The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/29/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. This house is in
Reykjavik, in Iceland. Used to be the French consulate in Iceland. It`s
kind of a cute house, right? In 1986 when the Cold War was still raging
U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the leader of the Soviet Union at the time
Mikhail Gorbachev, they spent a couple of cold dark October days at this
house in Reykjavik, in Iceland trying to come up with an agreement to
basically dial it back on the arms race, to try to mutually agree to get
rid of some of the weapons that our two countries had built up in massive
stockpiles over our years of not quite shooting at each other.
And the pictures from that summit in 1986 were kind of remarkable. I mean
look at them smiling at each other, shaking hands, right? Reagan and
Gorbachev, meeting one on one, talking eye to eye, obviously both directly
involved in those discussions. I mean our two standing off super powers
meeting human to human, meeting man to man, meeting person to person. And
ultimately at the very last minute of those talks in Reykjavik in 1986 the
negotiations didn`t break down. Apparently Gorbachev asked for too much.
He wanted a global ban on weapons in space. Ronald Reagan`s idea of star
wars, right? Ronald Reagan would not agree to that demand, and so they
went home from Reykjavik with nothing agreed to, but the two men had spent
two days in each other`s company, two days talking to each other in good
faith and it turns out that was something. It was not a total loss,
because one year after those talks collapsed, in Reykjavik, one year later
in 1987 Gorbachev and Reagan met again. This time, they did it in
Washington. And this time it worked.
It worked. And it working that night, in December 2000 - 1987, it led to
one of those great network news opening sequences where you could tell
everybody in the news business and all the politicians that they were
covering, everybody was very excited about the story, everybody knew that
this was a historic day, this was a really big deal and this was really big
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States and the General
Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union signed the INF Treaty.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today I, for the
United States and the general secretary for the Soviet Union have signed
the first agreement ever to eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet
nuclear weapons. We have made history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Washington, “NBC Nightly News” with Tom Brokaw.
Tonight, the summit.
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: Good evening. President Reagan and Soviet leader
Gorbachev are off to a brisk start in their three day summer meeting. They
have signed a treaty eliminating an immediate range nuclear weapons, more
than 2,000 missiles altogether. That happened earlier this afternoon in
the White House.
The two leaders were seen on national television here and in the Soviet
Union as they made their way to the East Room of the White House for the
signing ceremonies. Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Gorbachev were seated side by
REAGAN: We have listened to the wisdom in an old Russian maxim, though my
pronunciation may give you difficulty, the maxim is Doverai, no proverai.
Trust but verify.
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV [through translator): You repeat that at every meeting.
REAGAN: I like it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He did like it. And that was a landmark moment and that was a
landmark treaty that they signed. I mean it`s complicated in that it`s had
a lot of parts and it`s been revised over the years, but what became newly
important today about that treaty, what became huge news today, is that
that treaty in 1987 between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it banned
both of our countries from shooting off ballistic missiles, or cruise
missiles that had a range of between 300 miles and 3,400 miles. Missiles
that could shoot any distance between those two, those were banned. That
was agreed to in 1987. The United States has apparently believed, however,
that Russia has been violating that treaty and testing missiles in that
category since 2008.
The U.S. started to worry about it in 2008, raised the issue on an informal
basis, at least a couple of times since those suspicions first arose, but
then today formally and officially the United States government called
Russia out and accused them of violating this more than 25-year-old treaty
that was agreed to by Reagan and Gorbachev. A protest was lodged today by
President Obama. He wrote a formal letter of protest to Russian President
Vladimir Putin. Now, it`s not clear what the penalty is for violating
something like this or what exactly the U.S. can do to enforce it. Common
wisdom about these things is usually that if you have a treaty like this,
and one side breaks the treaty, then the other side breaks it too. So, I
mean are you excited about the prospect of that? If you had been hoping
that we would start shooting off cruise missiles or ballistic missiles that
can fly thousands of miles? Maybe this is your lucky day. Maybe it will
start doing that.
But this - this happens at a very tense time. It happens for us at a very
dysfunctional time in our own government and that matters in terms of the
way we interact in this big confusing world right now. I mean consider
that specific letter, that detail, the letter that had to go from President
Obama to president Putin today. I mean President Putin is physically in
Russia. His offices are in Moscow. And so, to deliver this letter
physically, how does it get there? I mean with something as big a deal as
this, you don`t e-mail it .
