The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/25/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks you at home for joining us this hour.
On a day when the news about politics and the non-politics, just plain
news, was in pretty high gear.
On the eve of the Supreme Court hearing, those landmark cases on gay
marriage starting tomorrow, the Supreme Court also announced today that it
will take up new cases on the issue of affirmative action. They seem to be
courting all the controversy they can in this session of the court.
Also, a new and interesting dynamic emerging on the Democratic side of
Washington, D.C., politics, as we still do not know what the White House is
going to do about the question of the Keystone pipeline. But the outside
group formed from the president`s campaign operation, they have now given
notice that they will be against keystone and they will fight it.
Outside environmental groups, by the way, are also now saying they
have 50,000 people lined up, who have signed up and said they are willing
to be arrested, protesting against Keystone.
Also today, the Secretary of State John Kerry is on a surprise trip to
Afghanistan. He landed just hours after the U.S. handed over its prison,
its main prison in that country, to the Afghan government. That may not
sound like the biggest deal in the world, but that prison was one of the
most important sticking points to how and when we would finally end our war
there and extricate ourselves from that country, and so that is a really
important political development.
Also in the face of continuing, withering, bipartisan criticism of the
performance of the Veteran`s Administration, particularly toward Iraq and
Afghanistan veterans, we learned today that the chief of staff of that
agency is leaving, announcing today that he will retire.
We`ve also got new details ahead this hour in the murder of the
prison`s chiefs in Colorado. Also, the nation of Cyprus has accepted its
bailout, alleviating immediate fears of another European financial
meltdown, but presumably, we`ll just start fearing another one some time
Also, I have to tell you that Gonzaga last on Saturday night. So my
NCAA bracket is over and done with.
And – and – most amazingly, SMU announced today that the George W.
Bush Presidential Library is almost ready to open. They have set a date.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library will open to the general public for
the first time on the 10-year anniversary of the “mission accomplished”
speech, in which President Bush announced that the United States had
prevailed and major combat operations in Iraq were over. That was six
weeks into a war that would go on for 8 1/2 more years after that.
On the 10-year anniversary of “mission accomplished”, they`re going to
open the George W. Bush Presidential Library, which is actually perfect.
Honestly, if I had to pick a date, that would be the date I would
pick. What could be more fitting?
But we begin our show tonight with the historic civil rights cases
that are going to be argued starting tomorrow in the United States Supreme
Court. We now know what the tick-tock is going to be like in terms of how
this gets argued. It all starts at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, the oral arguments
in the case will last an hour.
Now, as always, there are no cameras in the courtroom. No still
cameras and no video cameras. And there will be no live audio feed from
the courtroom either.
But we do know that the court plans to release the audio recording of
the arguments not too long after they finish up tomorrow. So, by this time
tomorrow, right here on tomorrow night`s show, we probably will have the
audio tape of those arguments to play for you.
The pro-gay rights side of the case, the case that`s arguing for
striking down California`s ban on gay marriage, that will be argued in part
by this man, the nation`s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli. The Obama
administration has taken the pro-gay rights side of this case. And so, it
will be our nation`s solicitor general making part of that side`s oral
The other part of the pro-gay rights oral argument will be made by
this man, the former solicitor general from the last presidency, Ted Olson.
Theodore Olson is probably the most recognizable conservative legal figure
in the country who is not himself a Supreme Court justice. Ted Olson was
George W. Bush`s solicitor general. He played the role of Joe Biden to
prep Paul Ryan for the vice presidential debate this past presidential
Ted Olson very famously won the Bush versus Gore Supreme Court case on
behalf of the Bush side after the Florida recount.
It`s Ted Olson and Democratic lawyer David Boies who he beat are both
on the pro-gay rights side of this case tomorrow. But it will be Ted
Olson, the conservative one, who will actually stand up tomorrow in court
and make the case, along side the solicitor general.
It`s kind of the definition of heavy hitters, right, when it comes to
Supreme Court oral arguments? The solicitor general and the last solicitor
general from the other side of the aisle. Wow.
Now, that`s the pro-gay rights side. The anti-gay rights side, the
other side of the case tomorrow, will also be argued in tomorrow`s
arguments, the lawyer for the anti-gay side will get equal full-time and
the lawyer on that side of the case is a man named – Chuck Cooper. Chuck
Cooper. Chuck Cooper. To the Google, right?
On the first page of Google search results for Chuck Cooper, you will
not find what you are looking for. The first results is this very nice Web
site, I think we`ve got it – yes, for the Broadway actor named Chuck
He is very talented, very famous on Broadway. He is not the Chuck
Cooper making the anti-gay rights argument at the Supreme Court tomorrow.
The other first page results for Chuck Cooper will teach you about the
first African-American player to be ever drafted by the NBA. It`s an
amazing history, an amazing biography. There is a foundation in his name,
but he is not the Chuck Cooper making the anti-gay rights argument at the
Supreme Court tomorrow.
