The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/28/13
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us
Here`s why you want to be a member of Congress. Maybe you have the
public service bug, maybe you were a born legislator, maybe you have an
insatiable fetish for the dark mysteries of the cloakroom. Maybe you`re in
it for the money and the power! Who knows?
There are lots of different reasons why a lot of different people
would like to be a member of Congress, but I think the one reason we can
all agree that everybody would like to be a member of Congress, no matter
what else you think about it, the reason everybody would like that job is
abuse of how they work, or at least when they work.
If you were a member of Congress, you were supposed to go to work
today, you were then also supposed to go to work tomorrow, which is a
bummer, but don`t worry, you can cut out middle of the day on Wednesday.
You will not be working Thursday or Friday. You will not be working all of
next week. Also, you do not have to work the Monday after that.
You`re going to work a 2 1/2-day week this week, then you`re not back
until after Veterans Day. When you come back after Veterans Day, it`s a
four-day week followed by another four-day week, and then that`s it for the
Nice deal, right? I mean, no matter what else might motivate you to
want to be in Congress, that kind of a schedule and a six-figure salary for
doing it, that is a combination that is impossible not to love.
And we learned at Politico.com late last night – this is amazing –
that even though Congress is already basically not working anymore between
now and Christmas, they`ve got just those few days scheduled on the
calendar, quote, “Internally, Speaker John Boehner and senior Republicans
are wondering if they will cancel some of the remaining days in session.”
They`re only planning on working a total of 19 days between now and
the end of the year, but they are thinking they might need some more days
off on top of that, and that is in part because they do not even know what
to do with the days that they are working now.
House Republican leaders are, quote, “struggling to come up with an
agenda to fill the 19 legislative days that are left in 2013.” I mean,
they have been naming courthouses and stuff, and that`s all well and good,
but apparently, there are no big plans. They`re not working on anything
else between now and the end of the year. They plan to not do anything.
The next big idea they are floating at Politico.com today is, I don`t
know, maybe more vacation? That`s their big plan. How about jibber – I
have a great job? That is a job.
In the midst of this whirlwind of activity, Republican members of
Congress who are working that schedule have started to insist to the press
that because of that schedule that they`re working in Washington right now,
they really are way too busy to add anything substantive to their
legislative schedule. Congressman Tom Cole, who`s in the Republican
leadership, he got asked whether or not the House was ever going to get
around to taking a vote on immigration, since immigration was the one
policy issue the Republican Party formally recommended to its elected
official members that they do something about after the Mitt Romney
presidential loss last year.
So, Congressman Tom Cole was asked by Russell Berman of “The Hill”
newspaper in D.C. if there might possibly be time to give immigration a
vote in the House between now and the end of the year, since it already
passed the Senate and, frankly, the house doesn`t seem all that busy. Here
was his response.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: But, you know, immigration is a divisive
and difficult issue itself. The idea that congress can – look, we haven`t
– we`re not sure we can chew gum, let alone walk and chew gum, so let`s
just chew gum for a while.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We don`t know, we can walk and chew gum, let alone walk –
you know, can we just chew gum for a while?
Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho had been very involved in the
discussions about immigration on the Republican side. He now tells “The
Associated Press”, quote, “I don`t think there is going to be sufficient
time for us to discuss immigration.”
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, he`s also been a leading voice for
Republicans on this issue, he tells “Congressional Quarterly,” “Our problem
now is time. If I knew that we had a lot more time, then my assessment
would be really rosy.” But alas, there`s so much to do, so many days to
not work at all because there`s nothing on the schedule in Congress. It`s
On the Senate side, the most visible Republican in favor of
immigration reform, of course, has been Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Today, as advocates for immigration reform and the White House and
Democrats continue to ramp up their agitation for a last-minute, 11th-hour
push to finally get something passed on immigration, Marco Rubio today
bravely stepped up to the plate and sent his spokesperson out to announce
that the senator no longer supports his own proposal on immigration.
Senator Rubio wrote a comprehensive immigration bill. He went on
conservative talk radio and talked people into it and defended the whole
idea of it. He pushed his bill in the Senate. He was one of 14 Republican
senators who voted for the comprehensive immigration bill that finally
But now that it`s clear that House Republicans are just going to let
it die, Marco Rubio jumped and is disavowing his own legislation,
disavowing his own idea. He`s against it now, his own thing.
