The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/01/14
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” to this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Today at the White House, they held a viewing party for the World
For whatever reason, soccer is one of the sports where everybody
feels better if we all watch together in a large group. Not every sport is
like that. But today at Soldier Field in Chicago and Kansas City,
Missouri, and Piedmont Park in Atlanta, and City Hall Plaza in Boston, at
Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, there were really big public groups of
fans gathered together in the literal public square to cheer for the
American team in their big historic match today versus Belgium at the World
And those big gatherings of people watching together included this
rather buttoned up watch party at the White House. Actually, specifically,
this was at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is right next
to the White House. And President Obama himself walked over from the White
House to the building where they were holding the watch party at one point
today and he dropped in unexpectedly on the federal workers there watching
Before sitting down in the room there to watch some of the game
himself, President Obama led the crowd in a round of “I believe that we can
win. I believe that we can win.”
Which is apparently the American fan chant that you hear most often
now at our international soccer matches including at the World Cup. But “I
believe that we can win”, that did not start as a soccer thing. “I believe
that we can win” was invented as a chant by a Navy midshipman who is
serving in Annapolis. He came up with it because he had a friend on the
cheerleading squad and they wanted a way to support the Navy football team.
But, now, it has become an all-American sporting chant, including the
one led today by the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe. I believe.
I believe. I believe. I believe that we can win. I believe that we can
win. I believe that we can win. I believe that we can win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So the White House is hosting watch parties. The president
is leading chants. He has been leavening all speeches with “Go Team USA”,
right. There are big watch parties all across the country.
Our country`s support for our national soccer team at the World Cup
is a real thing. It is not forced. We legitimately feel passion for
America`s prospects at the World Cup, especially for a huge game like
today`s game against Belgium.
But our sincere desire that our national team do well, our sincere
interests in seeing them succeed is not the same thing as us having a deep
organic national understanding of how this game actually works and how it
is actually played.
I mean, other than the American team being at the World Cup, we don`t
watch much international soccer as a country. And so, stuff that happens
in international soccer which probably seems normal to other fans in other
countries who watch more of it, these things don`t seem normal to us and
they have transfixed the American public because we don`t watch much of the
stuff and some of the stuff doesn`t really have a parallel in our sporting
It has been a new national experience of moral outrage for Americans
to be watching a lot of international soccer right now and therefore be
treated to the sight of players faking it, faking being hurt.
This is part of how the game is played. It happens in professional
soccer all over the world. It definitely happens in international matches
in soccer. It`s a totally normal thing they do in high level soccer.
And every four years in the World Cup, American fans are completely
horrified that this is how the game is played. But this really how the
game is played.
Watch the guy in red here. That guy with the circle. He falls down.
Is he hurt? Maybe he is hurt. It`s kind – watch the replay.
So, he falls down. Looks around. Am I hurt? Oh, I`ve decided to be
This is another really good run. This next one, watch the guy in
yellow. They are having words. They`re upset. They`re having a
confrontation. Oh, I am deciding to fall down.
The guy in the stripes is like what? Oh, yes.
This is my favorite. You watch this one unfold it looks like the guy
in red might have been hurt. You see the replay. Watch what he does. The
guy in the red shirt here, watch what he does. He picks up the other guy`s
hand and uses it to punch himself in the face, thus creating a very keen
illusion that the guy in the yellow shirt might have punched him in the
face. I mean, technically he did, right?
I mean, as non-die hard soccer fans when America`s attention turns to
the World Cup for a minute every four years, every four years, we are
shocked by this behavior on the soccer match.
As international soccer players, Americans, I should say, are not
thought to be very skilled at this particular part of the game. The lying
and cheating and faking that you are hurt in the hopes that somebody else
will get a penalty called against them, that they don`t really deserve,
your team might therefore get advantage from your acting skills rather than
something that you did on the pitch, or that the other team actually did to
deserve your free kick or their penalty. It turns out American players
aren`t that great at that.
I feel kind of good about that. I mean, I know it would be better if
we had beaten Belgium and we`d win more and all that stuff. But it`s kind
of a point of national pride that we suck at the cheating part. But even
if we are not good at the cheating part in soccer, even if we`re not good
at faking it for advantage, it does not mean that we are not good at that
in life or at least in politics.