Flip over to the second page of Google search results, because you
still are not there yet. You will find Chuck Cooper, the nature
photographer from Tennessee. He is also not the Chuck Cooper making the
anti-gay rights argument at the Supreme Court tomorrow, nor is the Chuck
Cooper who is an insurance agent in Magee, Mississippi, nor is the Chuck
Cooper who is a realtor in Walnut Creek, California, nor is the Chuck
Cooper who is the wiring and cable manufacturer sales representative
In order to get anywhere near anything useful about this Chuck Cooper
who is making the anti-gay rights argument at the Supreme Court tomorrow,
you must call upon the Wikipedia disambiguation page, whereupon you will
finally be able to narrow it down to – oh, yes, finally, OK, that must be
him, Chuck Cooper, former Supreme Court clerk, now a lawyer, honestly, most
known for his bit part in the Iran Contra scandal.
He was the one who testified that Ronald Reagan`s CIA director, Ronald
Reagan`s national security adviser and a man named Oliver North had all
conspired to lie to Congress in the Iran Contra scandal. He also testified
that Oliver North had lied a bunch of other times and might lie under oath
when he was called the next time.
Mr. Cooper at the time was an assistant attorney general in the Reagan
Justice Department. And that, honestly, is sort of where he is indexed in
our modern American history books.
Nothing against Mr. Cooper here. He is a very accomplished lawyer
now. He`s an accomplished litigator, arguing before the Supreme Court is
no chopped liver.
But this imbalance is kind of a microcosm for what`s happening on this
issue right now in our country. The pro-gay rights side – I mean, for one
thing, they have essentially totally captured the Democratic Party. The
president, the vice president, the other most prominent Democrat in the
country who is not the president or vice president, by which, of course, I
mean Hillary Clinton, they are all on record now emphatically for full
equal rights for same-sex couples.
A lot of prominent Democrats had that position already. But all of
the action now on the Democratic side is among Democrats who were not yet
on board getting onboard. Today, two more centrist to conservative
Democratic senators came out in favor of same-sex marriage. Senator Claire
McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia.
I mean, there are some relatively prominent Democrats who are still
trying the dodge the issue. Hi, we can see you.
But, honestly, if you talk to anybody who`s taking these issues
seriously, it is now officially inconceivable that the Democratic Party
would, say, nominate a presidential candidate in 2016 who doesn`t believe
in equal rights for gay people. It is a settled matter in the Democratic
So, the pro-gay rights side has pretty much captured the Democratic
Party. It`s just a matter of sweeping up the last few and finding out if
anybody`s going to try to be the anti-gay maverick on this issue while
still staying in politics and still staying in the party. My bet is no.
Not even you, Mary Landrieu.
Also, on the pro gay rights side, along with almost the entire
Democratic Party, is a chunk of the Republican Party. I mean, the
Republican official`s brief for the Supreme Court ended up with 131 names
on it. Everybody from Paul Wolfowitz, my buddy, to Jon Huntsman, to Clint
Eastwood, to the Romney for president campaign manager, to the secretary of
the New Hampshire Young Republicans – more than 130 Republican officials
and former officials.
But even with that brief, and even if you go beyond just that brief to
consider pro-gay rights Republicans who didn`t sign on to that, but we
still know their position, even with all of that, it is still a stretch to
even say that there is a split in the Republican Party on this issue. I
mean, of the 232 Republicans in the House, precisely two are on record as
pro-equal rights for gay people, two out of 232. That is less than 1
percent of elected Republicans in the House.
In the Senate, there are 45 Republicans, precisely one of them is on
record as pro-equal rights for gay people. And that`s brand-new for him.
That`s Rob Portman who just came out with that position two weeks ago,
after saying that his son is gay.
So, one senator out of 45 and two representatives out of more than
200. That`s not a split in the party, that`s like a sliver of the party.
That`s maybe even a splinter of the party, among elected officials.
But as with other social issues in Republican politics right now,
Republicans are sort of getting to the point where they don`t want to
change their policy position on these matters, they just don`t want to be
known for what their policy position is on this matter. They just want
people to stop noticing it.
So even though the party platform for last year`s election and the
Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus, and the speaker of the House,
John Boehner, and the supposedly modern new Republicans like Marco Rubio,
are all on the record now as still now rigidly anti-gay rights and not
planning on changing, even as pretty much everybody active and high-level
Republican politics who is not named Rob Portman continues to stand firm
against the threat of gay people having equal citizenship rights. At the
same time, they mostly just don`t want to talk about it.
