The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/29/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Chris, when I came out, I went back and met
with, after I already come out, met with my friends who I played club
basketball with in high school to tell them and, like, see if they were OK
with it. And my co-captain, her reaction to it was, well, did you ever
like me? And I said, no, no, man, you`re not my type. And she said, oh,
well, why not?
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: I`m hoping that`s the reaction across NBA
locker rooms everywhere this evening.
MADDOW: I hope so too. Thanks a lot, man. Appreciate it.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
All right. Here is Guam. Guam is an island as you can tell. Zoom
out. You can see it is way, way out there in the Pacific Ocean.
If you think about flying from California to Hawaii, if you do that,
that gets you roughly half the way there. Just keep going that distance
again and you`ll get to Guam. Guam is closer to the Philippines and China
than it is to Hawaii.
It is north of Australia. It`s north of Papua New Guinea. It is
basically so far west, it is east.
Technically, Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the
United States. The island sends a nonvoting delegate to Congress. And
Guamanians get to vote in a non-binding preference poll when it comes time
to vote for president.
Even if Guam doesn`t have a vote in the actual Electoral College,
though, what Guam does have is a huge military presence. American military
bases cover something like a third of the entire island. And those bases
on Guam are a big part of the U.S. military presence in that whole part of
the world, that whole region of the Pacific.
Couple of years ago, the Pentagon considered building an even bigger
military presence on the island of Guam. The plan would`ve increased the
population of Guam by almost half. And when that plan was being considered
in Congress, that`s when a little known congressman from Georgia named Hank
Johnson spoke up in a hearing with this rather amazing comment on the giant
U.S. military and its huge and maybe increasing presence on the tiny little
island of Guam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: I don`t know how many square miles
that that is. Do you happen to know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t have that figure with me, sir. I can
certainly supply it to you if you`d like.
JOHNSON: Yes. My fear is that the whole island will become so overly
populated that it will tip over and capsize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t anticipate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I love the Navy admiral being there. I have to address the
congressman`s concern. We don`t anticipate that, sir.
A local Atlanta paper felt compelled to point out that Mr. Johnson, as
far as they could tell, was not making an April Fool`s joke when he talked
about the island of Guam capsizing from the weight of all the new people
But he kind of was making a joke there. He did not really think that
Guam was going to tip over. He was using metaphor as a commentary on the
size of the U.S. military presence on the island and he was just being
incredibly dead pan about it while he used that metaphor.
It turns out that Congressman “Dead Pan” Hank Johnson is a very funny
congressman. But he`s so dead pan about it, he does not betray that he`s
making a joke that other members of Congress do not laugh when he`s making
jokes. He`s too funny for Congress. His dead pan humor does not play in
the room because the people with him do not get it. He`s actually setting
them up in a way that`s just over their heads.
Here`s the latest from Congressman Hank Johnson. It`s on the subject
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: Imagine, Mr. Speaker, a world without balloons. How can we
make sure that the injustice of there being no helium for comedians to get
that high-pitched voice that we all hold near and dear to our hearts?
Imagine a world without balloons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The guy behind him going – is anybody else listening to
The high-pitched voice we all hold – “Dead Pan” Hank Johnson. Again,
they`re making a point that surely went over a lot of people`s heads.
But it`s a good point he`s making there. Really, it`s our helium
problem that`s in need of a fix, congress, out of all of the problems in
this country, all the budget problems in our country, out of all of the
things that are underfunded in our country. The helium thing is one we
need congressional action to zoom in on, seriously?
It`s kind of a good argument. Even if people didn`t get the way he
was making it. It`s a good argument because it`s the same zeal for budget
cuts that threaten the beloved helium supply, same zeal for budget cuts
also means right now that elderly cancer patients in America are not
getting their oncology drugs.
Elderly people who depend on deliveries from Meals on Wheels are not
getting those meals. This is an Indiana father reacting to the news in his
town where they`re having a lottery for preschool. They`ve put all the
names trying to get into preschool into a fish bowl and this man is
listening to the results of that lottery in his town being called out
hoping to hear his 4-year-old survived the cull because of budget cuts.
The president in the State of the Union this year proposed upscaling
our expectations for American education, specifically on the issue of
preschool. The president said that universal preschool should now be the
expectation and the reality in the United States. Preschool is so
important for kids.
Well, today a report on that says essentially that we have
unfathomably far to go before we can start to think about universal
preschool. Not only are we so far behind that goal like that, we were far
behind that goal before we started this new policy we`re living through
right now of across the board cuts.
