The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/05/14
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you for that.
And thank you for those of you joining us at home this hour.
His name is California Chrome. And on Saturday, California Chrome won
the 140th running of the Kentucky derby.
Even though California Chrome went off as the favorite, his story
really is a classic underdog tale. In a sport that`s all about line
annual, his parents weren`t from fancy horse stock. His trainer is 77
years old. That`s older than anyone who`s ever trained a Kentucky derby
winner. His two owners are outsiders in the world of big-time horse
racing. Not long ago, they turned down an offer of $6 million for their
So, if you`re into a good Cinderella story, Saturday`s Kentucky Derby
had one for you. Even if horse racing isn`t your thing, you can always go
to the derby just for the booze, I guess.
If you care about politics, there was an additional reason to be
paying close attention at Saturday`s Kentucky derby. The man on the left
in that picture right there, you know him, he`s Rand Paul. He`s Kentucky`s
junior senator. On the right, with that thumbs up sign, that`s Rupert
Murdoch. That`s the Rupert Murdoch who owns a conservative media empire,
“The Wall Street Journal,” FOX News, “The New York post.”
Rupert Murdoch and his media outlets have a ton of influence in
today`s Republican Party and Murdoch was there on Saturday at Rand Paul`s
invitation to watch the Kentucky derby and, in the words of “The New York
Times” reporter who was allowed to document everything, to allow himself to
be paraded for six hours by Paul, quote, “like a prize horse.”
Murdoch explained to “The Times” that he had never been to the
Kentucky derby and when Paul invited him, he said, “Absolutely. It`s a
good thing for me,” Murdoch said. “Rand Paul is a very interesting man.”
It`s a very interesting man who just a few weeks ago Murdoch said he
probably would not vote for, for president. It was in an interview last
month that Murdoch called Paul Ryan, quote, “The straightest arrow he had
ever met”, called Jeb Bush, quote, “a man of very fine character.”
But in that interview, Murdoch said that Paul was dead last on his
list of possible Republican presidential candidates. He said that while he
agrees with Paul on some things, he really disagrees with him on other
things, quote, “too strongly, perhaps, to vote for him.” That`s what
Murdoch was saying about a month ago.
So, Rand Paul would clearly like to be the Republican nominee for
president in 2016. If you want to be the Republican nominee for president
in 2016, you don`t want Rupert Murdoch saying he wouldn`t vote for you.
So, for Paul, what happened on Saturday actually represented a
potentially major step forward. He got Rupert Murdoch to come down to
Kentucky. He got him to spend the day with him, to get to know him a
And the simple fact that Murdoch was willing to do all of that, it`s
another sign that Paul, who, remember, comes from an outcast family in
Republican politics, Rand Paul is having some success in mainstreaming
himself into the Republican establishment.
If Paul is able to win over Murdoch and other establishment figures
like Murdoch, his chances of actually being the Republican presidential
nominee in 2016 are going to go way up.
But here`s the problem. That same Republican establishment dearly
wants to win back control of the U.S. Senate this year. It`s definitely
within their reach. But Rand Paul right now might just be 24 hours away
from costing his party a crucial Senate seat, a seat that Republicans badly
need to win if they`re going to reclaim the Senate in November.
Meet Greg Brannon. He is running in tomorrow`s Republican primary in
North Carolina. You may or may not know Greg Brannon`s name, but in a way
if you don`t know him, you already do know him, because you know him if you
know the name Sharron Engel or if you know the Christine O`Donnell or Ken
Buck. These were all the little known outside the establishment Tea Party
candidates who derailed establishment Republican candidates in Senate
primaries in 2010 and who then went on to lose general election races that
a generic Republican candidate probably would have won.
That was one of the stories of the 2010 election. It was a great year
for Republicans, no question about that, but it could have been an even
better year for them, a year in which they won back the Senate, if only
they hadn`t nominated those fringe candidates.
So, that was 2010. Democrats took what happened that year to heart
and in 2012, they recognized that they could actually help the Tea Party
get those fringe candidates nominated in primaries and thereby increase
their own party`s chances of hanging on to the Senate.
That`s exactly what Claire McCaskill did in Missouri in 2012. Her
poll numbers were very bad, Missouri was a Romney state. McCaskill
basically at the start of the year had no business winning a second term in
the Senate, except there was one potential Republican opponent that she
thought she could beat, that she thought might be so extreme that even
voters in red state Missouri wouldn`t be able to check off his name.
And that guy was Todd Akin. McCaskill quietly bankrolled ads that ran
during the GOP primary race that called Akin, quote, “Missouri`s true
conservative” and touted his, quote, “pro-family agenda.” She was trying
to pick her opponent. She was trying to make it more attractive to
conservatives and it worked because Akin won the primary.
