The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/27/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Alex. Thank you very much.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Last week, “The Washington Post” did a little human interest profile
on a burly ex-paratrooper who is a personal trainer for two of the justices
who are currently sitting on the Supreme Court.
In that profile, we learned that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be
80-years-old. She may weigh less than 100 pounds. She may have survived
very serious bouts with cancer twice already, but you know what? Ruth
Bader Ginsburg can do more push-ups than I can.
So behold, today, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg punching well above her
weight at a much anticipated rock `em, sock `em Supreme Court oral
arguments on same-sex marriage.
Now, the first voice you`re going to hear is the voice of Paul
Clement, who is the conservative attorney who is making the case for the
anti-gay rights side. But then listen for Justice Ginsburg.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PAUL CLEMENT, ATTORNEY: No state loses any benefits by recognizing
same-sex marriage. Things stay the same. What they don`t do is they don`t
sort of open up an additional class of beneficiaries under their state law
that get additional federal benefits. But things stay the same. And
that`s why in this sense –
JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT: They`re not –
they`re not a question of additional benefits. I mean, they touch every
aspect of life. Your partner is sick. Social Security, I mean, it`s
pervasive. It`s not as though there`s this little federal sphere and it`s
only a tax question. It`s – as Justice Kennedy said, 1,100 statutes, and
it affects every area of life.
And so you`re really diminishing what the state has said is marriage.
You`re saying, no, state said two kinds of marriages; the full marriage,
and then a sort of skim milk marriage.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Standing five feet tall from Brooklyn, New York, appointed by
President Bill Clinton – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, frankly, kind of
winning the day today by christening this particular variety of American
second class citizenship as skim milk marriage, which is what it will
forever be known as now.
And, by the way, in so doing, she skillfully was being very political
there, when she – in her admonishment of the attorney there, roped into
her discussion, the all important swing justice on the court, Justice
Kennedy. She roped him into her answer in a way that puts him on her side
of the case.
She`s always doing stuff like that. It`s amazing.
Today was day two on this issue at the Supreme Court, right?
Yesterday`s case was about a state law, California voters amending their
state constitution in 2008 to say that gay people are banned from getting
married in that state. When a federal court struck that down that
California law as constitutionally, federally, that`s something that states
may very well want to do, but the U.S. Constitution blocks them from doing
When that happened, a weird thing happened in California politics.
The California state government said, you know what? We actually think the
judge is right here. We think our state`s law, this amendment, is
unconstitutional. And so we, the government of the state, are not going to
appeal the judge`s ruling and we are not going to defend this bad law. We
want to let it die.
So, that was a really interesting about day one of these two big cases
of gay rights cases at the Supreme Court. Yesterday, they did fight some
about the big underlying question of whether states can ban gay marriage or
whether the U.S. Constitution blocks that.
But, mostly, they fought about that weird way that California handled
it and they thought about who has the right to defend that law when
California`s attorney general refuses to defend the law. She was our guest
last night on this.
Since she and California officially as a state government would not
defend their ban on gay marriage, did the people who did want to defend it
have the right to do so instead? And frankly, could addressing that part
of the question be a really convenient way for the Supreme Court to avoid
the whole mishegas, the whole politically fraught question of whether gay
people and straight people should have equal rights in this country.
So that was yesterday, where it looked like that standing issue, that
issue of how the case got to the court might end up diverting the court
from making a decision on the big case. That was yesterday. It was one
hour`s argument. It was about one state`s law.
Today it was two hours` argument and it was about a different case.
Today it was not about a one state`s law. Today it was about a federal
law. It was about one part of one federal law that starts with this.
When Edie Windsor and Thea Spire got married in 2007, they had already
been together for 42 years and counting. Spire by then has advanced MS.
She had been told she had less than a year to live. They flew to Toronto,
they got married. Thea died.
And because of the Defense of Marriage Act, in death, Thea Spire was
not recognized as having a surviving spouse. Now, at one level, this case
which led to today`s arguments, it is an incredibly romantic story of these
two young women in love who became two old women in love, a romance only
ended in death in its fifth decade.
But this case arises from not this romantic truth but rather the
unromantic, mathematical truth of the law treating your spouse as a
stranger in death when other romantic couples are deferred to as a family.
The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act puts a law that the federal government
that the federal government must discriminate.
The federal government of course doesn`t perform marriages. Federal
government doesn`t issue marriage licenses. It never has. It`s the states
who govern who is and who isn`t married.
