The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/17/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
On Tuesday, January 12th of last year, at around 4:50 p.m. local time,
the ground began to shake and to shake violently beneath Haiti`s city of
Port-au-Prince. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti out of nowhere,
like all earthquakes and flattened nearly every standing structure in
Among the first images we got out of Haiti after the earthquake were
images like this one, shaky sort of grainy cell phone videos that were shot
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The world is coming to an end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The world coming to an end is what you heard her say there.
One of the most amazing things about the Haiti earthquake, before news
crews got on the ground there, we did get all of this incredible raw
footage from the disaster area that people could shoot themselves on their
own cell phones. They could upload it, send it to friends, and circulate
it around the world before any mediation could ever take place. It was one
of those striking moments when the democratization of pretty high-end
technology – in this case cell phones with cameras – really changed the
way we were able to see what was happening in this massive disaster in
Haiti, in real time.
It turns out there was also a minor flip side to that phenomenon. One
American aide worker from Maryland happened to find herself in Haiti when
the earthquake struck there. She used her cell phone to text her friends
and family back home to tell them she was OK. She used her cell phone to
post images on Facebook so her friends and family would not worry about her
safety while there, and so she could document what was happening there.
And then she came home from Haiti to find her cell phone bill for
$34,872. Wow. With no warning from her cell phone provider that she was
exceeding her international text and data plan, she got hit with a $35,000
monthly bill – which she was legally liable to pay.
As of today, cell phone companies being able to do that to you with no
warning is over. It`s at least coming to the end.
Today, the cell phone industry agreed to begin sending alerts to
customers who are getting close to their monthly voice, text or data
Now, this isn`t a new government regulation that`s been put on the
industry. This changed to protect American consumers has come about only
because of the threat of regulation hanging over these cell phone
providers. The ideas that these cell phone companies, these wireless
companies don`t implement this change properly to protect consumers from
what they were doing to them before, then the government will force them to
make these changes.
Now, make no mistake. This new practice will inevitably hurt the
bottom line of the wireless companies, because, you know, A $35,000 monthly
payment is a really nice return on some woman`s cell phone plan for one
It`s very lucrative to be able to charge people huge penalty fees and
huge overage charges with no warning which your customer`s then legally
obligated to pay. I mean, who wouldn`t want a business plan like that?
Everybody wants the right to maximize their corporate profits. And if
you can maximize your maximizing by swindling your customers, particularly
your customers who are locked into a binding contract where they have to
pay you for the privilege of stopping to pay you, who wouldn`t want that?
From a corporate perspective, swindling customers this way I`m sure is
awesome. It almost makes me want to glue on a fake villain mustache and
twirl the ends of it right now just thinking about it. But if something is
good for a company`s bottom line, if a company can figure out how to make
money by tricking Americans, by swindling people out of their money, just
because a company can make money doing that, doesn`t mean that that should
be a protected practice.
Somebody ought to take care to ensure fairness. Somebody ought to
take care to ensure that fairness even when the swindlers are big, rich
powerful interests. Somebody ought to take care to protect Americans from
being swindled by the companies with which we do business. That`s why we
have regulations and government oversight even when businesses do not like
Today, President Obama in North Carolina made the case for these kinds
of regulations, regulations that congressional Republicans had proposed
eliminating in their latest economic plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It turns out the
Republican plan boils down to a few basic ideas. They want to gut
regulations. They want to let Wall Street do whatever it wants. Their
plan says, we should go back to the good old days before the financial
crisis when Wall Street was writing its own rules. They want to roll back
all the reforms we put into place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, don`t feel bad for the guys who were getting booed there
in North Carolina. The people who are getting booed there are actually
having a great time right now.
Today, for example, Citigroup announced it has posted a $3.8 billion
profit for the third quarter of this year. That is a 74 percent increase
from a year ago and it is the seventh consecutive quarterly profit that
Citi has turned. Good times are back at Citigroup just three years after
they got bailed out by us. They got bailed out with $45 billion of
That reality led to this scene over the weekend at one of the big
Citibank branches in New York City. About 20 people or so taking part in
the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests arrested by police after marching
to that Citibank branch on Saturday afternoon.
Among those arrested were actual Citibank customers who are reportedly
attempting to close their accounts. Citibank says that the New York City
police asked them to close the branch with the protesters still inside
until police could arrive to arrest those protesters.
