The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/29/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello, happy Thursday. Thanks to you at home
for joining us this hour.
For a few years now, one of the things that you could count on seeing in
Super Bowl ads is this. It is a weird only-in-America television ad
phenomenon in which very thin women eat very fatty food. Usually in slow
This is the thing we do in our America. We have been doing this for years.
I`m not trying to explain it, it just is.
But this year, the latest iteration of the thin women eating fattening food
on TV, the latest version of this add for this year`s Super Bowl , it has
sparked at least one call for a boycott of the fast food chain that has
made this year`s lady in a bikini eating a hamburger act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDY SHARP, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION DIRECTOR: Once again they`re
putting on a sleazy, smutty ad on the middle of the – your in the middle
of a NFL Super Bowl this year, this Sunday evening. So when you sit down
with your family, your wife, your daughters, your children, to watch this,
you may be exposed to pornography. I mean, just straight out up
pornography on network television.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don`t think that this year`s lady eating a hamburger ad at the
Super Bowl is going to going to lead to a wide spread boycott of the fast
food chain that is running that ad. You never know. I don`t think it`s
going to be that.
But today that boycott effort, nevertheless, was announced on an American
Family Association radio show by an American Family Association staff
member. The American Family Association has been in the news this week
because they are taking the chairman of the National Republican Party and
apparently dozens of other members of the Republican National Committee on
an all-expenses paid trip to Israel. They`re all due to leave on Saturday.
They`ll be gone for nine days.
Now members of the RNC aren`t exactly a free school lunch kind of bunch,
right. They tend to be pretty well-off people. If they want to go to
Israel, there`s nothing stopping them from paying for themselves to go to
Israel. Whether they want to go individually or as a big Republican
National Committee group. Who cares.
What people care about, and I think what has become an interesting news
story this week, is that the RNC instead decided this week not to go on
their own time, but to go as guests of the American Family Association,
which hosts this radio show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN FISCHER, AFA RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The Hitler discovered that he
could not get straight soldiers to be savage, and brutal, and vicious
enough to carry out his orders. But that homosexual soldiers basically had
no limits on the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on
whoever Hitler sent them after. So he surrounded himself, virtually all of
the storm troopers, the brown shirts, were male homosexuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Last night we reported that that`s American Family Association
staffer, Bryan Fischer, was fired from his job yesterday as a national
spokesman for the American Family Association and as the group`s director
of issue analysis. The president of American Family Association told us
yesterday that Bryan Fischer had been fired from the group in that
capacity, but that he would continue with his radio show.
As the president of the group put it to us yesterday, as of yesterday Bryan
Fisher is, quote, “just a talk show host.” But he is, still, their talk
show host. The American Family Association confirmed to us today that even
though, yesterday, they fired Bryan Fisher from his other jobs with their
organization, they are still paying him to make his Bryan Fisher magic on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FISCHER: Counterfeit religions, alternative religions to Christianity have
no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yesterday, the Israeli media started raising the alarm that the
National Republican Party from the United States was sending its national
committee members and its chairman on a trip funded by and led by this
group which among other things has promoted the idea on its radio shows
that Jewish people have no First Amendment right in this country to
Why would the National Republican Party partner with an organization like
that? I mean, how is the National Republican Party, how is Reince Priebus
going to explain why the National Republican Party is partnering with this
group, taking a trip with this group, that has argued on its radio shows
that if, for example, you`re a Jewish immigrant, who wants to immigrate to
the United States, the condition of your being allowed to emigrate to this
country is that you must convert to Christianity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FISCHER: Number one, those who came to our shores would be expected to
adopt our religious values and our traditions that would mean Christianity.
The religion of their homeland and the god of their homeland they would
leave them behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, hey, Jewish immigrants or potential immigrants of the world,
you can emigrate to the United States, you just have to stop a being a Jew.
You have to become a Christian if you want to be allowed into this country.
That is who the Republican Party is taking this trip with, leaving on
Now I don`t know if the Republican Party and Reince Priebus just didn`t
think people would notice that this is who they`re doing this trip with,
but people have noticed. And the result in publicity and uproar over the
Republican Party doing this I think is now putting a little heat on them,
on this partnership.
The American Family Association sent this letter yesterday to the activist
group, the Southern Poverty Law Center. And it gave the Southern Poverty
Law Center a bullet pointed list of the various positions taken by Bryan
Fischer that his employer no longer wants to be associated with. They sent
this letter renouncing a whole long list of specific things that Bryan
Fischer has said on American Family Association radio.
