The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/17/13
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
In 1952 presidential election, the Democratic Party nominated Adlai
Stevenson as their presidential nominee. He was the governor of Illinois
at the time.
For his running mate, the Democrats that year picked John Sparkman, Alabama
senator, a man who would probably earn you a lot of money if you ever got
the opportunity to put his name in the form of a question on “Jeopardy.”
John Sparkman, yes, he was the vice presidential nominee of one of the two
major parties in 1952 but he is now essentially totally lost to history.
So, that was the Democratic side that year.
On the Republican side that year, the presidential nominee was Ike.
General Dwight David Eisenhower. And his running mate was this handsome
It was a contentious choice to pick Richard Nixon as Ike`s running mate.
There were lots of other Republicans who wanted on the ticket and big
powerful factions of Republicans who wanted people other than Richard Nixon
to get the nod, but Ike picked Nixon – Senator Nixon who was known as an
anti-corruption crusader at the time, which is hilarious.
A couple months after Ike picked Nixon, vice presidential nominee Richard
Nixon got himself into his own corruption scandal. This was the headline,
right? “Secret rich men`s trust fund keeps Nixon in style far beyond his
salary.” “The New York Post” slaying Richard Nixon going right at what was
supposed to be his strong suit, saying he was not some anti-corruption
crusading man of the people, he was a puppet of a millionaire`s club that
secretly paid not only for him but for his whole family`s lavish lifestyle.
It just looked terrible for Ike and for Nixon. And people started
protesting at his campaign events holding up sarcastic signs like, “Donate
here to help poor Richard Nixon.”
In Eugene, Oregon, a sign directed at his wife. “Pat, what are you going
to do with the bribe money?” “The Washington Post” and “New York Herald
Tribune” both editorializing that Ike should dump Nixon, kick him off the
ticket. But Richard Nixon did something that was genius. He could see
this thing accelerating and getting a little out of control, the pressure
building for him to get dropped as the vice presidential nominee.
Rather than trying to endure it any longer, just trying to hope to survive
it, Nixon decided to swing for the fences. It was an audacious move that
totally worked. He stopped campaigning. He flew to L.A. He booked the El
Capitan Theater in Hollywood apparently because it had very nice fighting,
very flattering. He booked a half hour of primetime live television.
September 23rd, 1952, it was a Tuesday night right after Texaco Star
Theater featuring Milton Berle. And there was Dick Nixon on television,
very well lit, speaking uninterrupted and live for half an hour direct to
the camera, telling America that he would put his fate in your hands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, THEN-VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I come before you tonight
as a candidate for the vice presidency and as a man whose honesty and
integrity has been questioned. The usual political thing to do when
charges are made against you is to either ignore them or to deny them
without giving details. I believe we`ve had enough of that in the United
States, particularly with the present administration in Washington, D.C.
To me, the Office of the Vice Presidency of the United States is a great
office, and I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the
integrity of the men who run for that office and who might obtain it.
I have a theory, too, that the best and only answer to a smear or to an
honest misunderstanding of the facts is to tell the truth. And that`s why
I`m here tonight. I want to tell you my side of the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And he lays out his case. He defends himself against these
scurrilous charges. He says he has not done anything wrong. He says he`s
a man of humble means. His wife wears a cloth coat. He owes his parents
$3,500. He does an inventory of all the things he owns in the world so you
can see his modest means and trust him, again, that these are lies.
Scurrilous lies told against him just for political reasons.
And, yes, he understands there are some people who want him not to be the
vice presidential nominee anymore, but you at home watching this live,
primetime, half hour of Richard Nixon talking to you on your TV, why don`t
you express your opinion? Why don`t you write a telegram, right now to the
Republican National Committee?
If you think they should throw me off the ticket, that`s fine, just say so.
But if you think they should keep me, if you think I should stay on the
ticket, send that telegram right now, won`t you? Genius, genius.
That speech is always called the Checker speech because at the height of
his argument for how he`s done nothing wrong and nobody is bribing him and
he`s not in anybody`s pocket, in the night of his argument he busts out the
family dog, Checkers, who the Nixon children love. You want to take away
my dog? Is that what you want to do? I`m not giving up that dog.
He recasts his political accusers as people who would take a child`s puppy
away. If you d not want the puppy taken away from the child who loves it,
send a telegram saying Dick Nixon should be the Republican vice
presidential nominee. Send it right now.