Here`s how some of that scene played out afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Let them go! Let them go! Let them go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement officially turned
one month old. And not only does it show no signs of letting up, but over
the weekend, the protest that started on Wall Street started spreading
across the globe. More than 900 cities across four separate continents saw
protests this past Saturday alone.
This was the scene at a recent occupy protest in New York City. “I
bailed out a bank and all I got was a new debit card charge.”
Occupy Cincinnati protesters have been set up in a park in Cincinnati
much like downtown Manhattan. Over this past weekend, Cincinnati
protesters – this is sort of adorable – Cincinnati protesters got word
somebody was scheduled to have their wedding photos taken in the park. So,
all the protesters gathered up all their stuff and left so they would not
be in the way of the wedding photos.
Then the bride and the groom showed up to have their wedding photos
taken and told the protesters – no, no, no, we wanted you guys in the
pictures. The wedding couple sought out the protesters who had gotten out
of the way and asked them to be in some of their wedding photos – which is
Less adorable, but important in protest terms, Cornel West, among 18
people arrested yesterday while protesting outside the Supreme Court.
Part of the reason financial interests now have a stranglehold over
our political system is, of course, the way the Supreme Court took away
limits on corporate spending in politics over the last couple of years.
So, the Supreme Court, if you care about this issue, is an appropriate
place to protest.
In terms of how the “Occupy Wall Street” protests are being received
by the public at large, a new poll out today showed nearly seven out of 10
New Yorkers say they agree with the views being expressed by the Wall
Street protesters in their city.
If you think about it, New Yorkers are the folks who have been
contending with what is an encampment in their city for the longest time,
since this movement started a month ago. If anybody thought it was going
to be aggravating the people whose city was being occupied, it manifestly
is not. The city by nearly seven out of 10 people is on the Occupy Wall
When asked if they support or oppose tougher government regulations of
banks and Wall Street firms, the home of Wall Street, 73 percent of New
Yorkers in the home of Wall Street, 73 percent of New Yorkers say they
support that tougher regulation. Even Republicans say they support tougher
Wall Street regulations.
So, this is it. There`s this base question about whether there is any
countervailing force protecting Americans` individual human interests from
really, really powerful, really, really, really rich, sometime bad actors
who are preying on us and have really hurt individual Americans` fortunes
badly and spending now hand over fist to keep doing that.
Is there any countervailing force against their interests or isn`t
there? Is there any countervailing force on the part of individual
Americans? Is it possible for politicians to act against the interests of
the most powerful corporations when it is in individual Americans` interest
that they do so?
This really is a 1 percent versus 99 percent question. And people
overwhelmingly – frankly left, right and center – realize they have been
victimized by an economic system and political system that tilts so
disproportionately toward the 1 percent`s interest.
Right now, Democrats are trying to turn the upcoming elections in the
direction of that sentiment. President Obama gleefully highlighting today
the fact the Republicans` supposed jobs plan is mostly a plan to repeal the
Dodd/Frank Wall Street reform.
It`s not like the movement in the streets right now is a big “D”
Democratic movement. The protesters at “Occupy Wall Street” aren`t exactly
delighted with Democrats either.
So, what can Democrats do now to show good faith? With all of the
Wall Street contributions that they`ve got, all the revolving door lobbyist
and staff connection they`ve got to Wall Street, what can Democrats do now
if they want to ally themselves with the message of the “We are the 99
What can Democrats do to show good faith? What can Democrats show
they should be trusted even as the protesters seem clear the Republicans
can`t be trusted? Has this created an imperative for the Democratic Party
to prove themselves on this issue in a way they haven`t yet been able to?
Joining us now is a man at the center of this question, Democratic
Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts – the ranking member of the
House Financial Services Committee. And the man who is the Frank in the
Dodd/Frank Wall Street reform legislation.
Congressman Frank, thank you very much for your time.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: Do you believe that the “Occupy Wall Street” movement is
changing the Democratic strategic consideration of Wall Street and economic
populism broadly? Do you think it`s lit a fire under the Democrats at all?
FRANK: Well, first, I have to say that I wish there was some of that
energy two years ago when I was fighting against the people who wanted to
protect derivatives from regulation and were trying to weaken the consumer
Rachel, I do have to say, some of us have been trying to do this for a
while, and I have to be honest and say in 2009, I wish some of these people
had been energized then and were helping us fight back against this effort,
because we got a strong bill, but it should have been stronger.
