The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/19/13
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: That`s “THE ED SHOW.” I`m Ed
Rachel Maddow starts right now.
Rachel, tremendous job last night.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Ed. Thank you for being so effusive
about it, but also for focusing so much on issues at the heart of it.
You`ve just been really, really kind.
SCHULTZ: Well, it was jaw-dropping.
SCHULTZ: You know, you almost feel guilty living through that period.
But there were voices on the left, only 23 in the Senate that came up with
a very courageous vote. I hope it`s a lesson to America for generations to
Great work, my friend.
MADDOW: Thank you. I really appreciate it, Ed. Thanks a lot.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
As Ed mentioned, last night we did air this new MSNBC documentary on
why the Iraq war happened. It has sparked a lot of discussion,
particularly the new reporting in the film. We`ve had a lot of feedback on
it. I`m really glad we did it. We`re now talking about hopefully re-
airing it some more times on MSNBC.
But a lot of people have been asking specifically about the timing.
Why do this now?
Well, we specifically did not time the new documentary to coincide
with the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq, of
course, in March 19th, 2003. The invasion of Iraq and the war in Iraq are
obviously a big deal and a specific thing that is worth examining in its
But what we did with “Hubris” was not tell the story of the Iraq war,
but rather the story of what made us start that war. So, we didn`t peg to
it the 10-year anniversary of the invasion, we pegged it earlier than that.
We pegged it to the lying to us by our own government that made that
And that irreducible truth, that we were told by our government that
we had to go to war because of things they said were true about the world
that were not true about the world, that irreducible truth is the most
important thing about the presidency that preceded this one. And unless
the revisionist historians get their way, that truth will be in the first
line of the obituary of each of those senior members of the Bush
administration when they eventually depart from this Earth.
And that sets up a really interesting thing for us now in 2013 in
terms of how that relatively recent political history from 10 years ago and
our understanding of that recent political history affects our current
debates now over policy now. Because still among us, still out there
available for comments, of course, are the senior officials of the previous
administration who perpetrated that deception 10 years ago.
That`s why the kicker of “Hubris,” the kicker of the film,
essentially, the last line lands with such a thud. Because even after
leaving office, President George W. Bush was still saying about the war in
Iraq, “Hey, you know what? I don`t think I did anything wrong.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing
to the American people?
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I mean, apologizing would
basically say the decision was a wrong decision. And I don`t believe it
was a wrong decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That interview with Matt Lauer took place in November 2010.
So, after he was out of office.
I do not know if President George W. Bush still feels that way. I try
not to read too much into the reports that former President Bush now spends
his time painting oil portraits of himself, trying to get cleaned, self
portrait in shower, self-portrait in bathtub. Maybe that`s just a
coincidence. Maybe he`s not trying the get clean. Maybe he still does see
nothing wrong about that decision to go to war, to get Saddam`s weapons of
mass destruction and to stop his nuclear weapons and to stop Saddam`s ties
to al Qaeda, none of which existed.
President Bush may still believe that that was still a great decision.
We know that Vice President Dick Cheney still believes that. But the
country no longer believes that.
Some of the post-9/11 national security changes that we made as a
country obviously persist. There is still a Department of Homeland
Security. There is still this new treatment of the CIA as if it is a
branch of the military. There is still a Patriot Act.
But much of what President Barack Obama has done over the last four
years heading into now his second term has been systematically undoing some
of the major decisions of the George W. Bush years. For example, the only
decision and accomplishment of President Obama`s first term that is ranked
more popular with the American people than killing Osama bin Laden, the
only thing more popular than that was his decision to end the war in Iraq.
Within days of taking office, President Obama also issued an executive
order, making clear that anything the previous administration did to cast
some pseudo-legal veneer over torture, that was over. That executive order
made clear that torture was and is illegal. The president also ordered
that the CIA stop operating secret prisons around the world.
After moving quickly, as I mentioned in the war in Iraq, the new
president also moved eventually toward ending the war in Afghanistan as
well. The end of that war is still ahead, but it is on its way.
There is, though, one vestige of the previous administration that it`s
not only remarkable that it`s still around, it`s remarkable that it`s still
around because everybody thought it would be gone by now. Everybody left,
right, and center thought it would be again not just by now, but they
thought it would be gone early on in the first term of the Obama
One of the things that we decided to do as a country after 9/11 that
we had never done before is something that everybody expected to be dialed
back very quickly by the new administration. Nobody expected it to
survive. But it is still here, and it is why we have this.
