The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/01/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you for staying with us this hour.
How was your Thanksgiving? How was your Thanksgiving weekend?
I will tell you, I was not only irresponsible and unconstructive, I was
also very cold – so cold I had to dress like this. Even in the middle of
the day. It`s noon.
If you are counting, that`s two hats and then two hoods over the two hats.
But you know what? When you can get out there, even in the cold, it is
worth being out there, especially when, look, it worked. It never works.
I am terrible at fishing.
But it worked for me this time even in the snow. And yes, this little guy
went right back in after kindly posing for this picture. So, I`m very
thankful for his visit to me this weekend.
I am thankful to have had a few days off around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Very thankful. If you got days off, I hope you are thankful, too.
If you did get some days off and part of what you did was you dropped out
of the news cycle, I should say there is one very big story that you might
think ended before Thanksgiving but it really didn`t. It didn`t end last
week. It has rolled right through the long weekend into today and it now
looks like there is no telling when or if it`s going to end any time soon.
This is the St. Louis Galleria Mall, which is located in Richmond Heights,
Missouri. And this is what that mall looked like the day after
Thanksgiving, this past Friday, on the biggest shopping day of the year.
On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, hundreds of protesters marched
through that mall, made their way to the third floor and then laid down.
They staged a die-in for 4 1/2 minutes. Lying down on the ground refusing
to move or speak for 4 1/2 minutes symbolizing the 4 1/2 hours that 18-
year-old Michael Brown`s body laid in the street in Ferguson after Michael
Brown was shot by a Ferguson police officer in August.
Demonstrators made their way through that mall as they watched, some held
their hands up. Other people carried signs chanting and urging protesters,
urging shoppers to boycott the busiest shopping day of the year.
Protesters eventually closed down that mall on Friday for about an hour.
Again, that`s the St. Louis Galleria Mall in Richmond Heights, Missouri.
Ultimately, the National Guard was called in to that mall for that protest.
More than a dozen people ended up getting arrested.
Protesters then made their way to west county center where about 150 to 200
people blocked traffic in front of that mall. And then they marched around
that building. Then they went inside that mall. That one was – the West
County Center. Once they went in West County Center, they chanted “no
justice, no peace.” Some protesters called out to customers they should
The doors into that mall, into the West County Center in Missouri, they
were locked for some time while shoppers remained inside the mall along
with the protesters. The mall later did reopen its doors both to let
people out and to let other people in.
Later in the afternoon, in the same region, about 100 protesters made their
way to a third shopping center to the Chesterfield Mall, which is about 13
minutes away from the West County Center. They staged another die-in by
the mall escalators there. People laid on the ground and held signs.
Other people marched through the mall chanting “shut it down” and “black
That mall closed for over an hour, closed between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Some of the stores in that mall in the Chesterfield Mall remained shut all
But it wasn`t just the St. Louis area on Friday. This was New York City
also on Friday. You saw those big protests earlier in the week in New York
City. They kept going. This was Friday. Protesters marched in Times
They also made their way to Herald Square. Herald Square from the Macy`s
Thanksgiving Day parade, that`s where the big Macy`s store is that you see
in the parade coverage. Hundreds of protesters gathered in Herald Square
on Friday in front of that giant Macy`s. Some protesters there got
arrested. Others protesters winded their way through the city on Friday,
through New York, blocking traffic at major intersections.
Again, some protesters were arrested in New York, including some outside
that big Macy`s store.
On the West Coast on Friday, in Oakland, California, a group of protesters,
arms here look like they`re bound. This is a group of protesters targeting
BART, targeting the San Francisco Bay Area Commuter Rail System. They
basically shutdown the trans bay service. 20 protesters or so chained
themselves to the platform and chained themselves together at the BART
station in West Oakland.
As you can see there, they used duct tape and bike locks to bind their arms
together and to bind themselves to the trains. They wore t-shirts that
said “black lives matter.” Those protests in Oakland led local officials
to close down that station, that West Oakland station for two hours on
Obviously, that caused big system-wide delays. Police ultimately arrested
14 people in that BART-targeted protest.
Also on Friday, nearby in San Francisco, demonstrations began on Friday in
San Francisco after nightfall near the Embarcadero downtown. Protesters
marched to Union Square and then tried to work their way into the annual
tree lighting ceremony in Union Square. Police say they did stop the
demonstrators from reaching the tree lightning ceremony. They moved the
group down to Market Street.