So, you have this sort of incoherent thing going on, on the Republican
side or at least the anti-gay rights side of this question. We`re at the
point where the face of crusading anti-gay rights activism in Republican
politics is an obscure lawyer from the Iran Contra scandal named Chuck
Cooper who`s not to be confused with the more well-known actor of the same
We define somebody to be the face of the de facto position of the
Republican Party, you`ve got to go to this guy, right? You`ve got to drag
out old Gary Bauer like FOX News Channel did yesterday. You`ve got to drag
out Gary Bauer to argue that people are not really in favor of marriage
equality, the polls are skewed.
Gary Bauer`s argument on “FOX News Sunday” was that people, Americans
broadly really do secretly hate gay people, but they`re lying to the
pollsters about it. The same way they told the pollsters they would vote
for Barack Obama and then on Election Day, they all showed their true
unskewed colors and voted for President Romney.
Really, Gary Bauer? Really, you`re the best they`ve got?
This is the de facto position of the Republican Party, but Republicans
don`t want to argue for it. So you get Gary Bauer, you get old Tony
Perkins there on CBS, making the same version of the Gary Bauer argument.
The polls are skewed!
You get Rick Santorum out there still, now running the issue like a
racket in a way that would make Newt Gingrich proud. Rick Santorum is now
sending out direct mail appeals, saying that if you send him $100, he will
urge the Supreme Court to rule against gay marriage, because, presumably,
Rick Santorum can`t do that urging without your $100.
He`s running it like a racket. But this is what it`s come to. It`s a
mess on the other side of this argument, from where David Boies and Ted
Olson and the solicitor general of the United States are, from which they
are going to be arguing tomorrow.
It`s the eve of the oral arguments. Nobody knows exactly what`s going
to happen tomorrow or what legal direction the justices are going to take
this in. And you can double that for the Defense of Marriage Act cases
that are going to be argued the following day. It would be nearly twice as
much time allotted for the arguments the following day as there are
We don`t know yet how all of this will be move legally. But the
politics surrounding this legal matter are increasingly coherent and
weighty and predictable on the left.
And on the right, they are increasingly incoherent and low-rent and
even occasionally pathetic.
Does that imbalance in the politics here, does the fact that the
spokesperson on the right on this issue is maybe Gary Bauer and the
spokesperson on the left of this issue is the leading legal likes of both
the Republican and Democratic Party – does that imbalance, politically,
affect expectations for how the court is going to hear and rule on this
case? And should it?
Joining us now is Kenji Yoshino. He`s the Chief Justice Earl Warren
professor of constitutional law at NYU Law School. He`ll be in the
courtroom tomorrow to hear the oral arguments in the Prop 8 case.
Professor Yoshino, thanks very much for being here tonight.
KENJI YOSHINO, NYU LAW SCHOOL: It`s great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, can you sum up for us, what is the basic
question the court is going to be deciding in the case tomorrow? And what
do you see is the range of ways they could rule?
YOSHINO: Right. There are two claims being made, constitutionally.
One is the freedom to marry claim, which is under the Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment.
The other is an equal protection claim, which says there has to be
equal treatment, regardless of what entitlement is on the table for same-
sex couples as for opposite-sex couples.
YOSHINO: And so, the range of options that we have with those claims
are, usually people frame it as zero to 50. It`s either Manichean, you
know, so, it`s either no states or all 50 states. But there are actually
three options in the middle. And I think that the court is most likely to
do one of those threes.
So, there are two ways to get to one state, a just California
solution, we can talk about either of those. And there`s an eight-state
solution that says, there are currently eight states, will be nine when
Colorado does civil unions on May 1st, but eight states that have
everything but marriage. And the argument there is, if you are giving all
the rights and benefits and burdens of marriage to individuals but you`re
withholding only the word “marriage”, that`s essentially a branding issue.
It`s a concern you`ll tarnish the brand if you let gay people into the
And that tarnishment claim is really is second class citizenship
claim. So, the court could flip those eight states or nine states, and
double the number of jurisdictions that have same-sex marriage.
MADDOW: And that would mean that the states where same-sex marriage
exists already would continue to have that, but it would not force other
states that don`t have those laws to respect them.
YOSHINO: Correct. So what it would say is you have all of the states
that have everything but marriage statutes being pushed over into marriage,
because the argument is, that`s irrational to give all the rights and
benefits and burdens of marriage, but to withhold only the word “marriage.”
YOSHINO: So, then, that would basically end civil unions, because I
think states would get very leery about going too far down that path, lest
they be pushed over the edge. But I think that civil unions have already
seen the – we`ve seen the dusk of civil unions already. I think gay
people want full equality and they`re not willing to sort of settle for
them, middle of the bus as opposed to the front of the bus.
MADDOW: Is it possible that the ruling on this case tomorrow could
hurt gay rights in the sense that it could roll back existing rights or
make it harder to achieve forward progress that`s already in motion?
YOSHINO: Well, it could, in a sense of saying, we could get something
like a Bowers versus Hardwick type case, which is to say that`s a 1996
claim that said there was no constitutional right to have privacy against
laws that criminalize sodomy. And it took 17 years to get rid of that
So, it could present a negative precedent, that says there`s no
constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and that could take a long time
to get rid of.
