The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/31/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. And
As you can tell, my Halloween costume this year is once again middle-
aged lesbian pundit in cheap jacket. Boo.
Because it is October 31st, in much of the country, kids are dressing
up in costume and they`re trick or treating. For our producer Will Femia,
tonight means indulging the frog prince who lives in his house who used to
be his son, Elias.
It is Halloween. It is Halloween wherever it can be Halloween.
But this year, it is not Halloween because it cannot be Halloween
ever. Governor Chris Christie today postponed Halloween by executive order
for the whole state of New Jersey, the state hardest hit by superstorm
Sandy. The governor announced that New Jersey this year will be moving
Halloween to Monday, Monday, November 5th, in order to protect New Jersey`s
young trick-or-treaters from floodwaters and live wires and downed trees.
These crews were fixing fallen power lines in Toms River, New Jersey,
today. Nearly 2 million households in New Jersey are still without
electricity today, day three.
For reference in terms of how much of the country that means, even if
there were only one person in each of the New Jersey households without
power, which isn`t true, there`s two, three, or four people in each of
those households, even if it was just one, the number of households without
power in New Jersey would mean that there are more people in day three now
of no power in just New Jersey than the population of each of these states
that is marked on the map.
This is a huge number of Americans we are talking about here, and this
is not over. This is not something that is done. It is not past tense.
Widespread flooding is still present. And the National Guard today
bringing food and supplies to Hoboken, New Jersey.
He talked about Hoboken on last night`s show, the dire situation
there. Hoboken is a little town that is directly across the Hudson River
from Manhattan. It is small, but it`s got 50,000 people in it.
You can see Hoboken clearly from the west side of New York City. And
as of last night, the mayor told us, there were as many as 20,000 people,
of the population 50,000 people in the city, there were as many as 20,000
people still stranded in deep, impassable, and increasingly polluted
The National Guard did get to some of those people, starting late last
night and into today. We`re going to have more about that very dramatic
situation in just a moment. The National Guard also arrived this morning
in Moonachie, New Jersey, where the storm surge swamped the town very, very
quickly. People in all sorts of housing in Moonachie were caught unaware
and trapped, but particularly folks in mobile homes had a very difficult
Members of the National Guard also rushed to the assistance today of
New York city` Bellevue hospital, which has been running on generators ever
since the lower half of Manhattan lost power Monday night, when Sandy came
Seventeen million gallons of water flooded Bellevue Hospital`s
basement. After that shot we showed you last night of hospital employees
making a human chain up the stairwell, a human chain to cover fuel to the
backup generator up on the roof, 13 floors up.
Well, today the National Guard used helicopters to fly fuel to the
roof of the building. They also had individual soldiers today lugging fuel
one canister at a time up those 13 flights of stairs. But it turned out
even with those heroic and exhausting efforts, the damage was much worse
than expected at Bellevue.
And by lunchtime today, critical care patients, including kids, were
being evacuated, one by one, to other hospitals. That effort, that
evacuation at this hour is still ongoing.
Today also afforded a clear and harrowing look at the aftermath of
Monday night`s inferno in the New York City community of Breezy Point,
Queens. That fire burned down 111 homes – 111 houses – as floodwaters
kept firefighters out.
A lot of firefighters live in Breezy Point. It is a community that
lost a lot of first responders on 9/11, and now this.
A series of natural gas fires also broke out early this morning in the
New Jersey shore town of Mantoloking. Those gas lines burning there were
from homes that were destroyed by the storm. Firefighters unable to reach
the flames in this case because of debris from the storm blocking their
path. This is what it looked like today across New Jersey and in a lot of
towns that in some cases even did have electricity, long lines and gridlock
extending from any gas stations that had both power and gas.
Today, the U.S. Navy ordered three helicopter carrier ships to the New
Jersey and New York coast. The USS Wasp, the USS Carter Hall, and the USS
Mesa Verde will provide landing platforms to any Coast Guard or National
Guard or civilian agency helicopters that are assisting in the relief
efforts if need be.
The New York Police Department today released this rather amazing
video of helicopter search and rescue teams airlifting people to safety off
of rooftops in the New York City borough of Staten Island. Staten Island`s
death toll stands at 12, out of a growing national death toll of at least
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today was with President Obama at
the site of today`s landfall in Atlantic City. They were on Marine One
together, the president`s helicopter, touring some of the cities in ruin
along the New Jersey shorelines.
Both politicians, both leaders today going out of their way to
emphasize that day three of this massive, multi-state, ongoing natural
disaster is still no time for partisan politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I want to thank the president.
