOW: – running against what one might describe as a Democratic
agenda in a relatively conservative district. What are you seeing
happening there, Chuck?
TODD: Well, look, the Republicans totally ran a nationalized race.
They did everything. They threw Pelosi. They did everything they could to
nationalize the race.
Obviously, the Democrats tried to show they can localize it.
Democrats are feeling confident. You talk to Republicans behind the
scenes, they are pessimistic. They say, well, the surge in Democratic
turnout could be the difference because, don‘t forget, the extra Democratic
primary—the more competitive Democratic primary means more Democratic
voters might have actually shown up there. Labor spent a lot of money on
This was—on paper, you sit there and say, if Republicans win the
special, then it‘s Katy bar the door. Every Democratic incumbent goes, oh,
my God. Look, this Critz had everything going for him, have some money,
localized the election, seemed to actually win the message war at the end,
and he couldn‘t survive.
But, of course, if Democrats do hold this, it‘s got to make
Republicans go—wait a minute. We couldn‘t win this one with all the
environment, you know, the wind at our backs. Yes, there was that turnout
advantage for the Democrats, but beyond that, they couldn‘t get over the
They could second-guessing some of their strategy. You know, do they
not have the right message? Is Pelosi not the person they should be
running against in these races? Is Obama not the person? It makes them do
a lot of second guessing.
Whatever happens, there will be a lot of overreaction, Rachel, by one
party or the other. And, frankly, probably fair enough because this is a
swing district and a type of district Republicans have to win if they‘re
going to get those 40 seats to win control of the House.
MADDOW: NBC and MSNBC political director, Chuck Todd—I have like
5,000 questions that I want to ask you. All of which are like increasing -
TODD: We‘ll see you at 11:00, right?
MADDOW: But if you come back at 11:00, I‘m going to ask you all of
TODD: You got it.
MADDOW: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: All right.
MADDOW: All right. Still ahead: our Decision 2010 primary coverage
continues. We are lye until the wee hours. And I cannot be more excited
about it. I didn‘t even need coffee today.
But, lots other stuff to get to besides just election tonight.
On “The Interview” tonight, we got the man in charge of the federal
government‘s response to the B.P. oil disaster. He is U.S. Coast Guard
commandant, Admiral Thad Allen. We‘ve been trying to get him on the show
for quite some time.
We are very happy that he is joining us to talk about who is doing
what in the Gulf, how fast they‘re doing it, and whether or not pictures
like these that we started seeing today are first of many or whether there
is an end in sight.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Primary day! Primary day! Very exciting.
Sure, this is only a midterm election year. And sure, it‘s just
Kentucky, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Oregon, but come on!
Primary day! Elections, voting booths, robocalls, nasty, negative
last-minute campaign ads. It is days like this when the steady march of
democracy gets a little overheated and loosens its collar and says stuff
that is inadvertently interesting. Primary day! Yes!
The single most interesting thing about the primaries, in total, today
will be turnout. Something that‘s often hard to measure on primary day
itself other than by anecdotal observation. But once the un-anecdotal real
turnout numbers are in, those can be a pretty good measure of voter
enthusiasm which itself is a pretty good measure of expected voter turnout
for November, which can tell us more than any one race today can about how
the midterms are going to be shaping up.
Still, though, some of the individual races today are turning out to
be fascinating. In Kentucky, there are primaries in both parties for a
Senate seat that‘s becoming available because Jim Bunning is retiring. Jim
Bunning, perhaps, most famous of late for swearing at people in the Senate,
for being inexplicably contrarian at all times, including cussing out and
talking smack about his home state Republican Party.
Senator Bunning last ran for reelection in 2004 against Democrat
Daniel Mongiardo, who Bunning infamously accused of looking like one of
Saddam Hussein‘s sons, because Mr. Mongiardo is of Italian heritage or is a
brunette or something? Nobody really knew. Jim Bunning says stuff like
that all the time.
Daniel Mongiardo is now Kentucky‘s lieutenant governor. He faced off
today in a Democratic Senate primary against Kentucky‘s state attorney
general, Jack Conway. With 86 precincts reporting in that race, it is 45
percent for Jack Conway, the attorney general, to 42 percent for Daniel
Mongiardo, the lieutenant governor and the man who ran against Jim Bunning
On the Republican side, the Senate nominee will be Ron Paul‘s son, Dr.
Rand Paul, who announced his candidacy for the seat last year on this show.
