The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/30/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks, Michael. Nice to see you. Thanks a lot, my
DYSON: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
It is honestly great to be back.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been attending the Olympics in London
all this past weekend long, and that has led to some rather amazing photo
This is First Lady Michelle Obama at a let`s move exercise session
that she held with local kids and U.S. service members` kids in London
before the opening ceremonies last week.
There she is at the same event with British soccer star, the very
handsome David Beckham.
Here is Michelle Obama giving a pre-Olympics pep talk to women`s
This was kind of a stunning moment. Upon meeting the U.S. wrestling
team, the American wrestler Elena Pirozhkova asked First Lady Michelle
Obama if she could please pick her up.
I`m guessing from the picture that the first lady answered in the
affirmative and this history-making photo op was born. So awesome.
After the U.S. men`s basketball team kicked France`s butt really
badly yesterday, the U.S. men`s basketball team got hugs from the first
lady. Not all at once. They all lined up individually to each get their
hug from Michelle Obama.
So, one for Kobe Bryant, one for LeBron James, and on and on. Hugs
all around. One by one, right?
At the opening ceremonies on Friday, there was just one reaction shot
of Michelle Obama watching the proceedings. She was shown standing and
cheering as the American people made its way into the stadium, in their
made in China uniforms.
That was also the occasion where we got our first view of the other
American political dignitary who was on the scene. Mitt Romney was there,
along with his wife, Ann Romney. The one reaction shot we got of the
Romneys was also as the American team marched into the stadium in their
made in China uniforms.
But honestly, if I could only have one reaction shot of Mitt Romney
during that whole ceremony, it would not have been what he thought of
seeing the team walking into the stadium. Obviously, that`s a stand up and
What I really wanted to see his reaction to was this moment. The
part of the opening ceremonies that involved an 11-minute long tribute to
the National Health Service, the British socialized health care system
which they love. Seeing that must have been a cognitively dissonant moment
for an American conservative politician who is running for president in
part on the basis of his claim that Obamacare is nudging us closer to the
Stalinist hellscape of socialized medicine which, of course, nobody wants
except for all of these people who have been living with it for decades who
apparently like it so much that their country decided to do a long, ornate,
very theatrical pageant about it with lots of dancing for 11 minutes before
an international audience. It went on and on and on about how much they
love their national health care system.
They bragged on inventing Peter Pan, and Mary Poppins. They bragged
on the Industrial Revolution. They bragged on Britain`s role in inventing
the Internet and they bragged on the Stalinist hellscape of socialized
medicine that they love so much as a country. Oh, to see Mitt Romney`s
face at that moment in the opening ceremony.
But alas, this particular brand of awkwardness for Mr. Romney and his
presidential campaign actually came up again yesterday on the second leg of
what has turned out to be Mr. Romney`s terrible, horrible, no good, very
bad trip abroad.
Mr. Romney was addressing a group of wealthy campaign donors in
Israel, and he said to them this. Quote, “Do you realize what health care
spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? Eight percent. You
spend 8 percent of GDP on health care. You`re a pretty healthy national.
We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care, 10 percentage points more. “
So Mr. Romney in Israel praising with an almost childlike sense of
wonder the Israeli miracle of how they have kept their health costs so low
with great health outcomes as a result. Do you want to know the secret of
how Israel keeps health costs so low, while still getting great outcomes?
They have a nationalized health system. They have sort of an extra
socialized version of Romneycare, by which I mean Obamacare, with an
individual mandate and everything.
The government in Israel forces you to have health insurance. The
government heavily regulates the insurance plans and tells them exactly
what they have to cover. The plans even have to cover people who have pre-
existing conditions. You ever heard about that as a possibility here?
It`s essentially the same stuff as Romneycare, and therefore
Obamacare, except it`s slightly more socialist in Israel, and they love it,
and it`s working. Just like the Brits love it. And it`s working there,
too, which all makes total sense in policy terms, unless you are the guy in
the middle of this who is accidentally praising it in Israel or who is
sitting through the ornate dancing pageants about it while you are trying
to run for president on the United States on the basis of this whole idea
being a horrible idea, which, of course, you yourself once pursued when you
were governor of a northeastern liberal state.
But stepping on that particular rake was arguably one of the better
moments for Mr. Romney, at least on the Israel leg of this trip. While in
Israel, Mr. Romney`s foreign policy adviser, a Bush-Cheney guy you see here
named Dan Senor, he blundered unnecessarily close to accidentally starting
a war when he made a statement to the press that was widely interpreted as
giving Israel the green light to start a war with Iran. At which point we,
the United States, and our military, would have their back in said war. We
would join their war if they started it.