But under this law, under DOMA, the federal government has to comb
through the marriages that the states do recognize and pick out the ones
that are same-sex couples and then it must overtly deny specifically to
those couples all the rights that other marriages get.
At the court today, here was the lawyer for the pro-gay rights side,
Roberta Kaplan, arguing that point, with an interjection from Justice
Stephen Breyer, who is the most professorial of all the judges, and you`ll
hear it in this clip. Check this out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROBERTA KAPLAN, ATTORNEY: No one has identified in this case, and I
don`t think we`ve heard it in the argument from my friend, any legitimate
difference between married gay couples on the one hand and straight married
couples on the other, that can possibly explain the sweeping,
undifferentiated and categorical discrimination of DOMA, section three of
And no one has identified any legitimate federal interest that is
being served by Congress`s decision for the first time in our nation`s
history to undermine the determination of the sovereign states with respect
to eligibility for marriage. I would respectfully contend that this is
because there is none. Rather, as the title of the statute makes clear,
DOMA was enacted to defend against the marriages of gay people. This
discriminatory purpose was rooted in moral disapproval as Justice Kagan
JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT: What do you think is –
the argument that I heard was to put the other side, at least one part of
it, as I understand it, look, the federal government needs a uniform rule.
There has been this uniform one man-one woman rule for several hundred
years, whatever, and there`s a revolution going on in the states. We
either adopt the revolution or push is along a little, or we stay out of
And I think Mr. Clement was saying, well, we`ve decided to stay out of
it. The way to stay out is to go with the traditional thing. That`s an
argument. So your answer is what?
KAPLAN: I think that`s an incorrect argument.
BREYER: I understand you do. I`d like to know the reason.
KAPLAN: Of course, Congress did not stay out of it. Section three of
DOMA is not staying out of it. Section three of DOMA is stopping the
recognition by the federal government of couples who are already married
solely based on their sexual orientation, and what it`s doing is
undermining as you can see in the briefs of New York and others, it`s
undermining the policy decisions by those states that have permitted gay
couples to marry – states that have already resolved the political, moral,
whatever other controversies that are resolved in those states.
And by fencing those couples off, couples who are already married and
treating them as unmarried for the purposes of federal law, you`re not
taking it one step at a time, you`re not promoting caution. You`re putting
a stop button on it and you`re having discrimination for the first time in
our nation`s history against a class of married couples.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Discrimination says the side that wants what it sees as
discrimination overturned. And, of course, in that argument she gets an
assist sort of from one of the more liberal justices who`s probably
inclined to agree with her assessment.
Now, as to the other side, here`s what`s really interesting. Like the
California case yesterday, there is a kind of strange situation about the
anti-gay side in this, wherein the government doesn`t want to defend it.
This is a federal law, remember?
And President Obama and his Justice Department and the solicitor
general agree that this is a bad law. They think this law is
discriminatory and that it`s unconstitutional, and they are not defending
So who`s defending it then? Somebody else had to be brought onboard
to defend it, and in this case it was the House Republicans. Hi, John
Boehner, who decided that they would defend it with your taxpayer money.
They hired a really good conservative lawyer named Paul Clement to
argue their side, to argue to the anti-gay rights side of this, to argue to
uphold the law. And Paul Clement`s argument today was that this isn`t
discrimination at all. It`s just that the federal government likes to keep
things simple. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CLEMENT: I think what that shows and that when the federal government
gets involved in the issue of marriage, it has a particularly acute
interest in treatment of people across state lines. So, Ms. Windsor wants
to point to the unfairness of the differential treatment of treating two
New York married couples differently. And, of course, for the purposes of
New York law, that`s exactly the right focus. But for purposes of federal
law, it`s much more rational for Congress to say, and certainly a rational
available choice for Congress to say, we want to treat the same-sex couple
in New York the same way as the committed same-sex couple in Oklahoma and
treat them the same. Or even more to point of purposes –
JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: But that`s begging the
question, because you`re treating the married couples differently. You`re
saying that New York`s married couples are different than Nebraska`s.
CLEMENT: But the –
SOTOMAYOR: I picked that out of a hat. But the point is, there`s a
CLEMENT: The only way there`s a difference is because of the way that
state law treats them.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right, the way that state laws treat them. States` laws
treat gay people and straight people differently. And the question here is
whether the federal government should be part of that discrimination,
whether the federal government should in fact compound that.
For an answer to that, we go to the heavy hitter for the day, Justice
Ginsburg. Go, go!
