The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/12/14

Guests:
Sabrina Siddiqui, Doug Heye
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: All right. That is “ALL IN” for this
evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you.

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

OK. The man at the witness table is a doctor. He`s a very
accomplished American doctor who is of Indian-American origin. He grew up
in Miami, Florida.

The man at the dais, the man who starts this conversation you`re
about to see is a United States senator from Kansas, specifically from
Dodge City, Kansas.

And here is how their conversation went.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Have you ever been to Dodge City,
Kansas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not, sir. But I would love to come.

ROBERTS: Well, good. I`m going to invite you. And because we have
a wonderful doctor from India, she`s in her mid-30s and she`s highly
respected by the community and another doctor from India that did my carpal
tunnel on this when I did a stupid thing, and so I think you`d be right at
home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He`d be right at home in dodge city because other people
from India are also there. Yes.

Welcome to the United States, American citizen who has lived here
your whole life. You should try Kansas, you`ll see others of your kind.

Thanks to this year`s election, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is
coming back for another term in the Senate.

Democratic Senator Mark Begich from Alaska, though, may not be coming
back. As we reported last night, 50,000 outstanding votes remain to be
counted in that race in Alaska. As of tonight that number is down from
50,000, now closer to 30,000. That`s still a huge number of votes still
left unaccounted a week after the election. But the “Associated Press”
today called the Alaska Senate race for Mark Begich`s Republican opponent
Dan Sullivan.

Dan Sullivan then declared victory today. Mark Begich is so far
refusing to concede that race. But with this “A.P.” call now, signs are
pointing towards Mark Begich not coming back to the Senate.

That leaves the only outstanding Senate seat from this year`s
elections, the seat that is held by Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu in
Louisiana. She`s in a runoff that will happen December 6th.

Mary Landrieu has won a couple of Senate runoffs in Louisiana in the
past, but the odds are thought to be against her in this one, so much so
that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee pulled all of their ad
support for her that they were planning for the runoff.

But today in Washington, the first day of the lame duck session,
Senator Landrieu took to the floor of the Senate apparently with support
from her Democratic colleagues in the Senate to talk about what she wants
to try to do to try to save her Senate seat.

She announced today that she wants a vote immediately to approve the
Keystone XL oil pipeline. I say immediately, I mean immediately. She
literally wants the vote to happen tomorrow.

Will that save Mary Landrieu`s Senate seat?

Well, let`s look at one specific thing about what it is she wants to
vote on. It`s the bill that has already passed the House to force
construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. One name on that bill, sponsor
of that bill, is Mary Landrieu`s opponent in that December 6th runoff for
the Senate seat. It`s a Republican bill.

Bill Cassidy, who she`s running against, Congressman Bill Cassidy
sponsored that Keystone bill. So, if Mary Landrieu bravely defies the
Democratic Party and President Obama to get that passed, what she will be
passing is her opponent`s bill! So yay! Slam dunk, now she beats him?
That`s a way to get him. Get his bill passed.

Voters in Louisiana on December 6 are going to have a choice between
a Republican guy who supports Keystone or the Democratic senator who
supports Keystone. If they`re going to vote on Keystone, that says nothing
about whether or not she can win. There`s no choice on that subject in
that Senate runoff.

And so, the Democrats in the Senate in their infinite wisdom have
apparently now lined up behind the Mary Landrieu strategy that they`re
going to defy the wishes of the president, defy the Democratic Party`s
base, defy the richest, honestly, of the Democratic donor class who`s not
all that psyched about throwing good money after bad at them, anyway, and
they`re going to go for Keystone because it will not help Mary Landrieu now
anyway but it will kind of screw the environment. Give the Republicans
what they want, upset the Democratic base, set the president up for a
painful presidential veto, and split the Democratic Party in Congress and
depress Democratic donors.

Why wouldn`t we do it? Honestly, it will win Democrats nothing, at
great cost.

So, the big news out of Washington today is that they`re going for
it.

Today was day one of the lame duck session of Congress. They`re
going to work seven days this month and a grand total of eight days next
month. But these 15 days, these are the last days that the Democrats will
be in control of the Senate before the Republicans take over in January.
And once Republicans take over, they`ll do what they want, right?

But right now, the Democrats are in control, they can do what they
want. They`re still in control of the Senate. And apparently what
Democrats want to do is a lot of stuff that will hurt themselves and their
party`s policy priorities and help the Republicans get what they want
without a sweat.