We don`t do it in soccer. We do it in Washington, pretending to be
grievously injured or grievously insulted when you`re not actually in the
hopes that you might get a penalty called on the other guy if you complain
in just the right way – I mean, when that other guy has done nothing to
you, that is basic pee wee league American political strategy.
We can`t do it in soccer, we can`t do it to each other in red and
blue fights on a different kind of pitch all the time. For example, we are
having a big national one right now. There was this telling moment in
Washington a few days ago when congressional Republicans announced they
were going to bring a lawsuit against President Obama because he is so
terrible. Now, what specifically is so terrible about President Obama?
You know, that`s not really the point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you planning to initiate a lawsuit against the Obama
administration and President Obama?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I am.
REPORTER: Can you explain why that is necessary?
BOEHNER: You know, the Constitution makes it clear that a
president`s job is to faithfully execute the laws. In my view, the
president has not faithfully executed the laws.
REPORTER: What specific executive actions are you planning to
challenge in court?
BOEHNER: When I make that decision I will let you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There is John Boehner. I`m hurt. I`m hurt so terribly.
How are you hurt? What did this terrible person do to you? I don`t
know yet. I will get back to you on that but please assign that person a
If you don`t know what you are suing somebody for, you`re just suing
them and you`ll figure it does later, it does sort of undercut the idea
that that person has done something seriously worthy injurious to you,
seriously worthy of outrage, if you have to figure it out after you file
the lawsuit. In politics, though, this is kind of a classic strategy. In
soccer, it`s a classic strategy.
But in this case, in this political case, the single party most
delighted about John Boehner being caught punching himself in the face or
falling down for no reason or trying to look injured, when he clearly
doesn`t even have a plausible explanation for what hurt him, the party that
is most excited about this which actually can`t stop talking about this
even though John Boehner sort of hasn`t talked about it anymore after that
press conference where he couldn`t answer why he was doing it, the person
in Washington who`s most happy about this weirdly enough, appears to be the
man being sued in this instance. President Obama turns out to be delighted
at this turn of events.
President Obama went back today to what is apparently his new
favorite topic of political conversation, the fact that he is trying to act
to make stuff better, to change policy in ways he thinks is good for the
American people, and the Republicans are suing him over it because they
want nothing to change.
President Obama went back to that today, even though Republicans
aren`t talking about it anymore but he apparently could not be more happy
to discuss the subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It`s not crazy. It`s not socialism. You know, it`s not the
imperial presidency. No laws are broken. We are just building roads and
bridges like we have been doing for the last – I don`t know, 50, 100
But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea. I
haven`t heard a good reason why they haven`t acted. It is not like they
have been busy with other stuff. No, seriously.
I mean, they are not doing anything. Why don`t they do this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama has now done some version of this for the
third time in five days. Since the Republicans announced late last week
that they were going to sue him for executive actions that he`s taking on
issues that Congress won`t vote on, the president has taken that issue
which they started and he has tried to elevate it into a national daily
point of discussion.
They picked this fight with him but he is the one who is very happy
to have it. He is more than happy to have it. He keeps talking about it.
He keeps bringing it up unsolicited. He seems to enjoy himself more and
more every time he does it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As long as they insist on taking no action whatsoever that
will help anybody, I`m going to keep on taking actions on my own that can
help the middle class, like the actions I have taken to speed up
construction projects and attract new manufacturing jobs and lift workers`
wages and help students pay off their student loans.
And they criticize me for this. Boehner is suing me for this. And I
told him, I`d rather do things with you. Pass some laws. Make sure the
Highway Trust Fund is funded so we don`t layoff hundreds of thousands of
workers. It`s not that hard. Middle class families can`t wait for
Republicans in Congress to do stuff.
So, sue me. As long as they are doing nothing, I`m not going to
apologize for trying to do something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President Obama speaking today. That was right
before the kickoff of the World Cup game this afternoon. He started
speaking in the 2:00 hour. Kickoff was at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
Yesterday, it was the president speaking in the Rose Garden at the
White House, where he announced he`d be taking new executive action on the
issue of immigration. And again, he made that same point about Republicans
refusing to do anything themselves but threatening to sue him over his
willingness to act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If House Republicans are really concerned about me taking too
many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills. Pass a
bill. Solve a problem. Don`t just say no on something that everybody
agrees needs to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the president speaking yesterday at the White
House. He keeps going back to the topic again and again and again with
some evident if not glee, at least happy to be talking about it. It is
like it put a spring in his step, right?