MADDOW: You don`t put a stamp on it or stick it in the mail. You have it
delivered by diplomatic courier, you have it delivered by the embassy. And
in fact, the U.S. embassy in Moscow was given the responsibility of
physically delivering this letter to President Putin today from our own
President Barack Obama. And that`s a big responsibility, right? And a
formal responsibility. And you know what? We currently do not have anyone
running our U.S. embassy in Moscow right now. We have an acting someone -
we do not have an ambassador to Russia right now. There`s no U.S.
Ambassador to handle even matters that are as big a deal as this and, you
know, the world is not waiting for us to get our act today. The world
continues to spin on its axis or increasingly continues to spin off its
axis. I mean even just with Russia.
President Obama and the E.U. today announced a dramatic increase in the
sanctions against Russia because Russia itself annexed part of Ukraine this
spring, in Crimea, because since then Russia has been supporting breakaway
separatists in another part of Ukraine because the U.S. now says that
Russia is no longer just supporting those rebels in eastern Ukraine, but is
itself actively participating in the war itself against Ukraine by firing
Russian artillery across the border in another country, because Russia or
the separatists they are supporting are being blamed for that shoot-down of
that Malaysia Airlines passenger jet two weeks ago and regardless of who`s
actually responsible for it, the separatists do control the crash site and
they have not only blocked investigators from accessing the site, they
themselves have also tampered with the debris and taken some of the debris
and neglected and mishandled the remains of the people who died in that
crash and their personal effects.
The world is mad at Russia for all of those reasons, and the anger in
particular about the passenger plane being shot down. For all of those
reasons that the E.U. decided now that they`re going to get off their
wallet and they have leveled the most serious European sanctions against
Russia since the Cold War. And the American sanctions were already very
strong, but today what the president announced is going to rope off nearly
one-third of Russia`s banks from the rest of the financial world. It will
also - and this may be key. It will also block Russia from buying any
technology that will help its oil industry.
So no deep water oil production technology, no deep water oil exploration
technology. No technology for fracking their oil that is locked up in
shale deposits. Remember Exxon and Rosneft, the Russian oil company, they
did the mother of all oil deals recently to do deep water exploration and
shale oil exploration and exploitation in Russia. They did that huge deal
not that long ago. If it turns out they can`t actually get at and produce
that Russian oil, because of these new sanctions, and it hurts the biggest
oil deal in the world, this Exxon deal, that`s going to hurt.
So, Europe does its strongest sanctions. The U.S. upgrades its already
stiff sanctions to include even something that might hurt Exxon. Imagine.
So in a world gone mad and even if you just look at Russia, things between
the United States and Russia are, as the president said today, not back
into the Cold War, but effectively out of state of - well, it looks like a
full-scale economic war, full-scare economic and diplomatic war between our
two countries and we don`t have an ambassador to them right now.
But we have been watching for the last few days as the most dysfunctional
Congress ever, the most pointless Congress in the modern history of
Congress, we`ve been watching for the past few days as they`ve been
counting down to their last two work days before they go away until the
fall. They leave on Thursday and they have – after Thursday they have no
other sustained work period in Congress until the end of the year. They
will not come back to work after Thursday until deep into September, and as
they count down toward that long, long, long vacation that they start at
the end of this week, we`ve been watching the last few days as they try to
get something, anything done.
And today if you sensed a little ray of sunshine in the dark, it might have
just been Congress getting close to maybe thinking about, starting to
approve some of our ambassadors, including maybe even an ambassador to
Russia. Yes. Do you think it`s about time? This is our new proposed
ambassador to Russia. He did get a vote today in the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, they approved his nomination. Now, he needs to be
voted on by the full Senate. While voting on him today, they also then
voted on a number of other new ambassadors and this is important.
