The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/27/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
for the next hour.
You might remember back in April, it was a really weird day on the
stock market where the market took a huge sudden tumble, but it wasn`t for
any market-related reason. May have stuck in your mind what happened that
day back in April because that was the day the stock market dove because of
a tweet – a false tweet which said that President Obama had been injured.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It all began about 1:07 this afternoon, with this tweet
from “The Associated Press.” “Breaking, two explosions in the White House,
and Barack Obama is injured.”
The message went to “A.P.`s” 1.9 million Twitter followers and spread
like a virus. Retweeted almost 5,000 times within a minute. But it was a
fake. “A.P.`s” account had been hacked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It partly explains the unusual activity in the
REPORTER: The Dow began plunging, and within three minutes, dropped
more than 140 points.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You looked around the floor. You saw people
running. You saw people upset. Not sure what was going on, just watching
this market trade lower.
REPORTER: Automatic trading programs kicked in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Human beings weren`t making these trades. These
were computers, algorithms designed to scan the headlines and find negative
or positive words and help companies profit on the results.
REPORTER: Minutes after that first message, “A.P.`s” corporate
account tweeted it was bogus and suspended the “A.P.`s” Twitter page.
The president`s spokesman reassured the public.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can say the president is
fine. I was just with him.
REPORTER: The Syrian Electronic Army took credit for the hacking, as
well as for hacking into CBS` “60 Minutes” Twitter account over the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Syrian Electronic Army. Syrian Electronic Army took
credit for that hack of “The Associated Press” Twitter feed back in April
which for a long and scary instant made people think that something
terrible had happened at the White House, in which temporarily at least
tanked the stock market that day.
The Syrian Electronic Army is a group of hackers we don`t know that
much about. We know they are pro-Syrian government, they are pro-Bashar al
Assad. They are said by U.S. officials to have close ties to the Syrian
military, but they`re anonymous, their hackers, we don`t know much about
them. Their attack on “A.P.`s” Twitter account was April 23rd.
Less than a week later, it happened again, same perpetrators
apparently. This time, they hacked the Twitter account “The Guardian”
newspaper. Then, about a week after that, the same hacker group went after
“The Onion.” Seriously.
Yes, America`s beloved and brilliant satirical newspaper. When the
Syrian hackers took over “The Onion`s” Twitter account, “The Onion”
responded as only they could.
This was their headline in their follow up article, quote, “Syrian
Electronic Army has a little fun before inevitable upcoming deaths at hands
of rebels.” So, it was “The A.P.,” it was “The Guardian” newspaper, it was
the geniuses at “The Onion.”
Ten days later, it was “The Financial Times”. When they hacked “The
Financial Times” Twitter account, they use it to promote and link to a
violent graphic video. In July, the same pro-Syrian government hacker
group hit “Reuters”, again taking over the “Reuters” Twitter account and
this time posting political cartoons about the Syrian war. They were able
to control “Reuters” Twitter account for more than half an hour which is a
long time for something like this.
A month later, the same group reportedly hit “The Washington Post” and
also CNN and also “Time” magazine. When it launched that last attack, the
Syrian Electronic Army tweeted an image to show they had taken over those
media outlets domain names.
So, between late April and mid-August, four months, this anonymous
unknown hacker group, allied with the Syrian government, successfully
attacked and took over Web sites or Twitter accounts connected to “The
Associated Press”, and “The Guardian” and “The Financial Times,” and
“Reuters,” and “The Washington Post”, and CNN, and “Time” magazine, and the
weirdest of all, “The Onion.”
Today, it happened again, and this one is a biggie and it has been
going on all day, starting at about 3:00 Eastern this afternoon, “The New
York Times” Web site, nytimes.com, no longer worked on my Internet machine.
I say it that way because weirdly, a friend working in northern New England
who I was e-mailing with about something at the time said that he was still
able to access “The New York Times” Web site. But in New York and most
places, nobody could get it.
“The New York Times” quickly posted this message on their Facebook
page, acknowledging many people, most people were unable to access their
Web site. They said, “Our initial assessment is the outage is most likely
a result of a malicious external attack. In the meantime, we`re continuing
to publish key news reports. Here`s our latest article from Syria, which
is accessible to everyone.”
That link led to this reporting on the potential for American military
action against Syria.
All this was happening at around the time that people started tweeting
that they were seeing this image. This is the Syrian Electronic Army`s
logo. People started tweeting that this image was popping up for them on
their computer screens when they were trying unsuccessfully to refresh the
broken “New York Times” Web site.