Right now, we`re really far behind and we`re getting worse. We`re not
getting better. Tens of thousands of kids across the country are getting
kicked off preschool, including in places like Indiana, where the remaining
few slots are being allocated by lottery, by heartbreaking lottery.
The cuts that we`re living through right now that are affecting
everything from preschool slots to Meals on Wheels for elderly people, to
cancer drugs, and when you can start taking your oncology treatment – they
are all part of the same policy. They are all part of the same across the
board cuts in what the government does.
It always gets reported as across the board cuts in what the
government spends because that sounds nicer, right? Spending sounds like
an awful thing, we ought to get rid of that, but government doing stuff?
Well, it turns out, some of the stuff that government does, we like. It`s
probably the reason that we do it.
And some of the stuff that government does, which has now been cut
turns out is even the kind of stuff that Congress notices. It`s the stuff
that Congress likes, stuff that Congress wants to protect because it`s
stuff that affects them.
And so, last week, we saw Congress move with heretofore unseen
lightning speed to protect one of the things that government does from
these across the board cuts that were otherwise causing problems.
Last week, with lightning speed, Congress moved to protect air traffic
control, because it was causing flight delays and, hey, flight delays, it
turns out, those are really annoying. They`re bad for the country, those
should be stopped.
So, Congress moved so fast to undo those cuts that they actually have
to redo what they did tomorrow, because in their haste last week, they left
a really important typo in the bill. That was how quickly they moved to
stop these cuts that bothered them. These cuts that were affecting the one
thing that government does that they were bothered by, making the planes
run safely and on time. Coincidentally, they passed that legislation right
before all going to the airport to get on planes themselves to go home at
the end of Congress calling it a day.
Cutting hundreds of billions of dollars at once out of what government
does hurts us as a country. What we have learned, though, thus far by
doing that is that only some people get relief from those cuts. Only
people with political capital get relief from those cuts.
So, Indiana dad – sorry. But business traveler or congressman
himself annoyed by more time on the tarmac, yes, Congress feels your pain -
- we`ll get right on fixing that.
The reason we are doing this, the reason we are inflicting all this
harm on the country, all this harm specifically on people who do not have
enough political capital to save themselves is the doctrine of austerity.
That is the overall idea right now, right? It`s the overall conservative
idea of about what to do for a nation that has gone through an economic
shock that we went through at the end of the Bush presidency.
Austerity is the solution according to the Beltway. They want the
government to spend less, which sounds great if you see it only as
government spending and not as stuff that the government does.
Spending, that can`t be good for anything. But stuff the government
does – yes, sometimes that`s stuff we want.
A week and a half ago, they tried to re-launch the magna carta of
contemporary American austerity, the Simpson/Bowles plan. The conservative
American austerity idea that has been around for a few years now, but they
attempted to relaunch it on the morning that ended up being the day that
Boston was locked down for 17 hours while the nation was transfixed by the
manhunt for the second Boston bombing suspect.
That was relaunch day for Simpson/Bowles this year. Bad timing,
right? Both in terms of the optics of relaunching the vertex (ph) of
government doesn`t do anything right, let`s cut government – in the midst
of a massive and ultimately successful government effort to find that
bombing suspect. So, that`s bad optics, right?
I mean, that was the day that the streets of Watertown, Massachusetts,
ended up literally lined with Americans crying with joy and cheering their
emergency services. Clapping their government workers on the back for a
job well done, the nation is grateful.
That is a bad day to launch the “let`s fire all the government
workers” plan, right? Bad timing for the Simpson/Bowles relaunch that day.
Well, yesterday they re-relaunched it in friendlier environments.
They relaunched it on the op-ed page of “The Washington Post.”
Meanwhile, the bigger picture is that the whole doctrine that
austerity is a good thing for economies, specifically for economies in
trouble, that whole doctrine globally is falling apart. It`s falling apart
here at home. It`s falling apart globally, as well.
And joining us now for more perspective on that is our friend Ezra
Klein, wrangler of “The Washington Post`s” “Wonkblog” and an MSNBC policy
Ezra, thank you very much for being here.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Thank you for having me. And as
wrangler “Wonkblog”, my “Wonkblog” (INAUDIBLE) would kill me if I didn`t
say, helium crisis sounds totally funny, totally a real thing, people
should be totally worried.
MADDOW: People should be totally worried and there`s Hank Johnson
making the case. Really, we can address helium, but nothing else?
MADDOW: That paradigm, that dynamic to me seems to be the underdog
dynamic in Washington. Even liberals are saying, you know, we shouldn`t
fight back against the sequester by fixing the stuff that bothers people
the most, the sequester itself has to go because the idea of budget cutting
our way to success has got to go.