I mean, the White House has a new focus now. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now, some of you may have read so we take these actions and
then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions. They`re not
doing anything and then they are mad that I`m doing something. I`m not
sure which of the things I have done they find most offensive, but they
have decided they are going to sue me for doing my job.
I – you know, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one
of these debates I want to raise the minimum wage so sue me when I do. I
didn`t think they were going to take it literally.
I just want to be real blunt. If you watch the news, you just see,
OK, Washington is a mess and the basic attitude is everybody is just crazy
But if you actually read the fine print, it turns out that the things
you care about right now Democrats are promoting. And we`re just not
getting enough help.
And my message to Republicans is join us. Get on board. If you`re
mad at me for helping people on my own, then why don`t you join me and we
will do it together?
We`ll do it together. I want to work with you, but you got to give
me something. You got to try to deliver something – anything.
They don`t do anything except block me, and call me names. It can`t
be that much fun. It would be so much more fun if they said, you know
what, let`s do something together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking this weekend, speaking Friday,
excuse me, in Minnesota. They don`t – he says, you know, it would be a
lot of fun – it`d be more fun if they said let`s do something together.
I think it is clear, to the point, I think that`s a good look for the
president in terms of his public face, and the way people think about the
presidency and what`s happening in Washington. But when he says that he
thinks it would be fun if Republicans came along and said, let`s do
something together, I don`t think Republicans want to do something
together. I don`t think they would think that is fun.
The fact that Republicans have made it so clear that they don`t want
to do anything together, not even the things that they would want to do
alone, that does appear, I think, to have sunk in despite what the
president said there. I think it appears to have energized the president
and the White House like nothing else on the domestic front on this second
term thus far. Something is going on right now and I think the immediate
political calculation is clear.
I think the White House and the administration is proud of all of the
things that the president has acted on through executive action at all of
these speeches and all these events. Like these three he`s done in the
last five days, the president lists all of the things he has done. He
always starts with raising the minimum wage to the extent he could for
federal contract workers, fair pay for women, making student loans more
affordable. I mean, the things that they put on the list, these actions
that he`s taken at the executive level, these are all very popular actions,
and so, the White House is proud of them.
I mean, to be attacked for doing those things: (a), reminds the
country that the president has taken those popular actions and the
Republicans in Congress haven`t. They like that contrast, they like that
framing, so they are speaking with the president`s agenda of taking
executive action where he can and now, they are talking about it more than
They invited the press to see the president start a meeting with his
cabinet today. The president went out of his way while the cameras are
still on the room to say he was going to be asking all his cabinet
secretaries for them to also start talking about what executive action they
could do on their own on things that Congress could not act on.
So, (a), the Obama administration likes the way this looks. The
Republicans choosing to sue the president for trying to do so much the
White House sees this as a great strategic gift. This is something they
can work with, right? I believe that we can win.
You can sense how they have grasped on to this and they are running
with it. But there is another strategic part of this – if that`s (a) –
there is another strategic part of this, (b), that is a much more open
question. And that is, what effect is it actually going to have on
Congress for the president to be traveling around the country every couple
of days now, getting big rounds of applause and big laugh lines and big
headlines for mocking Congress and teasing Congress about how little they
When the president travels around the country they don`t do anything
and the crowd goes they don`t do anything, what effect is it going to have
on Congress that that`s what the president spends his time on now? Because
even though that line of attack does make him look good in contrast to the
people who are doing, there is the little house keeping matter that there
is stuff that Congress actually does have to do and that the president
The ostensible reason for the president`s trip today to the key
bridge between Virginia and Washington, D.C., was to talk about the fact
that the decrepit bridge is now being repaired. Federal highway funding is
being spent to fix the bridge. That was the set piece for the back drop
today because of this letter that was sent today from the administration to
all 50 states – 50 of these letters went out today telling all states,
hello, today is July 1st. In most parts of the country this is known as
construction season. Summer is when we do the most work to repair roads
and bridges and fill potholes and all that stuff.