In San Francisco, some of those protests did turn violent. Several
businesses were vandalized. There were reports of some broken windows,
some bottles and rocks thrown at police officers. Two officers were
reportedly injured. Several arrests made at night in San Francisco on
Also on Friday, in Chicago, it was about 200 people who marched from the
city`s Magnificent Mile shopping district in the afternoon. They marched
from there to Wicker Park. That was described as a day of awareness and
engagement in Chicago.
About half of that group that made the initial march kept marching onward
to a Walmart store on Chicago`s West Side, almost four miles away. They
were chanting “hands up, don`t shoot.” They were also things like “no
justice, no profit.”
In Seattle, same day, on Friday, more than 200 protesters gathered in
Seattle`s downtown in the rain. It went to the Seattle public tree
lighting ceremony and made their presence known there. Protesters then
made their way to the Westlake Center Mall in Seattle on Friday. They were
chanting “black lives matter.”
Shortly before 6:00 local time, Seattle police started turning shoppers
away from that mall. They ultimately closed down that mall for the night.
As you can see, arrests were made in Seattle.
That was all just on Friday, so-called Black Friday, the day after
Thanksgiving. That big pseudo-holiday and big shopping holiday. The
following day on Saturday, protesters were out in the Washington, D.C.,
region. They met at the Foggy Bottom metro station around noon. They made
their way then to Georgetown.
Then, the D.C. area protesters went out to Pentagon City, Virginia.
Hundreds of protesters staged a protest and die-in outside in the streets.
Protesters then made their way inside the Fashion Center Pentagon City Mall
in Virginia where they held another die-in inside the mall like some of the
ones we saw in the St. Louis region.
On Saturday, on the West Coast, in Portland, Oregon, a big bunch of
protesters laid down in the streets at Southwest Second Avenue and main
street in Portland. They refused to obey police orders to clear the
Other Portland demonstrators marched down the street blocking traffic.
Signs that said “don`t shoot.”
Later that night on Saturday, some of the Portland protests did get a
little rough and tumble. There were objects thrown at police. Police did
make arrests on Saturday night in Portland. That was Saturday.
On Sunday, yesterday, another group of protesters in the D.C. area formed a
human chain across Interstate 395. Again, this is in D.C., yesterday.
They shut down both the north and southbound lanes of Interstate 395. This
is a human barricade. It crossed both sides of the freeway. All lanes was
around Exit 4 on I-395, if you know the area. Police did make arrests
there as well.
Also yesterday, at the NFL, protesters gathered outside the St. Louis Rams
football stadium they had a game against the Oakland Raiders. Protesters
were met outside the football stadium with riot gear. Inside the Dome in
St. Louis, a group of players for the St. Louis Rams entered Sunday`s game,
they came out of the tunnel at the start of the game, with both hands up,
recreating the symbolic “hands up, don`t shoot” cry of the Ferguson
Those five Rams players have their hands up as they exited their home field
tunnel to start the game. They later said it was an anti-violence protest.
Then today, this was the scene early this morning at Washington, D.C.`s
14th Street Bridge. Look at this. A group of about 20 protesters staged
another lie down basically, another die-in in the middle of the road, at
the 14th Street Bridge. They had signs that said shut it down. These
protesters formed a human chain ultimately across the 14th Street Bridge.
They shut down that bridge at the height of rush hour in D.C. early today.
Protesters in D.C. then moved on to shut down traffic at another key
traffic spot in D.C. at the 12th Street tunnel. Outside the Department of
Justice in D.C., which is what you see here, protesters laid on the ground
in front of that building on Pennsylvania Avenue. A couple dozen
protesters gathered holding hands chanting, that was today at the
Department of Justice in Washington.
On the West Coast, outside of the Los Angeles Police Department`s Newton
station today, a group of protesters gathered. They rallied in front of
the police station. They drew chalk outlines of bodies on the sidewalk.
In New York today, protests were once again out in the street blocking
traffic. Protesters marched from Union Square to Times Square in New York
City today. This was time to be part of essentially a nationwide
demonstration that was called “hands up, walk out.” People were called on
to walk out of their colleges and their high schools and their businesses,
at 1:01 p.m. Eastern Time today.
This was the scene in Harvard Square in Massachusetts. More than 500
students from Harvard University and from local high schools took to the
This is the University of Massachusetts at Amherst today.
This was the University of Colorado at Boulder today.
