The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/11/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us. For
the next hour tonight, we`ve got a big show tonight. Lots of ground to
cover including the president`s call for expanded military action against
ISIS, including inside Syria. This is obviously a big moment for the
president and for the country, we`ve got that story ahead tonight including
a special guest here tonight for the interview on that subject, somebody
you haven`t heard from on this subject who you really ought to hear from on
But we begin with some news breaking late tonight, about the domestic
violence scandal in the National Football League. And the league`s
potential role in the cover up. A week and a half ago, on August 31, a
professional football player named Ray McDonald who plays defensive end for
the San Francisco 49ers, he was arrested in San Jose, California. Police
arrived at his home at 2:48 in the morning. They arrested him on suspicion
of battering his pregnant fianc‚e. Police said she had visible injuries
from what appeared to have been a beating. Police say the pregnant fianc‚e
was visibly bruised on her neck and on her arms. Ray McDonald from the San
Francisco 49ers, he was arrested and taken to jail that night. He was
booked at 5:30 in the morning in Santa Clara County. He eventually posted
Mr. McDonald has not been charged. He is due in court on Monday. So he`s
out on bail right now. And while he`s been out on bail, Ray McDonald had
three tackles and a really good game against the Cowboys in the 49ers
season opening game in Dallas this past weekend. Ray McDonald played an
NFL game this weekend while out on bail for allegedly battering his
pregnant fianc‚e. And he has been practicing with the team as normal. And
he is due to play with the team again this weekend against Chicago.
Six weeks before that, six weeks before the police were called out to Ray
McDonald`s house in San Jose, another NFL player named Greg Hardy, 6`4“,
265 pounds, and he`s a pro-bowl defensive end for the Carolina Panthers.
On June 145th, this summer, Greg Hardy was convicted of beating his
girlfriend and threatening to kill her. The court heard testimony about
how Greg Hardy threw the woman into a bathtub. There apparently were
weapons involved, at least on the scene he threw her onto a bed which had
guns on it, ripped a necklace off of her neck. He slammed a toilet lid on
her arm. According to testimony, he dragged her by her hair from room to
room. The girlfriend testified. “He then put his hands around her throat
“he looked me in the eyes and told me he was going to kill me. I was so
scared, I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said just
do it. Kill me.”
Greg Hardy was convicted in that case on July 15th. But this weekend, he,
too, had a pretty good game. Again, convicted in July. But this past
Sunday, he played in the Carolina Panthers season opener against the Tampa
Bay Buccaneers. Mr. Hardy not only played, he played well. Four tackles,
the fourth fumbled, he even sacked the quarterback once.
Coming off of that good first team, Greg Hardy is on track to start again
in the Panthers home opener this weekend, in which they`ll be playing in
Detroit. That said, Greg Hardy did have an excused absence from practice.
Yesterday in Carolina, the team gave him the day off so he could meet with
his lawyer in his domestic abuse case. Because Greg Hardy is appealing his
conviction on those charges.
In the meantime, having been convicted of those charges, he`s practicing
with his team and playing an NFL games as normal. However, there are signs
now, there are more and more signs each day now that what counts as normal
in the National Football League may be changing. This is the press
conference that Greg Hardy`s coach, the coach of the Carolina Panthers did
with the regular football press corps this week. And it`s the first ten
questions in the press conference are anything to go by, what the football
press corps in this country wants to talk about now all of a sudden is
domestic violence by NFL employees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was he today?
RON RIVERA, COACH “CAROLINA PARTNERS”: Greg had a personal day today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excused?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you elaborate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say whether it`s tied in at all to an impending
discipline by the league?
RIVERA: No. Because it`s not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it tied to any criminal matters that he may have
RIVERA: That`s something you have to discuss with him and his people. OK?
He had a personal day and that`s it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this impact his status for Sunday?
RIVERA: We`ll see tomorrow, when he gets here. As far as practicing and
preparing for the game. We`ll go from there. Just like any other player,
we`ll see how he participates in practice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any comment, coach, about league being in the spotlight
over the past few days?
RIVERA: I have no comment on that. The league`s made its statement and
we`re going to go from there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron, just to be clear. If Greg participates fully and
he`s, he practices the way that you want him to, he will play on Sunday?
RIVERA: On Sunday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His status for the team is not - because it was a
RIVERA: This was a personal day. This is a personal day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron, there`s obviously a lot of attention now, with the
whole Ray Rice situation, and whether guys like - have committed crimes or
been convicted of crimes, should be playing. Do you guys still feel like
you`ve made the right decision about allowing him to play?