I mean heading into this week out of all the countries in the world where
we have embassies, a quarter over them did not have an ambassador. Today
finally as they`re racing for the exits, the Senate tried to fix some of
that. And even though they did make some progress, it was still ridiculous
because it`s this Congress and this Congress is ridiculous and today when
they tried to approve this whole big swath of ambassadors, not enough
senators were actually in the room to allow them to initially to take the
vote. This is - this is incredible. They just didn`t come. Watch what
happened today. They`re trying to get a whole bunch of ambassadors voted
on all at once. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is presiding here with
good humor. They`ve decided they`re going to vote on the ambassador to
Russia. Yes, seems like a good idea on the day these huge sanctions on the
cruise missile thing and all the rest of it, they decided they are going to
vote on the ambassador to Russia. They also decided they want to vote on
some other ambassadors, too, and they can`t because not enough members of
the Senate were interested enough in this topic to actually show up and
actually have a quorum to cast their votes. They were busy. Stuff to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NEW JERSEY): We`re going to need still a couple of
more members to actually vote out resolutions and nominees. But let me go
through the agenda so we can advance the cause here. Next order of
business is 11 nominees that I ask to be considered in block. Without
objection the ambassador to Republic of Guatemala, ambassador to the French
Republic and Principality of Monaco, Ireland, Moldova, Republic of
Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Mr. Allen (ph), Mr. Allan Mustard to be ambassador to
Turkmenistan, Rwanda, Republic of Turkey. Is there any- Senator Corker, is
there any .
SEN. BOB CORKER, (R ) TENNESEE, FOREIN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I`ve got all
the proxies here and these folks are unanimously supported. So, I look
forward to us having enough members to vote them out.
MENENDEZ: Any other members wishing to speak to any of these nominees?
OK. We`ve now come to the end where we need bodies to vote. So – we have
one person short of being able to pass the business agenda, so I`m going to
just momentarily – we`re in the midst of calling offices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So .
MADDOW: They did eventually call around. They did eventually wake up
enough senators to get them to show up. So today we did get one step
closer to having ambassadors to Russia, Guatemala, France, Monaco, Ireland,
Moldova, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Rwanda and Turkey.
And not a minute too soon. We still have several dozen more standing by to
be confirmed. I will say though, credit where credit is due. The Congress
is hurrying along now. The Congress did today also approved the new
secretary of Veterans Affairs. General Eric Shinseki resigned from that
post this spring, replacing him will be Bob McDonald. He`s a former
executive at Proctor & Gamble.
Also, last night, just a few minutes before midnight, the conference
committee members in the veterans – on the veterans issue signed onto a
compromised bill to try and reform the VA and fix the problems that have
led to this scandal this year of so many veterans not being able to access
care. They had to squeeze it in right before midnight so that that bill
can be voted on at the last possible second on Thursday before Congress
leaves them for more than a month. Interestingly, though, three Republican
Senators on that conference committee did not sign off on that VA bill.
Everybody else on the committee signed off on it and said they`re good with
Three of them didn`t. One of them was Senator John McCain. We did not
hear back from his office as today as to why he didn`t sign the VA bill.
Bill. He`s an original sponsor and co-author of the Senate version of it.
So, I think there`s no reason to think that he`s going to be against it
ultimately. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida also did not sign the VA bill.
We called his office about it today. This office did get back to us. They
were very nice. They said Senator Rubio had to be out of town on the
family matter, but he has every intention of signing on to the VA bill, and
he will vote for it in the Senate.
That leaves only one. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as the only member of
this conference committee who didn`t sign on to the VA bill. We reached
out to Senator Coburn`s office. And they did get back to us later in the
day. They indicated to us that Senator Coburn, actually, is not going to
support the VA bill. He`s criticizing its cost. He says that it is
business as usual.
We`ll post this whole statement on our website which we got from Senator
Coburn tonight. Leading up to this, though, I should tell you that Senator
Coburn told the local press in Oklahoma about some of his concerns about
the “Fix the VA.” bill. He said he was concerned that the plans to build a
new facility for health care for veterans in Oklahoma, new facility in
Tulsa, he said he objected to those plans in his home state because what
they were planning to build in Tulsa for the veterans was too nice.
Tom Coburn told the Oklahoman, “They`re building a Taj Mahal when they
should be building a medical clinic.” Tom Coburn says they are trying to
do too much for veterans in Oklahoma. He wants to make sure they scale
back what veterans are going to get. So, if you`re a veteran and you live
in Oklahoma, that`s what your senior senator thinks of you. You shouldn`t
get anything too nice.
But despite Senator Coburn, Congress is moving on that. Conference
Committee members minus Sam, minus John McCain and Marco Rubio, they all
signed out to it last night. And with that timing, with that happen before
midnight, with the way the House works, they just might get there ahead of
the deadline on Thursday to get this thing voted on and to the president.
We will see.
There was also a lot of noise, if not a lot of movement today on the
Republicans in the House, potentially doing something on border issues.