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GINSBURG: Mr. Clement, the problem is that it would totally thwart
the states` decision that there is a marriage between two people for the
federal government then to come in and say, no joint return, no marital
deduction, no Social Security benefits. Your spouse is very sick, but you
can`t get leave. People – if that set of attributes, one might well ask,
what kind of marriage is this?
CLEMENT: And I think the answer to that, Justice Ginsburg, would be
to say that that`s a marriage under state law.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ow. And that`s whereupon in the arguments we got to the
point where Justice Ginsburg ended up calling those marriages skim milk
marriages, which frankly is a grave offense to skim milk, which is
delicious, but it`s otherwise kind of amazing and will stick.
We have the expert – the expert – in the country on this case, like
the single expert on this case, who`s here in just a moment to talk in just
a moment how all this went today and what happens next. And how these oral
arguments might tell us what`s going to happen on this issue.
But before we do that, there`s one other thing from today`s case that
I think is totally worth hearing. This is not one of those smackdown
moments for either side, but it was the very end of the arguments, very end
of the two hours, and it showed the strange and, I don`t know, this
unstable political core that`s at the heart of these legal fights, right,
because we have fights about the law but those fights do not happen totally
independent of the political world in which we live.
And the combination of legal and political sometimes gets a little
woolly. And it was Chief Justice John Roberts today who showed that most
clearly in him trying to make the case that gay people should not be
protected against discrimination because gay people aren`t discriminated
against in this country. And the way you can tell that gay people aren`t
discriminated against in this country is that discrimination against gay
people in some cases is starting to be politically embarrassing for the
And also, he points out, gay people have really good lawyers now. He
says that to the gay rights lawyer arguing before him at the Supreme Court.
It`s a really strange and kind of unstable moment. This is the last piece
of tape I want to play for you. It`s a very end of the argument. Just
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I suppose the sea
change has a lot to do with the political force and effectiveness of people
representing, supporting your side of the case?
KAPLAN: I disagree with that, Mr. Chief Justice. I think the sea
change has to do, just as was discussed in Bowers and Lawrence, was an
understanding that there was no difference, there was no fundamental
difference that could justify this kind of, quote, “categorical
discrimination” between gay couples and –
ROBERTS: You don`t doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of
same-sex marriage laws in different states is politically powerful, do you?
KAPLAN: With respect to that category, that categorization of the
term for purposes of heightened scrutiny, I would, Your Honor.
ROBERTS: As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over
themselves to endorse your side of the case.
KAPLAN: The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chief Justice, is that no
other group in history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away
rights that have already given or exclude those rights the way gay people
have. And only two of those referenda have ever lost. One was in Arizona;
it then passed a couple of years alter. One was in Minnesota where they
already have a statute on the books that prohibits marriages between gay
So I don`t think – and until 1990, gay people were not allowed to
enter this country. So, I don`t think that the political power of gay
people today could possibly be seen within that framework, and certainly is
analogous – I think gay people are far weaker than women were at the time
ROBERTS: Well, but you just referred to a sea change in people`s
understandings and values from 1996, when DOMA was enacted, and I`m trying
to see where that comes from, if not from the political effectiveness of
groups on your side of the case.
KAPLAN: To flip the language of the House Report, Mr. Chief Justice,
I think it comes from a moral understanding today that gay people are no
different, and that gay married couples` relationships are not
significantly different than the relationship of straight married couples.
I don`t think –
ROBERTS: I understand that. I`m just trying to see where that moral
understanding came from, if not the political effectiveness of a particular
KAPLAN: I think it came, again used very similarly to what you saw
between Bowers and Lawrence. I think it came to a societal understanding.
I don`t believe that societal understanding came strictly through political
power. And I don`t think gay people today have political power as that –
this court has used that term with in connection with the heightened
ROBERTS: Thank you, Ms. Kaplan.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that was it. That`s how it ended, on that incredibly
intense moment that how is it that gay people can be so hated, that you can
be here arguing for this now. Doesn`t that mean that you`ve got access to
people like me? Amazing.
But at that moment, the lawyer, Roberta Kaplan sat down, finished the
day. But I have to tell you, the reason that Roberta Kaplan, that lawyer
there, and the solicitor general today, and those plaintiffs, and any of
those people were there in that courtroom at all today, it`s not just some
amorphous sense of gay peoples` political power that straight people need
to be afraid of in fact – the fact that there are same-sex marriages in
the United States against which discrimination is now under debate, that`s
the product of a very specific legal path. And it`s significantly
attributable to our next guest tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. I said I was done playing clips, but I wanted you to
hear this too. Sorry.