Most of which are things he said years ago and they are apparently fine
with until now. But now that they`re doing this event with Reince Priebus
on the National Republican Party, they are renouncing this specific list of
things that Bryan Fischer has said. And Bryan Fischer has, as we reported
last night, been fired from one of his jobs with the organization and his
role as their national spokesman.
They don`t want him described as a spokesperson any more but they are still
keeping him on the payroll and keeping him on the radio.
Now after days of refusing to comment on this controversy, not just to us
but everybody. After days of refusing to give any comment about why the
National Republican Party would be partnering with a group like this.
Tonight, finally the RNC has given us a comment on the matter. This was
their full statement to us.
Quote, “We don`t agree with Bryan Fischer`s comments and are glad the
American Family Association has severed ties with him.”
Here`s the problem, the American Family Association has not severed ties
with him. They just fired him from one of his jobs at that group and they
kept him in his other one.
So that`s one as yet unresolved problem for Chairman Reince Priebus and the
National Republican Party. I mean, if they wanted to be associated with
the American Family Association, which sounds nice, but not associated with
that cook, Bryan Fischer, they have not achieved separation from Bryan
Fischer, that has not happened. They`re still in bed with the, you know,
Hitler homosexual, Jews-have-to-convert-hamburger boycott guy. That`s
still a problem. That`s one problem.
The other problem, which the Republican Party has not addressed at all, is
specifically who is taking Reince Priebus and all the other committee
members on this trip. Who is personally leading this trip and organizing
it and going with them. Taking all the top Republicans in the RNC away on
a jet plane the day after tomorrow.
His name is David Lane. He works for part of the American Family
Association that`s called the American Renewal Project. He`s not a very
high profile guy in mainstream circles but he followed this kind of stuff.
You might recognize some of the events that he`s been associated with. He
was the organizer of the Bobby Jindal prayer rally. Sort of presidential
campaign kickoff prayer rally that happened this past weekend in Louisiana
and that attracted protesters from all over the state.
David Lane also organized the Rick Perry presidential campaign prayer rally
kickoff event during the 2012 campaign.
And here`s why it`s very hard to believe that the Republican Party can
really go ahead with this trip on Saturday with David Lane. Here`s why.
During the 2012 presidential campaign when it became clear that Mitt Romney
was probably going to be the nominee from the Republican Party, luckily
this isn`t go on for too long and it was – it was not too widespread. But
there was one burst of really ugly bigotry that was slung at Mitt Romney,
when it became clear that he was probably going to be the nominee. And
that bigotry that was slung at him was about his religion.
At an event in October 2011, that was hosted in part by the American Family
Association, Rick Perry, who was fresh off his stadium prayer rally in
Texas organized by the American Family Association and David Lane, now Rick
Perry was introduced at that event by this Texas pastor, and that ended up
– you have picture of this guy? Yes, there he is.
That ended up being a real dark moment. A real low moment, not just in
this presidential campaign, but I would say in the history of presidential
campaigning. This introduction at this event, and this association of this
guy with Rick Perry`s campaign, it ended up being something that got
And that really rattled the presidential campaign at the time, really
rattled the Republican Party because in that introduction, the pastor
introducing Rick Perry at that event raised eyebrows when he pointedly in
his introduction called Rick Perry a genuine follower of Christ. Emphasis
And because that raised some questions about what he was implying about
other people`s religious beliefs, reporters followed up with the pro-Rick
“pastor” Perry guy right after the introduction, right outside the event,
and he made it crystal clear to reporters, yes, what sounded like he –
what it sounded like he was implying is really what he was implying. What
he meant to say and what he meant by that introduction.
He explained, was that Rick Perry is a real Christian and Mitt Romney is
something else. He called Mitt Romney a member of a cult. Quote,
“Mormonism is a cult. Every true born-again follower of Christ ought to
embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” He told reporters that Mitt
Romney is, quote, “not a Christian.”
The reason this was such an ugly moment in the campaign is not, you know,
because of the theological nature of this dispute, right. I mean, your
religious beliefs are your religious beliefs including your religious
beliefs about other religions. The reason this was so ugly is because this
part of the religious right wasn`t just making a theological argument of
what they believe about their own religion vis-a-vis Mitt Romney`s.