This is what the president had asked for in terms of resources for the
border to deal with the influx of unaccompanied kids and young families
from Central America on the border. The House Republicans initially came
back and said they didn`t want to do that much. They wanted to do
something more in this range, but the House Republicans are now actually
planning on doing comes in at this level, and it only tries to address the
problem for the next two months. Beyond just the size of what they`re
trying to do or the lack thereof, it should also be noted that two-thirds
of the House Republican proposal, two-thirds of it would go toward
increased border security. Which makes for a nice bumper sticker.
I mean but think about it. This bill is supposed to be dealing with the
surge of unaccompanied minors at the border. What those unaccompanied
minors by all accounts are doing is walking up to the border, trying to
find a person in uniform and then turning themselves in to that person in
uniform. Bolstering border security is utterly beside the point for this
particular problem, but House Republicans are excited about it, even though
it makes no sense.
Remember, the part of their base that has been egging them on in this issue
is the part they decided to hold protests a couple of weekends ago, against
all of these kids coming to the border from Central America. The kids are
coming from El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala where we also don`t have
an ambassador. They are coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,
the anti-immigrant conservative protesters this past weekend decided they
were going to protest those kids by going to the consulate of Mexico. They
went to a bunch of different Mexican consulates. The kids are not Mexican.
MADDOW: That subtle point is beyond the scope of Republican politics on
It`s so sure. A two-month bill, mostly for border security, which is
irrelevant to the problem, why not?
But credit where credit is due, there was some bare evidence of governance
creeping forward today in Washington. And President Obama for his part did
take a really big swipe at Russia today. He did it in conjunction with the
European Union. He and the Europeans are now pushing Russia harder than
they have been pushed in decades including hitting them on this missile
treaty thing and hitting them on oil, which I think is where it really
If we did have an ambassador to Russia right now, what would that
ambassador advise the president on these matters, and what would that
ambassador say about how all this is going to play out, now that Russia is
being pushed harder than they have been since the Cold War. Well, the last
American who actually did have that job will join us in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: So .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today the people
of Ukraine, I hope, are seeing once again that the United States keeps its
word. We`re going to continue to lead the international community in our
support for the Ukrainian people and for the peace, the security, and the
freedom that they very richly deserve. Thanks very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a new Cold War, sir?
OBAMA: No, it`s not a new Cold War. What it is, is a very specific issue
related to Russia`s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its
own path and I think that if you listen to President Poroshenko, if you
listen to the Ukrainian people they consistently said they seek good
relations with Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama today answering what seemed to be sort of an
unexpected question, but saying bluntly, no, we`re not in a new Cold War
with Russia, but, yes, he was announcing what appeared to be the widest and
most aggressive acts of economic confrontation with Russia, certainly since
the Cold War, Europe acting today in a way that is much wider and more
aggressive than they ever have, and the United States ratcheting up what we
were already doing as well including something that`s designed to hit the
oil sector. Joining us now is the man who until February was our nation`s
ambassador to Russia. He`s Michael McFaul, he`s currently a professor of
political science at Stanford. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for being
AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Thanks for having me,
MADDOW: Can you comment specifically on the sanctions that might affect
the oil industry. You`ve talked before on this show about the importance
of the Russian oil sector to their economy and the links to the Western oil
sector in terms of exploiting it. Are these sanctions today going to be
MCFAUL: They are substantive. And I think they had to be done. Putin has
escalated in eastern Ukraine. He is not backing down. I think the
president had no choice and the leaders of Europe had no choice. It will
take time, however, for them to inflict pain on the oil industry in Russia
and I think everybody needs to realize that this is not going to change
Putin`s mind overnight, it`s not going to change his behavior overnight and
to have economic costs, that`s something we usually measure in years, not
weeks or months, but over time it will. And as you rightly said in your
first segment, the Exxonmobil/Rosneft deal was the biggest joint venture in
the history, well, maybe in the history of capitalism if it were to go
through, to the $500 billion that they had planned. Russia needs that
technology to go forward. Rosneft is specifically in the Arctic, and if
that gets slowed down because of these sanctions, that will have real costs
but over time, not immediately.
MADDOW: It`s interesting to see that while there are direct sanctions on
oil issues, there are not direct sanctions on gas. Europe obviously very
dependent. Big swaths of Europe are very dependent specifically on Russian
gas. I wonder with that carve-out for that very important economic issue,
if you think that what Europe has done outside of the gas issue is an
important uptick for them. They`ve been seen to be a little shier about
sanctions than President Obama has.
