The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/10/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: We have missed you terribly and everybody
did a great job filling in for you. But it is really, really great to have
you back, man. Welcome back.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: It`s wonderful to be back and the thing
you did about David`s birth was really sweet and very touching to all of
us. Thank you.
MADDOW: Now you got me all weepy before I start.
HAYES: Go get them.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks, man. Welcome back.
All right. Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.
OK. This photo was taken sometime in the 1960s, I think at the late
1960s. You can see the protest sign guy on the left, the guy in the front
and then the two guys walking behind him.
But if you look closely at this you can also see a little bit of color
on the photo, right? It`s a black and white photo but you can see a little
discoloration, some red lines coming into the frame and then in the margins
you can see it`s one, two, three, someone has drawn on this old photo in
red pen. They`ve numbered the people in this picture.
And then there`s this other part here at the bottom, this blue/green
tab. And that shows that they have figured out who these people are. One,
two, three. They haven`t figured out the name of the first guy, the guy
with the protest sign. They only have a hometown listed for him but
they`ve got names and hometowns for number two and number three, the other
two guys in the photo.
And you`ll see it`s the same thing here. People marching, some kind
of protest. But then scrawled on the photo in a marker one, two, three.
Cataloging and indexes the individual are marchers in this photo.
These photos are not somebody documenting these marches and these
protests just to show they happened. This is not journalistic work. You
can tell by the annotations on these photos that this is actually the work
of an investigation.
After the Supreme Court ordered the end of segregation in schools,
after the landmark Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education, in the
state of Mississippi, they established by law something they called the
Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. In 1956, the legislature in
Mississippi passed and then-Governor J.P. Coleman signed a law creating the
Sovereignty Commission for the purpose of defying the federal government
and specifically of preserving racial segregation in Mississippi.
The Sovereignty Commission`s work included spying on the citizens of
Mississippi and on outside activists who joined them in pushing for civil
rights in the state. They collected their photographs and they found out
their names and they compiled intelligence reports on the people of
And this secret work went on for a very long time, long enough to go
from grainy black and white photos like these to full color, long enough to
capture thousands of images of people who we don`t necessarily know and
also images of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. This is one of Dr.
King`s mug shots as found in the files of the Mississippi State Sovereignty
Mississippi Sovereignty Commission kept on with this work until 1973.
The state officially disbanded the commission in 1977. And according to
the official history, by that time, Mississippi with the state agency, had
collected enough intel on its own citizens to fill six filing cabinets
along with, quote, “two unsealed paste board boxes, two separate folders in
a manila envelope and a bound volume of minutes.” They locked those
records away and ordered them kept under seal until the year 2027.
Now, the fight to get the state to open up the records earlier started
the same year they locked them up, started in 1977. And that fight was a
long fought fight. It took a very long time. There have been a lot of
stages in that fight. But the reason we`ve got those photos that I just
showed you is that these photos and these records are finally now all
online. As of 2002, you can see everything in the collection.
Some day I myself am planning a long field trip to got sit in the
archives of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission to go through these
records in hand in part because they are filled with incredible
Also, some very, very telling memos like this one, which was written
in early 1965. So, it was written between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And this is absolutely amazing. This is a
state document, OK?
Quote, “It`s necessary that we remove from the files any reports of
investigators which might in any way be construed to mean that the
Sovereignty Commission has interfered in any way with voter registration
drives or demonstrations. This would include those reports that mention
contact with the registrars as to the number of applications received or
the number who passed the voting test. It also means those reports which
lists the names of applicants for voter registration tests. These reports
will be removed from the file and kept available for future disposal.
A later decision on the disposal will be forthcoming from the
director. All future reports of investigators must clearly show the
purpose of such investigation is to ascertain the names of any subversives
or non-resident professional agitators and that it is no concern of the
Sovereignty Commission as to how many colored residents of the state of
Mississippi make application to vote.” And all of our records we show
otherwise we have to take those out you guys.
It was hard fought to get them to do it, but to Mississippi`s credit
where you will find this incredibly damning memo now is on a Mississippi
state Web site. This is no longer secret stuff. They are being open about
what they did.