All right. The thing you are listening for here, from today at the
Supreme Court, is the audience gasping at something that Justice Elena
Listen for the audience here. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CLEMENT: When you look at Congress doing something that is unusual,
that deviates from how they`ve proceeded in the past, you have to ask, was
there a good reason? And in the sense, you have to understand that 1996,
something`s happening that is in a sense forcing Congress to choose between
its historic practice of deferring to the states and its historic practice
JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Well, what is what happened
in 1996, and I`m going to quote from the House Report here, is that
Congress decided to reflect an honor, a collective moral judgment and to
express moral disapproval of homosexuality. Is that what happened in 1996?
CLEMENT: Does the House Report say that? Of course, the House Report
says that. And if that`s enough to invalidate the statute, then you should
invalidate the statute. But that`s never been your approach.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You could hear the audience react, gasping incredulous sort
of at the way Congress thought way back when in the `90s. Amazing stuff.
Joining us is Mary Bonauto, whose legal work over the past 13 years
revolutionized gay capital rights in this country. In Vermont, her legal
work was the catalyst for creating civil unions. In Massachusetts, she won
the case that caused the state to legalize same-sex marriage, the first
state to do so. And then, last year, she helped persuade a federal appeals
court that DOMA was unconstitutional, which led to today`s amazing hearing
at the court.
Mary is the civil rights project director for Gay and Lesbian
Advocates and Defenders.
Mary Bonauto, congratulations on your big day. Thanks for being here.
MARY BONAUTO, GLAD CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know that you are at the courtroom today. You saw the oral
arguments. How do you feel about how everything went today?
BONAUTO: It was an excellent day. It was an excellent day because we
finally had our day in court. You know, we have, as you`ve heard, a
uniform rule in this country of taking state marriage laws, refined it, but
the rules were changed. When it looked like same-sex couples would marry,
and the issues today were very clear. Why are we treating only married
straight couples different from all other couples? And the clips you
showed revealed that there wasn`t much of an answer.
MADDOW: You have been such an important strategist in this legal
fight. I mean, right up to winning the first circuit case that led to
today at the Supreme Court. When you look at all the work done over the
last decade toward today, what do you think was the most important
preparations to make the strongest case today?
BONAUTO: You know, I answer that on two levels, because I think when
couples started legally marrying in Massachusetts, it was just 10 years ago
this month that we argue that case in Massachusetts, and then (INAUDIBLE)
before that couple started marrying, it changed everything, when people
could see with their own eyes what it looked like when same-sex couples
committed in marriage. And it was happy, it was joyous and people
understand it`s about love and it`s commitment and it`s about being there
for each other for the long haul and we actually will share a lot of
And so, that`s changed the conversation. And then more and more, as
more states have decided through court decisions or legislators or even the
ballot that it`s a good policy and it`s the right constitutional thing for
same-sex couples to marry. So, there`s that.
And then with DOMA, obviously working so hard for couples to marry and
defending that victory in Massachusetts, it was extremely important to
people to have their marriages be marriages, but they found out immediately
they were in second class marriages and that our national government was
saying that their marriages didn`t count. They were actually wiped, for
all federal purposes, all 1,100 of them.
And this was a day that needed to happen. It happened because being
treated equally under the law is clearly about principles and so on. But
being treated unequally really scars your soul and it makes a difference in
people`s lives in the protections they do or don`t have.
So, today was a day long and coming because there are many couples who
really just need their government to treat them fairly and equally, and
like other married couples.
MADDOW: A lot of people have made foolish by predicting what will
happen in important cases based on the oral arguments that day, a lot of
people in cable news in particular. So, I tried to avoid that as much as I
But if, hypothetically, if the court strikes down DOMA in a way that
sort of legally they are most likely to strike down DOMA based on the way
this case was presented to them, what would happen next? What would be the
practical consequences of a ruling like that, if that`s what they decided
BONAUTO: The clearest practical consequences that same-sex couples
who are legally married in their state will now be treated like other
married couples in their state, whether it means they pay more in taxes or
they pay less, but they are married, and they come to the federal
government as married people and plug into that social safety net and all
those protections, and all the responsibilities that come along with it.
That`s the clearest consequence.
No effect on the laws of other states.
MADDOW: So states where you can`t currently get married if you`re a
same-sex couple, this ruling in this particular case wouldn`t have any
impact on that?