Today, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough went to Capitol
Hill and told Senate Democrats that for this last session, for this last
lame duck session, while Democrats are still in control of the Senate, what
they should focus on is things that the Senate can do alone, and things
that the Senate can do with a majority vote while Democrats still hold that
majority.

He said specifically that Senate Democrats should focus on
nominations, on getting the president`s nominees confirmed.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We talked about
nominations generally and we really want to get, obviously, get some
progress and get our people into the slots because we`ve got a lot of
important work to do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: There is one thing that Senate Democrats definitely can do
right now alone with this last bit of power that they`ve got before the
Republicans take control of the Senate. They can confirm President Obama`s
pending nominees.

I mean, the Republicans certainly are not going to do that when
they`re in control, right? But the Democrats could do that now. That`s
what they could spend this time doing.

There are about 160 Obama nominees of various kinds pending right
now, including a couple dozen judges. One of the highest profile nominees
is, of course, the president`s choice for attorney general of the United
States, Loretta Lynch. As we reported last night, Senate Democrats have
inexplicably decided to not even try to confirm her while they`re still in
control. They`re instead just going to hope that Mitch McConnell will do
it. He seems really nice now.

It`s not clear on what Senate Democrats plan on spending their time
doing, instead of confirming the attorney general or any of these other
nominations that the White House says are their biggest priority and that
are in the power of the Senate Democrats to pass if they want to, what else
are they going to do besides that? So far, the only concrete thing we`ve
heard is they want to work on the Republican idea for the Keystone pipeline
because Mary Landrieu wants to lose her Senate seat with a feather in her
cap.

Here`s another idea, though. One of the surprises on Election Day,
at least one of the surprises that defied the overall narrative of Election
Day which is that it was a huge Republican night – one of the things that
didn`t go that way was the issue of guns. Everywhere that gun safety, gun
reform were on the ballot, they won on Tuesday night.

In Washington state, this is interesting, it was a measure on the
ballot that would implement background checks for all gun sales in
Washington state. The gun lobby countered with a competing ballot measure
that would have banned background checks for gun sales in the state. So,
both of those were on the ballot at the same time.

I should tell you that six Washington state counties did stick their
thumb in the eye of logic by voting to pass them both. In six counties,
they passed both a thing and a ban on that thing simultaneously. So,
that`s kind of amazing.

But outside of those six counties, overall in Washington state, it
was a big win for background checks. Background checks passed by an 18-
point margin and the competing bill, the deliberately confusing ban on
background checks that was also on the ballot at the same time Washington
state voters voted no on that one by 10 points.

So, gun reform passed in Washington despite this bamboozling effort
and despite six Washington state counties being amazing. The gun reform
passed in Washington.

Also in the same election, Republicans did pretty great in governors`
races coast to coast, but two races where they thought they were going to
be winning, they were definitely going to be claiming Democratic scalps if
they claimed them anywhere. Two places where they thought they would oust
the sitting Democratic governors were the states of Connecticut and
Colorado.

You remember that the NRA put out this sort of horror movie of a
magazine right before the election – vote your guns. It`s a terrifying
world. Chaos is at our door.

That horror movie magazine included this report card for Connecticut
Governor Dan Malloy. He got the big “F” from the NRA. The reason they
were so upset with him is in the wake of the Newtown Elementary School
massacre, Governor Malloy signed gun safety reforms in Connecticut.

Similar measures were passed in Colorado and signed by Colorado
Governor John Hickenlooper. The NRA went after him as well.

These are the NRA`s financial disclosures before the election in
Colorado. They`re very specific, 57 – excuse me, $5,758.56 for, quote,
phone bank opposing Hickenlooper for governor, $37,591.50 for printing
color post cards against Hickenlooper for governor, $299,095.85 for TV ads
opposing John Hickenlooper for governor.

The NRA went all out, right? They thought they, for sure, they were
gong to oust these two Democratic governors who dared to sign background
checks legislation and other gun safety legislation after massacres in
their states, but both of those Democratic governors survived. Even on
this hugely Republican election night that we just had.

And in the state of Colorado, it wasn`t even just Hickenlooper, it
was even worse for the NRA. After that Colorado legislation, the gun
safety legislation passed in the wake of Newtown and the Aurora movie
theater massacre in Colorado, the gun lobby mounted a recall campaign
against two state senators who voted for that legislation. These recalls
were low turnout elections held in isolation two months before any other
Election Day, a very tiny proportion of voters turned the out. It was
absolutely a single issue election,

But the voters who didn`t turn out voted strongly to throw out these
state senators, to throw them out because of their gun votes, to throw them
out on behalf of the gun lobby. And with their typical class, the gun
lobby in Colorado then distributed these images of tombstones with the
names of those senators on them that they`d run recalls against because
they killed them. They killed those senators.