We spent significant afternoon together, surveying the damage up and down
the New Jersey coastline. We were on Marine One together, to be able to
show the president that personally. We had an opportunity to discuss it at
length. And then going over to the shelter here, be table to meet with
folks and have them see the president and his concern and the concern all
of us have for making sure that things get back to normal as quickly as
We have lots of challenges. Our challenge now is to get back to
normalcy. So the things we need to do is to make sure we get power
restored as quickly as possible, to make sure people have clean drinking
waters and waste water treatment plants are working, hospitals are taken
care of the way we need to and that we get kids back to school.
And so I discussed all those issues today with the president, and I`m
pleased to report that he has sprung into action immediately, to help get
us those things, while we were in the car, riding together.
So I want to thank him for that. He has worked incredibly closely
with me since before the storm hit. I think this is our sixth conversation
since the weekend, and it`s been a great working relationship to make sure
that we`re doing the jobs that people elected us to do.
And I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and
compassion for our state and for the people of our state. And I heard it
on the phone conversations with him, and I was able to witness it today
personally. And so we`re going to continue to work.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are here for you.
And we will not forget, we will follow up to make sure that you get all the
help that you need, until you`ve rebuilt.
At this point, our main focus is on the states of New Jersey, which
got hit harder than anybody, the state of New York, particularly, Lower
Manhattan and Long Island. We are very concerned about some situations in
Connecticut, as well. And we`re still monitoring West Virginia, where
there are heavy snows in some inaccessible areas. But for the most part,
those four states are really bearing the brunt of this incredible storm.
What we`ve been able to do is to preposition and stage commodities,
water, power generators, ambulances in some cases, food, medical supplies,
emergency supplies, and we have over 2,000 FEMA personnel that are on the
ground right now. Their job, now that we`re moving out of the search and
rescue phase, is to make sure that they are going out and talking to
individual communities, so that people know exactly how they can get the
help that they need.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone was with Governor
Christie today before the governor then spent the rest of the day doing
storm response with President Obama. Congressman Pallone is with us now.
He represents New Jersey`s sixth congressional district, which, as you can
see is a shoreline district, fronting both New York harbor and the Atlantic
Sir, thanks very much for your time. I know this is a difficult time.
REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know you`ve been all over your district in the past couple
of days. What kind of damage are you seeing along the coast and in the
cities of your district?
PALLONE: It`s all kinds of damage. I mentioned Union Beach to you
before. That`s a place where maybe three or four blocks from the bay, from
the Raritan Bay, the storm surge came in and the waves were pounding on top
of the houses. So, some house just washed away completely. Others were
pounded to rubble. I had never seen anything like that before.
There are other places like Highlands, New Jersey, where almost the
entire town was underwater, maybe almost up to the second floor of the
homes. And those homes really don`t seem to be habitable anymore. So you
have towns that were wiped out.
You have incredible – I just came, I kind of apologize for being
dressed this way, but I just came from Carteret, and I saw the natural gas
explosion. We had a natural gas or a gas station explosion that wiped out
five homes adjacent to each other.
And I was talking to the people there, because as the storm surge came
in, I guess it knocked off the boiler or the tank, and the gas exploded and
the house went up in flames and four others houses adjacent there too went
up in flames. So there are all kinds of things like that, Rachel.
MADDOW: I don`t want to draw a comparison with hurricane Katrina. I
want to use it as an analogy. But the analogy here that might be helpful
is that when we think back to Katrina and what big impact that was on our
country and that meant for us as a nation, we very rarely think about the
wind and the rain that was the initial storm. We think about the
aftermath. Right now, we are in the aftermath period of this superstorm
How do you feel in terms of dealing with the aftermath – describing
those explosions, these ongoing worries, before we get to rebuilding,
rescuing people, taking care of continuing damage right now – how would
you assess the response and the coordination between the federal
government, the state government, municipalities? How are we doing?
PALLONE: I think we`re doing very well. I mean, you heard the
president, and I have to say that I think his response has been terrific,
really. And it`s been coordinated, unlike some of what happened in
PALLONE: And you heard, you know, Governor Christie, who`s a
Republican, with President Obama, working together. And that`s how it`s
been, from the president to the governor, all the way down to the county
and the towns.
So one of the things that I did today, in fact, I was just on the
phone before I came in here, was talk to FEMA about trying to get an office
and a staff person in various parts of the district that I viewed today,
and they`re working on it.
I also asked, with the money that comes to towns for recovery, like to
rebuild their boardwalks or their municipal buildings if they`ve lost it or
their streets, I think there`s a 25 percent state and local match. So
we`ve asked and I believe the governor asked today that that be waived,
because a lot of these towns are very small and they can`t afford that 25
So there`s just a lot of cooperation going on. It doesn`t seem like
that was the case with Katrina.