He was not the Republican establishment candidate. That was his opponent,
Trey Grayson, Kentucky‘s secretary of state.
Mr. Grayson lost to Rand Paul tonight despite the patronage of Mitch
McConnell, Kentucky‘s senior senator, the Republican Party‘s leader in the
Senate. Mitch McConnell considered to be so central to Kentucky Republican
politics that the Republican Party headquarters in Kentucky is literally
named the Mitch McConnell Building. They might have to change that.
A lot of Rand Paul support in this primary in Kentucky came from the
national movement in support of his father, the Ron Paul Movement is
technically a Republican movement, but the Republican establishment and
even a lot of the conservative movement kind of hates the Ron Paul folks.
So, it remains to be seen if Republicans are going to be able to throw
wholehearted support behind this Senate candidacy now that Rand Paul has
secured the Republican nomination.
Rand Paul versus either Jack Conway or Daniel Mongiardo, depending on
how this works out tonight, the heretofore unknown Democratic winner. In
either case, that race is probably going to be one of the most interesting
Senate races in the country this fall, if only for the ability it will have
to illuminate the—I think—fascinating split between the Republican
movement—Republican Party at large and the Ron Paul Movement that‘s been
so captivating to so many, particularly, young Republican-leaning voters.
Now, the only race in the country today that is Republican versus
Democrat where the winner will go right to Washington is—as I discussed
with Chuck Todd—a special election in Pennsylvania that will replace 18-
term Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha. Jack Murtha died in February.
Jack Murtha held the seat for my entire lifetime.
But it is not necessarily considered to be a Democrat country. His
seat is not considered to be in Democrat country. When Pennsylvania went
for Barack Obama over John McCain by 10 points in the last presidential
election, this district, Jack Murtha‘s district, still went for John
Again, this isn‘t a primary. This is a Republican versus Democrat
election. But neither of the candidates in the race could be mistaken for
The Democrat in the race is Mark Critz. He worked on Jack Murtha‘s
staff for years. He says he‘s pro-life and that he is against health
reform—for what that‘s worth. He also had Bowzer from “Sha Na Na”
campaigning for him. The actor Jon Bauman, that‘s neither him right there.
I just think that‘s neat. Dowzer.
On the Republican side, the National Republican Congressional
Committee really, really, really wants to win this race. They have spent
something in the order of 1 million bucks on their candidate Tim Burns.
At this point, again, what we‘re looking in the Pennsylvania 12th
district special election, we‘ve only got about 4 percent of precincts
reporting, but we are looking at Democratic Mark Critz over Tim Burns, 59
percent to 30 percent. But, again, don‘t extrapolate too much from those
numbers, just 4 percent precincts reporting there.
Whoever wins—they will have to defend the seat again in November.
Now, still more results are expected throughout the night. We are
here live on MSNBC until the wee hours. Wee hours as in—wee, it is
Stay with us. That all “place for politics” thing is true.
MADDOW: Pushed out of the headlines by today‘s election and the
ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is the day‘s actual biggest news
story, tremendously sad and sobering news that the death toll for U.S.
troops fighting the war in Afghanistan has reached 1,000. Five Americans
were killed today alongside 12 Afghan civilians and a Canadian soldier in a
massive suicide bombing in Kabul for which the Taliban claimed
responsibility. Two more U.S. troops were reported to be killed in
southern Afghanistan today. This was the deadliest day of the year so far
for Americans in Afghanistan.
Exact figures on how many troops we‘ve lost can be hard to come by.
The logistics of reporting deaths and notifying families are sometimes
complicating the official count of grief. Some counts say we have lost
exactly 1,000 troops. Some say a few dozen more or a handful fewer.
What we do know for sure, “The New York Times” is reporting that the
average age of American service members dying in Afghanistan is falling as
we stay there longer from 28 years old to 26 years old to 25 years old this
And we know that as President Obama has ordered more troops into the
region, 30,000 more by this summer, the number of American people funerals
has risen sharply. We‘ve already lost more troops in 2010 than we did in
all of 2007 or any of the years before that.
The president says he will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan
in July of next year, which in a nine-year-long war seems like an instant -
and which if you are there or if you have a loved one there, must feel
like an eternity.
MADDOW: B.P. reports today that the four-inch diameter tube inserted
into the leak site at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf is now
siphoning out about 2,000 barrels of oil a day. That‘s twice as much oil
is what they said they were siphoning out when the siphon tube effort began
on Sunday. Of course, that‘s still only a fraction of the crude oil
gushing out every day into of the country‘s most ecologically and
economically important areas.
Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson this morning released new
footage of the B.P. oil leak, including these images that were recorded
before the insertion tube was placed and also, these images recorded
yesterday after they got the tube down there.
We‘re also starting to see images of oil on the shoreline. These
still images today released by Greenpeace. They say these shots were taken
at South Pass, about 20 miles south of where we broadcast from in Venice,
Louisiana, a couple of weeks ago.
Up on the surface, the Coast Guard reports that 20 tar balls were
picked up at a state park along the western tip of the Florida Keys. The
tar balls have been sent away for analysis to determine whether or not they
are from the deep water horizon oil rig leak. Results aren‘t expected for
a few days.
If the tar balls are, in fact, from the Deepwater Horizon leak,
it would likely mean that the oil has made it into the loop current, the
gulf current that flows clockwise from the Yucatan Peninsula, to the
Northern Gulf of Mexico and then through the Florida Keys, the incredibly
ecologically sensitive Florida Keys and up the Atlantic coast.
The enormity of what we still don‘t know about the spill - the
size of it, its ecological impact, how the heck to stop it. The enormity
is enormous that the man overseeing the government‘s response to it,
Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, called it, quote, “the hardest
problem I‘ve ever had to face.”
Coming from anybody else, that wouldn‘t raise an eyebrow. Coming
from Thad Allen, given what he has faced in the past, eyebrows raised.
Joining us now is Admiral Thad Allen, the commandant of the U.S.
Coast Guard. He is best known nationally for having taken over
responsibility for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina after the
initial response fell short. Admiral Allen, thank you very much for your
time tonight, sir.
ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, COMMANDANT OF THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD: Good
MADDOW: The images that we saw from South Pass today of oil on
marshland, pretty hard to stomach. Do you expect that more oil will make
landfall any time soon?
ALLEN: Rachel, I think it is likely. One of the difficult things
about the spill is that it is not a large, monolithic spill. The oil has
come to the surface. Sometimes, it‘s been treated with dispersants or in
situ burning or was mechanically recovered by skimmers.
So rather than having a very large, homogeneous spill, what we
have is a very large perimeter with concentrations of oil. That is bad in
that it is a wide perimeter. It may be good in that when it comes ashore,
it‘s coming ashore in much lower quantities than a large spill would
MADDOW: I know that BP is responsible for the spill in first
instance. But you are the national incident commander for the federal
government here. You are overseeing the federal government‘s response and
Do you feel like there is more that could be done that hasn‘t
been done? Are there any other resources or techniques that would have a
reasonable chance of containing this thing that haven‘t been tried yet?
ALLEN: Well, I kind of divide the problem into two parts, Rachel.
The oil on the surface, that‘s something we know how to deal with that
we‘ve done before. There have been a massive amount of resources that have
been gathered to deal with that. And they extend from central southwest
Louisiana all the way around out to Pensacola, Florida and our plan is
extending clearing out to Key West as you noted earlier.
The other issue is the source of the discharge. And that‘s what
makes this spill very, very unique. There is no human access at the point
of discharge. Everything we know comes back to remotely operated vehicles
and remote sensing. It is two-dimensional therefore things like trying to
establish the flow rate become problematic.
That doesn‘t we can‘t or shouldn‘t do it. It just means it is a
very different operating environment from what - anything we have dealt
with before in a spill response.
MADDOW: In terms of that flow rate, there has been some controversy
as scientists have said that there is - there may be more that could be
done to determine how much oil is leaking every day.
BP has resisted trying to put too much - too many resources
toward that saying it wouldn‘t make that big of a difference in terms of
the response. Anyway, it would essentially be a distraction. What is your
view about how important it is to understand how much oil we are dealing
ALLEN: Well, again, I think it‘s important to make a distinction
between the flow rate as it relates to the response and the need to
understand the flow rate and the overall magnitude of the spill.
We mobilized far more resources than the flow rate would indicate
right now because we are prepared for a worst-case discharge. So in that
case, the flow rate is not consequential to the amount of resources we‘ve
mustered or employed.
However, in the long run, we start looking at natural resource
damage assessments and long-term impacts. We need to know how much total
oil has been discharged. And to do that, we have to have a better way of
understanding what is coming out through those leaks.
To that end, we‘ve actually established a technical group with
the period (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that‘s going on right now. I have been
consulting with Lisa Jackson and Gen. Lipchenko(ph) and other members of
the administration. And we‘re bringing all best minds to bear on how we
can get a better estimate what is coming out of those pipes.