And then they put up the third gravestone saying, “Who`s next?`,
along with an AR-15 on the bottom there. So, who are the guys the AR-15 is
going to murder next?

That was nice, in Colorado. But those recall elections happened last
year in September.

This year on election night in Colorado even as, you know, Mark Udall
lost his Senate seat to Cory Gardner and part of the legislature went back
to Republicans, even on that big Republican night coast to coast, which was
a good Republican night in Colorado broadly, not only did John Hickenlooper
hold on to his seat against all that spending from the NRA, but the two gun
rights candidates who ousted those state senators purely on the basis of a
one issue gun rights campaign, those two gun rights people who ousted the
senators both lost their seats. Democrats took both of those seats back,
including one Democrat who used to be the Colorado coordinator for Michael
Bloomberg`s Mayors Against Illegal Guns Group. That`s who holds that seat
now that the gun lobby had put the gravestone about.

Democrats had a tough time overall in the election and Republicans
overall did great. But this headline in the “New Republic” this week is
right, Republicans won the midterms, the NRA did not.

And that raises a really specific question, which is totally within
the power of the Democratic Party to do right now.

One of the nominations that President Obama has made for a really
important, really high profile job, nomination that the Senate has not
acted on, is his nomination for surgeon general of the United States.
That`s the guy who Senator Pat Roberts thought would be right at home in
Dodge City because there are other Indian people there, too.

Vivek Murthy did not get a vote in the Senate because the NRA said
they did not want there to be a vote on him in the Senate. The NRA said
they would score the vote on an NRA report card if the Senate put him up
for a vote. And so, they didn`t do it.

The reason they`re so against him is that Vivek Murthy once signed on
to relatively mainstream public health position that gun violence is a
public health problem in the United States. In the real world, in a
country with this many shootings, that`s not actually a controversial
statement unless gunshot wounds just don`t seem like that much of a problem
to you.

But the NRA getting hysterical about that position is why we don`t
have a surgeon general. Right now, the White House says they want
Democrats in the Senate to prioritize nominations while they still hold the
Senate and they can pass whatever nominations they want.

One of the nominations the president has made this the Senate could
act on and pass with a majority vote with just Democrats voting for him in
the Senate right now in this lame duck period is Vivek Murthy for surgeon
general.

What`s the reason not to do that? Because you`re afraid of the NRA?
Right, I guess?

I mean, the NRA is going to oppose Democrats no matter what Democrats
do. Ask Arkansas Senator no-longer Mark Pryor. He voted no on the
Democrats` background check bill in the Senate. Big wet kiss to the NRA,
right? Then the NRA turned out and endorsed his opponent anyway and ran
about a million and a half dollars worth of ads against him in Arkansas.
How did that vote pay off for you, Senator?

Mary Landrieu is gong to trying to force a vote on Keystone. And
then, you know what`s going to happen? The Republicans are going to attack
her as a radical environmentalist anyway.

There is no substantive objection to the nomination of Loretta Lynch
to the attorney general of the United States. She`s been unanimously
confirmed by the United States Senate twice already in her career, but if
you give the Republicans the ability to control whether or not Loretta
Lynch gets confirmed, they will find a way to turn her into a Kenyan gay,
Marxist, alien, Muslim Brotherhood Ebola carrier, right?

I mean, doing what Republican interest groups want because you think
then they`ll be nice to you because you gave them what they want, that is
the original sin of this era of the Democratic Party.

In this lame duck session, they have one last chance to actually get
some substantive stuff done. And yes, Republicans will cry and moan and
complain about it. But Republicans will cry and moan and complain anyway
no matter what the Democrats do.

Is there any reason to believe that the Democrats will wake up to
this reality and actually get something done? Could the Loretta Lynch
confirmation get done? Could the Vivek Murthy confirmation get done? Can
anything get done?

Joining us now is Sabrina Siddiqui. She`s political reporter at “The
Huffington Post”. She`s been writing about gun politics among other
matters.

Ms. Siddiqui, thanks very much for being with us.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: The Vivek Murthy nomination sort of – was off the radar for
a very long time after the Senate decided to shelf it, despite that threat
from the NRA. What do you make about, I guess, the chances of gun reform
groups now essentially trying to put him back on the agenda based on what
just happened in the elections?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that the Ebola crisis in particular
highlighted the fact that the Senate has yet to confirm a surgeon general.
So, certainly there`s momentum that`s stemmed from the talk about the
conversation around Ebola and the fact that we didn`t have a surgeon
general to try to explain to the American people more about – more
information about the disease and why they shouldn`t be panicking.