RIVERA: We`re going through the process. OK? And while we`re in the
process, we`re not going to comment about the situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s just like any other player, we`re going through the process.
That was yesterday afternoon, the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, NFL
football team, struggling, apparently threw a press conference in which he
was not being asked about playing sports, and in which he had no
explanation for why his team, the Panthers, has yet to discipline their
player, Greg Hardy, for his conviction on domestic violence charges back in
July. So that happens yesterday afternoon. That press conference. And
then, last night, the owner of the same team, his name was Jerry
Richardson, that team owner had to make a public appearance at an awards
dinner in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was being given an award. And a
very remarkable thing happened. The owner knew he had to say something
about the domestic violence issue. Not just of - not just because of
what`s been going on in the league, but what`s been going on specifically
on his own team. Where on his own team, they are currently playing a guy
who`s just been convicted of really horrific domestic abuse. There`s been
no consequences for him in the league or on his team at all. His own coach
couldn`t handle question after question after question on it this week. So
Jerry Richardson, the owner of a team, prepared remarks on the subject just
a couple of hours after that press conference. And he prepared the remarks
that were plainly heartfelt remarks for him, but they were so heartfelt
that he really broke down in trying to talk about it, this video - it`s
incredible. We are shocked by WCNC, which is the local NBC affiliate in
Charlotte, North Carolina. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY RICHARDSON, CAROLINA PANTHERS OWNER: Standing before you tonight, I
would be remiss if I did not acknowledge an issue weighing heavily on our
sport and on our society.
When it comes to domestic violence my stance is not one of indifference. I
stand firmly against domestic violence. Plain and simple. To those who
would suggest we have been too slow to act, I ask that you consider not to
be too quick to judge. Over the course of our 25 - 20 years, we have
worked extremely hard to build an organization, integrity and learn to
trust your community. I look forward to continue to earn the trust. And I
thank you for this award. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the owner of the Carolina Panthers football team really,
really struggling last night to make a statement about domestic violence.
And the question of whether the NFL sees that as an excusable thing or
whether it is something that is not tolerated by employees of the National
Greg Hardy is the employee of the National Football League who is most
recently convicted on domestic violence charges. He plays for that owner,
he plays for Jerry Richardson on the Carolina Panthers. And that team has
taken no action against him since his conviction. After taking that day
off yesterday from practice to meet his lawyers about his domestic violence
conviction, Mr. Hardy was back at practice today. And, despite all of that
emotion from the team owner last night, Greg Hardy, we`re told, is due to
play in the team`s second game of the season this weekend. As is Ray
McDonald who was currently out on bail with charges pending against him in
a similar matter in California.
The reason, of course, there is this new, incredible level of emotion in
this new pressure and all of this new attention around this problem is
because of Ray Rice who, this week, was fired from the Baltimore Ravens.
Ray Rice`s football season is clearly over, and it doesn`t look like he`s
going to have a future in football at all because of his domestic violence
against his fianc‚e. The way this huge, multi-billion dollar industry
dealt with Ray Rice about it and deals with the problem in general that is
not over. And what`s happening to the league about this, what`s happening
to the richest and basically the most potent cultural institution that we
have in the United States of America, what`s happening to the league on
this subject, is a story that is going faster now and not slower. And the
reason it is all happening is because of the Ray Rice case, right? And
because of the appearance specifically that the league looks like it may
have covered up the Ray Rice case to a certain degree before it finally
burst open into public view and they relented and changed course and
decided to suspend him this week. In February, after Ray Rice was arrested
and charged, the first video emerged just a couple of days after the
arrest, just a couple of days after that incident, in which he beat his
fianc‚e. The video that came out then, in February, showed the aftermath
of the beating. It showed his dragging her unconscious body halfway out of
an elevator and into a casino lobby in Atlantic City.
We are not going to show you that video. You have seen it if you want to
see it. That- I just described what it shows. This is a still from it.
No video has been out there since February.
And the police report has been clear from the beginning. That the reason
this woman was unconscious in that video is because Ray Rice rendered her
unconscious with his hands. He knocked her out. On the basis of that
police report, and that video. And other evidence reviewed by a grand jury
in New Jersey, Ray Rice was charged with a third degree felony, a charge
for which he could have faced up to five years in prison. Ray Rice pled
not guilty to that third degree felony, the court decided to allow him to
do a pretrial diversion program, in which he basically does a year of
counseling anger management courses and probation, so as to avoid being
prosecuted on that felony charge.