MCFAUL: It most certainly is an uptick. In fact, I was reading George
Shultz`s memoirs earlier today. It was very nostalgic to hear the sound
bites you started your show with, from Reagan and Gorbachev. I looked at
the sanctions that Europe and the United States did after the crackdown on
Solidarity in Poland. I would just remind our viewers, there was a big
debate between the Europeans and the United States over funding and
building of the gas pipeline. They were lesser sanctions, I think, than
the ones we saw today. So that gives you I think some comparative
perspective as to how serious this is. That said, you`re right, there was
a carve-out for Gazprom. The largest Russian bank, the Sberbank, was also
left off the list, and, of course, I think most disappointingly so far, the
French have continued with their sale of their warships to Russia. That in
my mind is a disappointment.
MADDOW: That would also imply, though, that there is more room to grow if
Russia continues to act in a way that continues to be provocative enough
that it inspires more of a crackdown. I mean, looking at this in
historical perspective, again I think raising the issue of how the west
dealt with the Soviet Union when it was obviously in a very different
economic place than it is now and we were in a different global economy
than it was now, are there lessons in history in terms of what hurts
enough, creates enough domestic pressure that Russian policies would
change? What they`re doing in Ukraine, their rhetoric is a lot better but
their actions seem to be a lot worse.
MCFAUL: Well, history doesn`t tell us so much for a couple of reasons.
One is the Russian companies, especially the banks and energy sector and
others, they are more integrated in the world economy today, so the
leverage is greater today than it was back in 1981 or `83 after the shoot-
down of the Korean airline 007 where there also were some minor sanctions.
But the second part of that is that there is more to be lost by the
Europeans and for some American companies as well from those sanctions, and
so that two-way street, I think, makes it harder to go forward with the
sanctions. But, again, I am generally impressed with what happened today.
I don`t predict Putin is going to change his mind overnight but I think it
was a right step.
MADDOW: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, now professor of
political science at Stanford. Thank you for your time tonight, sir, it`s
always really nice to have you here. Thanks.
MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Again, the news today from Congress is that finally, with all of
the stuff going on with Russia, finally, today the Senate took a big step
toward approving a successor to Ambassador McFaul. We have not had one for
several months. All right. We have lots more ahead tonight, including me
driving a car in this studio on this set. We have not rehearsed it and we
definitely should have rehearsed it.
MADDOW: So tonight, we promised this last night. And it`s going to happen
tonight. We`ve got exclusive reporting from on the ground in New Orleans,
where a radically conservative protest movement has started storming into
church services to disrupt them because they disagree with those churches.
That story and that exclusive footage is next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the hallmarks of the Republican Party after the Bush-Cheney
era, one of things Republicans have done in this time in our American
politics in that they will be remembered for is that they`ve come up with
ways to close down tons of abortion clinics across America.
Republicans since Bush and Cheney have come up with legislative strategies
that they put into effect in multiple states to shut down clinics, half the
clinics in Texas and Alabama. They`re aiming to close all but two clinics
in that state; in Oklahoma, they think they`ll get all but one clinic shut
down for the whole state. In Louisiana, the law they passed last month
they think it`ll close all but one or two clinics in that state. And in
all of these states when they pass these new laws to shut down clinics that
do abortions, they never really say that they`re trying to shut down
clinics that do abortions. They always say it`s for some other euphemistic
reason, they usually cite safety or some other good-sounding, neutral-
sounding rationale. They never come right out and say they`re trying to
end access to abortion in their states – except in Mississippi. There
they admit it.
The state`s governor in Mississippi has been totally open about what his
state`s shut-down-the-clinics laws are designed to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL BRYANT, MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: We`re going to continue to try to work
to end abortion in Mississippi, and this is an historic day to begin that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Mississippi`s governor in 2012 when he signed his state`s
version of the law that`s been used in Republican controlled states across
the country to stop women from being able to get abortions by closing down
the clinics that provide abortions.
And when Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed that law in his state, his
state was already down to only one clinic left anyway. But the state
legislature and Governor Bryant, they were very clear that they wanted
Mississippi to not have abortion access anymore. They wanted that one
clinic gone. They wanted there to be no place at all anywhere in
Mississippi where a woman could legally get an abortion.
