The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/04/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man.
And tanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
OK, I`ve got it for you. What we have here is the secret decoder
ring. It`s like the Rosetta stone that will let you decrypt behavior in
Washington as it pertains to President Obama.
Honestly, if I could turn this into some sort of clip-n-save laminated
card that everybody could keep in their wallet, I would love to be able to
do that. But in the absence of being able to transcend the space-time
continuum that way, I will instead show it to you this way. This makes it
all make sense.
All right. March 2nd of this year on the “Charlie Rose Show” on PBS,
the topic of discussion that day on Charlie Rose was what President Obama
should do about Russia. Russia was being super belligerent toward Ukraine,
they were going to annex part of Ukraine and turn it into Russia, so the
topic of discussion that day, what should President Obama do about Russia
behaving so badly?
The guest on Charlie Rose that day was John McCain.
Senator McCain, what is your advice for what President Obama should do
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think, first, I would try the
Magnitsky, which is, you know, targets individuals and their bank accounts
and their ability to travel, I would try that first. And then, obviously,
I would look at other areas. You know, throw them out of the G-8, of
course. It should be the G-7.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK, so this is step one. Throw Russia out of the G-8.
Sanction some Russians. This is step one.
John McCain gives advice about what President Obama should do. That`s
Step two, President Obama, in fact, does that. He, in fact, sanctions
some Russians, just like John McCain said he should. And he also threw
Russia out of the G-8. He got the G-8 together, lobbied all the other
countries in it, and in fact they kick Russia out of the G-8, and G-8 does
become the G-7, which is exactly what John McCain said President Obama
So, step one, John McCain says, President Obama should do this. Step
two, President Obama does this.
Now, here`s step three.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON IMUS: So, now, it`s the G-7, right?
MCCAIN (via telephone): Well, G-7, I`m sure that that has reduced
Vladimir to tears, that he`s not going to be able to be in the G-8. Take
over a part of a country, and you don`t get to go to the next meeting in
some wonderful European capital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See? This is the Rosetta stone. This is the magic decoder
ring that tells you how Washington works right now.
Say that President Obama should do something and then pray that he
doesn`t actually do it, because if he does actually do it, you`re then
going to have to come out against the thing that you have been recommending
all along. It`s a terrible idea.
John McCain does this all the time, on all sorts of issues, but on the
Russia thing, it was so perfect, because it was so specific. Throw them
out of the G-8.
Oh, you threw them out of the G-8? Well, why`d you have to go and
throw them out of the G-8 for? That`s not going to do anything!
It`s amazing. John McCain, I would have to make you up if you didn`t
But now, you`re going to need that magic decoder ring to understand
the otherwise inexplicable behavior in Washington on a different subject
today. You may have seen today the release of this video, which purports
to show and appears to show the moment at which U.S. Army sergeant,
prisoner of war, Bowe Bergdahl, was handed over from his Taliban captors,
to U.S. Special Forces.
As you can see, he does not look well. In the video, he is able to
walk, although apparently, with some difficulty, gets some assistance at
one point. You can see that the handover was pretty tightly choreographed.
It happens pretty quickly, at least, according to what we can see.
That said, this video was filmed by and edited by and produced for the
web by the Taliban, to suit Taliban purposes. So, take it with a big
theocratic grain of salt. Because they have edited this video and framed
it the way they did for their own purposes. So, we`re only seeing what
they want us to see.
That said, “The Wall Street Journal” today reports that another video,
also shot by the Taliban, may have been what drove the U.S. military and
the U.S. government to make this happen, to push for Sergeant Bergdahl`s
release now, and to put some urgency behind the effort of getting him out
According to “The Wall Street Journal” today, the U.S. intelligence
committee reportedly produced some sort of analysis of what Bowe Bergdahl
looked like in the videotapes they were getting of him from the Taliban.
What happened progressively to this American prisoner of war over the
course of the consecutive videos that the Taliban released of him.
Sergeant Bergdahl was first taken captive in the summer of 2009. The
first video that the Taliban released of him, showing him in captivity,
that was later that year, later in 2009. They released further videos of
him in 2010 and in 2011.
According to “The Wall Street Journal”, the intelligence community
analyzed those videos, analyzed what Sergeant Bergdahl looked like in those
videos, his apparent health, his apparent physical condition, to the extent
they could tell, his apparent mental condition.
And they reportedly concluded that between the last video that was
released of him by the Taliban in 2011 and the most recent video, which the
Pentagon obtained, but which was never released publicly this past
December, 2013, between 2011 and late 2013, the intelligence community
apparently determined in this analysis that Bowe Bergdahl`s condition was
deteriorating rapidly. According to “The Wall Street Journal,” officials
who have seen the video described Sergeant Bergdahl`s condition in that
latest video as alarming. Seeing is him like that, we had to go get him.