For Mississippi, making these archives public is part of reckoning
with the past. So is this. Mississippi`s building a new civil rights
museum reckoning with its past in a public and official way. It`s the
state that is opening this museum. It`s the state that is paying for it
with public money. And so, now, curators for the state are traveling
around the state, visiting people who have stories to tell and artifacts to
share about the civil rights war in Mississippi.
And for the people who had to fight the state for their civil rights,
you have to think it must be a leap of faith, right? I mean, handing over
stuff to the same state, to the state of Mississippi, which they fought for
so long for their rights – trusting the state to handle these precious
artifacts and to do right by them.
The family of Vernon Dahmer who was firebombed and then shot to death
in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1966 when he was the local NAACP president.
His family says they are willing to loan the state the wreckage of his
firebombed truck with the bullet holes in it, but they are not willing to
give the state the truck outright because the family does not yet have
complete faith in the state running this new museum.
The people who are be planning this new telling of history say that
that`s not going to be white washed. They`re going to tell all sides of
the story. They`re going to tell the story of the people who fought for
civil rights, but also the much more uncomfortable story of the people who
fought against it, including the state itself.
I mean, this memo came from a state agency. It came from the
Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.
The memo is CC`d to the governor`s office – the memo that says let`s
hide the part in our files that shows that we were interfering with black
people`s right to vote in this state. That`s part of what we did. Let`s
hide that part of the files. Official state document, CC the governor.
They broke ground on the museum in Mississippi in October. Everybody
was there for the groundbreaking. Governor Phil Bryant, you see there on
the left. He gave a big speech.
Almost hidden by the flag there on the right, that`s Myrlie Evers
Williams. She is the widow of the civil rights martyr, Medgar Evers.
Among the items you`ll be able to consider in the new museum is the gun,
the hunting rifle, that was used to kill her husband.
This is very difficult stuff. But they are going ahead in
Mississippi. You can see in this photo from the “Jackson Free Press” that
Ms. Evers was really is nearly hidden by the Confederate emblem that`s part
of the Mississippi flag. The old Confederacy lives on in the Mississippi
state flag, the rebel flag takes up much of the territory of what is the
flag of the state.
And, yes, in a way it`s vestigial, it`s a leftover but also it`s not.
I mean, this is not a historic picture of Myrlie Evers. This is now and
that is still the Mississippi state flag. And sometimes just visually, it
is hard to tell the difference between what used to be and what still is.
The local Mississippi chapter of the Sons of Confederate veterans like
to buy billboards wishing happy birthday to Confederate heroes to celebrate
the war of southern independence. Quote, “Southerners have less reason to
be loyal to the collective enterprise of the United States than does any
group of citizens. The South was invaded, laid waste and conquered when it
tried to uphold the original and correct understanding of the Declaration
of Independence and the Constitution.”
That you would think its vestigial past, it`s still here, is an
uncomfortable thing. It`s an uncomfortable political thing about the guy
giving the incumbent Republican U.S. senator from Mississippi a run for his
money right now.
Chris McDaniel challenge for that U.S. seat currently held by Thad
Cochran. Mr. McDaniel`s challenge has been dogged by reports of his having
been a featured guest at a Sons of Confederate Veterans neo-confederate
event. Today, Chris McDaniel is dealing with the challenge of audio
surfacing from his old radio show in Mississippi, in which he said if they
pass reparations for slavery, he will stop paying his taxes. And so on.
Interestingly, though, when this scandal broke today, Chris McDaniel
and his campaign said they weren`t worried about it. His campaign said
there will be no consequences for the Republican Party in Mississippi even
if a pseudo-neoconfederate guy like Chris McDaniel beats Thad Cochran,
don`t worry about it. It won`t make it less possible that the Republicans
can hold on to that U.S. Senate seat because his campaign tells NBC
tonight, quote, “It is metaphysically impossible for a Democrat to win in
Even if the Republican is a guy like that, why is that? This year is
the 50th anniversary, of course, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The
president today not only lauding it as an American achievement but trying
to get very gritty and detailed and realistic and unromantic about what it
cost to do the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The president today praising President Lyndon B. Johnson, talking
about how hard it was to get the Civil Rights Act passed and the political
cost that he knew he would pay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He knew that he had a
unique capacity as the most powerful white politician from the South to not
merely challenge the convention that had crushed the dreams of so many, but
to ultimately dismantle for good the structures of legal segregation. He`s
the only guy who could do it. And he knew there would be a cost, famously
saying Democratic Party may have lost the South for a generation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights
Act of 1965, Democrats knew told each other the story, that they would lose
the South for a generation. Yes.