And when I say his remarks were widely interpreted to mean that,
here`s what I mean. I mean, look at these headlines. Adviser: Romney
would back strike against Iran. Romney backs Israel if needs to strike
Iran, aide says. Romney says he would back unilateral Israeli strike on
After a few hours of those eyebrow raising headlines, after a few
hours of those floating around the world, the Romney campaign tried to take
it back, which makes you wonder why they said it in the first place. You
didn`t think about bombing Iran before you went to Israel and starting to
talk about it? Really?
Then there was the next rake that they stepped on. This one as a
million dollar fund-raising event, also in Israel, where Mr. Romney sat at
the right hand of Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who says he will
spend $100 million or more to defeat President Obama and elect Mitt Romney
the next president. While sitting next to Sheldon Adelson, who is
currently under Justice Department investigation for allegations of bribing
foreign officials to advance his Chinese gambling interests, Mr. Romney
asserted something quite strange about something quite sensitive.
He attempted to describe wildly inaccurately the economic disparity
between Israelis and the Palestinians who live under Israeli control. He
described that economic disparity as about two to one, when really it`s
But more importantly than wildly getting his numbers wrong, Mr.
Romney also said that the comparative wealth of Israelis and the
comparative poverty of Palestinians is due to culture. He said, quote,
“Culture makes all of the difference.”
So if you`re an average dude living in the West Bank and you make
less than the average dude living in Tel Aviv, you can blame your inferior
culture, Mr. Palestinian. After everybody and their mother freaked out
about that, the Romney campaign tried to make things better by explaining
that Mr. Romney also thinks cultural inferiority explains why Mexicans are
poor, too, and Ecuador. That`s why the people of Ecuador are poor.
As you might expect, that did not make the Palestinians feel any
better about this. A senior aide to the Palestinian president telling “The
Washington Post”, quote, “All I can say is this man needs a lot of
education. He doesn`t know the region. He doesn`t know Israelis, he
doesn`t know Palestinians. And to talk about Palestinians as an inferior
culture is really a racist statement. I`ve never heard this from any
Israeli, to be honest.
He should know that the Palestinians will never reach their economic
potential under Israeli occupation, and if he doesn`t know this fact, this
man has a lot to learn. The harm he has done to American interest
throughout the region is enormous.”
So yes, the Romney campaign is also trying to walk that back.
They`re now saying, quote, “This was not in any way an attempt to slight
the Palestinians, and everyone knows that.” That`s part of the quote,
actually. Everyone knows that. Really, everyone?
See, think about it. In that context, given what else happened, the
health care system stuff is retroactively less embarrassing, isn`t it? I
mean, relatively speaking, if you had to pick one of those to hang around
the neck for the rest of your life, I might pick the health care thing.
But think about the trip overall. In London, Mr. Romney insults
Britain`s preparedness to host the Olympics. He suggests that the British
people may not turn out to support the Olympics. He discloses what was
supposed to be a secret off-the-record meeting with the head of MI-6. He
forgets the leader of the Labour Party he`s meeting with, calling him “Mr.
Leader” instead. He sets through the pageant at the opening ceremonies at
And then he caps it off with his classic reference to looking out of
the British prime minister`s backside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To look out of the back
side of 10 Downing Street and see a venue having been constructed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The British press gave him a pass on that one because of the
whole difference between American English/British English thing. The
British press generously concluded that the word backside must not mean
over here what it means over in. Actually, you guys, you know what,
backside is backside. It`s the same everywhere.
He said he was looking out the backside of – but that was just the
first leg of the trip. Leg two was Israel, the awkward boomerang praise
for the socialized health care service there, almost starting a war with
Iran, and then trying not and then saying Palestinians are poor because of
their inferior culture – you just want to take it back, take it back, undo
it all. Don`t take this trip.
Mr. Romney is now on the final leg of this trip, which is in Poland.
Upon landing in Poland, he was greeted by a crowd of Ron Paul supporters.
Polish Ron Paul supporters. Ron Paul revolution Poland-style.
The reason that candidates take trips like this when they`re
candidates is to show they`re capable of doing this if they got the job.
They`re capable of representing America on the world stage.
We`re supposed to look at this trip by Mitt Romney and think, he
could be president. He`d be a good president.
