The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/23/13
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this
All right. At the eastern edge of the Hoosier state, in the small
town of Richmond, Indiana, it was an average Saturday. And in the middle
of that average Saturday and in the early afternoon, something really quite
terrible happened. It was 1:47 p.m. on a Saturday, April 6th, 1968, and in
Richmond, Indiana, the world just exploded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BYRON KLUTE, FORMER MAYOR, RICHMOND, INDIANA: About the time we are
ready to across 6th and “A,” there`s just a huge explosion, just two tiers
of a kaboom, kaboom, like that, and it was large, and we couldn`t imagine
what in the world happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We know now that an old cast iron pipe carrying natural gas
had rusted out underground and started leaking, and finally, that natural
gas exploded. That was the first kaboom.
But it happened underneath a sporting goods store known as the Marting
Arms, and that store carried guns and ammunition and black powder. So,
that first blast of the natural gas set off a second blast in the sporting
goods store, and that second blast, or at least the combination of the two
of them, essentially leveled much of the downtown in that city.
They recovered nothing of the sporting goods store owner except his
wedding ring. They found his wedding ring seven miles north of the store.
The chain-reaction explosions that day in Richmond, Indiana, killed 41
people in that small town. April 6th, 1968.
In the first minutes and hours after the blast, the people of Richmond
and everybody who heard what had happened there worried that it wasn`t just
that their town had experienced a tragedy, but maybe that history had taken
some new and sinister turn in their town. They were worried that Richmond,
Indiana, was on fire and partially destroyed not just because of an
accident, but because of something they feared much more than an accident.
Look at this from the local newspaper decades later. A Richmond woman
who was out of town and tried to call home was told by a telephone operator
the town is having a riot. The town is having a riot. Downtown has been
destroyed by a riot.
That might not seem like an obvious conclusion in small town Indiana,
especially since we know that`s not what happened. But riots were, in
fact, already under way around the country when that gas line erupted under
the cache of gunpowder in that sporting goods store in that small city.
Huge, historic riots were already under way on that April afternoon, in
cities like Washington, D.C., and Wilmington, Delaware.
They rioted for days in Chicago. Police killed 48 protesters and
rioters in Chicago and arrested more than 2,000 people in the city of
Chicago. Ninety Chicago police officers were injured themselves. Block
after block of the city of Chicago was left a smoldering, blood-soaked
And the reason America was rioting on April 6th, 1968, is because two
days earlier on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, an assassin`s bullet
had ended the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By the time of his death
that spring, it seemed like any awful thing might be possible, even in a
little town in Indiana.
1968 opened with the United States escalating the war in Vietnam, the
Tet offensive. It opened with police officers killing three students who
were trying to integrate a bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Then, there was the murder of Dr. King, who represented hope to so many
people, and to really, the future of our country.
And then the riots in which dozens more people were killed and miles
of American cities were burnt to the ground. So, when deadly, huge
explosions struck little Richmond, Indiana, 41 people dead. It seemed
natural at the time to assume that maybe history was coming for you, too,
right? 1968 was just that kind of year. It was not only that so many big
events and terrible events happened in that one year, it was that things
happened in a way and in a sequence that made people worry that things
might never get put back together again.
1968 was the year they started the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia,
thinking they might finally be able to break free from the Soviet Union.
They started that in the beginning of the year of 1968 with great hope, but
then Soviet tanks rolled in the middle of the movement and crushed it later
on in the year. That was the kind of year 1968 was.
1968 was the year that American troops were ordered to go house to
house in the South Vietnamese village of My Lai, killing anything that
moved, hundreds of civilians killed without warning and without reason.
1968 was the year they shot Robert F. Kennedy, a civil rights hero
himself and maybe on his way to becoming president himself after his
brother`s assassination five years earlier.
1968 was the year that Andy Warhol was shot. You cannot even safely
be a painter of Campbell`s soup cans that year.
1968 was the year the Republican Party nominated Richard Nixon for
president and he won.
1968 was when the scene outside the Democratic convention in Chicago
sometimes looked like a war zone, too.
In the lead-up to the Olympics in Mexico City that year, police in
Mexico City opened fire on thousands of student protesters who had been
marching through the streets and gathering in a public plaza. The police
opened fire and killed dozens of those student protesters in 1968.