And now, according to Republicans in the South and nobody`s contesting
them, it is metaphysically impossible for a Democrat to win statewide
office in Mississippi, even as the state reckons with its own culpability
for the recent past, even as Mr. Antebellum Ball is a potential Republican
nominee for the United States Senate this year.
Commemorations like the ones today at the Johnson Library, they are
for the heroes, right? They are for the people who were right and who were
brave and who we remember as heroes, but the reason we keep living through
it again is in part that we forget what the heroes had to be brave about
and brave against. It is one thing to tell the story of the people who
were right. Part of understanding why it is such a big deal that they were
right is remembering who was wrong. We forget to remember who was wrong
not just who was right.
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Mr. Beschloss, thank you so much for being here.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAL: My pleasure,
MADDOW: Let me ask you about what President Obama said today in this
long and complicated and sort of passionate speech when he talked about the
legacy of President Johnson and Democrats, political consequences for
supporting civil rights. Was he right and what should we understand about
BESCHLOSS: Well, he was right and what he was quoting Johnson saying
probably after both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1965
that the cost of this would be to lose the South to the Democrats.
Remember, 1968, the union that went for John Kennedy by more than any other
was Georgia, upwards of 60 percent. And those were white voters who were
voting for Kennedy because they wanted segregation. That`s how big a
change this was.
So, the result was that Johnson knew that – yes, the Democrats would
lose the South. He said for a generation, it`s still going on as you said
very well tonight. He was probably overly optimistic. Johnson hoped that
the result of the Voting Rights Act would be that you franchise so many
African-American voters, that ultimately they would help to overcome that
and the Democrats would be on equal turf in the South and that hasn`t
MADDOW: How did LBJ himself react to the aspects of backlash that
happened during his political life? When he could see what he had
predicted happening, how did he react to it?
BESCHLOSS: He knew it was going to happen and it happened actually in
a much more dramatic way. The Voting Rights Act was passed, as you know,
in the summer of 1965. He went down to celebrate at the LBJ ranch late
that summer. That was the time that the riots in Watts occurred.
Thousands of rioters, 20 people were dead.
The police chief in Los Angeles, William Parker, made this incendiary
remark. He said that`s what happens when you get people civil rights and
tell them they have been abused by the law. They develop this kind of
disrespect for the law.
A lot of people agreed, even Johnson`s old aunt, a woman named Oreole
Bailey, who lived on the LBJ ranch told LBJ he had gone too far.
It went even further in 1966, the Democrats lost 47 seats in the
House. It was attributed very directly to white backlash.
And the interesting thing is right after Watts, Johnson who
politically could see around corners said one of the people who is going to
benefit from this backlash, this conservative movement against not only
civil rights but my whole Great Society is a candidate in California for
governor by the name of Ronald Reagan.
President Obama speaking at length today about Lyndon Johnson. It was
remarkable not just because of the anniversary being celebrated and because
the president gave such an important speech but President Obama has not
talked very much about President Johnson before.
Do you have a theory or any explanation as to why that is?
BESCHLOSS: I can only speculate. You know, he gave his acceptance
speech in Denver in 2008. The first time, the day after Lyndon Johnson`s
100th birthday you`d think speaking to a huge state in the Democrats, you
would mention the guy`s name, he didn`t. His first year as president,
Johnson was not much mention to the consternation of a lot of the Johnson
I think one reason is that first year that was the year that President
Obama was resisting an awful lot of pressure largely for the Pentagon to
escalate the Afghanistan war. We do know that he read at least one
account, one history book about LJB making the decisions in 1965 that
escalated Vietnam, that ultimately killed the reforms that Johnson wanted
So I think at least that first year Johnson to Obama probably meant
MADDOW: That`s fascinating. I`m just thinking about having looked at
those Mississippi Sovereignty Commission photos all day today.
BESCHLOSS: Just fascinating.
MADDOW: Which are amazing. And what`s interesting just
experientially, looking at them, and seeing the way the Sovereignty
Commission was documenting and investigating not just the civil rights
protesters but the anti-war protesters that came thereafter, and to see
that legacy in protest and to see that legacy in reaction in Mississippi
and to know that`s also Johnson.