It was genius. And he did not get dropped from the ticket and they won and
he became vice president. And now, two generations down the road, with the
word “Nixon” a synonym for corruption, and us having mostly forgotten that
he even ever was vice president – now, I think maybe it is time for
Checkers 2, or it had better be. There needs to be some move of equally
audacious political genius some time soon in Virginia politics, for what is
happening there right now is not going to end well. Even them it might not
The only saving grace in the political calamity unfolding right now in
Virginia Republican politics is that this calamity at one small part of the
scandal does involve a very, very cute dog. Hi. She`s 14. She`s a
Sheltie terrier mix and she is the first dog of the commonwealth of
The same way you saw that the wife of a male executive is the first lady.
The governor`s family is the first family. This is the first dog of
And within a few months of getting elected governor of the great state of
Virginia in 2009, governor ultrasound, conservative Republican Bob
McDonnell started charging the taxpayers of Virginia for the dog`s
vitamins. The dog needed vitamins.
He decided the taxpayers should pay for it. He charged to the taxpayers
dog vitamins, breath freshening strips, deodorant, body wash, energy
drinks, dry cleaning for the McDonnell children`s clothing.
As governor of the state you are entitled to have the taxpayers fund a lot
of your normal living expenses but you know what? Not the dog vitamins.
Not the little melty bad breath but it`s not gum things. Right?
But because Bob McDonnell charged even that stuff to the state, rather than
paying for it, himself, some poor government employee in Virginia, the
mansion director for the governor`s mansion which is a public building in
Virginia as well as the residence for the first family, some poor state
employee from the division of selected agency support services had to write
the most embarrassing letter ever, right? Imagine this.
Dear, governor, sir. How would you put it? Dear governor, we need to talk
about the dog vitamins and the body wash. Mr. Governor, sir, it`s time to
talk about your deodorant.
Quoting from the letter, “These expenses are personal ones that can not be
covered by the state or mansion funds.” The state employee has to express
to the governor that while some basic living expenses are par for the
course and everybody knows to expect that, body wash and pet food and pet
treats and dry cleaning for people other than the governor and the first
lady, these are the kinds of things that are not what the taxpayers are
supposed to be paying for.
The governor was asked to please pay back the state, specifically $317.27
for the breath strips and the dog vitamins and all the rest of it. That
was six months into his time being governor.
But as of today, as of new reporting from “The Washington Post” today, we
now know that the humiliation of this whole incident is not just shared
between that poor state employee who had to write that letter about dog
vitamins to the governor and ask for the money back, it`s not just between
that employee and the governor who presumably was a little embarrassed by
having to receive that letter and pay the money back. No, now it`s not
just between them.
Now, we all get to share in the embarrassment because now we know that even
after being confronted with that, even with being confronted with that and
having to pay the state back for his personal hygiene items and dog things
that he charged to the taxpayers of Virginia, even after that confrontation
and having to cut a check back to the state, Bob McDonnell kept doing it.
Vitamins for people, not just for dogs, nasal spray, more body wash even
after they were specifically told the taxpayers will not pay for your body
wash, Governor. Still, though, more body wash. And how about a digestive
system detox cleanse? Charged to the taxpayers of the state of Virginia by
Governor Bob McDonnell. You paid for that, for him.
Do you want to know what a digestive system detox cleanse is? It`s exactly
what you think it is. Just take a second.
You paid for that for Bob McDonnell if you live in Virginia. And now we
all have to know he does that. We all have to have this information about
him and his family which everybody would prefer would be private, right?
But this, of course, follows the federal grand jury and the FBI and a state
prosecutor looking into the $15,000 wedding dinner paid for by a Bob
McDonnell political donor who also loaned him a lakeside vacation villa and
a private jet, many times, an a Ferrari.
Three days before the daughter`s wedding with the free wedding paid for by
the campaign donor, the mother of the bride flew to Florida to do an event
touting the health benefits of that campaign donor`s magic tobacco pill.
The federal grand jury and the FBI are investigating on the potential
corruption and bribery side of that. Was there any quid pro quo? Was the
governor doing favors in his capacity as governor in exchange for the cash
and prizes he was collecting from that donor? The state prosecutor is
looking into whether or not the governor violated the laws on the
disclosure of gifts.