Well, now, again, that latest video, the one from December, the one
that reportedly so upset and shocked U.S. officials that it caused them to
change their game plan, change their time frame, make new attempts to
negotiate his release, that video from December 2013 has never been shown
to the public. It is reportedly in the Pentagon`s hands.
But even though nobody before tonight, outside the Pentagon, had ever
seen it, the existence of the video was reported earlier this year. It was
described in reporting. And it was reported as the reason the government
was redoubling its earlier efforts to arrange some sort of prisoner swap
with the Taliban, to try to get Sergeant Bergdahl back.
So, this reporting was back in February. This is interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Just weeks ago, the U.S. military obtained a
new video, it`s never been publicly released. It`s raised concerns,
though, about Bergdahl`s health. The Taliban has long demanded the release
of five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo in exchange for his release.
Well, today a U.S. official confirmed that new discussions led by
diplomats and the Pentagon are underway.
Would you oppose the idea of some form of negotiations or prisoner
exchange? I know back in 2012, you called the idea of even negotiating
with the Taliban bizarre, highly questionable.
MCCAIN: Well, at that time, the proposal was that they would release
Taliban, some really hard-core, particularly five really hard-core Taliban
leaders, as a confidence-building measure. Now, this idea is for an
exchange of prisoners for our American fighting men. I would be inclined
to support such a thing, depending on a lot of the details.
COOPER: So, if there was some, the possibility of some sort of
exchange, that`s something you would support?
MCCAIN: I would support – obviously, I`d have to know the details,
but I would support ways of bringing them home. And if an exchange was one
of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, get out of your secret decoder ring again, because,
right, this is step one for John McCain. An exchange of prisoners for our
American fighting men, I would be inclined to support that. That is step
Step two is President Obama does that. The same deal that had been on
the table and had been discussed with Congress for months, if not years,
exactly what John McCain said he would be inclined to support, an exchange
of prisoners for our American fighting men – specifically, an exchange of
prisoners with the Taliban for our American fighting man.
So, step two is President Obama does exactly what John McCain said he
would be inclined to support.
And what`s step three? Well, now, of course, John McCain has to be
against his own idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: This decision to bring sergeant Bergdahl home, and we applaud
that he is home, is ill-founded, it is a mistake, and it is putting the
lives of American service men and women at risk, and that, to me, is
unacceptable to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator McCain did not think that that very same exchange of
prisoners would be unacceptable to the American people when he, himself,
suggested it in February. But once President Obama actually did it and got
Bowe Bergdahl home that way, well, then, the senator had to complete step
three of his magic decoder ring process. He had to come out against his
own idea as a terrible and outrageous and dangerous idea, because President
Obama actually did it.
It is amazing. And Senator McCain does this on lots of issues. Look
for this pattern in other things from John McCain, because he does it over
and over again.
But right now, it`s not just John McCain. You can see all sorts of
conservative politicians getting sort of confused by, getting spun around
by, getting called out by the upside down, gonzo-Washington politics on
this story of the return of America`s Afghan war POW. And you can see
these Republican politicians, all over the country, having to adjust to the
fact that this isn`t a satire. This isn`t some cruel joke. They really
are, as conservative politicians, expected now to be against an American
POW and against the deal that brought him home.
You can see them adjust from their natural reaction of being happy
that we got our POW home to this conservative imperative now that they are
supposed to treat that as bad news. That uncomfortable adjustment, as they
move from a normal reaction to what they`re told is supposed to be their
political reaction, unfortunately for some of them, that adjustment has
been happening in public.
And everything`s searchable now. Mashable.com rounded up some of the
most obvious adjustments today by conservative politicians. Republican
Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska put out a statement on Saturday, the day
it was announced that Bowe Bergdahl was coming home.
Look, this is nice. “A grateful nation welcomes the news of the
return of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. There`s nothing more solemn than the
pledge to never leave one of their own behind on the battlefield.”
Congressman called Sergeant Bergdahl a national hero.
But then, apparently, the memo went out that Sergeant Bergdahl is
supposed to be attacked and not praised by politicians and him coming home
is supposed to be a scandal and not a cause for celebration, and so now,
whatever is sacred or not, when you go to the page on Congressman Terry`s
Web site that used to have that statement, and now just said, “Sorry, there
is no document by that reference here.” The statement has been deleted.