Secondly, I will say this – I hope they will, but I want to – you
know, sometimes telling your friends things is tougher than reeling at your
enemies. Not if people think the demonstrations in and of themselves do
Look, let me – you said protesting at the Supreme Court is an
appropriate way to deal with the terrible decisions they made that allow
unrestricted campaign spending. A better way, not mutually exclusive, is a
president who can appoint justices who won`t do that, because if look at
the justices appointed by President Obama – Justice Sotomayor., Justice
Kagan – they won`t vote that way.
The demonstrations are very important because they give you the
potential to mobilize people. But people need to take the next step and
they have to, one, let the people now in office know what they think. And
two, vote for the people who do that. In the Senate, there was just a very
partisan vote to put a surtax on income above $1 million.
I`d like to go even lower. That would have been a progressive step.
Unfortunately, it was filibustered because the Republicans voted
unanimously against it and all but a couple of Democrats voted for it.
That wasn`t enough.
So, I – yes, I hope there will be pressure to do even more, but I,
again, want to be honest – simply being in a public place and voicing your
opinion in and of itself doesn`t do anything politically. It is the
prerequisite, I hope, for people getting together and voting and engaging
And I understand some of the people on Occupy Wall Street are kind of
critical of that. They think that`s conventional politics.
Well, you know, the most successful organization in America in getting
its views adopted is the National Rifle Association. They are in many
cases a minority. But in addition to everything else they do, they very
effectively identify who the members of the Congress are, the legislatures
and vote for them.
So, as I said, I welcome the Wall Street energy. I don`t agree with
everything some of the people say. I agree with the general thrust of it.
But it`s not self-executing. It has to be translated into political
activity if it`s going to have the impact. And – you know, I would just
say, the last thing, we had an election last year in which people who
disagree with them, and disagree with me and with you, got elected.
I want to be honest again here. I don`t know what the voting behavior
is of all these people, but I`m a little bit unhappy when people didn`t
vote last time blame me for the consequences of their not voting.
MADDOW: I hear the frustration in your voice and your appreciation of
the complexity here, but I wonder if you think that the “Occupy Wall
Street” protests might help?
I mean, if you think about the influence of the Tea Party movement on
the Republican Party, the Tea Party movement often had an incoherent and
laughable message, a self-contradictory message and didn`t translate to
political action. Some of them did. A lot of them didn`t. But they
really moved the Republican Party.
FRANK: I agree with you on the incoherence of the message, but they
voted. That`s – I – you say it can help. It can help if people will
vote and vote for the people who agree with them and if they think people
don`t go far enough, they vote against them and vote for others.
But the Tea Party – one of the things we now confront is that the Tea
Party is the dominant voice of the Republican Party in the House. Not
because everybody, every Republican agrees with Michele Bachmann, but
because virtually every Republican is afraid of losing a primary to a
follower of Michele Bachmann because of the Tea Party.
So, I agree with you in terms of your description of what the Tea
Party stands for. But they did take political action. They were,
unfortunately, I think, but they have the right to do it and nobody can
criticize them for exercising their rights – they`re a very powerful force
in Republican primaries. They had an impact because they vote and lobby
And I understand with some of the Wall Street protesters, a sense
that`s somehow bourgeois politics or conventional politics. Well, sitting
in Citicorp isn`t going to change votes in Congress.
I want to change votes. I want to get a confirmed head of the
independent consumer bureau. We fought hard for that.
I was proud of being an ally of Elizabeth Warren of getting that done.
I want derivative regulation to be tough. I want there to be a change in
the policy whereby the banks and other financial institutions made loans
and then sold the whole loan and didn`t have to retain any of it.
All those are now being fought about. So, I would welcome the allies.
The demonstrations are a good thing conducted properly, but that has to
lead to political participation or it won`t have an effect.
Look, as you know, I`ve been very active in gay rights. I have the
25th anniversary of my coming out coming up. And there was a big gay
rights demonstration a couple years ago on Columbus Day when Congress was
out of session. And I thought it was frankly a waste of effort.
I said, you should instead be going to people in their own districts.
People said, no, we`re going to go to the Mall and put pressure on
Congress. I said, all they put pressure on was the grass because they
didn`t follow it up.
Those are good ways to mobilize people. But if there is no follow-up
in the kind of political action that the Tea Party engages in, it will
dissipate its impact.
MADDOW: I tend to think that there are intangibles created by direct
action that can change political framing and political realities, but I
think your argument about how it translates directly is well put, sir. I
respect your –
FRANK: Can I say two things, quickly?
MADDOW: Please, sir.
FRANK: They`re not mutually exclusive. Why not take the second step?
