The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/09/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for this hour.
In politics, the concept of low-hanging fruit is something that ought
to be politically attainable, even if nothing else can be done, right?
Something that we probably all can agree on, even if we agree on nothing
else about some particular policy. So, on what is supposedly the most
intractable political issue of our time on the issue of guns in America,
the lowest of the low-hanging fruit has probably been this.
It`s not even a law, it`s a thing – buybacks, gun buybacks, sponsored
by local law enforcement officials, maybe even just a local church group.
These gun buybacks are a simple idea. If you have a gun you don`t
want, a buyback program gives you a chance to get rid of it in a way that
is safe and orderly and legal and calm. That gun in your life that you
have not known what to do with, that you have been worried about, your
friendly local buy-back program gives you way to put your mind at ease.
Get that unwanted gun out of your house. You hand over the gun.
Usually, in exchange you get a smallish amount of cash or a gift card.
But the larger attraction here really is that the gun gets taken off
your hands and safely destroyed. In political terms, buybacks are
attractive because they`re not a new law. They`re not a new regulation.
There is no coercion involved. They`re not really even an attempt at
persuasion. It`s just offering people a resource to rid themselves of guns
they don`t want without risk in a safe, orderly way.
It`s a totally voluntary thing. Since the mass shooting in Newtown,
Connecticut, a month ago, buyback programs in cities like Camden, New
Jersey, and Los Angeles have broken records. No questions asked, all of
these guns are just taken off the streets.
Yesterday, in Tucson, Arizona, on the second anniversary of the
anniversary of the mass shooting there that nearly killed Gabby Giffords
and did kill six other people, the city police department in Tucson held a
gun buyback. It was organized actually at the reason of a Republican
Tucson city councilman.
Hundreds of people lined up in Tucson. People lined up with their
guns to take part in this program using private funds from private donors,
the buyback yesterday let people in Tucson turn in their unwanted guns. In
return, they would get a $50 gift card for groceries.
So they got money for groceries. Law enforcement got those guns off
of people`s hands. They plan to safely destroy them, taking them out of
commission, taking them out of circulation.
This event, again, was organized by a Republican member of the local
Now, no matter how contested the overall issue of guns and gun policy
is in this country, this is the definition of low-hanging fruit, right?
Totally voluntary thing. I mean, who could be opposed to this? The NRA is
opposed to this.
The NRA is wildly opposed to this. In Tucson on the anniversary of
the massacre there, the NRA has come out raging against the Tucson gun
buyback program. They`re trying to stop it.
An NRA board member is threatening that the NRA will sue to stop
Tucson from destroying the guns that people handed over. The NRA is
insisting that those guns, regardless of what their owners wanted, done
with them, those guns must be sold to the highest bidder and put back into
The NRA says the state must not destroy the weapons that people handed
over specifically so the weapons could be destroyed. Instead, the NRA says
the state has to sell them, keep them in circulation, and thereby become a
gun dealer itself.
When your response to the political cliche of low-hanging fruit is
something so cartoonishly insensitive, so cartoonishly villainous, you then
bring upon us a second political cliche – you have jumped the shark.
Blocking voluntary efforts by people to get rid of their own guns
because they want to voluntarily – that is an exercise in shark jumping.
This is the sort of thing that might make sense internally to the NRA when
they talk about this amongst themselves about this issue, but the rest of
the country are not picking a fight, but instead just looking for problem-
solving, non-confrontational ways to help each other out. Trying to block
the voluntary Tucson gun buyback program does not make sense.
The whole reason gun policy is supposed to be seen as so intractable,
so un-reformable, so politically untouchable and not in America is that the
National Rifle Association has created a mystique about themselves, a
mystique about their own power that is supposed to caution anyone who might
want to reform gun laws that it just cannot be done. No matter who we are,
no matter where we live, no matter how or why we might want to reform our
gun laws, no matter what happens in our country to make us think about
these things, we are supposed to be so intimidated by the raw power of the
NRA, that we cannot even take a first step toward reform. We cannot even
really seriously talk about reform, let alone ever expect anything to pass.
The NRA has created this mystique about themselves. They expect us to
be enthralled by that mystique. The Beltway press is enthralled by that
But empirically speaking, that mystique is kind of hard to justify.
You know how the Sunlight Foundation added up political spending in this
past election to see who got the most bang for their buck in their
political spending? It was really bad on the right, right?
The Republican Party`s House Campaign Committee spent almost $65
million, but only 32 percent of what they spent went to campaigns in which
their candidate was successful. So two-to-one, their money was spent on
It was worse for the Republican Party`s Senate campaign. For their
investment of $32 million, only 24 percent paid off in terms of races that
went the way they wanted to. Three to one, their money was spent losing.