Then, of course, he went on to make those comments about legitimate
rape and by November, the race wasn`t even close. McCaskill won by 15
points. He won the campaign that at the start of the year she had no
And that was one of the reasons why Democrats could hang on to their
Senate majority in 2012. They actually increased their majority, something
that seemed impossible at the start of the 2012 cycle.
So, that story, the story of 2012, the story of Claire McCaskill.
That brings us to what`s happening right now in North Carolina. That`s
where Democrat Kay Hagan, who is in serious danger of losing her seat this
fall, is trying to pick her opponent too. She wants that opponent to be
Greg Brannon and it`s easy to say why.
Brannon opposes abortion even in the cases of rape and incest. He`s
talked about the Second Amendment possibly extending to ownership of
nuclear weapons. He`s also said that the Supreme Court has, quote, “zero
power of enforcement.”
So that`s just a taste of Greg Brannon. That is the Republican
establishment`s worst nightmare in North Carolina. He is someone who could
cost them a Senate seat they would otherwise be very competitive to win.
So, of course, the guy that the Republican establishment does want to
win tomorrow`s primary is not Greg Brannon, he`s a man named Thom Tillis.
He`s the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. He`s got
the backing of North Carolina`s Republican governor, the backing of Jeb
Bush and as of today he`s picked up the backing of Mitt Romney, all big
Republican establishment figures.
He is who Republican – the Republican establishment thinks is their
best shot of beating Kay Hagan this fall. That`s probably why Kay Hagan
has been running this ad during the Republican primary race, knocking
Tillis for once sort of saying something that wasn`t completely disparaging
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Politicians, these days you got to watch `em close, real
close. Here`s Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis describing
THOM TELLIS (R-NC), SENATORIAL CANDIDSATE: It`s a great idea.
NARRATOR: That`s right. Thom Tillis called Obamacare a great idea.
Tillis even supported an Obamacare exchange in North Carolina.
So, Thom Tillis thinks he can attack Kay Hagan over something he calls
a great idea? Watch close. Seems like Thom Tillis wants it both ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And, of course, Kay Hagan supports Obamacare but she`s
running ads slamming Thom Tillis for calling it a great idea. She is
trying to fuel a conservative revolt against Tillis in tomorrow`s
primaries. She wants to run against Greg Brannon.
Who else wants Brannon to win tomorrow`s primary?
Well, Rand Paul does, because after spending Saturday with Rupert
Murdoch in Kentucky, Paul headed to North Carolina today to stump for Greg
Brannon on primary eve.
All of the Republican establishment wants Thom Tillis to be their
candidate in North Carolina, but not Rand Paul. And he might get his way,
or at least he might prolong the fight between those two Republican
candidates, because if no candidate gets more than 40 percent of the vote
tomorrow in North Carolina`s primary, then there`s going to be a runoff in
July. That would be two more months of negative ads and one Republican
spending money bashing another Republican.
In order to avoid that scenario, one of the candidates, Tillis and
Brannon are the two leading candidates by far, one of those candidates
needs to get more than 40 percent of the vote tomorrow. The most recent
polling which is out today shows the establishment favorite, Tillis, at
exactly 40 percent. Exactly the number he needs to break to avoid that
There`s Greg Brannon in second place at 28 percent. It would appear
that the momentum is absolutely on his side.
Just in the last week, Brannon support has gone up by eight points in
that poll while support for Tillis dropped by six points.
So, there is a scenario where Greg Brannon forces a runoff in North
Carolina tomorrow and there is a scenario in which that runoff means that
he goes on to win the Republican nomination. And if he`s up against Kay
Hagan in November, there`s a very good chance that he will lose statewide.
If Republicans can`t beat Kay Hagan in North Carolina in 2014, the odds of
them winning the Senate would be cut dramatically. And that would be in
large part thanks to Rupert Murdoch`s new friend, Rand Paul.
Joining us now is NBC News political correspondent Kasie Hunt.
Kasie, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thanks for stopping by.
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here,
KORNACKI: So, look, you know, it`s only one poll. There`s all sorts
of caveats you can put what we`re seeing in these numbers today, but last
week this poll had Thom Tillis at 46 percent, today 40 percent. All the
news in North Carolina today is Rand Paul is in town, he`s supporting Greg
Is Rand Paul of just mucking this thing up completely for the
HUNT: He certainly could be contributing to it, but I will say there
is a factor that we haven`t discussed yet, which is Democratic groups have
been on the air waves just slamming Thom Tillis for being associated with
staffers who had affairs with lobbyists and who resigned.