All of that happened, all of that was in the public domain already when the
NFL decided in July that the appropriate punishment for Mr. Rice having
done this was that he would be suspended for two games. Just so you know,
the second game of the Baltimore Raven`s season is tonight. So Ray Rice
would be back playing again tomorrow with the team had the original NFL
punishment for him been all that happened in this case.
Of course, it wasn`t all that happened because three days ago, the tabloid
news outlet, TMZ Sports, they released a second video that showed not just
the aftermath. Not just Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fianc‚e out of
the elevator. It showed how he knocked her out, it showed him punching
When that second video came out on Monday, the FNL and the Ravens decided
to revisit the case. Apparently, that video being out there in the public
eye was too much for them. Instead of his two game suspension, they
stepped it up, decided to fire him from the team and suspend him from the
league indefinitely. Had the league already seen that video? Seen the
video of Ray Rice punching her when they made the decision to just give him
the two-game slap on the wrist? Did the league and the team only decide to
fire him and make a much bigger deal of this when the public saw that tape,
even though the league itself had previously seen it and decided that it
was apparently no big deal? That`s the question now. That is the
absolutely unresolved question. When TMZ Sports posted that second video
online, the video showing the punch in the elevator, they reported at the
same time that hotel employees had told them that NFL personnel had seen
that tape already. The NFL absolutely denied that. But NFL said, no one
in our office had seen the tape until today, meaning Monday.
But then, last night, the Associated Press dropped another bombshell. They
reported that a law enforcement source said that he had sent the second
videotape, the punch videotape, the one showing the punch in the elevator.
Law enforcement - member of law enforcement told the Associated Press that
he had sent that second video to NFL headquarters. He wasn`t supposed to,
he wasn`t authorized to, that`s why he at this point is still an anonymous
source, but he tells the AP that he felt the NFL should see that videotape
of what happened in the elevator. The tape of Ray Rice knocking his
fianc‚e unconscious with a punch to her head. He thought that the league
should see that before they made a decision on Ray Rice`s punishment. And
so without authorization, he sent it to NFL headquarters. That source then
played a for the Associated Press a 12 second long voicemail time stamped
back in April. A voice mail that the AP says came from a number at the
NFL`s headquarters. And a female voice in that voicemail thanked the law
enforcement source for sending the tape. On the voicemail, she then says
you`re right. It`s terrible. Now, since then the NFL has responded to
that AP reporting by saying this, “We have no knowledge of this. We`re not
aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was
made public on Monday.” And then, late tonight, CBS Sports aired an
interview with the owner of the Baltimore Ravens who also disputes that AP
report and who`s now defending NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and how he`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The latest information that the league had been sent
the tape inside the video back in April. If that`s the case, negligence
went apart of the league office for not doing anything with it because the
commissioner maintains he didn`t see it. Certainly, none of the employees
or (INAUDIBLE) his knowledge of seeing it.
STEVE BISCIOTTI, BALTIMORE RAVENS OWNER: I believe Roger when he says he
never saw it. If the allegation is true that it got to the league office,
then somebody was negligent not getting that to Roger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Somebody who you definitely have never heard of.
In the wake of all of this, as all of this has been unfolding the NFL has
now gone further in what they say they`re going to do here. The NFL has
announced that they will investigate themselves. The NFL has put out a
statement saying they`ve hired Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI,
to lead an inquiry into how the NFL itself handled the Ray Rice case
including that evidence, the video of Ray Rice beating the woman who`s now
his wife, the video that the NFL says now justifies him being effectively
kicked out of the league and fired from the Ravens. But before, it did not
have that effect on at least two other side.
This is week two of the NFL season. The NFL is a huge multibillion dollar
industry. The NFL, for obvious reasons, wants everybody in the country
talking about football right now, right? Beginning of the season! But
instead what everybody in the country is talking about is not football as a
contest, but rather football as an industry that has players who are
beating up women. And the question of whether the league has been covering
it up in order to protect its reputation and its profits.
Tonight, ahead of their Thursday night game, the network broadcasting, they
decided to cancel what they were planning on doing for a pregame, and
instead run a news report on the league`s handling of the wife batterers
that play for the NFL. With Greg Hardy practicing in Carolina today and
set to play on Sunday, with Ray McDonald practicing today and set to play
on Sunday, the league is not putting the story behind it until people
believe they know what happens. Until there`s a credible resolution to the
question of whether or not the league saw that tape and lied about it,
whether they saw that tape and covered it up and hoped nobody would notice.
