The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/07/13
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining this
Behold the peaceful transition of power. The transfer of power
between people who disagree with one another strongly, but who agree that
the democratic process, the vote of the people, is what decides who gets to
hold office in this country. The peaceful transition of power between
politically opposed forces is really our most noble display of the
challenge and the majesty of our democracy.
It`s also really, personally awkward sometimes. So, yes, hey, I`m the
new guy! Really? You`re the new guy?! OK. You were the awkward new guy
once, too, big guy.
Transitions can be very awkward. And it`s not just awkward
transitions for presidents. This was the tiny little outgoing mayor of New
York City yesterday, sitting down with the enormous incoming new mayor of
New York City.
The two of them having what was supposed to be a friendly transition
meal together. Looked like a lot of things, but friendly was not one of
For shear caught on tape personal hard to watch-ness, though, you
really cannot beet what happened today, this afternoon, in the executive
mansion in good old Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: You`ve been here once or twice
before. Have you ever been upstairs?
GOV.-ELECT TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: I have Tim look me up
MCDONNELL: You`ve seen it since a lot of the changes.
MCDONNELL: But –
Yes, it`s quite a place. A lot of history. Good. All right, let`s
go eat. Good.
You`re not going to – actually, I understand you`re not going to
MCAULIFFE: Yes, yes.
MCDONNELL: You will move, OK.
You`ve got two? Their school`s in McLean, right?
MCAULIFFE: Yes, they`ll finish the – she`s in eighth grade, so she`ll
finish up and then I`ll come down. Peter is in fifth grade.
MCDONNELL: OK, spread it out pretty well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOWE: Just because the transition of power is peaceful doesn`t
mean that it isn`t hard. It doesn`t mean that it`s not crippling
personally awkward, with the cameras and everything.
But you know what? It`s also awkward on policy terms, because as
Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, prepares to take over for governor of
Virginia, he has now announced that his first action as the state`s
governor will be to undo an executive order that Bob McDonnell signed when
he became the governor. On order that made it legal to fire public
employees in Virginia, just for being gay.
It had been illegal to fire somebody from a public sector job in
Virginia, just because they were gay, before Bob McDonnell came into
office. But as soon as he was sworn in, he overtly went out of his way to
make it legal to fire somebody for being gay in the state of Virginia.
Now, Terry McAuliffe has announced that he will undo that as his very
first action as governor. Elections have consequences. They have
personally awkward consequences and they have politically salient
A few miles up Interstate 95 in Washington, D.C., today, within the
same hour, we had a really nice, really stark illustration about the
differences between the parties on issues like this right now. Within the
same hour today in D.C., in the same building, just down the hall from one
another, Senate Republicans today held their press conference to announce
their new anti-abortion legislation!
And 30 minutes later, down the same hallway, Senate Democrats held
their press conference to announce their gay rights legislation. And, in
fact, this afternoon, the Senate went on to take a vote on the Democrats`
But the difference between the parties is not just that one party is
liberal and one party is conservative. That one party is pro-gay rights
and one party is anti-gay rights, or one party is pro-choice and the other
one is pro-life.
That`s not actually the most interesting difference between the
parties right now. What is fascinating between the two parties right now
is that the Democrats are essentially totally unified on these kinds of
issues right now. And for the Republicans, it is complete chaos.
Take the Employment Non-Discrimination Act today, which is voted on in
the Senate. Right now, federal law says you can`t get fired just because
of your race. You can`t get fired just because of your gender or your
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was voted on in the
Senate today, that would say you also can`t get fired just because you are
gay. It would add sexual orientation and sexual identity to the list of
things that are protected forms of nondiscrimination in this country.
The employment nondiscrimination act was first introduced 40 years
ago. It was one of Senator Ted Kennedy`s priorities, right up until the
time that he died. Senator Kennedy passed off leadership of that
legislation to Senator Jeff Merkley, who had led the way for a similar kind
of legislation back in his home state. But what was fascinating about this
bill, when they finally took the vote on it this afternoon in the Senate,
was not just that it passed, after 40 years, it passed.
It was not just that it passed, though, that was the most amazing
thing. What was amazing was that it passed with 100 percent of the
Democratic caucus voting for it. Every single Democratic senator who voted
today voted for it, including the kind of socially conservative ones, like
Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Mark Pryor from Arkansas. Every
Democrat voted for it.
So, in the Democratic Party right now, this issue is very simple. The
Democratic Party on discrimination issues, they are unanimous. They know
who they are and they know what they stand for.
And the Republican Party, it is much harder to say what`s going on.