Well, today a federal appeals court said that Mississippi can`t do that.
The court blocked the state law that would have closed the last clinic in
Mississippi. Mississippi had argued to the court that, yes, they did want
to shut down that clinic but women in Mississippi, they said, could just
drive to another state if they wanted to get that kind of care. The court
said no to that. The court said, quote, “a woman has the constitutional
right to end her pregnancy by abortion.”
H.B. 1390, a Mississippi state law, effectively extinguishes that right
within Mississippi`s borders. As the AP put it today, the court ruled
effectively that Mississippi may not shift to another state its obligation
for established constitutional rights of its citizens.
So now we know. As state after Republican-controlled state forces all of
these clinics to close, now today with this ruling, we know what the court
says is the limit, at least for now. You may be able to legislate half the
clinics in Texas away, you may be able to legislate it down to one clinic
in Oklahoma or one clinic in Alabama, but you cannot legislate away every
last clinic in a state. You have to leave at least one.
That`s the news today from the courts and that has been the story across
the country for the past couple of years. I mean, mostly abortion clinics,
women`s health centers have been closing. We do not have many new ones
opening, which is why it was a big deal last year when Planned Parenthood
announced that they were building a new women`s health care facility for
the great city of New Orleans.
Because of that close-down-the-clinics law that Louisiana passed last
month, it`s not clear anymore what services Planned Parenthood will be able
to provide at this new clinic, but they are building it and in the midst of
building it, look who showed up. This was the scene in New Orleans earlier
this month where anti-abortion protesters descended for a seven-day
campaign to protest all over New Orleans, to protest at clinics, to protest
at the construction site for the new clinic. They protested at the
construction company and the contractors building the clinic.
What they said they were doing was taking territory. The group who
organized this week-long protest is now known as Operation Save America.
You may know them by their old name, Operation Rescue. Operation Rescue is
the group that got famous a couple of decades ago outside women`s clinics
in Wichita, Kansas.
They`re known for their radical apocalyptic brand of Christianity among
other things. In their world view, you`re either with them on this issue
or you are with Satan. Operation Save America likes to frame this issue as
churches on one side, religious people on one side and abortion rights on
the other. Religious people, churches on one side, women`s health care on
But when you talk to abortion doctors and you talk to pro-choice activists,
as we have frequently done in covering this topic on this show, those folks
also often talk about working on the pro-choice size from their own sense
of mission, sometimes explicitly a sense of religious mission.
In 2009 a follower of the radical anti-abortion movement in this country
shot and killed this doctor, who ran a Wichita clinic. The doctor`s name
was Dr. George Tiller and he was killed inside his church. He was killed
inside his church where he was ushering at Sunday services.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sedgwick County 9-1-1.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone just came in and shot someone at a church.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody shot someone?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Dr. Tiller, Dr. Tiller was just shot.
MADDOW (voice-over): The man who killed Dr. Tiller was found with a Post-
It Note on his dashboard containing the phone number of a local leader from
Operation Rescue, the group that had been protesting outside his clinic.
But the murder of Dr. Tiller did not happen at his clinic. It happened
inside a church, inside his own church, his own religious sanctuary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The story of abortion rights has never been as simple as church
and anti-church the way the anti-abortion forces really want the country to
In New Orleans Planned Parenthood is building that new facility down the
street from a Unitarian universalist church. When they had their
groundbreaking for the new Planned Parenthood facility this spring it
turned out it rained that day so they couldn`t hold the groundbreaking
outside. They turned to their rain plan and their rain plan was to move
the groundbreaking indoors. They moved it to their local church. They
moved it to the Unitarian universalist church just a few blocks away. And
they were welcomed there and the pews were packed with supporters of that
Now for the Unitarian church that was an act of hospitality and support for
this new health care facility in their neighborhood.
For the anti-abortion extremists who poured into New Orleans this month
from out of town, what that church did apparently turned out to them to be
an act of provocation and on the second day of their campaign in New
Orleans, they showed up at the Unitarians` Sunday church service.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. DEANNA VANDIVER, FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH: We had begun
our time together of collective prayer and meditation. We were lifting up
the beloveds who we had lost in our community in the past two weeks and
having a moment of silence. And out of that silence a voice came. We were
all a little stunned.