But the problem is that there are roughly ten Senate Democrats who
continue to oppose Dr. Murthy`s nomination because of comments he made
criticizing politicians for being too scared of the NRA to enact stricter
gun laws. And there`s little indication that that has changed even though
most of those Senate Democrats have lost their seats. So, they have
nothing to lose really by supporting him now. But the NRA really continues
to hold a considerable influence over lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

MADDOW: Even as the NRA runs ads against Democratic senators who
have helped them with votes like that and positions like that in the past
because Democrats enjoy punches themselves in the face. From – I`m sorry.

From your reporting about what could happen and what Democrats do
prioritize right now, the Loretta Lynch vote right now, it sounds like
Senate Democrats are not planning on moving on that at all, that they`ll
wait for the Republicans to take it up and see what happens there.

Do you have any insight or any reporting into what the strategic
thinking is there? Because it doesn`t seem to make much sense, if they do
really want Loretta Lynch to be confirmed.

SIDDIQUI: Well, the strategic thinking is to focus on a lot of the
judicial vacancies right now, which Republicans will outright oppose when
they take control of the Senate. So, Democrats really want to use this
narrow window they have, they`re only going to be in session for a total of
two weeks to try to confirm as many of the pending nominations as they can
with a simple majority while they still have it.

Republicans have said that they don`t – they will give Loretta Lynch
a fair shot and they just want more time. They want more hearings, they
want more meetings. And I think Democrats believe that Republicans won`t
have much reason to oppose her, so long as there aren`t any missteps when
it comes to her confirmation hearings.

I think what Republicans want to do is take her temperature on the
subject of immigration since the president is potentially pursuing
executive action on immigration, but otherwise, they have said they have
little reason to oppose her.

MADDOW: Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter at “The Huffington
Post” – thanks very much for your time tonight. I appreciate you being
here.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Much ahead tonight, including a world record,
one with very, very local relevance here, and a super weird “Moment of
Geek”.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: On the screen, see how there`s that thing on the screen
right there? I can`t see that physically in real space, but I can see it
in the monitor that it`s there. There, there it is. It`s weird.

I start to think after doing this job a long time that this virtual
reality stuff right there, those splitting numbers exist in real life, too.
It makes me behave weirdly, especially while driving.

Anyway, but you know what that is? It`s a countdown clock. And what
it is showing is that a thing is about to start in exactly that long.

This September, one of the all-time most important world records was
shattered when this woman in a bathrobe in Norway, a tired Norwegian
meteorologist in stripy socks did the weather continuously for 33 straight
hours, 33 hours of explaining weather. She actually broke the record at
the 24-hour mark, but she had enough energy and enough weather that she
just kept rolling on for another nine hours after the record fell.

And thus the gauntlet was thrown, all other long-wined meteorologists
had to bow to her greatness. The line starts with this person named Elie
(ph) from Norway, but apparently everybody else has to get behind her.

Now, though, one man, one master atmospheric prognosticator has
stepped out from the fog to challenge the Nordic goddess of long-winded
weather and that man, obviously, is Al Roker, the national treasure that is
named Al Roker.

The world record longest continuous weather cast right now is 33
hours thanks to that lady in Norway, but it`s about to be 34 hours because
that`s what Al Roker is about to do. They`re going to air it on Today.com
as well as the “Today” show on NBC and local affiliates.

But the thing I have you tell us is that it is going to start here.
It will start here in just a few minutes on “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE
O`DONNELL” and that`s what this countdown clock thing is about. It`s a
countdown to the Al Roker-thon, 34 straight hours of weather.

And just so you know how this is going to go, this is not an old
school filibuster. Mr. Roker cannot just get up there and read from the
phone book or the 1932 farmer`s almanac. There are rules.

Number one, he must talk about weather the whole time. Number two,
he can only talk about the current weather. He can only talk about weather
from up to seven days ago or weather seven days from now. So, he can`t do
a 153 weather forecast.

And number three, every 60 minutes, he gets a five-minute break which
can be carried over. So, if we goes for six straight hours without taking
that break, he can add up the five minutes he banked and then take a 30-
minute break.

Usually, TV stunts are kind of stupid and, in fact, some Guinness
World Records are kind of stupid. But honestly, this one`s about the
weather. The weather! And Al Roker`s also using it to raise funds for the
USO.