KORNACKI: So they didn`t get the memo from Hagan, that, hey, we want
to do that after the –
HUNT: Well, you know, but they`re looking forward. The reality is
Democrats are looking for this to go to a runoff because a runoff is so
unpredictable. The electorate is so small that it could end up creating a
situation where Brannon is the nominee and that`s something that Democrats
have wanted to have happen since the beginning. Now, they have backed off
recently, as we`ve seen these polls that showed Brannon was going to get
above 40 percent.
KORNACKI: Tillis was going to get –
HUNT: Excuse me, yes, Tillis was going to get above 40 percent. They
started to say, hey, we actually weren`t trying to meddle in this primary.
It`s all fun and good. We didn`t actually try to do something that we
But as you can see but the momentum may be shifting. I think Paul is
probably contributing to that and I also think Democratic ads could be a
KORNACKI: So, talk a little about Thom Tillis, because again, up
until really these polls in the last few days, I think there was the
general expectation, yes, he`s going to break 40 percent and win this thing
and it`s a victory for the Republican establishment. There`s been a lot of
talk in this race in North Carolina and some other races, Lindsey Graham,
South Carolina, Thad Cochran, Mississippi, that maybe the Republican
establishment has sort of learned how to tame the Tea Party.
But when I look at what Thom Tillis has done, I don`t know, tell me if
you share the same assessment, when I look at what Thom Tillis has done to
position himself for this thing, he`s basically gone and adopted Tea Party
rhetoric, Tea Party positions on issues. There`s a clip of him going
around where he has the same position on global warming as Greg Brannon, so
in a way it seems like the Tea Party maybe has tamed Thom Tillis.
HUNT: Tamed Thom Tillis or tamed other candidates across the
Republican establishment. That`s how Democrats would cast what we`re
seeing across the map in this Senate election. If you look at somebody
like Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Congressman Tom Cotton, he didn`t face a
competitive primary. The Democrats would say, hey, this is a guy who`s a
lot more conservative than the kind of Republican that would have
previously been able to run, maybe a more successful race against Senator
Mark Pryor, who`s, of course, a vulnerable Democratic incumbent down there
and he`s working to cast Tom Cotton as someone outside the mainstream.
Since, Tom Cotton is still unknown, that argument may be starting to
work. I think you`re seeing that in other races across the map as well and
I think in North Carolina, one of the risks that the establishment has
taken in playing so heavily in this primary and having to set him – Thom
Tillis up against these other candidates is the potential for him going too
far to the right and damaging himself in the general election. Whether
it`s going to go far enough that they`re going to create a situation where
you had a Todd Akin, I would tend to doubt that.
I mean, they knew and Senator Claire McCaskill was setting herself up
to run against somebody they thought was going to potentially make a major
mistake. That`s something that Thom Tillis is probably less likely to do.
He`s been in politics for a while, speaker of the state house, et cetera,
et cetera. He`s not in that typical mold.
Whereas somebody who maybe is less experienced on the political stage
might put their foot somewhere that then Democrats could use to ultimately
win the general election.
KORNACKI: Yes. I gave you a couple of quotes in the intro there, the
list on Brannon already before the general election is so long Democrats,
you can see why they`re salivating. It`s interesting to me, we talk about
2010, we talk about 2012. It will be interesting if Brannon somehow forces
this to a runoff and if he wins the nomination, does that reenergize the
sort of Tea Party uprising? I think that`s (INAUDIBLE) watching for.
Anyway, Kasie Hunt, NBC News political reporter – thank you for
joining us tonight. We appreciate it.
HUNT: Thanks, Steve.
KORNACKI: Vice President Joe Biden may have just made big news in
that signature Joe Biden way, by accident. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTRESS: Hello?
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Selena, what are you
DREYFUS: Oh, God. I thought you were the president. Hey, listen,
are you going to the snore us dinner tonight?
BIDEN: No, I`m not going, man. I`ve been there once. It`s a bunch
of politicians trying to explain politics to Hollywood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That is from the video that kicked off the White House
Correspondents Dinner over the weekend, showing Vice President Joe Biden
with HBO`s “Veep” star Julia Louis Dreyfus. They were playing hokeys,
skipping out on a dinner, and driving around in a yellow Corvette, binged
on ice cream. They got tattoos. That was quite a night for the two of
But the truth is, if you really want to know, the truth is that the
vice president actually missed the correspondents dinner because he was in
Miami. That`s where he was giving a commencement address to the 2,000
graduating students at Miami-Dade College. It was during that 17-minute
speech when Biden called for immigration reform.
When he did that, this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The immigrant community represents something special we never
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop deportations.
BIDEN: We`ll do that too kid but let me finish my speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, that comment from Biden is getting all sorts of
scrutiny. Because if, to use the word Joe Biden is fond of using, if he
literally meant what he said, then it`s a huge development.