And suddenly they realized, wait, that`s not our script. And so in the
midst of that silence, people started standing up and pulling off their
button-down shirts and revealing their T-shirts of affiliation and just
being very loud and disruptive and crying out malice and spewing out hate.
And the youth who had spent the week studying to be leaders stood up and
took hands and starting to circle around and they encouraged the rest of
the congregation to take their hands and they circled around and we started
the music and we started singing and encouraged everyone who could be with
us respectfully to be with us respectfully and if you couldn`t to please
take your disrespect past the threshold outside the church.
So after that had happened, after the – we had gathered back silence, the
director of religious education went to check all the doors, went to check
on the youth and apparently some of the ones who had left actually went
over – you`ve seen how the building is constructed. It`s mostly brick but
on the religious education wing there`s actually some windows to the
So those who had left the sanctuary apparently went and took their
grotesque signs and were pushing them up against the nursery window and
screaming at the babies.
And again, I lift up the young adults in the room who were in charge of the
nursery and calmly picked them out and took them to an interior classroom
and then left a sign on the door for the parents.
KATE OSBORNE, MSNBC PRODUCER: How did (INAUDIBLE) make you feel?
VANDIVER: In the moment, there`s a Brother Sign (ph) song that says, “some
people do, do, do what they would have to do.”
So everybody did what they had to do in that moment. And I was and I never
will be so proud of the people I serve. They moved from a place of love
and compassion and respect, even while that was not what they were
receiving from the people in the room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the Reverend Deanna Vandiver talking with our producer,
Kate Osborne this week. Rev. Vandiver`s title is community minister at the
First Unitarian Universalist Church in New Orleans.
And she was in the pulpit that Sunday when anti-abortion protesters crashed
the church and disrupted services and then stood outside the nursery
windows to yell and protest at the little kids who were in the nursery for
child care during Sunday services.
We contacted the group that disrupted that church service that day. They
call themselves, again, Operation Save America. Their spokesperson told us
over the phone that some members of the group went too far that day in
storming into the church and stopping their worship. She says they`ve been
asked not do that.
That said, on their website, Operation Save America describes what they did
at that church as a big success. They`ve been bragging about it ever
since, including here on their website. Their leader called what his
protesters did in that church that day, quote, “dynamic witness.”
The perspective of the people inside the church, though, was a little
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSBORNE: What do you think their intent was?
VANDIVER: I think their intent – I try to imagine someone coming into my
childhood church and starting to tell the people there as they`re
worshipping, as they`re praying in their most sacred, holy, connected
place, I try to imagine someone coming in and telling them that they`re
wrong, that their God is not worthy, that their faith is not true and I
can`t imagine it.
I mean, I just can`t. And so that it would happen to our congregation, to
our faith – it just – it speaks to me of the fear. It speaks to me of
the fear in which people live. And I`m grateful my congregation`s – the
congregations I serve – I serve three in this area as community minister -
- I`m grateful that they`re not willing to live in fear. They`re going to
stand on the side of love.
OSBORNE: Did you feel like your congregation felt threatened by them?
VANDIVER: I would say definitely some people did. And there was some
language. I mean, many of them had not ever heard this language of malice,
of hate. And never – I mean, a sanctuary by definition is a sacred, holy,
So the idea of that being – that happening in there, I mean it is – it`s
vile. I`m not sure what happens next, but I`m really clear, even though
faiths of all traditions have different ideas about family planning, one
thing that I`m really clear about is that we have a pretty general moral
consensus that freedom of religion is a founding principle of this country.
And what happened here on Sunday was the opposite of that. We were holding
our free church religious service and it was invaded by another religious
group and we were told that we could not worship in the way we were
That`s ultimately undermining of the theory of this country`s founding. I
don`t believe that people of good faith and goodwill will be allowed to,
with good conscience, that to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Two things are going on right now. Abortion clinics are closing
all over the country where Republicans are in charge of state government.
The Republican Party has effectively mainstreamed legislative tactics that
really have worked, they really have successfully shut down clinics
And also the most radical and confrontational factions of the anti-abortion
protest movement, they absolutely believe that they are the reason their
movement is winning, particularly with the Supreme Court saying that
protesters can`t be kept away from clinic entrances anymore, the ragged
edge of the anti-abortion movement, the most confrontational edge of the
anti-abortion movement, which has infrequently but regularly crossed over
into violence, they believe that their movement is winning and that they
are the reason why their movement is winning.
