The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/01/13
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: That`s “THE ED SHOW.” I`m Ed
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Happy Friday.
I could listen to George Takei read the phone book. But hearing him
quote Spock, I`m kind of dying. That was amazing.
SCHULTZ: Have a great weekend, a great show.
MADDOW: You too, man. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
And on the occasion of yet another truly freakin` wintry weekend, when
it is way too cold to fish, and I do not know how to ice fish, let us bask
for a moment in our collective love for the Weather Channel. Now, in
telling you that I love the Weather Channel, I have to disclose that
apparently we`re owned by the same parent company, which has no
consequences for me at all.
But honestly, I would tell you that I love them even if they were
owned by Satan. I love them. I`m thrilled to have any connection to the
Weather Channel, even if it`s immaterial to my life.
Last fall, the Weather Channel took it upon themselves to start naming
storms in winter. You know that hurricanes have long been given names by
weather forecasters. But the Weather Channel wanted to expand that good
And so, although it caused quite a stir in the meteorological
community, the Weather Channel is now naming winter storms as well as
hurricanes, which is how we got a winter storm with a cartoon fish name
here in the Northeast last month, taunting me over not being able to fish
in this weather.
The folks at the Weather Channel kind of have a point with this,
right? I mean, if we`re going to name hurricanes, why not name big storms
all yearlong? First of all, naming things is fun. But it also has a
function. It makes them more easily definable as distinct entities.
And that can be important when you`re talking about a series of things
that in memory can sort of all blend together, unless you have a way to
remember their distinct characteristics.
It analogizes well to what we do when we cover politics. Here in
cable news land, our seasons, of course, are not demarcated by the
calendar, by the rotation and orbit of the earth. Our seasons are
demarcated by the endings and begins of bipartisan control over certain
institutions in Washington.
So our current political storm system as I think of it started in
January 2011 when Republicans were sworn in to take over the House of
Representatives after a particularly good midterm election showing. In
this season that started January 2011, there have since been a whole series
of political storms, crises, calamities. It would be easier to keep them
in perspective if we had not just thought of them as a series of things
that all sort of seem the same in retrospect.
But if they were all individual remember-able things, maybe if we had
been naming those things the way that forecasters name storms and the way
the Weather Channel now names storms in every other season too, it would be
easier to remember exactly what happened.
The first crisis of this political season came in April after the
Republicans were sworn in January. That storm came in the form of a
threatened government shutdown. Everybody called it a government shutdown
crisis, which is what it was, a shutdown just barely averted by last-minute
But so as to not confuse that particular government shutdown crisis
with every other government shutdown crisis before and since, what if we
just named it like the first storm of the season. What if we called it
Aaron. It starts with A.
Then the next crisis in the season of Republicans controlling the
House came about three months later in July. That was a debt ceiling
standoff. We will call you Bilbo. You name storms alphabetically, right?
So, you need a B.
A couple of months after the debt ceiling standoff, Bilbo, we had the
other government shutdown fight, not to be confused with the earlier one
which we named Aaron. This was the third storm of the season. So, we will
name it Carlito, which starts with C.
Then we got a break from political crises for a while we had the
presidential election. But right after the presidential election was over,
we got right back into the storms with the fiscal cliff crisis.
And everybody struggled so mightily with the cliff as a metaphor. It
would have been much easier if we just named it. It starts with d at this
point, right? So how about Deidre?
It has been a very political storm season already. Already, we`ve
Aaron, Bilbo, Carlito and Deidre – four named storms have come and gone.
And now, just three months after the last one, we are sitting in the
middle of the sequester thing, which I declare henceforth shall no longer
be called the sequester. Let us call it Earl. We need a name that starts
with E, and Earl is remember-able.
Seriously, half the fact that nobody cares is that nobody can remember
the word sequester. And half the people who cannot remember sequester
cannot spell it and the other half cannot define it. The sequester crisis?
No wonder nobody cares. Henceforth, we shall call it political storm Earl,
the fifth storm of the season.
Earl, in fact, is expected to be a damaging storm. Economically, Earl
is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, jobs in every state in
the nation. So far, the Republican position on Earl is that it is going to
And also, woo! Let`s do it, bring on Earl.
Look at this press release from the Republicans` reelection arm in the
House, the NRCC. You see that they refer to Earl as a storm that will,
quote, cut devastating segments of our economy. It is a devastating
sequester if you ask the Republican Party, if you ask the NRCC.
At the same time, though, they are denouncing the potential damage as
devastating, also, quote, “House Republicans could not be more pleased with
their leader right now. Republican aides say privately that John Boehner
sees no need to negotiate. Republicans are in a good place, they argue,
because they want spending cut, and those cuts are happening.”