So, again, when he was asked to stop deportations by that person from
the crowd, Biden said, “Yes, we`ll do that, just let me finish what I`m
Now, sure, he might have just been saying whatever came to his mind to
quiet the heckler down and move on with the speech. That may have been
nothing more than vice presidential non-speak that you saw right there.
But the reason a lot of people think it might be a lot more than that
because Biden has a bit of a history when it comes to spilling the beans,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: You`re comfortable with same-sex marriage
BIDEN: I – look, I am vice president of the United States of
America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with
the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men
and women marrying are entitled to all the civil rights, all the civil
liberties and quite frankly, I don`t see much of a distinction beyond that
GREGORY: In the second term, will this administration come out behind
same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage?
BIDEN: I can`t speak to that. I don`t know the answer to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But Biden apparently did know the answer to that because
just three days after that “Meet the Press” appearance, President Obama
suddenly came out to endorse same-sex marriage.
The White House insisted it had been Obama`s plan all along to
publicly support gay marriage at some point but Joe Biden forced the issue
with that appearance of “Meet the Press.” He basically sped up history.
So, here`s why Biden`s answer to that heckler could be loaded with
significance. A couple of months ago, President Obama asked Jeh Johnson,
the secretary of Homeland Security to look into deportation policy, to see
if there were avenues to implement a more humane deportation policy. Since
then, we`ve been waiting for the results of that review.
So, could Biden`s line at the commencement address have actually been
a knee-jerk reaction of what`s to come? Is he getting ahead of history
Today is Cinco de Mayo and Biden used the occasion it to call for
comprehensive immigration reform and talk about just how significant
passing the bill into law would be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I think the gigantic thing, I think when we pass this bill,
when we pass immigration reform, it is going to have profound foreign
policy impact. Not only in Mexico, but throughout the entire hemisphere,
because we`ll be saying, hey, all these folks we treat with respect, view
them as citizens, and they are as competent and capable and welcome as
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Biden wasn`t the only member of the administration
using Cinco de Mayo to push for immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The majority
of Americans agree with me on this. It`s time for members of Congress and
Republicans in the house to catch up with the rest of the country. So I
need all of you to go out there and mobilize, particularly over the next
two months. Tell them to get on board, get on board with business leaders
and faith leaders, law enforcement, Republicans and Democrats across the
country, say yes to fixing our broken immigration system. Let`s get it
done right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, should we expect a change in deportation policy in the
ne near future? And what are the chances Boehner will do what Obama and
Biden are calling on him to do, that he`ll risk the wrath of the right and
actually put immigration reform bill on the floor of the House for a vote
sometime this spring?
Joining us is Jose Diaz-Balart. He`s network news anchor for
Telemundo and host of the Sunday public affairs show “Enfoque”.
Mr. Diaz-Balart, thank you for joining us tonight.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART, TELEMUNDO: Good to see you, Steve.
KORNACKI: Let me start with the question that we`re all trying to get
inside Joe Biden`s head. What is your read on what happened in that speech
and that answer he gave? Do you think that`s a significant response?
DIAZ-BALART: I think it is. I was at both the Biden breakfast this
morning and the event that President Obama hosted at the White House some
hours ago when they talked about immigration reform.
And, Steve, I think it`s important to put into context the vice
president`s words because he talked about the importance of an immigration
reform bill for, let`s say, Latin America and how they view us. But he
also before that talked about the economic positive impact that immigration
reform would no doubt have on the U.S. economy and on strengthening our
But having said that, I think that the vice president is really
reflecting a mood that I`m seeing more and more in the White House, which
is if the Republicans don`t get their act together, people that work behind
my back for us and present some form of immigration reform before this
summer break, I would not be surprised if the president of the United
States of America unilaterally acts, like he did with deferred action,
where he gave millions of young children who were brought here through no
fault of their own, many have known no other country than the United States
and yet were undocumented, and fearing deportation, he gave, the president
did through deferred action, a two-year process whereas they can search for
their American dream.
I would not be surprised if the White House unilaterally acts if the
Republicans simply do what they have been doing in the House as far as
immigration reform all year, which is squat.
KORNACKI: So, you`re saying something interesting there about
sequencing, the idea of unilateral action on deportation policy comes only
if the process in the House stayed stalled. What was interesting to me was
– I was in Washington over the weekend and did an interview with Nancy
Pelosi for our show for “UP” on the weekends, little plug for “UP” right
DIAZ-BALART: Lovely show, by the way.
KORNACKI: Thank you.
I was asking her about this and she said she thinks there`s going to
be a window of time around June when all these Republican primaries are
over, because the whole thing holding us back are Republicans terrified of
losing in the primary. By June, these primaries are basically done and she
said she thinks that`s when John Boehner could act to bring this to the
What do you think the prospects are of that happening in June?