MADDOW: And when you`re making those calls, just to be clear,
somebody`s answering your calls and you`re getting responses, you`re
PALLONE: I literally called FEMA, when I walked into your – into the
NBC building here today, and within 10 minutes, they called me back.
MADDOW: Congressman Frank Pallone represents New Jersey`s sixth
congressional district. I know that you, sir, were personally evacuated
and you`re back without power now. I know that your staff is dealing with
that too. It doesn`t make this any easier.
Good luck to you and stay in touch with us.
PALLONE: Thank you very much.
All right. Again, for reference, this is Congressman Pallone`s
congressional district. That includes – do we have that map? There we
This whole coastal region, you can see, his district is marked in red
there, where we have seen some of the worst devastation from this crisis.
Last night, live during this show, we had kind of a shocking moment in
a live conversation with the mayor of one very, very hard-hit town.
This is what happened on our air last night. This is Hoboken mayor,
Dawn Zimmer, on this show last night, at about 9:30 p.m. Eastern. Note the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAWN ZIMMER, MAYOR OF HOBOKEN, NJ (via telephone): Probably half our
city is flooded. We have just probably about 20,000 people that are –
still remain in their homes. And, you know, we`re trying to put together
an evacuation plan, get the equipment here, trying to ask the National
Guard to come in and help us and bring the equipment that we absolutely
And we`re begging and pleading and trying to get the National Guard to
give us the equipment to be able to get in.
MADDOW: Just to be clear, in terms of getting the word out
nationally, and I think it needs to be underscored, that this is not a
situation that`s in the past, where Hoboken went through something bad and
you`re now reflecting on it. This is ongoing in Hoboken.
Just to be clear, Mayor Zimmer, how many people do you think are still
stranded in Hoboken?
ZIMMER: I`d say about 20,000 to 25,000 people are still stranded in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that was live on this show last night – obviously, really
alarming news. That directly across the Hudson River from New York City,
20,000 people were in need of rescue that night, right then. People in
danger without the needed equipment or rescuers on scene to get to them.
You could hear the upset and the determination in the mayor`s voice, that
this needed a response.
Now, not theoretically, but now, nearly half the population of that
city stranded on the upper floors of their homes, many of them unable to
get to safety through several feet of water that the mayor explained was
mixed with sewage, increasingly, a sewage treatment plant on the edge of
town not working and sewage backing up into that water, water that could
also be in contact with exposed live power lines, that was at 9:30 p.m. on
this show, the mayor sounding that alarm here.
About an hour and a half later, at 11:01 p.m. last night, the city of
Hoboken sent out this tweet. “The National Guard has arrived!”
Specifically, the second battalion of the 13th Infantry, with 12 vehicles,
able to make it through Hoboken`s narrow streets in deep flood waters to
begin assessing the city`s needs.
Their first priority was getting the most vulnerable people who were
still strapped on to dry ground, and then figuring out who to help next.
With daylight, another look at the devastation from the air revealed just
how much there was to do, roughly half of that city still underwater. One
stranded resident showing what that looked like from his doorstep.
The National Guard spent today driving these high water vehicles
through the flooded streets, rescuing stranded people. Yes, some people
rescued with their pets, their very large pets, getting folks to friends or
to emergency shelters that were set up in a couple of churches. Other
stranded residents were able today to hitch rides out on boats.
On the dry side of the city, neighbors were banding together. People
who still had electricity created makeshift cell phone charging stations
were their neighbors to use, while everyone still waits for the floodwaters
to recede. This is ongoing.
The mayor warns with only one working pump station and a few pumping
trucks to drain an estimated 500 million gallons of water out of the
streets of the city, the process is going to take a couple of days.
Little Hoboken, on the bank of the Hudson River is still in bad shape,
even now with the National Guard and FEMA on the scene, Mayor Dawn Zimmer
is still calling for more help. Amazingly, no fatalities have been
reported there so far.
But this town shows that the storm was one crisis. The aftermath of
the storm is another in the most densely populated area of the United
States of America.
We will keep you updated as we learn more.
MADDOW: It is six days to the election, with the biggest population
center in the United States engulfed in the aftermath of an unprecedented
natural disaster. What the two candidates for president did on this sixth
day before the election is an important study in contrast. That`s ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Governor Christie, throughout this process, has been
responsive. He`s been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in
front of this incredible storm, and I think the people of New Jersey
recognized that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the
people in New Jersey bounce back, even stronger than before. So I just
want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama spent part of the day today in coastal New
Jersey, along with New Jersey`s Republican Governor Chris Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: He has worked incredibly closely with me, since before the
storm hit. I think this is our sixth conversation, since the weekend. And
it`s been a great working relationship, to make sure that we`re doing the
jobs that people elected us to do. And I cannot thank the president enough
for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, you would expect in a disaster this big that a
president would be standing alongside and directing storm response with the
governor from the state most affected by the disaster. I mean, generically
speaking, this sort of appearance is not a remarkable concept.