They were making an overt argument that Mitt Romney should not be elected
to public office in this country specifically because of his religion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS, FIRST BAPTIST DALLAS: The value of electing a
Christian goes beyond the public policies that he or she may enact. We
make a grave mistake in underestimating the value of having a Christian in
Followers of Mormonism, Hinduism, Islam, they are not worshipping the same
god in a different way. We believe that they are following actor false
FISCHER: This is not a Christian faith. It is, as Robert Jeffress of
First Baptist Church, it is a false religion. What this would mean for the
spiritual health of the United States of America if a worshipper of a false
god occupied the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was an ugly strand of religious bigotry directed at Mitt Romney
for his religion by certain parts of the religious right including the
American Family Association when Mitt Romney run for president in 2012.
At the height of that ugliness, “The Daily Beast” obtained e-mails that
were written by this guy, by David Lane. The guy who had led the Rick
Perry prayer rally for that campaign. The same guy who is about to lead
Reince Priebus and the top leadership of the National Republican Party on
this trip this weekend.
In these e-mails, David Lane said that that pro-Rick Perry pastor, the one
who called Mormonism a cult and said no Christian should vote for a Mormon
guy like Mitt Romney, David Lane said about that pastor, quote, “We owe Dr.
Jeffress a big thank you. Getting out Dr. Jeffress` message, juxtaposing
traditional Christianity to the false god of Mormonism is very important.”
He then said, quote, “Let me go on the record, I won`t vote for Mitt Romney
as the Republican nominee in 2012.”
In context, what he meant was specifically because of Mitt Romney`s
Why is the National Republican Party sending its chairman and all its
national leadership on a trip led by that guy who said he wanted to be on
the record about the fact that he wouldn`t vote for Mitt Romney on
religious grounds, because of Mitt Romney`s religion. I mean, it`s not
like the religious bigot line against Mitt Romney was a mainstream thing in
the 2012 campaign.
Yes, it was around, but this was basically a short, shrill ugly little
thing that Rick Perry I think did real harm to himself by flirting with and
getting even close to during that campaign. It was a really fringe dirty,
ugly element of that campaign. It was not a widespread thing. But the
Republican Party is now explicitly embracing these guys.
And not just people who are related to people who are related to people who
are related to these guys. I mean, the “I won`t vote for Mitt Romney
because of his religion” guy is the same guy, the exact person who was
taking Reince Priebus and the Republican Party leadership on this trip the
day after tomorrow.
Now, this, again, tonight, just tonight, is the sum total of the Republican
Party`s public comments on this matter to date. After they sent us this
generous comment tonight, we wrote back to them to tell them, actually the
factual basis of their comment is wrong. The American Family Association
has not severed ties with this Bryan Fischer guy. This guy who says that
Jews don`t have the right to practice their religion in America.
And everybody should be forced to convert to Christianity if they want to
immigrate to this country. And we have to grapple with the problem of
somebody who worships a false god like Mitt Romney getting into the White
House because Mormonism is a false religion.
We wrote back to the Republican Party tonight to ask if they understood
that Bryan Fischer actually still works for this group that they are going
on a trip with. This group that they are partnering with, to go on this
big event. We`ve not heard back from Republican Party about that. We`re
not sure they quite understand.
We also asked the Republican Party today if it was true that they pressured
the American Family Association to do this renunciation of some of the
statements of Bryan Fischer, if they pressured the American Family
Association to fire him from his spokesman job at the group. We didn`t
hear back from the Republican Party about that either.
We also, I should tell you, asked them, sort of, in italics if some lame
implied exclamation points, just – if they really are still planning on
going ahead with this trip. Taking Reince Priebus and dozens of members of
the Republican National Committee, the national leadership of the
Republican Party, on a trip with the Bryan Fischer group. And the guy who
said he wouldn`t vote for Mitt Romney because Mitt Romney is a Mormon and
no Christian should, right.
They haven`t answered us about that. I have to say it`s kind of hard to
believe that they will go ahead with this trip. It is hard to know what it
will do to the Republican Party for them to get on board in this explicit
way with these folks for a trip to Israel no less.
This is the quote from David Lane to “Haaretz” this week. “We were
established as a Christian nation in the name of God and for the
advancement of the Christian faith.”
What will it mean to the Republican Party going forward if they go on a
trip to Israel with a group that advocates that America is by Christians
and for Christians only. Christians exclusively.