And then, it was not just “The New York Times,” but also the
“Huffington Post`s” British version, Huffingtonpost.co.uk. Syrian
Electronic Army allegedly took over that domain for the site sometime this
afternoon. They then took to Twitter to claim credit for their hacks
today. Then, they also apparently attacked Twitter, itself, both in the
U.S. and in the U.K. Only disrupting some service, in kind of a minor way,
but they did publicly let Twitter know that they had changed the firm`s
online information to show that Twitter now technically was owned by the
Syrian Electronic Army. We owned you. Yes.
Which is the kind of stunt that is so sophomoric it`s actually an
insult to call – it`s an insult to sophomores to call it that. We do not
know who the Syrian Electronic Army is, specifically, but they are pro-
Syrian government hackers. They support the Syrian government. They
support Bashar al Assad. And they`ve been really effective at carrying out
these mostly dumb but occasionally crippling attacks on the highest profile
Web sites on Earth.
Just moments ago, just a few minutes ago “The New York Times” site
came back online after being down all day long. Is this a freelancing
effort by Assad`s supporters? Or is this Syrian policy? Is this cyber
warfare being waged by Syria`s military at the direction of Syria`s
president? Is this one of the things that Syria feels it can do to lash
out at the rest of the world as that country gets increasingly isolated and
condemned among the nations of the world?
Today, Syria`s foreign minister warned at a press conference that if
Western powers intervene in Syria, if Western powers attack the Syrian
government and Syrian military, the country`s response should not be
underestimated. He said, quote, “We have the means to defend ourselves and
we will surprise everyone. We will defend ourselves using all means
available. I don`t want to say more than that.”
Whether or not you think Syria`s got anything that it can do that
should worry the rest of the world, are they going to be attacked by
another country? Are they going to be attacked by us? Is the U.S.
military, with or without international allies, about to launch a military
attack on that country? If you kind of take the binoculars off your face
and turn them around the wrong way, and just take the very short-sighted
view of the very short-term discussion that`s just happening just inside
the Beltway, it really seems like that attack is about to happen.
Before “the New York Times” Web site went down today, you could have
seen that the main headline online there, this afternoon, their main story
on Syria was titled “Momentum builds for military strike in Syria.”
At “The Washington Post” tonight, it`s this – “Obama administration
lays groundwork for possible military strike against Syria.”
At CNN, and the FOX News Channel, it has apparently been difficult to
turn away from the pressing issue of critiquing the dance moves of Miley
Cyrus, but even they have moved to front page – now, not the question of
whether ere will be a U.S. military attack on Syria, but when that attack
will happen and what it will consist of.
So, in the short view, it`s definitely going to happen, it`s a
question of exactly when and what it`s going to look like. If you take one
click, though, toward a wider view, that reveals more of a debate and less
of a certainty that this attack is going to happen or at least that it
should happen. When you see those weapons inspectors in Syria now, the
ones who were shot at by snipers yesterday, when you see the weapons
inspectors in Syria looking for proof, evidence to substantiate allegations
about the use of chemical weapons, those weapons inspectors, their most
famous predecessor is this man, Hans Blix.
He ran the U.N.`s nuclear agency for six years and the weapons
inspector for Iraq in the three years leading up to when we invaded back in
2003. You`ll recall that war in Iraq was started under the false pretense
that Iraq had chemical weapons and biological weapons and soon to be
nuclear weapons. And that`s why the U.S. had to invade.
Those allegations were made with dead 100 percent certainty by U.S.
officials in 2002 and 2003, and even though Hans Blix and his team were in
charge of looking for proof of those allegations, the U.S. at the time
decided we could not wait for them, we could not wait for them to actually
get the proof, we were so sure that we would go ahead on our own terms.
Screw the U.N.
We told the U.N. weapons inspectors back then to get out, to stop
their work and leave. The U.S. government told them to get out of the way
so we could go ahead and start bombing because our government did not need
their stinking proof. Our government was so sure they were right. And, of
course, our government was wrong – turns out – should have stuck with the
Well, today, with weapons inspectors still on the ground inside Syria,
and these threats that U.S. military action might start anyway, maybe even
while the weapons inspectors are still in that country, today, good old
Hans Blix is trying to make sure that the lessons from the last time this
happened are not forgotten. Asked today whether he thinks chemical weapons
use has been proven, he`s not shy about it.