Ten Republicans crossed over to vote with the Democrats on this in the
Senate today, 10, including Jeff Flake who said he was going to vote no,
but today, he voted yes.
So, yes, a majority of Democratic senators voted against the
nondiscrimination bill, but 10 of them voting for it, that`s a lot.
That said, the Republican leadership in the House is saying that not
only are they opposed to it, they`re not going to allow it to come up for a
vote at all. They will not put it on the calendar. John Boehner says he
is personally opposed to the legislation. He also said he thought it was
already illegal to fire somebody for being gay, which is not the case at
all in 29 states.
But regardless, he says that he is against this nondiscrimination
bill. He says he will not allow a vote on it. House Majority Leader Eric
Cantor today, underlined that and put an exclamation point on it when he
put out a blunt statement, saying that this is not on the calendar.
So, we know what the Democratic position is on discriminating against
gay people. We know that there`s a unanimous Democratic position on the
issue of discrimination. But what`s the Republican position? And are they
shy about their position, whatever it is? Or are they proud of it?
Precisely one Republican out of the 32 senators who voted no on this
discrimination bill, only one of the 32 no votes.
In all the procedural votes they took, on all the debates they had,
including the final vote today, in all of the opportunity of talking about
this, only one Republican stood up once to actually state out loud why it
was that he was voting against this thing. Good old 70-year-old Senator
Dan Coats worked his way up to the podium today and gave a 12-minute and
15-second statement, explaining why he was voting no, but he was the only
one. Not a single other Republican has been willing to say anything out
loud about why they were voting no on this thing.
All the 2016 hopefuls in the Republican Party who are in the Senate,
all voted no on this, but none of them wanted to explain it.
Then there`s the new abortion ban that Senate Republicans unveiled
today with their big Lindsey Graham press conference. Republicans, of
course, spent last few years rolling back abortion rights in the states
more aggressively than at any times since Roe versus Wade. And they have
brought up anti-abortion bill after anti-abortion bill after abortion bill,
just over and over and over again, in the Congress over the last few years.
Their first government shutdown effort when they got control of the
House came down to their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, remember?
They have been more devoted to the anti-abortion issue than to almost
And yet, at the same time, they`re starting to seem a little
politically shy about it. The sponsor of the new anti-abortion bill that
they announced today, the senator who was supposed to champion this bill
through Congress when it first came up, was going to be Senator Marco
Rubio. Not anymore, though. Now they have taken it out of the hands of
anybody who might conceivably be running for president in 2016. And
instead, they gave it to Lindsey Graham, who is definitely not running for
president now or ever, but who does face the prospect of an even more
conservative right-wing primary challenger in his home state of South
So, yes, they want to keep pushing their anti-abortion agenda as they
have been for these last few years, but they want it to be a lower profile
affair. Something that really only comes up in elections when only
Republicans are voting. Like, say, South Carolina Republican primaries.
In Virginia this week, the Republican Party ran a hard line anti-
abortion activist for governor, and they thereby lost a governorship that
the Republican Party, by all rights, really should have won. The Beltway
diagnosis of what went wrong there is probably best stated in “The
Washington Post” editorial about that election today, which called Ken
Cuccinelli a hero to the Tea Party and a culture warrior of the first rank.
They do not mean that as a compliment, though. They say, quote, “Mr.
Cuccinelli lost because he was among the most polarizing and provocative
figures in Richmond for a decade. The Cuccinelli record had nothing to do
with job creation or the state`s economic well-being or alleviating
deepening transportation problems, all of which are central to Virginians`
well-being. His record was mainly about bashing homosexuals, harassing
illegal immigrants, crusading against abortion, denying climate change,
flirting with birthers, and opposing gun control.”
So, that`s “The Washington Post.” The Beltway diagnosis is that
there`s a reason Ken Cuccinelli loses elections like this. That
Republicans, if they know what`s good for them, really ought to leave all
this stuff alone.
On the other hand, the Tea Party diagnosis about what ken Cuccinelli
did wrong is that he wasn`t hard line enough. He was too much of a squish.
He should have campaigned more about immigrants and birth control and
abortion and gay rights.
So, there`s this really interesting dynamic, right? The Democratic
unanimity and the Republican chaos on issues like this, Democrats have
never been more unified than they are in these issues right now. But
Republicans, not only do they not know what their party position is, they
can`t agree on whether or not they`re proud of it or ashamed of it, whether
they want it to be something they run on or something they run from.