Well, it is July 1st today and on August 1st, one month from today
unless Congress acts, every state in the country is going to see on average
a 28 percent immediate cut in the transportation dollars they are getting
to do their roads and bridges projects. There is more than 100,000
construction projects underway supported by federal transportation money
Unless this – this is a very short term problem. Unless Congress
acts to pass a transportation bill now, all of those projects are in
jeopardy of basically being stopped midstream. This is not some indefinite
far off in the future, we better handle this long-term problem kind of
thing. The funding is going to start being cut off a month from today,
Construction projects that are underway right now will be stopped
because the money is going to go away unless Congress does something in
What is the likelihood that Congress is going to do that thing that
only they can do, especially given that Congress doing nothing has just
inspired the president of the United States to start a barn storming
multistate tour, raking in the political capital nationwide talking about
how this Congress won`t do anything? I mean, does that make Congress more
likely to do something or less likely to do something, to have the
president capitalizing on their inactivity in such an over the top way?
I will tell you I personally have bought three new tires in the last
six months and not because I like new tires but because I needed them. I
don`t know about you, but I have an interest in whether or not they get the
next thing done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea.
I haven`t heard a good reason why they haven`t acted. It`s not like they
have been busy with other stuff. No, seriously.
I mean, they`re not doing anything. Why don`t they do this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking today in Washington. And we are
hearing a lot like this from the president now about how Congress he says,
they`re not doing anything and I will.
There is, however, stuff that only Congress can do. What happens now
with that stuff, some of which is rather important and rather pressing.
Joining us now is Sam Stein, senior political editor and White House
correspondent at “Huffington Post”. Sam, it`s great to see you. Thanks
for being here.
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, does the White House actually love that congressional
Republicans are suing them?
STEIN: I think they do. I think as you mentioned, it portrays the
president as this kinetic political force and the Republicans as
recalcitrant political force and here president is getting stuff done
through sheer grit, and Republicans are doing nothing more than standing in
the way. It`s a nice contrast for them.
But, I think, you under score the problem which is that what the
president can do is largely temporary. And if he does want to have a
greater impact and pass larger legislation, he obviously needs the input of
MADDOW: And there is some stuff that is really pressing that is
going to happen regardless of political wins. One of them is, as the
president was highlighting today, that transportation bill where more than
100,000 construction projects around the country may just stop in a matter
of weeks if they don`t act. There is also the pressing matter of now
they`re being between 700 and 800 U.S. troops in Iraq and the president
only having so much time there before the president needs congressional
authorization. There`s stuff happening in the world that requires
Do you have sense from your reporting whether or not Congress is up
to the task of doing the stuff that they really need to do?
STEIN: Well, it`s scattershot, right? For instance, on the Highway
Trust Fund, it`s clear that congress needs to pass a bill in order for the
fund to be replenished. There has been talks in the Senate much greater
than what is happening in the House, but there is no real indication that
anything is imminent in terms of getting it done.
Now, contrast that with what`s happening in Iraq. You get a sense of
talking to people on the Hill that they want nothing to do with
authorization at this point. They don`t want their fingerprints on it.
They say to the president, here, you take it and put your fingerprints on
this quagmire. We don`t want anything to do with it.
So, I think that`s the frustration that the White House has as well,
which is that they don`t get a clean message from the legislative branch
all the time about when they need to have the legislative branch`s input.
MADDOW: In terms of the Republican strategy here – we were talking
about the Democratic strategy, I am mocking and will defend my mocking of
John Boehner as kind of faking injury here, if you don`t know why you are
suing somebody, the fact that you are suing sort of starts to seem a little
But in terms of the Republicans moving ahead with trying to force
this confrontation, this constitutional confrontation with the president,
is there any sense that they have picked the thing in which they wish to
sue the president, will they pick just one thing? Do we know?
STEIN: Yes. Also, John Boehner is the striker in the box who acts
like a sniper has taken him out and he falls down and he gets the penalty.
I think that was largely the case when he announced the lawsuit. But
as you talk to people on the Hill, you get the sense that he, and the
Republican Party, the Republican leadership in the House are coalescing
around a few ideas. One will be health care, the other will be energy, and
then there`s immigration and then there`s foreign policy.
I am guessing they are going to look at some of the changing that the
administration made unilateral to the health care law or potentially EPA
regulations as things which they base this lawsuit.