1968 was the year the United States Navy lost a nuclear submarine.
The USS Scorpion disappeared for reasons as yet unknown, 99 crew members
In 1968, the French nearly staged a second French Revolution with huge
marches in the streets, more than a million people marching at one time in
the streets. Workers establishing occupations in French factories. These
guys declared a coup de force.
1968 was the year that an American B-52 tried and failed to land at
Thule Air Base in Greenland, with four nuclear missiles strapped to its
wings, it crashed. It crashed into the ice and three of the nuclear
missiles that were attached to the plane exploded.
Giant, dirty bombs spewing radioactive material everywhere. They say
the ice burned black.
Three of the bombs exploded. The fourth one, who knows? We never
find it. They assume that it is on the sea floor up there somewhere, but
nope, never found it.
1968, I swear, 1968 was the year the Jets played the Raiders in
Oakland and the jets kicked a field goal late in the final quarter and were
suddenly up by three. And with so little time left, the Jets were
obviously going to win and it was time for the next show.
So, with about a minute left in the fourth quarter, NBC switched over,
switched away from the game to instead show a new version of “Heidi,”
starring a stepdaughter of Julie Andrews set in the alps somewhere, and
while the nation was watching “Heidi” and football fans were losing their
minds and there was no Twitter, right, turns out the Raiders scored two
miracle touchdowns that no one saw because NBC had cut away from the last
minute of the game to the previously scheduled “Heidi” and her magnificent
braids and the freaking goats.
The uproar was so immediate and so visceral that David Brinkley later
apologized on behalf of NBC and the network aired the final minute of the
game later, after everyone knew what happened.
Now, was switching to “Heidi” a terrible thing in the grand scheme of
things? No. Was it even a terrible thing in the grand scheme of
professional football? No.
But if you are looking for roof that 1968 is imprinted somewhere on
your DNA, no matter how old you are, there it is. I mean, even if you just
take that one example, 1968 is the year they figured out that football is
in charge of America, or at least in charge of America`s television.
You could lose hope in ordinary life in 1968. You could lose hope
that the channel would not just change itself of its own accord. You could
lose hope that the country would follow its own values and know which
values it valued in 1968.
But then, at the very tail end of 1968, something else happened. The
United States sent people to the moon. Now, this was not sending them to
walk on the moon. That didn`t happen until a year later.
But in 1968, NASA sent the very first astronauts into lunar orbit, to
go circle the moon as a way of showing that we could blast off of this
planet after all, we could escape our own orbit. We were not bound to this
world and its gravity. And that also was maybe not terrifying, but it was
at least hard to believe, even for the guys who did it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went through the night, I saw these lights come
down, and this was the press corps that was manning the press sites at that
particular time, and they I looked down and I saw the ground and I went to
the press corps, and I said, these people are really serious. We`re going
to go to the moon!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And up they went. Jim Lovell and the other astronauts, in
only the second manned mission to space in all of human history. They left
our little planet on December 21st, 1968, right at the end of that hell of
And it was planned as part of their mission that one of the things
they would do from orbit is make a broadcast. They knew when they left the
Earth that on Christmas Eve, they were going send down from space a live
message, a live broadcast. That was part of their mission, to prove that
that, too, was possible.
And it turns out, millions of people tuned in on Christmas Eve to see
what they would say live from space. Live from space for the first time in
human history. Earthlings had never done this before.
Honestly, if it was me, I`m sure I would have just been like, testing,
testing, one, two, three. OK, it works, right? I mean, think about it,
what would you say?
Those three pilots could have just tapped the mike and said, we are
here, scientific accomplishment achieved, right? They could have told a
knock-knock joke, or because it was Christmas Eve, they could have said ho,
ho, ho, little kitties, we see Santa and he is headed your way.
But that`s not what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
APOLLO 8 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE, DECEMBER 1968: I hope all of you people
on earth can see what we mean when we say it`s a foreboding horizon, a
rather dark and unappetizing looking place. We`re now going over looking
at one of our future landing sites, selected in this called the Sea of
Tranquility, smooth in order to make it easy for the initial landing
attempt, in order to preclude having to dodge mountains. Now you can see
the long shadows of the lunar sunrise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Talking about passing over the moon, being the first human
beings to ever see the far side of the moon, thinking ahead of the landing
sites for the next group of humans could land on that moon, that
unappetizing site that nobody else had ever seen.