And therefore, nobody really knows how to strategize on this issue in
future elections. This is going to be amazing to watch from here on out,
because for a generation now, it has been an article of faith among
Republican strategies that it is good for the Republican Party to run hard-
line, anti-abortion candidates and pursue hard-line, anti-abortion
policies. The calculation has always been that, you know, even if not
everybody agrees with them on those issues, the people who are anti-
abortion believe it so fervently that their enthusiasm to vote anti-
abortion, to vote on those issues, will outweigh the squishy moderate
people who are maybe pro-choice or maybe don`t care very much, but
certainly aren`t as motivated to vote on those issues as the anti-abortion
That`s been the calculation on this for a generation. But look at
what just happened in Virginia. One you have over five voters who turned
out this in election said that abortion was the most important issue
driving their vote.
But, look how they voted. A large majority of those voters motivated
by the choice issue didn`t vote for the anti-abortion guy. They voted for
the pro-choice guy. Because it turns out, hey, wow, there can be fervency
on both sides of this issue.
That changes the calculation that has been static for the Republicans
for a generation. Fascinating.
And so, yes, elections have consequences. Terry McAuliffe in Virginia
said in his acceptance speech that he will be a, quote, “brick wall”
against any legislation attempting to further curtail women`s rights in
Virginia. And while sitting down for his awkward first-and-last date with
bob McDonnell today, both men know the first thing Terry McAuliffe is going
to do in office is turn back Governor McDonnell`s anti-gay rights agenda.
But you know what? In Virginia, one other amazing thing happened
today. Because this is Virginia and Virginia is so amazing this year, even
after all the personal awkwardness stuff and after the “I`m going to U-turn
your anti-gay rights agenda” stuff today, there`s one other matter of
tremendous personal and political awkwardness that happened today in
Virginia. And that is the second thing that Terry McAuliffe announced he
was going to do after the gay rights thing.
He said, he picked his two top things, number one and number two, he`s
going to do as Virginia`s governor. Number one, he`s going to change that
nondiscrimination law. And number two, quote, “He said his second
executive order would bar the governor and his family from accepting gifts
of $100 or more.”
All right! Nice to meet you, Bob McDonnell.
As Bob McDonnell prepares to leave office, federal prosecutors in
Virginia are preparing, some time between now and Thanksgiving, to make
their decision about whether or not to criminally indict Bob McDonnell in
the corruption and bribery scandal that arose around him and his family
taking over $100,000 in gifts and cash from a Virginia businessman, who was
seeking favors for his company from the state government.
Through this whole scandal, through the apology, through the paying
back of the gifts and all the rest of it and the legal defense fund and the
legal defense Web site and all the awkward announcements and the
defensiveness and the watch and everything – through all of it, Bob
McDonnell never bothered to change the ethics law that allowed him to take
those gifts in the first place. Terry McAuliffe is going to have to be the
one who does it come January.
Today, the company who employs the CEO who gave Bob McDonnell all
those gifts says the CEO will be leaving the company, whether or not those
bribes – I mean, gifts – were illegal. The company says it`s against
their corporate policies to give anything of value to a public official.
And so, CEO Johnny Williams will be losing his job between now and the end
of the year.
But the most amazing development in all of this today was from the
University of Virginia politics guru, Larry Sabato, who reported tot for
the first time something truly amazing about this story and Virginia
politics. He reported the today for the very first time that ken
Cuccinelli had in the works a plan for throwing Bob McDonnell out of
office. Remember, Ken Cuccinelli is the attorney general, Bob McDonnell is
When in August and September, it first looked as though Governor
McDonnell was going to be indicted by federal prosecutors, Ken Cuccinelli
reportedly had a secret plan. He, quote, “planned a dramatic break” with
Bob McDonnell by invoking a specific section of Article 5 of the Virginia
Constitution, which had never been used before in the entire history of the
Virginia Constitution. It`s the part of the Virginia Constitution that
would allow other officers of the state government to throw the governor
out, to declare the governor, quote, “unable to discharge the powers and
duties of his office,” thus throwing him out of office against his will, if
he refused to quit.
What?! Why did this not get reported until 48 hours after the
I mean, Ken Cuccinelli also took gifts from that guy. Ken Cuccinelli
was totally implicated in that same scandal. Ken Cuccinelli didn`t
disclose his gifts from that guy. Initially, he waited until he was
getting asked about it before he paid the gifts back. He never had any
explanation for why he took those gifts for himself. He was never able to
All the while, everybody`s waiting for the indictment against Bob
McDonnell, and Ken Cuccinelli is not able to distance himself from this
horrible scandal, and he needed to be able to distance himself from it.
And all along, he had a plan to forcibly throw Bob McDonnell out of office?
This is amazing! Why didn`t we know before?