He says, “The indications are certainly in the direction of the use of
chemical weapons. Also, the circumstantial evidence points to the Assad
regime carrying out the use of such weapons. However, since the Western
powers have asked for U.N. inspections and Syria has accepted and the
inspectors have been put in the field, we all should wait to see the report
of the inspectors before action is taken.”
He says, “As we have seen before, the political dynamics are running
ahead of due process.” He was then asked if he feels like this is an echo
of the Iraq war issue under President George W. Bush. He says, “In a way,
yes. Then, too, the Americans and their allies asked for inspections.
Then, too, they said, forget it. We have enough evidence on our own to
act. We are the world police.”
“Only last March”, he says, “The West was satisfied with inspections
concerning the use of chemical weapons. Why can`t they wait again now?”
In one month, when you have accurate tissue samples, we will know for sure
exactly which kind of chemical weapons have been used and who possesses
He`s then asked about the difference between President Obama on this
issue and what happened in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Hans Blix says
that “President Obama some time ago talked about international legality. I
was heartened by that. But I feel the politics of the moment are pushing
him in a direction we`ve seen before in the United States.”
Quote, “If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to
keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first
waiting for the U.N. inspector report is not the way to go about it.”
If you have ever wondered why it is that presidents age so fast while
they are in office, it is probably decision points like this.
Who should respond to this? How long should anyone wait on the U.N.
for a truly international response?
If the U.S. doesn`t want to wait that long, then what can be gained by
not waiting and going ahead alone? Why rush? What targets do you hit if
you are going to hit them?
If the goal is not to just full-on join the war to depose that
government inside that country, then when do you know you should stop
hitting those targets? When do you know you`ve accomplished your
And since you can`t really hit chemical weapons facilities,
themselves, without, duh, dispersing chemical weapons or at least leaving
them vulnerable to be taken by anybody, what if the government we`ve
decided to bomb responds to us bombing them by turning to more chemical
weapons attacks on their own civilians?
This is a hard decision. This is a hard decision for any president.
This is a hard decision particularly for a president like the one we`ve got
right now who professes a belief and who has demonstrated such a belief in
multilateral action and to the United States being a leader among nations.
Not a leader despite nations, but a leader among nations, who believes in
international action. This is a hard decision.
Fortunately, there`s an app for that. It`s an old one, but it still
works great. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States
enumerates the powers that are given in our country to Congress, to
Congress specifically, not the president, but Congress, and the 11th clause
of that section says, “The Congress shall have the power to declare war.”
Everyone will try to say that the kind of military action being
considered against Syria right now is technically not war, just looks that
way. It`s the kind of limited temporary military action that presidents
have been taking on their own recognizance for decades now.
And if you want to argue precedence, that`s how we`ve dealt with
issues like this in the past. If you want to argue the Constitution,
frankly it`s supposed to be Congress. Unless somebody is attacking
America, somebody is attacking us, and the president needs to take
immediate action to defend us with no time to consult Congress, it`s
supposed to be Congress who makes the decision about using force. And then
once the decision is made, it`s the president, as commander in chief, who
commands the U.S. forces who have been committed to the fight, who have
been committed to the fight by the decision made by Congress.
That is not the way it works now, most times. But that is the good
idea that the Founders of our country had for how it ought to work. Might
those guys have been on to something when they came up with that system?
In this hard decision on Syria, might the country not benefit right
now from a rollicking debate on what to do here? On what`s right and
what`s prudent and what is in keeping with our values and our obligations
and, frankly, our means to make a difference?
Today, a congressman who represents a district that has one of the
largest concentrations of active duty and retired military service members
in the country spearheaded a letter to President Obama, calling on him to
please talk to Congress about this issue. “Dear Mr. President, we strongly
urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering
the use of U.S. military force in Syria. While the Founders wisely gave
the president the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to
ensure public debate and the active engagement of Congress prior to
committing U.S. military assets, engaging our military in Syria when no
direct threat to the U.S. exists and without prior congressional
authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly
delineated in our Constitution.
If you deem that military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can
reconvene at your request. We stand ready to come back into session,
consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made
regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.
Sincerely, 37 members of Congress.” At least as of a few hours ago,
maybe more by now.
Joining us now is Congressman Scott Rigell. He`s a Republican of
Virginia. He`s a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Congressman Rigell, it`s really good to have you with us tonight.
Thanks very much for your time.