Congressman Mick Mulvaney of North Carolina saying, quote, “I think
it`s working to our favor.”
Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana calling those erstwhile
devastating cut, quote, “a big victory.”
That`s what`s happening right now. That`s Earl, the sequester storm.
It`s major blind across the board cuts that start taking effect now, that
were purposely designed to be a bad idea for the country so we would be so
alarmed by their onset that we would do anything to avert it. We stopped
And so, now, these things designed purposely to be a bad idea, to be
awful for the country are now happening.
The Congressional Budget Office says it will result in three-quarters
of a million jobs lost this year. Republicans say it will be devastating
to the country and also that it`s working to their favor. It`s a big, big
Between those two things they have naturally decided they would like
more and have therefore moved on to planning the next two storms. So, if
this has not been enough, they have already got two more storms brewing
offshore. Another potential government shutdown slated for later this
month. We will need an F name for that one.
So in honor of Kevin Spacey, we will call that one Francis.
And then Republicans are psyched for another debt ceiling crisis that
is scheduled to hit around May. We`ll need a G name that one. Well will
go with Gertrude.
Even as they acknowledge that this current storm that we`re in right
now is, in their words, devastating, Republicans are delighting in the
storms that they are planning for coming weeks and months.
Ruth Marcus writing for the “Washington Post” this week, “To listen to
Congressman Paul Ryan is to understand that the country should brace for a
months-long slog from sequester to continuing resolution to yes, another
debt showdown some time this summer. Really, I ask? The debt ceiling
again? I thought the Republicans were determined to avoid replaying that
losing hand. `Not this time,` Paul Ryan said, before the words were even
out of my mouth.”
Paul Ryan already gleefully planning for the next debt ceiling
standoff, the next storm, storm F and storm G, Francis and Gertrude.
What does it mean for us as a country that this is our weather pattern
now? That this is how it goes now? This is what governing is like now.
What does it cost us? And is this going to be the defining feature of the
second term of the Obama presidency?
Joining us now is a man who has spent a significant portion of his
career covering real storms. He once explored the idea of lashing himself
to a tree to cover one Texas hurricane early in his career.
He has also weathered a lot of proverbial political storms in
Washington over his long storied career on network news.
Dan Rather, do those pictures make you feel bad?
MADDOW: I think they`re great.
Dan Rather is now anchor and managing editor of Dan Rather reports on
Thank you so much for being here, Dan.
DAN RATHER, AXS TV: Thank you for having me here.
MADDOW: It seems like the self-imposed economic crises that we faced
before were not flukes, that it`s the planned way of governing from here on
out. Has this happened before in modern American history?
RATHER: Not exactly this way. We have had government shutdowns
before, but I think this is historic in this sense. It`s going to be slow
to build, but it may last a long time. That – and the thing that strikes
me that is different about this one, frankly, neither side at this moment
seems to know whether to bark at the moon or to wind their watch, which is
to say they don`t seem to know what it is – how this will resolve itself.
The Republicans are sort of doing the equivalent of an end zone dance
right now. But it may be premature. But, you know, I keep thinking if
you`re a soldier in Afghanistan on some lonely post, moment to moment on
the razor`s edge of danger, and you hear or you see on your computer the
government is in a shutdown mode, the U.S. government is in shutdown mode,
what must they think? What must the Chinese think while they`re smiling,
if not indeed smirking, saying, this is supposed to be a better system than
Now, for the American public, what it does, mixing my metaphors here,
it forces the public to drink deeply again from the chalice of cynicism of
neither side really has the country`s best interest at heart. They had
their reelection chances and the fight of their party, but not the country.
What differentiates us from –
MADDOW: Well, let me stop you there. Do you think that – do you
think that is substantively true? I mean, what we saw is the Democrats
were able to pass their plan to avert the sequester in the sense that it
got 51 or 52 votes.
MADDOW: Republicans filibustered it. The president said I would like
to avert the sequester with this balance of tax cuts and spending cuts.
And the Republicans have said, unless we get everything that we want, we
are not going to do anything.
RATHER: Well, there is no doubt from any objective analysis, which is
very hard in the current partisan political environment, but any objective
analysis – this is something that the Republicans wanted.
RATHER: And they`re getting it.
It is not something that President Obama wanted. In fact, he
certainly doesn`t want it.
A great deal of what it`s about, and let`s see it for what it is, the
Republicans want to stymie the second Obama term. And they see this as a
plan one crisis after another, one chaotic period after another will freeze
him in place and in fact ruin his second term, which indeed it could do,
keeping in mind the affect on the economy. What`s missing for that
equation is what does it do to the country in the meantime?