This is the first humans in the history of the species to ever see the
far side of the moon. They were the first humans in the history of the
species to have ever been able to look down at the earth and see the whole
planet. They took this famous picture of the earth rise, the earth rising
instead of the sun rising, and no human being had ever seen that before.
And it turns out that being the first creatures to ever look down on
the earth and see it as its entirety as an orb floating in space, it turns
out that is not just a scientific achievement, that really is something,
and so, they said so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
APOLLO 8: We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the
people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 have a message that we would
like to send to you.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth
was formed and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the
spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters and God said, “Let there be
light,” and there was light. And God saw the light. It was good and
divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light day and the darkness he called night, and the
morning was the first day. And God said, let there be a firmament in the
midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters, and God
made it and divided the waters with those above with those below and it was
so. And God called it heaven and the morning was the second day.
And God then left the waters under the heaven be gathered together
into one place and let the dry land appear, and it was so. And God called
the dry land earth. And the gathering together of the waters called the
seas. And God saw that it was good.
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with goodnight, good luck, a
merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bless you all, all of you on the good earth, from way up
here, where humans have never been before, where you guys look awesome.
That was 45 years ago tomorrow, Christmas Eve, and millions of people heard
that first ever broadcast from space.
Today in Chicago, they re-enacted that live broadcast from space with
Astronaut Jim Lovell taking turns, reading those lines from Genesis with
high school students, and they did it in the museum where the Apollo 8
capsule is now on display.
Given what was happening in the world in 1968 when those men said that
for the first time, I think there probably isn`t way to ever recreate how
important that was at the time it was first heard by millions of people.
In today`s news, now and maybe ever, there is no other thing that will ever
be like that, but in today`s news, there is something much smaller in
scale, but to the same effect, in a way, to the same effect of proving that
things can be seen from a whole new angle, that unsolvable things are
In today`s news – no, it is not the earth rising for the first time
for human eyes, but it is an American city that just proved that a problem
could be solved, a problem could be solved that no American city has ever
solved before. It seems like it can`t be true, but it is true. It is a
small thing, but it is a really good thing and it is new news. And that`s
MADDOW: OK, this is a good news story. It is news, news, it`s not
just a human interest thing, but it is legitimately really good news,
almost unbelievably good news.
All right, as you know, on November 4th, 2008, Barack Obama was
elected president of the United States. November 4th, 2008.
Three hundred sixty-four days later, on November 3rd, 2009, the Obama
cabinet secretary, who the new president put in charge of the single
largest agency in the U.S. government other than the military itself, that
cabinet officer made a big, unwheel-deep public promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLI)
GEN. ERIC SHINSEKI, VETERANS AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT: Ladies and
gentlemen, my name is Shinseki, and I am here to end veteran homelessness.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Well, sounds like all of you are here for the same reason, so that`s
great. Let`s talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: General Eric Shinseki, secretary of veterans affairs,
speaking on November 3rd, 2009, addressing a national summit of veterans
and veterans service providers to talk about ending the problem of U.S.
military veterans being homeless, which kind of sounds like the equivalent
of a Summit on World Peace, right? Or trying to end illness or something.
I mean, it`s a goal that nobody could quibble with, but it`s the
impossible project, right? I mean, how could a problem that entrenched,
that complexly human ever be the kind of problem that has an end?
Well, it starts by figuring out that it is a problem of indefinite
size, it is not an infinite thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The work goes on for 200,000
men and women who wore the uniform of the United States of America, proud
veterans who go to sleep every night under bridges or in shelters or on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: John Edwards dropping out of the race for the Democratic
nomination for president in 2008.
And there was a brief kerfuffle at the time over those remarks because
a host on the FOX News network, named Bill O`Reilly, said he did not
believe John Edwards that there were 200,000 homeless American veterans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: I mean, come on. The only thing sleeping
under a bridge is that guy`s brain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, John Edwards was correct. The census for homeless
U.S. veterans in 2008 was about 200,000 veterans. It`s not true on FOX
News, but it was true in America.