This story is not going to end until people are satisfied that we know what
The league appears to recognize this by announcing an esteemed former FBI
director as lead investigator into what happened. Remarkably though, in a
sign of just how insulated they are. And how much they do not understand
how their actions are viewed by the rest of the world, in appointing this
former FBI director to investigate what happened here, to get to the bottom
of what happened, they also assigned two NFL team owners. In fact, two of
the NFL commissioner`s strongest supporters among the team owners, to
“oversee the investigation into what the commissioner did and what the
league did and how they got this so wrong.”
Investigating yourself is always a little suspect. Appointing two of your
allies, two of your strongest loyalists to oversee a purportedly
independent investigation? That`s the kind of are you kidding me,
clueless, did you really just say that decision that has characterized this
whole ongoing and now growing scandal from the very beginning. This is a
very, very, very rich and very, very powerful and supposedly very well run
institution, which really has no parallel in American culture.
And this story, day-by-day now is metastasizing. It is getting worse and
bigger by the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BISCIOTTI: I believe Roger when he says he never saw it. If the
allegation is true that it got to the league office, then somebody was
negligent in not getting that to Roger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The owner of the Baltimore Ravens answering questions tonight
about the NFL`s ever expanding scandal about its handling of domestic
violence in the league including by Ravens running back Ray Rice. And
joining us now Shira Springer. She`s an investigative and enterprise
sports writer for “The Boston Globe.” Shira, thanks very much for being
here. I appreciate your time tonight.
SHIRA SPRINGER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, tonight, we have the owner of the Ravens as well as the NFL
itself disputing this report from the AP that the league was sent this
explosive tape of Ray Rice beating his fianc‚e months ago, well before it
became public this week. Where does this stand right now in terms of what
is known about the league`s behavior and what still needs to be proven?
SPRINGER: Well, I think what we know about the league`s behavior just from
its track record is that they do seem to have an arrogance about them if
they think they can look the other way, turn people`s focus the other way,
and not confront issues straight on. I fully believe that somebody in the
NFL did know or did see this tape. And that they`re trying to cover it up.
I think more about that needs to be proven, though, at this point.
MADDOW: The NFL says that it has appointed an independent investigator,
former head of the FBI, to look into what the NFL knew about this and when.
I sort of felt like in reading about that like, oh, so far so good and then
I got to the part where this investigation is then going to be overseen by
two NFL owners who are known as begin real loyalists of the commissioner
himself. I have to ask you if that`s what you would expect from the NFL.
Or if that`s a surprise to you. What do you think that means?
SPRINGER: Not surprising at all. And I think, also, goes back to that
arrogance of the NFL. And in addition to the two owners overseeing the
investigation, the investigator, Mueller, has ties to the NFL. He`s
previously worked with a law firm that was involved in different NFL-
related cases. And I think what you have here with the NFL is what you
have with a lot of powerful organizations, whether it be Wall Street firms,
whether it be police departments, whether it be politicians, you have
people who have either a tremendous amount of power, tremendous amount of
income or tremendous amount of influence. And they have operated in a way
in which they feel they can do whatever they want. And that people will
not press hard and will not investigate and will not put them under a white
hot spot light. Well, right now the NFL is under white hot spot light and
more people are looking over their shoulder than ever have before. Now,
what happens once this white hot spot light fades and we remove from the
Ray Rice situation will be very interesting because as much as though NFL
wants to make the public believe this is a Ray Rice issue as you pointed
out with the cases of McDonald and Hardy this is far from a Ray Rice issue.
MADDOW: Well, do you think that McDonald and Hardy are going to keep
practicing and playing with their teams? As normal? Obviously, the NFL
thinks that that`s the appropriate way to deal with their cases thus far.
With this new attention brought by Ray Rice, do you think that`s tenable?
Or is that going to be revisited?
SPRINGER: One would hope that it would be revisited, but I think the new
normal in the NFL looks a lot like the standard operating procedure. I
would not be surprised if they do keep practicing and playing until either
criminal charges, they`re convicted of something. Or there`s uproar in the
same way in which there was uproar with Ray Rice.
MADDOW: Shira Springer, sports reporter for the “Boston Globe”. Thanks
for helping us understand these new developments in this story. It`s
pleasure to have you here. Thanks.
SPRINGER: Thank you.