But this sort of thing isn`t just a campaign thing. It isn`t just a
hypothetical what would he be like sort of thing. Mr. Romney now, whether
or not he`s elected, now represents to the world the opposition view in
American politics. The Republican Party in sending Mr. Romney abroad on
this trip wants the world implicitly to look at Mr. Romney and see them as
what their party has to offer, not just our country but the world. He`s
the opposition view in American politics.
And Mr. Romney will now be returning from the trip abroad to find a
Republican Party here at home that is still quite desperately trying to cut
the court with the Republicans that the world in our own country most
identify with Republican presidential leadership.
As Mr. Romney was leaving on this foreign trip, it was announced that
George W. Bush, the last Republican president, will not be going to the
convention that will nominate Mr. Romney next month. And as Mr. Romney
returns from this trip, it is announced that former Vice President Dick
Cheney will not be going to the convention either. Mr. Cheney telling ABC
News that he plans to go fishing instead.
So the Olympics, not just the trip, but the metaphor, is apt here.
This is a passing of the torch. The Republican Party this week is insuring
that the existing torch holders are in fact going to hand it over. But the
guy they`re trying to hand it over to at this point in his campaign seems
more apt to light himself metaphorically on fire with that torch than to
run it anywhere.
Joining us now is John Harwood, CNBC`s chief Washington correspondent
and a political writer for “The New York Times”.
Mr. Harwood, thank you for your time. It`s nice to see you.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Hi, Ms. Leader.
MADDOW: You can call me anything. After five days of vacation at
this point, I`m impervious to insult.
John, how are Republicans in D.C. reacting to the Romney overseas
trip? Is this accomplishing the goals the campaign had for it?
HARWOOD: Not entirely, but not – it`s not failing entirely either.
I talked to one senior Republican strategist today who said, look, the
London stuff was embarrassing. And I understand the controversy about the
things he said about Palestinian culture.
But what Mitt Romney really wanted out of this trip was what he got
on the front pages of every newspaper in the country, which was the picture
of himself at the Wailing Wall. And that sends a message to conservative
Jews or Jews who might not vote Democratic, as most have done in recent
elections, but also to conservative Christians, evangelicals who have
adopted the cause of Israel as something that is core to their political
set of beliefs, and that could be successful and could wash over a lot of
the words that have been said.
But I`ve got to say, Rachel, I think one of the things from this trip
that will live longer than any of the stuff that we`re talking about is
what he said today to David Muir of ABC about taxes when he said he
couldn`t recall if he had ever paid a lower rate than 13.9 percent, which
is what he paid in 2010, the one return we have. And when he said he had
been audited by the IRS. Both of those I think are going to fuel efforts
by the Obama campaign and Democrats to continue raising this question. And
that`s where Republicans think Mitt Romney has got a real problem.
MADDOW: It does tell you that storyline which is the Democrats`
favored story line, their most favorite, if not just one of the pantheon
for them at this point, that was going to live.
I was struck by one particular thing he said in the David Muir
interview today which was about him having taken advantage of tax
loopholes. And other ways of evading – avoiding taxes in the legal sense.
He said, if I – I`m paraphrasing, if I had paid a dollar more in taxes
than I absolutely had to, I would not be qualified to be president.
When Mr. Romney`s father disclosed all those years of tax returns
when he was running, one of the revelations in this tax returns is that he
did not take advantage of every loophole, every means of avoiding taxes
that he could have.
Wasn`t Mitt Romney in effect saying that by doing, his dad wasn`t
qualified to be president?
HARWOOD: I thought it was a very unusual statement and I`m not sure
that most Americans would look at somebody with an income of more than $20
million a year as we have seen from both of the years that he has given us
some data on, that they would regard it as an essential qualification that
you pay the absolute minimum on taxes.
You know, every time Warren Buffett goes out and speaks in favor of
President Obama`s plan to raise taxes on the top end, people say, well,
Warren Buffett ought to keep quiet. If he wants to pay more taxes, he
should write a check to the IRS. I haven`t heard anyone say that would be
an act of stupidity or disqualification from higher office.
MADDOW: It`s a contrast with his own father, given his father`s
record on that subject, when I saw that today, I thought, this isn`t going
to go away for a while.
Let me ask you, one other issue on the foreign policy thing. At the
same time that Vice President Cheney and President George W. Bush are
announcing plans to not be there at Mr. Romney`s convention, the Democrats
today announced a keynote, primetime, high profile speaking spot for their
convention for the Democrat`s last president, for Bill Clinton.
Do you see any advantage in one of those two very different
approaches to these parties` recent governing past and the Republicans
pretending they don`t have a recent governing past and the Democrats so
boldly embracing Clinton?