So come on. It starts in just a little bit. That`s exactly how
close we are. That`s when it starts.

Look at me. I usually care about nothing on television. This I care
about. I got to say. I`m so jealous of Lawrence that it`s starting on his
show. This is going to be awesome.

All right. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And it is the biggest and
perhaps the most important mandate a political party has had in the recent
era, and it is very simple what that mandate is. It is to stop Barack
Obama. It is to stop the Democrat Party. There is no other reason why
Republicans were elected yesterday. Republicans were not elected to
govern.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: There is going to be a firestorm on Capitol
Hill. You`re going to see calls for impeachment. I don`t mean that
necessarily they`ll do it, but there will be calls for it.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Some of the other things people are
suggesting, such as possible impeachment of the president for what many
will consider lawless actions if he goes too far. Some would suggest if he
goes too far, he should be impeached.

How big would the action have to be? What would he have to do to
make it an impeachable offense, you know, that would so offend the
Republicans that they would take the political perilous step of impeaching
him?

Is President Obama trying to bait the Republicans into impeaching
him?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Normally, if a president does something that
would be bringing the country to a tipping point, the first thing people
would say is impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: So, it`s still kumbaya let`s work together in the
conservative media land, and among Republicans.

The unifying post election theme in the wake of the elections is, as
you see here on the screen behind the chairman – stop Obama. That`s
really their big idea.

Everything President Obama does is positively outrageous to the
Republicans and to the conservative media. And that was before President
Obama went to China and negotiated a one on one U.S. and China agreement on
pollution and climate change.

Republicans` reason for living was that President Obama must be
stopped! Even before this. How much does the president`s new surprise
climate agreement up that ante for them?

In 2012, Robert Draper published a book called “Ddo not ask what good
we do” inside the House of Representatives. The opening vignette from that
book was inauguration day 2009 when President Obama was being sworn in to
start his first term. And Robert Draper`s telling, a group of senior
Republicans met that day on inauguration day to plot a strategy of opposing
the new president on all policy, on every bill. They would oppose him as a
matter of strategy even when they actually agreed with him, they would say
no, to anything coming from him.

That revelation in the Robert Draper book suddenly made a lot of
things make sense from President Obama`s first term that otherwise had
seemed pretty weird at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This law failed by
seven votes – when seven Republicans, who had co-sponsored the bill, had
co-sponsored the idea, suddenly walked away from their own proposal after I
endorsed it. So, they make a proposal, they sign on to the bill, “I say,
great, good idea.” I turn around, they`re gone. What happened?

(END VIDEO CLIP

MADDOW: Yes, they did agree with you on stuff, but they couldn`t
possibly do anything with you. They decided that would be a fate worse
than death.

And this has been a fruitful strategy for the Republican Party. They
won the House in 2010, they won the Senate in 2014. And really nothing
gets done at all.

Nothing, nothing gets done in Congress. After Republicans took the
House in 2010, that Congress is officially on the record books as the least
productive Congress in the history of Congress. But they`re about to lose
that title to the Congress that came right after them. The Congress now,
which is set to wrap up having done even less than the last Congress which
did less than any Congress before. Woo-hoo!

And as Congress has just stopped the Obama White House has evolved to
try to keep making things happen, even without that other branch of
government in operation. They can`t raise the minimum wage, the president
raised it, at least for federal contractors.

They can`t do anything on pollution and climate change? The
president will do what he can administratively including negotiating deals
with other countries, including China.

They can`t agree to do anything other than make campaign ads about
ISIS? Well, the president will mount a military campaign without Congress
that frankly pushes the limits of what a president is allowed to do with
troops under the War Powers Act.

They can`t do anything other than make campaigns about Ebola either?
The president will put in a request for funds and who knows, maybe they`ll
act some day, but in the meantime, he`ll get the Pentagon to send troops
and logistical support moving around their existing contingencies and
funding as long as that lasts.

Do you like the way this is going? Because there`s more where this
came from, particularly on immigration. I mean, he can keep going like
this.

Or would you prefer that some of the policy in our country be made
with Congress? With this vestigial political Congress that trails around
behind us like a fish tail on a bird.

It turns out, the answer depends on whether or not you are a
Republican. The Pew Survey put out a huge, sprawling, fascinating new poll
today on what Americans believe should happen next in our government.
There`s a lot here.

But the bottom line is this, do you think Republican leaders in
Washington should try as best they can to work with President Obama to
accomplish things even if it means disappointing some of the Republican
base?