And that`s actually turning out to be kind of a grand old tradition in
the Grand Old Party. It`s a weird feature of our politics now that
Republicans in elected office turn against their own policy ideas, ideas
that they came up with themselves, that they championed, legislation that
they sponsored, stuff they voted for in the past. These things suddenly
fall out of favor and become unsupportable, even though these guys once
stood for these ideas themselves.
I do not know what signal it is that they get, you know. How do they
know when it`s time to change the channel? Oh, I`m against this now? Are
you sure? When do I – sometimes it happens so suddenly, it is just like
somebody grabbed the remote control and started clicking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s start, fir of all, with mandates.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: You`re probably picking up $1,000,
some estimates $1,800 on your premiums for people that don`t have health
insurance because of the expensive use of emergency rooms as an example.
There isn`t anything wrong with it except some people look at it as an
infringement upon individual freedom. But when it comes to states
requiring it for automobile insurance, the principle then out to lie the
same way for health insurance. I believe that there is a bipartisan
consensus to have individual mandates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley in the summer of 2009
making the case on FOX News for an individual mandate in health reform.
Then came, you know, later that same year, when Senator Grassley, who
had supported individual mandates all along said he didn`t support them
anymore. Now, he says they are, quote, “an intrusion into private life.”
What was the signal that he received that it was time to turn against
his own idea there? Somebody flipped the switch for him.
Or consider Congressman Paul Ryan. Congressman Ryan used to love the
idea of an economic stimulus, back when the recession, that stimulus was
supposed to cure belonged to a Republican president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Now, I`ve just recently read in our
local Capitol Hill newspaper that members from the majority party in the
other body want stimulus. They`re breaking with their party leadership and
asking for stimulus legislation to pass, because in their home states, they
have a lot of people who are losing their jobs. What we`re trying to
accomplish is to pass the kinds of legislation that when they`ve passed in
the past have grown the economy and gotten people back to work.
We want to make it easier for employers to keep people employed. We
want to make it easier for employers to invest in their businesses, to
invest in their employees and to hire people back to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, stimulus, yes! A stimulus would surely put people back
to work and fix this recession. We need a stimulus, so said Paul Ryan in
2002 when his party controlled the White House.
But when President Obama thought maybe a stimulus would be a good
idea, because we were facing the worst downturn since the Great Depression,
somebody had changed Paul Ryan`s channel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
RYAN: We can do better than this. This bill, this economic stimulus
package is unworthy of our new president`s signature.
This is just a long spending wish list from every spending interest
group that`s out there. If you`re going to go out and borrow $825,000 –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, re-craft it for me, Congressman Ryan. Re-
RYAN: This is not going to work, and that`s what our concern is.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: This stimulus thing is not going to work. Who would ever
think that a stimulus bill would work?
Paul Ryan`s change of heart would have been embarrassing on its own,
but it got worse when he was forced to admit that his office had requested
money from the 2009 stimulus bill, even though he said that they had not.
And even though he said the whole thing wouldn`t work.
Well, if it wouldn`t work, then w did you want some to take home with
you? That kind of thing that`s happened often enough in recent Republican
politics that it`s become almost its own kind of humor, like a knock-knock
joke, or a guy walks into a bar joke.
Back in 2010, Senate Republicans wanted a bipartisan commission to
reduce the deficit, the bill to do just that failed by six votes, with
seven of the Republican co-sponsors voting against it. You guys came up
with the idea. You co-sponsored it and then you voted against – as jokes
go it was kind of the one where you ring the doorbell and run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This law failed by
seven votes. When seven Republicans who had co-sponsored the bill, had co-
sponsored the idea, suddenly walked away from their own proposal after I
endorsed it. So, they make a proposal, they sign on to the bill, I say,
great, good idea. I turn around, they`re gone! What happened?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What did happen to the Republicans who supported that idea
before they voted against it? What happened, for instance, to Senator John
McCain of Arizona? An early and at times impassioned supporter of
immigration reform on moral principles on pain of rebuke from his own
party, John McCain kept pushing comprehensive, compassionate immigration
reform, because he said he believed deeply that it was the right thing to
do, until somebody changed the channel, and all of a sudden, it wasn`t the
right thing to do anymore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, if your original proposal came to
a vote in the Senate floor, would you vote for it?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It won`t. It won`t. That`s why we
went through the debate of –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But if it did?