And, secondly, can I give a photo credit? Will you indulge me in
MADDOW: Of course.
FRANK: The great photo you showed of our hero, Frank Kameny with
President Obama and myself and Tammy Baldwin, can I tell you? It was taken
by my partner Jim Ready. It was a better picture than the one the
newspapers used. So, I`m glad you used it.
MADDOW: Well, we will post it on our blog with proper credit, sir.
FRANK: Thank you.
MADDOW: That`s adorable. I appreciate it.
FRANK: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you, sir. Congressman Barney Frank, of course,
Democrat of Massachusetts.
MADDOW: All right. Law and order – more police on the beat. A
wider blue line fighting crime in our cities and towns, all this should be
sweet music to conservative ears. Unless the guy hiring those cops is, of
course, President Obama, giving them what they want even when they say they
do not want it. That`s next.
MADDOW: OK. The following video was not good enough to be declared
the “Best New Thing in the World Today.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Imagine there`s no pizza, I
couldn`t if I tried, eating only tacos or Kentucky fried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Newly discovered video of Herman Cain in a choir robe singing
a song to promote his mafia-themed pizza restaurant I repeat is not the
Best New Thing in the World Today. And that`s because we have found
something better. I know that seems impossible but it`s true. Better than
that. “Best New Thing in the World Today” – not Herman Cain in that robe
singing about tacos. It`s, in fact, coming up.
MADDOW: Good news tonight in Garden City, Idaho. Little Garden City,
you are getting another police officer for the next three years – thanks
to a new grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Congratulations, we
hear the competition was steep.
And hey, good news in Muscatine, Iowa. You are getting two new police
officers also for the next three years.
Same goes for Urbandale, Iowa. Two more officers, so the ones you
have can go home to their families for supper now and then.
Tucson, you`re a much bigger town with a lot going on. And, Tucson,
you`re getting a bunch of new police officers thanks to a grant from the
In fact, congratulations to a very long roster of towns and counties
in America. You are this year`s winners. You applied for a grant from the
Justice Department`s cops hiring program and you won.
We are much more used to news about towns cutting back on police and
even closing down their whole police departments because they can`t afford
them anymore. But programs like the cops program can help these towns and
counties. They can use federal money to hire new officers or to keep the
ones they have so they don`t get laid off.
And, boy, are these towns and counties psyched about it. Last year,
for example, Oakland, California, laid off dozens of police officers, so
many that the officers who were left in Oakland announced they would no
longer respond to a long string of crimes including burglary, and vandalism
and grand theft.
But, now, with help from Uncle Sam, the Oakland Police Department will
be able to add 25 uniformed officers back to their depleted ranks.
When a government looks at what it can do, what is within its power to
keep people employed, to help with jobs, the single most direct thing a
government can do is, duh, not fire its own employees. So when states and
cities and counties were busted by the Wall Street implosion and recession
and unemployment and tax revenues falling off a cliff, the federal
government targeted funds to keep teachers and police officers and
firefighters on the job. That`s for them, it`s for their communities, it`s
for the economy. This is a long standing principle in U.S. policy.
But Republicans last week voted down President Obama`s American Jobs
Act, including its money for teachers and first responders, to help cities
hire them and avoid laying them off.
Now, Senate Democrats brought that same proposal back this week as a
stand alone – federal money for teachers and cop and firefighters. The
kind of stuff that`s being celebrated from Claremont, New Hampshire, to
Waller County, Texas, right now, when they can get their hands on some
The stuff is popular, overwhelmingly Americans say the government
should spend more to keep teachers and cops and firefighters on the job.
To pay for it, taxes on corporations and rich folks, please. That`s what
the polling says at least.
Republicans hate this idea in the abstract. “We`ve seen this movie
before,” says Republican Senator John McCain. Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell says, quote, “It`s disappointing that Senate Democrats are still
focused on the same temporary stimulus spending.”
Republicans hate this idea in the abstract, but in the specific, it`s
Garden City, Idaho. It is Muscatine, Iowa. It is Urbandale, Iowa. It is
It is even Cold Spring, Minnesota – where the most emphatic “I hate
stimulus” Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann recently
requested some of that nice cops program funding because it was her
district, and Cold Spring could use that funding. It would be a good use
of money there and really help Cold Spring.
It would help. It would.