MADDOW: Seven hundred and fifty thousand people are going to lose
their jobs according to the CBO based on what just happened. If that`s a
good start because maybe those people will all vote against who the
Democratic nominee –
RATHER: Well, here`s one solution that occurred to me if we`re
looking for a way out.
I give you an Oklahoma guarantee, which from my part of the world is a
rock solid guarantee, that if you said, OK, the sequester is now in effect.
That means that no member of Congress, no member of the Senate, indeed,
nobody at the White House is going to get paid, we`re going to throw all
these other people out of work. A lot of them are not going to get paid.
So, until that is settled, you`re not going to be paid, I give you an
Oklahoma guarantee it would be over the day after tomorrow.
MADDOW: One thing that I was thinking about when you mentioned China
there is I worry about not just national security, but all sorts of
calamity that can happen to our country in surprising ways and our ability
to be resilient in the face of real challenge.
MADDOW: Because we keep imposing these crises on ourselves. I mean,
talking about the soldier in Afghanistan looking back on this, why is the
government shutting down? Did something happen to make that happen? No.
The government just decided to shut itself down internally. There is no
externality that caused this.
While we are tying ourselves up in these knots on purpose and self-
imposing this harm on ourselves, self-imposing big economic harm on
ourselves if the CBO is to be believed, does it make us less able to deal
with any eventuality that comes up externally? If something bad happens
either in national security terms or some other way that is important to
the country, are we less able to deal with it because of this?
RATHER: I think so, at least marginal any. I think the answer is yes,
because, you know, we`ve put ourselves forward as the model for the world.
We have a republic based on the principles of freedom and democracy. We
know how to make it work.
Now, what we`re saying to the world, we can`t make the thing work. We
can`t make it work for us. So why should anybody else look to us for
I don`t want to overstate it, but I think the answer to your question
is yes. It diminishes our ability to influence events in the rest of the
world, and particularly when it`s something unforeseen or something down
Let`s remember, Iran is still out there trying to build a nuclear
weapon. North Korea is still belligerent. All these problems exist.
So something could explode at any moment. I do think it makes us a
little less powerful, a little less with an ability to influence others
because they look at us and say listen, you can`t even get your own house
in order. Don`t be telling what`s to do.
MADDOW: Dan Rather, anchor and managing editor of “Dan Rather
Reports”, which is Tuesdays at 8:00 on AXS TV, it is always such a pleasure
to have you here. Thank you very much.
RATHER: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. So, everybody today is very head up about the
face that I said something on “The Daily Show” last night which was
impolitic. I acknowledge that it was impolitic but I meant it. Supreme
Court Justice Antonin Scalia, I said last night on “The Daily Show” behaved
like an Internet troll during the oral arguments over the voting rights act
this week at the Supreme Court.
Do you want to know why I said that? Hold on.
MADDOW: All right. Let`s cue the Michigan tape. If you live in
Michigan and your town goes broke – hey, it happens, come on – the state
of Michigan has the option to come in and take over your town or your
school district, right? The state abolishes your local democracy. So it
doesn`t matter who you voted for – whoever you voted for, that gets
overruled. Instead they give you a single state-appointed overseer. The
new unelected boss can do whatever he or she wants, no matter what you
That overseer can fire the elected officials, stop paying them, sell
the town`s assets, eradicate the town, close the schools, whatever. On
their own terms, nobody else gets to say. Democracy is out. The emergency
manager gets full control, personally, full-stop.
A local Web site called Eclectablog has been cataloguing the way
Michigan Republicans do this uprooting of democracy in their state.
Eclectablog noticed that if you consider the racial makeup of Michigan and
the racial makeup of the towns that Michigan has taken over, little towns
like Allen Park and Benton Harbor and Ecorse and larger towns like Pontiac
and also Flint. If you then add in Detroit, which the state has long been
on the verge of taking over, what emerges from the stats is that Michigan
has been on the verge of eliminating local democracy, the meaningful right
to vote for your local officials, it has been on the verge of eliminating
that for almost half the black population of the state, something like 49
percent of Michigan African-Americans. That has been the warning from
Democratic activists in the state.
But it is not just a warning anymore, because now you can go ahead and
fill in Detroit on this chart. The state is taking over the largest city
in Michigan. Forty-nine percent of African-Americans in Michigan will no
longer have local democracy. Republican Governor Rick Snyder announced
today he will appoint an emergency manager will nearly unilateral control
over the city. Governor Snyder called this a sad day for Detroit. He said
he hoped Detroit and the state would work together on this.
One of the local papers in Detroit ran a helpful piece trying to
explain the implications of this for local Detroit residents.