Both of those probes follow accusations from the executive chef at the
governor`s mansion. Accusations that the governor`s grown children were
hauling off from the governor`s mansion kitchen with bottled water and cups
and Gatorade and protein powder, flats of eggs, liquor for a private party
taken out of the liquor cabinet at the governor`s mansion, also pots and
pan, kitchen equipment, allegedly taken out of the governor`s mansion
kitchen by the first lady and given to other people, given away. Take it.
It`s yours, by which I mean it`s public, and therefore mine, and therefore
Those allegations from the chef are just allegations. They`re asserted by
the executive chef in legal proceedings. They have not been proven in
But the chef has asked for records related to that alleged petty theft by
the governor and his family, which if nothing else is a good reminder if
you are elected governor of Virginia, you do get your own personal chef. I
mean, you get to be governor which is cool enough, should be a good job,
right? You also get a free mansion with free food, you get a free personal
chef to cook it. You get free maids. You get one of the nation`s few
state-funded butlers to serve you.
But free Ferrari rides and dog vitamin, those aren`t part of the deal, too?
Bob McDonnell sought to make those part of the deal. After he got the
initial letter six months into his administration telling him that the
state was not going to pay for the dog vitamins and the breath freshening
strips and the body wash and all that stuff, the governor`s chief of staff
fought back and demanded that the governor was going to get those free
So they paid up on the dog vitamins but the energy drinks, they fought that
one. They`re keeping those. They fought to make sure that the taxpayers
kept paying for the governor`s energy drinks.
So, maybe the Republican governor of Virginia can pull himself out of this.
Maybe, he saves himself with a speech that leverages the, frankly,
ostentatious cuteness of the first dog to defuse the paying for the
vitamins part of the scandal, right? Maybe he could pull a Nixon here.
But it does not feel like that. In far because we all just know too much,
right? We know about the Ferrari and the pushing the magic tobacco pill
that coincidentally is made by the guy who lent you the Ferrari. We know
about the detox cleanse and I will pray daily that we never learn the brand
or any more specific information.
So far, all that Bob McDonnell has said on this subject is that he does not
want to talk about it and he`s also said he believes he can still govern.
Something else has to happen here. The fall of Bob McDonnell as a
potential Republican national figure has been – that fall is like,
whatever the word is that means the opposite of meteoric, or maybe actually
for once it means meteoric. If you think about it, a meteor is a thing
that is falling, right?
Anyway, while this amazing and petty process continues to play itself out,
what is it doing to election year in his state which is all happening right
Joining us is Mark Seagraves. He`s a longtime host of Virginia`s “Ask the
Governor” program on WTOP Radio. He`s now a reporter for the NBC affiliate
in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Seagraves, it`s nice to see you again. Thanks very much for being with
MARK SEAGRAVES, NBC TV REPORTER: Thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: So, there has been very little defense from Bob McDonnell about
this problem that keeps getting worse. It seems like every week
particularly in the “Washington Post,” but sometimes in other outlets as
well, we are getting new and very specific details that seem bad for him.
Why is he not saying anything about this?
SEAGRAVES: You know, this is somewhat uncharacteristic for the governor.
You know, as you said, I had him on my show for years on WTOP Radio. He
always showed up. He always took the tough questions. Even when we were,
you know, grilling him about ultrasounds and all of that, he always came in
and he took his medicine and he talked about everything.
In this case, what we`ve seen is him, as you said, not talking about it,
saying, well, in some cases there`s an open investigation and I can`t talk
about it. In other cases, I think you showed him getting on the elevator,
he told people he was at that event to talk about transportation and
And so, this is not a side of Bob McDonnell people in Virginia see. This
has put him in an awkward position, for whatever reason he has chosen or
being advised just no not talk about it. That`s why we`re not hearing
anything directly from the governor about this.
MADDOW: I think one of the reasons Bob McDonnell seemed like a national
figure from the very beginning apart from the fact the Republican National
Committee tried to elevate him that way, immediately. As soon as he got
elected governor, they had him do the response to the State of the Union.
He was very publicly floated as a potential vice presidential candidate.
I`m wondering if, obviously if you dig through enough personal expense
reports from enough politicians, you can probably make any of them look
bad. But Bob McDonnell`s brand, I think the appeal of him, the idea of him
as a national figure, really depended on this idea of him being so
efficient, being about sound fiscal stewardship, being that kind of a
Now, we see him charging taxpayers for dog vitamins, insisting that
taxpayers should pay for his energy drinks. What does that do to the Bob
McDonnell brand long term?