And the new president-elected that year said that he wanted to get
that problem fixed, and the new veterans affairs secretary said it would be
a national priority.
And along the way, in 2010, in one American city, in the city of
Phoenix, Arizona, they did a census, almost a registry effort in their
downtown, and they found that their city`s share of the homeless veteran
population in our country was 222 people, 222 veterans who were chronically
homeless in Phoenix.
And the city of Phoenix decided that they were going to get every
single one of those veterans housed. They got some federal grant money.
The city of Phoenix decided to spend general funds on the project.
The city elected a mayor in 2011 who said it was the primary goal of
his time in office, it was the primary reason he was mayor, that Phoenix
would not just work on that particular problem, but phoenix would actually
And you know what? There was a lot of national progress made on this
issue, a lot of it, but Phoenix was something else entirely.
President Obama went to Phoenix this past August and said, “We`ve got
to keep up our fight against homelessness. The mayor of Phoenix has been
doing a great job here in Phoenix on that front. We`ve got to continue to
The president said, “Since I took office, we helped bring one in four
homeless veterans off the streets. We should be proud of that. Here in
Phoenix, thanks to the hard work of everyone from Mayor Stanton to the
local united way to U.S. Airways, you`re on track in Phoenix to end chronic
homelessness for veterans, period, by 2014.”
President Obama said that in August. And you know, it sounds nice.
Great applause line while standing giving a political speech in Phoenix.
Sounds nice, right?
But it also kind of sounds like happy talk, right? I mean, how could
a city ever get something like that done? Well, Phoenix now says it is the
first American city to end chronic homelessness among veterans.
They say they did it. They did it with a big coalition effort, a
strategy called Housing First that said you get somebody a permanent roof
over their head without conditions, you get your housing set first and then
you focus on everything else, including substance abuse and health care
issues and job training, all of the rest, you do that after everybody`s got
a roof over their head.
And there is more to it than that, right? And it is a big, complex
effort and it took a long time, but the important part is that Phoenix just
decided to do it and they did it, and they did it early. They did not
expect to be able to do it before next year. The president said, the plan
was by 2014, right? But they did it now.
A census on Veterans Day – so, in November of this year – showed
that they were down to 56 veterans who were still living on the streets of
Phoenix, people who still needed housing. At that time, at Veterans Day,
the city council stepped up with the unanimous vote for an extra push of
$100,000 of city funds to get that last group of veterans housed by
Christmas, Christmas, and they did it.
And so, I said this is a good news story. This is a good news story.
Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., are all also saying now
that they can also end homelessness in those cities among veterans using a
version of this model. But Phoenix got there first.
And so, yes, a supposedly intractable problem, a heartbreaking problem
that has always seemed like it has no solution in some small ways, at least
in some very focused places, it is solvable, and dedicated, good government
work in an American city just proved it.
Joining us now is the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, Greg Stanton.
Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
MAYOR GREG STANTON (D), PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Rachel, it`s an honor to be
MADDOW: So, I oversimplified what you have done in Phoenix. I
condensed and oversimplified.
What do you think is the most important factor to how you were able to
get this done?
STANTON: Prioritization and teamwork. It had to be a high priority
for me as mayor to make the statement that we`re going to get this done,
and I said we`re going to get it done by the end of this year, but we had
to find the right partners.
The federal government was a great partner. President Obama has made
this a priority. HUD and V.A. have made this a priority. It was a
priority of the stimulus act. A lot of the housing units that the homeless
veterans have been housed in were the result of the stimulus act. It took
additional resources by the city council, great partnerships with the
business community here in Phoenix, Arizona, through the United Way, a
great partnership called project H-3, health, home and hope, which is a
coalition of non-profits.
When you would come to a meeting in Arizona on the issue of ending
chronic homelessness of veterans, you didn`t know who was a government
official, you didn`t know who was a business leader, you didn`t know who
was a non-profit or foundation leader. We were all on the same team saying
we`re going to get the job done. It`s the least we can do for those
veterans who have served our country.
So, it`s a story about leadership and teamwork, and government can
work when we put our minds to it.