MADDOW: That would be hilarious.
MADDOW: The EPA one would be hilarious because the Supreme Court
STEIN: Let me make the quick point –
STEIN: – that this is what the president wants, essentially. He
wants John Boehner to say, you know what, we don`t like that you delayed
the employer mandate. We want employers to have to cover health care for
workers. We don`t like that you redid this whole thing about cancelled
plans. We want more cancelled plans.
I think that`s the contrast that the White House is almost welcoming.
MADDOW: Exactly, but they are excited to have fights about the stuff
that they have done unilaterally. That`s why they pick those things.
STEIN: They think they`re good.
MADDOW: Exactly. Fascinating times.
Sam Stein, senior political editor and White House correspondent for
“Huffington Post” – Sam, thank you very much, I appreciate it.
STEIN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead. We`ll be right back.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), MISSISSIPPI: In the most conservative
state in the republic this happened. If it can happen here, it can happen
anywhere, and that`s – that is why we will never stop fighting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There has still been no concession in that fight in the most
conservative state of the republic, but no concession part of it turns out
is the least weird part of what is still going on in that never stop
fighting fight. We`ve got big news out of that state tonight and that
story is coming up.
MADDOW: If you think of the Vietnam War, who is the U.S. president
who most comes to mind? Richard Nixon, LBJ, John F. Kennedy, maybe even
Gerald Ford. Gerald Ford didn`t get sworn in until 1974 after U.S. troops
were out, but the fall of Saigon while he was in office in 1975. I mean,
the legacies of these presidents were tied up in the long Vietnam War,
because it was long enough to touch on all of their terms in office.
But none of these four presidents is the U.S. president who started
the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
On the Vietnam War Memorial on the National Mall, the names of
American service members killed in that war are listed chronologically.
The first names on that wall are from the 1950s. We think the 1950s is
when we fought the Korean War. If you think of the Vietnam War is the one
from the late `60s and early `70s.
But the first American president to send U.S. forces into Vietnam,
the first Americans who died in Vietnam were under President Dwight D.
Eisenhower. He resisted starting a full scale of U.S. military
intervention, even though some people were demanding it. But he
nevertheless did start what became a full scale U.S. military intervention
when he deployed several hundred U.S. military advisers to not fight an
American war there, but to advise, to help the South Vietnamese with their
own fight in their own country. That`s how it started with the few hundred
advisers under Ike.
But, of course, that`s not how it ended up. Military intervention
has a way of starting small and getting bigger and being hard to end.
Shortly after he was sworn in, the new Obama White House, certainly
after President Obama was sworn in, the new Obama White House, let it be
known that the new president and a number of advisers were reading this
book by Gordon Goldstein. It was a history of the Vietnam War and American
policymaking around that war, told through the lens of McGeorge Bundy. He
was national security adviser to both President Kennedy and President
Part of the thesis of that book which President Obama and lots of
White House advisers read very early on in the Obama presidency, part of
the thesis of that book is that even though Eisenhower had put the first
few hundred military advisers into Vietnam, had President Kennedy lived
longer than he did we probably wouldn`t have seen the same huge escalation
in Vietnam under a President Kennedy, that we saw under President Johnson.
Yes, Kennedy brought the number of U.S. advisers in Vietnam from
Eisenhower levels up to 9,000 men by the end of 1962, but the thesis was
that Kennedy would overall have been more restrained and over time would
have resisted a bigger war even though he oversaw some of the escalation
himself. But after he died, President Johnson was basically too insecure
about foreign policy and military issues to resist making the war bigger.
And so, LBJ slid down the slope into what turned into a huge war and
almost endless American war that would not end until the 1970s and until
more than 50,000 Americans were killed and our country was transformed by
the accompanying trauma.
Just under two weeks ago, President Obama made a somber announcement
that two and a half years after U.S. troops left Iraq after our long war in
Iraq, he was ordering up to 300 American military advisers to go back in.
President Obama had already at this point dispatched an additional 250 to
300 troops to go bolster security at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. But this
announcement a week ago Thursday, this is for more, for 300 military
advisers to go in to help Iraqi security forces.