Republican Congressman Mark Amodei of Nevada tweeted on Saturday,
look, “Best news I`ve heard in a long time, exclamation point,
#standwithbowe”. And that tweet got deleted the next morning.
Joni Ernst, the newly minted Republican Senate candidate from the
state of Iowa, she said by Twitter, “Thoughts and prayers go out to
Sergeant Bergdahl and his family.” And she deleted that. No more thoughts
and prayers going out to Sergeant Bergdahl and his family.
Did I say that? I didn`t mean that. I`m neither thinking of you nor
praying for you.
Senator Thad Cochran, “Welcome home, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. A
grateful America thanks you for your service”, for three days. And then,
Senator Thad Cochran deletes that sentiment. America apparently no longer
grateful for your service.
Conservative Democratic Congressman Steven Lynch from Massachusetts,
Democrat, same deal. “Great to hear that Bowe Bergdahl has been released
from captivity. Warmest regards to his family, with gratitude for his and
their service and sacrifice.”
But then, as of this morning, deleted. No more warm regards for you.
Warm regards hereby rescinded. Congressman Steven Lynch of Massachusetts
no longer wants anybody to know that he once thought that it was good news
that an American prisoner of war had been freed and wants to scrub the
record of any evidence that he ever thanked this service member and his
family for both their service and their sacrifice. He`s hoping that one
goes down the memory hole.
Tonight, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and other
White House officials walked over to Capitol Hill and did a rare briefing
for the full United States Senate on the administration`s actions to end
Sergeant Bergdahl`s captivity in Afghanistan and get him home. That
briefing was closed to the public, no cameras allowed inside, but we are
told that one of the things the senators were allowed to see at that
briefing that nobody had seen before outside the Pentagon and the
intelligence community, what we`re told is that senators were able to see
that proof of life video from December, which the U.S. government somehow
obtained from the Taliban in December and it`s the one that reportedly
showed a deterioration in Sergeant Bergdahl`s condition, that it changed
certain officials` minds about what it was worth to try to get Bowe
The director of national intelligence, for example, James Clapper,
reportedly is one of those senior officials who previously did not want to
do the Taliban prisoner swap for Bowe Bergdahl, until he saw that video,
and then after that video and the plan was laid out, then he changed his
Whatever`s on that tape from December, it hasn`t been shown publicly,
it may never be shown publicly, but apparently, all of the senators of the
United States Senate got to see it tonight, at that briefing tonight.
And joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
Senator Murphy, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate
your time on this busy night.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Sure.
MADDOW: So, let me ask you about that videotape, first of all – the
one that reportedly prompted the administration to try to speed up its
efforts on this exchange. Did you see it and can you describe what you
MURPHY: Well, I can`t talk about the substance of the classified
briefing, but I can say this – after this briefing, I`m confident that our
military and the administration was right to take all the steps necessary
to go in and get Bergdahl out of there. His health was clearly
But, of course, that sacred duty that Representative Terry referred to
in his tweet exists no matter the health or the condition of the soldier.
When someone is taken as a prisoner of war, no matter the condition that
they`re in, we have long had an obligation to go get that prisoner and
bring them home.
And the chilling effect that it would have on our military, on
recruitment for our military, if we started to condition that
responsibility, on the condition of the soldier, would be absolutely
catastrophic. So, I do think that part of the decision here was educated
by the condition of Bergdahl.
But regardless of the condition, we should go to great lengths to
bring people like Bowe Bergdahl home.
MADDOW: In terms of what`s been going on in Washington since the
announcement this weekend that Sergeant Bergdahl had been rescued, I
confess to being a little bit bewildered by the turn in politics. And you
can see it in some of those individual members of Congress and candidates
for Congress and the Senate. They started off feeling the way that I felt,
which is that this was great news, that he`s home. And there since has
been a hard political turn there.
I have to ask, sitting there with your colleagues and getting this
classified briefing, do you feel like the people who are now so angry about
Sergeant Bergdahl being home, about this deal to get him home, do they seem
at all – I don`t want to say appeased, but do they seem calmed by what
they learned from the White House tonight?
MURPHY: No, I don`t think so. I think that we are locked into an
electoral environment, and, of course, what`s so frustrating to Republicans
is that President Obama`s foreign policy has been a strength for a large
part of his presidency. And much of their efforts, today around Bergdahl
and over the last year on Benghazi has been an attempt to try to turn what
has been a strength into a weakness.
And, of course, just flip this the other way. Think of what would
have happened if Bergdahl had died in captivity, had Obama not gone to
great lengths to rescue a soldier who was held as a POW, do you really
think that Republicans would have laid down without absolutely eviscerating
When it comes to Republicans` critique of Obama`s foreign policy, he`s
in an absolute no-win position. If he had left Bergdahl to die, you would
see the exact same level of critique that he is receiving for having gone
and rescued this guy.