This was in Texas, Texas A&M today.
This was Jackson State University in Mississippi today.
This was near Ferguson at the University of Missouri at St. Louis today.
The response to what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, and the decision to
not indict the local police officer for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown,
that news did not end last week. Today, President Obama held a cabinet
meeting. He announced specific new reforms and a specific new request to
Congress on the issue of police reform, and local police using military
tactics and military equipment against protesters. He asked for specific
allocation of funds to fund body cameras for tens of thousands of police
officers across the country.
President Obama also hosted a long personal meeting with a number of civil
rights leaders to talk about distrust between communities of color and
police departments. Part of the agenda, we`re told, was how to try to
learn from places where it`s not as bad as it is in the rest of the
country, how to try to learn and make progress based on some places in the
country who may be handling this issue better than others.
It`s – that indictment decision was a long time ago now, right? It was a
week ago now, and we`ve had a long holiday weekend in between. But as you
can see from all of that footage, that`s just since Thanksgiving.
These protests are not over. The protests certainly are not over. The
anger is not dissipating.
And frankly, the beef is not resolved, right? The reason people are upset
is something that can`t be undone in the individual case of Michael Brown,
but that continues in a way that`s unabated, unresolved and unanswered thus
far in terms of the longstanding dispute between police departments and the
communities that don`t feel protected by them. The communities that feel
they need protection from police.
What happens next in terms of our national response? What`s going to
happen in terms of our national response to what has happened already and
to what will undoubtedly keep happening unless we change?
Joining us now is Maria Teresa Kumar. She`s president and CEO of Voto
Latino. She was at the meeting today with the president and vice president
at the White House.
Maria Teresa, it`s really nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO: Thank you for having me, Rachel, and
thank you for having this conversation.
MADDOW: Oh, sure. I mean, I feel like it`s – part of it is it`s a big
long holiday weekend. If you have been checked out, I`m not sure everybody
knows these protests have been unabated and big and it`s really continuing
in the same tenor for a solid week now. This is – this is a movement.
This isn`t just a reaction. What did you hear –
KUMAR: That`s absolutely right. I flew in yesterday from El Paso. And
even in El Paso, Rachel, there were protests. They were small in scale.
But right on the border, and it`s because I think what Ferguson is, is an
example of all the Fergusons that are happening across the country, where
you have communities that don`t feel safe, a you mentioned. That they
don`t feel safe. They don`t feel protected. They don`t feel they can call
911 because they feel like the police instead of being on their side, they
aren`t on anyone`s side. And I think that was basically the message that
was sent today by the president in the room.
And it was very personal, Rachel. He talked about his own personal
experiences of being a young black man in America and growing up and
feeling that he was targeted because of his race. But more importantly, he
also acknowledged that we have to work closely with law enforcement so that
they can do their job better. And one way to do that is to bridge
And that was the first step that I was able to witness. It was very much
the first step in a longer conversation but a brave step because no one
wants to ever say that we have – that we`re post-racial. And he basically
said, look, guys, we`re not. Let`s have this conversation now.
MADDOW: The way the White House described this meeting today and the focus
of the president`s efforts today was to address specifically this issue of
distrust between communities of color and police departments. And in terms
of that distrust, obviously, it`s the way you get past distrust is by
building trust. The way you build trust is by showing good faith and by
communicating. In terms of the mix of people in the room and law
enforcement talking with folks and that communication going both
directions, what was that mix of people and how did that conversation go
KUMAR: Well, that`s what – that`s what was always fascinating. It was
not only the vice president and the president. But in the room, you
actually law enforcement and then you also had Eric Holder, the attorney
general. You had Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, you had a
professor from Harvard, you had religious leaders, you had the civil rights
groups and CLR, Voto Latino, the Advancement Project. But then you also
had young people in the room that are at the forefront of the Ferguson
protests. There are now there was a young newly elected official that was
present along with DREAM defender Philip Agnew.
It was a real representation of America and the idea that people want to
have these conversations and they`re not comfortable conversations to have.
But the fact that the president not only had – you know, brought us all
together but facilitated the dialogue was incredibly impressive, but also
demonstrated what a priority it is for him to try to fix this. He
recognized that he`s not going to be able to do this in his term but he`d
like to get the conversation going and he emphasized the importance of
making policy change, by making deep seated policy changes, that`s when you
can start changing the current practices.