They also believe that the way they can win all the way, the way they can
achieve the criminal invasion of abortion in this country, full stop, and
soon, the thing they believe they`re on the cusp of, they think they can
get if they just protest harder now. They just protest harder and louder
and closer and closer and closer.
And this week that included going to this doctor`s house. That story is
coming tomorrow. We hope you`ll be here with us for more on that. Stay
MADDOW: So there are two ways in which the great state of Mississippi has
made big news today. One is the one we just talked about at the big court
case where Mississippi got told by the federal court system that they are
not allowed to shut down the last abortion clinic in that state, even
though they want to. So that`s one of the big Mississippi stories today.
But the other big Mississippi story, in order to get to that one, we have
to – I have to get better at this – we have to drive this car to
Mississippi in order to figure out how to deal with that story.
Aah! And that`s next. Oh, I`m terrible. There we go – oh.
MADDOW: There`s about to be a teeny tiny car crash on this show. But
first, here`s why. Look. Uninsured rates sinks in second quarter,
significant decline in uninsured rates since 2013. The verdict is in.
ObamaCare lowers uninsured rates. Steep drop in the uninsured. ObamaCare
driving down uninsured rates.
Love ObamaCare or hate ObamaCare, it does mean that more people in our
country have health insurance now. The verdict is in.
There is an exception, though, it is the state of Mississippi. Second
worst uninsured rate in the country and a state government that`s working
double time to make sure it stays that way.
When news broke this week that Mississippi might be the exception in the
nation, it might be the only state in the country where the uninsured rate
has actually gotten worse in the last few months and not better.
Mississippi`s Republican Governor Phil Bryant responded to that news by
saying it`s all ObamaCare`s fault. He said, quote, “If statistics show
that that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting
in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I`d say that`s yet
another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama.”
ObamaCare not working in Mississippi. And look how terrible it`s turning
out for them in that state. ObamaCare must be a terrible thing.
In the real world what`s happening is that Mississippi is doing everything
it can to stop ObamaCare from working in that state. So it`s not working
well in that state. And now they`re mad that it doesn`t work.
I mean, Governor Bryant said he wouldn`t let the state create an exchange
for people to buy insurance. He said it would be a gateway to ObamaCare.
Mississippi`s insurance commissioner, a Republican, wanted to make a state
exchange. It was called One, Mississippi. It seemed well designed, seemed
like it would work. Governor Bryant refused to let that happen. The Feds
said they would love to go ahead with “One, Mississippi,” but thanks to
Governor Bryant, it was impossible with the governor`s refusal to work with
So the insurance commissioner, there`s no way to coordinate strategy with
other agencies that he`s in charge of.
Then natural, when faced with the other part of ObamaCare, the Mississippi
governor said no to the Medicaid part, too, letting the federal government
pay for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Mississippi residents to get
health insurance on Medicaid. It would have wiped hundreds of thousands of
people off the rolls of the uninsured in his state. It would have got them
into health insurance. But the governor refused that. He said it was a
And besides, he said, uninsured people in Mississippi can always just go to
the emergency room.
That`s his strategy.
Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi has done everything in his power to
prevent ObamaCare from working. He`s gone out of his way to wreck it and
now he`s blaming it for not working in his state, which is pretty much like
being given a fancy new racy sports car, like, say, this one, works fine.
Works according to plan. Works according to directions. I`m terrible at
it, but it does work.
Right. But so this works, it`s fine, works as directed. But hey, I`m a
governor who really does not want this thing I have to work. So in order
to make sure that it does not work, I will do a little tinkering with this
particular toy. I want to make sure the car doesn`t work as planned, so.
That should do it.
Now let`s see how Mississippi`s health care system works. This piece of
junk, it doesn`t work.
When I try to take this car that somebody gave me for a spin one more time,
this thing`s a mess. Why does this stupid car not work? I`m never going
to buy another car like this. Nobody should get a car like this. It`s a
terrible car, it doesn`t work. I wonder why.
Yes, Mississippi`s health system doesn`t work that well. There are a high
number of people who don`t have insurance in that state. It`s a bad
situation, presented with a way to make that better that`s working across
the country, the governor of Mississippi decided instead to take a hammer
But hey, President Obama, now, it doesn`t work. What are you going to do
about it? Terrible car.
It`s maybe the most tortured metaphor we`ve ever done, but that does it for
us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.” Good evening,
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