But even that kind of a decision would not preclude us going from
state to state and flipping states one by one, under either a state
constitutional provisions or through the legislature.
MADDOW: OK. So when – I know you`re planning on going to oral
arguments tomorrow. What do you expect to know after the oral arguments?
What are you watching for? What should we be looking for when they release
the tape, in terms of either tipping their hand about which way they`re
going to go, or what might be important in their ruling?
YOSHINO: Right. So, one important thing to look for is the off-ramp,
which is the big kind of standing issue, which is, are the right people
bringing this case? So one of the ways in which the Supreme Court could
kick this case, without having to reach the merits of the case, is to say,
this case may be meritorious or not, but the wrong parties appealed this.
It should have been either the governor of California or the California
attorney general, since they declined to appeal. The proponents of Prop 8
are the ones who were in court and they are the improper part party, so
we`re going to kick it and it goes all the way back down to the district
court and that would flip California and California only.
So, listen for that procedural issue.
Another issue is how the court wrestles with this issue of political
powerlessness that you laid out earlier, right? Because on the one hand,
you have 41 states that currently have restrictions on same-sex marriage,
that do not allow same-sex marriage.
On the other hand, you have polls like that ABC/”Post” poll that say
58 percent of Americans are for same-sex marriage now. So what do we do
Because the other side of this, the proponents of Prop 8, are going to
argue that gays are so politically powerful, they don`t need the special
judicial solicitude that is offered by the court under this heightened
scrutiny standard that plaintiffs are seeking. And the way to resolve
this, I think, Rachel, is to say, this is a paradox of political power in
the Supreme Court.
YOSHINO: Right? That you have to have an enormous amount of
political power before the court will deem you to be politically powerless,
so that the truly political powerless individuals in our society are not
going to be on anyone`s radar, including the Supreme Court. So unless we
had had this enormous gay rights movement over many, many decades, we would
never be at the court would even have the question teed up before as to
whether or not gays are politically powerless or not.
MADDOW: This is fascinating. This is going to be one of those cases.
I mean, followed by the DOMA cases, which are just as complicated, but also
as far reaching the following day when I have absolutely no idea what`s
going to happen.
The fact that Chief Justice John Robert`s lesbian cousin will be
sitting in the audience tomorrow, hearing oral arguments as well, it`s like
the personal mix in all the middle of it. This is going to be an amazing
one to watch.
Kenji, thank you so much for being here.
YOSHINO: It`s my pleasure.
MADDOW: Kenji Yoshino is a professional constitutional law at New
York University. He`s the professor of constitutional law whose job is
named for Chief Justice Earl Warren, which means he`s even a bigger deal
than you think he is.
All right. We`ve got lots more coming up tonight still, including
news of national significance in both Dakotas. And I swear I`m not making
that up and there are two separate stories.
Plus, what looks like basically an answer to a mystery that we covered
on the show last week involving the murder of a state official in Colorado.
We`ve got some answers there.
Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A big news update for you. NBC News has confirmed today that
yet another one is quitting.
Apparently, the United States Senate is not that nice a place to work
anymore, judging by the number of people who are fleeing from its ranks.
NBC News can now confirm that Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota is the
latest senator to announce that he will not run for re-election in 2014.
Tim Johnson is a three-term Democratic senator. He`s said to formally
announce the news tomorrow.
In terms of the political ramifications here, not only does this mean
that the red state of South Dakota will now have a Senate seat open for the
taking in 2014, it really does also raise the questions about the turnover
rate in the Senate right now, and whether that might have overall partisan
complications for who has control of that part of Congress.
Tim Johnson is the fifth Senate Democrat just in this cycle to
announce he`s not going to run for re-election next year. The others are
Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg, Carl Levin, and Jay Rockefeller. And that
means that if all these guys` states, instead of incumbent Democrats
running for reelection, these are going to be open seats, five of them.
And Republicans only need to net six seats in total in order to take
control of the Senate in 2014.
So that`s the big news with national implications out of South Dakota
tonight. Now, I get to tell you about the news with national implications
out of North Dakota tonight. And this is a surprising one. That`s coming
MADDOW: Behold the “Conceived in Rape” tour. This was the group
Personhood USA. This is how they tried to convince voters in Mississippi
to legally block any woman in Mississippi from having an abortion ever,
under any circumstances, even if she got pregnant because she was raped.
The “Conceived in Rape” tour was their argument for that abortion ban.
Their argument was that forcing rape victims to bear their rapist
child against their will was a benefit of the law. It`s not a bug, it`s a
feature. Look what this would do!
This was the argument they campaigned on. Shockingly, it did not
work. Mississippi was not psyched about this prospect. Mississippi voters
said no to that abortion ban by a double-digit margin.