SEAGRAVES: You`re right. Governor McDonnell has been seen as that squeaky
clean politician. That you may disagree with him about policies and about
issues and whatnot, but people never really question his integrity.
And I think you even see in the recent polling data, while his approval
rating is slipping to a two-year low, when you look at the numbers just
about his ethics and his moral charter, he still gets high marks in
Virginia for that. You know, his staff has been busy trying to explain
that the energy drinks actually qualify as his breakfast and the governor
and first lady are entitled to their breakfast and many of these receipts
that “The Washington Post” got go back to 2011 and the gentleman who you
spoke of who does actually all the bookkeeping acknowledged to “The Post”
that he has this problem with every new governor when they come in.
But the timing of this is just all wrong. For not just Bob McDonnell for
Ken Cuccinelli and the Republican ticket as they head into November.
MADDOW: Mark Seagraves, reporter for the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C.
– Mark, thank you very much for helping us understand this tonight. I
really appreciate your help. Thanks.
SEAGRAVES: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Still ahead, thousands of people mobbed the streets of Tehran last
night, Tehran in Iran. And you know what, they mobbed the streets because
they were happy and they seemed really psyched. That`s a different kind of
footage of large masses of people in the street. Details on that, coming
MADDOW: Hey, this is what it looked like in Tehran over the weekend. The
people in the streets here are singing a protest song popular during the
Iranian revolution. This is a poetic and powerful protest song in Iran.
Thanks to Farsi speaking producers here, I can tell you the song is about
two classmates who are lifelong friends. Our names are forever etched on a
chalkboard. The scars of injustice remain on our bodies.
It`s a revolutionary song. The people singing the song in the streets of
Tehran this weekend were not protesting, they were singing the song in
celebration. What they were celebrating was the winner of the presidential
election in Iran.
The election was on Friday. Polls had to stay open five extra hours to
accommodate the big turnout. Finally, on Saturday afternoon Tehran time, a
man named Hassan Rowhani was declared the runner. He was only candidate in
a crowded field who was running as a moderate.
Throughout the campaign, he lamented Iran`s isolation in the world. He
criticized Iran`s repression of personal freedoms in the country. He
pushed for equal rights for women.
Celebrations following his victory struck a jarringly stark contrast from
the aftermath of Iran`s last presidential election four years ago when
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared president for the second time. Iranians
protested for months in cities all around the country. They insisted the
election had been rigged. That was the largest uprising against the
Iranian government since Iran overthrew its government back in 1979.
Iranian authorities responded in 2009 by rounding up political prisoners,
by beating people and killing people in the streets.
The reformist candidate in the election that year, the candidate who those
protesters said should have won had the election not been rigged, he was a
man named Mir Hossein Mousavi. He has been under house arrest since those
protests broke out in his support four years ago.
At one point during the celebrations this past weekend, people chanted the
victory of the moderate candidate this year was a victory for the reformist
candidate who was supposed to win last time but who is still now a prisoner
instead. People this weekend in the streets of Tehran were yelling in the
streets, Mousavi, we collected your vote.
At his first press conference today, Iran`s new president-elect was heckled
by someone, someone who was yelling for the release of Mr. Mousavi. The
new president-elect did not respond to the heckler, but that heckler
yelling that name out as the cameras were rolling at this press conference,
that was apparently the first time since the protest back in 2009 that Mr.
Mousavi`s name had ever been said on Iranian state television.
So that was an interesting moment at that first press conference. Thanks
to an intrepid NBC reporter Ali Arouzi, it was another interesting moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Mr. President, Ali Arouzi, NBC News.
Congratulations on your victory.
My question is the State Department has congratulated you and the Iranian
people on the election results and they`ve said that they want to engage in
direct dialogue. Would you be willing to engage in direct dialogue with
the United States?
HASSAN ROWHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT: What a hard question he is
asking. You see the issue of Iranian-American relations is a complicated
thing. It is not a single thing. In any case, there is an old wound
there, and we must think deeply on this matter, if the wound is to heal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The new president of Iran went on to say and continuing to answer
that question that both of our countries should not be dwelling in the past
but looking to a new future.
If you`re more used to hearing the Iranian president say stuff like America
has entrusted itself to the devil, that`s because the kind of thing we`ve
been hearing for the past eight years from the guy whose presidential term
will end in August.
So, new guy now. Should the U.S. be optimistic about this new guy? Will
Iran`s nuclear program stay the most sacred thing in Iranian politics?