Cooch had a secret plan. Ken Cuccinelli had a secret plan for a coup
to oust the scandal-ridden governor. The Cooch had a plan, there was going
to be a coup.
Oh, my god, why didn`t we know this before? You are telling me there
was – I could have been – you are telling me there was a secret “Cucci
coup” planned in Virginia? All this plan I didn`t know about it. I could
have been using this phrase all this time on TV, for months, since August?
Virginia, do you realize what this does to me? I could have been
using “Cucci Coup” as the banner on all of these slogans and all of these
segments all of this time? Virginia, you are killing me. You are killing
me, I`m dead.
MADDOW: Earlier this year, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris
Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised his state`s minimum wage.
Two days ago, New Jersey vetoed him on that issue. The state may have
voted to re-elect the governor himself for another term or half a term,
depending on how long he sticks around, but the state also undid his
minimum wage veto. And they did it with an exclamation point.
Look, with 99 percent of precincts reporting in New Jersey, voters in
that state approved a statewide increase in the mini wage by a margin of 61
to 39 percent. And with that huge vote, that huge margin, the people in
New Jersey essentially overruled their popular governor on that even more
Whenever the minimum wage is on the ballot, it blows up. People vote
In SeaTac, in Washington, a small town outside of the Seattle airport,
with just over 12,000 registered voters in the town, there was a measure on
the ballot this week to raise the minimum wage there to $15 an hour. That
would be the highest in the country. Because Washington state votes by
mail, the votes are not totally in yet, but so far it looks like it`s going
to happen there too. It looks like SeaTac is going to get a $15 an hour
Outside groups opposing that measure spent more than $1 million trying
to stop it in a town of just 12,000 people, but still, looks like it`s
going to pass.
Don`t tell the Beltway press, but the American people are really,
really populist on this issue. If you put the minimum wage on the ballot
basically anywhere, it wins. And not only does it win, it often wins by so
much, it moves other races on the same ballot.
So, in 2006, in Missouri, then-Senator Jim Talent, the Republican
incumbent, was up for re-election. He was being challenged by the then-
state auditor, Claire McCaskill, a Democrat.
Missouri`s a pretty conservative state. As an incumbent, Jim Talent
probably should have won that race. But Claire McCaskill beat him, and she
has gone on to a distinguished six years and counting career in the Senate
that has some people talking about her as presidential timber. But when
she first got that job in the Senate, her win was a very close rate and it
was an upset. And part of what put the wind at her back that year, 2006,
was the initiative on the Missouri state ballot that year to raise the
minimum wage. Claire McCaskill was in favor of that and said so. Jim
talent didn`t want to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: You`re going to have to cast a
vote in two weeks on whether or not we raise the minimum wage in Missouri.
Will you vote yes or whether you vote no?
FORMER SEN. JIM TALENT (R), MISSOURI: I have not taken a position on
the minimum wage ballot issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wrong answer, it turns out.
Once Election Day rolled around, that minimum wage initiative was
approved – look at that – 76 to 24 percent. Raising the minimum wage
passed in Missouri by that 52-point margin and Claire McCaskill beat the
incumbent Republican senator from her state.
Same thing happened in 2006 in Montana. The minimum wage was on the
ballot there in `06. Montanans loved it. They approved the minimum wage
rise by 46 points.
On the same ballot, the incumbent Republican senator, Conrad Burns,
who had voted repeatedly against raising the minimum wage, and who was
wishy-washy about it at the state level that year, well, his Democratic
challenger Jon Tester was for the rise in the minimum wage. He was for it
bluntly unapologetically. The minimum wage rise passed by nearly 50 points
and Montana at the exact same time got a new Democratic senator to replace
their old Republican one.
Same year in Ohio, then-Congressman Sherrod Brown decides to run
against the Republican incumbent. During the campaign, Sherrod Brown
pounds his opponent for his opposition to a minimum wage hike. Sherrod
Brown nails him for voting to kill or delay, raising the federal minimum
wage at least nine separate times.
Finally, the Republican senator caves and pledges that he`s going to
support a raise this time, but you know what? It was too late. Ohio
voters overwhelmingly approved a raise in the minimum wage that year and on
the same ballot, that same night, at the polls, they threw out their
incumbent Republican senator and replaced him with Democrat, Sherrod Brown.
Raising the minimum wage not only has important, practical
consequences, especially in a country where economic inequality is raging
out of control. Raising the minimum wage also has really stark political
consequences. It`s like the Democrat`s magic beans. It always works.