FreedomWorks was about the same, only 24 percent of their 20 million
bucks actually bought the result that it was spent on.
And the Chamber of Commerce, which is supposed to be such an
impressive and unassailable campaign cash juggernaut, the Chamber of
Commerce spent $32 million, but less than 7 percent of what they spent went
to winning candidates they wanted to win, or against losing candidates that
they wanted to lose, less than 7 percent. They were 93 percent ineffective
in what they spent.
Even worse than that was Karl Rove`s American Crossroads, which was
like the conservative politics marquee humiliation this year. Under Karl
Rove`s visionary Svengali leadership, Crossroad`s spending was profoundly
ineffective this year. They spent over $100 million in the last election,
and zero of the candidates they wanted to win actually won – zero.
Of all the candidates they spent money against, candidates who they
wanted to defeat, only two of those candidates nationwide actually did
lose, which means that Karl Rove`s group crossroads had a less than 2
percent success rate in their spending. More than 98 percent of the money
that they spent did not work.
It`s not very intimidating, right? I mean, think about it. If past
is prologue, then in planning for the next election, if you`re a political
candidate, you`d be very well off hoping for a Karl Rove spending campaign
against you. It would do wonders for your odds, because 98 percent of the
money he spent in the last election went the way he didn`t want it to go,
But even Karl Rove`s massively ineffectual spending on the last
campaign looks positively impressive, positively robust compared to the
right wing group that did worst of all. You think these other groups
sucked? Check out the NRA.
The NRA`s power in the last election, as measured by whether their
spending resulted in the desired outcome barely registers on this graph.
That`s why we had to put the big black arrow there so you can see it –
0.83 percent of their $11 million that they spent in the last election
actually resulted in the NRA`s preferred outcome. Less than 1 percent of
their money went to support candidates who won or to oppose candidates who
lost. More than 99 percent of what they spent was wasted.
Their candidates lost. Their targeted enemies won. That is
demonstrable, empirical impotence.
But remember, we`re supposed to be very intimidated by the NRA. We`re
supposed to be so intimidated by their raw political power and the way they
spend money in elections that we will not even talk about changing gun laws
in this country if they don`t want us to.
All of that NRA spending with nothing to show for it was just this
Since the election there has been Newtown. And the way they have
responded to Newtown has been widely derided, even by the political right
as just nuts, as ridiculous. NRA loon in bizarre rant over Newtown. That
was “The New York post,” which is not to be confused with something like
Mother Jones, right? That`s the right.
NRA leader Wayne LaPierre proposing more guns in school as a solution
to gun violence. Saying guns are not the problem, Hollywood is the
problem. Hollywood glorifying gun violence, that`s the real problem,
And at the same time that Wayne LaPierre was blaming Hollywood
glorifying gun violence for violence in this country, the National Rifle
Association at its headquarters, at its national firearms museum was re-
upping its exhibit to show how much the NRA loves Hollywood guns.
This is the kind of behavior that might pass muster for some sort of
club that exists simply to comfort and entertain its own members in
private. This is not the behavior of a political group that expects to be
taken seriously in politics, expects to be seen as an important and
influential actor on serious issues.
I mean, your behavior, especially when all eyes are on you on your
supposed area of expertise, it really can lead you outside the realm of
relevance. You really can decide to put your lead character in a leather
jacket and shorts on water skis jumping over a shark. When you do that,
you are amazing as spectacle, and you are one of the great American
political cliches of the modern era, but you are not to be taken seriously
anymore when the adults are talking.
And so, the NRA, which wants to be feared and respected, is not
respected and should no longer be feared. At a time when the nation is
talking about the issue of guns, the NRA is a thing, but it`s not the
The NRA will have a seat tomorrow when Vice President Joe Biden hosts
another wide ranging meeting, soliciting broad-based policy ideas about how
to prevent the kind of mass violence that we saw at Newtown last month.
The NRA is going to have a seat. But there is going to be a lot of other
people who have seats, too.
Today, Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder met with
victims of gun violence and with anti-violence organizers.
Last night, the House Democratic congressman who has been charged by
Nancy Pelosi with soliciting ideas and proposals for reform, Congressman
Mike Thompson, who himself is a wounded Vietnam veteran and a gun owner and
a hunter, Mike Thompson held a very well-attended civil and constructive
town hall in his district in California. He is holding another town hall
meeting tonight, and he is holding another one the day after that.
Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in his state of the state
address proposed several new gun-related reforms that he intends to pursue,
including a ban on high capacity magazines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREA CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We are proposing today common sense
measures. And I say to you forget the extremists. It`s simple. No one
hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs ten bullets to kill a deer. And
too many innocent people have died already.