Question, if an emergency financial manager is appointed, will Detroit
elections for mayor and city council still go forward?
Answer, yes, Detroiters will have a primary election in August and a
general election in November. What powers those elected officials will
have, though, will be up to the emergency manager. So have fun voting.
No, it does not really matter anymore who you vote for.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of people in Detroit today did not
react to this news with tons of excitement over having the state abolish
the local democracy. Some people welcomed the news, definitely. Others
The head of the local NAACP said the city does not need an emergency
manager. Quote, “We urge the state to be our partner. We do not call upon
the state to be our overseer.”
The news agency “Reuters” reported this today from a protest in
Detroit, quote, “It don`t take a genius to know what this is all about.
They want our money and our land, and no one cares about us. And we`re the
ones who stuck around, not the white folks.”
Members of the Detroit City Council today said they were likely to
appeal the governor`s decision. The Reverend David Bullock, who has been a
guest on our shows, with the Rainbow-Push Coalition, he called the
imposition of an emergency manager, quote, “the death of democracy in
Detroit.” Pastor Bullock continued, “It also means disaster for Detroit
with the track record of the emergency manager.”
The track record. What the reverend is referring to there is the
track record for putting an emergency manager in charge in Michigan,
because they have tried this before, right? They have done this in these
other places. Does it make you less excited to do this to the biggest city
in the state, to learn how well it has or has not worked the other places
it`s been tried?
Because on the one hand, Governor Snyder is saying, hey, Detroit is in
trouble, desperate times, desperate measures, we have to fix this. However
distasteful, we have to do this.
Implicit here is this assertion that if you take away local democracy,
if you take away people`s right to vote for people to represent them and
instead just put one person in charge, in complete personal control, that
may be distasteful given that we`re a Democratic country, but it will be
efficient. It will work.
With respect to the governor, history has not proved him very right in
his state. In the other places where this has been tried, what he is
proposing for Detroit has not worked. Now, there is one exception. The
village of Three Oaks had an excellent experience with an emergency
manager. Three Oaks is a place with 1,600 people, very little poverty, a
96 percent white population, its own poet laureate and an overall art scene
that is thriving enough to attract tourists.
The state took over this tiny teeny village of Three Oaks, 1,600
people in 2008 under the previous governor. The overseer balanced the
budget. The next year turned the government back over to the locals. It
was a short-run thing there, and it worked.
That`s the example of it working. That`s the one. It does not seem
to have worked out like that anywhere else.
The town of Hamtramck, which is tucked inside Detroit. They got taken
over in the year 2000. Hamtramck remained under state control until 2007.
By 2010, Hamtramck was asking for permission to declare bankruptcy. And by
2013, Hamtramck is still broke.
The city of Flint, Michigan, got put under emergency manager control
in `02. Got out in `04 and then failed again. Emergency management was
imposed in Flint again for a second time in 2011. The mayor is now asking
for the city to get its democracy back.
The emergency manager says actually, you`ll have to take that up with
The town of Ecorse got put under emergency management in `09. Ecorse
still has an emergency manager now.
The city of Pontiac got an emergency manager imposed that same year.
Pontiac still has one also.
Asked about an emergency manager trying to fix Detroit, the emergency
manager in Pontiac said, yes, quote, “Good luck.”
Also in `09, the Detroit public schools got an emergency manager, got
a state overseer. After a rough few years, people in the Detroit schools
are begging the federal government to please come and step in.
Benton Harbor, another largely African-American town in Michigan, very
poor, got imposed emergency management in 2010. They still haven`t gotten
their democracy back.
Last year a new emergency manager was imposed in the Muskegon Heights
School District. He handed the schools to a for-profit company which was
soon found to be hiring uncertified teachers, teachers who are not
certified to legally teach in the state.
Or how about Highland Park next to Hamtramck, inside Detroit.
Highland Park got taken over in 2001. They got their democracy back in
2009. Now the city`s former emergency manager is facing trial for
embezzling from Highland Park.
And Highland Park`s school district is under an emergency manager.
The town got out in 2009, and then the school district got put back under
The track record for emergency managers in Michigan kind of makes you
wonder what the view must be in Allen Park, right? The last town that the
state took over last year before Detroit.
That is the track record for emergency managers in Michigan. It did
work in that one cute little town, 1,600 people. So far, I don`t think you
can say it has worked anywhere else.
What are we doing with this emergency manager law in Michigan, and in
Detroit now specifically? What we`re doing is giving up on the idea that
we fix problems in America through a system of government that is called
And we`re giving it up for something that has no proven record of
being any better. So, you lose democracy. You don`t necessarily have any
hope of fixing anything. Why did you give up your deem democracy then?