DIAZ-BALART: Maybe because I`m a salty dog covering the Hill, and
pretty much world politics for three decades now, I`m not as optimistic as
Nancy Pelosi seems to be, as far as the president seems to be, because he`s
pretty much made it clear that he is going to wait until at least the
summer recess to see if something comes out of the Hill.
I personally, Jose Diaz-Balart, don`t see this happening because of
the different political tugs and realities that exist for Republicans. Not
just the primaries, but for the November vote. Why would Republicans risk
changing the focus from what they believe is a winning issue, Obamacare,
and maybe now the Benghazi stuff that they`re going to start working on
here on the Hill and talk about something that would take their focus away
from that, even if it`s something that would benefit the U.S. economy, that
would cause 11 million people to come out from under the shadows and
contribute to this country, for national security, for the economy it would
Politically, is it great? That`s not something I can answer but I`m
not optimistic, Steve.
KORNACKI: Yes, I can certainly understand that.
Quickly, we`re short on time, but I do want to ask you – I mean, if
it gets to the point where it doesn`t get through the House and we`re
looking at some unilateral action being taken by the White House, how broad
do you think that would be? I`ve heard different interpretations of what
they might do. Do you think it would be a major sweeping action or narrow
DIAZ-BALART: I think it would have to be narrow. I`ve talked to the
president nine times about this and every time he said I`m president, I`m
not a king.
I think he`s going to do something. But, Steve, let`s not forget
there have been 2 million deportations under the Obama administration.
That`s the entire population of Slovenia taken out of Slovenia, and that`s
what we`ve been living through here in the Hispanic community.
Every family has been affected by it one way or another. You know
what? The president is feeling the pressure. What he`ll do, I think it`s
going to be limited. It`s not maybe what blanket some people are calling
for, but he will act, I firmly believe, if by July there is no movement
KORNACKI: All right. Jose Diaz-Balart, he`s a news anchor for
Telemundo, host to their Sunday public affairs show –
DIAZ-BALART: And, Steve, real quick, your show is arriba on the
KORNACKI: Thank you, thank you, appreciate that.
DIAZ-BALART: Just clarifying.
KORNACKI: Appreciate that.
Just ahead, the prosecutor-turned-congressman who`s got Republicans
KORNACKI: When you`re a political figure, people sometimes throw
things at you. In the last election when Republicans were trying to pick a
presidential candidate, a few of them ended up having glitter thrown on
them by people who didn`t like their opposition to gay rights.
Last month in Las Vegas, someone threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton. I`m
not sure we have a clear reason for that one yet. And today, Hillary
Clinton got something else thrown at her. Something so big you could see
it coming from a mile away. That`s next.
KORNACKI: Way back in August of 2009, that was during President
Obama`s first year in office, in that summer a brand new political season
was born. That long, hot summer in 2009 was, as you may recall, the dawn
of the shouty town hall political season. When question and answer
sessions with your local congressman turned into something like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-REP. BOB INGLIS (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What`s that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m afraid of Obama.
INGLIS: Why are you afraid?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a socialist.
INGLIS: A good news suggestion up here. The suggestion was to watch
Glenn Beck. Here`s what I suggest. Turn the television off when he comes
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was six-term Republican Congressman Bob Inglis from
South Carolina. For saying that, Bob Inglis had to go. Aside from telling
his constituents to turn off Glenn Beck, Inglis was also a climate change
realist and often said so out loud. He also invited Tea Party ire when he
voted for the TARP Wall Street bailout back in 2008.
So for those and other various crimes in 2010, Bob Inglis got utterly
destroyed by the Tea Party favorite in South Carolina`s Republican primary
runoff. He lost by an almost unimaginable margin of 42 points, one of the
biggest drubbings ever for any incumbent member of Congress.
Inglis got blown out of the water by this guy. His name is Trey
Gowdy, a former prosecutor and now a second term congressman from South
Carolina. And today, Trey Gowdy just became one of the most important
people in the Republican Party because he just got handed the newly formed
select committee to investigate the State Department`s handling of the
attacks against our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Today, House Speaker John Boehner picked Gowdy for this very special
GOP honor of heading up a select committee. Remember, a select committee
is not just any old committee. The select committee is reserved for high
level scandals. It was the select committee that was used for Watergate
and for Iran Contra and now for Benghazi.
Republicans are giving Congressman Gowdy the golden pitchfork on this
one in part because since taking off as he`s been on the leading edge of
Republican conspiracy theory investigations. He was bulldog presence at
all of the House Oversight Committee sessions. He`s been hitting on all of
the conservative causes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Fast and Furious was
fundamentally flawed in its conception, flawed in its execution and flawed
in its explanation afterward.