MADDOW: Is this the sort of problem where you feel like at this
snapshot now, at the end of the year, even just a little bit ahead of the
schedule that you hoped for, that we`re in a snapshot moment where this
problem right now is solved, but it`s likely to recur? How do you plan to
make this a lasting solution? Obviously, this was a long-term problem for
a lot of these veterans, which is why their homelessness was called
chronic, rather than intermittent.
STANTON: Yes, it is chronic homeless. In fact, the average veteran
labeled chronically homeless in the city of Phoenix had been on the streets
for eight years. Eight years.
So, we provide them not just housing, although we`ve got to get them
housing immediately, housing first, but we wrap around services. So,
whatever ails them, whatever`s causing their homelessness, be it mental
health issues, be it whatever medical condition, maybe it`s substance
abuse, we get a roof over their head and then we provide them the services
so that they don`t fall back into homelessness.
Our retention rate by providing not just housing first but the wrap-
around services that ails these individuals, our retention rate is 93
percent. And the strategies that we`re using to end chronic homelessness
among veterans are the exact same strategies that we`re going to use to end
homeless, chronic homelessness, among the broader population. So, this
model, doing right by our veterans, is exactly how we`re going to do right
by the larger population of people experiencing homelessness.
MADDOW: It sounds like veterans – the fact that you are focusing on
veterans is a key part of how you were able to tap federal resources here
and get some of the federal grants that you got. That`s why I played some
of that tape from Eric Shinseki and the president talking about veterans`
As you move on to apply these lessons to a broader population of
homeless people, are you counting on still being able to get a lot of
federal assistance or do you think it will be a harder road to hoe?
STANTON: Well, of course it`s going to be a harder situation. I do
want to say, the V.A. has been excellent to work with. I know the V.A.`s
had some challenges.
On this issue of ending veteran homelessness, not only in Phoenix, but
in Salt Lake, a leading city on this issue and some of the other cities you
mentioned. The president challenged all of us to take on this issue and
cities have responded across the country.
We know it`s going to be tougher to get federal resources, but because
we have a system that works and we can prove it works, now we can tap the
business community, now we can tap the foundations and say we`ve got a
model that works. Let`s do right by all of our citizens. Let`s end
chronic homelessness in the United States of America. Let`s start with
veterans and then move on to the broader population.
MADDOW: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, thank you for your time tonight.
STANTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: I wasn`t out in the world looking for a good news story to
tell, but given what you have done in Phoenix today, I feel like it`s my
It`s great to have you here, sir. Congratulations.
STANTON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. In the words of one 5-year-old child of one RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW producer, Christmas is only two sleeps away, which is true. And just
one more sleep after that, we have a special gift for you. No opening
until the big day comes, but we do have a little hint about that coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Is a bear Catholic? Does a Rolling Stone whistle past the
graveyard? The early bird is worth two in the bush, right? Birds of a
feather rot from the head down. You can lead a horse to water, but you
can`t make a silk purse out of it.
What`s easier than taking candy from a barrel of monkeys? Nothing`s
more fun than taking a barrel of babies with candy. If you lay down with
dogs, look out for the cat that ate the mouse.
When life gives you lemons, make hay!
I want to thank the great state of Wisconsin for the best story in a
long time about why Scott Walker is probably not going to be a legit
candidate for president. It`s also maybe the best mixed metaphor in the
history of metaphors about the Koch brothers.
That story`s coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In last year`s election, the great state of Utah picked a new
attorney general. Utah chose a Republican named John Swallow.
There was never any doubt that he was going to win once he got the
nomination, really. I mean, he was a Republican in Utah, he got the
Republican nomination, and so, he ended up winning by a lot. He got 65
percent of the vote.
But then, John swallow was in office less than one week. John Swallow
was in office for six days, in fact, before he had to start fighting calls
for his immediate resignation. From the very start of his time in office,
he faced serious ethics allegations.
One of the many, many allegations against him was that while he was a
deputy attorney general, he allegedly acted as an intermediary for helping
a Utah business owner arranged a bribe. John Swallow allegedly told this
business owner that if he paid a $600,000 bribe to Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid, a government investigation into his company could simply go
So, the businessman took John Swallow`s advice, made a down payment on
his bribe. He didn`t pay it to Senator Reid, who said he had absolutely
nothing to do with any of this. Instead, he paid his down payment on his
bribe to a middleman, a middleman who John Swallow introduced him to.