I was relieve because one of the things he emphasized was that Eric Holder
was leaving the meeting because he was going to go down to Atlanta and
start a series of conversations around the country. A series of town halls
to hear best practices not only from communities of where it`s working but
also where it`s not working. And often times, these communities want to be
heard. And I think by providing that space from the administrative level,
you are sending a direct message to local communities that they`re not
going to take any chances. That this is a national initiative and it has
to get fixed.
MADDOW: Right. This is the kind of problem where there`s never going to
be a magic wand. But unless the conversation can start and whether people
can feel mutually respected, that`s got to be the first step toward moving
Big important meeting today. Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto
Latino, it`s always great to see you. Thanks for being here.
KUMAR: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We got lots more ahead tonight, including an
incredibly rare example of a political apology that didn`t seem incredibly
disingenuous and terrible? Maybe? Arguably?
Also, some sincere props for Michele Bachmann. And, no, I`m not drunk.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The Danish have a word for dealing with this time of year. Not
like the Danish, meaning like the pastries. I mean like people from
Their word for this time for year looks like hygge. I think to use English
speaker, but to the people of Denmark, I`m told the word is pronounced more
like “hugga.” I like to think it has something to do with hug.
Hygge apparently means something basically equivalent to coziness or
And so, it comes in handy this time of year when our part of the earth
tilts away from the sun, and the days get way too short, awhile the nights
get longer and longer and longer. This time of year in cold, cold Denmark,
they rely on this word, they rely on hygge, to keep the dark away, to keep
the darkness of the season from winning and defeating us all.
Look at this, it can be so dark in Denmark this time of the year that for
the few moments it is light outside, they swaddle the babies up and roll
them outside for nap time, outdoors in the winter in their strollers, just
to the little can get some precious moments of sun. You can`t afford to
sleep through the sun when there`s that little of it.
In our country, we do have places that get very little sun this time of
year like Alaska or Maine, anywhere pretty far north. But we also have a
whole swath of our country we call the Sun Belt. Hello, Arizona, right?
Here comes the sun, even in wintertime.
In Arizona, they have acres and acres of sun-baked desert. They have a
football mascot that`s named the Sun Devil. They play in Sun Devil
Stadium. When the Washington State Husky ran away with the Arizona Sun
Devil, that`s was just a chew toy version. And the real Sun Devil won the
game by 14 points.
Arizona really is one of those places where the sun wins. The sun is the
whole point of the Arizona state flag. Your baby can safely sleep inside.
For many thousands of people who love Arizona and who move there from other
less warm parts of the country, the sun is basically the whole point of
But last year in Arizona, the sun nearly lost a round.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: We`ve seen this before.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The true engine of economic
growth will always be companies like Solyndra.
NARRATOR: Connected companies getting corporate welfare. Now,
California`s new Solyndras, Solar Run and Solar City are getting rich off
hardworking Arizonans. Out-of-state billionaires using your hard-earned
dollars to subsidize their wealthy customers. It`s not right. We don`t
need this corporate style welfare in Arizona.
Get the facts about these out-of-state solar companies at azsolarfacts.com.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Solar companies.
Conservatives last year came up with a plan in Arizona to demonize solar
energy. Specifically to fine people $50 to $100 every month for the crime
of using solar power in Arizona in the land of the sun. The original plan
was you`d have to pay 50 to 100 bucks every month to use solar power in
Arizona. Eventually the fine got winnowed down $5. So, it`s basically a
$5 fee that you have to pay if you want to use the sun as a source of
energy in Arizona.
Amazing. Land of the – the flag, Arizona.
Now, it`s happening again in the only place in America that`s more
synonymous with sun than Arizona is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you tried chilled orange juice from Florida? It
comes in a handy carton like this. Squeezed, chilled and ready to serve.
You can buy it at your food store or have it delivered to your door. It`s
got everything, too. Vitamin C, quick energy, wonderful flavor and it`s
packed with that Florida sunshine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Packed with that Florida sunshine. Florida is technically
speaking the Sunshine State. That`s their official state nickname.
They do not mean it as a metaphor. They mean that as a founding principle,
right? A main attraction of what Florida is.
The Florida Department of Citrus has a new branded Avengers character
called Captain Citrus. Captain Citrus runs on solar power. The circles on
his hands are solar pods. Maybe it`s my solar pods, but you are going
Florida is so much the Sunshine State the whole ad campaign for the city of
Ft. Lauderdale is called Find Your Sunny. And you can find Ft. Lauderdale
at Sunny.org. Explore your sunny side in Florida, the Sunshine State.