Now, the Mississippi vote was not the first loss for Personhood USA.
They lost in Colorado as well in 2008, when voters said no to the same kind
of ban by nearly a three-to-one margin. They tried again in Colorado two
years later in 2010 and again they were defeated by a 40-point margin.
They could not get it done. They had never been able to get it done.
It turns out voters aren`t swayed by the “conceived in rape” idea. Turns
out voters do not want to ban all abortion and fertility treatments and
hormonal birth control. That is what the Personhood USA activists want,
but Americans broadly do not agree with that.
And so now, the Personhood USA folks have gotten more creative. Or at
least, they`ve gotten more focused. Their focus less now on convincing the
American people at large, since that`s not working. Instead, they are
focusing on convincing elected Republican state legislatures. And there
they are having some success.
A couple years ago in North Dakota, the personhood people were trying
to pass their a la Mississippi abortion ban there. They were trying to
pass through the legislature. And they found themselves blocked by a
Republican state senator.
He`s not a pro-choice Republican state senator. He is an anti-
abortion conservative Republican. But, he said it was dumb to pass a state
abortion ban when that`s clearly illegal. It`s unconstitutional. All it
is, is a guaranteed court case with all the accompanying expense, and a
guaranteed smackdown of North Dakota`s law and no real advance in the
So, he blocked the bill from going forward. He explained that what
was really going on there was, quote, “out of state extremists who have
been working unsuccessfully for years in many states to pass similar
legislation, want to challenge Roe versus Wade, and they want to put the
taxpayers of North Dakota on the hook for footing the bill.”
Those aforementioned out of state extremists were in fact doing
exactly that. And they responded to him blocking their bill by turfing him
out of office, by supporting his opponent when he got redistricted.
The personhood “Conceived in Rape” people took credit when that state
senator lost his seat. Quote, “North Dakota can serve as an example to
politicians across America. No matter one`s party affiliation, the
grassroots personhood movement has promised to expose any action that
stands in the way of legal protections for all children. Personhood
supporters have made good on that promise.”
At least that`s them pounding their chests, right? That was last
year`s primary. The guy who blocked the unconstitutional waste of money
abortion ban in the North Dakota Senate loses his seat. He`s gone.
Now, this year, the North Dakota legislature has passed, in quick
secession, a ban to bill abortion at six weeks, a bill to ban abortion at
20 weeks, a bill to close down the last abortion clinic in the state, a la,
Mississippi, same bill, same strategy. And once again, the old personhood
total ban plus say bye-bye to the pills, say bye-bye to fertility
treatment, the personhood thing will now go to the voters in North Dakota,
thanks to the legislature. It will go to the voters like it did in
Mississippi and in Colorado, where it lost so badly.
The other ones, the other bills that I mentioned, they are going to go
to the North Dakota governor, Jack Dalrymple.
These personhood guys were too extreme, by a long shot, for the voters
of Mississippi. But somehow they have the ear of the part of the
Republican Party that is now running North Dakota. The only question is
whether North Dakota`s Republican governor is going to let that stand.
Well, while the governor decides what he wants to do, whether he wants
the taxpayers to actually foot the bill for this stuff, the other side of
the argument has decided that they`re not going to be shy. These photos
that you`re looking at here are from North Dakota. In North Dakota today,
pro-choice rallies were held all over the state, to oppose the anti-
abortion landslide of legislation.
Yes, North Dakota. Rallies were held under the banner “stand up for
women, North Dakota.” Rallies in Fargo and Grand Forks and Minot and this
one, in the state capital of Bismarck, North Dakota, today, where the
“A.P.” estimates more than 300 people turned out in cold conditions to urge
the governor to veto these bills.
In a sign that the personhood folks are weirding out at least some in
the Republican Party in North Dakota, there were even some Republican
lawmakers today who were among the pro-choice protesters, asking the
governor to please put a stop to this nonsense.
One Republican state representative told “The Huffington Post,” quote,
“It`s to say, hey, this isn`t OK. We have stepped over the line. North
Dakota has not even passed a primary seat belt law, but we have the most
invasive attack on women`s health anywhere. We are spending an inordinate
amount of time on social or personal issues, but we haven`t done anything
on property tax relief, higher education funding, fixing the roads. There
are all kinds of other things we need to be doing besides this.”
Ah, but this is what you are doing. What North Dakota`s elected
Republicans are doing, at least a majority of them, so far.
You`ll have to see what the governor decides to do in this case, and
we promise to keep you posted on that.
But joining us tonight for the interview tonight, is Tammi Kromenaker.
Tammi, tell me how to say your last name.
TAMMI KROMENAKER, RED RIVER WOMENS` CLINIC DIRECTOR: Kromenaker.
MADDOW: Kromenaker, I said it like 30 times before bringing you on,
and that is blank as soon as I said.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women`s Clinic, the only
abortion clinic in North Dakota. Kromenaker, Kromenaker.
Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.
KROMENAKER: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll make a ringtone out of me saying that for you and you
can put it on your cell phone, if you like.
KROMENAKER: Oh, dream come true!
MADDOW: Also really scary in the middle of the night.
You have a lot to contend with this year. You have two different
abortion bans that passed the legislature. A third abortion ban set for a
statewide vote. The TRAP law which targets just your clinic with new
regulations designed to shut you down, I know you plan to fight most of
this stuff. Are you on optimistic at all? Do you think you`ll win on any
of these things?
KROMENAKER: You know, I really do have faith that the people of the
North Dakota on the statewide ballot measure will do like we have already
seen in Mississippi and other states, and like we saw in the Religious
Liberty Amendment that already happened in the June primary. I really
believe that North Dakotans will say, this is too much, this has gone too
I am an optimist and I couldn`t do this work in the state of North
Dakota if I didn`t have an optimistic nature, and I do believe, I`m hopeful
that the governor will follow both his constitutional oath and what a
fellow governor, anti-choice governor did in 1991 and veto these bills.
MADDOW: You operate the only clinic in the state. These bills by
definitions are all targeting you, and your place of business, and the
clinic you run. Do you feel like you`re running up against the full force
of your state`s government? Do you feel like you`ve got a big target on
KROMENAKER: Definitely. I think that the club of one clinic states
has unfortunately grown. It used to just be North Dakota, South Dakota,
and Mississippi and now, it includes Arkansas and Wyoming. And whenever
you`re the only state or when you`re the only clinic in a state, you have
that big target.
And people, like you said, Personhood USA, they view you as a big
target. They want to make some state the first abortion-free state.
Unfortunately, what they don`t realize is that even if they ban abortion,
it just bans safe abortion. Abortion will still happen.
And so, it`s frustrating when they do target us, because nobody`s ever
visited my clinic. No legislature has ever stepped foot inside my clinic
and looked around, checked us out, looked at how beautiful the inside of
the clinic is, talked to our patients. And so, that is frustrating to me,
when we`re such a target, but yet they talk about things as if they know
what`s going on in the clinic, but they`ve never visited it.
MADDOW: Now, you`re not new to this. You`ve been working in this
field in North Dakota for, I think, about 20 years.
KROMENAKER: Twenty years.
MADDOW: You`ve been there through lots of legislative sessions. Why
is this happening now? Why does this year seem different from your
perspective, in terms of the kinds anti-abortion legislation that you`re
dealing with and the different political dynamics?
KROMENAKER: Well, you sort of touched on it earlier, with Senator
Olson, who lost his seat in redistricting in the last session. Personhood
USA used him as an example. They said, look at what happens. When you
mess with you, we`ll mess with you.
So I think it emboldened some of those who are against us to say, you
know, if you mess with us, we`re going to do this. And then, also, we have
these big, huge budget surplus. We have billions in reserve. So nobody`s
afraid of spending North Dakota money.
And it`s just kind of the perfect storm, where they feel like this is
the right time, it`s – North Dakota`s the right place. And unfortunately,
they`re putting us on the map in this way, and it`s just, I think, not in
line with what regular North Dakotans want for our state.
MADDOW: Tammi, specifically on the personhood ban that`s now poised
to appear on the ballot next year, so because of the legislature`s action,
it`s going to go to the voters and then the voters will decide on it.
When our producers, specifically, Rebekah Dryden, visited your clinic
earlier this year, you talked to Rebecca about this. You predicted that a
personhood ban would pass the legislature in year. What made you so
confident that it was coming? Why did you see it?
KROMENAKER: I been around in the legislative session the last few
times and, you know, it usually takes bills a couple of times to go
forward, kind of fail, they figure out what works, what doesn`t work. And
they fit it in such a way that it`s palatable to many different
legislatures, on both sides of the Republican and Democratic House.
And we just knew that it was their big push. This is really where
they were going to go. And you can look at other states, like Mississippi,
Colorado, and South Dakota, you know. Those are all the states where they
feel like they`ve got a foothold and they really targeted some specific
senators and representatives this year and we just knew it was coming. And
so, we knew that fight was going to happen and we`re going to do the best
we can to defeat it.
MADDOW: You talked at the top of this interview about how the number
of states that have only one clinic is growing. That it used to be North
Dakota and South Dakota and Mississippi. Now, it`s the senate in Arkansas,
in Wyoming, larger number of states.
And as we have states with just one clinic, these outside groups that
want to abolish access to abortion, even if they can`t abolish the right on
paper, put a target on all of these states to try to pressure those
individual clinics out of business. That makes your status in North Dakota
not just a North Dakota story, but a story of national importance.
And people who see it that way, how do they – how do they make this a
national issue? I mean, the other side has made this a national issue.