And when President Obama faced questions in that briefing room that
day you could tell he knew exactly what was coming in terms of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Americans may look at the decision that you are making
today as a preview of coming attractions, that`s the number of advisers
that you`re planning to send in may just be the beginning of the boots on
the ground scenario down the road. Why is Iraq`s civil war in the national
security interest of the United States? And are you concerned about the
potential for mission creep?
OBAMA: I think we have to guard against mission creep. So, let me
repeat what I have said in the past. American combat troops are not going
to be fighting in Iraq again.
We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in
tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure
that has already been expended in Iraq. Ultimately, this is something that
will have to be solved by the Iraqis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We always have to guard against mission creep, says the
president. That was two Thursdays ago.
Then, last week, the Pentagon press secretary announced that the
first batch of those American advisers had arrived in Iraq, saying that
they were on a short term limited duration mission. And that, of course,
led to exactly the right follow up question from NBC`s Jim Miklaszewski.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS: When you say short-term limited duration
of this mission, what is this mission?
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Initially, to provide
assessments and then eventually, to advise and assist.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Now, Secretary Kerry said today in Iraq that the U.S.
effort there would be sustained and intense. Is there a disconnect between
DOD and State? Or are you talking about two different missions?
KIRBY: No, I won`t speak to Secretary Kerry. My impression on his
remarks were talking about the sense of urgency and level of effort, not
the necessarily the duration of time.
This is a limited short term duration mission. I`ve – we have been
saying that since the beginning. That has not changed. No, I don`t have a
fixed date for you as a deadline or an end date. But it`s very clear, the
commander in chief couldn`t have been more clear, that this would be
limited short term mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A limited short term mission.
So, first, 275 troops to secure the embassy and then 300 advisers to
help Iraqi forces and now even more. President Obama notified Congress
late yesterday that he is deploying another 200 troops to Iraq to further
bolster security at the U.S. embassy, but also at support facilities for
the embassy and also the airport in Baghdad.
The most recent injection of troops brings total number of U.S.
personnel to be sent to Iraq to between 700 to 800 people, 275 and then
another 300 and another 200.
President says American combat troops are not going to be fighting in
Iraq again. But there they go and they are at least combat equipped, that
the president is making clear.
Congressional leadership taking no action to debate, let alone vote
on this renewed U.S. engagement in Iraq. And so, here`s the question: how
slippery is this slope? How creepy is this creep? Who is being listened
to in Washington on this subject? What is the level of influence right now
in Washington of those who are pushing for Iraq War III?
Joining us now from Aspen of all places is Steve Clemons, senior
fellow at the New America Foundation and Washington editor at large for
Steve, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, is there anyway to know if this is a start of upward and
continuing trajectory here if we have ended up starting the slide into
CLEMONS: We only have history to look to. In the Obama
administration, he kept his word. Libya was a case where a lot of us,
including myself, were concerned about a slippery slope to a much larger
engagement in which we basically owned the country over a long period of
time. That didn`t happen.
But in other cases with President Obama and certainly in the Bush
administration and on back, when we`ve seen these kinds of quick
escalations in troop, we see a much larger engagement follow. And the
slippery slope is more the standard than not when we see cases like this.
That`s why red flags up.
MADDOW: What advice do you think that President Obama is getting?
What can you tell from your sources in your reporting who he is listening
to, who has the advantage and the initiative on this issue in Washington
CLEMONS: Well, I think he is listening to commanders and I think
he`s listening to certain advisers both in state but also CIA who are
telling him that they are worried about the quick moves of ISIS and the
alliances of ISIS with other parts of the Sunni establishment, and the
worry they have that the weakness of the troops that we trained combined
with the incompetence of Maliki.
You know, he`s supposed to come out today, with the new government.
That clearly didn`t happen.
So, we are seeing the ones we are trying to help incompetent and
without resolve. I think he is worried that Baghdad could fall and that
Iraq could either turn into a much larger mess or turn into a haven for
terrorists again. So, he is hearing that and worried he doesn`t want that
to happen on his watch.
MADDOW: Trying to stop Baghdad from falling is something 300
American troops or 800 American troops is not going to make a difference
in, right? And thinking about and training Iraqi forces. I mean, you
think about sending 300 elite troops, commando forces, in to go train the
Iraqi forces. When we left we had thousands there and we saw what happened
with the Iraqi military after we left.