This is a prison in Illinois that has nobody in it. It`s on 140 acres
near the Mississippi River. It is surrounded by an electrified fence that
is capable of carrying 7,000 volts.
It has hundreds of surveillance cameras. It has hundreds of motion
detectors. It has armed inner perimeter towers. It has armed outer
It is a state-of-the-art maximum security prison built in 2001 and
nobody is home. Nobody is there. This prison was originally built to be
used by the state of Illinois, which never had the money to run it and has
never put anybody in it.
By 2009, when we got our new president, and he said two days after
taking office that Guantanamo bay prison was going to close, this prison in
Thompson, Illinois, supposedly won the George W. Bush isn`t president
anymore maximum prisoner lottery. Congratulations, Thompson, Illinois.
Everybody knew that Guantanamo was going to close. In the 2008
presidential campaign, it was not just Barack Obama who was in favor of
closing Guantanamo. The guy from the other party who he ran against was
also in favor of closing Guantanamo, as also planning to do so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe we should close Guantanamo
and work with our allies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was just Barack Obama and John McCain who said that they
would close Guantanamo if they became president. It was also the guy who
was still president, the guy who had opened up Guantanamo in the first
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I`d like to end Guantanamo. I`d like it to be over with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Everybody knew that Guantanamo was going to close. There was
nobody against it. The prisoners who were still there when Barack Obama
became president, well, the expectation was that a lot of them would
continue to be processed the way that hundreds of them had already been
processed by President George W. Bush, which is that they would be sent to
some other country. They would be repatriated.
For the prisoners that were not going to be released anywhere for say
the marquee prisoner who was ever held at Guantanamo, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, the planner of 9/11, the expectation for guys like him was they
wouldn`t get out of offshore pseudo limbo in Cuba. But it wouldn`t be to
get repatriated to some other country. They would get off that legal limbo
that we hold in this prison offshore in a communist country that we don`t
have relations with and get out of that limbo and come here and face
Attorney General Eric Holder announced November 2009 that Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of the 9/11 attacks, would face trial in New
York City, in Lower Manhattan. He would not be treated like a soldier, the
way he wanted to be treated. He would be treated like a terrorist, like
the “Blind Sheik” had been treated, Omar Abdel-Rahman, or the shoe bomber
Richard Reid, or the 9/11 henchman Zacarias Moussaoui. They were all
convicted in U.S. courts and are currently in prison at federal maximum
security facilities across the country.
We as a country have experience prosecuting, convicting, and housing
for life very dangerous people, including international terrorism suspects.
That`s why Thompson, Illinois, had competition when they said they want
these guys. That`s why Thompson, Illinois, had to compete with places like
Harden, Montana, and Standish, Michigan, when they decided to seek the
relatively lucrative labor intensive business of locking these guys up in
their maximum security prison.
And that`s why the city of New York initially greeted the news of
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed`s forthcoming trial at the scene of his crime as not
just justice, but poetic justice.
And then we lost our nerve. What happened?
The politics of the past administration or something decided to come
back. New York officials who initially responded to the Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed announcement by saying yes, let`s do it. It`s fitting that he`d
face trial here where he killed so many Americans. We can handle it. We
are not afraid.
That was the initial response. But then they changed their minds and
decide they were against it.
In Illinois, a Republican congressman who was running for Senate, who
eventually won, he decided to change his campaign Web site to
noterroristsinillinois.com. Don`t send those guys to Thompson, never mind
that the state was excited to win that contest.
And the whole thing unraveled. And then it fell apart. And that was
in late 2009, early 2010. It was more than three years ago now when that
plan fell apart.
And since that time, nobody, no new prisoners have been added to
Guantanamo. There are still 170 some odd prisoner there. The president
still says he wants to close Guantanamo.
We`re still just as capable of trying and imprisoning terrorism
suspects as we were before when the plan fell apart. Maybe we`re even more
so now as we have tried and convicted even more so now as we have tried and
convicted even more terrorism suspects in the past three years, including
the times square bomber, Faisal Shahzad and the underwear bomber Umar
But even so, this vestige of the previous administration just lingers
on. I mean, when it comes to fixing what went wrong in that era, this is
not all that complicated an issue. The plan to close it was fairly simple.
The only reason it didn`t happen is that Congress and elected officials,
Democrats and Republicans, freaked out and decide they`d were scared of
their own shadow back in 2009 and 2010, and then Congress acted to say, no,
no, no, the president can`t do this.
They decided to not do what everyone left, right and center had
previously agreed needed to be done and would be done. And so we just got
stuck by dent of Congress ultimately keeping open this unsustainable
vestigial accident from the previous administration with no plan other than
hoping that I guess maybe the prisoners might die of their own accord if we
leave them there long enough?