HARWOOD: That`s a striking contrast and Bill Clinton is a big asset
for Democrats, in part, Rachel, because Mitt Romney is going out on the
stump and deriding Barack Obama by making a contrast to Bill Clinton,
saying, you know, under Bill Clinton, we followed one set of policies and
things worked out better than under Obama. Well, first, the policies
weren`t all that different. But more importantly, Bill Clinton is going to
be the keynote at this convention and really set the tone and make the
economic argument that he can make better than almost anybody else in
So, I think that`s a big advantage. The Bush and Cheney decisions
aren`t too much of a surprise. Everyone knows that they left office
terribly unpopular and Mitt Romney doesn`t need that extra baggage.
MADDOW: John Harwood, CNBC`s chief Washington correspondent,
political writer for “The New York Times” – John, thank you very much.
It`s good to have you there.
HARWOOD: You bet.
MADDOW: You know, what John is saying about making the economic
argument against Mitt Romney and who is the best economic talker on the
Democratic side, if you don`t think that Bill Clinton is that person, the
other Democrat, you probably think is the best person on that is Elizabeth
Warren. We found out today on the same night that Bill Clinton is going to
be addressing the DNC, so, too, is Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth
The Democrats seem focused on this economy thing.
All right. We`ve got a best new thing in the world coming up. It`s
about a bronze medal. But it`s a best new thing. How could that be?
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you for abortion, against abortion? If you`re for it,
what instances would you allow abortion?
KEN BUCK (R), 2010 CO SENATE CANDIDATE: I`m pro life and I`ll answer
the next question. I don`t believe in the exceptions of rape or incest. I
believe that the only –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Can I get a little applause for forcing the rape victim to
bear the child of the rapist? Can I get a little applause for that,
The dividing line between mainstream politics and fringe politics
moves really fast now on the American political right. Before the 2010
midterm elections, it was anathema, even antiabortion conservative party
politics, it was anathema to say if a woman became pregnant because she was
raped, the government should force that victim to carry to term the
pregnancy that was the result of the rape.
Even for doctrinaire, down the line, hard core antiabortion, right to
life politicians, exceptions in anti-abortion laws for women who were rapes
or the victims of incest were not a controversial thing. But for a party
in turmoil, trying to build itself back up after being reduced to
essentially a rump position by two consecutive devastating elections at the
end of the Bush/Cheney years, one of the things that bubbled to the surface
of that reconstituting Republican Party was a newly radical anti-abortion
position, that included the government cracking down on rape victims and
incest victims, in a way that nobody ever thought would become mainstream.
In the 2010 U.S. Senate races, it was not just Ken Buck from Colorado
who you saw there a moment ago, but also Christine O`Donnell from Delaware,
also Sharron Angle from Nevada. She said for a teenage girl raped by her
father, the government forcing the girl to carry the pregnancy to term
would be like turning lemons into lemonade.
It was also Joe Miller from Alaska that year, also Rand Paul from
Kentucky. Five Republican Party nominees to the United States Senate ran
for office in 2010 by saying they would force rape victims and incest
victims to carry any resultant pregnancy to term. All of those Senate
candidates were defeated except of course for Rand Paul. But that was not
a 2010 fluke. That was not a flash in the pan from that very conservative
It turns out that was the direction of the new normal and Republican
Party politics. Since then, Republicans in states all across the country,
Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia,
Arizona, have all changed state laws to crack down on rape victims. Not on
rapists, on rape victims, and incest victims, stripping the immunity they
have traditionally had from strict new abortion laws banning abortions at a
And even now at the federal level. This week in the House of
Representatives, tomorrow in fact, in the House, Republicans in the house
tomorrow will bring up for vote a new ban on abortion access after 20 weeks
in Washington, D.C. The ban essentially targets victims of rape and incest
in a way they have never been targeted before. It does not exempt them
from these new restrictions.
What did rape victims and incest victims do to deserve this? Why
this change in Republican politics? I mean, what was once anathema even
among anti-abortion politicians is now mainstream Republican politics.
Even as they have moved so dramatically and so quickly and so far on
this issue, that does not mean that the American public has moved very much
on this issue. And so, that means that as the Republican Party has gone
this way and the American public have stayed here, a chasm has opened
between public opinion and what the Republican Party is now offering in
terms of policy.
And a breach like that is one that any opposition party worth its
salt will take advantage of. And so, yes, into the breach, the Democrats
are now stepping. They`re now pressing their advantage on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never felt this way before, but it`s a
scary time to be a woman. Mitt Romney is just so out of touch.