MADDOW: I`d say, I love football. I love professional football. I love
watching NFL games, I have for a very long time. It`s a big part of my
recreational behavior for 16 weeks plus out of the year every year. And I
can`t do it. You`re making me sick. This story is making me absolutely
sick. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Today marks 13 years since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
And, of course, everybody remembers where they were when it happens.
Whether they were anywhere near the mayhem itself or whether they just
heard the news. But there`s only one American who learned of the news that
day while he was not on earth. Frank Culbertson was in orbit when 9/11
happened. He was in space just beginning his third expedition to the
International Space Station. And when Commander Culbertson got in touch
with mission control that morning, September 11, 2001, not knowing what had
happened on earth. When he called in to give them a routine update from
the space station, they told him we`re not having a very good day down here
on earth. Mission control explained what had happened in the attacks, at
least as much as they knew at the time. And the commander Culbertson and
his colleagues on the space station, they took pictures of New York and the
Pentagon from space. As the space station passed over the Eastern seaboard
on its orbit that day. We posted them at our blog tonight, the letter that
Commander Culbertson wrote to those at home that day about what it was like
to be the only American in the world separated by an atmosphere from what
was happening that day, but being able to see it from space.
Tonight on MSNBC, starting at 11 p.m. Eastern, which is right after
Lawrence`s show, we`re going to be doing something special. We`re airing a
collection of the news coverage of that day, as it happened, including this
moment, in the moment as it was happening from Tom Brokaw, 13 years ago
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW: It`s also worth pointing out that terrorism also always has
two prongs to it, the physical threat and now the psychological threat.
This does seem to be surreal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The special coverage, again, starts at 11 p.m. Eastern tonight,
right after Lawrence`s show. I thought you would want to know we are going
to do that, but personally, I should tell you my advice, that I think you
should watch it because it`s incredible. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The man on the right side of this picture we`re going to show you,
the man on the right side there is 90 years old when this picture was
taken. His name is Theodore Green, Senator Theodore Green. At the time
this picture was taken in 1957, he was chair of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. And as you can see, in this brilliant series of
photos by “New York Times photographer George Tames, you can see how Lyndon
Johnson talking to Theodore Green starts as a kind of normal conversation.
Somewhere a couple of pictures into it, it starts to look like a mugging.
But then by the end of the series, Johnson is basically standing on top of
him. As if George Tames is the hill that he has conquered. This is always
referred to as the Johnson treatment. And that series of photos has always
been amazing to me.
That series that was less famous then, than this one, this image of
Johnson, in which he`s giving a more cheering version of the Johnson
treatment to his Supreme Court nominee Abe Fortas. This picture was taken
once LBJ was out of the Senate. When he was president. And if you go to
the LBJ presidential library and museum, in fact, that picture is so famous
that they have printed it up life-size. But they`ve taken Abe Fortas out
of the picture so you can go stand next to the life-size Lyndon Johnson and
see what it felt like to have the man leaning in on you like that, bending
you to his wheel.
Now, that was the great legend of LBJ, right? The reason he was able to
get so much done is that he didn`t persuade from a distance. He was
personally involved in moving people, sometimes physically, to where he
wanted them to be. And he did it with everybody, but he`s particularly
famous for having done it with Congress. Which has invited unfavorable
comparisons for every president since then. That nobody else could move
Congress, could personally untwist Congress, into getting his way the way
that LBJ could. President Obama no exception. If you google Obama and LBJ
all of the headline results you get are about how President Obama is so
comparatively aloof the reason he can`t get Congress to do what he wants,
is because he`s not wrangling them individually, leaning in on them one-on-
one the way that Johnson did. “Washington Post” wrote in 2011 “Personal
lobbying on behalf of legislation, President Obama prefers to leave that to
Vice President Biden. He is the old school political charmer.” And it is
true, between the two of them, Vice President Biden has always had a little
more of a touch of the close talking, right? He`s a hugger - he`s a hugger
in a good way, he`s a physically proximate person when he is talking to
people in a political contest. Particularly when he`s trying to get them
to move to his way of thinking.
President Obama for all of his political gifts, he`s not that guy. He`s a
very, very different style. But here`s the thing that happened today in
Congress. Today the House of Representatives was doing a vote on the
ginormous funding bill that funds the whole government. It`s the must-pass
bill. When they don`t pass it, we get a government shutdown. And they
were due to move that today in the House. But that really, really big,
really important vote in the House today was held by the request of the
president, by the personal request of the president, by President Obama
personally picking up the phone and calling the congressman who runs the
appropriations committee in the House and asking him one to one, man-to-
man, to please do him the favor of holding that bill so Congress could
consider some of his proposals on fighting ISIS.