Will the U.S. ever get more than six words away from the word “devil” in
official Iranian pronouncements?
I don`t know and neither do you.
But consider there were six candidates running for president this year in
Iran, six candidates in the mix. Nobody thought that any one of those
candidates was going to get to 50 percent. So there was going to have to
be a runoff.
But with six candidates running and only one of those six identifying a
moderate and running his campaign as a moderate, the moderate not only won
the election, he won by a mile. Hassan Rowhani got 51 percent of the vote.
He got a clear majority. The guy in second place only got 17 percent if
you round up, the establishment guy – the hardliner who all the
conservatives openly supported, he only got 11 percent of the vote.
So, there`s no runoff. It`s done. No runoff. No question. It`s a clear
result in terms of what the Iranian people want. They want change. They
want moderation. That is what they voted for very clearly by huge
So, yes, if you`re after moderation in Iran, optimism is warranted, but
cautious optimism. Running as a reformer and being a reformer are two
different things. When if comes to the nuclear program, well, the Iranian
president doesn`t control those decisions. He is the public face of those
decisions but he doesn`t make them.
So the fact a moderate won the election, that is a good sign in terms of
what the Iranian people want. The real question, though, is whether Iran`s
behind-the-scenes ruling establishment, whether they care what the people
want. And what people have just said so loudly in this election.
The real question is if they are going to actually let this reformist
candidate reform anything. And if they do, then the singing in the streets
all weekend long in Tehran, that might last. Then this election might turn
out to be a very big, very consequential, very international deal.
MADDOW: A big fight about policy has just gotten extremely personal in the
state of Wisconsin. This is State Assemblywoman Mandy Wright speaking on
the assembly floor in the middle of a big policy fight. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ST. REP. MANDY WRIGHT (D), WISCONSIN: This is a story that my constituents
don`t know. This is a story that my students don`t know. This is a story
that most of my friends don`t know. And that story starts when I was a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When you hear this story in context, you will not soon forget it
and that is next. It`s amazing.
MADDOW: Last week, Republicans in Wisconsin passed a mandatory vaginal
ultrasound bill. They rejected an amendment that said it does not have to
be a vaginal ultrasound. It could be an external one.
They also rejected an amendment, making clear that a woman can not be
physically forced by the state to have the vaginal ultrasound. Republicans
considered both of those amendments and said no to each of them.
So, Wisconsin Republicans passed their legislation forcing women to have
vaginal ultrasounds even if they do not want one or even if their doctor
does not want to it. That`s the cost of getting an abortion in state of
Everybody is waiting on Governor Scott Walker to sign it whereupon
everybody will start calling him governor ultrasound, too.
At the same time that Wisconsin Republicans passed the forced vaginal
ultrasound bill, they also passed a bill to prevent not just abortion but
also contraception from being covered by insurance. There is an exception
in the case of incest or rape but the exception only applies if you report
the rape or incest to the police.
It`s in debating that provision that something remarkable happened in
Wisconsin. An assemblywoman, a Democrat, stood up t explain how she knew a
crime does not have to be reported formally in public in order for it to be
real and a really big deal. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WRIGHT: This is a story that my constituents don`t know. This is a story
that my students don`t know. This is a story that most of my friends don`t
And that story starts when I was a kid. I was 8 years old visiting the
family farm, and my cousin raped me repeatedly, several times. The only
reason it stopped is because my father found us.
This has been kept private with my family for good reason. It was not
reported. There`s a reason that only 19 percent of rapes are ever
I was 8. I didn`t know what was happening. My parents protected me and
they made good decisions on my behalf. And I`m a whole person because of
the love and care of my parents and my faith community and the counseling
that I was able to receive individually and with my family, and that should
have been kept private.
But because of this bill, I need to tell this story. Because now I have
three daughters, and I talked about them on the floor last week and they`re
my pride and joy. And they`re beautiful. And God forbid they have the
same thing happen to them that happened to me and they actually be of
And now, I need to publicly reveal this to the entire community. And let`s
make no mistake, I am a state representative. Things that go on the police
log do not go undetected. You are talking about my kids here, that this
would have to be made publicly known for them to receive the services that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wisconsin State Representative Mandy White explaining in very,
very personal terms why she believes it is a terrible idea for the state
legislature in Wisconsin to tell Wisconsin`s women that they will not
believe you that it was rape it does not end up in a police report. And if
it does not end up in a police report and you get pregnant, then the
decision about what happens next is up to the Republicans in the state
legislature. It is not up to you.