And so, now, naturally, because it`s Florida, Florida has declared war on
the sun, even as it still wants to be known as the Sunshine State. This
past week, very quietly just before Thanksgiving, Florida incredibly
decided to try to kill solar power in the state of Florida. They voted to
kill entirely the rebate program in the state for installing solar panels.
At the same time, they told Florida power companies that they basically
should stop their efforts to conserve energy. Duke energy had pledged that
by five years from now they`d come up with a way to conserve 330 gigawatt
hours of energy. Florida just before Thanksgiving decided to cut that from
333 to 21.
Tampa electric, by comparison, they pledged to save almost nothing over the
next five years. Now, Florida says they have to save less than half of
Look at the numbers from Florida Power & Light. Florida Power & Light was
going to find a way to save 229 gigawatt hours of energy. That`s what they
pledged. Now Florida says, don`t sweat it. They dropped it from 229 hours
to 4 hours. And they killed the program for solar power in the Sunshine
Power companies, utilities, right, they make money by selling power. The
more power you use, the more they can sell you. And, therefore, the more
money they make. If you make the power yourself from the sun, the solar
panels on your roof, right, or if you or they or anybody finds a way to use
less power, then they are selling less power and they make less money.
And so, Florida right at the request of the utilities, right before
Thanksgiving very quietly just decided to stop conserving energy as a state
policy. They are no longer even going to try to do that, and they`ve
decided to unplug from the sun in the Sunshine State. It`s amazing.
It`s interesting here in the politics. One of the groups that protested
against these changes in Florida, before Florida made these changes last
week, was a group called the Green Tea Coalition. Yes, they are in fact, a
Tea Party group that`s super right wing like the rest of the Tea Party, but
they like the idea of people making their own electricity and people having
choices an how to make their own electricity.
Getting rid of solar power, even fining people for using the sun, trying to
make everybody use fossil fuel power from power plants, and as much of it
as possible, this is a thing now in Republican politics.
It`s not getting a lot of attention. It`s not getting any Beltway
attention. But they`ve just done this in Arizona. They are gearing up to
try again to do it in Kansas. And now, they have done it in the biggest
state yet – now they have done it in Florida.
In the Sunshine State, they have decided they are against the sun. I don`t
know what Captain Citrus` politics are, but I think there`s a pretty good
chance he`s going to be mad about this when he finds out what Florida did
when that very quiet news starts to get out.
MADDOW: There`s a thing we do periodically when the news calls for it.
It`s a thing we called – now here`s a thing.
So, without further ado, and now, here`s a thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: And now, here`s a thing.
Not long ago, in a galaxy not far away, Rep. Michele Bachmann`s staff
recorded this, and pledged to post it online once she had retired from
Today, they made good on that promise.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I just have to start laughing when I
see the word “incredible.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you use that word, wonderful?
BACHMANN: I wear your grand dad`s clothes. I look incredible from that
thrift shop down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we`re recording this.
BACHMANN: I`m singing that all the time.
OK. You ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to post that.
BACHMANN: I got $20 in my pocket. See? Even I – even I know .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to hang on to that.
BACHMANN: Oh, Harrison, he would have so much fun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After you retire, we`ll post it online.
BACHMANN: OK. That will be it.
SUBTITLE: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann: rapper. Macklemore fan? And
that is a thing that happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that is a thing that happened. And that is Michele Bachmann
we never knew. Incredible.
MADDOW: In the summer of 2009, in June 2009, the governor of the great
state of South Carolina poofed. South Carolina`s legislative session had
just ended. The state`s political leaders were all heading home for a few
But for six whole days that summer, nobody knew where the governor was.
Governor Mark Sanford`s office did not know where he was. His family did
not know where he was. The state agency tasked with protecting him didn`t
know where he was.
Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina just went missing. The only
explanation offered by his staff at the time was that the governor was
unreachable because he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Mark Sanford was not hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was, instead, in
Argentina visiting his secret girlfriend. And when he finally returned to
South Carolina, Mark Sanford had to face the music. He`d been found out.
He called an afternoon press conference. He admitted to his extramarital
affair, admitted to lying about it. And in so doing, in apologizing for
that, Mark Sanford coined one of the best phrases I`ve ever heard fall out
of a politician`s phrase.