BONAUTO: Yes, this is about the unusual, unprecedented rule that
Congress made in 1996 to say we`re not going to follow our usual pattern of
just, you know, adopting whatever the states say. We`re going to actually
create rules to exclude married same-sex couples from any federal
MADDOW: Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director for Gay and
Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, this has been your fight and your strategy
for more than a decade. And everybody who knows stuff about this legally
knows that you are the helm of it, have been at the helm of it in so many
different ways. I think a lot of just going into this politically maybe
meeting you for the first time. And we really appreciate you being here
with us to do that. Thank you very much.
BONAUTO: Thank you so much.
All right. Lots still ahead, including a story that has nothing to do
with the Supreme Court or politics, but about which I`m nevertheless
obsessed and which comes with this picture. We`ll explain that coming up.
MADDOW: December 22nd, 2010, Wednesday morning in Washington when
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is done.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When President Obama did that in December 2010, he set up an
ostensibly unlikely player in the case presented to the Supreme Court
today. Unexpected allies, next.
MADDOW: When it came time at the Supreme Court today for the
government solicitor general to start his argument about why the president
and the administration are refusing to defend the federal marriage ban, the
solicitor started right off the bat in kind of a surprising place.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROBERTS: General Verrilli?
DONALD VERRILLI, SOLICITOR GENERAL: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it
please the court: the equal protection analysis in this case should focus
on two fundamental points. First, what does section 3 do, and second, to
whom does section 3 do it. What section 3 does is exclude from an array of
federal benefits lawfully married couples. That means that the spouse of a
soldier killed in a line of duty cannot receive the dignity and solace of
an official notification of next of kin.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Interesting point about how the federal marriage ban works,
right? It`s given pride of place at the top of the government`s arguments
When the government repealed “don`t ask, don`t tell” so gay people can
serve openly in the military, the military itself insisted that that was it
as an institution wanted, that it was against the principles and the
operational interest of the military to discriminate, that the armed forces
needed to be able to treat its members purely on the basis of merit or the
military would not work as well as it should.
But if that is the case, the Defense of Marriage Act, which is what
was being fought over a the Supreme Court today, the Defense of Marriage
Act creates a real problem specifically for the military because that act,
says the federal government, the whole thing, is banned from recognizing a
marriage if the people in the marriage are a same-sex couple.
So the military, which is part of the federal government, is
recognizing gay people in its ranks, it`s treating them equally to all of
their service members now, and wants to, except other services` members
spouses and families are recognized by the military, but DOMA blocks the
military from doing that for gay service members. Gay soldiers` spouses
and families can`t be recognized by the military at all because of DOMA.
They have to be seen as strangers in the military. DOMA bans equal
treatment even if it was what the military wants.
And so, one of the briefs filed in today`s case urging the court to
overturn the gay marriage ban was filed by more than 30 former high
ranking, former military officers and Defense Department officials and
Quote, “The Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the military from
providing all service members and their families with necessary care and
support. DOMA discriminates against certain legally married service
members and their families by denying them numerous benefits including
healthcare, equal pay, educational assistance and survivor benefits. The
question is whether the military should be permitted to provide equal
treatment to all legally married service members and their families, or if
it must discriminate against certain service members and their families in
a manner that research, experience, and common sense show is harmful to
service members and to the military collectively.
For those experienced in military leadership and familiar with
military values, the answer is easy. You know, fights over issues like
these used to be predictable, right? You`d have gay people and liberals
who like gay people on one side and you`d have everybody else either on the
other side of the fight or trying to stay out of it.
The chief justice talking ruefully about a sea change of the politicos
here. Well, part of that sea change is seeing the military, seeing these
veterans groups and defense officials and flag rank officers as one of many
non-usual suspects who are willing now to stand on the side that used to be
frankly way more lonely.
Joining us now is Nicolle Wallace, former senior advisor for the
McCain-Palin campaign, who helped make happen one of the other non-usual
suspects to take a pro-gay rights stand at the court this week. Nicolle
was more than 130 Republican Party bigwigs to sign this brief in
yesterday`s case, urging the court to strike down California`s anti-gay
Nicolle, it is great to see you.
NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH COMM. DIR.: Thank you for
having me back.
MADDOW: You like being one of the non-usual suspects. Yes, it sort
of scrambles my circuits. I do like that –
WALLACE: You know what I thought when I read this, was if the Supreme
Court doesn`t strike down DOMA, I wonder if this very, very issue would
lead to a congressional repeal of DOMA, because this is such an urgent
matter, and this is – to me, I went straight to the logistics of this. If
you were on a base and you`re married and you have kids, are they denied
access? Because everything is provided by the federal government.