MCCAIN: No, I would not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was John McCain saying no, he would not vote yes on his
own bill. John McCain giving up on his own immigration ideas when he was
running for president in 2008.
He was, I guess, far enough away from his presidential campaign by the
time the Senate voted on immigration the summer that he had switched back
to his old position – which means he executed the rare not just flip-flop
but flip-flop-flip on an issue that is supposedly one of great personal
conviction and principle.
Everybody knows that Congress is really unpopular right now. Congress
is historically unpopular, unprecedentedly unpopular. And part of that is
because what Congress does when they actually do something, like, say, shut
down the government and bring us to the brink of a national economic
default, just for fun.
But part of why they are so unpopular may also be that aside from the
stuff that deliberately hurts the country, they don`t really do much of
anything else. This chart shows the number of bills passed by Congress
since 1947. 1947 is on the far left side of the screen. And you see it
goes up in time as you move to the right.
Back there, President Harry Truman back in 1947, he called that
Congress the do-nothing Congress because they only passed 90 bills in two
years. Look at the last Congress under Speaker John Boehner. They only
And the Congress we have now is on pace to be even yet more
unproductive. They hit the August recess six bills behind the record
unproductive Congress just before them. And maybe they will have a
miraculous flurry of activity in coming months, but they might have to show
up if they wanted to do that.
The last Congress under John Boehner was the least effective Congress
in the modern history of Congress. The one we have now is on track to be
Republicans and Democrats disagree on a lot of things. Republicans
and Republicans disagree on a lot of things. But after they lost in the
White House and they lost in the Senate and they lost in the House last
year during the last election, the one idea that the Republican Party
itself formally recommended to its own members is that they find a way,
they find a Republican way to say yes to doing something about our broken
immigration policy – find a way, find a Republican way to say yes on
And that door is now propped open in front of them, beckoning them to
walk through it. A bipartisan bill already passed the Senate. If that
bipartisan bill was put on the floor of the House today, it would pass the
Democrats in the House even tried to make it more attractive
Republicans by folding in an additional Republican border security thing
that got unanimous bipartisan support in the Homeland Security Committee
With or without that Republican sweetener, if you put it on the floor,
it would pass. And then, the Congress under John Boehner would have done
one thing, and it`s the one thing the Republican Party itself says it needs
to do. Why can`t they do it even when they are doing nothing else at all?
Joining us now is Jose Diaz-Balart. He`s anchor for Telemundo`s
nightly national newscast. His brother, I should say, is Congressman Mario
Diaz-Balart, one of the Republicans who supports doing something on
immigration in the House. The congressman was supposed to meet with the
president tomorrow to talk about some specific aspects of reform, but we
are now hearing that that`s been put on hold.
Jose Diaz-Balart, thank you for being with us tonight. It`s great to
JOSE DIAZ-BALART, TELEMUNDO ANCHOR: Good to see you, Rachel. Thank
you very much.
If it weren`t so tragic, what you`ve been talking about, it would be a
joke. It`s just not even funny. It`s a bad joke.
MADDOW: The argument that they can`t do it because they`re out of
time when what they plan on doing is taking more vacation seems to push
this into the realm of farce. I almost feel like it`s bait for them.
They`re trying to change the dynamics in this.
Do you have any insight into what will happen next?
DIAZ-BALART: You know, we talk about the fact that there`s nothing to
do, according to them, and yet, this is an issue that is affecting so many
people on a daily basis, Rachel. Every day, 1,200 people are deported in
this country. You know, maybe the Web site of the government doesn`t work
– well, but boy are they good at deportations.
DIAZ-BALART: And they say that by January of next year, there will
have been 2 million people deported under the Obama administration.
Rachel, that`s the entire population of Namibia taken out in five
years. And some studies say that as many as 25 percent of those people
deported had U.S.-born children. So, these are families that are being
And it`s not a semantical discussion we`re having in some university
about the pros and cons of, you know, immigration reform as an idea and as
a concept. It makes such good financial economic sense. It would help in
the deficit. It would help in getting the economy even going a lot faster
than it has been going.
It would also for conservatives that are worried about amnesty and
people paying their dues, it would at least let the United States know who
the people are that are here, which are the real bad ones and get them out.
And then the ones that have been here, many of whom have children,
could continue to contribute much more to this economy now that they could
at least come out from under the shadows and not fear deportation. So many
reasons. That`s why more than 60 percent of the American people support
And yet, what is the Congress doing? They`re naming post offices.