Michigan continues plowing ahead with the most radical Republican
experiment in governing in the 21st century. Why this is not a bigger
national story still blows my mind.
MADDOW: The most dramatic event in the news this week happened where
you could only read it. It was the Supreme Court`s hearing on the
cornerstone of American civil rights law. Tonight you will not just have
to read it, you can hear it, which may make it easier for you to judge it.
That`s coming up.
MADDOW: It used to be that the president of the United States every
week would deliver a national radio address to the country. FDR was the
first president to start doing a weekly radio address, but it was a
tradition that stuck even well into the 2000s. If it was Saturday, right
on cue, there was President George W. Bush delivering his weekly radio
address – which is kind of weird and charming, right? Technologically we
had come a long ways since the radio by the time George W. Bush was still
But now it`s sort of belatedly, the weekly radio address has been
upgraded. Now, it`s the president`s weekly YouTube address. Progress.
Watching the federal government drag itself on to the Internet, first
slowly and then with enthusiasm and now with alacrity, it`s been fun to
watch that progress over the years.
For example, when the Obama administration passed the Recovery Act,
the stimulus back in `09, they simultaneously launched Recovery.gov, a Web
site where you can track all the recovery dollars with a click of a mouse,
instead of going down to the Treasury Department or wherever to pore
through the documents.
So there is often a lag. But government usually embraces the new
technology of the day, eventually, especially when it comes to
communicating information about how the government works.
The key word there, though, is usually there is one very big part of
our government, one coequal branch of our government, in fact, that has
stubbornly decided that it will fall behind in that area on purpose. What
you`re looking at here is the Supreme Court hearing this week on the voting
rights act. And this is actually all I can show you of it, drawings. I
mean, they`re great drawings, but drawings. That`s all we get. We get no
still photos. We get certainly no video. Only 18th century technology is
It was not until today, two days after the actual arguments that the
Supreme Court finally got around to posting the audio of those arguments
because this court doesn`t post audio until Fridays. Obviously, Friday is
But the Supreme Court`s aversion to 21st century technology actually
made things a little bit easier today. Because when the audio finally was
posted, everybody knew to skip right to the 51-minute mark so they could
hear conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making this rather
remarkable argument about why he thinks Congress voted almost unanimously,
and unanimously in the Senate, to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act six
years ago. This is why he thinks they voted to reauthorize this landmark
law that protects minority voting rights. Here is how he explains the
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: This last enactment, not
a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the
Now, I don`t think that`s attributable to the fact that it is so much
clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable – very likely
attributable to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial
entitlement. It`s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial
entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The thing I was wondering if it would be on the audio, if you
would be able to pick it up on the audio that they released that it turns
out that you can`t because it`s too tight from the microphones. It`s not
ambient enough. The things the mikes did not pick up was the audible gasp
than you could hear in the courtroom after Justice Scalia said the words
“racial entitlement”, “the perpetuation of racial entitlement,” after he
suggested that voting had become a racial entitlement in this country that
Congress can no longer make impartial decisions about.
Well, the Supreme Court heard arguments about this week was a
challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, specifically Section 5 of that
act, which require that certain states, mostly in the South, but not
entirely have, to get preclearance from the Justice Department before
they`re allowed to change their rules around voting. These are states that
earned special scrutiny when it comes to voting because of a history of
racial discrimination when it comes to voting in their jurisdictions.
Since the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, Congress has decided four
times now, and by very, very large margins each time, to reauthorize it, to
re-up it. They have determined there is enough of a threat to minority
voting rights in this country that this law should remain in place, and
that this particular remedy within this law should remain in place.
Congress studied this for months as recently as 2006.
Ten months of hearings, they gathered 15,000 pages of evidence. They
held more than 20 hearings in Congress to decide whether this was still a
problem and whether this was still an appropriate remedy to the problem.
And they decided that in their judgment, the Voting Rights Act is not
just a good law, but necessary one. All of the senators from all of the
covered states who voted on it voted unanimously that it should be kept.
And the argument presented against it this week by Justice Antonin
Scalia was essentially, eh, when they cast those votes, they didn`t really
mean those votes.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SCALIA: This is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress.
There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law
just about now. And even the Virginia senators, they have no interest in
voting against this. The state government is not their government, and
they`re going to lose – they`re going to lose votes if they do not re-
enact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful, the Voting
Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The name of it is wonderful. It`s disgusting.
Justice Scalia, as you can probably gather is almost certainly a vote
against the Voting Rights Act. Apparently on the basis that he believes
it`s some racial entitlement that Congress is too scared to get rid of, so
we should take it of their hands.