Overall to that question, the country says yes. Yes. You guys work
together to do something. A clear majority of the country says yes, do
something together.

But when you ask just Republican voters the same question, look, the
answer is no, 2-1 no, two-thirds of Republican voters say Republicans
should not work with President Obama even if it means that less gets done
for the country.

Republicans just say no. No. No, never and on nothing.

The country says yes, but Republican voters say no. So what do we
get?

Hold that thought.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Today in Washington, it was not just orientation day for
senators and members of Congress who just got voted in last week and who
will start in January. In addition to them, for a handful of people today,
they actually got sworn into office today. And they get to start in
Congress right away during this lame duck season.

Those members include a man named Dave Brat who does not have to wait
until January because the way Dave Brat got his seat in Congress is by
beating Eric Cantor, the Republican house majority leader in a Republican
primary in Virginia for Eric Cantor`s home seat. He turfed Eric Cantor out
of his seat in his home district.

Eric Cantor then quit Congress and that`s what made that seat an open
seat. And that`s why Dave Brat was sworn in today so he can take his seat
immediately until having to wait until January with everybody else.

Now, Eric Cantor`s powerful staff in Washington sort of cast to the
four winds once Mr. Cantor unexpectedly lost that primary then quit
Congress. But having been through that whirlwind of anger and
recrimination and surprise and shocking loss inside their own party, the
Eric Cantor staff, I always thought, is in a particularly good spot.
They`ve got a particularly good vantage point from which to see where the
Republican Party is really coming from right now and where they might be
going.

Joining us now is Doug Heye. He`s a Republican strategist, former
communications director for the Republican Party, and most recently deputy
chief of staff to Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Doug, I`m so happy to see you –

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That`s one heck of a buildup, I`m
going to have to live down to that, I`m sure.

MADDOW: I know you`re still working in Republican politics and I
know you`re still an active player in all this and life continues after the
major leader leaves office.

HEYE: Yes.

MADDOW: But do you feel like that experience taught you anything
that you didn`t know before about where the party is at?

HEYE: You know, when I`m not at home in the corner, having the
shakes, no, I do think about it a lot. I talk about it a lot of members.

I think the party is in a place to be able to do some good things. I
think the party learned a lot from some of the things that we tried to do
that wasn`t necessarily making some of the headlines that we were talking
about earlier, but really good things to get the party talking about people
again. We stopped talking about people, we stopped talking about families.

So, one of the things we tried to do is focus on families, focus on
people. I don`t mean family values as we talked about in the 1980s or
1990s. But talk about families and what they had to deal with, with flex
time, about their take-home pay.

MADDOW: Talking about policy –

HEYE: Exactly.

MADDOW: – and legislation and things that could be done. So, that
brings me to my theory.

HEYE: Yes.

MADDOW: So, the Beltway theory, the Beltway explanation for what
happened to your boss, what happened to Eric Cantor, is he was too soft on
immigration. He wasn`t seen as being anti-immigration enough and so
therefore somebody was able to come from the right on the issue of
immigration and turf him out.

My theory is that Eric Cantor didn`t actually do enough substantially
on immigration to justify his whole career ending because of it. I think
the reason he got turfed out is because he was talking about policy, policy
and legislation and that itself is seen as a toxic thing by a big chunk of
the Republican Party.

HEYE: You know, the immigration policies in that race were
fascinating. There was one day when we had our opponent attacking us, Mr.
Brat – congratulations to him now, now a member of Congress, so he`s got
seniority on everybody coming in from Tuesday`s victories, but we had our
opponent attacks us for having a secret plan to work with Obama on amnesty.

Meanwhile, the same day at the same location, the other side of the
Virginia state capital, not in the congressional district, was Luis
Gutierrez, the Democratic congressman from Illinois, attacking us for being
the sole person blocking immigration reform. Well, who is right? Neither.

Obviously, it was something that he talked about he wanted to see
things get done. One of the things I`m most proud about working for Eric
Cantor was he was somebody that wanted to get things done. He wanted to
enact public change, policy change.

One of the things that we saw quite often as recently today he was
interviewed in “Time” magazine talking about his relationship with Joe
Biden. We`re very enthusiastic on working with Joe Biden on things like
the Violence Against Women Act, NIH funding, big priority of our office,
the Kids First Bill, which was a really important bill for our office but
also something that the House was able to pass on an overwhelming basis and
we were able to get the Senate to pass the bill.