MADDOW: General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S.
forces in Afghanistan, today he gave an interview to Yahoo! News in which
he reinforced the military, and the thoughts that you leave no soldier
behind on the battlefield, said it was the right thing to do, and said any
questions about Sergeant Bergdahl`s conduct that led to his capture should
be settled as a separate matter.
I imagine that General McChrystal`s words will have an impact on this
debate. But from your position on Capitol Hill and having seen the way
this went today, you describe this as an electoral environment in which
this is being discussed. What do you think happens next here? Where do
you think this is going?
MURPHY: Well, what happens next is that the information that we`ve
been waiting for comes out. I mean, it`s really stunning that people are
making their own determinations on the circumstances of Bergdahl`s
departure, when we haven`t gotten any of the necessary information to try
to make that determination – not the least of which is hearing from
But we heard reports, fairly loosely reported over the course of the
last few days, for instance, that there were upwards of eight or nine
soldiers that had died looking for Bergdahl. And Secretary Hagel came out
today and said, there`s no evidence, right now, that any soldiers died on
patrols, looking for Bergdahl.
And so, what is going to happen in the next few days is that slowly
the truth is going to creep out. And ultimately we`re going to hear from
I don`t know the exact circumstances of his departure. And the
military doesn`t either. But everybody needs to just chill out and stop
rendering political decisions on this crisis and on this issue, until we
get the facts and hear from this guy from his own mouth.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, again, I know this is a
busy night tonight in Washington. Thanks for being with us. I appreciate
MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel.
We`ve got a lot ahead on the show. We`ve got a busy show tonight.
We`ve got a story out of Michigan that you will not see anywhere else. And
we`ve got some important news affecting the fight to control the United
States Senate this year. And that is all ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK, this is not about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. It is about
other Americans being held in Afghanistan against their will, apparently by
the Taliban. As the “I can`t believe it`s not satire gonzo Washington
politics” continue to unfold around the Bowe Bergdahl case, around what you
would think would be the joyful occasion of the return of this American
soldier and POW, as the reaction to the safe return of sergeant Bergdahl
after five years as a Taliban prisoner, that reaction gets yet more shrill
and partisan on the right with each passing day, “The Associated Press”
today had this remarkable report on the other American captives that the
Taliban still holds.
This is Caitlin Coleman. She`s from Pennsylvania. She has apparently
been in Taliban custody for one year, seven months, and 27 days. She is
American. She`s married to Joshua Boyle, who is Canadian. And when
Caitlin and Joshua were abducted in Afghanistan in October 2012, Caitlin
Coleman was reportedly six months pregnant. She was due to give birth last
Well, today, “The Associated Press” reports that the families of
Caitlin Coleman and Joshua Boyle have decided to go public about the fate
of their kids. They have decided to go public with video evidence that
they say they were sent from the Taliban twice over the course of the last
year, showing, essentially, proof of life of both Caitlin and Josh, and
apparently their child, who Caitlin Coleman reportedly refers to in the
proof of life tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAITLIN COLEMAN: I am prisoner of the Taliban. My husband and I
JOSHUA BOYLE: My name is Joshua Boyle from Canada.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The couple was reportedly planning on being home back in
North America by December, because their child was due to be born last
January. If the child was born when that birth was expected, then the
child will have been born in Taliban custody last January and so would now
be about a year and a half old.
The families say they decided to make these videos public now in light
of the publicity surrounding the rescue this weekend of Sergeant Bergdahl.
The families say they are disappointed that their children and their
grandchild were not freed as part of the same deal that freed Sergeant
Now, they`re appealing for help from anyone who can give it, including
the couple`s captors or the government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katie will know how to reach us. Please work with
her to contact us. We will do everything we can to get them back.
Katie, your mom and I love you very much. We`re looking for you and
anxiously await your safe return home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Katie, you know I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, this American and Canadian couple and their baby have
been held by the Taliban, apparently in Afghanistan, for more than a year
and a half now. Any efforts to free them have so far been very quiet. But
the families are discarding any advice they have been following to allow
things happen quietly and now are publicly releasing these proof of life
videos they say they got from the Taliban and they are now appealing widely
So far, the U.S. government in the form of the State Department is not
saying anything publicly about the case, not to “The A.P.” today and not to
us either. But whether or not the family`s strategy will pay off, of
making this a public story now, instead of a quiet one, remains to be seen.