BESCHLOSS: And you know why it`s so important? I was talking with
civil rights leader of the `60s not long ago. He said his granddaughter
had learned about Rosa Parks, came home and said, I don`t know why she was
so great. If someone told me to go to the back of the bus, I wouldn`t do
it either. This is why we need things like that museum.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian – thank
you so much for your insights on this, Michael. Nice to see you.
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. We`ll be right back. Lots to come tonight.
MADDOW: Wyoming`s Republican Senator Mike Enzi is one of those
Republican incumbents who`s running for re-election this year and who has
to worry not only about running against a Democrat to hold on to his seat
but also running against primary challengers who were taking him on within
his own party.
In Mike Enzi`s case, though, I have some good news for him because
here is his potential right wing Republican primary challenger. Yes,
that`s a rocket propelled grenade launcher.
Here is another one. Yep, Thomas Bleming. He says his occupation is
soldier of fortune. He`s a mercenary who`s available for hire around the
world. This, for example, is him posing are a rebel group in Burma.
Thomas Bleming calls himself a soldier of fortune and is a candidate for
the United States Senate from the great state of Wyoming trying to unseat
Republican Senator Mike Enzi.
He recently explained to “U.S. News & World Report”, yes, quote, “I
assassinated a guy one time. I can`t say where, but he had it coming to
him. He was fairly easy. He was a bad guy.”
Mike Enzi is lucky enough to have confessed assassin Thomas Bleming as
his only declared challenger on the Republican side, because Mr. Enzi`s
previous Republican challenger dropped out of the race. Remember when Liz
Cheney was going to run for Senate?
Liz Cheney, for a brief and shining moment earlier this year, was
mounting a Senate campaign to unseat her fellow Republican Mike Enzi. And
the Liz Cheney Senate campaign turns out it was sort of one of those
Washington-created bubbles, didn`t much work in Wyoming as much as it
worked in the Beltway. And that bubble popped abruptly at the beginning of
Liz Cheney was not leaving public life, though, leaving competitive
public life. Now that she is no longer a candidate, she has settled in to
attacking Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
This is from “The Washington Post`s” conservative columnist Jennifer
Rubin earlier this week. Mr. Rubin says, quote, “I asked Liz Cheney as
someone close to her father and who worked on his memoirs for her reaction.
She said, quote, `It`s not surprising since Senator Paul often seems to get
his foreign policy talking points from Rachel Maddow.`”
That comment from Liz Cheney came after she was asked to comment on
some recent reporting from David Corn at “Mother Jones” who dug up these
clips of Rand Paul in the early days of campaigning for his U.S. Senate
seat. And in these clips, Rand Paul is talking about his own party and
what he thought the Republican Party should move away from. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We need to be fearful of companies that
get so big that they could actually be directing policy. When the Iraq war
started, Halliburton had a billion dollar no bid contract. They shouldn`t
be so powerful they direct even policy.
There`s a great YouTube of Dick Cheney in 1995 defending Bush number
one and he goes on for about five minutes. He`s being interviewed I think
at American Enterprise Institute and he says it would be a disaster, it
would be vastly expensive, it would be a civil war, we have no exit
strategy, he goes on and on for five minutes. Dick Cheney said it would be
a bad idea, and that`s why the first Bush didn`t go into Baghdad.
Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton, makes hundreds of
millions of dollars, their CEO. Next think you know, he`s back in the
government. It`s good idea to go into Iraq, 9/11 became the excuse for a
war that they already wanted in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Liz Cheney was reacting to those comments from Rand Paul
when she told “The Washington Post” this week that she thinks Senator Paul
often seems to get his foreign policy talking points from Rachel Maddow.
Now, flattered as I am, I think I know what she`s talking about and I
think she has it wrong. As did Rand Paul.
The Iraq war is not just an abstract thing to have ideological fights
about. It was a policy choice that is an empirically knowable and
studyable thing. I mean, you can document what happened in that war and
why we went and whether or not the claims that were made at the time we
went to that war were true claims or false claims. It`s history. You can
Here on MSNBC, over the last year, we put together a documentary
called “Why We Did It”, which published and spotlighted new documentation
about why that war happened.