REP. SCOTT RIGELL (R), VIRGINIA: Thank you, Rachel. I listened to
your introduction. I think you framed the issue well. It`s really a
MADDOW: I think – thank you for saying that. I think your
constitutional argument in your letter is sound. You can tell from my
introduction that I agree with it.
I do – I disagree with you on one point where you say that Congress
stands ready to come back into session and share the burden of decisions on
this issue. I know that you say you are and your co-signers must be, but
as a whole, do you really think Congress stands ready and able to do that
RIGELL: Well, I believe that deep inside each member of Congress,
regardless of party, is the desire to do the right thing. The right thing
in this case, should the president call us into session, if he really
believes that the use of force is both warranted and imminent, as I
expressed in letter, signed and joined by Republicans and Democrats now
over 40, and we`ll have, I believe, more tomorrow, then he has a duty to
call us into session give us, say, for example, 24 hours to come back.
There are members of Congress around the world on different trips.
Some are at home, of course. But that`s enough time to get here.
This is what we do, Rachel. There`s no more important issue before
the American people than the use of American force and putting our young
folks into harm`s way.
As you mentioned, I have the privilege of representing a district that
has the highest concentration of men and women in uniform in the country.
We`d be here, the president should come forth and lay out the most
compelling case, present the facts as much as he can, and, of course,
respecting the intelligence sources that we have and then give us a
relatively short time to deliberate and then to, should it be warranted,
provide statutory authority.
This is the moral foundation upon which he could proceed and if the
facts are there, he`d have the support of the American people.
MADDOW: There`s no reason that the president, himself, has to call
Congress back. Congress could reconvene of its own authority. Obviously,
this is an independent responsibility of Congress to make its own
assessment on these terms.
Do you think – do you think that`s possible, and would it make a
difference who called for congress to take such an action?
RIGELL: Well, it`s theoretically possible that each respective leader
of each body, Speaker Boehner could call us back into session. That`s his
prerogative. I`m sure the same is true of majority leader, Senator Reid.
Now, it`s very clear, though, that the president has that authority.
It`s clearly delineated in our Constitution, and, again, if he believes
that the facts warrant intervention, that`s a serious matter, he`d really
have to lay forth the strategic objective.
Simply punishing the Assad regime, however heinous it is, he could
characterize it easily as criminal. Punishment is not in and of itself a
MADDOW: In terms of the way to move forward here, obviously members
of your party, particularly the conservative wing of your party, has been
not friendly to the idea the United Nations should constrain U.S. action in
any way, and us working with the United Nations, even collaboratively, is
something that has been troubling to a lot of Republicans.
In this case, when I read those comments from Hans Blix today, when
he`s obviously making this very inflammatory comparison to what happened a
decade ago in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, I am compelled by his
argument that the U.N. weapons inspectors are there. They have at least
limited access to that site. There`s no reason not to wait for their
If for no other reason that it might bring more international allies
onboard, maybe enough to get U.N. authorization for some sort of
international action. What`s your reaction to that?
RIGELL: Well, their specific purpose is to determine whether chemical
weapons were used or not. I think evidence is already pretty clear and
they`re going to come out with the affirmative. That is that they were
Their purpose is not to identify or determine who or what entity used
RIGELL: So, I really believe that the president`s got to lay forth
before the American people, and one thing that I would maybe differ with
you just a little bit in your introduction, you referenced much of the need
to go before the international community.
There`s a good reason to do that, but first and foremost, the moral
foundation upon which a commander in chief can exercise force in this case
where a threat is not imminent and we`ve not been attacked is really to go
before the American people through their elected representatives. You
know, when the American people are given good information, they`ll make
good decisions. I found this to be true in my district.
So I`m really hopeful. I`m optimistic. Perhaps it`s naivete or
idealism. That`s all right.
We`re going to keep this fight to encourage the president to call us
into session should he think that forces is needed.
MADDOW: Congressman Scott Rigell, it is a particular pleasure for me
when Republican elected officials agree to come on this show. A rare
pleasure, unfortunately. Thank you so much for your time tonight, sir.
It`s good luck to you – good luck to you. Thanks for being here.
RIGELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
It`s the idea that Congress should play a role here goes contrary to -
- the widespread feeling, I would say, that this Congress is more of a show
horse than a workhorse and is not capable of debating anything well. That
said, this is exactly what Congress is for, debating the use of force. And
it`s supposed to be their call.