And you can imagine their agony, worrying that publicity might hurt the
prospects of getting their kids home safe.
But the families have now made that decision to try it this way.
Since, so far, it has been more than a year and a half, and the berth of a
grandchild, with nothing working at all.
We`ll let you know more as we learn more. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There is one story that we did on this show, to which we
received more response from you, our viewers, than anything else we have
ever done in more than five years on the air. We have a long-awaited
update on that story ahead tonight at the very end of the show and I want
you to stay with us for that. Thanks.
MADDOW: John Walsh, the junior Democratic senator from Montana, the
one who has the same haircut as the senior senator from Montana, John
Walsh, the guy on the left here, he`s only been in office for about four
months. He was sworn in in February, after being appointed to fill the
seat left empty when Max Baucus became ambassador to China.
But now, less than 120 days after getting the job in the first place,
Senator Walsh is having to get going on his re-election campaign, which is
kind of really is his election campaign, since even though he`s the
incumbent, he never ever actually had to run to win that seat.
That said, Senator Walsh of Montana had no problem winning the
Democratic primary last night. Given the results of the Republican primary
last night in Montana, we now know that the general election in November is
going to be a big purple state fight in Montana between incumbent Senate
Democrat John Walsh and Republican Congressman Steve Daines.
Congressman Daines` voting record ranks him as the single most
conservative congressman that his state has sent to the house since World
War II, and that`s part of how John Walsh is already against him. But even
ahead of Congressman Daines locking up the Republican nomination last
night, Senator Walsh`s campaign was already running against Congressman
Daines, one of the starkest, hardest hitting ads I have seen any Democrat
do on any issue this whole year.
Look at this ad out of Montana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN WALSH (D), MONTANA: I`m John Walsh and I approve this
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was raped when I was 14 years old. I know the
pain it caused me. That`s why it`s so insulting that Congressman Steve
Daines sponsored a bill to make abortion illegal for victims of sexual
assault. He`s even proposed making women criminals for having an abortion.
Ultimately, I got the support I needed to live again. But if
politicians like Congressman Daines have their way, other women will be
left with no options at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Beltway consensus would have you belief that abortion
politics are over. That that`s so 2012.
But the policy positions that made 2012 into such a politically potent
fight over this issue, those policy positions are widespread again, among
this year`s class of Republican Senate candidates.
And so, yes, general election campaigns are going to be like this,
again, this year. We know that now in Montana, where Democrat John Walsh,
who`s already started his campaign to hold on to his Senate seat against
Congressman Steve Daines using ads like this, and it`s likely we`re also
going to see the same thing at play for the race for Senate in Iowa.
It turns out the Republican candidate for Senate this year in Iowa –
this is Tom Harkin`s old seat, he`s retiring – the Republican candidate
for that seat will be the candidate who got a lot of national attention for
her campaign ad about castration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONI ERNST (R), IOWA SENATE CANDIDATE: I grew up castrating hogs on
an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I`ll know how to cut pork.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joni Ernst`s squealing castration ad propelled her to the
Republican nomination for Senate in Iowa last night. She won by enough
that she doesn`t have to go through anymore rounds of voting.
Joni Ernst will be facing off against Democratic Congressman Bruce
Braley for that Senate seat. And Bruce Braley is already out with his
first general election ad, which presumes if you`ve only heard one thing
about Republican Joni Ernst, you`ve probably heard about her and the ad for
So, the Bruce Braley campaign is just starting there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: We`ve all heard the one about pigs squealing, but when
Joni Ernst had the chance to do something in Iowa, we didn`t hear a peep.
In the state senate, Ernst never sponsored a bill to cut pork, never wrote
one measure to slash spending. In fact, the Iowa Republican says she
backed measures to actually increase spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, it`s going to be peeping chicks versus squealing pigs in
the Iowa Senate race for Tom Harkin`s seat.
And I cannot say that I`m not in favor of us pushing this barnyard
theme as far as it will go for that seat. That said, like in Montana, this
Iowa candidate has a very hard-core abortion record, including sponsoring a
personhood constitutional amendment, which would make all abortion criminal
in every case, even for rape victims, and that would ban popular forms of
So, the Beltway won`t see it coming, just like they didn`t see it
coming in Montana either, but expect radical anti-abortion politics and
anti-birth control politics, and again, specifically, the issue of rape to
play a role in this year`s Iowa Senate race, just as it already is playing
a role in Montana.