The House and the Senate passed a bill and the president signed it
into law. These things can actually happen now more –

MADDOW: So, therefore, Eric Cantor must die.

You know, this is why I`m saying about the politics here. This Pew
Survey came out that if you ask Americans broadly, do you think that these
new Republican leaders in Washington should work with President Obama to
get stuff done? The public says yes. Majority of the public says yes.

If you ask Republican voters 2-1 no. They say 2-1 no even if it
results in less being done for the country. They just don`t want anything
done that has to involve the president of the United States. So that`s not
specific to any individual policy, the idea of passing legislation.

HEYE: I would say it`s specific to some policies. You talked about
them earlier, immigration reform is one of those, climate change.
Everything you went through in your last segment are specific issues that I
think a lot of Republican voters –

MADDOW: They want nothing – it`s not like they have a Republican
idea they want to work on for immigration.

HEYE: I think there are other things on other issues that we can do
and the house has done and with a Republican Senate we can move forward.

I give you one example. We`re right now sitting in Manhattan,
obviously. This is Carolyn Maloney`s district. Carolyn Maloney had a bill
that passed with 383 votes in the House to move forward a National Women`s
Museum. The House passed that, the Senate won`t move it.

You would think with everything that we`ve talked about in the past
two years with the war on women, it would be the House Republicans blocking
Women`s Museum, not Harry Reid stalling that bill. Al Green has a bill for
veterans, Democrat from Texas, that pass with over 400 votes. But it stuck
in the Senate.

And if w wanted to talk about the day to day governing and what
Washington would do to govern and to work, we can talk about appropriations
bills that the House has moved seven, not enough, granted. But the Senate
has moved zero.

So, where – if we have a ledge branch bill and the ledge branch
appropriations bill is never going to lead your program, it`s never going
to be front page of “The Washington Post”, but if more than 400 members of
Congress vote for that, perhaps Harry Reid can move one bill.

We`ll have disagreements on a lot of things.

MADDOW: If we start with just bills introduced by Democratic members
of the House that the Republican House then passed and now we`ll see if
Mitch McConnell moves on them –

HEYE: I think some of them will.

MADDOW: We will be in outer space.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Likely to happen in Washington, but that could be a place to
start.

HEYE: Understand Mitch McConnell has wanted to be majority leader
for a long time. He`s going to do this to get things done.

One other thing very quickly, I can tell you one thing that is not
going to happen in a Republican House and Republican Senate, there is not
going to be a vote for impeachment. Republican leadership thinks it`s
crazy. They don`t support it. It is not going to happen.

MADDOW: Well, our friends at FOX News beg to differ. We`ll see what
happens when the president moves on immigration if the impeachment calls
disappear on the right, I will have you back simply so I can rub in your
face.

I always really like talking to you.

HEYE: Good to see you. Thank you. Thanks for the coffee mug.

MADDOW: Are you stealing that?

HEYE: Yes, absolutely.

MADDOW: That`s all right.

HEYE: It`s not a gift?

MADDOW; I guess it is now.

See? We`re negotiating. We`re working together.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We want to make something that is scary or technical or
complicated into something more approachable, more lovable.

We know how to do that. Hello, Mr. Bill, Mr. Cartoon Bill sitting
there on Capitol Hill. Hello, municipal poop fairy. Now, please everybody
pick up after your dog.

And hello little Philae space lander piggybacking with your friend
Rosetta on a way to a comet, to the surface of a comet traveling so, so
fast.

As you`ve heard today the lander Philae landed on that speeding comet
today. Rosetta took this picture of Philae lowering down away toward the
comet.

One important part of Philae`s job was to fire harpoons into the
surface of the comet so the little lander could stick to the comet`s
surface once she landed. That went wrong, though, oh, no, the harpoons.

Look at the tweet, “I`m on the surface but my harpoons did not fire.
My team is hard at work now trying to determine why.”

It was time for the backup plans for this little anthropomorphy space
lander alone on her comet.

But there`s a throwback super, super, super old school science about
what happened next after the whole harpoon problem. And that story is just
ahead and it`s crazy.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: One of the mysteries of masculinity is why this is
considered a manly thing – the signet ring, worn on the pinky.

At face value, it`s always been a little weird that Jewelry
bedazzling the little stubby one of a man`s finger is supposed to be a
tough guy thing. But the reason we`re supposed to see that as a tough guy
thing is because really what it is, is a sign of power.