End the madness now. Pass safe, reasonable gun control in the state
of New York. Make this state safer.
Save lives, set `em an example for the rest of the nation. Let them
look at New York and say this is what you can do, and this is what you
should do. This is New York, a progressive capital. You show them how we
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You show them how we lead. New York`s governor taking on the
most supposedly intractable issue of our time, calling on New York state
lawmakers to take that issue on themselves. Forget the extremists, he
Now, Governor Cuomo yesterday got a huge boost from prosecutors
throughout New York state. And we think of New York state as being
dominated by New York City. But New York state is a diverse state. And
prosecutors from all over the state delivered to the governor a list of
measures they support, in terms of gun control.
The list of prosecutors who signed that letter are overwhelmingly
mostly Republicans. And some of them, like Franklin County District
Attorney Derek Champagne, which is definitely the best name in news today
are themselves gun owners and gun enthusiasts. After signing that letter
of support for common sense gun law reforms, Derek Champagne said part of
the reason that he and other gun owners feel comfortable with this list of
new reforms that they have given to the governor is that they as gun owners
grew up in New York state, which has gun restrictions that are already
among the toughest in the country.
And from that experience, they know that gun reforms are not the end
of the world. Quote, “At the end of the day, I know that I can still hunt.
I can still fish. I can still have my handgun. And under any of these
proposals, my lawful right to carry firearms in New York state would not be
impeded in any way.”
The only people saying that this cannot be done, that we cannot reform
our gun laws are the NRA and the people who believe what the NRA has to say
about itself. But they are not the only ones who get to speak to this
issue anymore. Now, everybody gets a turn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: End the madness now. Pass safe, reasonable gun control in the
state of New York. Make this state safer.
Save lives, set `em an example for the rest of the nation. Let them
look at New York and say this is what you can do, and this is what you
should do. This is New York, the progressive capital. You show them how
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Andrew Cuomo at the New York state of the state
Joining us now is Diana DeGette. She`s a Democratic congresswoman
from Colorado, her district borders Aurora, Colorado, which is the site of
last year`s mass shooting in a movie theater. Her district now includes
Littleton, Colorado, which is the site of the Columbine shootings as well,
Congresswoman DeGette, thank you very much for being with us.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: Rachel, it`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: Are you encouraged looking across the country by that New
York initiative Andrew Cuomo today, spearheading it not only as a governor,
but pledging to work with his legislature to tighten New York`s already
relatively tight gun laws? Are you encouraged by that today?
DEGETTE: I`m encouraged by what Governor Cuomo is doing. I`m
encouraged by my governor and my legislature which convened today and
immediately started talking about stopping this terrible gun violence. I`m
encouraged by the White House`s initiative.
I think finely, after aurora last summer and now the terrible tragedy
at Sandy Hook, finally people are realizing that the American public, the
moms and dads of this country have to speak up. And I`ve been working on
gun issues for 20 years.
And I`ve never seen such a deep sense of outrage and a deep sense of
commitment to doing something.
MADDOW: That sense of outrage and that sense of commitment, does that
also extend to your constituents and the Coloradans that you talk to who
are themselves gun owners, who may be hunters, may be sportsmen, people who
see themselves as pro Second Amendment?
DEGETTE: Oh, yes. You know, I`m a Westerner. I come from a family
of hunters. And we respect guns out here. We use them to hunt.
But people who I`ve been talking to, they can`t understand why you
would need an assault rifle or why you need one of these assault magazines
to go out hunting. I mean, a magazine that holds 30 or 100 rounds. You`re
not going to use that to shoot a deer. You`re either going to use that for
target practice or to shoot people.
And frankly, the slight inconvenience to target hunters to have to
reload that magazine is so slight that I think most Americans agree things
like that need to be limited.
MADDOW: In terms of the White House initiative, which you said you
are encouraged by, it was interesting today. Vice President Biden and
Attorney General Eric Holder today met with victims of gun violence and
advocates for gun reform. We know they`re meeting with gun rights groups,
including the NRA tomorrow.
But in that sort of brief photo-op before the meeting started, Vice
President Biden talked about the president`s commitment to do something,
whether or not Congress can get something passed, talking about the taking
the holistic that includes both legislation that they will try to push
through Congress, but also executive action by the White House and the
administration where that`s possible. What is your reaction to that?
DEGETTE: I think it`s great. I think after the 1994 assault weapons
ban, a lot of people thought that – there is the 1993 ban. And a lot of
people thought that the Democrats lost Congress in 1994 because of that. I
don`t think that`s completely true, but I do think it might have been
partially true in some districts.