This is from “The Washington Post.” “Around dinner time Tuesday, House
Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers received an unexpected
phone call about the government funding bill he was about to unveil.
President Obama was on the line with a request. By Wednesday evening,
House Republican leaders had agreed to pull back the funding bill and
consider Obama`s request. So they were all set to vote. The president
called, initially and apparently the Congressman told the president no, no,
it`s too late. We can`t pull it back now. But then they scrambled. His
staff figured out a way to do it anyway because the president asked
personally. And it wasn`t just with that one Republican congressman this
week. President Obama apparently also did it with the Republican who
chairs the intelligence committee as well. And this is great tape. You
can hear how it pays off here. You never, ever hear Republican Congressman
talk about the president in any way that doesn`t involve some insult,
right? That does not have some brick in the middle of it. Except,
apparently, when the president has personally just called that member of
Congress and talked to him at length about what`s on the president`s mind.
Then things go differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE ROGERS: I think he did make the case to the American people. He
laid out how dangerous they are and why it`s a problem for the homeland and
why we need to take action.
STEVE INSKEEP: Is the strategy right?
ROGERS: Well, you know, the devil is always in the detail. So, as
chairman of the intelligence committee, I`ll be spending the next few days
going through those very important details. I think it is - I had a great
conversation with the president yesterday about what this looks like and
what his vision of it is and how the Department of Defense and our
intelligence services have laid out a way forward in attacking and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So let me get this straight. The Republican congressman, head of
the intelligence committee says he thinks President Obama gave a good
speech, he did make the case to the American people. President Obama has
the right strategy and Congress should move forward on implementing
President Obama`s vision? What universe am I in? Maybe it`s just because
this is about war so all bets are off? But maybe it`s because the president
is personally talking to members of Congress about this stuff. Even
Republicans, one on one, leaning in, making the case to them personally
himself. That has not been this president`s style in the past with
Congress, but right now on this issue of fighting ISIS, he`s really working
it personally. Really selling it, himself, one on one. What`s interesting
because the president isn`t asking very much from Congress? He`s not
asking Congress, for example, to vote to authorize his expanded use of
force against this group ISIS. He says he`d welcome Congress` support on
this, but he`s not asking for a formal vote. Congress for its part, they
say, they may vote on the specific issue of arming the rebels in Syria, but
even with that it`s pretty clear that regardless of whether or not Congress
holds that vote, or how they vote on it, this president is planning on
going ahead with what he outlined last night with his military counter
terrorism strategy that he outlined in his prime time address. Continued
air strikes in Iraq against ISIS. And, also, opening up a whole new
battleground for the United States, airstrikes inside Syria.
Right now, there are just under 29,000 American troops serving in the war
in Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan almost never makes the news
anymore, but it is obviously ongoing, almost 30,000 Americans serving there
right now. They`re mostly due to leave Afghanistan by the end of this
year. But the administration`s made clear that there will be an ongoing
U.S. security roll in Afghanistan after the end of the war. What does it
look like for the U.S. to have an ongoing security role? In some other
country that we are not at war in?
If you want to know what that looks like for the U.S. to be doing
essentially counterterrorism policing in some other country that we`re not
occupying? You don`t have to look far to see what that looks like. We`ve
been doing that for ten years. Just immediately over the border from
Afghanistan in parts of Pakistan, in the tribal areas of Pakistan including
North Waziristan. We`ve been engaged in a military, Connecticut,
counterterrorism campaign in that country for ten years now. We`ve been
bombing Pakistan on and off since 2004. The first counterterrorism, not a
war, a drone strike, was even earlier than that, it was 2002 in Yemen,
targeting an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, November 2002. Then we stopped
bombing Yemen for a long time, we picked back up with those bombings in
2009. We`ve continued bombing Yemen on and off since 2009, including most
recently today. Government in Yemen saying today that five al-Qaeda
suspects were killed by a U.S. drone strike there.
So, we`ve had, one of this aerial bombardment campaign is going on in
Pakistan since 2004, in Yemen since 2002, in Somalia since 2011, including
the big drunk strike there last week that killed the head of the al Qaeda
linked terrorist group in that country that U.S. has been targeting in
Somalia since 2011.
Right now, we are in year 14 of the full scale American war in Afghanistan.