And Rand Paul is partly right, that it was a war that they had planned
on having before 9/11 ever happened. And he`s right that the reason they
had planned to have that war was oil. But it`s too simple American
policymakers wanted to go into Iraq so they would personally financially
benefit. So, their American companies would steal oil that previously
belonged to the Iraqi government and they would steal it – they would sell
it and keep the money.
And, again, this is not an esoteric or unknowable thing. The evidence
exists. We have seen the planning documents. It was about oil.
Specifically, though, it was about making sure the world market for
oil was well supplied. Iraq really does swim in a sea of oil. It has a
lot of oil and U.S. planning before 9/11 for using military force against
Iraq`s government was all with getting Iraq`s government out of the way so
Iraq`s oil could get to the world market, so we could buy it as happy
customers just like everybody else.
So Rand Paul is wrong. Liz Cheney is always wrong. But the answer to
the question that they are fighting about while had they are wrong is not
an unknowable thing we can fight about indefinitely. It is a known
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW (voice-over): Publicly, the administration presses its case to
the American people that Iraq must be confronted before Saddam Hussein`s
true intentions are revealed in a nuclear mushroom cloud.
DONALD RUMSFELD, THEN-DEFENSE SECRETARY: The last thing we should
want is a smoking gun. A gun doesn`t smoke until it`s fired.
MADDOW: Privately though, the internal deliberations are also about
exploiting Iraq`s oil. The Pentagon is debating, quote, “whether to use
control of Iraqi oil to advance important foreign policy objectives
affected by energy issues.”
While the national debate is over aluminum tubes and mobile biological
weapons labs, internal planning documents note that increased oil
production in a post-war Iraq would have the eventual effect of reducing
world oil prices.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Prior to our even going to war in
Iraq, the focus was on oil and Iraqi oil and how that take it over far more
than anything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is a clip from “Why We Did It” which is MSNBC`s
documentary on the question of why the war in Iraq happened. It`s a
question that can be answered and that documentary airs right here tomorrow
night at 9:00 p.m.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, today was quite the news day. The health secretary who
oversaw the rollout of health reform resigned at a really weird time.
Hillary Clinton had a shoe thrown at her in Las Vegas. And they picked
David Letterman`s replacement.
When they say things happen in threes in the news, this is not the
kind of three they usually mean.
It`s been a very busy day. Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Well, that was a surprise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Breaking political news tonight out of
Washington. NBC News has confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius is resigning after five years on the job and following
the rocky rollout of President Obama`s health care law. She was the
president`s point person to implement that law. She had come under fire
numerous times from Republicans especially. There were calls for her job
back when the Web site debuted as a giant debacle. She was allowed to stay
on through the deadline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Late breaking tonight, big surprise news out of D.C. that the
Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is stepping down.
According to the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough,
Secretary Sebelius started talking to the president last month about her
future. They say she submitted her resignation letter to the president
last week and the president plans to formally announce her resignation
tomorrow at which point he will also announce who he has picked to replace
The nominee to be the new secretary of health and services will be
Cynthia Mathews Burwell. She currently heads up the Office of Management
and Budget. She`s a Harvard and Oxford trained Rhodes Scholar from West
Virginia who was confirmed by the Senate for her current job by a vote of
The surprise news about Secretary Sebelius resigning comes ten days
after the White House ran its victory lap when the signups for the
president`s signature health law beat everybody`s estimates of what they
would be especially after all the mishegas with the Web site not working
when it first rolled out.
The Congressional Budget Office had projected 6 million signups by the
deadline on March 31st. Last week, the president was able to announce that
actually 7.1 million people signed up and then just today, Kathleen
Sebelius was in Congress telling them that signups have now hit 7.5 million
people because of folks who were effectively in line to sign up before the
deadline but couldn`t get it done by then because of technical reasons.
Technical reasons, technical delays, technical screw-ups and lousy
communication around technical delays and screw-ups, of course, plagued the
rollout of the health reform law from the very beginning. Secretary
Sebelius said she took full responsibility for those failures. But after
the rocky start, Obamacare turned out it worked. They fixed the Web site
and, wouldn`t you know it, the law has resulted in millions more Americans
having health insurance than had it before.
And so now, Kathleen Sebelius has to go? Why now? Because the
administration can`t resist stepping on its own tail and turning the first
good news cycle they`ve had about Obamacare in its past into a story
instead about firing people for Obamacare`s failures? Why now?