What happened after that, I`ve been in Congress since 1997, is despite
the horrors that happened, Columbine, which is now in my district, Aurora
outside my district, Virginia Tech, on and on and on, a group of us have
been working really hard, led by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York
to try to put some reasonable control on these weapons that only kill
And we haven`t been able to get people to work with us because they
were afraid of the NRA. Now what you`re seeing from the highest levels is
a commitment to a holistic approach. And I just think that it`s so far
past time for that. I`m very encouraged by it.
MADDOW: I think – I feel like there has been a sea change in the
politics, and people who are still talking about the NRA being an absolute
block toward anything even being considered are living in the past. That`s
how I read it. But we will see.
DEGETTE: I will say – I will say, Rachel, I do think there are still
members of Congress who think that the NRA is untouchable.
But they`re hearing from their constituents – 82 percent of Americans
think that some of these things need to be controlled. And those 82
percent of Americans need to call their members of Congress, their house
and senate members and tell them, even if they support Second Amendment
rights and gun ownership, we don`t need these assault rifles, and we don`t
need these assault magazines.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado – thank you so much
for your time. It`s really nice to have you.
DEGETTE: Great to be with you, again, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: All right. You know my friend Paul who founded Afghan and
Iraq Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff? It`s big, bald Paul`s birthday
today, which means man, is he old, old, old, old, super old. Also, Paul
has the same birthday as Richard Nixon.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Map time. This is Australia. The colors on this map
represent temperature. The orangey and reddish tones are for temperatures
from 104 degrees to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Very hot.
But forecasters are now predicting weather for Australia that is so
hot that they have had to add new colors to the temperature scale. The
super dark purple is for temperatures above 122 degrees Fahrenheit, because
that is what they now expect in the summer months in Australia.
Those are the weather data. The fossil fuels data that are totally
not at all connected to how we got to the point where we now need new
colors on our temperature maps – the fossil fuel data, that is coming up.
MADDOW: I know the whole nation would like to join me now in saying
happy birthday, Tricky Dick. Born 100 years ago today, January 9th, 1913,
our nation`s 37th president, Richard M. “Tricky Dick” Nixon.
President Nixon, of course, is most remembered for resigning in
disgrace. But he is also remembered for legendary paranoia.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Also, never forget: the press
is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The
establishment is the enemy. The professionals are the enemy.
Write that on the blackboard 100 times and never forget it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Write that on the blackboard 100 times! That is the kind of
thing for which we have remembered Richard Nixon in the four decades since
he became our nation`s only sitting president to resign the office. But
now, today on what would have been Nixon`s 100 birthday from this
comfortable distance, Mr. Nixon can also be remembered as a president who
had a profoundly liberal record of legislative accomplishment.
I mean, these were not necessarily Nixon`s own ideas. He was actually
a conservative. So most of these things were Democratic ideas from the
Congress, but governing went coming to governing agreement with the
Congress, including with the Democrats in Congress.
So when you look at the record of what Nixon signed into law, it
really is President Nixon who we have to thank for the Environmental
Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
and OSHA, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Title IX, and the
cost of living adjustments to Social Security.
Those first three things on the list – creating the EPA, creating
NOAA, creating OSHA, that was all just in one year. That was all just in
On the occasion of renewed interest in Richard Nixon for his 100th
birthday, there`s kind of an urban legend going on about him right now.
This is supposed to show how Richard Nixon`s signature changed over the
course of his presidency, how his signature deteriorated over time.
So in 1968, the year he was elected for the time, Nixon`s signature
looks clear and straight forward. But over time it gets tougher to
decipher, until by 1974, the year he resigns, it`s barely recognizable as a
signature at all, let alone his signature.
It`s kind of an amazing portrait, right? With this very compelling
visual to go along with it.
This, however, one of the stories that is ruined by careful fact
checking. Nixon resigned in `74, right? This is his letter resigning the
presidency, dated August 9th, 1974. So, this is his last letter as
president. It`s pretty legible.
The urban legend one from the 1974 and the resignation one from 1974
do not look at all alike. But maybe the resignation letter was an anomaly.
Maybe he spruced up the legibility on the resignation letter just because
he knew it would be a famous document.
Well, the kind folks at the Nixon Library today spent some time
helping us track this down. And that must have been a really busy day for
them, right? But their archivist told us she was dubious of the whole
Nixon changing his signature story.
She said she had never actually seen that sketchy flat line signature
on any Nixon documents.
So, this was probably always Richard Nixon`s signature, even at the
end – despite that amazing thing your friend posted on your Facebook wall
for Nixon`s 100th birthday.
But you want to know who really did change his signature in office?
Look at this. Both of these signatures say the same thing. They both
belong to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who by virtue of being treasury
secretary is also the guy who gets to sign our money.
When Mr. Geithner became treasury secretary, he changed his signature.