MADDOW: When you were first appointed national incident commander
here, sir, you estimated the capping process. Shutting down the point of
origin of the spill would maybe take 45 to 90 days. You said that about
two weeks ago. Do you think that is an appropriate estimate? Do you think
that‘s we‘re looking at in terms of getting that thing capped?
ALLEN: Yes. I believe the target date that‘s been established
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) is the 14th of August. And they have what they call a
depth-to-time chart where they plan out where they need to be at a certain
time to meet that milestone.
And right now, they are on target with their depth-to-time chart.
They are taking a pause right now because they have to build casing on the
way down to support the pipe before they go through another section.
And they are just below 4,000 feet below the sea floor right now.
But as they get further down, it becomes more difficult due to the rock
formations. So far, against their timeline, they are on target.
MADDOW: In terms of the overall responsibility here and the direction
of the response, if BP wasn‘t doing something that you thought could
improve the situation - I‘m not accusing them of doing that, but if that
with were the case, could you compel them to do it?
ALLEN: It‘s a great question, Rachel, and the answer is yes. Under
the law, federal the federal on-sea coordinator - in this case, it‘s Sen.
Mary Landrieu who runs the area unified command on Robert, Louisiana who
reports directly to me.
We have the authority to direct BP to provide information. Now,
that is how the video was released today that you saw.
MADDOW: Have you had any other issues of conflict with BP that you
could tell us about in terms of things you would like them to do that they
have been reluctant to do?
ALLEN: I think they are generally concurrent on the large-scale
issues. I think sometimes logistics, some moving boats around there, so
much activity going on, on the surface and on the bottom with remotely
operated vehicles, trying to get everybody cued up and do what you need to
do simultaneously is presented as logistics challenges.
I think we‘d better kind of centralize our approach to boom
acquisition. That‘s the other of those two things, which are more
coordination challenges on the big issues have been responsive.
MADDOW: Admiral Allen, your presence here and your role here is
something that has inspired a lot of confidence in a lot of Americans
mostly because we know the confidence that our leaders have put in you both
after Hurricane Katrina and in this instance.
I also know that you are due to retire as commandant of the Coast
Guard a week from today, on May 25th. Are you planning on continuing your
role in this relief effort even after the date on which you are supposed to
be able to finally take a rest?
ALLEN: Rachel, the 25th of May is actually the change of the command
date for the commandant of the Coast Guard. And I will be relieved as
commandant by Admiral Robert Papp.
My actual retirement date is 1 July, because I was going to take
leave, but that is under active discussion right now. And I serve at the
pleasure of the president and the secretary.
MADDOW: Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, thank
you for your service. Thank you for joining us tonight, sir. And best of
luck. We are all counting on you.
ALLEN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. As crude oil continues to gush into the Gulf of
Mexico and tar balls start washing up on Florida beaches, guess who is
stepping up now to make sure that oil companies don‘t have to pay too much
in terms of their legal liability for this disaster?
It‘s the same senator who called global warming the biggest hoax
ever perpetrated on the American people. Joining us to talk oil
culpability and the inimitable James Mountain Inhofe is California Senator
Barbara Boxer. She is with us next. Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: Imagine you are a shareholder in the giant oil drilling
company, Transocean. Say it‘s April 19th. Transocean is largest offshore
drilling company in the world. It is churning out billions of dollars in
profits every year. They‘ve just finished drilling this gold mine of an
oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Happy days for Transocean shareholders as
of about April 19th, right?
Then April 20th happens. Transocean‘s $650 million Deepwater
Horizon rig explodes. Eleven rig workers are killed. Two days later, the
rig sinks to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico with the well still spewing
oil out of control.
Not good times to be a Transocean shareholder now, right?
Actually, not right. On Friday, this past Friday, Transocean held its
annual shareholders‘ meeting in their corporate tax haven in Switzerland.
You might remember we fake moved our show to Switzerland.
After that meeting was over, Transocean made this announcement,
an update for its shareholders, quote, “Shareholders authorized the board
of directors to make a cash distribution to shareholders of approximately
$1.0 billion U.S. dollars. $1 billion to Transocean shareholders. Happy
That was this past Friday, 22 days after the Deepwater Horizon
rig sunk. As Transocean is busy handing out $1 billion to its shareholders
in the wake of this enormous disaster, the company has simultaneously been
in court in Texas arguing that its liability for the disaster should be
limited to $27 million.