That is what is happening in Wisconsin. Republicans saying essentially
that women lie about being raped in order to get abortions they should not
get so we need to get the police involved in that decision or it didn`t
And now, Republicans in Washington are doing the same thing for the whole
country. The Trent Franks bill for a nationwide 20-week abortion ban is
going to get a full vote on the House floor tomorrow. For that Republican
national abortion ban moment in the sun vote tomorrow, they really tried to
put a shine on it this time. First of all, they`ve taken the bill out of
the hands of its sponsor, Trent Franks, after he started opining in
committee last week about rape and the innocence of rape causing pregnancy,
they decided it was a good idea to take it away from Trent Franks.
So, they gave it to a woman Republican member of Congress to bring forward
for him instead.
They also added in exemptions for his ban for rape and incest, kind of,
because just like in Wisconsin, in the new Republican bill, you have to
prove it by going to the police or the Republicans will not believe you
that it was really rape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: There are many reasons why women don`t
report abuse. Why force them to? The only reason we were given in the
markup is that women lie. So, the authors of this bill apparently believe
that women are too dishonest to be believed when they state they were raped
or the victims of incest. That`s a heck of an insult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republicans control the House of Representatives. So, there will
be a floor vote on this tomorrow. And unlike years past when they only
applied to D.C., this ban, this year they`re trying to make it apply to the
whole country. And presumably everybody Republican in the House just about
will vote for it tomorrow and because they have a majority in the House, it
The White House has already said that if by some miracle this thing ever
reaches the president`s desk, of course, President Obama would veto it.
Quote, “The administration strongly opposes HR-1797, which would
unacceptably restrict women`s health and reproductive rights and is an
assault on a woman`s right to choose. Women should be able to make their
own choices about their bodies and their health care and government should
not inject itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor.
This bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and shows contempt for
women`s health and rights for the role doctors play in their patients`
health care decisions and for the Constitution.”
The Republicans` new national abortion ban will never become law. Not
under this president, anyway. But this is what Republicans are doing with
their majority in the House of Representatives. And it is what they are
doing with their majority in the Wisconsin legislature, and the Ohio
legislature, and the Texas legislature, with a special session Rick Perry
called there in order to pass more antiabortion legislation.
Everywhere Republicans are in charge, this is what they are working on.
This is the top of the agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: I just find it astonishing to hear a
phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low. That`s
not – I mean, there`s no scientific basis for that. And the idea that the
Republican men on this committee think they can tell the women of America
that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California reacting shortly
after Congressman Trent Franks made his statement about the incidence of
rape causing pregnancy.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren joins us now.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for being with us. Pleasure to have you
LOFGREN: Glad to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: You said that Congressman Franks` statement was astonishing to
you. How did your Republican colleagues on the committee respond when he
said what he did?
LOFGREN: Well, they didn`t say very much and I think they quickly realized
he had a Todd Akin moment and certainly the chairman shortly thereafter
recessed the committee hearing. So I think so they could figure out what
to do next. And, of course, as we know, he tried to walk back the
statement after the recess. But, I mean, he said what he said and I
thought it was an absurd statement and not true but really an indication of
a real problem on the other side of the aisle when it comes to respecting
MADDOW: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is going to be handling this
measure tomorrow for the floor vote instead of Congressman Franks. They`ve
taken it out of his hands.
Republican aides have told NBC News tonight we should expect a good showing
a Republican women on the floor tomorrow arguing for the bill. They say
that is by design.
What do you think is going on there with Trent Franks sort of being, having
this taken away from him and them branding it the way that they are on the
LOFGREN: Well, there aren`t very many women in the House, just 78 o of the
435. Three-quarters of the women are Democrats and almost all of them are
pro-choice. Almost all of the Republican women are anti-choice.
So the fact that there is a Republican woman arguing for this bill doesn`t
mean that the bill isn`t anti-choice and disrespectful to the rights of
American women. Congresswoman Blackburn has a long record of – she`s a
co-sponsor of the bill and, you know, she has the same view as Congressman
Franks as to whether this bill should be passed. And we`ll have, I hope, a
Passage of the bill is wrong. It`s wrong policy for the freedom of
MADDOW: Why do you think that the House is moving forward on this when we
have a clear and overt veto promise from the White House today? Nobody has
any delusions that this might go anywhere in the Senate. This will never
do anything more than pass the House.