Well, you know what? This is really tragic. And we`re letting this
slip through our fingers as a nation. And just it seems as though there`s
no fierce urgency of now, and I dare say I don`t see a lot of it by
Democrats either as far as forcing this issue. The president invited some
members of Congress that support immigration reform, Republicans, to the
White House today, and five hours later, he canceled that meeting.
But you know what? It`s in the Republican House`s responsibility, and
they have not done a thing.
MADDOW: The arguments that you are making are being made across the
political spectrum, including by some of the interests that are usually
most influential for Republicans, particularly vulnerable Republicans.
MADDOW: You`re getting business interests, for example, coming out,
all of these Republican-specific interests coming out and making those very
same arguments. I feel like we`re in one of those rare situations where
the argument is actually over, and one side of the argument has won and the
reason it hasn`t translated into political action is just inertia.
It`s like partisan drag. They don`t want to do something the
president might like, and so, therefore, they don`t want to move forward
Democrats maybe don`t want to do it because they want to keep blaming
Republicans for not doing it.
If it is just partisan smallness stopping it, what sort of factors can
DIAZ-BALART: I don`t see a lot of optimistic factors in the near
future if this doesn`t get carried out.
And I think of, for example, my interviews with Mitt Romney when he
was running for president. Initially in the primaries, he was all for
self-deportation. That 11 million people would choose to leave this
country. Many of whom had family members who died trying to get in here
and are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in this country.
But then when he gets to the general elections, he says that he`s for
the DREAM Act and even for the president`s DREAM Act kids proposal. But
then, then, 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, almost 12 million people,
voted against the Republicans for the president. So, now they`re all
upset, weirded out and worried.
But as time passes, their next election isn`t a national election.
It`s their own district`s election. Then they`re worried about the
So you know what? I don`t see, if this isn`t done in these what, 19
days, Rachel, you were telling us?
DIAZ-BALART: I don`t see things happening before then.
MADDOW: The pressure is on now to make something happen in those 19
days. It`s going to be fascinating to watch that.
Jose Diaz-Balart, anchor of Telemundo`s nightly news and the Sunday
morning show, “Enfoque” – thank you so much for being with us, Jose. It`s
great to see you.
DIAZ-BALART: Pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right, among those actually performing meaningful work today was a
federal district judge in Texas. We`ve got that story ahead, a very big
deal story in Texas that could have very big political implications as well
as health implications.
Plus, we`ve got a bit of a scoop tonight about a 2016 presidential
hopeful who suddenly has a plagiarism problem. That story`s ahead. You`ll
see it exclusively here.
MADDOW: Texas State Senator Wendy Davis may be one of the most
recognizable faces in Texas politics right now. She was already pretty
well known, but having recently announced her candidacy for governor, it`s
now part of her job in Texas to make sure people know who she is.
That said, in Texas right now, even if everybody knows your name and
knows your face, when it comes to voting, it doesn`t matter, especially if
you`re a woman in Texas. This is amazing, but due to freshly adopted,
strict voter ID laws in Texas, even Wendy Davis, even state senator and
gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis had to doubly, even triply prove and
swear an affidavit stating today that she is who she is when she tried to
cast her vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D), TEXAS: Like many women who are voting in
Texas today, I was required to sign an affidavit, because the name on my
voter registration card is slightly different than the name on my driver`s
license. My driver`s license includes my maiden name. My voter
registration card does not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Early voting has started in Texas for next week`s elections
there. And for this election, Texas voters are being forced to show
documentation in order to be allowed to vote that they have never had to
show before. Even Wendy Davis got held up at the polls today and had to
swear an affidavit as to her identity since her actual Texas ID showing her
actual name and her actual picture are no longer enough to just let her
This is expected to be a light turnout election in Texas this year,
but if this is how it`s going to go for Texas women in particular, next
November when Wendy Davis is on the ballot trying to get elected governor
in the state, and it`s going to be a way bigger turnout than it was right
now, this is going to be a huge freaking hullabaloo down there unless they
get this voter ID thing sorted out.
It was this past summer in June when State Senator Davis first claimed
the national spotlight, when she stood for 13 hours to filibuster Texas
Republicans` plans for a draconian, new antiabortion law. That law was
designed to shut down abortion clinics across the state of Texas. In a
state that has already seen dozens of women`s health providers close down,
this new law was set to close down at least a third of all the clinics in
the state in one fell swoop when it went into effect tomorrow.