It`s not 2009 or 2010 anymore. A lot that`s in our politics feels
different now in 2013 than it felt in 2009. Is this still impossible?
And is anyone still working on it? I should also mention that
quietly, very quietly, a couple of weeks before the election in October,
the Obama administration decided to do an end-run around Congress when it
comes to that big empty prison in Thompson, Illinois. Congress had been
blocking the federal government from buying that empty prison for any
purpose, just in case any purpose might include putting prisoners from
But on October 2nd, quietly the Department of Justice wrote a check to
Illinois for $165 million to buy that maximum security prison. That prison
that once upon a time was going to be Guantanamo north, and everybody
thought that was a great idea.
It isn`t scheduled to be Guantanamo north anymore. Nothing is.
But why couldn`t it be?
I mean, George W. Bush does not admit that invading Iraq was the wrong
decision. But even he admitted along time ago that Guantanamo was a
mistake that should be shut down. Why is it still open?
Joining us now is Jonathan Hafez, Seton Hall law professor. He`s the
author of “Habeas Corpus After 9/11: Confronting America`s new global
Professor Hafetz, thanks being here.
JONATHAN HAFETZ, SETON HALL LAW ASSOC. PROFESSOR: My pleasure.
MADDOW: I am making the process of what it would take to close
Guantanamo simpler than what it would be than what be the dispensation of
all of the prisoners.
If Congress changed its mind, though, and decided to stop the
administration from blocking it, that plan that they work working on in
2009 and 2010, could they work that way? Could they still do it?
HAFETZ: Absolutely. I mean, the main obstacle now is the political
obstacle and the legal obstacle, the legislation that Congress has put in
place that bars the transfer of any Guantanamo detainee to the United
States for any purpose, federal trial, or even continued detention.
So once if that legislation were to stop, the administration could
bring detainees here. In addition, it`s important to mention that
approximately half of the prisoners at Guantanamo, over 80 of the prisoners
there have been cleared for release by the administration.
So, these are people the administration says we don`t even want to
hold anymore. But Congress has placed significant restrictions on
transferring them to their home countries or third countries which makes it
difficult to close Guantanamo for that reason as well.
MADDOW: Is it overstating the case right now to say that the path
that we are on, if no further action is taken, is actually to just hope
that those prisoners die and thereby the problem goes away?
HAFETZ: I mean, we are on a – it`s a spiral of inertia. I mean, we
are the – the only way to get out of Guantanamo at this moment, there are
two ways, to be blunt – you can either die in the prison, or you can be
convicted by a military commission for war crimes and be given a sentence,
which in many cases, except for the 9/11 perpetrators might just be the
time you have served, and you get sent home.
So, you can either die and/or be convicted as a war criminal and get
out that way. Otherwise, you`re really fated for legal limbo.
MADDOW: What – if you were a prisoner or a lawyer for a prisoner who
was facing legal dispensation, you were in this situation, looking at the
history of terrorism prosecutions in the United States versus military
prosecutions for war crimes, what tends to produce a stricter sentence and
a more I guess a more reliable path to a guilty verdict for the
HAFETZ: I mean, there is no question about it, federal courts are –
produce a fair trial, but they also produce severe sentences for those who
But right now, we`ve got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the most important
terrorism suspect probably in the history of the United States being tried
in a proceeding at Guantanamo that really resembles a circus. I mean, it`s
just come out that the military has been listening. They have devices in
the rooms where the lawyers interview their clients, and they`re equipped
with listening devices.
So – and the commander of the prison apparently didn`t even know
about it. I mean, so this is our marquee federal criminal trial from 9/11,
the most important trial, and we elected to go with a court that is
untested, untried as opposed to the established federal courts which
deliver justice in a fair way.
MADDOW: In terms of recent terrorism prosecutions, I mentioned Faisal
Shahzad, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, some of the other international or at
least al Qaeda-minded terrorism suspects who have been prosecuted in
federal courts. Did anything happen in the prosecution of any of those
suspects or anybody else like them in recent years that should raise any
doubt of the ability of the courts to handle a security of a trial like
HAFETZ: Absolutely not. The federal courts are equipped. They have
experienced defense bar, the prosecution, the judges. They`re used to
handling these cases. Obviously, issues come up. They`re difficult
issues, but they deal with them.
And the process has integrity. It`s a bona fide process.
MADDOW: Centuries in the making.