Do you feel like there is an overall austerity thesis that`s driving
what`s going on in politics right now?
KLEIN: I don`t think so in this way. I think two things have gone
conflated that shouldn`t be conflated. One the one end, you have this idea
called austerity. And austerity, I think, in its simplest thing, most
people will describe it, the idea is that if you reduce the deficit
quickly, you`ll have some kind – what Paul Krugman called confidence very
(ph) effect where businesses and consumers become so excited that you
finally reduce a deficit that they`ll run out and they spend and they`ll
invest and they`ll hire people.
So, however you need to do it, get the deficit down. That is how you
grow the economy. That I think is what people mean when they say
This has gotten kind of conflated with the Republican Party`s
position, which is that you should reduce the deficit but not by cutting
defense and absolutely not in any way by raising taxes. If it requires
raising taxes even a dollar, then better not to reduce the deficit at all.
Better possibly even to default on the debt which brings all the terrible
consequences of a debt crisis all at once artificially. And
simultaneously, something the austerity people don`t typically believe that
further government action to help out the economy probably isn`t merited.
So, if you think of these academics Reinhart and Rogoff who have
become very, very associated with austerity, rightly or wrongly in their
view, they`ve argued for principal write-downs in which the government
would make mortgages cheaper for people. They`ve argued for a lot of debt
forgiveness for higher inflation. The Republican Party wants none of that.
So, I think the Republican Party, I`m not an austerity believer, but I
think what the Republican Party is actually advocating is quite a bit less
coherent even than austerity.
MADDOW: Well, what is it? If it`s not austerity, then what do you
think they want? Even if you think it`s incoherent, can you discern the
incoherent message for us?
KLEIN: Yes, at this point, it boils down to lower taxes, particularly
on rich people. Remember, they were OK with the payroll tax cut expiring
and also cutting social services. Those are the things that seem to be the
North Stars. But, you know, if on my more cynical days and I have a lot of
them lately, it is whatever the Obama administration doesn`t want.
In 2008, I also think it`s important for people to remember, George W.
Bush proposed and pushed and signed into law the Economic Stimulus of 2008
Act. That was also the case of his `03 tax cuts, the idea that the deficit
financed stimulus is not something Republicans do. It only dates back to
the beginning of the Obama administration. And this concern with deficits
similarly was not in evidence in the Bush years.
So I think a lot of what we`ve been seeing quite sadly is simply
counter positioning vis-a-vis President Obama. So, whether the Obama
administration goes, in most cases, Republicans very, very quickly go to
the opposite side of that issue, even if only a few years before, they were
on the same side that the Obama administration now occupies.
MADDOW: Do you think that the way the current sequester and budget
cutting debates are going to work out is that we will keep all of the cuts
that hurt people who don`t have political capital and the ones that bother
members of Congress themselves or people with political capital, those ones
will get fixed?
KLEIN: That is what we`ve done so far. I think this is a really
appalling period in Washington, D.C. I mean, in the next month or two,
everybody who is on unemployment benefits who has been out of work for more
than 24 weeks, their benefits are not coming from the state, they`re coming
They`re going to get their benefits cut. These folks, the long-term
unemployed, the people hurting the most, they will see their benefits cut
by 10 percent, or 11 percent, or even in in some cases, 12 percent. And
we`re not fixing that, but we`re fixing business travel.
The moment Democrats agreed to that, the moment they said we will undo
what the FAA cuts but leave the rest of the stimulus untouched, they lost
all of their leverage on it because what they said is that they will not
put the pain of the sequester on the politically powerful in order to move
the whole thing. They will just undo it for the politically powerful.
And if that`s going to be their position going forward, if they don`t
reverse it the next time this comes up very aggressively, then this is just
going to be with us forever. But it`s going to become even more unbalanced
than it is now because we`re going to take away things that politically
hurt in Congress and that`s going to be more cuts to the people who
actually can`t have a voice or don`t have a loud voice in Washington.
MADDOW: Right. Because people – if the sort of haves won`t sustain
any of the pain themselves, then more just gets shoveled on to the have-
MADDOW: Ezra Klein, “Washington Post” “Wonkblog” columnist, MSNBC
policy analyst – Ezra, thank you very much. It`s good to have you here.
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Lots more to come, including the ghost of
prematurely initiated wars past.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Five days before the Boston marathon bombing – the marathon
bombing was April 15th – on April 10th, one of the armed rebel groups that
is waging war against the government in Syria pledged allegiance to this
guy. Remember him? Ayman al-Zawahiri.