Mr. Chairman, I counted 17 separate factual assertions by Ms. Lerner,
not those three its sentences my colleagues like to cite. Seventeen
separate factual assertions.
We`re going to find out what happened in Benghazi and I don`t give a
damn whose career is impacted. We`re going to find out what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: And they have been finding out what happened for going on
two years now. With eight congressional committees in both houses spanning
13 hearings and now a select committee, which congressional Republicans are
hoping will really find out, this time really for real what really did
happen in Benghazi. What this whole thing is really, really about is up
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: The public hearings that get so
much attention are the last things that should happen. We need former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton up giving hours and hours of depositions
before they put her back out in public testimony. That`s the way to find
out what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And that was John Bolton, the former Bush administration
U.N. ambassador, demanding what many on the right are also demanding, more
scrutiny of Hillary Clinton`s role in Benghazi. In a way, it`s easy to
understand why. Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the
Democratic nomination in 2016 and at least at this far-out point, she runs
comfortably ahead of every respective Republican opponent. So, the
politics are obvious.
Republicans need to bring down Hillary`s poll numbers and here`s a
vehicle to try to do that. But what`s so interesting about watching this
all play out right now, about watching Republicans convene a special
Benghazi committee and ratchet up their rhetoric and try to connect Hillary
to it, what`s so interesting about is that what Republicans are really
trying to do here is to undo a huge political mistake they made a few years
ago, a political mistake that has been instrumental in turning Hillary into
the overwhelming 2016 favorite that she is right now.
To really fully appreciate the story, you probably need to go back to
1992, back to when Bill and Hillary were brand new to the national stage.
Bill was running for president that year, so it was no surprise that
Republicans unleashed a hard-hitting and at times very personal assault
against him. That`s politics.
But what was different about 1992 was that the right also gave that
same treatment to Hillary, to the wife of the Democratic nominee. They
thought she was a fair target because she was promising to play an active
policy role in her husband`s administration. You get two for the price of
one. That`s what Bill famously said during that campaign. So the right
savaged Hillary as a radical left wing feminist.
That year`s Republican convention was littered with attacks on her.
If you want a taste? Here is it, this was Pat Buchanan speaking in
primetime at that convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT BUCHANAN: Elect me and you get two for the price of one, Mr.
Clinton says, of his lawyer spouse. And what – and what does Hillary
believe? Well, Hillary believes that 12-year-olds should have the right to
sue their parents. And Hillary has compared marriage and the family as
institutions to slavery and life on an Indian reservation. Well, speak for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s how the right talked about Hillary Clinton back
then. That`s pretty much how the right talked about her throughout the
entire two terms of the Clinton presidency.
She and her husband more or less got the same type of treatment from
the right. They were the two leading faces of the enemy party and so they
were to be attacked and opposed at every turn. Actually, it kept right on
going even when Bill Clinton`s presidency ended. It`s because Hillary had
won a Senate seat and Republicans knew what we all knew. She was probably
going to run for president some day, that the prospect of a Clinton
restoration was very real and that the Clintons were still, even after
leaving the White House, they were still the face of the national
And so, for instance, in the wake of 9/11, the right strained to place
the blame on Bill Clinton. Remember when he got into an argument with a
FOX News host over that? Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Why didn`t you do more to put bin Laden
and al Qaeda out of business when you were president?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think it`s very interesting that
all the conservative Republicans who now say I didn`t do enough claim that
I was too obsessed with bin Laden, all of President Bush`s neocons thought
that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden
for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I
didn`t do enough said I did too much, same people.
I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The
CIA was run by George Tenet that President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom
to. He said he did a good job setting up all these counterterrorism
things. The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until
I came there.
WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?
CLINTON: No, because I didn`t get him. But at least I tried. That`s
the difference between me and some, including all of the right-wingers who
are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months
to try. They did not try. I tried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was back in the fall of 2006. That was back when
Hillary was just getting ready to launch her presidential campaign. That
was when Barack Obama was still just a second-year senator and all the
chatter was just starting to pick up that he might run in 2008 as well.
Back then, everyone figured that if Obama did run, he wouldn`t stand a
chance against Hillary. It had been almost 15 years by then that the
Clintons had been on the national stage. And for all of that time, they
had been the enemies in chief of the Republican Party. And then this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It is now 9:00 p.m. in the East and
Barack Obama is projected to win a substantial victory in North Carolina
over Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now, this is the point, this is the moment that
Republicans made that mistake that they`re now regretting, that they`re now
trying to erase, because it was in the spring of 2008 when it became clear
that everyone had been wrong, it became clear that Obama was actually going
to win the Democratic nomination, that there wasn`t going to be a Clinton
restoration at all, when Barack Obama suddenly supplanted the Clintons as
the face of the national Democratic Party.