The idea of American military capacity being determinative at this
point for what happens in Iraq, if that`s the level of – if that`s the
discussion, then there`s no way out. The camel`s nose is under the tent
and the tent is almost gone.
CLEMONS: Right. This is a reactive move. We are moving a carrier
close with Apache helicopters for potential extraction capacity. So, they
are already looking at Vietnam-like scenarios, in which Americans were
extracted there from the embassy if you may recall.
But I think one of the larger issues is there is still no broad
strategic plan for how we, you know, essentially knock this up and bring
the Saudis and the Iranians and those driving these interior issues
together to talk about what`s happening. So, there is this bizarre view
that if you deploy power, if you`re able to deploy drones and air power in
certain cases, we`ve been discussing that, in fact, in Aspen that somehow
that will move the needle. I find it naive when you look how large the
tectonic plates are grinding against each other in Iraq and Syria. But
they definitely have the day at the moment.
MADDOW: Knowing what the analysis – if the analysis is about how
bad things are and the solution to things being bad as American military
power, then we are at the start of something here and not the tail end.
It`s – I think it is a very fraught time.
Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation,
Washington editor at large for “The Atlantic” currently at the Aspen Ideas
Festival – Steve, thank you very much for being here.
CLEMONS: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Lots more ahead, including the will of the
electorate versus alleged envelopes full of cash, my favorite kind of
story. That`s still ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I think that you have to be
careful sending Special Forces because it`s a number that has a tendency to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Programming note: right around 3:00 Eastern Time yesterday
afternoon, President Obama emerged from the Oval Office to deliver an
unexpected statement from the White House Rose Garden. The president
announcing he was no longer willing to wait for Republicans in Congress to
act on our broken immigration system. He would plan to act himself.
Now, specifically, the president announced he`d asked his attorney
general, Eric Holder, and his homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, to
report back to him by the end of the summer basically by next month about
what he can do as president without Congress to try to fix the problem.
Right after the president wrapped up those remarks in the Rose
Garden, just a few moments later, the aforementioned Homeland Security
Secretary Jeh Johnson held his own press appearance in Texas. Jeh Johnson
appeared in front of the cameras in McAllen, Texas, where he had been
visiting a border patrol station, his second visit to that facility in the
span of 10 days.
So, that was yesterday afternoon in Washington and Texas. This was
earlier this morning, Jeh Johnson, again, fresh off the trip to the border,
now sitting alongside President Obama in the White House cabinet room. As
the president, for the second time in as many days, announced that if
Congress will not act on immigration and a host of other issues, he`s not
afraid to act alone.
Jeh Johnson tasked with helping the president circumvent Congress to
do immigration reform. He was in McAllen, Texas, yesterday. He was in the
White House cabinet room with the president just a few hours later, today.
And tomorrow night he will be right here sitting at this desk with
me. Tomorrow night, on this show, we`re going to be joined live by
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who does not do very many
interviews and who is one of the busiest man in American government right
That`s tomorrow night. This that time, this that channel, we`re very
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Happy July 1st. Today is day one of the second half of
But today`s news made it clear that maybe the second half of 2014 is
going to be as crazy in Mississippi as the first half of the year was.
The big picture Mississippi headline, you know, Republicans long-time
incumbent Senator Thad Cochran, Mr. Establishment. He fended off a Tea
Party challenge from a man named Chris McDaniel, in order to hold on to his
That Mississippi matchup offered perhaps the best chance anywhere in
the country for the Tea Party to turf out an incumbent senator, but it
didn`t happen. And then came the rest of the story, the amazing stuff.
Chris McDaniel, it turned out, was not just a run-of-a-mill
conservative. He`d been a featured speaker for secessionists, neo-
Confederates who want the South to break off from the Union again for all
the same reasons they did the last time, as well.
In May, four supporters of Chris McDaniel were arrested in connection
with an alleged scheme to take photos of Senator Cochran`s wife in a
nursing home to use against him in a political video. One of those
suspects who was arrested in that case co-hosted Chris McDaniel`s
conservative radio talk show. Another of those suspects, I should say, has
since committed suicide.
Late on the night of Senate primary itself, June 3rd, a McDaniel
campaign staffer and two McDaniel supporters somehow slipped into the Hinds
County courthouse in Jackson after hours on election night. Got themselves
locked inside the courthouse with the completed ballots. They had to call
for help to get out of the courthouse that night.