The signet ring, the ring on the little finger with the sign embossed
on it was originally a way that people embossed their personal sign or
their initial or their coat of arms or whatever into a blob of wax in order
to seal a document or seal a letter. You and you owe alone are supposed to
have a signet ring.

So, if a document turns up with your seal on it, whoever you`re
sending the document from you. They`ll be able to tell if the wax seal you
put on the letter was broken or tampered with along the way, or forged.
Wax seals, the world`s earliest form of document security, ancient idea.

Today, we earthlings flung a machine 317 million miles away from
earth, 300 million miles. And then, we successfully aimed that machine,
about the size of a washing machine, to drop down on to a comet that was
ripping through space at 84,000 miles an hour.

Once the comet lander dropped down on to the surface of the comet,
though, there was another question as to whether or not it would be able to
stay there. Gravity on that comet is only about 1/10,000th of what gravity
is here on Earth.

So, there`s a real risk it won`t stick, right? Any little shove
might bloop, accidentally pop the lander back off into space. There isn`t
enough gravity to hold it down.

They had thought the surface of that comet might be rocky. They had
harpoons ready and screw down feet ready to try to stick it to the rocky
surface. But it turns out the surface of the comet is instead sort of soft
and powdery. So the screw downs and harpoons weren`t able to function to
hold it down. This thing really could poof back up into space accidentally
if it`s not held down, particularly because it`s supposed to pull out its
sampler arms and grab pieces of the comet`s surface to study.

If it pushes down too hard with one of the sampler arms, the lander
could just nudge itself with enough force that it could fly off into space.

What the plan was for how the lander was going to stick on to the
comet, despite their being 1/10,000th of the gravity on Earth, what the
plan was, other than the harpoons and the screw-down feet and all that
stuff which maybe hasn`t worked because the surface was too soft. The plan
was that this little lander was supposed to have a thruster built into its
roof.

Genius idea. The thruster on the roof was designed to shoot big
strong thrusts of cold nitrogen gas straight up, thus pushing the craft
down into the comet`s surface. Essentially thanks to the recoil from those
thrusts.

But the thruster didn`t work. The brilliant web comic XKCD did a
live seers of comets today which updated every few minutes through the
whole hours long landing process. It was so good. We` linked it today at
Maddow Blog if you want to see it. I swear, it is so good, it will make
you cry.

But this is XKCD from about two hours into the seven-hour process.
You see in the comic, the Rosetta spacecraft from which the little lander
had been dropped. You see the comet below in all its mystery what`s there.
Then you see the lander itself, Philae floating down towards the comet
surface.

And the lander says back to the spacecraft that drops it, hey, are
you in touch with Earth? The spacecraft responds, yes, yes, I`m in touch
with Earth. Yes, I`m in touch with Earth and they want you to know, little
landing craft, they`re a little worried about your top thruster. There`s a
chance you might have to hang on to the surface of the comet without it.

And notice there in the comic how the little lander`s status report
changes from in space to worried. Worried. Worried.

Without that top thruster how am I going to hold on to the surface of
that comet once I land, instead of just flinging off into space again
because there isn`t enough gravity to hold me down. Worried.

So, the lander says well, I really hope the harpoons work on comets
because otherwise, how am I going to hold on?

Well, now, we know. The harpoons didn`t work on the comet and
apparently the little screw down feet didn`t work on the soft surface of
the comet either. And the amazing cold gas thruster device that was
supposed to make it all OK anyway, that was supposed to use the recoil of
the thrusts of cold gas to sort of mash the lander down deep into the
surface so it couldn`t accidentally fly away. Now we know the top thruster
didn`t work either.

And the reason it didn`t work was a wax seal. There`s a gas tank
that fires the cold nitrogen gas thrusts that was supposed to keep the
little lander stuck to the surface of the comet. As the lander touched
down, a pin was supposed to tap the wax seal and break it. With the gas
tank thus unsealed that would start the thruster.

Well, that wax seal didn`t break. The pin didn`t break. The wax
seal is still intact.

So, the one question mark remains about this almost unbelievable
human achievement, of sending a machine 300 million miles away from Earth
and having it lapped on a comet traveling 80,000 miles an hour while it
talks to us and takes pictures at the same time. The one remaining
question mark about whether that little machine is going to be able to
literally stick around and finish its work instead of flinging itself
accidentally off the comet and back into space, that question mark is due
to the familiar of a tiny blob of technology that humans have been using
since the 1200s, pinky rings and all. God bless that little Philae lander
and the comet she rode in on.

Humans can do amazing things. Humans are also human.

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, Lawrence. I`m very excited for your show tonight.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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