So if you live on a base with your spouse and with your children, are
you denied access to child care? I mean, how did they –
MADDOW: They`re denied on-base privileges. I mean, the –
WALLACE: So do you even live on base – I mean, this is shocking, if
heaven forbid your spouse is injured, are you not flown? I mean, this to
me seems like one of the most urgent examples of how this affects people`s
lives. This is no longer especially for my party, just a question of I
simply believe marriage is just a man and woman, which is the sentiment
that understandably a lot of people in my party hang on which they believe
something different than I do. But this example of military families and
the real, I think, damage it can do to military families.
And forget about the spouse and children for an instant. Think about
the soldier on the battlefield worried about their families. The whole
reason we have this promise to the families is so that our soldiers are out
there and kicking butt and, you know, doing what they have to do to protect
all of us.
So, this to me provides such an urgent need to be addressed in a way
that really, I hope, can bring some progress.
MADDOW: But you know, the concerns of gay service members and their
families were not enough to move most Republicans to supporting the repeal
of “don`t ask, don`t tell”. The difference here I think is that, (a),
there`s a lot more to be known, the politics are changing, but the military
as an institution is saying, it is greatly disruptive to us as a
hierarchical institution where people need to follow orders if our orders
are – if our orders and privileges are delivered unequally. We can`t
function as a discriminatory organization. You have to let us stop doing
WALLACE: I mean, a base – I mean, I think it`s difficult. People
think of the military as this gigantic institution, which it is, but think
about just life on a base. I mean, it is so stark, I think it brings into
such sharp focus the problem with DOMA.
HAYES: You know, there`s been not a peep out of elected Republicans
this week. Not a peep, even as everybody else –
WALLACE: I said let me defend my fellow Republicans. You have to
MADDOW: Yes, it`s true. I wonder though, I mean, the lawyer the
Republicans hired, the House Republicans hire to defend DOMA, Paul Clement,
walked right past the press and wouldn`t even talk to them after the
WALLACE: Yes, look, he`s a very, very smart, well-respected attorney
on the right. So –
MADDOW: But do you think him not wanting to talk to the press and no
elected Republicans wanting to talk about this at all this week, even as
the whole rest of the country is talking about it, do think it`s in part
because of your brief, because these 130 Republicans, including yourself,
came out and said, actually, we`re not taking the party line?
WALLACE: Maybe and I think there`s a tremendous amount of respect for
Ted Olson and for what he`s done. I mean, he`s represented President Bush
in Bush v. Gore. I mean, he has a deep well of I think respect and it`s
not support for exactly the case that he`s arguing, support for himself
personally among Republicans.
And I think Republicans are, as I always say, there`s just some that
simply disagree with us, but I think that people open to it really are
doing a little bit of soul searching.
MADDOW: Why aren`t the ones disagreeing with you, who are on the
anti-gay side of this, why aren`t they talking?
WALLACE: I don`t know. I mean, I think – and I said it the last
time I was here, the political sands have shifted so dramatically that I
think you`re now at a case where being against marriage equality, even if
it`s simply, I don`t know, I know a minority of Catholics, a majority of
young evangelicals, I mean, I can`t even think of a group that would oppose
this as a group, or just an individual that may oppose marriage equality, I
think it may become sort of thing that people are just quiet and move
toward a place that they are maybe embarrassed about.
MADDOW: Yes. And that will make the politics of this really weird
for a long time.
WALLACE: I think it will accelerate the politics very quickly. And
we`ll be in a place – I mean, you know, obviously, our brief was to
support overturning Prop 8, but I think, someone said something this week
that the movement now has so much strength it could withstand any outcome
of the court.
Now, I hope that doesn`t happen because I think that people`s lives
are hanging in the balance waiting for these decisions, but I think the
movement has seized the opportunity to speak directly to the American
people about the families behind these discriminatory laws.
MADDOW: Nicolle Wallace, former senior adviser to the McCain-Palin
campaign, my favorite kind of contrarian, a nice one, it`s really good to
have you here.
WALLACE: Thanks for having me. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: OK, fair warning. I am obsessed with this story.
This is the USS Guardian back in mid-January stuck in the Sulu Sea off
the coast of the Philippines. A giant ship like an avenger class Navy
minesweeper being stuck on something is never a good thing. But this one
happened to get stuck specifically on a UNESCO World Heritage site,
embedding its rudders into a pristine, gorgeous, world heritage coral reef,
home to 600 species of fish, 13 species of dolphins and whales, and about
half of all of the coral species in the world, and is the national park in
the Philippines and is aggressively protected.