That said, Iowa Democrats are going to have a lot to work, if they can
succeed in making that Iowa race about Joni Ernst. In addition to banning
birth control and no abortions even for rape victims, she has also said she
would privatize Social Security. She`d abolish the minimum wage, she would
change the United States Constitution to ban gay people from getting
married, and she says she doesn`t believe in the Clean Water Act or the
farm bill – the farm bill in Iowa. She also said she had secret
information that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction
before the Iraq invasion. She heard that.
So, yes, particularly in Iowa, there`s room to run there. But both
those primaries last night in Montana and Iowa settled those matchups for
the fall, and now Democrats will set about trying to make Joni Ernst and
Steve Daines nationally famous, just like Todd Akin and Richard Murdock
became nationally famous in 2012, when Democrats held Senate seat that
those two were fighting for in Missouri and Indiana, M and I in 2012 were
Missouri and Indiana. Democrats are going to try to make this year`s M and
I, Montana and Iowa.
And hold the phone on Mississippi. As you`ve heard today, the race
for Republican Senate campaign – the Republican Senate candidacy is now
officially a runoff between incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran and
his Tea Party challenger, Chris McDaniel, after neither was able to clear
the 50 percent threshold and secure the nomination.
Three things to know about how this is going to go with the
Mississippi thing: first thing to know is that turnout in this election was
terrible. Something like 300,000 votes were cast, total, in the Senate
race last night, which is like, less than half the population of one House
district, let alone the statewide population that could vote for a senator.
Turnout was terrible. Terrible turnout usually helps the more right-wing
candidate. In this case, that will be Chris McDaniel.
And if you think turnout was terrible for the primary, with a whole
bunch of races to be voted on, that number is only going to drop when it
comes to a single race runoff three weeks from now in late June.
So, the turnout issue is bad news for Thad Cochran. More bad news for
Thad Cochran is that one of the anti-Tea Party Republican groups, that
helped him in his race so far, that helped him against Chris McDaniels,
it`s Karl Rove`s American Crossroads group, they announced today they are
pulling out of Mississippi, essentially abandoning Thad Cochran now when he
most needs them, even though they helped him before.
But the third thing to know here is that Democrats are psyched, or
psyched for Mississippi, about the prospect of not running against
incumbent senator, Thad Cochran, who would surely be re-elected in the
general election. They`re psyched to have the prospect of running against
this Tea Party guy instead.
Today, Politico.com reported that private Democratic polling has shown
that the Democratic nominee, former congressman, Travis Childers, would
start a general election statistically tied with the Tea Party guy Chris
McDaniel. A race against the incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran,
though, who`s well liked by independents and many Democrats, that race
would be difficult for Democrats to the point of futility.
So, in this hyper-competitive year, nationwide, right, where both
parties are running full-tilt to try to control the Senate, it is very hard
to imagine that Mississippi might be one of the states where Democrats
could pick up a Senate seat this year. But Mississippi Republicans appear
to be doing their best to try to make that happen. When it goes to a
runoff on the Republican side here, it makes it shocking to imagine that
Senator Cochran might win.
And if Senator Cochran is out, all of a sudden, Democratic Mississippi
Senator Travis Childers is not just a hypothetical possibility.
This is why you should never give up on electoral politics. It`s
always fun, right? I mean, you think you know what`s going to happen, and
all of a sudden we`re trying to ban the birth control bill in Iowa, and
Mississippi Republicans are throwing out their perfectly safe Republican
senator. You think you know what`s going to happen, but then all bets are
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), MISSISSIPPI SEN. CANDIDATE: This is a historic
moment in this state`s history. And because of your hard work, because of
your dedication, we sit here tonight leading a 42-year incumbent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s Tea Party challenger, Chris McDaniel, addressing his
supporters last night in Mississippi. He`s going to be in a runoff
election against incumbent Republican senator, Thad Cochran, on June 24th.
Joining us now is Kasie Hunt, NBC political reporter. She`s just back
from Jackson, Mississippi.
Boy, your arms must be tired. Just flown in.
You were in Mississippi last night. I know, we talked from Cochran
headquarters and you were saying that everybody was kind of on all ten
toes, a little stressed out about this. They must be worried about the
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: This was the last thing that
anyone was expecting. No one was prepared for this.
And, you know, they`ve been running this campaign, Senator Cochran
wasn`t really ready for this, he announced late, didn`t really have any
money. The sort of Barbour family, the Mississippi establishment, rose up
around him and protected him around this, and now, they`re going to have
three weeks of attempting to do that, and I think it`s going to be much,
much harder for them to pull that off and the scrutiny will be much, much
And the campaigning has been so negative. Everyone on both sides is
sort of sick of the ads. That`s going to depress turnout probably in a
runoff, which probably does not bode well.