He was the number two guy in al Qaeda under bin Laden until bin Laden
became dead and then he moved up. Zawahiri moved up to replace bin Laden
and now, he`s the head of al Qaeda central.
One of the groups of fighters among the rebels in Syria pledged its
allegiance to Ayman Zawahiri specifically and to al Qaeda more generally on
April 10th. Two weeks later, “The New York Times” ran this article saying
essentially, hey, for the past two weeks or so, the government of Syria has
done a 180 and they are letting our journalists in, specifically they are
letting our journalists in so the government of Syria can parade rebel
prisoners in front of us to tell us that these prisoners are all religious
Essentially, the idea is they want the U.S. to switch sides and
support the Syrian government`s side in this fight rather than these al
Qaeda-ish rebels on the other side. Syrian government effectively with
this lobbying campaign is saying, hey, we`re the good guys here.
With one group of the rebels pledging allegiance to al Qaeda two weeks
earlier, that`s a pretty powerful lobbying case especially for an American
audience reading about it in “The New York Times.” If the other side is
going to compete with that kind of P.R., you can see they would have to
step up their game, right?
Well, one day after that “New York Times” article, bingo. The Syrian
government can`t be the good guy here. Look, they`re using chemical
Chemical weapons, are you sure?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The U.S. intelligence community
assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has
used chemical weapons on a small scale.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are preliminary
assessments based on our intelligence gathering. We had varying degrees of
confidence about the actual use.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Preliminary assessments, varying degrees of confidence, some
degree of varying confidence. There have been claims by the Syrian
opposition for months now that the Syrian government was using chemical
weapons. We have Richard Engel on this show way back in January to talk
about how the rebels were making these claims for obvious reasons.
I mean, they want the international community, they want the U.S.
specifically to get involved in the war in Syria on their side of it. So
they`re saying the Syrian government`s using chemical weapons, you have to
But claiming that and proving that are two different things. And they
ought to be two different things. If it`s the difference between war and
peace, right? Right? We have all learned that right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mike
Rogers, you`ve also, of course, looked at a lot of this evidence. Is it
conclusive enough for you?
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: It is.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I hope that this new revelation of
chemical weapons will move the president to do what he should`ve done two
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Aren`t there lessons from Iraq that need to
be taken into mind here?
MCCAIN: Well, one of the lessons obviously, and we hear this a lot
from the administration, is that we had false information about weapons of
mass destruction with Iraq. In this case, there is significant evidence
that the – physical evidence – of the use of chemical weapons.
Our actions should not be dictated by whether Bashar Assad used these
chemical weapons or not. First of all, sooner or later he most likely
would in order to maintain his hold on power.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, we now know he`s used
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we really know that, Senator?
CHAMBLISS: We do.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF: You appear to be temperizing or looking for a level
of proof that`s not realistic, people are going to read that as an
equivocation and that would be a serious problem.
BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: This is not a president who wants to
start another war. That`s the way he sees it. I think it`s totally
irresponsible for an American to have that. No one wants to start wars,
but you`ve got to do what you want to do.
MCCAIN: Be prepared with an international force to go in and secure
these stocks of chemical and perhaps biological weapons.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The chemical weapons enough
to kill millions of people are going to be compromised and fall in the
wrong hands and the next bomb that goes off in America may not have nails
and glass in it.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: You see the smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom
The voices from the American right in this debate pretty much all the
same guys, right? Pretty much all the same voices who were so desperately
wrong 10 years ago. They are not embarrassed about that, by the way.
What is different now is who is in the White House now. And what`s
different now is that we are not this time being pressured to start a huge
mess in the Middle East. We are being asked to get involved in somebody
else`s existing huge mess that is already in progress for the last two
Joining us now is Gary Samore. He`s former coordinator for weapons of
mass destruction, counterterrorism and arms control in the Obama
administration. He`s now executive director for Harvard Kennedy School
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Mr. Samore, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
GARY SAMORE, BELFER CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Hi,
MADDOW: So here in the U.S., the word is that some agencies have low
or moderate confidence in the intelligence on this. Can you describe what
that means? For a layman audience, what exactly does that mean?
SAMORE: Well, reading between the lines, I believe that all of the
intelligence agencies think that there`s very strong evidence that people
were exposed to sarin, and that`s based primarily on blood samples, which
is very reliable.
What`s much less clear are the conditions of use. Who used it on
whose orders, what were the circumstances? And the administration would
like to get a better idea of that in the first instance by hoping that the
U.N. will be able to carry out an investigation.