He changed it from the rather lovely loop de loops you see there on the
left, to the more straight forward, fifth grader`s cursive Timothy F.
Geithner that you see on the right.
Here he is explaining why.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, I think on the dollar
bill, you know, I had to write something that people could read my name.
RYSSDAL: Is that what it was?
GEITHNER: That`s the rationale. I didn`t try for elegance. I just
tried for elegance.
RYSSDAL: Because Mrs. Quigley, the first grade handwriting teacher,
she would given me the big like, you know, F on that.
GEITHNER: I took third grade in India, in New Delhi, India. So, I
did not probably get the best instruction in handwriting.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whether it is attributable to foreign penmanship instruction
or something weirder, Tim Geithner`s deliberately changed signature never
got nearly the attention that today his maybe successor`s signature
received. All of the media today got fix excavated on a signature that is
loopier than Tim Geithner`s original signature.
The signature of this guy, Jack Lew, White House chief of staff,
former director of the Office of Management and Budget. All signs point to
President Obama nominating Jack Lew, perhaps as early as tomorrow to
replace Tim Geithner as treasury secretary. And if he is nominated and
confirmed, that will mean that our money might end up looking like this,
because that is Jack Lew`s signature on it. If he doesn`t choose to tune
up the legibility of the loop de loops like Tim Geithner did, our money
might look like this.
Now, lest you actually worry about the prospect of having on our money
what “New York” magazine described today as a slinky that has lost its
spring, Republicans in Washington are hinting that we won`t actually have
to worry about seeing Jack Lew`s wacky signature on our money. They`re
saying he doesn`t have to worry about changing the signature so it looks
good on the money because he, Jack Lew, will never be the guy who has to
actually sign the money. He will never be treasury secretary.
Senate Republicans are reported by Politico.com today to be, quote,
“scoffing at the notion of Jack Lew as treasury secretary. Mitch McConnell
is said to have been irked by Mr. Lew in the past.
Republican senator from Nebraska, Mike Johanns, called Lew a
controversial pick. The reasonable he is controversial according to Mike
Johanns is, quote, “I just think there are economic policies in this nation
haven`t been well-received, and Jack Lew is in the middle of that.”
So, because Democratic economic policies have not been well-received
by Republicans in Congress, and because Jack Lew once irked Mitch
McConnell, he is, we`re supposed to believe, not going to get the top tier
cabinet position. We scoff in your general direction.
If those do not sound like reasons substantive enough to block a
presidential cabinet nomination, that is because those are not reasons
substantive enough to block a presidential cabinet nomination. I mean, at
least historically speaking, those are not the kind of things that keep a
person out of a top tier job like that.
As “The New York Times” calculated today, in the history of the U.S.
Senate, the Senate has confirmed over 500 cabinet nominations, over 500.
It has denied nine out of more than 500 in Senate history. The last time a
cabinet nomination was denied was almost 25 years ago when the Senate voted
down Poppy Bush`s nominee for Defense, John Tower, after what would later
be described in his obituary as, quote, “public allegations” of womanizing
and heavy drinking.
So when Republicans threaten to block Susan Rice, and now that they`re
threatening to block Chuck Hagel, and now, that they are scoffing at even
the prospect of Jack Lew at Treasury, there are two options for
understanding what Republicans are doing here. They are either just making
noise to convince their base that they still exist, and the Beltway is
dutifully reporting it as if it matters, but it doesn`t. All those
nominations are going to be or would have been fine.
Or the other option is that Republicans really are going to try to set
an absolutely historically unprecedented bar against the president
nominating his chosen cabinet, in a way that has never happened before in
U.S. history. They will block, say, a nominee for treasury secretary
because Mitch McConnell once felt irked in his presence.
If that is really what they are planning, keep in mind that the
Republicans` mandate for doing this is something that they think derives
from an election that the president just won by a lot and which their party
lost seats in both the House and the Senate.
So it`s either total nonsense what they are saying about these
nominees, or it is totally unprecedented – totally unprecedented behavior
by a Senate minority that has never done anything like this before. Which
one is it?
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, from Salon.com. He`s co-host of
MSNBC`s 3:00 show “THE CYCLE.”
Steve, it`s good to see you.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Good to see you.
Empty threats? Just outrage here, or are we in uncharted obstruction
KORNACKI: I don`t think it`s uncharted yet. I`m curious to see how
it plays out. I think in terms of the Republicans unifying in opposition
in sort of sustaining that, I think it`s more likely in the case of Hagel
than it is in Lew, but we`ll see how that plays out.
I don`t pick up yet in either case on the threat of what could
actually kill either of these nominations, that would be a filibuster there
is a sense in Hagel, even if he had all the Republicans, all 45 of them say
they are against him, there will be still be up or down. There`d be
enormous public pressure for that. So maybe 55-45, maybe one Democrat will
peel off, something like that.