Totally nonpartisan issue, but this is what supposed – this is the
kind of thing you`re supposed to expect your Congress to be able to rise
to. We shall see.
All right. Lots ahead tonight, including some very not usual suspects
turning out on a big civil rights issue. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: Programming note: as you know, the 50th anniversary of the
march on Washington is upon us. At maddowblog.com today, we have posted
some of the mainstream press coverage of the march from the day that it
happened back in August 1963. I always think that`s an interesting way to
look back at modern historical events. That`s why we show a lot of old NBC
News footage on this show, for example.
But in the case of the march, some of that contemporaneous coverage
from `63 is also just amazing for its craft, for its writing.
“The day dawned clear and cool. At 7:00 a.m., the town had a Sunday
appearance except for the shuttle buses drawn out in front of Union Station
waiting. By 10:00 a.m., there were 40,000 on the slopes around the
An hour later the police estimated the crowd at 90,000, and still they
poured in, because some things went wrong at the monument, everything was
right. Most of the stage and screen celebrities from New York and
Hollywood who were scheduled to begin entertaining the crowd at 10:00, did
not arrive to the airport until 11:15.
As a result, the whole affair at the monument grounds began to take on
the spontaneity of a church picnic. Even before the entertainment was to
begin, groups of high school students were singing with improvisations and
hand clapping all over the monument slope.
Civil rights demonstrators who had been released from jail in
Danville, Virginia, were singing “move on, move on, until all the world is
free.” Members of local 144, allied service and employees union from New
York City, an integrated local from 1950 were stomping, “Oh freedom, we
shall not, we shall not be moved just like a tree that`s planted by the
And Odetta`s great full-throated voice carried almost to Capitol Hill.
If they ask you who you are, tell them you`re a child of God.
The march to the Lincoln Memorial was supposed to start at 11:30
behind the leaders but at 11:20, it sat off spontaneously, down
Constitution Avenue behind the Kenilworth Knights, a local drum and bugle
corps dazzling in yellow and silk blazers, green trousers and green berets.
The leaders were lost and never did get to the head of the parade. It was
the greatest assembly for a redress of grievances that the capital has ever
That was just the news story. The front page “New York Times”
reporting from E.W. Kenworthy in 1963 and a few other really great,
contemporaneous news stories covering the march at the time it happened
tonight at maddowblog.com. You should check it out.
Here`s the thing, though. Here`s the thing you need to know for
tomorrow. If you can watch TV during the day, you might want to be
watching from about 1:00 p.m. Eastern on, because that`s going to be the
official let freedom ring event on the National Mall. After 1:00 p.m. is
when there are going to be speeches and everything by President Clinton and
President Carter. At about 2:45 Eastern Time, that is when President Obama
is going to give his big address.
Then, at 3:00 p.m., they tell us, bells will toll. At that moment, 50
years ago when Dr. King reached that point in his speech, when he said,
“Let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops in New Hampshire.” He goes
through the long list of everywhere he wants to hear freedom ring, ending
with “Every hill and mole hill of Mississippi” – you know that portion of
the speech, right?
At the 50-year anniversary of that moment at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, bells
are going to ring in D.C. and across the country and even apparently in
places as far away as Switzerland and Japan.
So, that`s tomorrow afternoon.
Here`s the other thing you need to know for tomorrow, though. And
even if you`re not in a place where you can watch TV during the day, take a
note of this for tomorrow night. This is something that never happens.
Tomorrow night, Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, MSNBC has moved
heaven and earth to get permission to air the “I Have a Dream” speech
uninterrupted in its entirety. You think you have heard the whole speech,
but you really probably haven`t. Access to the tape of the speech is very,
very highly restricted. It is almost impossible to get permission to play
even any large piece of it, let alone the whole thing.
But tomorrow, here on MSNBC, at 8:00 p.m., we have moved heaven and
earth to be able to play “I Have a Dream” uninterrupted in full. You
should plan to not miss it. This is not something that happens every day.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Among the most important leaders on one of the biggest civil
rights issues in the country today is not who you would expect. The
accomplished, connected, dyed in the wool Republican who`s fighting that
unexpected fight joins us straight ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In Britain, in the U.K., the two major political parties are
the Labour Party on the left and the Conservative Party on the right.
There`s also the liberal Democrats and some other smaller parties, but the
two biggies are labor and the conservatives.
The conservatives currently hold the largest number of seats in the
British parliament. That means the current prime minister of Great Britain
is also from that party, David Cameron, this guy.