You could also tell during the arguments this week that even though he
does not have the reputation of being quite as purposely inflammatory or
confrontational as Justice Scalia, the chief justice of the court, John
Roberts, is just if not more hostile to the Voting Rights Act. A good
chunk of his career in government before joining the court was aimed at
gutting the Voting Rights Act, when he was a lawyer in the Reagan
So, in terms of what`s going to happen here, in terms the counting –
in terms of counting up the votes on the court, if you count Justices
Roberts and Scalia and Justices Thomas and Alito, who almost always vote
with them, if you count them as pretty certain votes against the Voting
Rights Act, and you count Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor as
votes for it, and again, this is just speculation, this isn`t certain. But
let`s say we start with that – then, as usual, you`ve got one man in the
middle, you`ve got the swing vote on the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy,
who of course everybody is watching.
If all goes as expected, it will be pretty much one guy deciding the
fate of this cornerstone provision of civil rights in America. The
cornerstone of American civil rights that has protected voting rights in
this country for more than a generation, that has protected those rights in
a particular way, to be especially attentive in areas of this country that
have had the worse abuses and that are seen as being the most vulnerable.
If the court`s decision is going to be that close, if it`s just going
to come down to one guy, does outside pressure matter? A lot of people
think a lot is hanging on this decision. In terms of the way people
express themselves about that, does it sway the court in one direction or
the other? Because there is outside pressure on this issue.
I mean, this was the scene outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday as
the Voting Rights Act was being heard inside. Demonstrations by groups,
including the NAACP, demonstrations by residents of the county in Alabama
that is at the center of this particular fight, folks who are relying on
that lay to keep their voting rights from being infringed on.
This Sunday a different kind of pressure. Vice President Joe Biden
will travel to Alabama, to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the civil rights
march that took place in that city in 1965 that led to us getting the
Voting Rights Act in the first place.
This law is something that came about because of public
demonstrations. I mean, the Edmund Pettus Bridge and John Lewis getting
his head bashed in happened on a Sunday. The following Monday, eight days
later, it was LBJ addressing Congress, a joint session of Congress in a
nationally televised speech demanding this law.
The Voting Rights Act happened because of demonstrations. It happened
because of Selma in 1965. Can public demonstration now have the effect of
helping to save it?
Joining us now from Selma, Alabama for the interview tonight is
Raymond P. Haygood. He`s director the NAACP Legal Defense and Education
Fund, and member of the Voting Rights Act Legislation Team.
Mr. Haygood, thank you so much for your time tonight.
RYAN P. HAYGOOD, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND: Rachel,
thanks for having me.
MADDOW: In terms of looking at the history of how we got here, do you
think it is fair the say that public pressure, a social movement, political
activism is a big part of the immediate reason that we got the Voting
Rights Act in the first place so, it`s appropriate to question whether it
might still be effective?
HAYGOOD: Absolutely, Rachel. I was listening to your introduction
struck by the reality. As I talk to you tonight, I`m less than 100 feet
from the Edmund Pettus Bridge where 48 years ago, courageous women, men,
and children marched over the Edmund Pettus Bridge to dramatize to the
nation, indeed to the world their desire to be treated as equal citizens
under the law and to have full access to the ballot.
Now, you know and your viewers know that when they crossed over the
bridge that connects Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, they were met by
Alabama state troopers who both spat on them, abused them, demeaned them,
all because they wanted to dramatize to the world their as Americans to
access the ballot box.
The Supreme Court is absolutely mindful of where the American people
are on the issue of voting rights. But, Rachel, they`re also mindful of
where they are on their own precedent. The Supreme Court has four times
over four decades upheld the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act
against constitutional challenges. Its own precedent, Rachel, suggests
that the Supreme Court should do that again this time.
MADDOW: Looking at the – I`m glad that you brought that up, because
looking at the ways that this has been challenged in the past, it`s
obviously been challenged in the political arena. There have been long
debates about this in Congress. They have always been resolved by
overwhelming votes, increasingly overwhelming votes in favor of keeping the
There has also been challenges up to and including the Supreme Court
fault approximately times. It has always been upheld.
What has changed that it seems to threatened now? Is there new
evidence in fact to suggest that the law is encroaching unconstitutionally
on state sovereignty? Is there evidence that is compelling that suggest
that this problem, this isn`t there to be addressed anymore? What`s
HAYGOOD: So, Rachel, the opposite is actually true. In 2006, when
Congress looked to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, as you mentioned in
your introduction, they did their homework. They held 21 hearings over 10
months, hearing from 90 witnesses both for and against reauthorizing the
Voting Rights Act, and created the 15,000-page record which outlined in
great detail, and the last reauthorization period more than one thousand
proposed discriminatory changes were blocked by Section 5 of the Voting
The reality is that the theme of the Voting Rights Act is that, yes,
there has been tremendous progress in our country since 1965, since brave
Americans 100 yards from here put themselves in harm`s way to get the full
access to the ballot box. But there is also another truth about Section 5,
and that is there is nothing inconsistent about recognizing tremendous
progress and yet demanding much more to go.