Raising the minimum wage is really popular. That said, there has not
been a federal vote to raise it for six years now. Well, today, Senate
Democrats met to talk that through. Politico.com reporting tonight that
Senate Democrats have a plan to raise the minimum wage to just over $10 an
hour and they move on it between now and Thanksgiving, which means right
“The New York Times” reporting tonight that President Obama is in
support of what Senate Democrats want to do.
Joining us now is Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Senator Brown, great to have you here.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Thank you.
MADDOW: So you have been an economic populist for your whole career,
and an outspoken one at that. Is it true that issues like the minimum wage
work everywhere in the country, and that therefore it could be a pretty
easy federal vote if people paid attention to the polls?
BROWN: Yes, I think so. It`s so much the right thing to do. There
are so many people living on the minimum wage and, you know, there`s this
myth that they`re all teenagers. They`re not. They`re most –
overwhelmingly, they`re 20 and up, a number of them are single parents, a
number of them hold two minimum wage jobs, or as husband and wife hold a
job, one at minimum wage and one $1 above minimum wage, and they can`t make
a go at it.
They get some help in food stamps and earned income tax credit, in
some way subsidies from taxpayers to subsidize the low wages of places like
Wal-Mart and Starbucks. But there`s another part of this really important
this year. The tipped wage has been stuck at $2.19 since 1990.
MADDOW: So, that`s the wage that people get which sounds like it`s
below minimum wage, but it`s supposedly compensated for where you get cash
BROWN : And particularly in places like diners, where people where the
meals are inexpensive and people are maybe not as generous, don`t put it on
their credit card or as much money, whatever they`re tipping. So, that
$2.13 an hour, has been stuck, for servers in restaurants, for over 20
BROWN: This bill will overtime, peg it to 70 percent of the minimum
In 1996, it was 50 percent of the minimum wage, the tipped wage. Now,
we`re going to peg it to 70 percent of the minimum wage under this bill.
So, this is going to make a huge difference, especially for women, because
it`s women, more often than not, that are working in these diners, at very
low wages. Sometimes, they`ll get $5 an hour in tips, sometimes they`ll
get $10, sometimes they`ll get $2 an hour in tips.
So, often, they`re well below the minimum wage and they`re working
harder than we do. I mean, it affects their backs and their feet, they`re
standing all day, they`re doing hard work, and they`re getting so little
MADDOW: In terms of the prospects for legislation like this, I think
it`s really interesting that Senate Democrats, you and your fellow Senate
Democrats are putting together action on this now. Obviously, there`s a
lot of doubt about whether or not anything will ever go anywhere in the
Can you tell me anything about the political strategy around this,
given how potent this is as an issue and how popular it is?
BROWN: Well, we want a – I mean, a number of us have wanted to move
on the minimum wage for a long time. We clearly have consensus in our
caucus. I don`t think there`s probably any Democrat that will vote against
it, perhaps one or two, but almost none. And I think the temptations for
Republicans, particularly those on the ballot coming up, or those who are
going to be on the ballot, especially when you link a number of Republicans
who voted for a pay raise for themselves, and they vote against the minimum
wage, that`s a pretty hard one to defend, as you can guess.
MADDOW: I know you`ve also been talking, you did a great interview
with Greg Sargent at “The Washington Post” the last couple of days about
the prospect of expanding Social Security, the sort of Beltway common
wisdom about Social Security is the only way to go is for it to be shrunk
and attacked. You`re talking about expanding Social Security and sort of
recalibrating the whole debate around that.
How does that work?
BROWN: When you consider, when hear some far-right colleagues say
that we need to restructure or reform the entitle programs – well, they`re
saying, what do you mean, restructure? Well, they`re not sustainable.
What do you mean?
In the end, what they mean is you cut Social Security and you cut
Medicare. More than one third of people on Social Security in this country
rely on Social Security for close – essentially, their entire income.
BROWN: And more than half of people in my state get more than half
their income from Social Security, of those receiving that. And to go
after them – and why should the debate be on this whole grand bargain?
Why should the debate be, how much we going to cut Social Security? How
much are we going to cut Medicare?
No, it shouldn`t be. It should be look at this whole retirement
system. People are saving less, people are less likely to have defined
pensions. People with 401(k)s are always inadequate. So, we`re going to
cut Social Security too?
This is a time Social Security is even more important, because the
traditional three-legged stool that Franklin Roosevelt talked about, a
defined pension, savings, and the Social Security, should each be a part of
their retirement. Well, two of those legs have been, at least shortened,
if not cut out from under them. And that`s why Social Security is so
So we should be having this debate. How do we deal with seniors`
problems? It doesn`t mean you take money from Head Start and you take
money from kids. There`s been too much generational warfare. But how are
we going to do this?