Need more cash to hand out to the shareholders. In Washington,
Congress and the administration are still trying to figure out, A, how this
disaster happened and, B, how to make sure the companies involved are not
able to wiggle out of their responsibilities in dealing with it.
In the how did-it-happen front, today, Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar, testified before the Senate for the first time since that April
20th rig explosion. It was the Interior Department Minerals Management
Service, the MMS, that was supposed to be overseeing the drilling.
Secretary Salazar acknowledged today that MMS apparently was not
up to the task of doing that regulating of making sure that all of the
rig‘s safety systems were working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): Do you believe that minerals management has
adequately regulated blowout preventers?
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR DEPARTMENT SECRETARY: No. The answer is no. I
don‘t - I think there is additional work that should have been done with
respect to blowout prevention mechanisms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Obama administration now taking steps to break up the
Minerals Management Service, something that maybe should have i3 happened a
long time ago, like, I don‘t know, maybe when the MMS oil industry
regulators shtupping lobbyists scandal came to light. Maybe that would
have been a good time for the break up.
In terms of the financial responsibility for the disaster,
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez tried to move ahead on legislation that
would raise financial liability for oil companies when spills happen. It
would raise the cap on their liability from $75 million - that‘s it - to
Mr. Menendez tried to pass that for a second time today. You
might recall the first time he tried it, it was blocked by Republican
Senator Lisa Murkowski. Today it was blocked by Republican Senator James
Inhofe of Oklahoma. Mr. Inhofe‘s reason for objecting - he said that
passing this legislation would give big oil what they want?
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Big oil would love to have these caps up so
they can shut out all the independents. If you raise the caps right now
precipitously to this height, you are going to help defy big oil companies
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Big oil wants their liability raised and if we pass this
legislation, it will prevent little mom and pop oil companies from getting
into the biz, because, you know, they could be financially responsible for
these spills and we couldn‘t have that. Taxpayers ought to take care of
His argument is so weird. I‘m sorry. It is not all that
professional to note that, but it‘s weird. Mom and pop oil companies need
to get in there in order to compete with the big companies.
And in order to keep that room available to the mom and pop
companies, we have to make sure if they create giant spills that they don‘t
have to pay for them. Really? That‘s your argument? Really?
Companies that can afford pay for these spills are like, oh, say,
BP. And it now looks like the financial burden of this cleanup may be the
least of BP‘s concerns. Yesterday, eight U.S. senators, led by Democrat
Barbara Boxer of California, wrote to the attorney general asking him to
open a criminal investigation into BP‘s actions.
The letter to Attorney General Holder reads in part, quote, “We
request that you review this matter with respect to civil and criminal laws
related to false statements made by BP to the federal government.”
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
She is chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Chairman Boxer, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Thank you very much for having me on the
MADDOW: Senator, what makes you think BP might have potentially
violated even criminal laws here? What are the false statements you are
BOXER: Well if, with your permission, I want to be very precise so I
have them on this chart.
BOXER: What they said when they applied for the permit to the federal
government was, “In the event of an unanticipated blowout resulting in an
oil spill, it is unlikely to have an impact based on the industry-wide
standards for using proven equipment and technology for such responses.”
So it was very soothing and they basically said, “No problem. We
know how to deal with it.” Then, after the spill, listen to what they
said, “All of the techniques being attempted or evaluated to contain the
flow of oil on the seabed involve significant uncertainties because they
have not been tested in these conditions before.”
So it‘s amazing. They were so sure of themselves and after the
fact, they admitted they weren‘t ready at all. So it seems to me we are
looking at a company that has already pled guilty to a couple of felonies
in the past, one involving a situation in Texas where people were killed
and another one in the Arctic.
And now, it seems to me that they made false statements. And I
think we need to go after that.
MADDOW: When the government received that application for drilling
that described proven equipment and technology, as you just said, for
responding to any disaster.
MADDOW: Shouldn‘t the government have looked into it and said proven?
Is it proven? Drilling at this depth - has it been proven to work at this
depth? Isn‘t this also a disastrous failure on the part of the Minerals
Management Service at the Department of Interior to have had a lot of
skepticism about that initial application?
BOXER: Oh, I think it is a nightmare. All you have to do is go back
to some of the exposes and some of the press have done on the very cozy
relationship that you‘ve talked about a lot between the Mineral Management
Service and the very companies they were supposed to oversee.