And even as they denounced this thing in the abstract, they know it
works in the specific. That vote on teachers and on cops and on
firefighters could come as soon as Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ice cream. That is cheap. Fact. And then I
suspended Marcia off this bridge and took a virgin heifer night riding for
a while. We never got a dead spirit. We hated it, though. It`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The phenomenon that is badlipreading.com is so far the
nation`s best result yet for this year`s round of presidential politics. I
mean, I`m glad we learned about the 9-9-9 thing and the thing about Tim
Pawlenty and hockey fights. But I`m more glad to have found out what bad
lip read can do for, say, Michele Bachmann.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mama gets a what what – you know I represent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Great news today. There is a new bad lip reading for Mitt
Romney this time, including for the first time a lot of really oddly
compelling bad lip reading just of him giggling.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: I told you it was oddly compelling. Mitt Romney as
interpreted by the geniuses at badlipreading.com, the “Best New Thing in
the World Today.” It`s coming up right at the end of the show. I swear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready for the got you questions? They`re
coming from the media and others on foreign policy. Who`s the president of
Uzbekistan? You know, all this stuff. It`s coming. And how are you
dealing with that?
CAIN: I`m ready for the got you questions. And they are already
starting to come.
And when they ask me who`s the president of Uzbeki-beki-beki-bekistan-
stan, I`m going to say, you know, I don`t know, do you know?
Do they think for a moment that I`m not a student of the position that
I seek and that I probably know more than foreign policy than they think?
So what I`m saying is, I hope they continue to think that I am foreign
policy dumb until the right time they will find out I`m not as foreign
policy dumb as they think.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: What`s the right time?
Foreign policy is not the grounds on which Republicans are choosing
their presidential candidate this year. The Uzbeki-beki-beki-bekistan-stan
guy is, of course, Herman Cain who is roughly tied for first place right
now with Mitt Romney.
Like Mr. Cain, Mr. Romney has zero foreign policy experience. But for
his team of advisers, he`s brought back most of the George W. Bush`s
foreign policy team because that worked out so awesome the last time.
The only Republican presidential contender with any claim to foreign
policy experience is, of course, Jon Huntsman, who was the Obama
administration`s ambassador to China and who is currently polling at levels
measured in individual supporters rather than in percentages.
In one recent poll, literally, the number of individuals found in Iowa
to be supporting Jon Huntsman`s candidacy could be counted on one hand.
Not the percentage, the people.
So, no, American politics and Republican Party politics in particular
are not this year about foreign policy.
If we were debating foreign policy, though, there would be a lot to
debate about. We`re at war, of course, in Iraq. We are at war in
Afghanistan. We are at war in Libya.
And even if we don`t call it (AUDIO GAP), we are at war intermittently
sometimes in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Yemen, now in Uganda, in South Sudan,
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
Last week, President Obama said he was deploying 100 troops as
trainers against a militia called the Lord`s Resistance Army in the last
four African nations I named. Even though this president has wound down or
pledged to wind down the wars he inherited in the past administration, he
has started his own wars without much criticism.
There`s been some criticism on the left and some generalized
grumbling. But in the absence of sustained partisan opposition, foreign
policy has really gone mostly unsaid, un-argued, un-debated.
But, of course, there are exceptions and right now, the exceptions are
way weirder than that even weird rule. Last week, for example,
conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tried to find a way to criticize the
Africa intervention not by saying intervention itself is a bad thing, or
that the president was doing it wrong in some way. Mr. Limbaugh`s
criticism was the specific militia U.S. troops would be targeting in
Africa, that militia, those are actually good guys.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Lord`s Resistance Army are
Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent
troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which
means kill them. So that`s a new war, 100 troops to wipe out Christians in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
I will admit it is true that the Lord`s Resistance Army did have the
foresight to put the word “Lord” in their name but they`re not exactly
known as a Christian group. They`re not like missionaries.
They`re best known for massacring civilians on mass – typing up men
and hitting them in the head with axes, taking women and girls as sex
slaves, forcing young boys to become child soldiers. They are considered
responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in Central Africa –
kidnapping, rape, mass murder, reign of terror, child soldiers, the whole
kit and caboodle.
But setting aside the astonishing exception of Rush Limbaugh calling
those guys good guys because they put the word “Lord” in their name, is it
a blessing or curse that we do not really have partisan arguments about
foreign policy anymore? Republicans don`t have it in them this year.
But arguments can be beneficial sometimes. They can pry loose
information about what`s going on or what might happen next.
Right now, for example, the best information we have about Obama`s
foreign policy does not come from political fights over foreign policy. It
comes from journalism – journalism like Michael Hastings` new scoop in
“Rolling Stone,” which is the most illuminating thing I`ve read of how we
go to war now in the Obama presidency and why we go to war now.