And under conservative party leadership in Britain, under conservative
David Cameron, Britain has just legalized same-sex marriage. The bill
cleared all the hurdles it needed to clear in parliament, pretty much
without breaking a sweat. The queen gave it her royal stamp of approval
and marriage equality was made so across the pond.
On this issue, David Cameron says, “Conservatives believe in the ties
that bind us. Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we
support each other. I do not support gay marriage, despite being a
conservative. I support gay marriage because I`m a conservative.”
On this side of the pond, though, things are different. As we
reported in breaking news on the show last night, in New Mexico, a state
judge just ruled last night that under that state`s own constitution, that
state`s own constitutional protections against discrimination, county
clerks in New Mexico should no longer be allowed to deny marriage licenses
to same-sex couples who want them. There`s no statewide law either way in
New Mexico about same-sex marriage, but because of last night`s court
ruling, this morning in the most populous county in the state, the place
where Albuquerque is, in Bernalillo County in New Mexico, they started
issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.
Also because of that ruling last night, even though it technically
applied to the one big county, a couple other counties in the state decided
that they would follow suit as well. The response from the Republican
Party in New Mexico has not been positive. “GOP lawmakers look to take
legal action against gay marriage.”
Republicans are not only against marriage equality in New Mexico, now
that it is upon them in some way because of the state`s constitution and
this ruling by the state judge, Republicans are trying to sue to stop it.
You see a similar dynamic at work in the great state of Illinois.
Earlier this year, the chairman of the state Republican Party in Illinois
voiced his personal views that he supported same-sex marriage rights, and
even though Illinois is thought of as a pretty liberal state, with the
people in the state who support equal marriage rights far outnumbering the
people who don`t support equal marriage, the state Republican Party in
Illinois drew a hard line. They were so upset with their state party
chairman saying he personally was in favor of gay rights that he eventually
had to resign as chairman of the party.
Here`s the thing, though. The ACLU in Illinois today hired that guy.
The former state Republican Party chairman who got forced out for being too
pro-gay for the Republican Party, the ACLU just hired him to try to bring
other Republicans along to his way of thinking, to try to bring that state
along, thereby, to the pro-gay rights side of this issue.
That is specific to Illinois today, but the ACLU nationally has
launched a $10 million effort to do this across the country, to get
Republicans to move Republicans, to get conservatives to move conservatives
on this issue. The idea is that there is nothing inherently liberal about
supporting equal rights for gay people. It should be seen as a
conservative value as well, and the idea is the people who can best make
that case to conservatives and Republicans are other conservatives and
other Republicans who are maybe a little less in the Rick Santorum mold and
a little more in the David Cameron mold.
The guy who the ACLU hired to head up this national effort is a
heavyweight. He worked on Capitol Hill as communications director for the
National Republican Congressional Committee. That`s the part of the
Republican Party that elects people to the House.
He was one of the top strategists during President Bush`s re-election
effort in 2004. He was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush in
the White House.
He directed the strategic communications around the nomination of John
Roberts to be chief justice of the Supreme Court. He led the whole effort
to get Sam Alito appointed to the Supreme Court.
When Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for re-election in
California in 2006, he ran that effort.
Then, he was the senior strategist for the next Republican
presidential campaign, which, of course, was the effort to elect John
He has been everywhere and has done everything and knows everyone in
Republican politics. And he knows what he is talking about and this is
what he is working on now, and he joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember that love and loyalty and understanding
are the foundations of a happy and enduring home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t believe this is happening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calm down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was New Mexico where state judge there last night ruled
that under that state`s own constitution and that state`s constitutional
protections against discrimination, New Mexico`s county clerks should stop
denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples who want them.
Joining us now is Steve Schmidt, very accomplished Republican
political strategist. He`s now working with the ACLU to help win over
Republicans on the same-sex marriage issue.
Steve, thanks for being here, my friend. It`s nice to see you.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So how do you move Republicans on this issue besides telling
them they need to be on the right side of history so they don`t lose
elections? How do you make the substantive case to your fellow Republicans
SCHMIDT: Look, I think you make the substantive case the way that
David Cameron made the case, the way that other Republicans, Lisa
Murkowski, Senator Mark Kirk, Rob Portman made the case, Dick Cheney made
the case, that freedom means freedom for everybody, and that when you look
at the Republican Party, you look at our history, you understand our
history, you understand the importance of liberty and freedom to our party.