It`s the last line he utters here. It is perfect in every way. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m a bottom line kind of guy.
I`ll lay it out. It`s going to hurt, and we`ll let the chips fall where
Let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys,
Marshall, Landon, Bolton, and Blake, for letting them don.
I would also apologize to my staff because as much as I do talk about going
to the Appalachian Trail, that was one of the original scenarios that I`d
thrown out to Mary Neil, that isn`t where I ended up.
I`m here because if you were to look at God`s laws, they`re in every
instances designed to protected people from themselves. I think that that
is the bottom line of God`s law. It is not a moral rigid list of dos and
don`ts just for the heck of dos and don`ts. It is indeed to protect us
from ourselves. The biggest self of self is, indeed, self.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The biggest self of self is, indeed, self.
Mark Sanford. Mark Sanford`s “I fled the state to have an affair” press
conference was epic, right? He apologized to his wife. He apologized to
his kids. He apologized to his staff. He apologized to his friends. He
apologized even to, quote, “all people of faith across the state of South
Carolina.” Atheists, eh.
It was a 20-minute rambling mea maxima culpa from Governor Sanford. That
apology from Mark Sanford was the exception rather than the rule, right? I
mean, it`s almost normal in politics these days when you have to apologize
for something to give these terse terrible disingenuous non-apology
When you do something wrong or say something wrong you say, I`m sorry if
you were offended. I`m sorry that what I said was taken out of context.
I`m sorry that I misspoke. Obviously, I didn`t mean that terrible thing I
said. Shame on you if you think I did mean it. How could you think that
about me? You should apologize to me.
That`s sort of the norm when it comes to political apologies.
Occasionally, though, you get the full Appalachian Trail. Occasionally,
you get the full on, I screwed up apology.
This is Trent Lott. Trent Lott was the top Republican in the United States
Senate in the `90s and early 2000s. He represented Mississippi in the
Senate. In 2002, Trent Lott got caught out on tape praising segregation.
Specifically, Trent Lott said if Strom Thurmond had been elected president
back in the 1940s when he ran for president on a segregationist platform,
quote, “We wouldn`t have had all of these problems over all of these
years.” Now, see Strom Thurmond would have fixed all these problems with a
dose of good old apartheid. That would have been bet –
Trent Lott apologized and started off with a normal terrible political
apology. You know, I apologize to anyone who was offended. But then he
kept doing it over and over. Then he essentially decided to do over his
apology. He went on an extended apology tour, in which he offered a
thorough rejection of his own views at length. T
This was an interview with TV network BET.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-U.S. SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: The important thing is to
recognize the hurt that I caused and ask for forgiveness and find a way to
turn this into a positive thing and try to make amends for what I`ve said
and for what others have said and done over the years. A lot of I think
what is wrong here is not enough communication, not enough understanding of
how people feel and how – you know, there has been immoral leadership in
my part of the country for a long time. Progress has been made.
INTERVIEWER: Were you a part of that?
LOTT: Yes, I can`t deny that. You know, that – I believe that I have
changed, and that I`m trying to do a better job, but, yes, I`m a part of
the region and the history that has not always done what it`s supposed to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There has been immoral leadership in my part of the country for a
long time. Were you a part of that? Yes, I can`t deny that.
Trent Lott made those comments about Strom Thurmond and segregation in
December 2002. Within a few weeks, he had resigned his leadership post in
the Senate. He then later resigned from the United States Senate
In the history of good or at least thorough political apologies, there`s
Mark Sanford`s rambling 20-minute apology to essentially everyone that he
has ever come into contact with. There`s Trent Lott apologizing and then
very quickly just going away in 2002.
There`s not a whole lot of other examples, right? Political apologies are
almost always terrible and disingenuous and terse. And that`s why they
Into that brief, this weekend stepped a previously unknown House Republican
staffer who is now at least for a moment become nationally famous. On
Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, we got the pardoning of the turkey
ceremony at the White House. President Obama pardoned two turkeys, Mac and
Cheese. They will now get to live out the rest of their days at a turkey
farm in rural Virginia.