But then today, less than 25 hours before the law was supposed to take
effect, a federal judge in Texas blocked a key part of the new antiabortion
law. And the ruling was kind of a doozy. Look.
Today there is no issue that divides the people of this country more
than abortion. It`s the most divisive issue to face this country since
When compared with the intensity, emotion and depth of feeling
expressed with regard to abortion, the recent arguments on affordable
healthcare, increasing the debt ceiling and closing the government retreat
to near oblivion. Sincere and caring persons of both – excuse me –
sincere and caring persons of goodwill are found on both sides of the
issue, but neither side will ever change the position of the other.
Legislatures and courts will continue to be confounded by the issue
for the foreseeable future. No ruling of this court will sway the opinion
regarding abortion held by anyone. And indeed, that is not the role of
this court. The court may not and will not decide whether there should be
abortions in Texas. This court is charged only with determining whether
certain provisions of House Bill 2 are consistent with the Constitution of
the United States under existing Supreme Court precedent.
And that court decided in that ruling today that provisions of House
Bill 2 in Texas, the antiabortion bill, are not consistent with the
Constitution of the United States. That federal judge ruled against the
part of the Texas law that mandates that doctors who do abortions in the
state have to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The ruling
says, quote, “The act`s admitting privileges provision is without a
rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman
seeking an abortion.”
And so, that provision is blocked. If that provision had taken effect
tomorrow, it was expected to close down a dozen Texas clinics immediately.
Now, at least for now, they will not close.
That said, the state`s Republican attorney general immediately filed
an appeal with a higher court to block today`s ruling and try to save the
law so it can shut down all the clinics. That attorney general is Greg
Abbott, and he is the Republican running against Wendy Davis for the
governorship of Texas – the woman who stood for 13 hours to stop this
thing versus the guy who says he will storm all the way to the Supreme
Court of the United States to make sure Texas rams it through.
And who says elections don`t give people a real choice?
MADDOW: Behold, the source of the Rand Paul maybe isn`t ready to run
for president plagiarism scandal of 2013.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight got you nervous?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there`s a problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never did tell you about my son, did I? He`s a
big fan of yours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just remember that I was as good as any and better
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants to apply here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could have gone up and back and nobody would
have been the wiser.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, my son`s not all that they
promised. But then, who knows what he could do? Right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was the urine sample movie to end all urine sample movies.
The 1997 sci-fi flop, “Gattaca”, did not work out well for this clean-cut
iteration of Ethan Hawke, nor did it work out well for anyone else in the
movie. The movie just did not take off. That said, it will now live
forever in American political history in connection with the Rand Paul
speech plagiarism story that you first learned about tonight on this show
in just a moment.
That`s coming up.
MADDOW: A really monstrous storm is pounding Western Europe. It`s
one of the most powerful coastal storm systems to hit Europe in years.
Hurricane-force winds over 100 miles an hour in some locations, heavy rain
and flooding, hundreds of fallen and uprooted trees blocking traffic and
In Britain, there are tons of power failures. Several lines on the
London underground have been suspended. The port of Dover was shut down
for hours, stopping travel across the channel between England and France.
Winds were up to 120 miles an hour in Amsterdam. Amsterdam saw lots
of damage and people ordered to stay inside. Wind gusts were so strong in
Germany that they shut down parts of the Audubon for fear that cars would
be blown off the road, no matter how fast they were going. At least 13
storm-related deaths have been reported across Western Europe.
And while this storm is extremely powerful, it`s not considered a
hurricane by weather standards because of two things. First of all, it
didn`t form over warm expanses of the open ocean. It happened in too cold
a part of the world to be considered hurricane.
Also, it apparently did not have the prototypical hurricane eye
formation, the eye of the storm.
It didn`t have that. Still, it`s one of the strongest storm systems
to hit Western Europe in years, and it is causing quite a bit of chaos in
At the same time, a storm of a different kind has kicked up between
the United States and some of our closest allies in that part of the world.