But is support for you a national issue too? Can it be expressed in a way
that is helpful to you?
KROMENAKER: Absolutely. And I think ever since the North Dakota
legislature has started down this path, our clinic has gotten e-mails,
phone calls, letters from all over. We`ve gotten support from all over. I
think the rallies all across the state today have shown that we have
support in state and out of state.
And I think that when you are a big target like these states, where
there`s only one clinic, not only are you the target who are opposed to the
care that we offer, but we also have a lot of support from people who don`t
want to see a state fall. So we`re hearing from people all over the
country, and we have help from organizations like the Center for
Reproductive Rights, that might not step in in another state, where there`s
maybe 10, 12, 20 providers.
So when you are a target, you have both sides working for you. And –
or, you know, against you, and for you. But those who are for you,
sometimes you forget that those voices are out there. But in the last
couple of months, it`s just been overwhelming, the amount of support that
we`ve gotten at the clinic and it`s just been very heartening to us.
MADDOW: Seeing pro-choice rallies in four different sites
simultaneous in North Dakota today, on a cold day, it`s not the way that
people around the country think about the politics of this in your state.
So thanks for helping us understand it.
Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women`s Clinic in North
Dakota who`s name I will mispronounced ever again. Tammi, thank you so
much for being here.
KROMENAKER: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. It was day one in the city of Detroit today. And
at least some parts of Detroit are very, very mad about that. We`ve got
the story and the tape of that, coming up.
MADDOW: For many months now on this show, we have reported on the
advent of emergency financial management as a method of governance in the
great state of Michigan. If the state decides that your city or your town
or your school district is in big enough distress, why, then, you get an
appointee – a single person, not elected by anybody, but ordained by the
Republican governor of the state, Rick Snyder. And that ordained person
gets the power to do anything that person wants.
Your elected officials – sorry about that whole “one person, one
vote” thing. In Michigan, democracy is not the answer. Except that over
time, emergency financial managers have not proven that they are the answer
either. So why do we keep using them there?
Today was day one of the emergency financial manager takeover of the
biggest city in Michigan, and one of the biggest cities in the country.
Guess how it went? That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA CLEMENTS, WIDOW: We want everyone to hears Tom`s story to know
that he lived his life believing in redemption and the ability of the human
heart to be changed. He would want justice, certainly, but moreover, he
would want forgiveness. Our family prays for the family of the man who
took Tom`s life, for God`s mercy in their lives and for a way for them to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is Lisa Clements. She is the widow of Colorado prison`s
chief, Tom Clements, who was shot to death last week as he answered the
front door of their home in Monument, Colorado. Mrs. Clements today
speaking at a huge memorial service honoring her husband.
In his tribute to the man he brought to the state two years ago to run
Colorado prisons, the state`s governor, John Hickenlooper, who you see
here, said that Tom Clements believed, quote, “at the core of his person,
that anyone can be redeemed.”
In terms of the investigation into this murder, the immediate
contextual question was whether it was connected to Tom Clements` work in
the prisons. Could this have been random? Could this have been personal?
Or could this have been related to his work in Colorado`s prisons, his
work in the prisons in Missouri before he came to Colorado, could it have
been connected to overall political issues in the state of Colorado. The
killing happened just hours before Governor Hickenlooper signed into law
the state`s contentious but historic new gun reform legislation.
Tom Clements was a supporter of that legislation. And during the
legislative debate over the gun control bills in Colorado, criminal charges
were brought against anti-gun control activists who had threatened to kill
legislators and their family members, because the legislators supported the
In the wake of the Tom Clements murder last week, though, authorities
are now drawing connections to another crime and to a suspect who is dead.
When Mr. Clements was shot last week, witnesses told police they saw a boxy
black car, possibly a Lincoln or a Cadillac near the crime scene just
before the shooting. Then, two days after the shooting, a car fitting that
description turned up in Texas, hundreds of miles from the Colorado crime
The driver of a black Cadillac with reportedly mismatched Colorado
license plates opened fire on a sheriff`s deputy who tried to pull him over
on a routine traffic stop. During and after, a 100-mile-an-hour high speed
chase that ended in a crash into an 18-wheeler, the driver of the black
sedan reportedly at the officers who were pursuing him. When they fired
back, the shooter was seriously wounded and died later that day in a Texas
Today, El Paso County sheriff`s office says after examining shell
casings from both crime scenes in Texas and in Colorado, ballistics experts
concluded the gun used in the Texas firefight is the same weapon used to
kill Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements.
The dead Texas suspect is also suspected in the killing of this man,
who is a pizza delivery driver back in Colorado. Two days before the
murder of Tom Clements, the local paper in the Texas town where the car
ended up reports today that among the items found inside the car are
reported to be a Domino`s Pizza carrier bag and Domino`s Pizza jacket with
more weapons and more ammunition, and along with, quote, “several forms of
correspondence with an unknown or unidentified suspect who might be
involved in the case.”