The longer term threat here I see, though, is this – what we`ve
already experienced in the last four years is that the Republicans in some
very sort of troubling ways have changed the behavioral norms for
congressional parties. You look at how they have treated the debt ceiling.
They used that as sort of – they tried to claim that as a legitimate
bargaining tool. You look what the senate Republicans have down with the
filibuster, taking extremes we have not seen before.
They have charged norms in those ways. If they do that to cabinet
nominations, that could have troubling ramifications for the future.
Basically look at this way, John Tower, 1989. That`s the last time we had
a cabinet secretary not confirmed. There was some serious charges against
MADDOW: He wasn`t filibustered. He was voted down.
KORNACKI: Yes, he was voted down. And before that 1959. So, it can
happen. Under serious conditions, it can happen.
And occasionally there`d be like a John Ashcroft in 2001, 58-42.
There`d be some opposition, not enough to kill the nomination. But
generally, cabinet votes, the advice and consent, it`s 93-3 vote in the
If Republicans now make these routine party line votes where the
opposition party, it`s the job of the opposition party to unite against
just about anybody and 45 votes is sort of the new norm that Republicans
establish here for these, that won`t stop any of Obama`s nominees. But
think ahead to the next time a president is in power and does not have a
Senate majority. If the opposition party sees it as its duty to vote no
against all of the cabinet nominations, that`s a huge problem.
MADDOW: That`s a huge problem and it means that executive power will
be radically redefined.
MADDOW: In terms of Jack Lew and this idea that they`re scoffing at
the prospect of even his nomination, of course, he has not yet been
formally nominated – I did spend some time today trying to figure out what
it is that Republicans do not like about him.
I mean, there is a list of criticisms at least of Chuck Hagel. There
is a list of criticisms, loud criticisms that they had about Susan Rice
with her potentially going to state. I cannot figure it out with Jack Lew.
Do you have any sense of what their substantive beef with him is?
KORNACKI: Besides the fact that he seems to have some association
with this Obama guy?
MADDOW: Been seen with him.
KORNACKI: Right. That`s half.
I think what it is, the indications that I`ve seen are: they see he is
too good of a negotiator. They felt he was too shrewd of a negotiator. He
was handling negotiations. He was in there in all the negotiations for the
debt ceiling showdown in 2011. John Boehner did not like him.
MADDOW: John Boehner said he had a hard time getting to yes. He
couldn`t persuade Jack Lew to tell him what he wanted.
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, that Jack Lew`s reputation, is he knows the
federal budget. He can do the calculations faster than anybody. I can
just imagine what some of these sessions must have been like with him in
And when you removed him from the room, yes, I imagine Boehner felt he
had a lot more latitude at that point. But then, of course, anything that
emerged from the room Obama is going to run by him anyway. I think he
really frustrated whether it was Boehner or McConnell, a lot of the
So, in that sense, if you`re a Democrat and you`re wondering about
this top of the, you`re saying, you know, what`s the biggest knock on Obama
from a Democratic standpoint? Well, we`re not sure about him as a
Well, the biggest knock from Lew from Republican point is strong
MADDOW: Strong negotiator, right. Can`t have that.
Steve Kornacki, co-host of MSNBC`s 3:00 show “THE CYCLE,” senior
writer for “Salon” – Steve, thank you. Very helpful. Appreciate it.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Genuine, exclusive reporting tonight about the latest risky
practices of the most profitable business in human history. We`ve got an
MADDOW: It`s kind of a remarkable photo on the front page of “The New
York Times” today. It is a photo of President Obama in the Oval Office.
He is the one sitting down with his back to the camera. The president
meeting in this photo with his senior advisers late last month discussing
the fiscal cliff negotiations.
You can see Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on the far left, press
secretary Jay Carney in the middle holding a can of soda. Basically, this
is the whole fiscal cliff negotiation gang.
The caption of the photo says this, quote, “The only woman facing the
president was, look very closely, Valerie Jarrett.”
Do you see Valerie Jarrett in this photo? She is right there in near
Jay Carney. Really. It`s Valerie Jarrett`s leg. Presumably her left leg
if she is facing the president.
Her leg is sticking out from behind the guy in the blue and white
shirt standing next to Jay Carney. Ms. Jarrett appears to be wearing black
tights maybe or leggings.
But funny as it is, the trick nature of this photograph is not why it
became notorious today, and it`s not why they put it on the front page of
“The New York Times.” It`s because out of one, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 senior staff members advising the president
on the fiscal cliff negotiations in this photo, only one of the people
barely in this photo is a woman.