Joining us now is Rabbi Jonah Pesher. He`s the director of the Religious
Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Rabbi Pesher, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate your time
RABBI JONAH PESHER, RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER DIRECTOR: My pleasure, Rachel.
Thanks so much for having me.
MADDOW: So I first just want to ask your top line thoughts about the RNC
taking this trip with the American Family Association.
PESHER: Well, let me just quote the graphic you used earlier. “Oy!” It`s
– you know, it`s a real concern, Rachel. Obviously, it`s a great thing
that the RNC is going to Israel, but the important thing here is the AFA,
the American Family Association, is considered by many a hate group and the
views that it espouses as you`ve reported on this show are anti-gay,
they`re anti-Muslim, they`re anti-Jewish, and so, frankly, Rachel, they`re
And the RNC does not want to be associated with any organization that
espouses hate and certainly delegitimized that organization and shouldn`t
take funding from it.
MADDOW: I don`t know very much about the Republican Party`s sort of
internal politics and the sort of relationships that they have with other
groups, particularly the – the group`s representation in Washington except
through the RAC, through your work with Reform Judaism, and your work as
leader in the Jewish community, and your connections to Jewish American
Could you describe whether or not the RNC essentially has a pretty good
relationship with the Jewish community? I don`t – I don`t know anything
PESHER: Yes, there are right-thinking Republicans in the Jewish community.
There are right-thinking Democrats in the Jewish community and first of all
religion is not a partisan issue. And our love for the state of Israel and
the strong Israel-American relationship is not a partisan issue. One of
the great things about this country is that we celebrate religious freedom
or religious pluralism. And the Jewish community is active in both
That`s why I think all of us are scratching our heads and I think all of
us, frankly, are outrage and this really isn`t a Jewish issue, it`s an
American issue. No political party should be associating themselves with
any hate group. That`s just not American.
MADDOW: Do you think that there would be a negative response in Israel if
it became widely known who the Republican Party was taking this trip with?
Obviously, as you say, good – come to Israel, that`s a good thing at the
surface, but the fact that the Republicans are taking the trip with this
group, do you think that would be negatively received in Israel?
PESHER: Yes, I think any democratic society that values religious freedom
and tolerance, and you know, Israel is a society that places social justice
and diversity as core values and democracy as a core value just like we do
here in America. And so I think that Israelis, you know, when they – and
again it`s nonpartisan. I think they would be upset by either political
party if they associated themselves with any group that was both anti-
Muslim and anti-Jewish, and anti-gay and frankly such a hateful group.
MADDOW: Rabbi Jonah Pesher, director of the Religious Actions Center of
Reform Judaism. Rabbi Pesher, thanks very much for talking with us about
it. Appreciate it.
PESHER: Thanks, Rachel.
PESHER: Thank you.
MADDOW: You know, a couple of years ago, former President George W. Bush
gave a speech to a group that appeared to be a pro-Israel group on the
surface, and when you look at what their actual mission was, it was to
convert Jews to Christianity in order to bring about the rapture, in order
to bring about the apocalypse.
And George W. Bush received a lot of criticism from the Jewish group in
this country for taking to a group that radical.
I continue to believe that George W. Bush didn`t really know who he was
talking to when he went ahead and gave that speech. I sort of live and
hope right now that the Republican National Committee didn`t really know
who they were getting in bed with here either. But there`s still time for
them to bail out on this thing. Plane leaves Saturday morning. They don`t
have to be on it.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN” HOST: And in terms of
the Republicans, have they – rapidly to 2012 election, is that when it
was? There`s a lot of talk about fundamental changes in the Republican
Party. We need to make fundamental changes in the Republican Party. Have
those changes been made in the Republican Party?
MADDOW: No change has been made in the Republican Party.
LETTERMAN: No change. Yes.
MADDOW: The one change is that instead of Ron Paul, it`s Rand Paul. So
they – that one guy – I mean, replaced by his son. That`s the big
change. I think Mike Huckabee has a different book now, but really it`s
otherwise, it`s the – it`s the same – the new book is called about gravy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. This is kind of a secret. We have a guest coming up on “The
Interview” tonight and I want to say something behind that guest`s back
before this person get into the chair and puts some in the earpiece. OK.