Early on, once we got stuck on it, the plan was to tow the ship of the
reef at high tide. That did not work. In fact, the minesweeper only got
more stuck. After many tries to yank off the reef, ultimately, the Navy
had to give up the ship. Navy agreed for the first time in more than 40
years to scrap the ship.
This $277 million mine sweeper, they decided they have to cut into
pieces to finally get it pried off of that reef. They hired giant crane
ships to come help lift the pieces of the ship off of the reef and dump
them onto a barge. The first crane ship to arrive was this one, the Smith
Borneo, but it spent several days trying to drop its four anchors safely
near the reef and could do it. Plan B was to wait for the second crane
ship, that JASCON 25, a ship that does need to drop anchors in order to
remain in position. It somehow uses GPS to stay in place, which is
But, of course, once Plan B, the second ship arrived, the weather got
really rough so they still couldn`t get started. It took another week.
The salvage operation finally began at the end of February, more than
a month after the USS Guardian got stuck on the reef. They started by
removing lose equipment and some of the board structures that were
relatively easy to take down, stuff like the mast.
Then early in March, the whole bridge, look, that whole deck of the
ship, was lifted off the ship by crane.
And then the truly amazing part: preparing this 224-foot-long ship to
be cut into four pieces, through the hull. To make the cuts, the seventh
fleet supervisor of salvage said this week, quote, “We have had to
painstakingly clear about a two-foot path in the ship, removing everything
in our way. They had divers using chain saws and reciprocating saws and
underwater cutting tools to just cut a two-foot-wide straight line through
the ship, leading ultimately – look at that – to this.
Yes, that is a cross-section of a U.S. Navy minesweeper, the first big
piece of the ship, the bow being craned up into the air yesterday, that
piece weighs approximately 250 tons. Look at that.
They hoisted it up using one of the crane ships. They dumped it on
the barge, and then went back for more. That piece was followed today by
another section, an approximately 200-ton piece of the ship containing the
auxiliary motor room. So that leaves two quarters of the ship, one half of
the ship and two pieces still stuck on the reef but now ready to go.
A Philippine coast guard spokesman says the cutting work is expected
to be completed by the end of next week, and the remaining 990 tons of
steel should be lifted out of there the week after that.
Meanwhile, on land, as you might imagine, the grounding of this U.S.
Navy vessel has sparked anti-American anger in the Philippines. Shortly
after it happened, protesters threw paint at police guarding the U.S.
embassy in Manila. The Philippine government not only say they want
answers to how this happened in the first place. Look, they`ve got guys in
scuba suits out there with tape measures recording the exact amount of
inches of reef that we have damaged with our minesweeper. And then we are
going to have to pay a by the inch fine.
There is still no definitive word on why the USS Guardian got stuck in
that reef in the first place, but presumably once all the pieces are taken
out of harm`s way, authorities will be able to concentrate fully on finding
the answer. And we will keep you posted I promise because I`m
uncontrollably obsessed with this story.
MADDOW: What you`re looking at here is a video recorded by Mark
Kelly. Mark Kelly, the husband of Gabby Giffords, the Arizona
congresswoman who was shot and nearly killed at a political event she was
hosting in Tucson, Arizona, two years ago.
Mark Kelly just released this video from the pro-gun reform group that
he and Gabby Giffords has since formed. You notice that the video looks a
little strange and disjointed with this odd camera angles. That`s in part
because the video was recorded in secret from Mark Kelly`s pocket.
He recorded this video to demystify the issue of background checks
that`s being debated right now in state legislatures and across the
In this video, he shows getting a background check doesn`t take very
long, in his case, five minutes, and 36 seconds. It shows that it`s not
very intrusive, and most importantly, it absolutely doesn`t stop you from
getting a gun if you legally should be allowed to get a gun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK KELLY, GABBY GIFFORDS` HUSBAND: Today, we`re going to
demonstrate what the whole process is and how relatively simple it is.
This will not be my only gun. I`ve got a 9 millimeter Ruger, a hunting
rifle, a shotgun, a .25 semi automatic pistol.
Hey, I was – you don`t have that Colt 45 any more, do you? I wanted
to buy that Colt 45 that was here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two important things.
KELLY: Are you under indictment for a felony? No.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No.
Are you a fugitive? No.
Are you an unlawful user addicted to marijuana? No.
Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective? No.
Are you subject to a court restraining order? No.
Have you been convicted in any court for domestic violence? No.
OK. Appreciate it. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My pleasure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You too, take care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Five minutes, 36 seconds later.
The point is, background checks are not a pain. Background checks do
not infringe on lawful gun owners in any meaningful way.