If you`re going to argue, as the White House is, that she was planning
on going all along, that these discussions started last month, even before
the deadline, what explains this interview on the day of the deadline last
week with “Huffington Post”?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Sebelius, this obviously has been a
long, hard push to get this program up and running. I think not only
technically, politically this must be difficult. Do you see yourself
sticking around until November for round two?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, THEN-HHS SECRETARY: Well, absolutely. I think the
goal is to for the first time make sure people have affordable health care
options. That`s really what is at the end of the day. This is the most
satisfying work I`ve ever done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you`re staying for a while?
SEBELIUS: I`m in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Secretary Sebelius, thank you so
much for your time this morning.
SEBELIUS: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was last week saying I`m in. I`m staying until
November. And now she`s out. Surprise news reported late tonight out of
the White House.
Thus turning the only good Obamacare news cycle the White House has
had in years into one that ends with a resignation which Republicans have
been clamoring for, for years. What are they thinking?
Joining us now is David Corn, “Mother Jones” Washington, D.C. bureau
Mr. Corn, thank you very much for being here.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Surprising timing here? I mean, seems surprising to me.
CORN: You know, surprising. I don`t think anyone saw this coming.
More surprising that it didn`t happen sooner. I mean, I understand your
point they may be stepping on their own tails here if people regard this as
In one way, though, it may be a good time for her to go. It`s quasi-
mission accomplished. It was a complete disaster in October/November. At
that point people were calling for Obama to lop off some heads. He, it
seems, made the right decision and didn`t go that way and focused on
getting the thing to work, keeping the people in place.
And then it works – works better than people expected. They meet
their deadline, their target numbers. They`re ahead of their target and
I`m betting she`s pretty damn exhausted by now. You know, maybe this was a
pause that, you know, when she needs to be refreshed and it`s time. It is
time for me to go. It could work out that way.
MADDOW: Whether or not this is the pause that refreshes, which is
actually the perfect idea for this, you`ve seen all the headlines tonight.
You know, health secretary resigns after troubled rollout. Health
secretary resigns after rocky tenure.
I mean, has the White House been mad at her about the rollout? Have
they been angling for a way to get her out?
CORN: You know, that`s a good question. Because back in October and
November, I was talking to a lot of people in the White House about who
they were mad at and why did this happen, why is no one held accountable.
You know, why was no one dismissed or fired, and they really swore up and
down, they could have been spinning it a little that there weren`t, you
know, recriminations or retributions, and they were very focused on making
And you got to say, whatever happened up until the debacle, as Brian
Williams called it, afterwards they really got their stuff together and
Kathleen Sebelius was pretty steady, as it looked publicly, in getting this
back on track. And I think she deserves a lot of credit. Maybe she
deserves some blame for what went wrong but deserves some credit for
turning this around as well.
MADDOW: Exactly. And that`s why, to me, this is like a team being
sort after comeback team, starting off having a bad season at the start and
then winning the championship and they`re running around with the cup like,
we did it, we did it. We`re the champs.
And they stop halfway through their victory lap to fire the coach.
No, wait until nobody is paying attention.
CORN: Maybe she wants to spend more time with her family.
MADDOW: Yes, that`s a very astute point. Exactly.
David Corn, “Mother Jones”, Washington bureau chief – David, thank
you for being with us. I appreciate it.
CORN: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: I am, as a matter of political tactical maneuvering here – I
am absolutely mystified they let this happen right now. Unbelievable –
snatching political defeat from the jaws of victory.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, you`ll remember the infamous shoe throwing incident when
then-President George W. Bush was taking his final trip to Iraq, standing
there with the prime minister, a dude throws a shoe and then dude throws
another shoe. And President Bush dodges the shoes quite expertly.
Shoes in that case functioning not just as a convenient at hand
projectile, but as a cultural symbol of disrespect to hurl at a president.
Well, today, that happened again. This time it happened to former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was giving a paid speech at an
Institute of Scrap Recycling meeting at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las
Vegas, when a woman in the audience apparently popped off her shoe and let
it rip at the former first lady.
Secretary Clinton was not hit by the shoe. She was not hurt. We do
not know why the woman threw the shoe. The woman was arrested after doing
it and she calmly left with her arm raised in the air.