MADDOW: And when I look at the turnout factor in any election, I
expect a lower turnout to benefit the right wing candidate, that comes from
a grassroots kind of place. Do they expect that they`ll have a real
challenge with turnout? The turnout was terrible yesterday in Mississippi.
HUNT: They do think that they`re going to have a challenge, I think,
turning out the people that they need to turn out. And I think that in
particular, the super PAC that`s been backing Cochran is going to shift its
focus to that, because it`s not necessarily that the turnout was lower than
they needed it to be. It`s more that they didn`t do as well in the places
that they need to do well.
HUNT: The counties that should have been strong for Cochran weren`t.
So, they need to try to fix that going forward.
MADDOW: What about this decision that was reported by Cook today,
that the Karl Rove Crossroads group, which is one of the outside groups,
establishment, sort of anti-Tea Party Republican group, that was supporting
Cochran against McDaniel thus far, that they say, we`re not going to keep
supporting you, we`re moving on? It feels to me like they`re cutting him
loose because they expect him not to be able to beat McDaniel.
HUNT: My sources tell me there`s no good options for McDaniel in this
race. I mean, they`re not an incumbent retention committee. They don`t,
like the National Republican Senatorial Committee –
HUNT: Responsible for electing incumbents – if they go up with
positive ads, they might not be terribly effective. If they go up with
negative ads, they`re going to knock down someone who could very well be
And if their goal overall is for Republicans to keep the senate, they
don`t want McDaniel to be excessively damaged.
MADDOW: You don`t want to put the cart before the horse and start
thinking about the general, but the prospects for Chris McDaniel in that
runoff are what Democrats right now are actually having shiny feelings
HUNT: And it sounds to me, I`m hearing Democrats will go all in for
him and that national Republicans frankly wouldn`t blame them for going all
MADDOW: Fascinating, amazing. Mississippi, amazing.
Kasie Hunt, NBC political reporter, thank you for your time tonight.
HUNT: Thanks, Rachel. It`s great to see you.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up next, an update on a story that has
been very fear and dear to our hearts on this show like few other stories
ever. Stick around for that.
But first, one more thing, about that Mississippi Senate race, where
there is going to be a runoff. Take a look at this headline from “The
Clarion-Ledger” in Jackson, Mississippi, from late last night. Tea Party
official locked inside courthouse.
At about 2:00 in the morning last night, with that Tea Party versus
Republican Party race not yet decided, the head of the county Republican
Party in Hinds County, Mississippi, got a call from an official with the
Central Mississippi Tea Party. The reason she was calling the Republican
guy at 2:00 in the morning is because she was locked inside the courthouse
and she couldn`t get out.
The courthouse was where all the election materials had been turned in
for the night. Hinds County is where the state capitol is. Apparently,
they locked up for the night at about 11:30 p.m., but this Tea Party
official for some reason showed up at the courthouse anyway about 2:00
a.m., went through a door that was inexplicably propped open, then the door
closed behind her and she couldn`t get out, on election night, where the
ballots were. And so, she called the Republican guy.
So, in this knockdown, drag out Tea Party versus Republican fight, the
Tea Party activist stuck in the courthouse called the Republican Party for
help. And there have already been four arrests of Tea Party Chris McDaniel
supporters in this primary in Mississippi so far – now this. Apparently,
a sheriff`s department report has been filed. We will let you know more as
we learn more.
MADDOW: OK. Some stories leave a mark on the people who hear them.
But also on the people who tell them. Some stories we tell here on this
show end up leaving a mark on us, as individuals and us as a show.
And a few years ago, we got one of those. We brought you the story of
Catherine Ferguson Academy – one of a kind public school that specifically
served pregnant girls and young mothers with young kids in Detroit,
The school specializes in sending girls to college after they graduate
and in teaching them farming of all things while they`re still in high
school in the middle of Detroit. Catherine Ferguson has a farm on site in
inner city Detroit. And they, with that land and those animals, and that
educational mission for those girls, they have been an oasis inside that
city for generations of young women. An oasis where the young women could
do well and a place that really expected them to do well, high standard,
and also the help to make it happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want everybody to have the same opportunity
that I had. I got out of here. I want you to graduate the same way I did.
I have two kids. You can make it with one, two, however many you got.
You have got to make it happen. Ms. Andrews will make it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ms. Andrews is going to make it happen. Students there are
talking about Asenath Andrews, who founded the school nearly 30 years ago.
She is the kind of person who makes you believe you can do anything.
She created this school for girls who other people said shouldn`t be
bothered with. She pulled and pushed and nurtured and cajoled her students
they would go to Catherine Ferguson Academy. They offered day care right
in the building, they could bring their kids with them, their course work
would be real course work, and they would be expected to go to college
after graduation, after all of that. The school`s motto was “success by
choice not by chance.”