Joining us now for the interview, Michael Hastings, contributor editor
for “Rolling Stone” magazine. His article about the Obama`s
administration`s decision to intervene in Libya is in the current issue of
Michael Hastings, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here, my
MICHAEL HASTINGS, ROLLING STONE: Hey, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: You explain in your piece the Obama administration is
motivated to intervene around the world as sort of justifying intervention
around the world by this idea of responsibility to protect. Can you
explain that basic idea?
HASTINGS: Sure. Essentially you have a group of influential advisers
around the president. The president, himself, who is very interested in
this idea of what – how can you use American foreign policy might to
protect innocent civilians in different countries around the world?
There was the experience in Rwanda in the `90s and Balkans in the `90s
sort of brought forth this community of foreign policy experts who
essentially said, look, we`re going to create a doctrine that says if there
are innocent civilians at risk in other countries, we have a moral
obligation as the international community to intervene.
MADDOW: Do you get the sense that the Obama administration feels any
pressure over some of the more controversial things they are doing? Even
in the absence of partisan arguments over those things? For example, we
learned this weekend that after we killed an American citizen, Anwar al-
Awlaki, in a drone strike this weekend, we`ve also now killed his son, also
reportedly an American citizen. The government says he was 21 years old.
The family says he was 16.
From your reporting on this, does it seem to you like there are high-
level struggles in the administration with criticism over things like this?
HASTINGS: I don`t think the Awlaki issue, there`s too much infighting
in the administration. I can guarantee you, if it was a Republican
president doing that, the Democrats would be up in arms. I think the drone
strike in particular has a number of very troubling questions to it.
But I think politically – as a political issue, the drone strike
issue is a winner. I mean, as – forget the moral questions for a second.
And my personal feeling, too, if the president`s foreign policy was
going to be focused on humanitarian intervention and these sort of
multilateral efforts around the world, say going in and trying to track
down the Lord`s Resistance Army, how Rush Limbaugh did not realize the
Lord`s Resistance Army is one of the most evil militias in the world, it`s
like dude, use the Google.
But I think if Obama – if President Obama kept it to those, sort of,
issues, humanitarian interventions, drone strikes, people on the left might
be more forgiving. The problem is you still have Iraq and Afghanistan that
are ongoing – the sort of forever wars. And I think that`s the key to the
– the president will be judged in the end on whether he can end those wars
MADDOW: Well, and in terms of what you are reporting on, what you`re
seeing with the internal decision making process in the administration, do
you see any evolution in where the – I guess the political weight is on
war issues between the president`s decision on Afghanistan, say, and the
decision that he made on Libya.
Is the weight – the center of gravity in the administration changing
HASTINGS: I think so. I think President Obama was burned by the
Pentagon in the deliberations over Afghanistan. And what you`ve seen over
the past two or three years is the president really seizing control of his
own foreign policy.
On the bin Laden operation and in Libya, you had the president
overruling his – some of his top military advisers, going with his gut.
So, how I like to look at it, if you look at the blank slate foreign policy
questions, Libya`s one of them, I said the bin Laden or the Awlaki hit as
well, the president has actually done quite well.
And he`s criticized for the sort of leading from behind. And I don`t
think that`s really true. I think – and the White House will certainly
say this, that that`s actually smart and wise leadership. Not leading from
But I think the weight is clearly moved from the Pentagon into the
Oval Office, but it`s been a struggle for him to get there.
MADDOW: The story of that evolution as told by your piece right now
in “Rolling Stone” is really well-told and fascinating. And I`m not sure
anybody else is getting that on national security stuff. So,
congratulations on that scoop, Michael. It`s nice to see you.
HASTINGS: Thanks. And I got the book coming out in January. People
in Washington are already running for cover. So, I hope to be back.
MADDOW: Hey, do you have a title yet for your book?
HASTINGS: It`s called “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside
Story of America`s War in Afghanistan.”
MADDOW: Who do I have to call?
HASTINGS: Give me a call or text me or we`ll do a lip reading thing
too and see how it goes.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll do it lip reading video style. Excellent.
Thank you, Michael Hastings. Appreciate it.
HASTINGS: Thanks a lot for having me.
MADDOW: Michael Hastings, of course, a contributing editor for
“Rolling Stone” magazine.
OK, “Best New Thing in the World” is still ahead. It`s as funny as
shagging parrots. That`s all I`m saying.