We all feel great about that while we eat other members of their species,
like this pageant of mercy. It`s very nice, we don`t really mean it as a
President Obama`s daughters Sasha and Malia, they attended the turkey
pardoning. Sort of put up a brave teenage face about the whole thing. But
after it was over, they were targeted by the communications director for a
Republican congressman. Her name is Elizabeth Lauten. She`s the
communications director for this Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of
And Ms. Lauten wrote online, “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you`re both in
those awful teen years, but you`re a part of the first family. Try showing
a little class. At least respect the part you play. Act like being in the
White House matters to you, dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a
For all the obvious reasons and for a few more besides, the staffer did
ultimately apologize for having said that online once the remarks started
to get wide online circulation and attention.
Again, this is a political professional, right? This is a communications
director for a serving member of Congress. But political apologies are
Here`s how hers went in part, “I reacted to an article and I quickly judged
the two young ladies in a way I never would have wanted to be judged myself
as a teenager. After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents and re-
reading my words online, I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words
were. Please know those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my
heart. Furthermore, I`d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt
and offended with my words and I pledge to learn and grow, and I assure you
I have, from this experience.”
That House Republican staffer not only issued that lengthy apology but then
earlier today she resigned. She officially resigned from her job working
for that member of Congress.
So, the status of political apologies. Does an apology even help in a case
like this? Does what is a better than usual political apology help in a
case like this, even though all political apologies are by their nature
Why did this happen in the first place? Is this a rare instance of things
going right in Washington because the resignation was actually – because
the apology was followed by a resignation?
Joining us is my friend, “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC contributor,
Gene, thanks for being here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Great to be here, Rach.
MADDOW: I have to say, people doing dumb stuff apologizing and quitting
isn`t a national news story except I feel like this is a moment to take
political temperature on the way that the Obama family is treated in
politics, and whether or not we`re getting any better at apologizing for
doing terrible and stupid stuff.
ROBINSON: Well, first of all, I thought it was a pretty bad apology, to
tell you the truth, for this reason. She didn`t apologize to them. She
should have apologized to the people she offended. She offended Sasha and
Malia Obama. She offended President and Mrs. Obama.
And she doesn`t mention them in her apology. She should have addressed her
apology to them because those are the people she offended with words that
were, at first, I`m concerned, beyond the pale. I mean, this president is
treated differently, let`s face it, and that`s fine. He can deal with
that. But to treat his daughters that way is just – is way beyond.
And that line about dress for respect and not for a spot at the bar, that -
- boy, I tell you, at my house, that occasioned some slamming down of
things over the weekend, because it plays into this sort of subconscious
stereotype of black women as somehow sensuous and hyper-sexualized. It was
awful at the turkey pardoning, an event that`s all about silly.
It`s supposed to be silly. They are supposed to act silly. The president
was goofing at acting silly. Every president acts silly at this thing.
So, where did that come from out of her? I think she should have just
apologized to the family and said good-bye.
MADDOW: Well, she did end up saying good-bye in terms of leaving. She
didn`t apologize to the family. She did leave her job.
I wonder though if this how – because she has quit, because this happened,
people were very angry. She apologized, more or less, and now is gone. I
wonder if that is actually sort of an important sign that there is still a
more in Washington about the president`s family.
I mean, this president and lots of presidents have had terrible attacks
that this president has had worse personal attacks than any other president
that has come before him for a number of reasons, including race. But I
wonder if we have seen a sort of reification or re-upping of that line that
says leave the children out of this. We`ve seen it violated in the past,
but there are consequences when that happens.
ROBINSON: I hope we have.
And, look, when Chelsea Clinton was subject to ugly criticism when she was
in the White House, totally uncalled for. The Bush daughters, the same
thing as they went through their late teen years in the White House and
were subjected to a kind of scrutiny that was often mean, and there was a
sort of self-correcting mechanism.
I sincerely hope it has kicked in here and the fact that Ms. Lauten
resigned so quickly indicates that some things are sacred in Washington.
And you don`t go after the president`s family, whatever you think about the
president. You don`t go after his young daughters in that way, 13 years
old and 16 years old. It`s just not on.
MADDOW: We have been led to believe that nothing is sacred in Washington
or in politics broadly. But I think this is a story that tells us that
actually, that principle does still hold and that ought to be actually
recognized and put a rubber stamp on it.
I would also say that we should coin a Eugene Robinson rule of apologies.
That you have to apologize to the person who you did the terrible thing to.
ROBINSON: It`s just a good idea. Just a good idea.
MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, “Washington Post” columnist – Gene, thanks for
being here. Appreciate it.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: The good thing about winning something is, obviously, that you won
a thing. The bad thing about winning something is now you have that thing
which means if you are not careful, you can break that thing. Breaking the
trophy in grand style – coming up next.