After all of that, Chris McDaniel and Thad Cochran ended up in a
runoff. Senator Cochran finished second in the primary. And in order to
turn the race around in order to try to win the runoff, he started openly
courting votes from Mississippi`s African-American voters. He ran ads in
black newspapers in Mississippi. He mounted a ground game in heavily black
As unlikely as it might have seemed, especially from afar, the
strategy worked for Thad Cochran. He grew the overall turnout by courting
black voters. He beat Chris McDaniel by 6,800 votes.
In the night of the runoff, Chris McDaniel refused to concede. He
said the Republican Party had lost its inner Reagan. He said the party had
lost its commitment to its principles, that conservatives no longer had a
home in the Republican Party.
And ever since then, McDaniel supporters had been going over the poll
books in the Hinds County courthouse, the same place where staffers got
themselves locked in on the night of the primary. They say they have found
1,500 fraudulent votes in that county alone. Wow, fraudulent votes.
Really? In those numbers, seriously?
I don`t know. Neither do you. They`re just allegations at this
point. It`s not as if this campaign hasn`t been super, super sketchy and
full of bizarre allegations from the beginning.
But on Friday, the local Republican chairman in Hinds County
explained to reporters most of what were being called fraudulent votes were
clerical mistakes and had been mixed already. But then, because this is
Mississippi, and this is how this particular election has gone in
Mississippi, the day after saying, ah, those weren`t fraudulent votes,
those were just clerical mistakes, that Republican Party County chairman,
that very guy got arrested for DUI.
Mississippi Republicans have thrown themselves a senate primary for
the ages. And it turns out we`re not even near the bottom of the barrel
yet. Today, a right wing blog posted allegations that Senator Cochran`s
campaign paid African-American voters $15 apiece to vote for Cochran. And,
obviously, that would be really, really illegal.
That said, the Web site that posted these allegations admits that
they did pay a local minister to give them that story. They then posted
this telephone interview of themselves asking the minister how many votes
he brought in for that $15 reward?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOTNEWS: How many do you think you delivered?
STEVIE FIELDER: Hundreds.
STEVIE FIELDER: Yes.
GOTNEWS: How did you go about recruiting people? Did you say, hey,
if you come and vote, we`re going to give you some money? What did you do
to get people to go?
STEVE FIELDER: They told us. You just go out and just tell them $15
for your trouble if you go in down there and vote for Thad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Cochran campaign immediately denied the report, saying
they paid that guy whose voice you just heard a few hundred dollars for a
legitimate get out the vote operation, but they said that didn`t include
paying any voters for voting.
The Cochran campaign is now threatening to sue the conservative Web
And in the middle of this, the leaders of the Mississippi Republican
Party met today so the counties could report in their vote totals and they
could come up with an official winner. This is the scene outside that
meeting where reporters were told they could not attend. They could not
The McDaniel campaign says they`re still considering whether to
challenge the vote legally. They claim to have evidence of 3,300
irregularities, quote, “plus or minus.” They say they have not gone over
the poll books from the heavily black counties along the Mississippi river
but say they will.
Also today, a national right wing poll watcher`s group filed a
lawsuit in federal court against Mississippi`s Republican secretary of
state and the Mississippi Republican Party. They`re demanding access to
the records from that runoff election across the state and they are
claiming evidence of voter fraud.
Apart from this 18-ring circus of a race, I should also mention that
Mississippi right now this second is in the middle of celebrating the 50th
anniversary of Freedom Summer, a summer of activism that led to the Voting
Rights Act. Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the
Civil Rights Act in this country.
A local paper in Neshoba County, Mississippi, pleaded today for an
end to what they called the McDaniel kook fest.
“If African-Americans in Mississippi voted Republican for the first
time in this runoff,” the paper says, “Maybe they`ll vote Republican again.
That would be good for the Republican Party.”
Maybe. But for a large and vocal win of the Mississippi Republican
Party and for their conservative supporters around the country, and the
right wing online media, voting by large numbers of black people remains
suspicious enough to be considered illegal from the get-go.
We are 50 years on now from the Civil Rights Act almost exactly.
That is still the conservation about Mississippi in politics today.
Amazing. And it`s not over. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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