Let`s have the debate about Social Security itself. Don`t put it in
with everything else, and you know, all the wise people in Washington and
the pundits saying, well, we`ve got to fix these entitlements, because they
always mean Social Security and Medicare.
MADDOW: Fascinating stuff. That`s – if the debate happens in those
terms, I don`t know that we`re going to end up in a different place, but it
would be a much more sensible debate.
BROWN: We will end up in a different place, because the public
overwhelmingly says – if you poll, should we fix entitlements or should we
reform the entitlement system, people will say, yes. If you say, should we
cut Social Security and Medicare or shift Medicare costs to seniors, they
will say, decidedly, no.
It`s a lot like the minimum wage debate. And Democrats and
progressives have to be making these debates, making these issues –
putting these issues in front of people and really making the case. Not to
– not to play on their field, continued budget cut, continue undercutting
Medicare, continue these low-wage kinds of jobs. Let`s figure this out and
really look at the broad middle class and people who aspire to it.
MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, it`s always great to
have you here.
BROWN: Good to be back. Thanks.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. Nice to see you.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This summer, after a jury in Florida found George Zimmerman
not guilty in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, there was a big
outspoken nationwide response to that ruling. But in Florida, there was a
very focused response by a committed group of young, feisty activists that
call themselves the Dream Defenders.
On July 16th, they gathered outside the Florida state capital in what
looked like it was going to be another protest expressing opposition to the
ruling, but the activists had a different plan. Where they marched to that
day was into the offices of Florida Governor Rick Scott, and then they
would not leave. They brought sleeping bags and pillows. They remained
peacefully, but insistently inside the governor`s office. They said they
wanted a meeting with him, although the governor initially said, no,
eventually he said yes.
They said they wanted to reopen the question of Florida`s “stand your
ground” law. And again, the governor said, no. He said they`d had plenty
of hearings on it, it was a settled matter.
But they refused to take no for an answer. They hunkered down and
they stayed in that office for 31 straight days, refusing to leave.
And you know what? The governor came around to their way of thinking.
The activists secured an agreement that the state legislature would hold
new earrings to review the stand your ground laws, and those hearings
happened today. And they never would have happened without that focused,
relentless, peaceful direct action by those activists.
And if you understand how that works, or if you want to understand how
that works, then the interview tonight on this show is for you. We`ve got
something kind of amazing coming up next. Please stay with us.
It`s going to be really good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What is the purpose of the march?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re marching today to dramatize to the nation
and dramatize to the world that hundreds and thousands of Negro citizens of
Alabama, but particularly here in the Blytheville (ph) area, are denied the
right to vote. And we intend to march to Montgomery, to convince Governor
REPORTER: Mr. Williams, what are you going to do if you get stopped?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we going to do if we get stopped? We
hope we don`t get stopped. And if we do get stopped, we`ll stand there and
hopefully let them go into Montgomery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is a comic book that was originally published in 1958.
It costs 10 cents back there. It was published by a group called the
Fellowship of Reconciliation. They are still around today and you can
still buy this comic book from them. It`s called “Martin Luther King and
the Montgomery Story.”
For 10 cents and 14 pages, it explains what happened in the
Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott that happened in 1965, which started when
Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a city bus.
But in terms of our history as a country, what was really, really,
really important about this book is that it did not just explain or re-tell
that story of that campaign.
This comic book was also, essentially, a step-by-step guidebook for
how to replicate it. How to use what it called the Montgomery method, with
pages of practical advice about how to choose your battles, how to educate
yourself, how to practice facing even violent opposition without ever
hitting back. How to see the person attacking you as a human, and how to
try to inspire that person to see you the same way, even in the middle of
It`s profound stuff. This was a comic book that helped inspire and
organize a revolution.
John Robert Lewis, born in 1940, was a teenager living in rural
segregated Alabama, who was already captivated by the teachings of Dr.
Martin Luther King when he first read this comic book. As a young seminary
student in Nashville, he joined the movement. He followed Dr. King`s
advice and he followed the Montgomery method. He joined up with other
young African-American and white men and women who trained themselves in
By the time, he was 25 years old, he and Jose Williams were leading
that march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery for vote rights. By then, he
was a seasoned veteran of many campaigns, including lunch counter sit-ins
and freedom rides. He had been beaten and arrested dozens of times.
By then, he led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He had
already been the youngest speaker at the 1963 march on Washington,
alongside his hero, the reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
Now, as the only surviving speaker of the march on Washington, now in
his 27th year in Congress, civil rights icon John Lewis has decided to pay
it forward, working with acclaimed comic book artist Nate Powell and with a
young staffer named Andrew Aydin, who was so captivated by the idea of that
1958 comic that he wrote a masters thesis about it.