The most pressing and discombobulating question in capital D, Democratic
Party, politics this year is, oh my god, what if Hillary Clinton doesn`t
run. Right. Everybody thinks, Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state,
former senator, former first lady, would be a prohibitive favorite for the
nomination if she ran for president, right? Right.
So what if she doesn`t run? For whatever reason, what if she doesn`t run?
What would happen on the Democratic side?
Our next guest is here to talk with me about something totally unrelated to
the 2016 presidential race. Our next guest has never expressed any
interest in running for president. But I`m telling you, I think our next
guest on this show, if Hillary Clinton didn`t run, our next guest would
give the Democratic Party the best chance of all possible other candidates
of actually winning the White House in 2016.
I think my next guest would be the strongest candidate that the Democratic
Party could run for president other than Hillary.
There. Just saying. Don`t tell the person that I said that. We`ll have
an interview about something totally unrelated.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Once upon a time, we the people of the United States spent $486
million to buy Afghanistan a fleet of new planes. Planes that the Afghan
Air Force could not fly and could not maintain. And so we bought them
those planes and then they get dumped in the field full of weeds and then
they sat there for years and they were eventually turned into scrap. In a
process much like the one we`re watching right here.
That scrap sold for six cents a pound, $486 million into $32,000 worth of
scrap metal. That`s a loss of 99.93 percent on the investment if you`re
counting at home.
Here`s another one you might remember from a couple of weeks ago. It`s the
amazing melting Afghan Police Training Center. We paid a half million
dollars to build that training center but apparently it was not built to
withstand rain. So when it rained on the training center the training
These are just two examples of really bad management and oversight of the
billions and billions and billions of dollars that U.S. tax payers afforded
to Afghanistan over the course of the longest war in our history. And we
wouldn`t have never known about either of those examples had it not been
for this guy.
His name is John Sopko. He`s the special inspector general for Afghanistan
He`s tasked by the U.S. government with asking questions like – hey, what
happened to those planes we paid $486 million for? And, hey, why is this
half million dollar police training center melting in the rain?
And so, that`s his remit. He puts out these quarterly reports. Here`s how
much we`re spending in Afghanistan. Here`s what we`re spending it on,
here`s what we`re actually getting for that.
But there is something different about his latest report which officially
comes out tomorrow. After 25 consecutive quarterly reports in which the
inspector general has laid out in detail the data about the U.S. mission in
Afghanistan, right? Training the Afghan national security forces, how many
soldiers and police the U.S. and its coalition partners have trained, how
much it`s cost, how much – how well those forces are performing – after
25 of those reports, in this report, this 26th report, all of that data is
The inspector general calls this amount of classification, quote,
“unprecedented.” He says for the first time in six years, he is, quote,
“unable to publicly report on most of the U.S. taxpayer-funded efforts to
build, train and equip and sustain Afghan forces.” That`s pretty much the
U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
But because this inspector general is a little saucy, his latest report
where everything is classified all of a sudden, this latest report from him
does also contained something new that he`s never done before. For the
first time, he`s included that lists every single question his office asked
about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Every question they asked for which
the answer was – no, we can`t tell you, I`m sorry that`s classified.
How many Afghan soldiers are there? Classified. What did the U.S. spent
on those soldiers? Classified. How much did the U.S. spent on food for
the Afghan army? Classified.
Could you give us the definitions of the terms “unavailable” or “present
for duty”? No, sorry, that`s classified. At one point, the coalition
reportedly tried to classify the number of American troops in Afghanistan.
That`s a number that has been publicly announced by President Obama.
In a memo to the inspector general, the commander of coalition forces in
Afghanistan said this, while I cannot comment upon the precise reason why
certain information was considered unclassified in the past, we must be
careful to avoid providing sensitive information to those that threaten our
forces and Afghan forces. Quote, “I`m committed to maximum transparency in
our operations.” But you`re not allowed to know what any of them are.
Now, all of this new unprecedented classification relates to the training
and equipping of Afghan forces. We`ve got billions of other dollars and
non-classified government development projects. But building up the Afghan
security forces, that really is the American mission in that country now.
They say the war is ending while we still have all of those troops there,
it`s because that`s what our troops are doing there. That`s what we were
able to drawdown our troop level somewhat, right, because we were told that
the remaining troops were there to train the Afghan army to take American
And the 9,500, give or take, American soldiers who are still in
Afghanistan, along with thousands of American contractors, they are there
to support the training of Afghan forces, and everything about Afghan
forces is now classified.