So, this guy pays the middleman, but wouldn`t you know it, the
investigation into his company goes ahead anyway, and the guy who paid the
bribe was very, very angry about that. He thought he knew what he was
paying for, and so, he demanded his money back, even warning the soon-to-be
attorney general of Utah that he was going to tell everybody about the
bribe, including the allegation that John Swallow allegedly took a cut of
the bribe for himself.
That allegation has been the most attention-grabbing of the whole Utah
attorney general saga. But it`s been a pretty sordid thing overall. Last
week the meeting was about how the meeting between the soon-to-be attorney
general and the guy he was allegedly helping arrange a bribe for happened
at a Krispy Kreme donuts store, which people apparently people found an
irresistible detail about this story.
But the list of allegations against Attorney General John Swallow is a
really long list that also includes the allegation that has candidate for
attorney general, he gave advice to another Utah businessman and a
potential donor to his campaign who owed hundreds of thousands of dollars
in fines to the state of Utah.
Now, John Swallow`s supposed to be on the state`s side, right? He`s
running to be the top law enforcement official in the state. He`s running
to be attorney general of the state, for Pete`s sake.
But instead, he can be heard on tape reassuring the businessman and
potential donor that he could expect a helping hand from the A.G.`s office
once John Swallow got elected.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN SWALLOW, FORMER UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, you better, better
get yourself a lawyer so you`re not letting this go to judgment. And then
I`d be more than happy to, you know, have you sit down with the attorney
general. I`m not attorney general yet.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m not attorney general yet.
God bless the “Salt Lake Tribune” for going to great pains to explain
all of the many, many allegations against John Swallow, Krispy Kreme Donut-
related and otherwise. There are vacations worth tens of thousands of
dollars on luxury house boats and trips to golf resorts in exchange for
help with business deals.
The allegations are many and sordid, and I have to say, very un-Utah.
Maybe I`m a little naive about Utah.
At the end of last month, less than a year after his sweeping,
landslide victory in the 2012 election, John Swallow resigned as Utah
attorney general. He maintains his innocence against all of these
allegations, and yet, he became the first attorney general in the history
of Utah to resign his office, and in so doing, he cited the many
allegations against him and his desire to clear his name.
Since his resignation last month, Utah has had just an acting attorney
general who has held that seat while the governor of the state has tried to
figure out who to permanently – how to permanently replace the guy who
resigned in disgrace.
And, of course, over the weekend, the new acting attorney general
found himself in the middle of a huge legal whirlwind in Utah, a federal
judge on Friday afternoon unexpectedly struck down the state`s
constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Pretty much immediately
after that judge`s ruling on Friday, Utah residents started racing to
clerks` offices all across the state to get married.
And the acting attorney general faced criticism if he did not act
quickly enough to ask the court for a stay of that ruling, which led to all
of those weddings on Friday and a lot of the chaos about what the law was
Well, that all happened on Friday. Why didn`t they ask for a stay?
Why did it stretch out over the weekend? Did the acting attorney general
know that he had to – today the governor of Utah named a more permanent
replacement for John Swallow?
The interim attorney general was in the running for the job, but he
did not get the job. The job instead went to this guy. His name is Sean
Reyes. Congratulations to the new attorney general of Utah. Welcome to
day one on your new job.
Here`s what`s going on in your state: hundreds of people lined up last
night in 30-degree weather outside the Salt Lake County clerks office.
They waited in line all night long so they could get in as soon as the
doors opened at 8:00 a.m. this morning, hoping to get married before a
court might act to stop them. The lines in Salt Lake stretched for blocks.
Members of a local Boy Scout troop showed one pizza today for the
clerks who were performing the marriages and for the couples standing in
line. When the ruling came down on Friday, the mayor of Salt Lake City,
Roth Becker, he ordered the clerks office in Salt Lake to stay open late to
marry as many couples as they possibly could.
The mayor himself stayed late in the night to officiate 35 weddings,
one after the other. Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis married his own
partner on Friday in Salt Lake City. Some couples showed up in wedding
dresses. Others showed up as quickly as they possibly could, sometimes
with their kids in tow to take advantage of their right to get married
right now, right this second, before someone told them it was against the
law again in their home state.