NARRATOR: Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for
contraception and Romney supports overturning Roe versus Wade. Romney
backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s so much we need to do. We need to
attack our problems, not a woman`s choice.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m Barack Obama and I
approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That ad from the Obama campaign is running in Florida, Iowa,
Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado.
Now, the Romney campaign has reacted to this ad with outrage, calling
it false. They`re saying it is not Mr. Romney`s position that the
government should force rape victims and incest victims to carry a
pregnancy to term and give birth if they become pregnant as a result of
Now, it`s true that Mr. Romney at times has said that`s not his
position, like in this interview in “The National Review.” But at times,
Mr. Romney has also said that that is his position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AJ WILLSTONE, NEW JERSEY: If hypothetically Roe versus Wade was
overturned and the Congress passed a federal ban on all abortion and it
came to your desk, would you sign it? Yes or no?
ROMNEY: I agree with Senator Thompson, which is we should overturn
Roe v. Wade and return these issues to the states. I would welcome a
circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said
we don`t want to have abortion in this country at all, period. That would
be wonderful. I`d be delight –
WILLSTONE: Would you sign the bill?
ROMNEY: Let me say it, I would be delighted to sign that bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Mitt Romney running for president last time around
saying he would be delighted to sign an abortion ban for all abortions
period. And usually when you go out of your way to say all abortions,
period, you mean all. You mean no exceptions.
When Mississippi was considering a ban on not just all abortions but
likely some forms of hormonal birth control that their so called personhood
amendment last year, Mr. Romney went on the FOX News Channel with Mike
Huckabee and said he would have absolutely supported legislation like that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS: Would you have supported the constitutional
amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So as the Republican Party`s attitude toward rape victims
and incest victims has changed dramatically over the last few years, Mitt
Romney has taken both sides of this issue. But as his campaign is now
screaming about one of his two positions on the subject being used in
campaign ads and as the press investigates these protests, tries to figure
out whether or not Mr. Romney is justified in complaining about this ad, I
have a thing to say. You really do have to look up from the Beltway and
into the rest of the country on this one.
There is a way to sort this out. This is not a hypothetical issue
anymore. In nine states, the Republican Party in the past two years has
instituted new abortion bans for rape victims and for incest victims.
Republicans explicitly and deliberately going out of their way to change
state law in those states so the government will now force rape victims to
bear the child of their rapists.
Republicans in the House of Representatives are going to vote on
another new abortion ban for rape victims and incest victims in Washington,
D.C. This is not theoretical. This is not hypothetical.
This is easy to figure out. Here`s how you do it. Here is how I
would do it if Mr. Romney or his campaign would talk to me.
Mr. Romney, do you agree with what your party is doing on the subject
in nine states and what they`re trying now to do at the federal level? Do
you agree with these new laws being advanced by your party or do you
disagree with them?
Easy question. I would love to know the answer. I have no idea what
he would say.
MADDOW: And now, a break from the rather extreme heat of the summer
of 2012 to remember cold – specifically the cold of February 10th, 2010.
Here is how that cold was reported, at least in some circles of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poor Al Gore. We should get a camera outside his
house. Is he home, is he worried about this? Is he sees his book
collecting snow outside FOX? It`s unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, the snowstorm that disproved global warming. The
anchor person on FOX referring to climate change activists in that report
as warmists. Because you know, if winter happens, then global warming is a
fake. Also, if sunrise happens, that means there`s no night.
The American politics of science just now, just this past weekend,
has just gotten much less idiotic and much less predictable.
We`ve got a hot one tonight for the interview. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: On March 24th, 1989, an oil tanker hid a reef off the coast
of Alaska. The ship spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil into
Prince William Sound. Killing fish and birds and coating the beaches in
sticky, toxic, black gunk.
Responders went to work with the same technology they used for
decades and are still using now – the always uninspiring and occasionally
just useless boom, also industrial paper towels. The oil industry`s low-
tech answer when things go oops.
After the 1989 spill, Exxon set to work scrubbing the name off the
wrecked ship itself. The following year, they rechristened the Exxon
Valdez the Exxon Mediterranean, and then it became the Sea River
Mediterranean and then the SR Mediterranean, just for short. And then the
plain old Mediterranean.
By 2008, Exxon had sold the Exxon Valdez to a company that named it
the Dong Fang Ocean. Then it had a collision with another ship which left
the old Exxon Valdez fit only for scrap metal.