And just today, in a horrible reminder of how dangerous the mission remains
for all the Americans who are still there, today, three American
contractors and one Afghan national were killed at the Kabul airport. An
Afghan security official tells NBC the three Americans were instructors who
were shot dead by an Afghan soldier.
Classifying this information will make it difficult to report on what`s
happening in Afghan. All of us will know much less about what our
government is doing, how much it`s spending, and what it`s getting for its
But classifying all that information will not make Afghanistan and the
thousand of American troops and contractors working there, it won`t make
them go away, it won`t make their any job easier, it will just make us know
less about what they`re doing and whether it`s working and how long they
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Senator Claire McCaskill of
Missouri. She`s a member of the Armed Service Committee. She`s former
chair of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight and she endures me
talking about her in an embarrassing way without me talking about it.
Senator McCaskill, thank you for being here.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you have any insight, especially given your position in the
Armed Services Committee, into why all of this previously public
information is all of a sudden classified now?
MCCASKILL: Well, it`s important to remember why we have a special
inspector general. We put this in the statute because the public needs to
hold the government accountable about the way they spend money during the
war. We saw in Iraq, tens upon tens upon of billions of dollars wasted,
And what we`ve tried to do by putting Sopko in there, he`s a great
inspector general. The one before him, by way, was incompetent that I
called for his firing and got it.
You know, if we can`t find this information out, if the public can`t know
it, then we cannot hold our government accountable about what they`re doing
in wartime and how effective it is.
So, this is really a big deal. I`m hot about it and I`m going to get to
the bottom of it.
MADDOW: So – there has been this change, and the thing that is very
worrying to me, politically, about this change is that the change that
where we`re not allowed to know anything about Afghan security forces is
happening at the exact time that the U.S. combat mission has ended, and the
whole mission there has become the Afghan security forces. What I`m
worried about is that this is an effort to disappear American information
about our ongoing efforts, ongoing dangerous war-like efforts there so it
seems like we`re not in a war, even though 10,000 American troops are still
MCCASKILL: And look what happened in Iraq. The ability of the army is to
build up, and tried to sustain and train, they crumbled under bad political
leadership of Maliki, and ISIS ran over a great deal of that country with
some pretty severe consequences. We need to keep track of whether or not
the ongoing mission in Afghanistan is working. What is the force? What
are their capabilities? What is the attrition rate?
Now, there may be some details that should be classified about location and
various components, but the notion that General Campbell in one fell swoop
has said everything is now a secret is just unacceptable.
MADDOW: Do you think that this could potentially be an issue when the very
important confirmation hearings come up for the new defense secretary? Ash
Carter is due to come up, everybody thinks he`s going to sail through his
confirmation proceedings. But is that going to be an occasion where this
might become an issue?
MCCASKILL: I will absolutely ask the question, why is this classified? I
will expect him to have answers. And, by the way, Ash Carter is someone
that had a lot of experience in acquisitions. He understands the financial
side of the military and the problems associated with that. I`ve worked
with him on wartime contracting issues in the past.
So, he gets this. He gets why this is important. And I`m going to expect
him to have some answers, and frankly, I`m going to expect General Campbell
to have answers also.
MADDOW: One of the things that the president called for in the State of
the Union Address is that the Republicans did not seem too opposed to,
although certainly the devil is in the details, is this idea that there
ought to be at least a debate, hopefully a vote on an authorization for the
use of military force around what`s going on right no in Iraq and Syria.
The current authorization for that force dates back to 9/11, into seemingly
unrelated events described in those very early, more than a decade old
pieces of legislation.
When that debate happens, do you think that that`s going to be an occasion
to be talking about some of these bigger picture issues? About how force
is used? I mean, 10,000 Americans in Afghanistan for another decade,
seemingly rapidly expanding remit in Iraq. Do you think there`s going to
be a broad debate about how we`re using force if and when that finally
MCCASKILL: I think so. I think both force and intelligence. And you know
the notion that we have an ongoing war that may be never ending because of
the nature of terrorism and the global presence of it.
But the bottom line is that we need to get at this use of force agreement.
It`s hard, it`s going to be very difficult in this environment, with a
Congress that seems more attracted to the idea of politically punching the
president than really getting things done.