However, I think it`s very unlikely that the Syrian government would
allow such an investigation. So unless the U.S. government or other
governments have very sensitive information that get at the question of who
ordered the use or what the purpose of it was, we may never know precisely
MADDOW: I played that long montage of SOT of various figures, of
sound on tape for various figures making the connection between this
reported intelligence and whether or not we should go to war in Syria, just
to make clear how bright those lines are in the arguments of a lot of
people participating in this political debate. But it sounds to me those
chain of custody concerns with evidence of chemical weapons being used but
we don`t know how seems to me that`s pretty important to understanding
whether or not the Syrian conflict has passed the kind of red line that the
president has described.
Is that how you see it?
SAMORE: Yes, and especially because the military options are so
awful. For us to try to destroy or seize all of the chemical weapons in
Syria would require a tremendous amount of force. It would be very
dangerous. It`s quite likely such an attack could actually trigger
chemical use, as well.
So, it`s not as though the president faces an easy decision to use
military force. And I think understandably, he wants to be quite sure and
to have available to him practical and effective options.
My fear is that as this war goes on, the tide starts to shift against
the Assad government, I think it`s likely we`ll see indiscriminate wide
scale use of chemical weapons. If not by the government, then maybe by
individual commanders who are facing a desperate situation. And we may
very get drawn into this war.
So, the military properly should be thinking of contingencies, we
should be talking to our allies because I fear one day we may have to use
some kind of military force.
MADDOW: With something like 200 states, 200 governments around the
world having signed on to the chemical weapons convention, which
effectively is supposed to ban these weapons from use by anybody under any
circumstances, do you expect that there would be broad based international
cooperation in responding to further use of chemical weapons, to better
documented use of chemical weapons, or in fact, as you`re describing here
indiscriminate use of those kind of weapons?
SAMORE: Well, I think the Russians and the Chinese have a very strong
self-interest in trying to prevent any U.S. or Western military
intervention. So their standard of proof is going to be extraordinarily
high. And they will try to find a way to explain away any use. For
example, they`ll say that it was actually the rebels that used it for the
purpose of drawing the U.S. into the conflict.
So I don`t think you`ll have action that`s blessed by the U.N. because
the Russians and the Chinese can block such action. I do think the Western
countries – U.S. and Europe – and most of the Arab countries would be
sympathetic if we found it necessary at some point in the future to use
military force in the event of large scale use of chemical weapons.
MADDOW: And in the event that military force made sense as an
appropriate response, which at this point the arguments are really at best
as I see it.
Gary Samore, former Obama administration coordinator for weapons of
mass destruction counterterrorism and arms control, now at the Belfer
Center at Harvard – Mr. Samore, thank you very much for being with us
tonight. I really appreciate it.
SAMORE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got lots more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Couple of months ago, this show made a crazy, busy, multi-
state trip far away from our home base in New York here. We went to the
American states where running clinics that provide abortions has become
extremely close to impossible. It was powerful work done by our producers
Rebekah Dryden and Anthony Terrell, talking with the folks who are doing
front line`s work with every pressure in the world bearing down on them
trying to force them to stop doing something that is supposedly protected
by the United States Constitution.
Well, tonight for the interview, we have two of those people live and
here in studio. They`ll probably be embarrassed if they say they are a big
deal. But that is too bad for them because they are, in fact, a big deal
and that interview is next.
MADDOW: In December 1994, at the Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk,
Virginia, a man named John Salvi was arrested by police for shooting at the
clinic. Although he did not hit anyone at the clinic, just a day earlier,
he stormed into two different clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts, and
killed two women, one who worked at each place. But he was arrested in
Norfolk when he shot at Hillcrest.
Other anti-abortion zealots had already attacked Hillcrest. In 1983,
a man broke in, poured kerosene all over the office and set it on fire.
The following year, somebody attacked the clinic with a bomb. The bomb
blast broke the plate glass window of the bank branch next door.
But through the shooting attack from John Salvi and the bombing attack
and the arson attack, plus the daily intimidation of aggressive protesters
including some who physically forced their way inside to terrorize the
staff and patients in the clinic – through all of it, the Hillcrest Clinic
in Norfolk, Virginia, stayed open. They stayed open for four decades.
But now, they have finally succeeded in shutting it down. Bombings,
arson and a .22 caliber semiautomatic Sturmgewehr loaded with hollow point
bullets could not do it, but the Republicans of the Virginia state
legislature now have done it. The anti-abortion TRAP law designed to shut
down the state`s clinics signed by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and
championed by the Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Ken
Cuccinelli, that TRAP law has claimed its first victim in Virginia.