MADDOW: In 1947, a trophy called the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football
League`s championship trophy was almost destroyed in a fire. That was
1947. It`s been all downhill from there for that trophy.
Since 1947 fire, that same trophy has been broken six different times by
teams celebrating when they won it. In 1978, the trophy was accidentally
dropped. In 1987, it was sat on. In 1993, it was head butted. OK.
In 2006, the players tore the cup from its base while celebrating their win
and they just kept on celebrating. After all, they just won the
In 2012, a player accidently ripped one of the handles off of the cup. You
can you see there in his right hand. That doesn`t belong there.
That brings us to yesterday when Calgary Stampeders won the Grey Cup in the
Canadian Football League this year. And in their celebration for the sixth
time, amid all the jubilation over winning the cup, they, again, broke it.
You can see it sort of coming loose and wobbling around on its base.
The celebration continued into the locker room. The cup eventually broke
all the way off the base and the players turned it into a giant beer
goblet. They did not mine.
But this is a recurring problem with trophies. This happens all the time.
Hockey fans have seen the memorial cup snap in half right in front of their
eyes. Oh, look at their faces.
Spanish soccer fans watched the Copa Del Rey championship trophy not only
get dropped, it got dropped and run over by a bus. Oh, yes, that was the
Even Taylor Swift, good old Taylor Swift dropped and broke one of her
Grammies at the Grammy ceremonies. The crowd just gasps in horror after
she drops it.
This happens all the time. People spend all this time and effort,
sometimes their entire careers trying to win this thing. Once they get it
they immediately break the thing that they just won.
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: When you win something, yay, you won. That`s it. It`s often your
first opportunity to break the thing that you have just won.
In sports, like in last night`s Canadian Football League Championship, it
was a chance for the winning team to break the championship trophy that
they had just won. It`s the sixth time the winning team has broken that
specific trophy the night they won it.
But it happens in other places too. When Eddie George won the Heisman
trophy in 1995, he broke off part of Heisman`s hand in an airport x-ray
When the Houston Rockets won the NBA Finals in 1994, they broke the
basketball off the big basketball trophy thing that you win.
Two years ago, the father of the long snapper on the Alabama football team
tripped over a rug, fell onto a display table and shattered the crystal
football thing that you win for winning the BCS in college football.
It`s great to win, you can win, but once you win, by virtue of winning, you
also have the opportunity to break the thing that you just won.
The Republicans in Congress just won Congress. You see where this is
going. Republicans won control of the House in 2010. The two sessions of
Congress that have happened since then, since they`ve been in control, have
been the two least productive congresses in the history of the United
Today, though, the Congress did come back to town and go back to work. And
that makes this next couple of weeks a really interesting time, because in
ten days, in ten days, the government will shutdown unless government
passes a spending bill to keep the lights on, and a significant number of
Republicans don`t want to do that because they`re mad at President Obama
about immigration. So, Republicans are trying to work that out among
themselves. But they`ve only got ten days to sort it out before another
I mean, it`s their call, right? They won it. They won Congress. So, that
means it`s their opportunity to break it if they want to break it.
Now, though, on the other side of Congress, there`s a whole new way that
they might break. If you ever think about being a United States senator,
you should know that senators basically never work more than two weeks
without then immediately taking a whole week off to recover. Nice gig,
But when the Republicans take over in January, look what they have started
for the start of the year. They have scheduled the Senate to work six
straight weeks. And most of those weeks will last five whole days.
When`s the last time a senator worked on a Friday, let alone six Fridays in
Remember when Jim DeMint said the Republicans stopping Obamacare would be
President Obama`s Waterloo? This schedule is going to be Waterloo for the
United States Senate. No way they work six straight weeks without at least
one of them from each party keeling over. No way.
And before they even get to that, over the next two weeks, they need to
pass the bill that keeps the Pentagon going. They got a big tax bill they
have to pass. They`ve got a million nominations they have to pass. They
have a veteran suicide bill that they better freaking pass if they don`t
want veterans all over the country mad at them, let alone everybody in the
country who likes veterans. Oh, yes.
And they have to keep something to keep the government running, even though
a substantial number of Republicans want to shut it down instead. And that
all needs doing before Christmas and also before the Senate is scheduled to
work six straight weeks in a row.
Who thinks they`re going to make it? They started today. Let`s see if
they make it or if they break it.
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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