Jonathan Hafetz, Seton Hall law professor, the author of “Habeas
Corpus After 9/11: Confronting America`s New Global Detention System” –
thank you for helping us figure this out. I really appreciate it.
HAFETZ: Thank you.
MADDOW: I do find that amazing that that hasn`t gone away.
Anyway, here is a Zen question. If President Obama played a round of
golf with Tiger Woods this weekend and the White House Press Corps was not
permitted to cover it, did it really happen? And do you give a rat`s
patootie about who was allowed to cover it? Lessons in inflated self-image
and humility coming up next.
MADDOW: This is “Parents” magazine. The subject matter is self-
explanatory. They have stories about little kids and slightly bigger kids
and the parents who love them and want to treat them well.
But today, things were a little different at “Parents” magazine HQ,
because they along with Facebook, hosted a town hall with Vice President
Joe Biden. People posted questions for the vice president on the Facebook
page of “Parents” magazine, and this moderator sitting with the vice
president posed those questions to Mr. Biden, and he answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: Claire Ferris Bremer (ph) asks, does it make sense to
provide armed guards for our schools like those that are provided for
Do you believe that banning certain weapons in high capacity magazines
will mean that law-abiding citizens will then become more of a target to
Tessa Gray (ph) asks, should parents who don`t have guns in their
homes demand to know which of their children`s friends are gun owners?
If the ban on guns did not work or taking them off the street, how do
you think a ban on guns is going to different?
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have “Parents”
magazine. I`ve never heard anybody in “Parents” magazine ask these kinds
of questions, but I`m delighted to answer them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s right. People do not usually ask those kinds of
questions in “Parents” magazine. The kinds of questions that do get asked
in “Parents” magazine tend to be like, is home birth for you? And is clean
your plate a recipe for obesity?
And this one is both a question and the answer. What time is it?
It`s baby time!
That`s the usual type of question that you get in parents magazine.
But obviously nobody is going to say about their should I clean the plate,
it`s baby time questions for the sitting vice president of the United
States. People are going to ask him hard questions. Even in that John
journalist-based Facebook-moderated forum, they`re going to ask him about
guns in homes and armed guards in schools and the example of the war on
Well, this weekend President Obama went to Florida, played golf with
some friends. Also Tiger Woods.
According to Mr. Woods, the president and him played as partners, and
they beat whoever it was they were playing against. I do not know from
golf. But even losing is probably fun if you are losing to, like, the
greatest golfer ever, let alone playing alongside him as Mr. President did.
Tiger Woods said they had a great time.
Not having a great time? The press. The White House Press Corps is
very angry about this weekend. Fuming, incredulous that the president was
there golfing with Tiger Woods and they Were not allowed to watch. The
White House press corps was kept out completely from the golf outing. The
only journalist who got to go in was somebody from “Golf Digest”.
One ABC reporter calling it a disgrace. A FOX News reporter saying
there was, quote, “extreme frustration.” Politico.com reporter saying the
president must be fearful of talking with them, them meaning White House
The Beltway press is seriously frustrated by what they see as their
lack of access to this White House.
But outside the normal interacts between the president and the press
that covers the White House, the president and the president are putting
themselves out there to answer direct questions about why a ban on guns
would work when a ban on drugs didn`t? And should Internet freedom be
added to the party platform of the Democratic Party? Should Democrats take
a stand on that as a party?
And this one, the mortgage interest deduction that helps people afford
their homes, what`s going to be happening to that? And will the White
House take action to limit the abuse of software patents? Would they, for
example, support limiting software patents to just five years?
Those questions, those substantive questions about real policy issues,
those came not from professional journalists covering the White House as
part of their paid beat, those came from regular folks that the White House
put the president in the position of being questioned by on Reddit, and on
Twitter and at a Google Plus hangout.
And the gun questions, before, those were from parents magazine
readers via their Facebook page.
The professional press corps plays an important role. No matter how
you feel about the Beltway media, you want the president and the vice
president to get grilled by professional reporters answering to
professional editors operating in the proud tradition of the free and
professional press that is good for the country. That is as good for the
country. That is as good for the country as any other check and balance
that we have as a nation.
But as the White House Press Corps pines for more access, there is a
thing that we`re getting more and more of that we haven`t had since
whenever the last time was that presidents mingled among us without
intermediaries, if there ever was that time. Multiple repeated forums
where regular citizens get to ask direct questions of the president or the
vice president in a setting where you actually can expect an answer.
It`s not journalism. It is not a substitute for journalism. But
there is something important I think to be found in the distance between
the types of questions that are being asked by regular folks when they get
a chance and the types of questions that are being asked by the White House
Press Corps when they get their chance.