This thing becomes remarkable, though, to see President Obama and
Chris Christie standing together and praising one another and talking about
the ways they are working together, and to see their coordinated state and
federal efforts to respond to this disaster as governor and president.
This sort of thing becomes remarkable today, only because President Obama
is a Democrat and Chris Christie is a Republican, and Chris Christie
specifically is a Republican who has been a very caustic partisan critic of
President Obama, in his role as a campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney, who
President Obama is running against, in a presidential election that ends in
Mitt Romney and that campaign today, that campaign that Chris Christie
has been supporting, they made a somewhat remarkable decision to go ahead
and keep campaigning, today, to get back on the campaign trail and start
doing partisan campaign rallies again, even while the president was still
suspending his own schedule, so he could respond to the storm.
So what we saw today, in split screen, was President Obama departing
the White House en route to storm-ravaged New Jersey, after he stopped in
at FEMA headquarters, and at the same time, Mitt Romney in full-on campaign
mode in Tampa, Florida. And then it was President Obama touring coastal
New Jersey and comforting victims of hurricane Sandy, while Mitt Romney was
holding what he called a big victory rally outside Miami.
And while the Romney campaign made sure to have their most telegenic
staffers say on camera today that they were going to avoid any partisan
commentary today out of respect for the storm victims, they said they were
going to avoid any partisan attacks on President Obama on this very serious
day, they said they would do that, but they apparently really did not mean
it, because at a rally in Wisconsin today, they had the Republican Party
chairman talking about how America needs to fire Barack Obama, and saying
that the battle to defeat President Obama is a battle for this country`s
At a rally with Mitt Romney in Florida today, they had that state`s
former Republican governor, Jeb Bush, talking about President Obama as a
failure, his failure to bring this country together.
At the same event, they had a Republican state congressman tell
parents that they should threaten to take Halloween candy away from any
children of Obama supporters that they know tonight. He suggested it. I
think the idea was he said that Obama is a redistributionist, and so you
can scare kids and their Obama-supporting parents about redistribution if
you steal the kids` candy.
That was the tenor of the Romney campaign today. Even as they told
the press corps that they were going to be very respectful and nonpartisan
and refrain from attacking the president today. It was just a remarkable,
remarkable day – a remarkable decision. I mean, President Obama is
expected to restart his campaign schedule tomorrow. But Mr. Romney did not
want to wait for that. He started his campaign events today.
I`m sorry, are you stuck doing something else? I`ll take advantage of
that? I`ll get back on the campaign trail, I`m heading to Florida.
Apparently, you`re otherwise occupied. Well, I`m not.
It`s remarkable. It is a remarkable decision to restart his campaign
today. But honestly, it is also remarkable that Mr. Romney never really
stopped campaigning in the first place. We reported yesterday on this
event that Mr. Romney held in Dayton, Ohio, yesterday afternoon. It was
the event that had previously been billed as a victory rally in Dayton.
With the entire country riveted to this natural disaster in the east
and president off the campaign trail entirely to deal with the crisis, the
Romney campaign realized it would be coarse to keep campaigning. The
campaign`s communications director put out a statement on Monday saying
that the Romney campaign was going to be canceling all campaign events,
quote, “out of sensitivity to the millions of Americans in the path of
See, they realized like they had to seem like they were being
sensitive to the crisis. But they really, really wanted to hold that rally
in Dayton. So what do you do? How do you promise to cancel your political
rallies in order to seem sensitive, but then hold your rallies anyway?
Well, in the case of Dayton yesterday, and Mitt Romney, they held the
same event, at the same time, in the same venue, with the same celebrities,
and they showed the same vote for Mitt Romney campaign video from the
Republican convention, but they just changed the name of the event. They
called it a storm relief event, instead of calling it a victory rally.
The one thing they changed materially about the campaign rally in
order to make people call it a storm relief event is that they asked people
to bring canned goods and groceries as donations to the Red Cross. One of
the problems with this, as we talked about on last night`s show, is that
that`s not actually the right way to donate to the Red Cross.
I mean, the desire to give groceries and canned goods at the time of a
natural disaster comes from the right place, it is a nice impulse, but
unless you`re specifically requested by relief agencies or public officials
to do that, donating canned goods and groceries is just not logistically
helpful, especially on a large scale and from across country, especially if
you are a presidential candidate getting national press, implicitly telling
the whole country that this is the way to help, this is what everybody
ought to be doing.