And the reality is that here in Alabama, in Selma, Alabama, the 1990s,
Section 5 was required to block five discriminatory voting measures in the
1990s alone. Alabama is the epitome of a state that should be covered by
Section 5. And Shelby County, Alabama, in particular, which is the place
where which the challenge originates, as Justice Sotomayor at oral argument
suggested is the personification of a jurisdiction that is rightfully
covered by the Voting Rights Act.
MADDOW: Ryan P. Haygood, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, thank you for helping us understand and respond to. This
I really appreciate your time tonight.
HAYGOOD: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
HAYGOOD: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: By the time we have a director of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, the ATF, that person`s range of
problems may also include printers. Hold on. That`s coming.
MADDOW: Here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, one of our weaknesses is that
we enjoy our props too much. The trick for us is coming up with ways to
explain something better with props that we can just scrounge up and that
cost just about nothing so we don`t blow our props budget. We start off
with an enormous props budget, but we blow it anyway because we get too
So we end up, you know, trying to jerry-rig things now for cheap.
Like, for example, when I wanted to explain is that one-time presidential
candidate Herman Cain was secretly an art project, we ended up cobbling
together that thesis with canvas and black paint and two wooden dowels.
When we found out that there were no cameras in the courtroom during
former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich`s trial, we acted out part of the
trial. We had transcripts, but it turns out that wigs were expensive. So
we instead just went with giant name tags and all of our own hair.
Sometimes our projects work. Other times, our cardboard bar graph
refuses to stick to the wall. Whether or not our DIY adventures have had
their intended effect, it`s fair to say that they have been relatively
benign. There has never been anything scary about what we have been able
to do with props, even as it`s been occasionally painfully stupid. That
said, set down your craft paper and your glue guns and pay close mind,
because I have seen the future of DIY.
It turns out the future of DIY, stuff you can make at home, is a
little alarming. It`s potentially lethal and designed to be so. Deadly
arts and crafts you can make yourself at home that won`t bust the budget,
MADDOW: OK. It`s 1985, and you have a phone call, you specifically
have a cell phone call. Do you want to answer it? Have you been working
out? How is your bicep strength?
Early cell phones were ginormous. They were so big, they required
their very own carrying kit like a little suitcase.
But at the time they seemed awesome, right? The very idea of taking
your own phone with you out in the world was so amazing, that who cares if
you needed to have a car battery and put it in a suitcase to do it.
Even though the early cell phones were so clunky and so expensive, the
idea evolved quickly from the suitcase nuke back in 1995, cell phones just
got smaller and smaller until they finally had to start growing again in
order to factor in how much computing and audio visual work we do on them.
So it has taken a long time but we have made the leap. And who knows what
they will do in the future?
But the distance this one device this has traveled in the last 30
years has not just changed that device, it has changed the way we lived.
We`re at a point right now where it feels like we maybe at a start of
another period of existential change driven by technology, where the
technology now is clunky and awkward, but if you can imagine your way
around that clunkiness and awkwardness, you can see that the idea is
And if the tech leaps forward on this device, the way that cell phone
tech leapt forward, then these guys may change the way we live, too. This
is 3D printing, I`m not sure if we will call 3D printing forever. It`s
kind of an awkward term. But that`s what they call it now.
The basic concept is, just as a printer now, it uses ink and light to
create a two dimensional object on paper, these computer-driven machines
can use plastics and resins, instead of inks to create dimensional objects,
instead of just pictures. With 3D printer, anybody can become a small
scale manufacturer of anything.
The set of instructions or specifications that map out the shape of
the object that you`re going to create using your printer, that comes in
the form of a computer file. You plug in the file and leave in the 3D
printer to do its work, then presto, you`ve got your object that you
program it to make for you.
Now, there are limitations as to the materials that your 3D printer
can make your thing out of. But you can manufacture something yourself.
These printers are still pretty slow and clumsy and expensive, usually in
the thousand dollars or several thousand dollar range. But they have gone
from being weird and futuristic sounding devices that can only create very
basic simple objects to already creating very real, very advanced objects,
like say a car – a 3D printed car, or how about a 3D prosthetic limb? Or
how about a 3D printed gun?