That distance is a big distance. It is worrying about the press corps
that those two streams of questions being directed at the White House from
citizens and from the Beltway press often seem like they are from two
totally different universes.
MADDOW: News update from the great commonwealth of Massachusetts. A
few weeks ago, we reported that former Senator Scott Brown was spending his
very late night weekend hours tweeting out pugnacious little insults to his
online critics. Things like “whatever, bud.”
And that soon turned into some other epic thing like bqhatevwr.
Was that odd string of late night and then deleted tweets from Scott
Brown and early indication that Senator Brown was not of mindset to be
running again in Massachusetts?
Well, finally, we have an answer from Scott Brown about –
MADDOW: Oh, I`m sorry. I put a bullpucky alert on my phone, the app.
Can we just turn it – can we just turn it – it`s the alert. Come on,
turn it off. Turn it off. Right.
Silly. It`s a butt dial mistake, right? You like to sit down on the
phone. And I have to keep that right there. It`s so embarrassing.
Anyway, as I was saying about Scott Brown.
MADDOW: It`s not actually the phone. I think we have another actual
bullpucky alert. Do not be alarmed. Actually, this is for real.
We have protocols. We are well staffed. We have a bullpucky alert
coming up. It`s code 4.
MADDOW: More than 33 million people watched President Obama deliver
the first State of the Union address of his second term a week ago today.
That`s actually a low number for a State of the Union relatively speaking.
But that just goes to show you what a giant audience that annual speech has
if 33 million is a low number.
But as it turns out, on the same day this was happening in Washington,
something else was also happening in Washington – a secret meeting between
the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden and nine members of Congress.
This Navy SEAL, who has never revealed his name publicly for obvious
reasons, was not there to divulge some new previously secret thing about
the bin Laden raid. He was this to talk about life after the bin Laden
raid – life after the bin Laden raid for him and his family.
This Washington meeting with nine of the most influential members of
the Senate and the House, according to reports, was to discuss the
difficulty that soldiers, and especially members of the elite Special
Operations Forces have in transitioning to civilian life.
Last week, “Esquire” magazine and the Center for Investigative
Reporting ran a lengthy profile of this Navy SEAL, allegedly the one who
killed bin Laden, that included a lot of new details about the raid. The
SEAL says that he shot bin Laden twice in the forehead as bin Laden stood
before him, and shot him once again in the same place after he fell.
He says bin Laden may have tried to use his wife as a human shield.
He was at least holding her in front of himself or moving her in front of
himself when he was killed.
He says the CIA analyst who briefed him on the compound told him she
knew with 100 percent certainty that bin Laden was on the third floor of
the compound, which he was.
The SEAL says that after the raid was over, he gave that CIA analyst
the magazine from his rifle, which was still full, except for the three
bullets he had expended into Mr. Bin laden.
So the further details on the raid and the people who made it happen,
those are new details. But the part of the story that got the follow-up on
Capitol Hill on State of the Union day, the follow-up on Capitol Hill for
the man who killed bin Laden with nine members of Congress was the part
about him leaving the Navy, leaving the Special Forces, leaving the
military altogether, and how hard he has found it to get by ever since.
Hence the title of “Esquire`s” interview with him, quote, “The Man Who
Killed Osama bin Laden, dot, dot, dot, is Screwed.”
Quote, “When he leaves after 16 years in the Navy, his body filled
with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage and blown disc, here is
what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension,
no health care for his wife and kids, no protection for himself or his
Once the story was published there was some controversy about whether
“Esquire” made a factual error when they described his benefits. It turns
out he is entitled to benefits for five years, but none for his family.
They clarified that.
Beyond that, though, there`s this – like many vets, he will have to
wait at least eight months to have his disability claims adjudicated, or
even longer. The average wait time nationally is more than nine months.
The Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed the wait times for 58
veterans affairs offices across the country. They made this interactive
map with the data that they found. What they discovered was that many vets
are waiting way longer than that nine-month national average for their
disability claims to be processed. In New York, the average wait is 412
days. In Oakland, California, 427 days. In Waco, Texas, veterans are
waiting on average 441 days. In Phoenix, it`s 451 days. In Los Angeles,
it`s over 500 days.
So almost a year and a half veterans in Los Angeles are waiting just
for a preliminary answer from the V.A., waiting while in some cases they
are unable to work, hence the disability claim. A year and a half just
waiting to hear back about whether that claim is going to be accept order
denied. Wait until you have to appeal.