I`m not just giving you my opinion on this. This is explicitly what
the Red Cross says about donations on their Web site. They make clear,
under their frequently asked questions on their Web site, that while they
are grateful for any kind of thing people want to help, they don`t actually
accept in-kind donations like that. It just gives a ton of extra work to
do, sorting through all your old cans and groceries and stuff, when they
really want to be helping people.
The way that you actually can help them is to donate blood or donate
money. Of course, having Mitt Romney do a photo op where people handed him
money, people handed him checks probably would not make as good a photo op
as people handing him bags of cans.
So the Romney campaign set up a photo op where people could hand him
bags of cans.
“BuzzFeed” reporter McKay Coppins was at that event and added some
important detail today to how it all went down. Amazing story.
Apparently, the campaign was worried that people would not bring
enough canned and stuff to donate, and that would mss up their planned
photo op of Mitt Romney carrying canned goods.
So, quoting “BuzzFeed, “The night before the event, campaign aides
went to a local Walmart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned foods, and
diapers. As supporters lined up to greet the candidate, a young volunteer
in the Romney/Ryan t-shirt stood, his hands cupped around his mouth
shouting, `You need a donation to get in line.`
Empty-handed supporters pled for entrance, with one woman asking,
`What if we dropped our donations off up front?` The volunteer gestured
toward a pile of groceries conveniently stacked near the candidate and
said, `Just grab something.`
Two teenage boys retrieved a jar of peanut butter each, and got in
line, when it was their turn, they handed their, quote, `donations,` to Mr.
Romney. He took them, smiled, and offered an earnest, `Thank you.`”
Just to be clear, the Romney campaign held their campaign rally, they
called it a storm relief event, they bought donations for the Red Cross,
and then they handed those donations to their own supporters in order to
photograph them handing them back to Mitt Romney, so it would look like he
inspired generous donations from those people that he actually did not
inspire. And if they had bothered to check with the Red Cross, the Red
Cross actually don`t want. And they certainly don`t want it modeled as
national behavior as for what the Red Cross wants.
Again, the Red Cross, for the record, does not want your cans, they
want your money and your blood donation, if you do actually want to help.
I don`t know what it looks like in a photo op, but you can text the
word “Red Cross” to 90999. That will give a $10 to the Red Cross that you
will see appear on your phone bill. You can do that right now as you are
watching this show. Text “90999”, the word “Red Cross,” and it will be $10
donation. That actually will help.
You can also go to RedCross.org and donate through their Web site.
And you can donate blood at a blood drive in your local hometown. You can
check out with your local Red Cross office about donating blood.
This is a real disaster. This is not a plot in a sitcom about how to
run for president. This is a real disaster, an ongoing one, affecting
millions of Americans. And real help really is needed.
And that is not the same thing as using the suffering of millions of
Americans as an occasion to accrue political capital for yourself by trying
to create the appearance that you are helping when you are not bothering to
actually try to really help. That is something very different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is quite a time for the
country, as you know. We`re going through trauma in a major part of the
country. The kind of trauma you`ve experienced here in Florida more than
once. And it`s interesting to see how people come together, in a
circumstance like this.
Now, people coming together, is also what`s going to happen, I
believe, on November 7th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pretty much equivalent. Helping people who are suffering
with their lives in danger because our fellow Americans have been affected
by a gigantic, national disaster in our biggest population center is pretty
much the same thing as helping Mitt Romney get elected! Pretty much the
same thing, right? We all come together. Right?
MADDOW: Forgive my jeans. All of us who work in the show, including
me, are living out of a suitcase. Sorry, I forgot. Anyway.
All right. These are some of the largest cities in America, by
population. Some of the largest metropolitan areas in America.
There`s the New York metro area, of course, with a combined population
of 19 million people, larger than the population of all but four states in
Then there`s the Los Angeles metro, with almost 13 million people.
There is Miami, Florida. There`s Boston, Massachusetts.
There`s the San Francisco Bay Area. There is Seattle, up in
Washington state. There`s San Diego.
There`s Tampa, Florida, in the St. Petersburg area. There`s
Baltimore, Maryland. There`s the Virginia Beach area, that metro area
including Norfolk. There is Jacksonville, Florida. And, of course, there
is New Orleans.
So pop quiz. What do all of these large American cities have in
common? You can cheat by looking at this map. What do all of these large
American population centers have in common?
The answer is that all of these major American cities are right on the
edge of America, right on the coastal edge, up next to the sea.
Now, you could also add even some more major cities to this list if
you wanted to. Places like Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. or Houston or
Providence, Rhode Island. Those are all sort of coastal cities, too, in
the sense that they are near the coast and they`re on waterways.
Just for the sake of argument, let`s not even include those. Let`s
just be narrowly focused here, talking narrowly about big populous
metropolitan areas that are right up against the sea.