Why prioritize this?
LOFGREN: That`s a very good question. I mean, there are a lot of things
we need to be doing from top to bottom, immigration reform. Working on our
economy so there are more jobs in America and why we would do a detour for
this which is not only wrong policy, but never going to become law is a
I know that all around the country, Republicans are trying to pass bills
like this one. I can only assume it`s trying to tee up a new case with the
Supreme Court in the hopes that the rights of American women can be
diminished. I can only gather, or guess, that this is really an attempt to
appeal to a narrow base that is against rights for women in America.
MADDOW: On the issue of the rape and incest exemption, that is not – the
was no rape or incest exemption when this went through the committee
process. That was change by the Republicans I understand.
LOFGREN: Sort of.
MADDOW: By their own design on Friday, after they resisted that for a long
time. That`s what led to Congressman Franks saying what he did about low
incidence of rape-caused pregnancy.
Seeing the fight over this, particularly in Wisconsin, where the opponents
of the bill there were so eloquent in arguing about why you shouldn`t
assume that women are lying about being raped. You shouldn`t make them
assume that it`s a lie unless it`s reported to the police. That is the way
this exemption is crafted now in the bill that`s going to go to the House
floor tomorrow, do you expect that to become an issue?
LOFGREN: Well, I planned to talk about it. I mean, we have every year
25,000 pregnancies in America that are caused by rape, but we only that
only about 35 percent of sexual assaults are actually reported to the
police. There are a lot of reasons why an assault might not be reported –
everything from fear to if it`s a young person, protecting them, in some
cases, shame or anxiety in a community.
And so to say that there`s got to be a report is really to say that women
are going to lie about this. That`s absurd. That`s – I hate to think
that that`s really what the Republicans are saying, but that`s the only
conclusion that can be reached.
And as for the health exception, there really isn`t a health exception
unless you`re going to die. Well, that`s something that is very difficult
for a doctor to say with precision and, of course, if doctors guess wrong,
they`re facing a five-year sentence in prison. So this is really a very
wrongheaded approach putting the Republicans in the House in the place of
women and their husbands and their doctors, I just don`t think that
America`s clamoring for that.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, thank you very much for
your time tonight. It`s nice to have you here.
LOFGREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We have big developments today in at least one of the surviving
vestiges of Dick Cheney`s America, specifically the part of Dick Cheney`s
America that is not in America. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: November 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan walked into a part of
the Ft. Hood Army Base where soldiers were making preparations to deploy,
and he allegedly opened fire. Dozens of soldiers were wounded, 13 died.
The alleged shooter, Major Hasan, was also shot. He was shot four times.
He survived. He was taken into custody.
The gunshot wounds he sustained that day paralyzed him from the waist down.
So he now uses a wheelchair. And now, 3 1/2 years after that attack, Major
Hasan is on trial in a military court-martial.
He wants to conduct his own defense. And you know what? That really never
works out well. Anybody who represents himself in court has a fool for a
client, they always say, for good reason.
The proceedings so far from the Fort Hood court-martial do not look
promising for him and his defense strategy. His initial gambit was he
planned to argue his attack on those soldiers at Fort Hood was justified.
He said it was just because he was trying to protect Mullah Omar and the
leadership of the Taliban. He said he wanted to protect the Taliban. The
judge asked him to elaborate on what he meant by that. And then he asked
for a recess to gather his thoughts.
After the recess the judge again asked him to elaborate on his defense on
exactly how he was going to argue, he was justified about those shootings.
Major Hasan responded that actually, yeah, he didn`t know. He just didn`t
want to stand there brainstorming in front of the court, he still needed
some time to figure it out.
So, the judge finally ruled on Friday that that strategy of his is not
going to fly. It does not make legal sense for him to argue that he was
protecting the Taliban, so he cannot enter that defense at his court-
martial. The legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan is not on trial in that
court-martial. He is. And although he`s trying to use his own case to
prosecute that other case, it is not going to work.
Meanwhile, the court-martial proceeds. And Major Hasan acting as his own
lawyer does have one very practical consequence, which is that he will get
to question some of the very same people who he shot and wounded at Fort
Hood as well as some of the witnesses to his shooting.
So, the Fort Hood court-martial has some circus-like elements to it and
some weird elements to it. But it soldiers on. That`s the court-martial.