Last week, the French paper “Le Monde” reported the NSA was monitoring more
than 70 million phone calls of French citizens. Over one 30-day period
from December to January, tens of millions of French phone calls were
Then today, a similar revelation published in “El Mundo” in Spain,
about 60 million phone calls being monitored in that country. You see this
revelation through the prism of reporter Glenn Greenwald, who is behind
both stories – thanks to his source, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden,
who is now hold up in Russia, but the hits keep coming from him.
The diplomatic impact kicked up an order of magnitude, though, over
reports from the German paper “Ders Spiegel” that German chancellor Angela
Merkel`s personal phone, her cell phone, had also been bugged by the NSA
after a direct, and I`m guessing kind of brusk call between the chancellor
and President Obama, the White House released a statement saying that the
president, quote, “assured the chancellor that the United States is not
monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.”
“Is not” and “will not” in the future. Those are the key phrases
here. So, we`re not doing it now and we won`t going forward, but did we in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Has the United States monitored the chancellor`s phone
calls in the past?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nedra, we are not going to
comment publicly on every specified, alleged intelligence activity. And as
a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers
foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, no comment on the past. We don`t still do it, we won`t
do it again, but why were we doing it before, and who knew about it?
“The Wall Street Journal” reports now that the NSA was doing this
basically on their own? The White House cut off some monitoring programs
after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel. This quote
suggests that President Barack Obama went nearly five years as president
without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of other world
One senior U.S. official tells “The Journal” that the current practice
has been for these types of surveillance decisions to be made at the agency
level. Quote, “These decisions are made at NSA.”
At NSA? So, that one agency just gets to decide on its own that it`s
going to bug the cell phones of world leaders for years? And what, just
hope the president doesn`t find out about it? You guys are making the call
on your own?
What`s going on here? And is the NSA under anyone`s control?
Joining us now is my friend, Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist and senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics and author of
many books, including “The One Percent Doctrine.”
Ron, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
RON SUSKIND, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Nice to be here.
MADDOW: So, what`s going on here? And, the hardest thing for me
about intelligence stories is that I never believe anybody. How can we
know if the NSA is doing this on their own terms? It seems impossible.
SUSKIND: Well, it`s the way this system has worked in a way for a
long time. The word to remember – plausible deniability, two words.
What you have here is an operation that yields intelligence, signal
intelligence, that the president is kind of not supposed to know the source
of. The way these briefings work in the presidential daily brief, Rachel,
is the president says or hears from a briefer, a conversation between
Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi occurred and this is what they
discussed. The president nods and says, fine. He doesn`t dig into how he
got this information, the spy-craft or tradecraft that yielded it.
And that`s part of a process we`ve been at for a long time, where the
president shouldn`t know certain things or shouldn`t have to dig into
certain things so that he can essentially be deniable, he can lie, for the
most part, just say I knew nothing about how this was done or what was
occurring, and now I`ll look into it.
MADDOW: So, he can talk – he can take that call from Angela Merkel
and say I had no idea this was happening. He`s not technically lying, but
he could have inferred that that was the source of the information he had
received about her.
SUSKIND: Yes, and you know, we can sort of joke around about this,
but it`d actually kind of a serious thing and it goes right to the heart of
the dilemmas of forming powerful intelligence agencies like CIA and NSA –
SUSKIND: In `47 and `52, and the debate that occurred at that time,
that this is not a time of war. We`re building institutions that will do
this as a matter of practice. And it will mean the president will be in a
pickle. Sometimes he is going to have to lie.
And that undermines the moral authority of not just the president but
of the nation he represents. That`s the real debate. And the question
becomes, are we getting so much from these sorts of communications that
it`s worth what we forfeit in terms of our fundamental oaths? That`s a
question that`s broader.
MADDOW: And in terms of our overall structure of government and the
integrity of the public word on matters like this, the head of the Senate
Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, said today that she is, quote,
“Totally opposed” to the U.S. bugging world leers, and if the NSA is doing
this, she said that it means our oversight of the NSA isn`t working.
And so, she is in charge of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The
intelligence committees are incredibly, incredibly powerful as
congressional committees go. They have access to a lot of information.
They`re not allowed to talk about publicly. She`s implying that Congress
had no idea about this either and that NSA is just not overseen.
What do you think of that?
SUSKIND: Well, I think it`s part of a bit of a look the other way
quality to a lot of the intelligence gathering in the United States. These
are large, independent agencies. They do act. They act based on certain
broad ideals but a bit of an ends justify the means kind of philosophy.