There were reports today that in addition to those Boy Scouts, people
showed up with coffee and donuts for the couples and the clerks, also
Christmas carolers serenaded the waiting couples. We are right now,
tonight, awaiting another ruling on the marriage equality decision in Utah.
We a awaiting a ruling from a federal appeals court on whether or not those
hundreds of couples who were married after this decision on Friday will be
told that they have lost that right once again.
That ruling could come down any minute tonight. It`s been a lot of
drama in Utah, even before this unexpected ruling on Friday. But since
then, it`s not just drama, it`s exciting.
Joining us now are Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, two of the
plaintiffs suing the state of Utah for the right to be legally married in
Gentlemen, I have to say, congratulations and thank you very much for
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Rachel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Rachel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be here.
MADDOW: I know that you two are not yet officially married as far as
– that hasn`t changed in the last few seconds, has it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it hasn`t.
MADDOW: OK. Everybody else who filed from Friday to today is.
Do you have any sense of whether or not people believe those marriages
are going to stand, even if the courts act to stay the earlier decision?
Did that at all affect your own decision about whether or not to act yet?
DEREK KTICHEN, PLAINTIFF: Well, for us, we want to wait and see what
the courts are going to do. We`re currently waiting on the 10th circuit
court in Denver. They`ve been requested twice to stay our decision from
Friday, and they`ve rejected it twice.
So, we`re optimistic that come one or two days from now, they will
also reject it again.
MADDOW: Can I ask you two about your decision to become plaintiffs in
this case in the first place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
MADDOW: And I ask this speaking from New York city as a person who`s
already on the record saying, wow, Utah! Utah feels different!
It felt like Utah was maybe the hardest climb in the country for this
type of argument. Why were you hopeful enough to put yourselves out there
to become plaintiffs in this high-profile case?
MOUDI SBEITY, PLAINTIFF: Well, we owned a business in Salt Lake.
We`ve been partnered for almost 4 1/2 years. And when we heard of the
case, we thought we must get involved, because our next logical step is to
get married and to build our life even further.
At first, we were not sure whether or not we would win the case, but
after our summary judgment on December 4th, our attorney Peggy Tomsic
absolutely killed it in the courtroom, and we felt pretty confident that
Judge Shelby would rule in our favor.
MADDOW: I know that, again, you guys have not yet decided to go ahead
with your own marriage as you see what happens next in the courts, but have
you been down to the clerks` office? Have you been in the middle of the
chaos and excitement down there? Can you tell us what it`s like?
SBEITY: We went down last night as people started to line up and
handed out hummus to everybody. So, we have not been in the middle of the
chaos during the day while everybody got married, just because we`re
tending to other business, but we did go down last night, and everybody
seemed so happy and excited and just thrilled about this – in Utah.
MADDOW: I was just going to say, in Utah, and everybody keeps saying
that emphatically, in Utah.
I mean, I don`t want to be naive about Utah, either in a Pollyannaish
way or whatever. But there are counties in the state this week, or this
weekend and now today who are closing their doors entirely, refusing to
process any marriage applications because they don`t want to have to
process same-sex marriage applications. There is definitely – you know,
it`s a big state with a lot of diversity in terms of its political views
and in terms of how this is being received. But you see the people lined
up blocks – lined in those blocks-long lines in Salt Lake and some other
places, you see the mayor of park city out performing weddings.
Do you feel like the rest of the country understands adequately what`s
going on in terms of how Utah feels about this?
KITCHEN: I would say that Utah is – well, Salt Lake is just like the
rest of the country, and there are certain counties within our state that
are a bit more conservative, but you know, Salt Lake is a great place to
live, and we`re just like New York in a lot of ways and completely
different in a lot of different ways as well.
But, so, no, I don`t believe that people have the adequate
understanding of what`s going on on the ground here because there is a huge
gay community, gay and lesbian community that we have been fighting for
years. This is home turf for the Prop 8 in 2008, and so, you know, call it
SBEITY: It is karma. It is definitely karma.
MADDOW: Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, as of tonight, you guys are
among the highest profile gay couples in the nation. You`re putting
yourselves out there, has made a real difference in your state. I`m sure
you feel great about it. Congratulations and good luck to you.