These three men together created a graphic novel about the life and
the life`s work of John Lewis. It`s planned as a trilogy, but the first
volume, which is called “March, Part One”, is out now, and it went straight
to the top of “The New York Times`” best sellers list, and, boy, did it
We asked Congressman Lewis to read part of it for us, to show you what
it is like to see this in comic form. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Lawson thought us how to protect
ourselves, how to disarm our attackers by connecting with their humanity,
how to protect each other, how to survive. But the hardest part to learn,
to truly understand, deep in your heart, was how to find love for your
We took a name. The Nashville Student Movement, because of our
distrust of centralized power, we insisted on a rotating leadership. We`re
all in this together and we were ready to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview are Congressman John Lewis
and his co-authors, Nate Powell and Andrew Aydin.
Gentleman, thank you so much for being here.
LEWIS: Thank you for having us.
MADDOW: I`m going to break protocol and not ask you the first
question, but ask you the first question, Nate, as the artist, does it
weird you out to see your art put to sound and motion on TV?
NATE POWELL, “MARCH” ILLUSTRATOR: It`s incredibly exciting.
MADDOW: Oh, good.
POWELL: It never stops being weird, but in the best possible way.
MADDOW: Congressman, I know that this book brought you to Comic-Con
in San Diego this spring. I know you were signing books tonight at a comic
store here in New York.
Do you feel like doing this this way is getting this story to people
who wouldn`t otherwise know it and wouldn`t otherwise hear it?
LEWIS: I think this way is a better way to do it. It is a good way.
Tonight, in the past three days and weeks and months, I`ve been amazed
– to see mothers and fathers bringing their children, to see teachers, to
see grandparents, buying this book for my grandchildren. They`re learning
about what happened and how it happened. They`re learning the way of
faith, the way of love, the way of peace, the way of nonviolence.
MADDOW: When I look back at the 1958 publication, which, again, we
should say, is still in print from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, what
is very moving to me is not just the history here, but the how-to aspect of
it. The – you know, essentially, meeting people at the point of being
inspired by these actions, of other people in the civil rights movement to
say, you, too, can do the, and here`s how you can start to do it alone, are
you trying to do some of that with “March” as well?
LEWIS: Well, we`re trying to say to young people and people not so
young, you, too, can do it. You, too, can find a way to get in the way.
You, too, can speak up and speak out. You, too, can make this country and
this world a better place. You have the power to do it.
MADDOW: Andrew, as a staffer to Congressman Lewis and a comics
aficionado, as a scholar of history and someone who`s very interested in
this, do you – what are the parallels you see between this in the `50s as
an organizing tool and what you have done now?
ANDREW AYDIN, “MARCH” CO-AUTHOR: Well, I think in the `50s, they had
one story that worked and they wanted to spread it everywhere. John Lewis
has so many stories of how they used nonviolence, how they used a
discipline that we can apply today. And I think what we tried to do is
just give more examples. Just as it influenced him and inspired him, we`re
trying to do that again with more stories, more examples, and in a more
MADDOW: Congressman, you have been arrested, even recently, you have
used nonviolent direct action throughout your adult life, including most
recently, on issues, working with activists, seeking immigration reform.
Do you feel like the methods that were so effective for you and so
challenging to the order of things in the `50s, work in the same way now?
Or because of that history, because of what was achieved by those methods,
do we react to them differently now?
AYDIN: Well, I think the method that we use, during the `60s, and Dr.
King and others used during the `50s, are still very effective. Because we
can present our bodies, we can say, here we are! You can be young, you can
be older or much older. It doesn`t matter.
You can be low-income or middle-income or you can be wealthy. But you
have a body and you can bear witness to the truth. You can find a way to
get in the way.
We all can practice the way of peace, the way of love, the way of
MADDOW: Nate, as an artist, I have to say, I`m a fan of your work,
even before this. One of the things that must have been intimidating or
challenging is to take these iconic stories, to take Congressman Lewis and
his iconic personal history and to make it a little fallible, to make it a
little human, to inject doubt and things that we can relate to, rather than
thinking of this as sort of history that`s carved into a mountain. How did
you approach that?
POWELL: For the most part, a lot of it had to do with beginning with
the preset that we`re dealing with human beings, which is something that`s
kind of easy to forget when you cross over into the realm of the icon, the
legend. So, a lot of it is pouring through the script, through the
congressman`s memoir, and then under my own power, sort of looking around
in those recollections and those memories, to look for other, you know,
sights and sounds, to look for – to look to my own family`s past, as
Southerners, and to inject a little bit of the environmental aspects that
sort of bring the entire world view to life and bring the time and place to
life in addition to the characters and the struggle.