And when it com down to it, the practices, the techniques are often
not clear, even to people on intelligence committees. Remember, they`re in
briefings in many cases where they can`t even take notes, and then they
have to walk out the door.
And I think what we`re seeing here are some of the perils of these
actions coming out. They`re going to come out eventually. And in this
era, they`re coming out fast and furious from folks like Snowden and
others, and the United States having to answer to them in a way that,
frankly, is a little bit different.
MADDOW: Ron, are you – I can hear you saying that, essentially,
these agencies, NSA and others, including CIA, are not well-governed,
they`re not well-integrated into our system of accountability in the way
that accountability`s supposed to flow up toward leaders who have to
explain themselves in public and to other leaders. I hear that.
But are you also saying that these agencies are not govern-able, that
they are now so big and so powerful and their power is so integrated that
there`s nothing that could be done to oversee them effectively the way they
SUSKIND: Many people say it`s time for a Church Commission style
group to gather. Remember the `70s, that was the Church Commissions that
oversaw excesses of the CIA. It`s time for that kind of an organization to
gather in terms of NSA.
NSA is a massive organization, and its organization internally is very
confusing. And listen, think about this, how many people have the
clearance or the opportunity, if you will, to look at NSA information,
dispatches, the great pool that Edward Snowden has? The NSA right now
ostensibly, should give us that number. How many thousands of people?
Because what you`re dealing with here is something fundamental, which is
the moral authority of the United States.
And right now, we`re probably going to have a lot of countries coming
to us, saying all right, I want to know exactly what`s being done not just
to my populations, because a lot of countries know we have their
populations under surveillance, but especially their leaders who are
feeling a little bit a pique now.
Remember, in 2002, when we ostensibly start wiretapping Merkel.
That`s a time when we were having a battle over Curveball. Remember him?
SUSKIND: And the Iraqi defector who was a fabricator and weapons of
mass destruction. Many people in the German government were under
surveillance, signal intelligence in that period. Again, it goes to the
heart of what the United States says it does versus what people later find
out it actually is doing. Not good.
MADDOW: Ron Suskind, senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics and
author of “The One Percent Doctrine,” among other books. Ron, thank you
for helping us do this tonight. I really appreciate it.
It is one thing to grapple with unchecked power and unaccountable
power. When you also find out that that unchecked and unaccountable power
is bad at what they do, bad internal systems and they don`t actually
understand their own work very well, then you have created a monster.
All right, still ahead, our exclusive report on how one Senate
Republican who has big 2016 dreams just really awkwardly plagiarized a
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Hey, news today out of Washington, D.C. surprising news.
Somebody in Congress says they will actually do something. Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid announcing today that he`s going to bring the Employee
Non-Discrimination Act up for a vote, and soon.
ENDA is the long-standing, long-suffering bill that simply says you
can`t get fired or refused a job because of your sexual orientation or
identity. So, you can`t put up a sign that says “gays need not apply” if
you are hiring people to work for you. That`s it. It`s very simple.
Senator Reid says he will bring that bill up for a vote maybe as early
as next week. Greg Sargent at “The Washington Post” reporting tonight that
Democrats are lobbying Republicans, including Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rob
Portman of Ohio to see if they can get their support on this
nondiscrimination bill, even though they`re Republicans.
But now, we have a programming note for you, which is that on
Wednesday night of this week, I`m going to be doing an exclusive interview
with Senator Harry Reid to see how he plans to get this historic bill
through the Senate and much more.
Wednesday night, an exclusive interview with Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid, right here on this show. Oh, we have so much to talk about.
MADDOW: The year was 1997, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman were two of
the biggest names in Hollywood, and Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman teamed up
to make a weird, thought-provoking sci-fi thriller called “Gattaca”.
“Gattaca” was an odd, sort of futuristic movie about life in a society
where your genes and your DNA essentially dictated how your life would go.
Your genetic make up was used by the all powerful evil state to
determine your usefulness to society.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten fingers, ten toes is all that used to matter.
Not now. Now on the seconds old, the exact time and cause of my death was
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Neurological condition, 60 percent probability.
Manic depression, 42 percent probability. Attention deficit disorder, 89
percent probability. Heart disorder, 99 percent probability. Early fatal
potential, life expectancy 30.2 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “Gattaca” was really, quite excellently weird in its own way
but it was a flop and reportedly cost about $36 million to make. I sold
enough tickets to take in only a third of that. It`s really almost nobody
saw it when it was released to the public back in 1997.