If you add up the population of these cities on America`s coastal
edges, the population of just this America is more than 63 million people.
That means more than one in five Americans, that means roughly one in five
Americans, one out of every five people who can call themselves Americans,
lives in a metropolitan area that is right, directly on the coast – a
population roughly equivalent to all the people who voted either for John
McCain or Barack Obama in 2008. One entire side of the voting population
in this upcoming election is the portion of our country that lives on the
As we continue to cope with and rescue people from and now recover
bodies from, the impact of this one storm on the most populated part of
America`s coastline today, the governor of New York state has been again
and again trying to draw people`s attention to this not being just one
event, but a challenge for the whole country that events like this might
now be happening with increased frequency. Not just in New York, but in
all of these heavily populated places, that before now had a fairly
predictable relationship with the body of water, with the ocean, that they
What is that predictability? That balanced and expectation, developed
over the past couple of centuries, and these cities on the water is now
over. Mostly this gets talked about in terms of the people denying that
climate change is a real thing, and big talk about whether we should try to
stop climate change and global warming.
But whether or not that political debate ever gets resolved in the
political arena, it maybe getting resolved otherwise, as officials
responsible for the 60 million Americans who live on the edge of our
country are just starting a practical discussion about there being a change
in the frequency of extreme weather.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Climate change is, climate change is
a controversial subject, right? People will debate whether or not there is
climate change, whether or not it`s a cycle, whether it`s global warming.
That`s a whole political debate that I don`t want to get into.
I want to talk about the frequency of extreme weather situations,
which is not political. The frequency of extreme weather situations is way
up, right? We just went through hurricane Irene, just over a year ago.
And there`s only so long you can say, well, this is once in a lifetime, and
it will never happen again.
And then it happens again. And then we say, this is once in a
lifetime, now, really for sure, it`s not going to happen again, then it
happens again. I joke that we, every two years, we have a 100-year flood.
I believe it is going to happen again. I pray that it`s not, I believe
that it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Because of this storm, we are experiencing a particularly
nonpartisan moment in American politics. You`ve got the president touring
the disaster site today with the Republican governor, who previously had
nothing nice to say about the president. But today they are obviously
working together and working together well.
There is answer expectation that people will put political fights
aside for practical problem solving at times like this in our country.
What that means, in nuts and bolts, in specifics, is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN, NY SENATOR 1977-2001: New York is the finest
harbor in the Atlantic Ocean. Just start there. It`s just not harbor, but
it`s so much more. It`s an entrance into North America.
KENNETH T. JACKSON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY HISTORIAN: New York cannot be
understood aside from this geography. Indeed, no city could, be New York
more so that almost any city in the world, because here you have what`s
really a natural location for a great city. It`s probably one of the three
greatest harbors in the world.
And what`s key is that at the very heart of New York is an island,
Manhattan, so that the Indians, who were not in most places in the United
States, in the early 17th century, were on the island of Manhattan, because
it was a natural location for a great city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s a clip from the beginning of the definitive
documentary about New York City, Ric Burns` “New York: A Documentary Film”.
As a natural location for a city, New York was sociologically and
politically shaped by countless waves of new immigrants. But
fundamentally, New York has always been a city shaped by water.
The long, skinny island of Manhattan at its heart, Brooklyn and Queens
to the east, on Long Island, the borough Staten Island five miles south of
Manhattan. And the Bronx, which is the only part of New York City on the
American mainland, itself surrounded by water on three sides.
If this week`s megastorm is not just a once in a lifetime event, but a
once every few years event, as New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo is now
arguing, then the whole country is faced with the question of how our
largest American city, our biggest population center, our economic capital
as a nation will defend itself. It`s a city built on water. What happens
when our relationship with that water changes fundamentally?
Joining us now is documentary filmmaker, Ric Burns.
Mr. Burns, thank you very much for being here. So happy you could
RIC BURNS, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Pleased to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: New York City became an industrial center and became what it
is, in large part because of its natural geography. Do you think New York
City is prepared to face a changing environment?
BURNS: You know, I think, arguably, it`s a hard question to answer,
but I think arguably more than any other place in the country, I mean, New
York geography has been destiny for New York, but I think indeed more so
for here. I think we`re moving now into a new phase of its history. We
have been for some time, but I think that Sandy underscores it really,
With San Francisco and Hong Kong, one of the three greatest deepwater
ports in the world, that`s why New York became New York, a thousand ships.
The Dutch could see it in the 17th century, could ride and anchor in New
New Yorkers had an extraordinary ability to leverage from the start,
that geography. So I`m not content with the geography which nature had
given them in the early 19th century under DeWitt Clinton. They went out
and built the Erie Canal, a 363-mile ditch that connected New York harbor
via the Hudson River and the Great Lakes, the hinterlands of America.