So whether there was more than one person involved in this murder of
the Colorado prisons chief remains to be scene. But the suspect that shot
police with the weapon, the same weapon that killed Tom Clements, that
suspect who was then shot and killed himself by police in Texas we now know
is this man, a 28-year-old Colorado parolee, Evan Ebel. Prison officials
identified him as a member of a white supremacist Colorado prison gang, who
had been in and out of prison for the past decade. He was released most
recently in January.
His family says he was locked up in solitary confinement for most of
the time he was imprisoned and they say it had destroyed him mentally.
Tom Clements signature issue as prison chief was reducing use of
solitary confinement in that state.
There`s a lot authorities still do not know about the case, including
a motive, and how the suspect got that gun, and, of course, whether he
acted alone. We will keep you posted.
MADDOW: Over the last couple weeks we have been covering on the show
the protesters in the city of Detroit who`ve been taking to the highways in
and around the city and driving really ostentatiously slowly. They`re
causing huge traffic jams on purpose, being civilly disobedient of minimum
speed laws in order to bring transportation to a halt. They are protesting
the citizens of Detroit having their voting rights taken away.
Michigan`s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, overruled local voting
rights thus far in Flint, Michigan, in the Detroit suburb of Allen Park.
He did it in school districts of Muskegon Heights and Highland Park. He
did it in Benton Harbor, too, taking away the power of local elected
Rick Snyder relieved those towns of their democracy because he said
they were too broken to be trusted to use it anymore. Instead of being
allowed to choose their own locally elected officials, Rick Snyder instead
installed a single state appointed emergency manager who has basically
unilateral, unelected power.
Then, two weeks ago, Governor Rick Snyder decided the state would take
over Detroit, too, take over the state`s largest city. Democracy had to go
in Detroit, just as it had in all of the other smaller places.
Today was takeover day in Detroit. Motor City, meet your new
unelected boss, this guy.
On the emergency manager`s first day on the job, Detroit residents
decided instead of just slowing traffic in their own city in protest, like
they have been doing, they would charter a couple of buses to take their
case to Cleveland, specifically to the headquarters of the new emergency
manager`s law firm. That law firm not only has supplied the emergency
manager who now has unilateral control of the city. The same firm is also
reportedly the leading contender to get the job of restructuring Detroit`s
So, it doesn`t matter who the residents of Detroit voted for to
represent them. That`s being overruled in favor of putting their fate in
the hands of this Cleveland law firm. And that`s not sitting well with all
of Detroit. Detroit residents also gathered today at the statue known as
the Spirit of Detroit, they noted that Michigan voters repealed the
emergency manager law in November, only to have Republicans pass a new one
weeks later. This has not sat well with them, and neither has losing their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To go to the extent where you would deny somebody
the fundamental right to participate, to elect the public officials, to
participate in the direction that the city goes in, it is wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Speakers today in Detroit told the crowd, “Stand up for your
rights. We will aggravate, agitate. We will be a nuisance until our voice
Somebody else warned the crowd, quote, “Those of you in other cities
that think it won`t happen to you, you just wait and see.” She argued that
being put under an emergency manager left her town, Highland Park, in worse
shape than when the emergency manager got there.
Michigan has been experimenting with emergency managers for awhile
now. And that experiment has produced bad enough results that a couple of
Democratic congressmen from Detroit are asking for help from the federal
Before now, they had asked the federal government to consider how
emergency management gets rid of local voting rights, which is particularly
fraught, given that half the black population of Michigan has now had its
local voting rights taken away by these measures.
But now, those two Detroit congressmen are asking for another kind of
help. They`re also asking the Government Accountability Office to look
into whether emergency management even works. Quoting Congressman John
Conyers, “It is difficult to identify a single instance where an emergency
manager succeeded in turning around the financial fortunes of a city or
And yes, if you consider all of the times Michigan has taken away
local democracy, supposedly to fix a broken place, if you look at the way
they`ve done it going way back, only the one town on this map, marked with
a red star, only that one cute little tourist town has actually recovered,
has recovered, has gone through emergency management and given their
democracy back and then stayed healthy.
Every single other place on this map where they have tried it is
either still under state control or is faltering. And so why exactly are
you giving up your local voting rights?
They say you have to because your local democracy cannot be the means
by which you solve these problems. But if the problems in your state
persist, even under dictatorial control of somebody you didn`t elect that
has unilateral authority to do everything, including abolishing your town
without you saying so, then why are bothering to get rid of democracy and
hand it over to those folks? What`s it for.
Well, now, as of today, the state has taken over Michigan`s largest
city, a grand experiment that has a horrible track record thus far and
there`s a lot of angry people caught in the middle. I do not know what
Michiganders say when they want to indicate something is about to be a real
rodeo, but whatever that phrase is in Michigan, here we go.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Have a great night.
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