Then, the ship was sold again and renamed again, and I kid you not,
they renamed it the Oriental Nicety. The Oriental Nicety? Which we all
know is the Exxon Valdez, will now be sailing into a shape breaking yard
off the western coast of India – over the protests of environmentalists
who say the ship has asbestos and heavy metals onboard and it`s too
dangerous to break up.
But thanks to a new ruling from India Supreme Court, that`s where
it`s going to be turned into scrap. The Exxon Valdez is finally going
away, turned into a pile of junk metal even as thousands of gallons of the
oil it once carried still persist to this day on the Alaska coast.
The Fortune global list of the 500 richest companies in the world
just recently came out again orb of the top 10, seven are oil companies.
Exxon alone made $41 billion in pure profit just last year. Wow.
Oil companies are almost as great at making money as they are
terrible at cleaning up their messes when things go wrong. Just about
exactly two years ago, a pipeline ruptured along Michigan`s Kalamazoo
River. The company that owned the pipeline had ignored cracks and
corrosion in the pipe for five years. When the pipe finally and perhaps
inevitably gave out, the company did not respond or even realize anything
had gone wrong for 17 hours after it broke. By that time, more than
800,000 gallons of tar sands oil had spilled into the river.
Tar sands oil is not like regular crude oil. It sinks. It doesn`t
float on the top. It sinks, and it sank to the bottom of the Kalamazoo.
So the company spent two years trying to invent new ways to clean it up,
try to figure out how to shake this crud loose from the bottom of the river
bed so they could wipe it up on the surface with the old bad technology.
The name of the company, the company that owned the pipeline and the
trashed the Kalamazoo River is Enbridge. The federal government fined them
more than $3 million, which is roughly lunch money for a company with
annual revenue in the hundreds of millions.
Two years after Enbridge`s disaster on the Kalamazoo River, two years
almost to the day, look at what`s happened now. Another Enbridge pipe has
burst, this time in Wisconsin.
The spill happened on Friday in a field. “The Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel” reporting, quote, “One horse and one cow in the pastor apparently
were the only eyewitnesses to the geyser that sprayed up oil 1,000 feet
southwest of the pipeline.”
Along with the horse and the cow, Enbridge noticed this time that
something had gone wrong, so they did shut off the pipeline. “The
Washington Post” says, though, even so, six very large tanker trucks worth
of oil spilled out.
That was not even the only oil spill in Wisconsin this month. A
couple of weeks ago, a pipe carrying gasoline spilled 54,000 gallons of
gas. The spilled got into wells that people use for drinking water,
although they won`t be doing that anymore.
All of this is happening while state regulators try to get some
accountability from people who spilled coal ash into Lake Michigan back in
October. Energy companies are good at making money. They are bad at
cleaning up their mistakes.
And because they`re so good at making money, it can be difficult to
trust what they`re telling you when you suspect they`re making mistakes.
They can pay for a lot of speech.
Consider their new money maker: hydraulic fracking. Hydraulic
fracturing, right? This is the one where they blast, the top secret, quite
possibly toxic liquid into the ground, breaking up the rock and releasing
natural gas and sometimes leaving homeowners nearby with tap water they can
light on fire – or not.
Back in February, the University of Texas announced the results of a
new study, new study shows no evidence of ground water contamination from
hydraulic fracturing, awesome, sounds great. And then you learn, as the
world did last week, that the lead scientist also works for a fracking
company in Texas. He sits on the board of a Texas fracking company and
holds stock and gets a nice annual fee.
Meanwhile, folks who live near fracking in Texas are waking up to
brand new earthquakes in their neighborhoods. One county in Texas has
experienced 11 small quakes since early June. They used to have no
earthquakes ever in that Texas county, ever. Now they`ve got deep
injection wells and they`re getting enough earthquakes that the insurance
companies are starting to market earthquake insurance to the homeowners
there. Maybe they could ask the scientist who sits on the fracking board
if the fracking is causing the quakes.
As we worry over the associated calamity when we dig and drill and
blast and mine and frack stuff out of the ground so we can set it on fire
for fuel, as we marvel over just how astonishingly rich you can get if
you`re the one selling this stuff, the fundamental question of what the
cost is to all of us, even if you don`t spill it, even when things go as
directed, the question of how much this costs all of us is, of course, a
matter of huge contention and huge political fighting. And it is a matter
of huge contention and huge political fighting that just changed a lot
because of something that was done this weekend by our next guest.
Stay tuned for the interview tonight. It`s next and it`s a big deal.