Year 13 of bombing Pakistan. Year 11 or - year 13 of bombing Yemen, yeah
11 of bombing Pakistan, year five of bombing Somalia. I mean three years
after the end of our formal war in Iraq, we`ve now just started a new
counterterrorism aerial bombing campaign in Iraq where over 150 airstrikes
in Iraq, in the past month alone. Now we have a new one to add. As of
last night, the president says, that - these type of campaign will extend
to Syria as well.
All of these aerial bombardment campaigns, right, right now in Afghanistan
it`s a full scale war, but you better believe that when we leave there,
there`s going to be some sort of aerial counter-terrorism campaign mounted
in that country thereafter. All of these things going on all at the same
time. All indefinitely. What`s different about Syria, though, it`s not
just an addition, what it`s qualitatively different about Syria? Is that
unlike Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia and Iraq and soon-to-be Afghanistan,
all countries, where we have indefinite ongoing bombing campaigns that we
don`t call war, right? Unlike all those countries, in Syria, the new one
we`re about to start, that`s the only one of those countries where the
government of that country says if we do try to drop bombs there, they are
going to shoot down our planes. Or at least they might shoot down our
planes. I can`t guarantee that they won`t. That`s not happening in any of
these other countries that we`ve bombing for all these years. In Syria
NBC chief global correspondent Bill Neely had an amazing interview today
with the deputy foreign minister of Syria. You might remember last night
in our special coverage we had Bill Neely live from Damascus, responding to
the president`s speech about bombing Syria. Well, today, Bill Neely in
Syria, interviewed the deputy foreign minister of that country about how
the Syrian government feels about the American president saying that we are
about to start bombing inside their country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAISAL MEKDAD, SYRIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: The battle against ISIS
will not be conducted the way the United States, us and everybody in the
BILL NEELY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: But do you demand to know when U.S.
warplanes are going to strike your country and where?
MEKDAD: In order not to make any mistakes, I think close coordination
should be conducted.
NEELY: So that your war planes do not engage U.S. war planes?
MEKDAD: There should be no mistakes. In this regard. Because when
mistakes are being made, then both parties will pay the price for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Syrian deputy foreign minister warning today in that interview
with Bill Neely that if the U.S. does start bombing raids over Syria,
there`s an unfortunate chance that Syria might try to shoot down those U.S.
planes. Which, means yes, at one level, we`re just adding Syria to Iraq
and Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan, adding them to the list of all these
places where we`re bombing indefinitely for counterterrorism purposes and
nobody really knows when it ends.
On the other hand, it shows you that Syria might be a qualitatively
different move. And not just because ISIS is a larger group, and a
different style group than the other terrorist organization that the U.S.
has been targeting in other countries. This is a bigger deal. And yes,
the president seems to be very personally engaged and diplomatically, the
effort to bring together a big international coalition on this is paying
off. At least on paper. Tonight, John Kerry is meeting with the Saudi
King, tomorrow he`s on his way to Turkey. Today, all of these countries
signed on to what they are calling the Jidda communique agreeing that
they`ll all cooperate with each other and with a broader coalition to fight
against ISIS including “as appropriate, joining in the many aspects of a
coordinative military campaign against ISIS.” Really?
That`s a big deal because the signers on to that letter are Egypt, Iraq,
Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Emirates, Amman, Qatar and Bahrein.
They are all on board, at least on paper, with potentially participating in
military strikes against ISIS. That`s a big deal. This is a big deal.
So, and two questions, this is a huge effort being mounted against this
group. Does the threat posed by this group rise to the level where it
warrants this escalation of effort? Question one. Question two, do we
really want this to be the new normal of the way we interact with the
world? Do we want to be doing this all over the world forever
indefinitely? In counterterrorism campaign that go on indefinitely and
that we don`t call war. Just adding new countries to the list of where we
do this stuff every year, year after year? I mean there`s a reason we`ve
been doing this kind of campaign in Pakistan for ten years. It`s because
year five, year six, year seven, year eight, year nine, that apparently
wasn`t enough. And there`s no sign of its stopping yet. How many countries
in the world are we going to do this for? And when does it ever stop?
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: This week, a very rear thing happened. A Democratic incumbent
member of Congress lost his seat in a primary. Long time Massachusetts
Democrat John Tierney was beaten in his primary this week by a young
challenger named very rare thing happened. A democratic incumbent member
of Congress lost his seat in a primary. Long-time Massachusetts democrat
John Tierney was beaten in his primary this week by a young challenger
named Seth Moulton. Seth Moulton is the United States Marine, he`s a
veteran of the Iraq war, he served four tours of duty in Iraq over the
course of five years. He said in his campaign for Congress when he
launched it that although he opposed the war in Iraq, he never regretted
doing what he could to serve his country. With more than 1,000 Americans
now back in Iraq and an airstrike campaign there being expanded, and
expanded not just there, but expanded potentially over the border into
Syria, veterans of the Iraq war have perspective on this that was earned
the hard way and ought to be listened to.