We don`t want to disenfranchise people who want to make a lifetime
commitment to each other through civil marriage. We`re on the wrong side
of history on this issue. The country is not with us, and when you look at
Republicans under 40 years old, you look at Republicans in regions of the
country like in the Northeast, the fact that there are more Republican
votes in the New Hampshire legislature for marriage equality than there
were Democratic votes, you know, partly because of the function of the size
of the majority, but nevertheless, it`s an important moment.
So, as we look at this issue and how quickly it`s progressed
nationally, where President Obama was against marriage equality in his
first term, came out for it. That I think you will see the same thing
happen with the Republican Party over time. Although there will be
Republicans who will fight this tooth and nail all the way to the end when
one day every American has the right to marry whomever they wish to marry.
MADDOW: Steve, trying to follow the – not the sort of general
election debate but debate among Republicans on this issue leads to all
sorts of surprising results. I mean, you see in the – when Alabama
Republicans were fighting about it this weekend, they decided they were not
going to discipline the Alabama college Republicans president for having
said she personally supported gay rights.
In Illinois, it went completely the other direction. As you said, in
New Hampshire, they ended up with a more pro-gay rights decision among
elected Republicans in the legislature there. When you`re looking at this
as a Republican strategist, what do you look for signs of hope for your
ability to make progress on this issue?
SCHMIDT: Well, look, you look at this issue regionally. Not all
regions of the country have the same sensibilities on this issue. So,
where you look ahead to Oregon where this fight is coming, to Illinois, to
states like New Jersey, very different sensibilities on the issue than the
state of Alabama that you mentioned.
But even there, the Republican Party, and there`s a sentiment in it,
obviously, that – hey, let`s hunt heretics, let`s case people who disagree
on an issue, I would say that`s antithetical to the notion of conservative
and individual thought and freedom, but one of the things that you`ll
continue to see is this younger generation of Republicans not just in the
Northeastern states, but in southern states, who`ve grown up, have gay
friends, know gay people, and want to see them be able to have the same
rights that every other American has.
And so, I think that you will see over time that this right for
Americans to marry whomever they wish to marry will be extended to every
American, and it will happen in every state. It may take another Supreme
Court decision to do it, but this issue will progress and it will progress
with millions of rank and file Republicans joining the cause for liberty
and for equality.
MADDOW: Incrementally on the way there, we get these moments like
what just happened last night and then this morning in New Mexico, where a
judge weighs in and says, yes, there`s no law on this issue in New Mexico,
but I am ordering the county clerks to go ahead on this. We saw the
Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.
As a liberal who supports gay rights broadly, I look at those court
rulings and see, you know, progress. I see things marching forward.
Do conservatives look at moments like that, though, and say we don`t
want these things to come from the court? Is that – does that create an
ideological problem in terms of that being the way forward?
SCHMIDT: There`s no doubt that there are Republicans who are
supportive of marriage equality, who don`t want to see the final decisions
at the state level come from the judges, come from the courts. They want
to see this be decided in the legislative process or through an initiative
and referendum process. But, look, at the end of the day, marriage
equality is going to come from all three, it will be legislators and
governors signing the legislation.
There will be ballot initiatives. And, of course, finally, there will
be litigation, when it comes to enfranchising us with what some of us think
is a fundamental right, we need to understand that that right will come and
be delivered under our system, in many ways, including through the
And in New Mexico, there is a ballot initiative process, certainly
something to debate in front of the legislature. And I think you will see
that play out. But you know again, today, another important step forward
for liberty and equality on this issue.
MADDOW: And the Republicans trying to stop it. But then, the
Republicans like you trying to turn it around. It`s – watching this
SCHMIDT: And we`re going to have –
MADDOW: Go ahead, Steve.
SCHMIDT: No, I said look, we`ll have a big fight in our party about
this. And one of the underlying fights about this is the notion that we`re
a limited government party, except when it comes to making judgments about
how people wish to live their lives.
The limited government party shouldn`t be invested on the way it in
the question of civil marriage. We want more people in civil marriage.
It`s a stabilizing influence on society, to have more people, as opposed to
less people in the institution.
And so, I think that over time, you will see more and more Republicans
coming out, not being afraid of the organizations that I think are largely
toothless on the question of defeating them in a primary.
MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, Republican political strategist, now working
with the ACLU, on same-sex marriage, which he might have wanted to keep
secret, but now, we`ve told everybody. Steve, thank you very much for
being here my friend. It`s nice to see you.