Catherine Ferguson Academy opened that choice to generations of young
women in Detroit. Young women who had kids as teenagers from whom the
expectations in many cases would otherwise be nil – but not there.
We picked of the story in 2011 when a state appointed emergency
manager for the Detroit schools ordered that Catherine Ferguson Academy
should be closed. As an emergency manager in Michigan, he didn`t answer to
anybody democratically elected. The elected school board and all the other
elected officials were bypassed. This emergency manager just got emergency
powers and could do anything he wanted purely on his own say so.
And so, he wanted the school closed. It would close. He said it
would close. At least it looked like it would close.
But he had not counted on the young women of Catherine Ferguson. What
they`re doing here is painting signs, because they staged a very dramatic
sit-in at their own school, in April 2011, including some graduates of the
school coming back to take part. They said they would not leave their
school unless the police hauled them out.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: You almost could not hear the girls` voices as they chanted
over the police sirens as they were being handcuffed and arrested for
refusing to leave their school. But you could see what had happened to
them. You could see what the school meant to them.
And Catherine Ferguson Academy was spared that year, in 2011. They
kept it open. But the system of by passing electing officials and instead
just installing these emergency managers and giving them unilateral power,
that business in Michigan rolled on. Voters actually repealed existing
emergency manager law the following year in 2012. Michigan Republicans in
the legislature put in a new one right away that voters couldn`t as easily
Even though it is really not at all clear whether this sort of thing
works, or helps these towns when you bypass democracy and instead install a
little dictator to act alone without oversight.
In the town of Muskegon Heights, a state appointed emergency manager
was put in place to take over the school district there in 2012. He
announced they were off to the healing process. Hooray.
Then, he laid off the entire staff of the school district and hired a
for-profit company to run the schools. And now, that company is quitting
the job effective this month because it turns out they couldn`t turn a
profit. That leaves the town looking for a new way to run the schools.
They got three proposals last month that we know of. One from a group
of local citizens who suggested the radical idea, maybe the district should
try something called public education.
Another town we covered, Benton Harbor, they`ve got a per capita
income in Benton Harbor of $9,000. The emergency manager there forced the
town to accept a loan from the state to balance its books.
The elected city commission voted against the loan, but that doesn`t
matter. Under emergency management, no elected officials mean anything.
Nobody who you elected can do anything, democracy does not matter.
The emergency manager forced the city to accept the loan anyway. And
then he pronounced their financial emergency was over. He was done. Have
fun paying off the new loan I got you. I`m out of here.
In a sense, the problems of Benton Harbor and Muskegon Heights and
Detroit are not unique in the nation except perhaps for the scale and the
degree. Just the other day, the Census reported that Detroit has lost
another 10,000 residents since 2012. A new federal report recommends that
Detroit tear down 40,000 buildings just as a starting point.
At Catherine Ferguson Academy after the girls saved their school they
did struggle through a couple of difficult years. At first, the city
arranged to have the school run by a charter company that had previously
just focused on educating young men. The school`s new principal always
said or school`s principal Asenath Andrews had always said that being
pregnant didn`t make you a bad person, didn`t make you a criminal, but the
new system required girls to get a court referral before they could enroll
at Catherine Ferguson Academy as if being pregnant was a crime.
Last year, a group of students sued the school over the way classes
were now being thought. Funding dropped. Enrollment dropped. Detroit was
emptying out. And so, to some extent was Catherine Ferguson.
Well, today we learned that Catherine Ferguson Academy is closing. I
think this time really closing. The board in charge of the school voted to
end their contract with the school district. They say there are not enough
students anymore to keep it going. The city says it will start a new
school, to serve young mothers of Detroit, who have for three decades now
have pursued their studies at Catherine Ferguson Academy with their garden,
and their goats and babies all in one place, and with the expectation that
they will all go to college.
The last day at Catherine Ferguson is June 30th. This has been a very
long fight for them. And maybe they just could not, or did not want to
keep fighting. I don`t know. Just as I, I don`t know what is best for
Detroit. Or what is possible there.
But we do know the story of those young moms and the way they fought
for themselves. It left a mark on us as a show. And you have told us that
their story left a mark on you. We have, in the entire time we have been
on the air, more than five years, we have heard more from you, the viewers,
on this story an anything else we have ever done on this program. So, I
thought you would want to know how it is coming to an end.
Amazing story. Amazing Detroit. Amazing Michigan, as always.
That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”.
Thanks for being with us.
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