So not only do they have the greatest natural port in the western
hemisphere, everything grown, mined, harvested, now had to come down right
by the battery that was flooded three days ago.
I think the first age of New York was the New York that the harbor
provided and the second age of New York was the New York that the Erie
Canal created and really created the city you and I are speaking in this
I think we`re right now in the cusp in the third age of New York.
Geography is twice worked fantastically to New York`s advantage. Now this
is kind of a blowback taking place. But I think that New York has always
been pioneering, because of these extraordinary geographical advantages and
the surge of population and commerce has taken place here, it`s been on the
forefront of new things, new people, new ideas, new products, new markets.
But it`s also been on the forefront since the beginning of new
problems. It has sort of pioneered new urban problems, new ways of
crowding people together in tenements, new ways of not having water for
people, not being able to provide them with jobs. So what`s that meant is
from the start, New York has always been pioneering new solutions, not
because New Yorkers are better, but because, quite often, they just got
there first. We`re the Petri dish.
MADDOW: This is most of why I wanted to talk to you, because I felt
like what`s happening here, and this came up with New Orleans in a
different way, in terms of talking about Katrina. But what`s happening
here is that, as a country, we are realizing that we have a problem that
our politics is not up to at the national level.
But so much of what is right about public policy, especially that
affects geographic areas, that affects big swaths of our country in terms
of the land is innovated by people who are forced there, despite politics.
BURNS: That`s absolutely right. It`s not a Democrat, it`s not a
BURNS: It`s circumstances, partly sort of by dent of geography, and
partly human made. I mean, we caused these problems. You know, in the
case of New York, it has constantly trying to find out new ways to connect
itself to itself. So it builds a subway system, it finds new ways to
shelter its infrastructure from storms.
Blizzard of 1988 comes – all of New York`s telegraph and brand-new
telephone are aboveground and you see those photographs in late 1880s.
Where do they go? Underground.
And at the very same time, New Yorkers became aware that you couldn`t
have public transportation all aboveground. It was too in jeopardy by the
weather. What do they build? A subway system.
Well, as of 1904, here we are, a little more than a century later,
dealing with a new set of problems, caused very much by the culture that
New York`s in the vanguard of. A fantastically successful commercial
culture, which now has the ability to reach out and not just build an Erie
Canal, it can reach out and change the climate of the entire globe?
So, what are you going to do in that situation? You`re going to have
to find new, non-ideological, nonpolitical ways to find new mechanisms,
structural, infrastructural, to deal with the consequences of your
Here`s the thing. Those kind of solutions cannot be privatized.
That`s what we know. They are, by definition, public and collected
problems, and the solutions need to come publicly and collectively. And
New York has, again, not because New Yorkers are better, but just because
the problems have come so fast and thick here, has more experience with
dealing with those kind of large, macro problems, when they`re generated by
And therefore, I feel, at the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, I feel
that the great silver lining of this immense storm system is going to be
that it happened here, and New Yorkers are used to thinking outside their
own box, to creating not just a Manhattan, but a greater New York, that`s
five boroughs wide, and then creating the first kind of like, you know,
megalopolis, stretching up and down the East Coast.
Now they`re having to think, we`re going to have to think,
collectively, as a city, as a state, as a nation, of how we invent
infrastructure to deal with the consequences of our own prosperity.
MADDOW: Rooting this challenge and what we`re going through right now
in the historical, can-do public capacity of New York is for me, very
grounding and very helpful, and it`s why I wanted to talk to you tonight.
Ric Burns, currently working on an update to “New York: A Documentary
Film.” Episode nine is going to air in early 2014.
BURNS: Yes, that`s exactly right.
MADDOW: Ric Burns, it`s great to have you here. Thank you so much.
BURNS: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: OK, campaign news ahead. Ohio, that thing that just whizzed
by your ear, that was any sense of restraint flying by you and out the
window. That story`s ahead.
MADDOW: OK. We do have one other important news story tonight from
the world of politics to report in just a moment but I do want to show you
something first. So there`s this blackout zone covering a huge portion of
America`s largest city right now. Almost all of lower Manhattan in New
York City without power for two full days now and counting.
If you have ever looked at the Manhattan skyline at night, it`s always
studded with light. Right? Like the Empire State Building in all her
glory earlier tonight. But if you pan from north to south, suddenly it
seems as if the video has gone black.
Look at this. Oh. This was shot this evening by an NBC cameraman
standing on a rooftop on the demarcation line between the half of the
island that has power and the half of it that does not.
Here`s what the Manhattan Bridge connecting lower Manhattan to
Brooklyn looks like right now. Most if not all of Brooklyn did not lose
power. So the Brooklyn half of the bridge is illuminated. And then slam,
the Manhattan side is not.