But somebody saw it. Or at least somebody read the Wikipedia page
about it because Republican Senator Rand Paul gave a speech in support of
Ken Cuccinelli. And the speech he gave seems to have been plagiarized from
the Wikipedia page on “Gattaca”.
“Gattaca” was a weird topic for a speech in the governor`s speech to
begin. But what`s weirder is trying to be a candidate for president, which
Rand Paul is trying to do and thinking you can lift speeches from Wikipedia
while you`re doing that.
Rand Paul traveled to Lynchburg, Virginia, today, the home of Gerry
Falwell`s Liberty University. His speech overall was a being anti-
abortion. And Ken Cuccinelli being very anti-abortion and the theme he
used he said, people who are pro-choice on the issue of abortion are sort
of like the evil autocratic state in the movie “Gattaca”, they want to kill
off anyone whose genes aren`t approved of by society.
Seriously, that`s the argument. People who are pro-choice want to
start practicing Nazi-style eugenics in America, or at least “Gattaca”
So, therefore vote for Ken Cuccinelli, which was kind of weird.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: In the movie “Gattaca”, in the not-too
distant future, eugenics is common. And DNA plays a primary role in
determining your social class
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The weird thing about that line from Senator Paul`s speech
today, in the not too distance future, eugenics is common and DNA plays a
primary role in determining your social class, is that that line is almost
verbatim in the Wikipedia entry on “Gattaca”. Quote, “In the not-too
distant future, liberal eugenics is common and DNA plays the primary role
in determining social class.”
Hey, that`s what Rand Raul said. And it looks like it is not a
Check this out. This is a little bit later in the Wikipedia entry.
It`s a description of the plot line of “Gattaca.” Due to frequent
screening, Vincent faces genetic discrimination and prejudice. The only
way he can achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut is to become a
That`s Wikipedia. Here`s Rand Paul today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Due to frequent screenings, faces genetic prejudice. The only
way to achieve his dream of being an astronaut is he has to become what`s
called a “borrowed ladder.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rand Paul`s speech today on “Gattaca” was totally ripped off
From Wikipedia, Ethan Hawke`s character, quote, “assumes the character
of Jerome Morrow, a genetic profile second to none, who had been injured in
a car accident leaving him paralyzed.”
Hit it, Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: He assumes the identity of a Jerome Morrow, a world-class
swimming star whose genetic profile was secondary to none. He`s been
paralyzed in a car accident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is weird, right?
He is just up there reading Wikipedia off the teleprompter. Quote,
“Vincent buys Jerome`s identity and uses his blood, hair,tissue, and urine
to pass a screening”. Right, Senator?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Jerome buys his identity, uses his DNA, his blood, his hair,
his tissue, his urine, to pass the screenings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rand Paul wants to be president but right now, he`s just
lifting whole sections of Wikipedia entry and hoping that nobody is going
to notice and he can call it his speech.
It`s not like this hasn`t happened before to presidential candidates.
Herman Cain famously plagiarized Donna Summer, remember, when he ripped the
theme song to the Pokemon movie during the 2012 campaign. But you know
what? That was Herman Cain.
When Joe Biden got caught plagiarizing the speech back in 1988
presidential campaign that was seen as essentially the end of his
presidential run that year, took him a decade before he was allowed back
in the top tier of candidates.
What will the fallout be for Rand Paul? We reached out to Senator
Paul`s office to see if they had an explanation for this bout of really,
really blatant plagiarism. We`ll let you know if we hear back.
But in the meantime, poor Ken Cuccinelli, right? This is honestly the
last thing he needs right now. He`s already down double-digits in the
latest polling. There`s only eight days left until the election.
The sitting Republican governor he is trying to replace is now waiting
on his possible indictment, which if it`s going to come – it`s going to
come between Election Day and Thanksgiving.
And the last headliner he gets is this dude at Jerry Falwell
university talking about a 1990s Uma Thurman movie and plagiarizing the
Wikipedia page on it. Thanks, Senator.
So, on one hand, poor Ken Cuccinelli. On the other, what about Rand
Paul? I think Rand Paul is going to have to explain himself on this. And
maybe there is a good explanation. Maybe he wrote the Wikipedia entry in
the first place.
We`ll keep you posted on what sort of explanation the senator offers
up, if any. Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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