MADDOW: For the past 30 years, the McArthur Foundation has given
what are commonly described as genius grants. You can be any age, working
in any field. There`s no warning you`re even being considered, and then
one day, bingo, here`s $500,000.
You show exceptional promise in whatever it is that you do. Go do
more of it. Go do more of whatever it is you want to do with this no-
strings-attached 500,000 bucks.
The people who get a genius award each year, the list of folks when
it comes out, they tend to be not very well-known people. There are
exceptions, but most of the names are not names you have instantly heard of
when they win the prize.
If you look at the list, the further you go back in time, the more
McArthur genius grant names you recognize from the old list. And that
makes sense, if the genius award recognizes people who show great
potential. The idea is that they will get to be famous later.
This year will be the 31st year of McArthur genius grants, 31 years.
Our guest for the interview received his McArthur genius grant 30 years
ago, in the second year that they were giving them out.
As a professor of physics at U.C. Berkeley, as a senior scientist at
the Lawrence Berkeley lab, as a multiple award-winning physicist, it was a
big deal that someone as highly esteemed and accomplished as professor
Richard Muller described himself as a skeptic on the issue of climate
change. He argued that there were problems in the data about global
warming, and he doubted whether global warming was happening.
Because of those views, it was not necessarily a surprise that when
Professor Muller e launched a new project to study the voracity of global
warming data, his single largest private backer was the Charles G. Koch
Foundation. The Koch donation provided almost a quarter of the program`s
And that is Koch as in Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers, the
conservative billionaires who got that way by inheriting their father`s oil
and chemical company fortune. They`re oil zillionaires.
While, of course, their funding of this project did not come with
strings attached, frankly, the Koch brothers do fund a lot on what happens
on the global warming is a hoax side of things.
But Richard Muller`s latest study was an independent scientific
endeavor, and the results are the opposite of in accord with the funder`s
political positions. When Professor Muller was invited to testify before a
House subcommittee on the environment last year, he reported there that
contrary to his previous beliefs, contrary to his expectations, his
preliminary analysis showed that indeed there is a global warming trend.
Then six months after delivering that information to Congress,
Professor Muller declared publicly that global warming is real, and he said
he was no longer skeptical of the data about which he had once voiced
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS: A new study finds global warming is real.
And that the science behind it is not impacted by bias, bad data, or cities
that act as heat islands.
RICHARD MULLER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY: The existence of
global warming, I think, is pretty much beyond dispute now. I think we
have closed the last remaining questions on that.
THOMPSON: Muller`s study is getting a lot of attention because it
was funded in part by a foundation backed by Charles and David Koch. They
are oil billionaires and climate change deniers.
Today, no one can deny that extreme weather is here to stay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was last November. That was a bombshell.
Now here`s another. Look at this from the “New York Times” this
weekend. Richard Muller writes, “Call me a converted skeptic. Three years
ago, identified problems in previous climate studies that in my mind threw
doubt on the very existence of global warming.
Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen
scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior
estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I`m now going a step
further. Humans are almost entirely the cause.
Joining us now for the interview is Professor Richard Muller of the
Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project at U.C.-Berkeley. His new book
is called “Energy for Future Presidents.”
Professor Muller, thank you very much for your time tonight. Nice to
have you here.
MULLER: Thank you for the invitation.
MADDOW: First let me ask, especially as a non-scientist, if I
screwed any of that up explaining how you got to this the position you just
detailed in “The Times.”
MULLER: No, I think it was accurate, except for the characterization
of the Koch Foundation, which always gave us a completely open hand and
indicated no preference for what our results would show.
MADDOW: That`s fair and smart of you to point out and I appreciate
you doing that. I do – I did try to insist that the there was no
implication that there was any funding – strings attached to the funding,
but I think as was noted in that “NBC Nightly News” report as well, the
fact that they were among your funders is part of the reason why, I think,
your position on this, your evolution on this has received so much
Do you see why people might put that sort of political shine on what
it is that you`ve done?
MULLER: Well, I – we try very hard to be objective and
nonpolitical. We`re hoping that by doing so and sticking by the highest
standards of science, that we will help cool the debate, and bring together
everybody. Science is a small realm of knowledge on which universal
agreement is possible and likely.
I`m hoping we can settle the science, so the more contentious issues,
what to do about it, can then be debated.
MADDOW: On that point, why, in your words, is it important to know,
specifically, if and how much humans are the cause of global warming?
Admitting that global warming is happening, obviously, is step one. Why is
this second step so important in terms of policy and coming up with a way
to cope with this as a civilization?