So that happened today which you may have heard. But hid you hear how
Hillary Clinton responded when this lady threw the shoe at her? Secretary
Clinton not only dodged the shoe, she made like five jokes about it in a
row as soon as it happened, and she responded in a way we learned something
new about Hillary Clinton we did not know before.
So, here is what happened. This is the tape. Watch to the end. I
had no idea this was true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It`s already recycling
about – what was that? A bat? Was that a bat? Is that somebody throwing
something at me?
Is that part of Cirque du Soleil?
My goodness, I didn`t know solid waste management was so
Thank goodness she didn`t play softball like I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton played softball? Did everybody notice except
I mean, if I knew only one thing about Hillary Clinton, you would
think it would be a softball thing, right? Don`t you think that I would
know that news even if I knew nothing else about her?
I am sorry somebody threw a shoe at her today just as I am sorry that
someone threw a shoe at George W. Bush in Iraq. But the softball thing?
MADDOW: Johnny Carson hosted “The Tonight Show” for 30 years, from
1962 to 1992. And as a rule, Johnny Carson did not talk about politics.
He joked about everything and everyone. But he basically left politics
alone on “The Tonight Show” except for when he didn`t. Every rule is made
to be broken.
And the fact that Johnny Carson usually didn`t talk about politics
meant that it ended up being a big deal when he finally did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNNY CARSON, THE TONIGHT SHOW: It is really a strange story if you
think about it. As you probably know, he, Mr. Hart, and another friend of
his, I think the guy`s name was Broadhearst (ph) or something like that,
went on a boat trip to the island of Bimini, have you read about that? And
they took along (INAUDIBLE), a girlfriend of hers, and they went to Bimini
and chartered a boat.
Now, the day before yesterday somebody asked them what the name of the
boat was, and they didn`t seem to remember. Well, I can see why they
wouldn`t want to remember. The name of the boat was “Monkey Business.”
Now here`s what I don`t figure out. You are running for the highest
office in the land. Take a little trip to Bimini with a couple of ladies,
going to go down to charter a boat. Of all the boat names there are, like
“Mother” or “Mother Teresa.” You hire a boat called “Monkey Business.”
Not good thinking.
Nobody knows what, what happened on the boat. But I understand the
whales were watching them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Johnny Carson doing a rare political monologue in 1987. He
is right about the facts. The boat was called “The Monkey Business.”
wouldn`t have been funny if he made it up. It happened.
And even though Johnny Carson didn`t much like talking about politics,
when something that funny happens in politics somebody being in charge of
funny every night to millions of people is going to find it irresistible
even if it is politics.
In the years since Johnny Carson`s reign on late night, the tradition
has continued of big audience, network comedy shows not dwelling on
politics too much, not becoming too ideological one way or the other,
basically leaving political issues out of the mix. Exempt when they don`t.
In those rare times when the shows do get political, it can be both
really amazing and also really awkward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: Now you and your husband, you run this, this
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: We have two clinics.
LENO: What do you call, the therapy, the whole “pray the gay away”
thing, I don`t get that.
BACHMANN: See, I think, when I heard that, I really thought it was
like a midlife crisis, like pray away the gray, that`s what I thought it
LENO: You know what I am saying.
But you see to me, when I was a kid, they used to teach me to be
right-handed. You are left-handed, the hand of the devil. To me, it is
the same thing with gay. Sound like two gay people want to get married,
that`s their business, that doesn`t concern us.
I mean, why is that even an issue?
BACHMANN: Because the family is foundational. And, marriage between
a man and woman has been what the law has been for years and years and
LENO: I got to admit that is the part I don`t get. I know gay
families they have children and are wonderful people. It doesn`t seem like
they shouldn`t be allowed to be happy.
LENO: But I am not going to change your mind on that one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the last time anybody heard from Michelle Bachmann.
David Letterman just announced that he is retiring from late night
comedy after 32 years in the business. David Letterman not only reinvented
the genre he has been a genius in every aspect of televised comedy from his
earliest shows, from literally his opening monologue he has been genius at
what he does.
And even though Mr. Letterman is famous for breaking the mold and
doing things in a new way all the time, he too has mostly stayed away from
political issue. It`s not a political show.