Last month, President Obama held a press conference to announce he is
nominating Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of
state. So, John Kerry not Susan Rice.
Earlier this week, the president announcing that former Republican
Senator Chuck Hagel was his pick to be the next secretary of defense. So,
Chuck Hagel and not, say, Michelle Flournoy, the very highly regarded
undersecretary of defense for policy.
No word yet on who President Obama has in mind to be his next
secretary of labor, but Hilda Solis announced just this afternoon that she
has handed in her resignation. So, that`s another woman gone from the
The White House going out of its way to stress today right after the
Solis announcement exactly who in the cabinet plans to stay on at the start
of the president`s second term. They led their list with Health Secretary
Earlier this afternoon at the daily briefing, Jay Carney tried to tamp
down Chuck Todd`s questions about the lack of diversity in the president`s
second term cabinet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Janet Napolitano is
secretary of Homeland Security, a cabinet level position, the U.N.
ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is Susan Rice. And
again, I could go through the list.
This president has made two appointments to the Supreme Court, both of
them women. And I think that his commitment to –
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Do you think it`s an unfair charge?
CARNEY: Well, I think that the record speaks for itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rosa Brooks has written about this on “Foreign Policy” today.
It`s titled, “No Girls Allowed: Why the Obama Administration Needs Hormone
Rosa Brooks is a national security law professor at Georgetown. She
spent two years working for Michelle Flournoy at the Pentagon.
Rosa, it`s great to see you. Thanks for your time.
ROSA BROOKS, FOREIGN POLICY: Glad to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: In terms of the raw numbers, the Obama administration is
roughly equivalent to the Clinton administration in terms of female
appointees. It is doing better than the Bush administration.
But you feel like they`re worthy of some criticism on this subject?
BROOKS: Oh, I hold President Obama to a pretty high standard. I
would like to think after the eight years of the Bush administration, we
could do a little better than the Clinton administration, not just go back
to the Clinton administration.
Although I have to say, if I were Valerie Jarrett and I were about to
go off the fiscal cliff, I would hide behind Jay Carney, too.
MADDOW: On the specific issue of Michelle Flournoy`s nomination,
obviously, you`re not totally objected on this, having worked for Michelle
Flournoy. She is highly regarded in Washington, not just by you, but by
pretty much everybody in the defense establishment.
Were you surprised that she didn`t get the nod? Were you surprised
that Chuck Hagel specifically did?
BROOKS: I was surprised. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity
for President Obama to make a historic gesture and nominate the first
female secretary of defense. It`s one of those situations where it struck
me. Obviously, I am completely biased. But it struck me that the most
qualified man for the job was a woman in this particular case.
I was also disappointed just that he named Chuck Hagel, who is an
impressive guy who I admire in a lot of ways. But I don`t see why
President Obama, a Democrat, wants to send the message that even he thinks
it takes a Republican to run the Defense Department two times out of three.
MADDOW: In terms of Michelle Flournoy`s role in the national security
world, her job as undersecretary at the Defense Department was itself
historically higher level of achievement for someone in the defense world.
When she was there and when she was there as such a highly regarded
person as a potential next secretary of defense, did it make a difference
in the Pentagon? Did it make a difference in that setting to have a woman
at that high level?
Right. I think it absolutely did in several different ways. Number
one, she was just a real inspiration, I think, for a lot of younger women,
and really encouraged them to go into jobs that were perceived as being in
male dominated realms.
Second, though, she really brought in a terrific crew of women into
leadership positions in the Pentagon, dramatically increase women in
leadership positions. And I think people tend – when you think about your
rolodex, your virtual rolodex, you tend to think of people you know, and
men tend to know more men, and maybe women tend to know more women.
So getting a woman into that very high-ranking Pentagon post just
meant that, you know, it occurred to her in the way that might not have
occurred to men to say, hey, I know somebody fantastic, it`s Kathy Hicks
(ph), I know somebody fantastic, it`s Jenean Davidson (ph) and so forth,
and bringing these great women.
And then, finally, Michelle Flournoy put a tremendous amount of energy
into making the Pentagon, making OSD policy, the place a family-friendly
work place, not just important to women but men as well, to whom this is
also really important issue to find flexible work arrangements, to
telecommute when possible, and even in the Pentagon when you deal with
classified information a lot, we now have technologies that do make that
And I think that having a leader who emphasized that from the top
really did change the work place culture.
MADDOW: Is there a high profile female appointment, particularly in
the national security area that you are looking for, that you think is
reasonable to expect as the president continues to roll out his second term
BROOKS: I don`t think we`re likely to get one. I still think that
the president obviously, he could ask Michelle Flournoy or Susan Rice to
become the national security adviser. Both of them would be fantastic in
that job. Likewise, you know, he – depending on what happens with the
position of director of national intelligence, if the current occupant
stays or decides to go, that`s another fantastic opportunity for a woman.