MULLER: Well, if we are a cause, we can do something about it. If
we`re not a cause, if it`s the solar variation, which we ruled out in our
current study, then it`s hopeless. We just have to wait for it to happen.
But if we`re causing it, we can do something about it. And I
personally am concerned, not with the current global warming, which I think
has been quite small, but real. It`s with the future global warming that
the danger lies, and we need to recognize where that`s coming from and then
look for a solution.
MADDOW: What were some of the other factors besides solar variation,
people commonly describe that as sun spots, some of the other areas that
you thought might have inflicted the data in the past that you were able to
rule out with this current round of research?
MULLER: Well, the main one is the variation in the sun. There were
volcanic eruptions, which have affected the climate, and we see those, very
clearly. But they`re short lived. A volcanic eruption tends to cool the
planet for about three years.
We were concerned about effects such as El Nino and the gulf stream.
And those cause variations too, we are able to see that, but they also tend
to be short lived.
The remarkable thing was, when we took those out, that the solar
variation, the fingerprint of solar variation was just absent. And then we
looked for the other things, we tried various different fits to it.
The shock, to me, was that the carbon dioxide curve was right on. At
that point, I was – I was very surprised. I had been – I like to think
completely open-minded, and so when we got that fit, in a relatively simple
way, in something that doesn`t require elaborate computer programs, the
curve of global warming simply matches that of carbon dioxide. At that
point, my opinion finally formed.
MADDOW: You go out of your way to say that correlation is not
causation, but that this correlation is very strong. That something else
needs to correlate better with the data, if it is going to be an alternate
hypothesis, an alternate explanation for why temperatures have gone the way
Given what you see in the correlation between carbon dioxide and
temperatures, do you think that the level of reduction we`d have to have in
carbon dioxide is so great in order to effect temperature, that it would
have to be a global economic shock, or would we be able to reduce carbon
dioxide in a way that would still be economically sustainable, but would
affect the temperature?
MULLER: I think there are two key things that we can do. One of
them is a global effort towards energy efficiency and conservation. I
think that`s realistic.
But the biggest thing is, and this will be controversial – the
biggest thing is a switch away from coal and to the one thing that can
replace it in the poor countries, which are going to produce most of the
carbon dioxide, natural gas. We have to make fracking clean, so that
countries such as China and India can switch. Natural gas produces one
third the carbon dioxide of coal for the same energy.
If we don`t do this, I don`t think – I don`t think we have a chance.
MADDOW: And if we can figure out a way to do it without it causing
earthquakes and lighting our drinking water on fire –
MULLER: Exactly. But I don`t think that`s hard. It requires more
than $3 million fines. But clean fracking, the technology there is
something which I think is achievable, and it`s something that we really
have to aim at, because nothing else can be afforded by the poor countries.
Unfortunately, China is already, by the end of this the year,
producing twice the carbon dioxide of the United States. And it`s growing
very, very rapidly. So we have to come up with a technology, a technology
that can be afforded by the developing world.
MADDOW: Professor Richard Muller of the Berkeley Earth Surface
Temperature Project at U.C.-Berkeley – thank you very much for joining us
tonight and for being populist enough in your approach to this information
that you did it in an op-ed in “The New York Times” that everybody could
read. Thank you, sir.
MULLER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Best new thing in the world coming up.
MADDOW: OK. Best new thing in the world today.
Imagine you just won a medal in the Olympics. It is the first medal
your country has won in these Olympics. And you won this medal on your
birthday. If you can imagine that feeling, you have some idea of the
excitement of this guy, Felipe Kitadai of Brazil. He won a bronze on
Saturday in judo.
He was so happy to have the medal, he decided he would not take it
off even for a second, which we know now, because he`s asked the
International Olympic Committee for a new one to replace the medal that he
broke when he wore it into the shower.
He was reportedly trying to keep the medal from getting wet by
clutching it in his teeth while he was in the shower. Honestly, for me,
that raises more questions than it answers. I mean, if you want to keep
your medal from getting wet, why would you put it in your mouth? Aren`t
mouths also wet? Also, what`s the problem with it getting – never mind.
Brazil has asked the International Olympic Committee if Felipe
Kitadai can have a new medal since he broke his. The IOC has said yes.
But that is not the best new thing in the world today. Really, if
you won an Olympic medal, maybe you too would be too excited to take it
off, even in the shower, maybe that first day you got it, especially if
that day was your birthday.
I have no judgments about this, whatsoever, except to be super
psyched that this guy feels this great about this thing that he so
righteously did. That feeling right there, best new thing in the world
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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