You`ve heard before about this backlog, right? How the government is
blowing it on keeping this promise that we made to the people who signed up
to serve. What is amazing, now, in a bad way, is that the backlog is not
getting better. It is getting worse.
At the start of 2012, it was taking six months or so, 188 days for the
V.A. to resolve a claim that was by the start of the year. By the end of
the year, we had gone from six months to nine months, 262 days – 262 days
of checking the mail, logging into your account, checking your e-mail,
waiting to hear back.
In September of last year, the wife of one Iraq war veteran posted a
video to YouTube that she titled “The V.A. doesn`t care.” In the video,
she said her family had filed her husband`s disability claim when their
baby was six weeks old.
Around the time of their child`s second birthday, she said she was
tired of waiting to hear back. She posted the video. The video garnered
enough attention online that the V.A. responded to her with their own
video. But look at the response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Recently, the spouse of a veteran posted a video
to YouTube asking many of the same questions we often see from veterans,
their families, and survivors. So, we thought this was a really good
opportunity to respond so veterans don`t feel like they have to post a
video to YouTube just to get information.
Personally, I understand your frustration. I`m an Air Force veteran.
My husband is Marine Corps veteran, and both he and I have claims that are
currently part of the backlog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You`re part of the backlog too and you work there? They
can`t even fix it for you?
The V.A. spokeswoman went on to say that the long wait times are
unacceptable, that the V.A. knows they`re unacceptable, and they`re working
to make the process more efficient and more accurate.
That back and forth happened last year, and that family that took
their complaints to YouTube did eventually get their claim resolved. I
don`t know about the spokeswoman.
The V.A., of course, has promised they`ll try to do better.
Well, just this month, the Center for Investigative Reporting found
that the V.A. is making so many errors when it processes veterans claims,
and the backlog of claims is so long that 53 veterans are dying every day
now while they are waiting to receive word on their disability benefits.
These are veterans of all wars, veterans of all ages, but 53 every day.
And that is not just some weird way of parsing the statistics to make
a shocking-sounding statement. It is so common for American veterans to
die while waiting on their disability claims that there is an alliterative
phrase that people use to describe it. They call it delay, deny, wait
until I die.
Quote, “The common refrain we hear from many veterans is delay, deny,
wait until I die.” That`s a quote from Congressman Jeff Miller, chairman
of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He calls the backlog on
benefits claims a national embarrassment.
Delay, deny, wait until I die.
What we`re talking about here is a paperwork problem, and a
bureaucracy problem. It`s a problem about which the speed at which
paperwork is processed. It is not a sexy-sounding problem, however sexy we
think all things associated with Navy SEALs are.
But this is a problem that really specifically hurts the men and women
who do the hardest job that we as a nation can ask anyone to do, and that
in many cases we lionize for their service. We just don`t make good on
their promises that we made them while thanking them for what they do.
We are hurting them and their families by not getting this right. The
V.A. says their transition to a paperless system has experienced initial
bumps that have worsened the problem for now, but that it will get better
with time. They say advances in medical treatment and body armor mean more
soldiers are surviving injuries and returning from war, and that`s a good
thing, but that their system has to catch up with the increasing numbers of
folks who need help once they come back from war. They are trying to catch
up, and they are failing worse and worse all the time.
President Obama mentioned veterans twice during his State of the Union
speech last week. His administration has made veterans a priority. First
Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Biden, have
made veterans and their families a very high profile priority. The
president did not have to mention Osama bin Laden in the State of the Union
this year because Osama bin Laden is dead thanks to the Navy SEALs.
The man who killed Osama bin Laden has some ideas about what the
government can do now to help men and women like him as they are coming
home. He told members of Congress who met with him in secret, they had to
meet in secret, that he can help with a plan to make things better. Let`s
hope he has an audience.
Joining us now is Aaron Glantz. Aaron is reporter with the Center for
Investigative Reporting, the news organization that co-reported the story
with “Esquire” about the SEAL who killed bin Laden. Mr. Glantz has spent
seven years covering the war in Iraq and what awaits Iraq and Afghanistan
veterans when they get home. He`s the author of the war comes home,
Washington`s battle against America`s veterans.
Aaron Glantz, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
AARON GLANTZ, CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: My pleasure.
MADDOW: What do we know about the meeting between this Navy SEAL and
members of Congress on the day of the State of the Union last week?
Obviously, his identity has to be shrouded for safety reasons. But do we
know if he had a receptive audience when he met with these members of
GLANTZ: Well, what members of Congress and their staff told us at the
Center for Investigative Reporting is they`re very moved. Here is the guy
who killed the most wanted man in our modern history, and he came to them
and he apparently didn`t talk very much about himself. He talked about the
other people in his unit and the 820,000 other veterans that like him are
waiting on their disability claim. And a lot of them are in a lot worse
strait than he is.