And that simple fact of, of scarcity has always made everybody snap to
attention whenever he does make an exception to the “no politics” rule. I
mean, there is David Letterman during the 2008 campaign. And he`s not
doing politics every night. He`s not particularly obsessed with the race.
But when John McCain suspended his presidential campaign because he
said he was going to rush to Washington and address the financial crisis in
2008, the David Letterman show ended being really important part of the way
the country learned about that decision by John McCain and not in a good
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Maybe you heard the big news, John McCain,
Senator John McCain, Republican candidate for president, was supposed to be
on the program tonight. Were you aware of that? Yes!
But he had to cancel the show because he is suspending his campaign
because the economy is exploding.
Here is a senator, fourth term senator from Arizona. You go back to
Washington. You handle what you need to handle. Don`t suspend your
campaign. You let your campaign go on. Shouldered by your vice
presidential nominee, that`s what you do. You don`t quit.
You heard it here first, this doesn`t smell right. You know? This
just doesn`t smell right, because this is not the way a tested hero
behaves. So, at the last minute, he calls up and he says, I can`t make it.
Can`t make it. Can`t make it. I said, I said, what is the – what is
the problem? He said, well, the economy. He said the economy is about to
So, we find out today he didn`t really leave until this morning.
Didn`t go until this morning. Thank you.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Can I give you an answer?
MCCAIN: I screwed up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that was the last time anybody ever heard of John McCain.
Because our late night comedy shows in this country big audience,
everyone come together, mostly apolitical venues, when they do touch on
political topics it can be an important political thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETTERMAN: Now, here`s where the rub comes against Cheney, and you
tell me if I am full of gas. Cheney says we`re not going to go after Osama
bin Laden because he is from Saudi Arabia, and we don`t want to rub the
royal family. We don`t want to rub the royal family wrong because they
control all our oil.
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: I never heard Cheney say any of this.
LETTERMAN: I know, I am making this up.
LETTERMAN: But am I close to anything at all?
O`REILLY: No. He has got problems on a lot of fronts, and I think
the president has got to be more assertive in explaining to the American
people what the hell is going on.
LETTERMAN: If you know that, wouldn`t you think he would know that?
O`REILLY: There is a strategy to it. He thinks that the American
public is so distracted by all the machines and iPads and phones that
they`re going to forget about it. They get bored about it. You can ride
it out. It`s a rope-a-dope strategy, and that`s what he is doing.
LETTERMAN: I have a feeling that`s not what he is thinking. I am
O`REILLY: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now that Mr. Letterman has announced that he is leaving, CBS
today announced that his replacement will be a comedian who has spent the
last nine years not just mocking Bill O`Reilly to his face like David
Letterman did in guest appearances but living out an on-air satirical Bill
O`Reilly-based persona as Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report”
This announcement of Stephen Colbert`s David Letterman`s replacement
sort of raises an interesting question about a guy who doesn`t dabble in
politics once in a while, Stephen Colbert has come up in national
consciousness as a political comedian, as a very political comedian.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Wow, what an honor. The White House
Correspondents Dinner, to actually, to sit here at the same table with my
hero, George W. Bush. To be this close to the man. I feel like I`m
Somebody pinch me. You know what, I am a pretty sound sleeper, that
may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face.
I believe the government that governs best is the government that
governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous
government in Iraq.
I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for
things. Not only for things. He stands on things. Things like aircraft
carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares.
And that send a strong message that no matter what happens to America,
she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There has always been some politics in late night. When it
pops up it has a really big effect because it is a mostly apolitical world.
Nobody knows exactly what Stephen Colbert is going to do with this new gig.
I mean, it means a huge stage for one of the greatest political
comedians of all time. It remains to be seen if that kind of stage is a
stage for overtly political humor. I mean, everybody before Mr. Colbert
has decided to do political humor in very small doses. So, it`s going to
be fascinating to see what he decides to do with it.
Mostly though, honestly. Mazel tov. David Letterman is a genius.
And now, as he is leaving, it`s going to be Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight
Show” and Stephen Colbert on CBS. And honestly, we are lucky in this
country to be living in this golden age of genius people who are this good
at their jobs doing this work for us every night. It`s exciting.
That does it for us tonight. Don`t forget, tomorrow night at 9:00
p.m. Eastern, “Why We Did It”. Hope you will tune in.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Have a great night.
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