Frank Sinatra never sang any songs about a New York City that looks
We will be right back.
MADDOW: You want to see new storm footage? Look at this. You can
see the water rushing in, the streets are flooding. If I asked you where
this footage was taken, where would you say? The Jersey shore?
No, actually, this is Cleveland, Ohio, 500 miles from the Atlantic
coast. This was shot yesterday. Sandy knocked out power for a quarter
million people in and around Cleveland for three days at least. Sandy`s
having a real local impact on Ohio residents` lives.
But Sandy`s march through Ohio also has a national impact because
Ohio, of course, is the most crucial of all the swing states. Ohio, for
example, is big on early voting. They camp out for it there. As Sandy
approached, Ohio counties reported even heavier than usual early voting,
with people rushing to cast their ballots ahead of the storm.
Lots of things are amazing about Ohio`s politics, but frankly, what I
find most amazing in Ohio this year is the way the Romney campaign is
choosing to close out their campaign there.
Remember when Mr. Romney campaigned on that flat out lie that
President Obama`s getting rid of a work requirement for welfare, even
though President Obama did no such thing? Well, now Mr. Romney is back
with a new ad in Ohio with that same old lie about welfare. They brought
it back for the end of the campaign.
Romney campaign sent Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota to Ohio to
tell voters there that Mitt Romney had no intention of overturning Roe
versus Wade, even though Mitt Romney himself says he would do everything he
could to overturn Roe versus Wade. He said if that happened be he would be
delighted to sign a bill banning all abortion at the federal level.
Last week in Ohio, Mr. Romney made a mistake, an out and out gaffe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in
this state, Jeep – now owned by the Italians – is thinking of moving all
production to China.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not true. Totally false. Jeep is not doing that.
The day Mitt Romney told that made-up horror story to Ohio voters,
Chrysler had already announced that actually they were expanding in Ohio
and in Michigan. They weren`t pulling out.
Mitt Romney responded to the instant fact checking not by taking it
back but by turning that lie into a new ad for Ohio. And then he bought
extra air time for it in Toledo, where Ohio workers make Jeeps and where
being told falsely that your job`s being shipped to China might be
personally terrifying news.
Chrysler tried again to set Mr. Romney straight on this saying, quote,
“Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China.”
Did Mr. Romney take it back? No. He turned it into another ad, a
radio ad, again for Ohio. And he expanded it to say the entire auto
bailout has been a huge failure.
That drew another company into the fact check, G.M., which had been
saved of course by the auto bailout. A G.M. spokesman telling the press,
“We`ve clearly entered some parallel universe.” Also from G.M., “At this
stage we`re looking at Hubble telescope-like distances between campaign ads
But here`s the thing. It is one thing to lie about your record or
even your opponent`s record. But what Mr. Romney has done here is to lie
about a third party, in that third party`s backyard. And you can tell that
Mr. Romney`s Ohio lie about Jeep is not going to work in Ohio in part
because Ohio voters follow the car industry like it`s the local football
The Romney campaign`s running these ads in Youngstown, for example.
Take a look at the “Youngstown Vindicator.” The kind of reporting they
were doing back in July on a local plant. “I think part of this relates to
our focus on quality and making sure parts are right so we don`t pass
problems further up the line,” said somebody`s cousin.
Here`s the Youngstown paper in August on a plant expanding. Quote,
“Good news would be welcomed at the plant where recent months have seen
rumors of production cuts and whether plant`s third shift was in peril.”
Call Aunt Nelly and tell her we`re going to be fine.
I mean, when G.M. workers get transferred or welcome back, it`s
hometown news in Ohio. It`s your sister-in-law, it`s your dad, this is
Look at this in the “Toledo Blade”. The most read story today in “The
Blade”. In this town where Mitt Romney is running his made-up story about
Chrysler and Jeep. Number one, “Marchionne refutes Romney`s statement.”
Would you know who this unidentified Marchionne is enough to make this
the most popular story in your paper? “The Toledo Blade” audience knows
who this is. When Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne again says they`re not
moving jobs to China, that is big town hometown paper news.
And when you as a candidate lie to the hometown crowd about the
hometown news, you cannot expect that lie to float. And it is not
floating. The “Columbus Dispatch” fact check says, “Oh, boy.” Cleveland
Plain Dealer`s editorial says, quote, “Flailing in Ohio, Romney rolls out
Say what you want about Mr. Romney`s overall relationship with the
truth throughout this campaign, say he`s prone to gaffes or misstatements,
call them fibs, call them lies. Now that he is finishing his campaign in
Ohio with a lie about Ohio that Ohio knows is a lie, you can just call this
one a mistake.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.” Have a
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