SBEITY: Thanks, Rachel.
KITCHEN: Thank you, Rachel.
All right, mixed metaphors. I love when I am the one – I`m not the
only one who accidentally makes fun while trying to make a serious point.
But the best mixed metaphor that`s happened in American politics in a long
time is coming up in tonight`s news.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Florida State is home to the Seminole sports teams. It is home to the
nation`s most prestigious magnetic field laboratory and it is home to a
very unusual hiring policy for its faculty, specifically for the
university`s economic department.
In 2012, “The Tampa Bay Times” discovered that Florida State`s
economics department had quietly cut a deal with a billionaire to
essentially give that billionaire control over who the department hires.
In exchange for money, that guy gets veto power over who the university
hires to teach. Quote, “A foundation bankrolled by a libertarian
businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in
Florida State University`s economics department. In return, his
representatives get to screen and sign off any hires for a new department
The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch
decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also
withdraw it`s funding if it is not happy with the faculty`s choice or if
the hires do not meet objectives set by Koch during annual evaluations.
Forget naming rights to the stadium, or whatever, conservative
billionaire Charles Koch purchased hiring rights for the faculty at Florida
State`s economics department. And, yes, Florida State has the word “state”
in its name because it is a public university, and yes, it is objectively
insane that the state of Florida allowed that to happen.
From Mr. Koch`s prospective however, you could see why he would want
to do that sort of thing if he could find a state crazy enough to let him
do it. I mean, $1.5 million is nothing to him. He loses it into a
handkerchief when he sneezes.
But for that pittance, he gets to make sure his conservative
billionaire economic ideas get taught and published and propagated under a
brand name of something that is supposed to look like university level
education. I mean, his ideas are no longer just being taught and
distributed under some Charles Koch banner, but under the banner of Florida
So, it`s not us say this thing about how awesome tax cuts are for the
rich. It`s Florida State saying it. If you don`t like what the facts say,
then write your own facts. If you don`t like what independent scholarship
looks like, then buy some.
Earlier this year, back in May, this shiny new report popped up
ranking all 50 states in terms of their economic outlook for the future.
Which states look to be in the best economic shape going forward?
One of the states that faired best was Wisconsin. Wisconsin had been
ranked 30th in 2011, 32nd in 2012, but in 2013, Wisconsin jumped all the
way up to 15, 15th the country, on Wisconsin. And it was a little weird
because all the reports around the time found that Wisconsin was not doing
any better than in fact they were near the bottom of the list in terms of
their economic competitiveness. But unlike all those other bad news
reports, this shiny new one had Wisconsin up towards the top and leaping
ahead faster than anybody else.
The study`s lead author attributed Wisconsin`s great leap forward, at
least in part to Governor Scott Walker stripping union rights in the state.
See, how the governors – if you just strip away union rights, you can race
to the top of your rankings just like Wisconsin did, at least if you get
your rankings from us.
That report was written by a “Wall Street Journal” editorial writer
and a former Reagan economist, and when it was released, it got quite a bit
of local and national media coverage. But there`s always been a mystery as
to who funded that study, who funded the bust unions to improve your
economic outlook study?
That mystery has now been solved. Any guesses? “The Guardian”
newspaper says it has obtained internal documents and the documents show
that the study was bankrolled in part by the Koch brothers, specifically a
charitable trust controlled and run by the Koch brothers.
The spokesman for the Koch brothers told us tonight that Koch brothers
funding was not specifically earmarked for that individual study but they
did confirm for us that they did pay out that grant.
“The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” spoke to the economist who wrote the
report and he said of the Koch brothers grant, quote, “They fund my
research. They don`t do my research. They don`t tell me what to do.”
He also had some more advice on how Wisconsin can continue rising up
the list. The economist called on Governor Walker to lower the state
income tax for the wealthiest individuals, to slash the corporate tax rate
in upcoming legislative sessions. The economist then told “The Journal
Sentinel”, quote, “This is not rocket surgery.”
Indeed, it is not rocket surgery. But that is a very eloquent way of
say something important about the quality of scholarship that you get when
you buy your own scholarship. Indeed, it is not rocket surgery.
That does it for us. Thanks very much for being with us.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night and a great holiday.
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