Quoting from “The Washington Post,” “Even after years of protests,
arson, a pipe bombing and an attack by a man wielding a semiautomatic
weapon, the principal reason it closed its door was that complying with
these new regulations would have saddled the clinic with a half million
dollars in renovations, an affordable expense.
The editorial calls Ken Cuccinelli the most political attorney general
in Virginia`s history. It says, quote, “There`s no evidence that
unsanitary conditions or slapdash procedures are common at abortion clinics
in Virginia nor that women who seek services from them are at risk. The
state`s assault on women`s reproductive rights is an ideological crusade
masquerading as concern for public health.”
There are 20 clinics that provide abortion services in the state of
Virginia. A state survey shows that only one clinic meets the requirement
of Virginia Republicans` new anti-abortion law.
So, this one that closed, Hillcrest closing after four decades, that`s
the first one to close but most of the others expected to go, too.
The same types of laws trying to shut down clinics have been passed by
Republicans, are expected to pass soon in Virginia and Alabama and Indiana
and North Carolina and Texas and Mississippi and in North Dakota. In
Mississippi and North Dakota, the regulations are targeting the last
remaining clinic in the state.
Abortion is being effectively banned in states all across the country,
in states where Republicans have governing power. In every state, there`s
a fight on to try to protect this right that American women are supposed to
have to access abortion services. But through all of the means that they
have tried over the years, nothing has ever been as effective for the
radical anti-abortion movement in this country as the election of veto
proof Republican majorities in the legislatures in multiple U.S. states in
Since then, since 2010 and since the 2012 election in particular when
they picked up the pace, the Republican Party is now doing the work for
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Tammi Kromenaker. She`s
the director of the Red River Women`s Clinic of Fargo, North Dakota. And
Julie Burkhart is administrator of the South Wind Women`s Center of
Tammy and Julie, I`ve talked to both of you over the years, over the
months and years.
It`s great to have you here in person.
JULIE BURKHART, TRUST WOMEN FOUNDATION: Thank you so much for having
TAMMI KROMENAKER, RED RIVER WOMEN`S CLINIC: Thank you.
MADDOW: Julie, let me ask you first, opening up in Wichita,
obviously, the site of your clinic is where Dr. Tiller had his clinic for
years until he was killed. You worked with Dr. Tiller and ended up opening
your clinic in the same site.
Since you`ve been open now, what`s it been like?
BURKHART: Well, we`ve had our battles. We were issued a subpoena by
the Board of Healing Arts in out state, four days after opening, which
we`ve had to answer. They wanted to look at some of our business records.
MADDOW: After being open for four days?
BURKHART: Yes, correct.
Both of our physicians have now been outed by the extremist group
Operation Rescue. And one of our physicians has been harassed in her
private office in another state by anti-choice extremists, as well.
MADDOW: Is this going the way you expected it to go? I mean,
obviously there`s this sort of these twin forces, right? There`s the anti-
abortion extremist groups and activist groups which have always operated
the way we`ve seen, but they have allies in state government who are
effectively using different tactics to try to accomplish the same end. Is
it going the way you thought it would?
BURKHART: I would say pretty much. We have definitely had hurdles
placed in front of us we`ve been able to navigate over. I`m still
anticipating to meet some challenges down the road.
BURKHART: I would say it`s going the way we predicted it would go.
MADDOW: Tammi, in North Dakota, your state legislature and your
governor are waging all out assault using state government to try to make
your clinic not exist anymore. What is happening now both in the legal
fight and in your practical day-to-day operations?
KROMENAKER: Well, I think last weekend was the first weekend I
actually didn`t go into work since the end of January. It`s taken up all
of my time, you know, tons of resources, but we won a battle last week. In
2011, the legislature passed a medication abortion bill trying to restrict
medication abortions and in district court last week with the help of the
Center of Reproductive Rights, a judge said those restrictions are
unconstitutional and, in fact, stand in the way of women`s health. So,
that was a victory.
We have more battles coming up and the center has vowed to help us
continue to be able to offer the services that the women in North Dakota
need. And we plan on filing more lawsuits.
MADDOW: How are your patients coping with these pressures? Obviously
women who are there for cancer screenings, for STI screenings, treatment of
different kinds, abortion services, for any sort of pregnancy-related
services, they`re there with their health on the mind. Is this intruding
into the way you`re able to serve your patients? The political pressures?