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Seth Moulton. Mr. Moulton,
congratulations on your primary win this week. And thanks for being here.
SETH MOULTON, (D-MA), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Thanks very for having me,
MADDOW: So, I have to ask if you think that there`s - if there`s a sort of
level of insight that we ought to be looking to Iraq veterans for when we
consider these new decisions about war and what looks like war inside Iraq
and potentially in Syria. Do veterans have something special to add to the
MOULTON: Look, I think, I think we do. Actually, ten years ago last
month, I was serving as a Marine and my mission was to be a military
adviser in Iraq. Now, I`ll tell you, when the Iraqi unit we were advising
came under assault by the militia in Najaf, we went to their assistance and
quickly became embroiled in the worst combat of the war until that time.
So, it showed that a military advisory mission can very quickly become
ground combat. And that`s one of the things I`m worried about with the
president`s current strategy. I mean let`s not forget, the Vietnam War
started as a military advisory mission.
MADDOW: In terms of the way this is being debated, there`s been a lot of
discussion about this sort of red line, according to Secretary of State
John Kerry, that there won`t be combat troops in Iraq, that it`s not
combat. That said, airstrikes are happening. And it`s not just drones.
It`s manned aircraft as well. I just say, there`s plenty of advisers
there. We`re at 1100 and probably going up to 1,500 very shortly with the
president`s announcement last night. Is it wrong to be drawing a bright
line and saying those folks are there but they are not in combat, that this
is not a combat mission? They are just there doing something else.
MOULTON: Well, I think this is very hard. I think that line quickly
becomes blurred when you`re on the ground. For one thing, it`s very
difficult to accurately target an insurgent force, which is integrated
among the population. If you don`t have troops on the ground directing the
airstrikes. Otherwise it`s very difficult to actually target the
insurgents and not kill civilians. So if you have advisers that are close
enough to the frontlines to help direct those airstrikes, it`s very quick
and very easy for them to get drawn into real combat.
MADDOW: Do you think that Congress ought to be voting on an authorization
to use military force based on what the president sketched out last night?
If expansion of the campaign in Iraq and potentially an extension into
Syria. Congress ought to be - should Congress be voting on that
MOULTON: Absolutely. And Congress should also be asking some very
difficult questions about exactly how this campaign is going to be carried
out. I mean look, when ISIS went into Iraq, they swept over the Iraqi
army. But it`s not that they overwhelmed the Iraqi army. The Iraqi army
put their weapons down and went home because they had no faith in Prime
Minister Maliki`s sectarian government. The Iraqi army actually outnumbers
ISIS by out 30 to 1. The point is that the fundamental problem in Iraq
today is a political problem, not a military problem. The Iraqi army
doesn`t have any trust in the government that they`re supposed to defend.
So I would rather see Congress and the president sending political advisers
to Baghdad to help put together the Iraqi government, so the Iraqi army
could do this job itself. And I think ultimately at the end of the day,
Iraq has to be able to defend its own borders.
MADDOW: Seth Moulton, Iraq war veteran running for Congress in
Massachusetts. Four tours of duty there, including one of the first
platoons into Baghdad at the very start of the war. Mr. Moulton, again,
congratulations on your win this week. Thanks for being here to help us
MOULTON: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We have more ahead and we`ll be right back.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold. Our latest contender for the very competitive award,
strangest chart we have made so far on “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.” We had to
make this very strange chart so we can keep track of one of the strangest
political stories in the country right now. I mean at first, on an
envelope, but now we put it through the graphics machine, and it looks like
this. Tomorrow night, I promise, I will walk you through it, LBL, Lavon,
Lois, Lennie, Les and Lola, because Lavon, Lois, Lennie, Les and Lola are
not just pleasingly alliterative players in the surprising political story,
they`re part of a thing, a rash of political surprises that have broken out
in a whole bunch of red states in this home stretch before the elections
this year. Red states surprises that are all surprisingly similar. We are
going to have a special report view on that on tomorrow night show
including Lavon, Lois, Lennie, Les and Lola. Never happened on the next
night, and after.
MADDOW: That`s it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow and it`s
time for the “Last Word” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for being with us
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