This past weekend, we hit the 100-day mark since the elementary school
massacre at Newtown. They tell us that people are supposed to now start
forgetting or not caring about this now. We have hit that point, things
are supposed to slow down, get quieter now.
That is not happening. You just look at the last few days. On
Thursday, Joe Biden in New York City with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, press
conference calling on Congress to act on the gun bill, Press conference
included parents whose kids were among those murdered at Newtown, including
Neil Heslin who was front and center after his son Jessie.
That same day, in the afternoon, a group called Moms Demand Action for
Gun Sense led a march and rally in Harlem to protect the gun safety bill
that already passed in New York state.
The same day, in Boca Raton, Florida, local activists reacting to news
that that state`s gun safety bill won`t include an assault weapons ban.
The activists weren`t pleased. In protest, they hung on the trees names of
people killed by gun violence.
On Saturday, there was a big gun buyback in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Over the course of two days, people turned in more than 2,000 guns,
including assault weapons. This was the fifth gun buy back in Atlantic
City just since Newtown.
Same day, Mayors Against Illegal Guns announces a $12 million ad buy,
two ads advocating gun safety legislation in Congress to run in 13 states.
The ad support universal background checks, specifically, which of course
is supported by nine of 10 Americans, but people on the Beltway say maybe
can`t pass Congress.
President Obama then devoted his entire weekly address on Saturday to
pushing for gun safety legislation.
Also, Saturday, Wilmington, North Carolina, Carolinians for Sensible
Gun Laws hold a rally in support of gun safety reform. They`re outside of
Best Western. You can see it is a crowd that`s small, but inside the Best
Western was an NRA fundraiser. The group was pretty deeply focused getting
local media attention to what they were doing outside that fund-raiser
which is pretty much the point of these things.
Then, Monday, hundreds of clergy and parishioners from Episcopal
diocese around the country gathered in D.C. to promote gun reform. They
marched from the White House to the Capitol.
Also on Monday in Atlanta, Georgia, more religious leaders gathering
to protest a state bill to force churches to allow concealed weapons on
their premises, even if they don`t want them. Those clergy think that`s a
Hartford, Connecticut, same day, the state`s two senators hold a press
conference with Connecticut Against Gun Violence and with the Newtown
Action Alliance. See those familiar green ribbons symbolizing support for
Sandy Hook. Senators in the group insisting that Connecticut should lead
on gun safety legislation and not wait for the federal government to act.
And now, Vote Vets, the nonpartisan, progressive veterans group,
releases this ad aimed at Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to pass a background check to join the
Marine Corps before I could carry a weapon similar to this one in Iraq.
Here at home, anyone can purchase this weapon, no questions asked.
I support the Second Amendment, but we have seen what can happen when
these fall in the wrong hands. I needed a background check to carry
similar weapons in combat. We should rear the same at home.
Call Senator Flake, and tell him to support universal background
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We are more than 100 days out now from Newtown, the Beltway
script says we`re all supposed to be over Newtown now, the issue should
return to the quiet stasis of the NRA getting everything it wants, even
though it represents only a rump, minority extreme view. And the nation
that overwhelming wants this issue handled in a centrist way.
The Beltway in Washington is trying to follow that same script, but
the politics are not necessarily following along. You can say because you
expected it to happen that the momentum is stopping, but if you actually
look at the news, the day by day, here, there, everywhere, unrelenting,
heterogeneous unpredictable pressure for gun reform is off-script.
Within the last 24 hours, a conservative Democratic senator with A
rating from the NRA just came out in favor of universal background checks,
Senator Joe Donnelly. He`s telling local media in his home state in
Indiana that he is now supportive of universal background checks. Not only
are people not for getting but things are moving.
And now, factor in a new round of action by the White House. We`re
told in the next few weeks, President Obama will hit the road to pressure
specific senators to vote for gun reform.
And not exactly separately, you have the organization formerly known
as the president`s re-election campaign, Organizing for Action, you have
them announcing that tomorrow, they and Mayors Against Illegal Guns are
holding 100 events across the country to support efforts against gun
The Beltway common wisdom on gun control is that it`s losing steam, as
a potent political issue. But, yes, sure, there was once a roiling boiled
of urgency after the Newtown massacre. But it is now a low simmer and heat
is dropping every day. That`s how it works, right?
That`s the line from the Beltway press. But it is not true this time.
We have become a different country the last three months. Newtown changed
us. You can tell from the way we`re acting and it doesn`t seem like
unchanging any time soon.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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