It was at this moment that Republicans suddenly, after 15 years of
nonstop attacks, that they suddenly let up on the Clintons.
Actually, it`s more than that. They didn`t just let up on the
Clintons. They started to lionize the Clintons. They drew up a new
Clinton caricature. No longer were they a pair of radical immoral
ideologues. Suddenly, with Barack Obama their new enemy in chief,
Republicans began talking about the Clintons wistfully.
This from “The New York Times” in 2010 under the headline “Some in GOP
find soft spot for Bill Clinton.” Quoting, “Senator Orrin Hatch will go
down in history as a better presidency than the sitting one.” Sean Hannity
of News, who has verbally abused Mr. Clinton for years, recently referred
to him as “good old Bill.”
Republicans in Congress began speaking about him with respect, even
When Barack Obama became president instead of Hillary Clinton, the
right tried to rewrite its own history. Forgot all about Monica Lewinsky
and impeachment and that old caricature it had of Hillary and praising the
Clintons became a way of attacking Barack Obama, holding up Bill and
Hillary as examples, as shining examples really of practical, cooperative,
bipartisan Democrats, examples that in their telling the current president
fell far short of.
Here`s what that strategy did: that is the trend line of Hillary
Clinton`s favorable rating. If you look closely, you can pinpoint the
exact moment that all of this started happening, when the right`s attacks
on the Clintons stopped and the praise began. Right there in the spring of
2008. Her popularity skyrockets and it reaches levels she had never before
The right spent a lot of the Obama presidency talking up the Clintons
as a way of trying to take down Obama. Now, they`re facing the
consequences. Hillary Clinton`s image was battered and bruised at the end
of the 2008 primaries. But Republicans have been instrumental in building
her back up and then some.
Now, as that special Benghazi committee comes together, we`re watching
them scramble desperately to try to undo everything they have done for her
these past six years.
Joining us now is Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor, Steve
Steve, I mean, I grew up, sort of came of age following politics in
the 1990s, so I just have these memories sort of tattooed on my brain of
the Republicans just relentlessly going after the Clintons. Then when I`ve
listened to how Bill Clinton has been talked about by so many Republicans
and Hillary Clinton for that matter, especially when she was at the State
Department and I look at what`s happening now – Benghazi investigation
being an example of it – I kind of think to myself Republicans are sort of
waking up at this moment saying, gee, maybe we shouldn`t have been talking
them up this much.
STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, Steve, Hillary
Clinton and President Clinton have been on the national stage for a long
time now, and we have a tendency in this country that when a former
president leaves office battered and bruised, over time their image is
rehabilitated. President Clinton is someone obviously with considerable
I think that when people look back on that era in American history,
the 1990s, it was a time of peace and prosperity. There were some big
bipartisan deals that got done. I think people look back on that with a
lot of nostalgia after the last – since the terrorist attacks on September
11th, the two wars, the economic crisis, the collapse, the partisanship and
dysfunction in Washington.
I think people look back on that era with a lot of nostalgia and the
result of it has been that Hillary Clinton and President Clinton are the
most ecumenical political figures, most political figures in the country,
and that makes 2016 a daunting task for any Republican nominee.
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, when I – when I hear about Republicans sort
of looking back, people in general looking back wistfully on the `90s and
bipartisanship, I remember they did impeach him in 1998.
KORNACKI: So, it wasn`t this necessarily great time of tranquility in
But I wonder when I look at the Benghazi select committee and I see
sort of the rhetoric towards Hillary especially changing on the right, it
kind of makes me – I`m trying to think of what the psychology is in the
Republican Party right now. They know she`s the clear favorite for 2016.
We don`t know if she`s going to run. Everybody kind of assume she does.
But is there thinking in the Republican Party that they can attack her
so much right now that they can maybe keep her out of this race? Is that
sort of the –
SCHMIDT: No, I don`t think that anyone in the Republican Party
believes that any action taken or not taken by a congressional committee is
going to impact her decision whether she wants to – whether she wants to
run or not.
I mean, look, the danger for Republicans here, and this is true of all
oversight or investigative committees, is there`s a thin line between
select committee and kangaroo court. And the reality is that it`s usually
the overreach that results from investigations like this that hurts the
people doing the investigating, not the people who are being investigated.
So, Republicans have a thin line to walk here. The most important
thing is when you`re thinking about a presidential campaign, elections are
always about the future. They`re not about the past. And I do think there
are some legitimate questions that have to be answered with regard to
But saying that is that the Clintons have been beneficiaries of a lot
of Republican excess over the last two decades. And I would be worried as
this committee gets rolling that it becomes something that more resembles
what went on in the last – in the late 1990s, which did not help
Republicans in that `98 midterm election, for example.