KROMENAKER: Go ahead.
BURKHART: Well, well, it is, because if you were to look at the
mounds of paperwork that we have to do in order to comply with these
punitive laws, you know, that gets in the way of our patient care, the fact
that patients have to come through security and be screened because we are
afraid of people who would wish to do violence to us. You know, that is
not the way we wish to or would choose to provide health care to our
How about you, Tammi?
KROMENAKER: Well, women come in and the first week, the day the
governor signed the bill, they were calling and saying, is my appointment
next week? Can I still have it? You know, can I still be there? Or
they`re coming in and saying this is illegal?
Our clinic is located on a very busy street, right in downtown Fargo,
and it`s shocking to me they think that we`re operating right there with
the sign on the front of our building and protesters and escorts, but they
think it`s illegal.
MADDOW: They think you`re on like the underground railroad at this
But when a woman doesn`t want to be pregnant, she`ll go through hell,
high water, in North Dakota, blizzards, floods. She`ll hit a deer on the
way and have a flat tire and say, can I still come? When a woman doesn`t
want to be pregnant, she`ll do whatever she needs to do and, unfortunately,
it just adds to the stigma that women feel when they hear all of these
things about heartbeat, sex selection, genetic abnormality, you know,
abortion is very common. And the stigma is disgusting.
MADDOW: In terms of your health providers, in terms of the doctors
that are working the clinic – obviously, Julie, you`re dealing with them
being attacked and targeted directly for harassment by these outside
groups. One of the things that I`ve talked to medical students in the past
is whether or not there are enough people who are coming up through the
medical training system to know how to do abortions, to know how to provide
this kind of care and who are brave enough to do it.
It`s asking a lot of providers who could be doing anything. But doing
this is – has got to be tough.
BURKHART: We`re so nice.
MADDOW: So nice, she`s (INAUDIBLE) –
BURKHART: One of the things that I was told after Dr. Tiller was
assassinated was a lot of the medical students were coming forward saying I
want to be trained in abortion care which seemed – did not seem logical to
me, because of the fear factor. And there are a lot of good programs
around the country that are really working to train OB-GYNs in residency
and family practice residents and abortion care for women.
MADDOW: It`s got to take a toll. I mean, I was struck talking to
you guys how much credit you give to your staff for being involved and
being unafraid and being willing to be there and go through it every day.
I imagine, I mean, I`ve been covering reproductive rights politics for a
very long time. I`ve never seen this kind of crucible we`re seeing now.
It`s never been this aggressive. The rights have never been this
aggressively rolled back.
I`m wondering if it must forge some kind of solidarity or sense of at
least being all for one and one for all in fighting this stuff. It must.
KROMENAKER: It absolutely does. And it does with providers across
the country. With our staff, they feel – they feel the love. And what
these laws have done and what this scrutiny has done has created more
allies in our communities.
We, the day the governor signed the bills, we cleared off the staff
bulletin board. It is full, it is triple packed, it`s on the bulletin
board, it`s on the wall, it`s on another wall. And so, we see that and
read those –
MADDOW: In terms of messages of support.
KROMENAKER: Of support. And we read those and it lets you know. And
somebody said specifically, I represent thousands behind you.
And so, those kind of messages are important for us. And it does
increase your dedication, believe it or not, just like Julie, you know?
The assassination of Dr. Tiller only strengthened our resolve. It did not
make us back down.
MADDOW: Let me ask you one more question about the national attention
to this issue. I see this as one of the most important things in
Republican Party politics nationally. They`re not talking about it at the
national level. They never talk about it on the Beltway or very rarely.
But whatever they have control, this is how they`re governing in the
And so, it seems to me it`s a pretty key part to understanding what
the party is doing. I see it as a national story.
But in terms of the impact on you guys, so many of these regulations,
so many of the ways they are governing is to try to make it impossibly
expensive to run a clinic, to put you out of business simply by requiring
you to spend money that you otherwise would never have to spend if you were
running any different kind of different clinic.
Does national support translate into financial support for local
clinics in a way that can help them bear the cost of these new regulations?
I mean, they said the reason they shut down after four decades, they didn`t
have a half million spare to do these things that Republicans in Virginia
are now requiring them to do? Does it translate that way? Does that work
BURKHART: Well, I guess I would say in some circumstances. And I
think that`s the worry. You know, are they going to bury us in lawsuits
and coming after us for zoning issues and these frivolous expectations. I
think that`s the real worry.
Will there be enough money in our community of providers? So, that`s
the big $10 million question.
MADDOW: What do you think about that, Tammi?