MADDOW: Gentleman, I have to say, I am a comic book fan. And so, I
was probably predisposed to like this. But, there`s – I think there`s
something very important about taking a history that for us, in 2013, has
been really rarefied and really lifted up, so that it can sometimes seem
inaccessible, because it makes people like you seem like you did really
unimaginable things, literally things we cannot imagine ourselves doing.
And in this format, it allows everybody to imagine making those kinds of
And I think it`s very important work. So congratulations.
LEWIS: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, and, of course, Congressman John Lewis.
The book is called “March: Book One.” There will be three of these. It`s
hard to find, because it is selling so well, but that`s a good sign.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: NBC`s Chuck Todd got a major interview. So far this is the
part that`s got everybody all excited.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The majority of folks
will end up being better off, of course, because the Web site is not
working right, they don`t know it right. But even though it is a small
percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to
them. It is scary to them. I am sorry that they are finding themselves in
this situation based on assurances they got from me. We`ve got to work
hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we are going to do
everything we can to, to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough
position as a consequence of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama making some news tonight in an exclusive
interview with NBC News White House correspondent Chuck Todd.
The president apologizing tonight to people losing current health
plans because the plans do not meet the minimum standard of care that are
now required under the Affordable Care Act. President Obama tonight also
in the interview addressing the nuclear talks with Iran.
I should say Secretary of State John Kerry jetted off to Geneva
unexpectedly tonight to deal with what looks like a breakthrough with Iran.
The president also talks about the NSA, talks about his relationship with
Vice President Joe Biden, and much, much more.
Here`s the important part, you can seat entire interview with the
president tonight in just a couple minutes, because it`s going to air in
its entirety on “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWREWNCE O`DONNELL”, which is right
after this show. So sit tight.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Because today is a day that ends in Y, there is another Rand
Paul plagiarism revelation in the news.
Look, more instances of plagiarism in Rand Paul`s book. That was the
headline at “BuzzFeed” today. Andrew Kaczynski detailing four more
instances of material lifted from other sources in Rand Paul`s latest book
called “Government Bullies.”
As this plagiarism scandal continues to unfurl, still even now, and as
the senator continues to publicly unravel over this scandal, we have been
trying to focus on his local standing back home in Kentucky, because
Senator Paul is not just a national figure who wants to be president. He
also has a day job, in the meantime, as a senator from Kentucky.
The local press reaction to what he has done and how he responded from
getting caught for it. It had been bad before today. But today, it got
much worse. This is “The Herald Leader” newspaper out of Lexington,
Kentucky, which is Kentucky`s second largest city.
“Herald Leader” endorsed Rand Paul in his Republican primary back in
2010. But this is what they wrote about him today, quote, “It is hard to
know where to start with Senator Rand Paul`s reaction to legitimate
criticism of repeated plagiarism of other authors. Paul said he accepted
responsibility, and then went on quickly to slough it off, laying it on his
rapid assent to national prominence which he sought relentlessly, on his
staff whom he hired and finally, of course, on haters who just want to
bring the great man down. Senator Paul appears to believe profoundly in
his own exceptionalism including that the rules do not apply to him.”
“The Herald Leader” takes particular exception with something Senator
Paul said this week to “The New York Times.” that him facing this
criticism, quote, “is what people hate about politics and it`s why frankly
members of my family, he said, are not too interested in politics, period,
or in wanting me to do more of this. To tell you the truth, people can
think what they want. I can go back to being a doctor anytime if they`re
tired of me. I`ll go back to being a doctor and be perfectly content.”
That`s what Senator Paul told “The New York Times.” But here is now
the comment is being received back home in Lexington, Kentucky. Listen to
“Senator Paul`s sense of self grandeur is so great like a pouting
child he threatened to leave politics altogether if everyone keeps being
mean to him. People can think what they want. I can go back to being a
doctor at any time he said. If he can`t do any better than this when the
heat is on, even those who were Paul lovers might be ready to say, `OK,
Again, Senator Paul`s hometown press, a newspaper that endorsed his
candidacy during the Republican primary. A lot has been said and written
over the last couple weeks over what the plagiarism revelations will mean
for Senator Paul`s national ambitions what does it mean for 2016.
It seems like Senator Paul may have a more immediate concern than
that. His hometown press is saying, OK, go. And they`re not talking about
the band. They`re not talking about him running for the presidency.
They`re talking about his senator-ship, which may be is on the rocks here.
Watch this space.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>