The part of this gun printed using the 3D printer was the weird color
there, the part called the lower receiver, the green part, see? The lower
receiver in laymen`s terms is the gut of the gun. It`s like the engine of
the gun. And for legal purpose, it`s the part of the gun that`s registered
You can traffic all the other parts of the gun, like the muzzle and
all that stuff, as if they were just any other piece of metal. But that
lower receiver, that is the legally crucial component. That`s the part
with the serial number, that is the heart of the gun.
And shortly after Newtown, we reported on this show on an initiative
to use 3D printing to make lower receivers for assault-style rifles, at
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People have started to make lower receivers for AK-47 style
weapons at home using a file that you can download on the Internet. You
can actually download it, right here. I have one on my computer which
makes me wonder about the next time I have one of those things where NBC
comes and checks my computer.
This is what happened when the folks who printed that lower receiver
fitted other parts of a gun that are not regulated the way a lower receiver
is, fitted other parts of a gun onto that piece that they printed with a 3D
This is the video they released of themselves firing bullets out of
it. And as you can see, the 3D printed gun failed and busted apart after
it fired about six rounds, which makes it – yes, a gun, but the technical
term for what kind of gun it is, is that it is a crappy gun because it blew
apart after six rounds.
But this kind of thing probably wouldn`t stay a crappy gun for long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Probably won`t stay a crappy gun for long. That`s what I
said the day we broadcast that on December 17th, which was three days after
This week, the folks who 3D-printed that lower receiver, the one that
failed after six rounds, the one I called the crappy gun, this week, they
unveiled this one. Look at it, not failing. According to them, this new
lower receiver which stood more than 660 rounds of high velocity bullets,
they`re using a drum magazine for the bullets here, that`s the round thing
you can see on the base of the gun, that holds dozens of bullets.
They only stopped firing with what they said was their 3D-printed
homemade lower receiver, because they ran out of ammunition. But they
claim that this is not a store bought gun or even a metal gun. They
claimed this lower receiver is the one they – the 3D printed it out of
plastic or resin, and they say they believe it could have easily withstood
a thousand rounds if only they had enough bullets to keep testing it.
Obviously, the guys who made this are very proud of what they have
done, and they are trying to publicize what they are doing because they
want the attention. In particular, they want the political attention.
When they first posted the video that we just showed you there on
their blog, the caption under the video said they welcome Congress back
from vacation. They also say, we`ve got the printed AR lowers figured out.
They say wither gun control.
These guys are doing this for political reasons. They want guns to be
unregulated but unregulatable. Three hundred million guns are not enough,
more and more is the solution.
But whether you agree with them or not, whether you find what they`re
doing exciting or terrifying or both, you have to admit that this does
raise all sorts of interesting questions about law enforcement and gun laws
in this country. I mean, how do you go about regulating the gun if
everybody can make one themselves at home alone, one that can shoot a
There is no serial number on that lower receiver, and honestly, nobody
bought it or sold it. It`s homemade. How is law enforcement in this
country going to grapple with homemade high-powered weapons? What will
they do when these guys inevitably distribute the computer code for 3D
printing of fully automatic machine gun?
The government agency that will have to deal with the challenges of
this new technology as it comes into its own is, of course, the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the ATF. Last month when President Obama
unveiled his proposed gun reforms at the White House, one of the things he
asked Congress to do was confirm his nominee to run ATF, a man named Todd
Jones. Todd Jones has been acting as deputy director of the ATF for the
past couple of five years. President Obama asked Congress to stop
hindering law enforcement. That was his phrase, hindering, and he called
Congress out for allowing anybody to be confirmed as director of the ATF
for six years now.
This week, we got news that even that part of what President Obama
proposed on guns, even just asking to confirm a director of the law
enforcement agency that`s concerned with federal gun laws, yes, Republicans
in Congress may just oppose that too. They don`t want there to be someone
officially running that.
After six years of not having anyone run that part of law enforcement,
you know, why start now?
Republicans increasingly make the case that we should not have any
knew gun laws, even after Sandy Hook because we do not need new gun laws,
what we need is better enforcement of the laws we`ve got. We don`t do a
good job of enforcing the gun laws that we have. They have made that case
over and over again.
They made it again this week in the hearings on the new proposed
assault weapons bill. At the same time, those same Republicans are now
signaling a continued willingness – continued unwillingness, I should say,
to confirm anyone to run the agency that is responsible for enforcing the
gun laws that we do have. They have been stopping anyone from running that
agency since 2006. They still think that is the right thing to do for the
Maybe watching this 3D-printed lower receivers spewing out more than
600 rounds might afford some motivation on this issue.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again Monday.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD.”
Have a great weekend.
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.>