It‘s a nightmare. I mean, there were stories about parties and
drugs and everything else going along with it that the oil companies were
inviting all of the people that oversaw them these parties.
Now, it seems to me very clear we have to separate out the
permitting process from the safety process. It cannot be in the same
agency. And I spoke with - today when we had Secretary Salazar there who
is really struggling trying to get this thing right.
He has stated there ought to be a separation of those two
functions and have a separate agency for the safety, but he talked about
originally putting it at the MMS, the Minerals Management Service. I think
it needs to be completely separate. So we‘ll work together on that - he
and I and others.
MADDOW: Should there be permits for deep water drilling at all? I
found myself thinking about this, not only when I - in hearing that second
admission that you just read from BP talking about how none of the spill
response technologies are proven in this depth, but also looking at Shell
oil getting their final approval, trying to get their final approval to go
ahead with underwater drilling off Alaska.
They have been bragging about how they are going to pre-stage one
of those domes that didn‘t work in the gulf in case there is a spill up
there. They are going pre-stage a response ship which wouldn‘t have helped
with what happened in the gulf if we don‘t what happened - if it would work
in the Arctic.
Shouldn‘t there not just be a moratorium on this until we feel
more confident in the technological response that the industry has been
bragging about until they are proven wrong?
BOXER: Rachel, in my mind, it is a pretty straightforward call. We
need a pause right now. And not only that, but members of my committee
were saying to the Council on Environmental Quality today - Nancy Sutley is
a very good person there - saying we don‘t even know many of these wells
are out there right now that got the expedited procedure and didn‘t have to
do detailed environmental reports.
So I think there needs to be a pause in this area. And the truth
of the matter is, what we are putting at risk here is enormous. In the
gulf coast region, more than 300,000 jobs, Rachel, related to fishing,
I can tell you in my home state where we have fought hard for
more (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and thank goodness, we have one at the moment. If
you look at the number of jobs created by the oil companies versus the
number of jobs created in the tourism industry, recreation and fishing,
there are so many more in those other areas rather than the oil companies
that it‘s very clear we need a time-out.
Too much is at risk here, and I simply cannot believe some of the
comments that were made today by BP that they already were predicting this
wouldn‘t be a big deal. This is a big deal. Right now, there‘s an area
the size of Pennsylvania that is off-limits for fishing in the gulf, right
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, thank you for
joining on this utterly infuriating issue tonight. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: As we going out here, control room, you guys have a sound
bite from - that we‘re going to use - that we have available that we were
going to use earlier about Hayward? I just want to go out with this.
This is BP‘s CEO doing with an interview with Sky News today in
Britain talking about his perception of the impact of this disaster.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP OIL: The environmental impact of this disaster
has been very modest. It‘s impossible to say and we will mount as part of
the aftermath a very detailed environmental assessment as we go forward.
Everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall
environmental impacts of this will be very, very modest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Very, very modest. Just like all that technology for dealing
with the response was proven and tested. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: We end where we began this hour with the very latest in
Decision 2010, the primary contest in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Kentucky and
Oregon. In Kentucky, tea party favorite Rand Paul, the son of Congressman
Ron Paul, has won the Republican nomination for Senate against the
Republican establishment candidate, Trey Grayson.
Of the races we are watching, incumbent Senator Arlen Specter
versus Congressman Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania. Polls closed nearly two
hours ago. Also, in Pennsylvania in the special election for the late
Democratic Congressman John Murtha‘s seat right now, it‘s Democrat Mark
Critz and Republican Tim Burns.
Right now, with 21 percents reporting, we‘ve got 58 percent for
Mark Critz, the Democrat, to 40 percent for Tim Burns, the Republican. In
Arkansas, it is incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln versus
Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.
Polls closed at 8:30 Eastern Time right now with just five
percent of precincts reporting. We‘re looking at 46 percent for Blanche
Lincoln to 41 percent for Bill Halter. But again, now, that‘s looking at
just five percent of precincts in. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Two nail-biter Democratic Senate primaries as yet undecided
right now. Of course, Sestak versus Specter in Pennsylvania. Plus, this
sleeper, Kentucky‘s Democratic Senate primary right now with 97 percent of
precincts reporting, Jack Conway leading Daniel Mongiardo, 44 to 43
percent. Ninety-seven percent in, only one percentage subverting the two
candidates. It has not been called.
We will see you again live at 11:00 p.m. Eastern with the latest
election results. Now, for continuing coverage this election night, we
turn it over to Keith Olbermann. Keith?
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
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