And there are some women in the intelligence community.
So I think it could be done if he wants to make it a priority. I hope
he will, but I don`t expect it.
MADDOW: Rosa Brooks, Georgetown law professor, a foreign policy
columnist, former counselor to the undersecretary of defense, Michelle
Flournoy – Rosa, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
BROOKS: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right.
Up next, we have an exclusive on something going on in Alaska that has
rather captured our imaginations around here. Hold on, that story is
MADDOW: Last week was a short week for us. I was finishing up my
vacation. So, it`s only here for three days last week. But in all three
of those days, we covered a strange story involving a big oil rig in
Alaska, specifically right here in Alaska, a tiny island off the coast of
the state that`s home to a vibrant fishing community, a number of
endangered sea mammals, and as of last week, this stranded Shell Oil rig
that was threatening the entire region.
When we last left our stranded beach $300 million Shell right full of
150,000 gallons of diesel fuel, oil, and toxic hydraulic fluids, it was
stuck on these rocks, alongside one of Alaska`s most ecologically sensitive
areas. It has since been towed away to a nearby harbor where it is being
inspected by a team of experts, including the coast guard.
Something interesting is developed as the story has gone. What was
going on when that Shell rig got stuck in the first place is that they were
trying to move it. They were trying to tow it from the area where it had
been drilling near the Aleutian Islands, back to Seattle, Washington. They
ended up having a really hard time towing because they ran into bad
The ship that was towing it lost its engines, ultimately lost
connection to the rig in the process. That ship tried four more times to
hook up to the rig. They were unable to establish a connection.
They brought in another ship to help. But that had to be aborted as
well because of really bad weather. After being left adrift, it was that
Shell rig that finally slammed into the nearby island, threatening
everything around it.
By why were they trying to tow the rig when they did? What was the
rush? What Shell says was they did it then because the weather forecast
looked so good. They said there was a two-week window where the weather
was going to be good enough to tow it.
It turns out that does not appear to be the case. We have now
obtained a letter, exclusively, sent to the president of Shell, from the
office of Congressman Ed Markey. Ed Markey is likely to be the Democratic
nominee for John Kerry`s Senate seat. For now, he is the top Democrat on
the House on energy issues.
And in this letter, Congressman Markey writes, quote, “Conversations
with Alaska Office of the National Weather Service don`t back up Shell`s
claims regarding the weather forecast. While a Shell official cited a two-
week good window of good weather, the National Weather Service Marine
Forecast in Alaska only extends for five days, not two weeks.”
Shell`s rig operations began on December 21st. But according to
Congressman Markey, Shell doesn`t appear to have consulted with the Weather
Service at all, after mid-November. If they had been in touch with the
weather service, they would have learned what actually was forecast for the
end of December was winds reaching 25 knots and seas in excess of 20 feet.
So, this is weird, right? Shell saying that they only moved this rig
because of a two-week window of good weather. But the National Weather
Service doesn`t even give two weeks for that area, and what they ultimately
did forecast was the exact type of horribly bad weather that Shell
catastrophically run into.
So, again, what explains Shell`s ultimately catastrophic rush to move
that rig when they did?
Well, in this letter, Congressman Markey raises another potentially
explosive issue. He says, quote, “It does appear that Shell could have
been exposed to potential state tax liability on the rig had it remained in
the state on January 1st. Shell could have potentially been expose to do
state tax liability on the rig in excess of $6 million.”
So you got that? If shell did not get their rig across state border
by January 1st, they would have been on the hook for 6 million bucks in
state taxes. January 1st, that`s when they needed to get the rig out of
Alaska. The rig ultimately ran aground on December 31st.
So, Shell says we only moved the right when we did because the weather
looked good. The weather did not look good. And, oh, by the way, had they
not moved the rig when they did, it would have been $6 million in taxes,
Congressman Markey is now demanding that Shell answers to these sets
of circumstances, which he describes as, quote, “profoundly troubling.” Ed
Markey had previously demanded documents from Shell, laying out the
company`s contingency plans for this ultimately disastrous operation, the
deadline to provide those documents expired today. Shell, apparently, we
have learned, asked for an extension until Monday because they have been
focusing on recovery issues.
Just the engineering aspects of this story, the failure upon failure
upon failure that led to this beaching of this giant rig in unspoiled
Alaska wilderness, just the engineering aspects of this story started off
really weird. But now, the political aspects, the corporate aspects of it,
are getting very weird.
We have contacted shell on these allegations, so far we have not heard
back but will keep you posted. And we`ll keep bugging them.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Thanks very much for being with us tonight. Have a good one.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>