MADDOW: Arizona is about 30 percent Latino. Alabama is about 4
percent Latino. And so, last year, when Arizona passed the most draconian
anti-immigrant law in the country, there were large scale protests in
Arizona to be sure.
But those protests weren`t just in Arizona. There were protests
against Arizona`s new anti-immigrant law all over the country. There were
nationwide boycotts organized against the state of Arizona. Arizona`s
anti-immigration bill, SB-1070, better known as the “papers please” law,
frankly became a national issue.
More than a year later, after SB-1070 was stayed by the courts,
Alabama passed an even more draconian law, a law that essentially makes it
illegal to exist without documentation in Alabama. Your very existence in
that state in school and in a car, in a church maybe, could be considered a
crime under Alabama`s new law.
And when a federal judge in Alabama refused to block key provisions of
the new anti-immigrant law, Alabama`s Latinos, all 4 percent of them – in
contrast to the 30 percent in Arizona – they comparatively were kind of
just left on their own. Many just left altogether, just fled the state
“The New York Times” reporting an exodus of Hispanic immigrants from
one small Alabama town. The Monday after key parts of the law was upheld,
the Alabama Department of Education told “Politico” that Hispanic students
were absent from class at twice the normal rate. Now, that doesn`t mean
they`re all undocumented immigrants, but families with one member who has
uncertain immigration status are weighing the cost of things like the kids
going to school against the threat of families being broken up.
Many of those who are staying are protesting. Last week, Latino
students, workers, business owners in the Birmingham area stayed home as
part of a boycott organized on Spanish language radio. Organizers estimate
more than 100 businesses were closed as part of the boycott.
The guy behind Alabama`s new anti-immigrant law is also the guy who
wrote Arizona`s “papers please” law. He`s also behind the new Kansas law
that says essentially that you cannot register to vote in Kansas anymore
without showing a birth certificate or a passport.
His name is Kris Kobach. He`s Kansas` secretary of state. Kobach
describes the Alabama law so far as, quote, “A win.” He says, quote, “It`s
If that`s a win from the perspective of Kris Kobach, what happens next
in 4 percent Latino Alabama? In part, that depends on the legality of what
Alabama is trying to do. After all, Alabama is still having its pants sued
off over this.
But it goes beyond the legal issue. In part who happens next to the 4
percent Latinos in Alabama and the rest of Alabama`s immigrants depends on
whether or not this starts being treated in Alabama as not just a
demographics issue but a civil rights issue, as a broad issue about who
Alabama is in the 21st century. Especially after who Alabama was in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 16th Street Baptist Church is called
everybody`s church. Through its history, it`s always been a center point
for black people as a gathering place for the community. So, many of the
movements, marches and demonstrations emanated out of the basement of this
church. When the bombing of the church happened right beyond the exit
sign, that`s when four little girls were killed, murdered in this church.
U.W. CLEMON, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE: It`s very serious. This is
sacred ground for us. As you might imagine, (INAUDIBLE) the same court
together. She succeeded me as chief judge in the court. I`m sure that she
ruled in accordance with what she viewed to be the law.
Unfortunately, in some very serious ways, she was mistaken. Ours is a
country really that is based on immigration.
We are a nation of immigrants. Only two categories of Americans don`t
fall into the category of immigrants: and that is the Native Americans, the
Indians, and the black Americans. We`re the only ones who didn`t seek to
All of us black and whites have to keep working towards making all
Americans realize that we`re all in this boat together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That video report-produced by the Pulitzer Prize-winning
reporter Jose Antonio Vargas, who in a jaw-dropping “New York Times”
magazine piece earlier this year revealed how he himself had come to this
country as a child, as an undocumented immigrant, and he still does not
have legal status.
Joining us now is former “Washington Post” reporter, the founder of
DefineAmerican.com, Jose Antonio Vargas.
Jose, thanks very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, DEFINEAMERICAN.COM: No, thank you. Thank you
for having me. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: This law exists in Alabama now. In part, its future will be
decided by the courts. But there`s also other factors at work here.
In Alabama, what have you been seeing in terms of organizing against
it, about its impact on the state already?
VARGAS: You cannot overstate the impact of this law in the state.
And I think more than just the organizing the boycotting that`s been
happening, that`s being organized by undocumented immigrants and their
allies here in Alabama, I`m actually Birmingham, right, the cradle of the
civil rights movement. What`s been interesting is, you know, at Define
American we`re all about trying to kind of tell the stories of what`s
really happening here.