And so, he spoke about that. He spoke about the difficulties of
finding a job after you leave, you know, Special Operations where all your
work is classified. You can`t exactly sit down at a job interview and say
hey, I just killed Osama bin Laden, give me a job. It`s all classified.
All this is very, very moving, I understand, and as you mentioned, he
met with senior members of Congress from both parties, the chair of the
House – the chair of the Veterans Senate Affairs Committee and other
MADDOW: Is there anything we know that might be a concrete change
that could come out of these discussions? Obviously, he is a guy who
speaks from a very specific perspective, and he will have the ear of
anybody who he can arrange to speak with because of what he has done and
who he has been associated with.
I think a lot of, particularly sort of tier 1 operator veterans feel
that way, that they have political capital. The nation is very grateful
and very respectful what they have done. There something specific that he
wants changed or that they want changed that might make a difference in the
kind of problems they identified?
GLANTZ: Well, I think the problem is that the members of Congress
that the shooter was speaking to are also at their wit`s end with this.
You know they have appropriated more money to the V.A. They have heard the
president of the United States say the right things about veterans, and yet
at the same time, the problems that are facing these Iraq and Afghanistan
veterans when they come home are getting worse and worse and worse, to the
point that even if you kill Osama bin Laden, you`re stuck in the same
And, you know, he has literally gotten letters from the V.A. since he
filed his disability claim in the fall that say basically, don`t call us,
we`ll call you. Just hold it.
So, they put more money towards this problem. The V.A. says they`re
going to computerize claims. But we at the Center for Investigative
Reporting found that after four years and half a billion dollars, the V.A.
has only processed 75 claims electronically.
And so, if you`re a member of congress, you want to solve this
problem, you can`t actually force the V.A. What can you do? You can hold
hearings. You can pass laws. But it`s really up to these administrators
to get on the ball.
MADDOW: And this is something that I can`t believe hasn`t become more
– the fact that we went through an election year where we fought about the
basic functions of government, supposedly, we had this basic debate I can`t
believe this didn`t become more of a partisan issue. I don`t want things
to become partisan for that purpose. But we`ve got to fight over this or
something, that this is going to get any better in this country.
The political will is there. It`s just not working.
Aaron Glantz, reporter with the Center for Investigative Reporting –
thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate it. And I`ve been
following your work for a long time. Thanks.
GLANTZ: Thank you.
MADDOW: Aaron`s book is called “The War Comes Home: Washington`s
Battle Against America`s Veterans.” We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We are one week away from the first national election since
the presidential race, at least the first federal election since the
presidential race. And we have news to report about that race. It`s for
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.`s old seat in Illinois, which he resigned.
It`s a heavily Democratic district, whoever wins the Democratic primary a
week from tonight is widely expected to win the seat.
That`s why at the outset, 17 different Democrats said they would like
a chance at this one, 17.
All over the weekend, that crowd of primary field got less crowded in
a significant way when Illinois State Senator Toi Hutchinson, one of the
front-runners, dropped out of the race.
Now, the important context here is this: New York City Mayor Mike
Bloomberg`s super PAC has spent $2 million and counting on pro-gun reform
ads in this district. On Friday, the PAC launched this ad, calling out Toi
Hutchinson by name for having an “A” rating with the NRA. The other front
runner under pressure from the Bloomberg for the same reasons is former
Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who also got an “A” rating from the NRA.
Debbie Halvorson responded to the Bloomberg ads by including gun
safety as an issue for her campaign. You can see there, it is the second
thing on her issues page, gun control and gun safety. Debbie Halvorson
also posted this open letter about her position on guns after Mike
Bloomberg began saturating her district with ads against her.
But lest there be any doubt about the contrast now in this primary,
this is the campaign for the candidate the Bloomberg super PAC endorsed
last week. This is who the PAC endorsed against the two candidates who had
the NRA “A” ratings.
The Bloomberg endorsed former State Representative Robin Kelly. And,
look, look at her Web site, Robin Kelly`s campaign is centrally, almost
totally now about her commitment to leading on gun safety. Gun policy is
the central point of this race at this point, which is, after all, our
first federal race since the shootings at Sandy Hook. There has not been
much polling yet. The race is a week from today. But based on what we see
so far, the contest looks like Robin Kelly running on gun reform, almost
single-minded focus on gun reform against the remaining front runner who
has the A rating from the NRA who now says she wants to talk about gun
One week to go, we`ll keep the election music close at hand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: As always, I rely on Gail`s
love and support and that of our two lovely daughters. So I want to thank
Ayla and Arianna for their help, as well. And just in case anybody who is
watching throughout the country, yes, they`re both available.