Then, there`s the military tribunal in Cuba, the alleged 9/11 conspirators
are back in the courtroom as of today at the tribunal we have set up at the
prison that our country keeps in Cuba. That tribunal is still in process,
but it too has basically been nuts.
From time to time, the defendants occasionally refuse to participate, and
instead kneel in prayer in the courtroom. They refuse to listen to the
translations of the court proceedings. They sometimes ignore all the
judge`s questions and read from magazines in the courtroom instead. But
that tribunal goes on. Today, Khalid Sheik Mohamed was back in court with
his dyed orange beard and he was wearing a white turban and a camouflage
vest in a nice woodland pattern.
Another one of his co-defendants wore a white scarf, and U.S. Navy desert
camouflage, as if he is in the U.S. Navy or in the desert. But again, that
is under way.
People who commit crimes of violence for political reasons often want to
use their trial to try to make some kind of political point, and so, there
are fights at these trials about symbolic things like what they`re wearing,
and there are theatrical rejections of the court`s authority and they make
statements to try to embarrass the government and the military. Not all of
the time but often. They do their darnedest to try to turn the whole thing
into a circus.
And you know what? Who cares? Khalid Sheik Mohammed wears something weird
to court and tries to tell someone 9/11 was a great idea. OK, sure, that
happened. He`s neither more guilty nor less guilty as a result.
Major Nidal Hasan wants to be his own lawyer and pledge his protective love
for one-eyed Mullah Omar in his court-martial? Knock yourself out, big
guy. This kind of thing happens in court-martials. It happens at the
military-run tribunals like Guantanamo as well.
There is nothing magic about the military being in charge. There`s nothing
that makes those military-controlled proceedings immune from terrorism
suspects acting wacko in court. They do it in federal criminal court, too.
They do it in court-martials. They do it in hoopty tribunals that we hold
in Cuba, and it never matters.
So why is Congress so afraid of one type of those proceedings but not the
others? The House again just passed a bill that legislates that no
prisoner at Guantanamo can ever be tried anywhere but Guantanamo. They
cannot be transferred anywhere or tried anywhere else. They have to be
Why? Because afraid. Why less afraid of having them there than anywhere
else? Who knows? But it is five straight years now that Congress has done
this. Today, President Obama named one of the two special envoys he says
he will appoint to try to figure out a way to close Guantanamo and send the
This weekend, the chief prosecutor there said almost nobody`s still at
Guantanamo is even eligible for the kind of military tribunal that they do
there anyway, so don`t expect too many more of them.
And the Defense Department today responded to a lawsuit by the “Miami
Herald`s” excellent reporter Carol Rosenberg, and it released the names of
48 prisoners, who the government said it doesn`t know what to do with at
all. They`re not eligible for the tribunal system. There`s not evidence
enough against them for a real trial. And there`s no plan that the
Pentagon thinks is safe for releasing them either. So they sit.
There are 166 men there. About 150 of them will never be charged with a
crime, 86 of them are cleared to be transferred to their home countries.
And Congress says nothing can change, it must stay like this forever.
Of the 48 names on the new list that we just got today, the “we do not know
what to do with these guys” list, of those 48 names only 46 of those guys
are still at Guantanamo. The other two aren`t there anymore because they
died. One had a heart attack, and one committed suicide by hanging himself
with a bed sheet in a rec yard inside the prison.
Waiting for more of these guys to just die is not actually a policy. But
Congress is once again forcing President Obama to veto all funding for the
U.S. military if he wants to even try to close Guantanamo. And that`s
because Congress is terrified and they`re hoping enough men sent to that
prison by George W. Bush will just die there of their own accord before
Congress has to figure out what ought to be done with them, with this
policy that they created and that they are forcing on the country now.
They`re not scared of something that might happen in a courtroom in a
trial, in a federal prison. What they`re scared of is the politics of
their own vote to fix this problem that they created, because that would be
hard. And they`re scared to do it.
So we play this game every year. We play this game every year now. Five
years running now. You play this game.
You cannot fund the United States military without also an amendment that
says funding the United States military also includes this provision to
keep Guantanamo open even though the president campaigned for the
presidency twice on his promise to close it.
Congress says, no, we are afraid. And so we just do this every year.
While Congress hopes that more men die so they don`t have to figure out a
way out of the problem they built for themselves. Who is going to figure
out how to short-circuit this thing?
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Have a great night.
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