SCHMIDT: Good to be here.
MADDOW: All right. Big news that may possibly make you sleep
slightly easier tonight, particularly if you live in New England. That
story is coming up next.
MADDOW: We tend to think of the state of Vermont as a deep blue
state, politically as far for the left as you can get. But in Vermont,
like in the rest of New England, you can still find Republicans,
particularly New England style moderate Republicans who can still get
elected to statewide office.
In 2002, Vermont they elected this guy as their governor, Republican
named Jim Douglas. Jim Douglas was first elected in 2002, reelected in
`04, reelected again in `06, reelected again in `08. In each of those
election battles, he won by huge margins, the Republican governor of
But in 2009, Jim Douglas announced he was not going to run for re-
election again. He said he had served long enough. The guy who hoped to
carry on his legacy was his long-time lieutenant governor, a man by the
name of Brian Dubie. And, yes, you got to think it must help to have the
name Dubie when you`re running for office in Vermont.
I kid because I love.
Anyway, in that 2010 governor`s race, Mr. Dubie faced off against
Democratic State Senator Peter Shumlin. And after all those years of
Republican governorship and Brian Dubie poised to inherent that mantle as a
long-time lieutenant governor, and yet, it`s Vermont, but this was going to
be a close race. Nationally, it was rated as a toss-up.
In that close, hard-fought race, one of the ways the Democratic
candidate distinguished himself was by campaigning against this. This is
the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant located in southern Vermont.
Vermont Yankee is not universally but broadly kind of hated by Vermonters.
It has all sorts of safety issues over the years. Lots of people in
Vermont just wanted it out of the state.
And the Democrat in that governor`s race, Peter Shumlin, campaigned
publicly against it. His Republican opponent was sort of vaguely in favor
of it. There were TV ads ran against the Republican in that race for
supporting the nuclear plant. His opponent, Peter Shumlin, who was against
it and never ceased reminding voters of that fact, ultimately ending up
It was a squeaker, but Peter Shumlin won. He had to fight his way out
of a five-way Democratic primary to even get in that race. He was by no
means a shoo-in. But he beat that state`s long time lieutenant governor in
part on the strength of his opposition to Vermont`s super unpopular nuclear
Once he got to be governor, though, Democrat Peter Shumlin could not
just close Vermont Yankee down. Vermont Yankee legislators have been
trying to pass laws for years and years, aimed at trying to get Vermont
Yankee out of the state. But they have been stymied by the courts time and
again because the nuclear power and safety are regulated by the federal
government. So, the state being against the plant didn`t mean a whole lot
when they got to court.
State legislators and the governor have been unable to locate that
nuclear plant, even though they want it – until today. Today, the
surprise company that operates the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant said they
plan to shut down the plant next year. They said their decision wasn`t a
result of political pressure, but economic pressure, namely, cheaper and
more abundant natural gas.
Reacting to that announcement today, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin
said this is the right decision for Vermont, and Vermont`s clean energy
This was the Fukushima nuclear disaster that took place in Japan two
years ago. The nuclear meltdown that took place at Fukushima was the
result of a massive earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the power
supply, and that eventually cause the plant`s reactors to meltdown.
Fukushima happened in March 2011, March 11, 2011.
The day before that happened, on March 10th, the Vermont Yankee
nuclear plant got its license renewed by the federal governor, a 20-year
extension. They got it renewed the day before Fukushima happened.
And here is why that is important. This is what the nuclear reactors
at Fukushima looked like before they melted down. Does that look familiar
Yes, it`s exactly the same design as the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.
Both plants were made using the exact same G.E. nuclear reactors. Hi, G.E.
Hi, boss. Hi, old boss, at least.
They were designed and built way back in the 1970s, same reactor type.
After Fukushima happened, lots of attention was paid to potential design
flaws in that specific reactor. That is in part what ramped up the
pressure in Vermont to get Vermont Yankee shut down.
Well, now, Vermont Yankee is going to be shut down by the end of next
year. And once it is shut down for good, that means there will only be 22
of them, 22 more nuclear reactors at 15 different nuclear plants across the
United States that are using the exact same design, the exact same reactor
that was used at Fukushima – Fukushima, which is still an ongoing nuclear
disaster, two and a half years later.
For nuclear opponents in this country, it`s now one down, 22 more to
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.
Thank you for being with us.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Have a great night.
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