BROWN: No, no, no. No – only kidding, only kidding. Only kidding,
only kidding. Arianna definitely is not available, but Ayla is.
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Stop.
BROWN: This is Arianna. And this is Ayla.
BROWN: Well, I – I can see I`m going to get in trouble when I get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some activity today in the race for John Kerry`s recently
vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts. A new poll just out from PPP shows
Congressman Ed Markey beating Stephen Lynch for the Democratic nomination
for that special election. The primaries will be held in April. The
special election will be held in June.
“Politico” is reporting that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is
going to be hosting a fundraiser for Congressman Ed Markey for that sit
next month. Republicans are trying to use that against Ed Markey. They`re
calling for him to withdraw from the fundraiser, stay tuned for how that
On the Republican side, though, the biggest story continues to be the
one that got away, the Republican who decided not to run. Perhaps the
earliest indication that recently ousted Senator Scott Brown was not going
to run in that special election to try to return to the Senate was a series
of tweets he posted after midnight one weekend in January. Ungrammatical
or misspelled and pugnacious little tweets, including this instant classic
which linguistic scholars believe is pronounced (INAUDIBLE).
And he decided there after to not run for senate again, the tweets
probably would have been just the last thing to have happened in the public
eye concerning former Senator Scott Brown, right? The problem is he
believes he may run for something else. And in the local interview in
which Scott Brown said he would run for governor of Massachusetts, he also
had to talk about (INAUDIBLE)?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: How about that tweeting thing?
BROWN: Anybody ever hear of a pocket tweet, a dial? I mean, it was
pretty simple. I have an iPhone 5, and if anybody has an iPhone 5, OK, the
keys are small. So very, very sensitive.
Ayla was teaching me how to obviously get on Facebook and twitter and
there were areas I didn`t really understand. After her concert, we were
here in the living room and responded to a couple of people. And then put
it in my pocket, the next thing I wake up –
REPORTER: Becomes a news story, Scott.
BROWN: Trended worldwide.
REPORTER: So you`re saying it was just a mistake?
BROWN: Well, what would it be? What am I randomly pressing numbers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What else would it be? So simple, I have a pocket, a phone,
you do the math. It cannot be that was in any way, you know, not with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: First of all, I rarely drink. The last time I was ever drunk
was my bachelor party, that was what, 28 years ago, or 27 years ago. So I
guess no one has ever pocket-dialed or tweeted before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, Senator Brown, people have pocket dialled and tweeted
before. But your thing does not look like a pocket dial.
It looks specially like a really badly misspelled of the word whatever
which you were in the middle of tweeting to people over and over and over
again, after midnight, on a weekend, apparently on purpose, both before and
after the alleged pocket dial.
This is what you may expect a pocket-dialled tweet to look like. This
happened to Congressman Keith Ellison a year ago. Now, we don`t know what
type of phone he had, but he was apparently sitting on the R and F keys
which are right next to each other. He was not using words using keys that
are spread out all over the keyboard.
But we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW were not the only ones who are
suspicious of Scott Brown`s butt dial defense. The folks at “New York”
magazine`s daily intelligence blog caught with the inventor of the Twitter
iPhone app that he found it unlikely that (INAUDIBLE) was a pocket tweet.
He even went so far as to try personally to recreate a Scott Brown
(INAUDIBLE) level pocket tweet himself with his own phone in his own pocket
with the screen on, mashing the keyboard. Here is what he got.
M, quote, “only one character was inputted. And I was vigorously
matching it in my pants for a while for science.”
It is kind of hard to believe that (INAUDIBLE) was a butt dial. But
one thing is certain, when presented with an opportunity to apparently
embarrass one or both of his daughters, Scott Brown will take that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Arianna definitely is not available, but Ayla is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop.
BROWN: Ayla was teaching me how to obviously get on Facebook and
Twitter, and there were areas I didn`t really understand. After her
concert, we were here in the living room. And responded to a couple of
people. And then put it in my pocket. The next thing I wake up, I said to
REPORTER: It becomes a news story, Scott.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, drunk tweet, butt tweet, pocket tweet, whatever,
nobody is really going to hold that against you. But take some
responsibility, man, blaming the daughter, really? Whatever, like
whatever. That does it for us, we`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a good night.
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