Are the stories of, like, the farmer or the elementary schoolteacher,
right, or actually U.W. Clemon, you know, civil rights icon, who are
connecting the dots and saying that this is a human rights, civil rights
I really appreciate you taking the time to play the video because, you
know, to be sitting at 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of the bonding
in 1963, I can`t believe that what nearly 50 years later – I mean,
yesterday was a dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial, here we are
talking about an issue that`s impacting, of course, you know, a specific
I think the question here that I`ve been asking people is, is this the
real Alabama? Does this reflect what you want Alabama to be?
MADDOW: Judge Clemon, as far as I know is the first African-American
federal judge in Alabama, is that right?
MADDOW: I know he told you.
VARGAS: Nominated by Jimmy Carter.
MADDOW: He told you in that striking moment in the video that his
successor for his seat on the federal court, Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, he
said she was mistaken in her ruling to uphold this anti-immigration law.
Did that that give you any insight – did he give you any insight into
how a challenge to this ruling might play out?
VARGAS: Well, I mean, again, back to the civil rights movement of the
60s, this is going to play out in the courts. This is going to happen.
It`s going to play out in the courts.
And I think just as important – it`s going to play out, you know, in
homes, on the streets. It`s going to play out in really again how we have
to refrain, how we think about immigration in this country.
You know, it`s been really interesting. Last night, I actually was
out at a Kohl`s Department Store, right? I wanted to ask every day
Alabamans about the law. And I talked to about six people, five of whom
supported the law, but they couldn`t quite tell me what was in the law.
You know, they didn`t know, for example, that it`s actually a crime.
I mean, three days ago, what, Thursday, it would have been a crime for me
as an undocumented immigrant to be in Alabama. They didn`t know that.
They didn`t know that it`s a crime, it`s a felony for an undocumented
immigrant to be actually getting water service because now undocumented
immigrant can`t get into a business, you know, entity or contract with the
I mean, this is a real law affecting real lives. It`s not an
abstraction. And I think that`s something we really need to figure out. I
mean, that`s what we`re doing at Define American.
MADDOW: Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of DefineAmerica.com –
Jose, please stay in touch with us as you continue to work on this.
VARGAS: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. “Best New Thing in the World” is coming up next.
MADDOW: “Best New Thing in World Today” comes from the folks at
badlipreading.com – the same group that gave us these:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pressure to put on weight is one of the reasons
we`ve got the red sweat suits. There`s no way we could. We`re craven
between the bull frogs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went from being two banana plants up to a
thrill-seeking shark that sold pictures of different toys I want. When I
buy stickers for folks in prison, I bring milk not backyard meth, it`s a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bored by famine. I cannot wait for a medieval
cookie, a cinnabun, hot yellow Kool-Aid and save a pretzel for the gas
jets! Thank you. I wrote that.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: I wrote that.
All courtesy of the emerging geniuses of the presidential contest,
these people at badlipreading.com.
This morning, we`re in L.A. this week. I got to a little office space
here in L.A. to start working, and I thought something horrible had
happened because my boss, Bill Wolff, was crying at his desk. His face was
all red. There were tears streaming down his face.
I thought something horrible happened until I realized that bill was
not crying, crying. He was crying laughing because this new badlipreading
video had just gone up
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was happy in the new sister threw a sea fish at
How you are? Cookies. Can I take one? Hey, thank you for the bench.
Don`t commit suicide.
I will force spiders and badgers on the enemy and get them all to shut
Hey, Madonna married a real giant, that would be good. At least I
think it would.
Wait, no, it wouldn`t because never mind.
Happy stepchild. I told you to check it out.
Oh, hey this is for the cow.
In America, we have a song. Ding dong llama wannee jumping with an
ice pick. She thinks I`m going in.
I`m very good company.
Be sure that pizza doesn`t have a fly it in.
I didn`t spend money on robotic things. I spend money on video games.
We play pole position and we go fast around the track. Man, I was a good
We have Winona Ryder out there throughout pissing off people with a
guitar. They`re a bunch of punks.
I`m freezing out here. I got to get away. Amy left the party and I`m
leaving at three to pick apples.
Are you a math dork?
Pork chops and beans and put in the freezer and rotted after a month.
Yo momma`s pudgy, face it.
I`m a gremlin. I`m leading the party and I want everybody to stuff
the ice chest. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Badlipreading, “Best New Thing in the World.”
Now, it is time for “THE ED SHOW.” Have a good night.
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