KORNACKI: Well, I think we`re sort of waiting for the moment if this
all the comes full circle maybe three, four years from now if Hillary
Clinton actually becomes president and the right`s attacking her full-time
and then we start hearing the narrative of, you know what, we never knew
how good we had it under Barack Obama. I kind of wondering if we`ll come
to that point.
Anyway, Steve Schmidt, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I
really appreciate the time.
Big day for New Jersey tomorrow in the investigation of the George
Washington Bridge lane closings. We have got a preview of that next.
KORNACKI: We have an update for you on the mystery of the George
Washington Bridge lane closures, one of the scandals that has threatened
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s political future.
Tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m., the special legislative committee
investigating those lane closures will meet. And there are a lot of
questions and there`s a lot of interesting speculation about what exactly
is going to happen at that meeting. And there are two things in particular
to keep an eye on when they convene tomorrow morning.
The first thing is that there are four Republicans on that 12-person
committee and those four Republicans have become very annoyed with the
committee`s Democratic leadership. They`ve been arguing for weeks now that
the committee is nothing more than a partisan effort to take down Chris
And some of them have even been dropping hints that they might walk
away from the committee altogether, that they might boycott tomorrow`s
hearing and every other hearing in the future.
So, we don`t even know for sure whether the Republicans are going to
show up tomorrow morning or if they do show up what they`re planning on
doing. So, that is one thing to be watching for.
But the second and the potentially more significant thing, second bit
of suspense on the eve of the hearing has to do with the only person who is
scheduled to testify at the hearing tomorrow. Her name is Christina Renna.
Brief refresher for you. Christina Renna was the second in command
under Bridget Kelly, now former deputy chief of staff to Governor Christie,
who ordered the lane closures in that famous “Time for some traffic
problems in Ft. Lee” e-mail from August 13th. Kelly headed up what`s
called the office of legislative and intergovernmental affairs, and Renna
worked for her.
And in the report released by lawyers for Governor Christie`s office
back in March, Renna was portrayed as someone who could speak with
authority about her former boss. Renna told the Christie administration`s
lawyers about this e-mail from Thursday, September 12th, in which Renna
told her boss that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was, quote, “extremely
upset” about the amount of traffic in his town to which Bridget Kelly
responded, quote, “good.”
Renna told lawyers for the governor`s office that months later to
delete that e-mail exchange and Renna said she did delete it but not before
she also forwarded the e-mail to her personal e-mail account, then later
gave it to a superior after it had become publicly known that Kelly was
involved in the lane closures.
Renna also offered some hints in that report concerning the culture of
the IGA, where staffers sometimes use the personal e-mail accounts to
conduct government business and would sometimes be instructed to be not
responsive to certain mayors and where certain staffers kept track of
mayors considered not in line with the IGA`s mission.
Now, the report that came out of Christie`s internal investigation,
that`s the Mastro report, it had an obvious problem. It was conducted by
the lawyers for Christie`s office.
They did all the interviews for it. They chose what to use. They
chose how to write the report. The report claims to exonerate Christie.
But as Charlie Stile writes in his column today in the “Bergen Record”
newspaper, ever since that Mastro report came out, Democratic lawmakers
have been interested in Christina Renna and they`ve been interested in what
else she might know, what maybe she didn`t say or wasn`t presented in that
Because by the time that report came out Christina Renna had already
resigned her position and she hired a lawyer of her own. Her records had
already been subpoenaed by the legislative committee. And just a few weeks
ago, the committee issued another subpoena for Renna to testify. And that
is the testimony that is set for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
All of this comes amid signs that the criminal investigation by the
U.S. attorney for New Jersey may be intensifying. U.S. attorney`s office
recently subpoenaed the legislative committee for all of the documents it
has collected as part of its investigation.
There`s some suspense and a lot of chatter about what Renna might say
tomorrow and there are a few reasons.
Number one, she`s no longer with the Christie administration. She`s
left her job. She`s not on the team anymore, at least on paper.
Number two, she will be under oath when she appears before that
And number three, as we said just a minute ago, there is every reason
to think that the U.S. attorney`s going to be listening very carefully to
what she says and to maybe what she doesn`t say at that hearing tomorrow.
As Charlie Stile wrote today, “Democrats feel like there might be more
that Renna hasn`t yet said about the lane closures,” and if there is
something she knows that could widen the scope of these ongoing
investigations beyond what she told Governor Christie`s lawyers, then
tomorrow is the day to spill it.”
All of this is going to play out 12 hours from now. And you can be
sure that we will be watching.
And that does it for us tonight. Rachel`s going to be back in this
seat tomorrow, and I will see you next weekend on my show “UP.”
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD.” 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.>