KROMENACKER: I do think money comes in and the extra scrutiny on
states like North Dakota, Mississippi, that money comes in. I heard from
another provider, though, in Tennessee, when I told her this money was
coming in to help us with this lawsuit. She said if I just had that
amount, I could have stayed open.
So it`s great that we`re getting it, but we represent many, many
providers who are struggling every day to make the hallways the right size
that the regulations have or higher architects. And so that`s the real
story, it`s all those other providers. We might be in the spotlight, but
we represent thousands, as well.
MADDOW: Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women`s Clinic in
North Dakota. Julie Burkhart is administrator of the South Wind Women`s
Center of Wichita, Kansas, thank you both so much for being here tonight.
I fee lucky to have you here.
KROMENAKER: Thank you.
BURKHART: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks very much.
All right. Something happened today that made 67 different U.S.
senators agree with each other, seriously. If that sounds like it means
something weird is going on, it`s true. Something weird`s going on.
MADDOW: Here is something to keep an eye on. Something weird is
going on in Washington that I do not yet understand.
All right. Here is the back story. On this show, we have done a lot
of reporting on the V.A. having this big, immense backlog of disability
claims, for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in particular, but also for
veterans of earlier wars. In response to the persistence of the backlog
and it getting better and not worse in recent years, the group Iraq and
Afghan Veterans of America few weeks ago submitted tens of thousands of
signatures to the White House asking for President Obama to get directly
involved personally to fix the problem.
Well, now, as of today a huge majority of the Senate, 67 senators,
have written to the president, calling for the same thing. They`re asking
for the president to take, quote, “direct action and involvement to end the
V.A. backlog,” saying, quote, “our joy at their return must be reflected in
commitment to helping all who served. We respectfully ask you to find a
solution that ensures that no veterans are stuck in the V.A. backlog.”
Sixty-seven senators, 67! Everybody from Dick Durbin to Tammi Baldwin
to John Cornyn and Orrin Hatch, it is the full ideological spectrum of the
Senate. Sixty-seven senators asking for the president to wade into this
problem at the V.A.
This is one to watch in terms of the White House response to this
especially, and it is especially one to watch because at the same time this
is happening up on Capitol Hill, yet more top people at the V.A. are, all
of a sudden, out of a job. The chief technology officer left last month,
then chief of staff at the agency left as well. The chief information
officer also left last month.
And now, today, the deputy secretary described by Federal News Radio
and “Stars and Stripes” as the guy who runs the V.A. on a day-to-day basis
is out. They`ve all quit since the beginning of March.
This is the executive branch. This is part of the Obama
administration and something is going on here. We are waiting now on the
White House to hear their take on exactly what is going on, but something
is going on here.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Pop quiz, who is the junior senator from Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Warren is the senior one. Who`s the junior one?
This guy, Mo Cowan, shown here being sworn in as his wife and their
two rather adorable sons looked on.
When Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Mr. Cowan to fill
John Kerry`s Senate seat, he did so with the expressed knowledge and agreed
to beforehand plan that Mr. Cowan would not himself run for the seat. He`d
only serve as placeholder until an election could be held in late June.
Well, the primary to pick the Democratic candidate and Republican
candidate for that June election, those primaries will be held tomorrow.
On the Democratic side, Congressman Steven Lynch is the more
conservative candidate. He, for example, voted against health reform.
Congressman Ed Markey is the more liberal candidate. He`s been a real
bulldog particularly on environmental and energy issues in Congress.
The most recent PPP poll commissioned by the League of Conservation
Voters shows Mr. Lynch trailing Ed Markey by 14 points. Not helping
matters for Mr. Lynch is the fact that he cancelled almost all his events
today, the day before the primary, due to an unspecified illness.
On the other side, three Republican names on the ticket. Former Navy
SEAL Gabriel Gomez, former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan, and State Rep.
Gabriel Gomez raised the most money and he`s only one of the three
candidates who have advertised on TV, but he`s also pretty widely viewed as
being out of his depth and opposite of impressive in debates that happened
on the Republican side.
On that Republican side, though, I should say that polling offers no
little guidance. As “The New York Times” put it rather delicately today,
quote, “The Republican primary is a three-way competition with relatively
little known candidates in a race that analysts said was difficult to poll
because so few Republicans are likely to vote.”
Obviously, Massachusetts had a lot to contend with in recent days,
politics may not be number one on people`s minds, but tomorrow is primary
day for a U.S. Senate seat. Polls open at 7:00. The will stay open until
8:00. We promise to let you know what happens.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great night.
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