But we ought to do this. I think, I hope – I think Senator Corker is
serious about it and has good faith behind his effort. So, I`m hoping that
we can begin to work on it and hammer out language that would not so open-
ended for – as far as the eye can see.
MADDOW: Last question for you, Senator. Feel free to dodge it. I know
you are completely committed to Hillary Clinton and her run for the
presidency in 2016. If for some reason she decides not to run, would you
MCCASKILL: You know, I doubt it. I`m proud to be a Democratic. I`m not
ashamed to be a moderate. And I do think it`s important for all of the
Democrats to remember that it`s very hard for us to be in majority and it`s
very hard for us to hold the presidency if we don`t understand that
independent voters in the middle aren`t really interested in parties, they
want us to compromise and get along.
MADDOW: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri – elegant dodge, part of the
reason I think you would win if you ran. You`re way, way more conservative
than I am and I got – I say that as an endorsement. So, the country can
MCCASKILL: Yes, some of your listeners are going to be screaming at you,
MADDOW: I know. I love it. I love it. If you get screamed at equally
from all sides, it`s part of what makes you the perfect candidate.
MCCASKILL: Yes, I do get screamed a lot, that`s true.
MADDOW: In stereo.
Senator Claire McCaskill, thank you so much for being here. I really
MCCASKILL: You bet. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Just ahead, more of this, stay with us.
MADDOW: Look at this little guy. Look at him. He is a Sierra Nevada red
fox. He`s beautiful, right? Sierra Nevada red fox, these are one of the
most endangered species in the whole country. There are only 50 of them
left in the whole United States – 50.
But this guy, this picture, this guy was just spotted in Yosemite National
Park. The first time one has been seen there in over 100 years. And look
at him, he is not only healthy, he is gorgeous.
And people say we never say nice things about fox.
MADDOW: I have never before wanted to work at the FAA. But now I know it
is someone`s job at the FAA to make things like this, now, I`m
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Going to the big game? Have fun. Cheer on your team, and keep
it a no drone zone. Don`t spoil the game. Leave your drone at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Leave your drone at home if you`re going to the Super Bowl, and
one of the things you were planning on bringing to the game was a drone.
You`d think that a PSA like that would not be necessary. But there is some
precedence that suggests a warning like this might be in order.
In October, during a big soccer match in Serbia, a big freaking melee broke
out on the field. Players were smashing chairs over each other`s heads.
Punches were thrown. Fans ran on the field sort of punching each other
The catalyst for that pretty impressive on-field brawl during an Albania
versus Serbia soccer match was this. Look. Look, out of nowhere, in the
middle of a game, somebody flew a drone over the field, and attached to
that drone was a very controversial Albanian nationalist flag. It was
basically seen as a big nationalist one finger salute to the Serbians in
the crowd and on the field.
That drone flew on to the game. One player grabbed the flag and pulled the
drone down and everybody went nuts, a giant brawl broke out, they had to
end the game right there. Fans were throwing things as the players as they
ran off of the field – look at this at the dock, right – all because of
that – wow, that flag carrying drone.
So, yes, Albanian nationalist flags are not drones at the Super Bowl – oh,
yes, OK, nobody wants that.
Also, of course, this week, we also learned that nobody wants drones at the
White House either. How they may get both of those things, though, got
really, really interesting, got a really interesting update in today`s news
and that story is ahead.
MADDOW: In May 2005, two pilots on their way to an air show in North
Carolina caused a big problem on their way there.
It happened when they unwittingly flew their little Cessna 150 into the
nation`s most highly restricted air space. They were innocently on their
way to an air show nowhere near D.C., but they flew a route that took them
within four miles of the White House.
The White House was evacuated. The Supreme Court was evacuated. The U.S.
Capital was evacuated.
A black hawk helicopter and two F-16 fighter jets were dispatched to
neutralize the perceived threat and they ended up escorting the little
Cessna that`s it on the right there, escorting it away from Washington,
D.C. They made it land at an airport in Frederick, Maryland. And, yes,
some stern questioning ensued.
D.C. is covered by a flight restricted zone, which means that pilots aren`t
supposed to fly over D.C. without permission. That applies anywhere near
the White House.
Beyond piloted planes, it is also against the law to fly an unmanned drone
over D.C. Not that folks haven`t tried. On Tuesday night, we talked about
the federal employee who drunkenly and apparently accidentally flew his
friend`s toy drone over the fence and on to the grounds of the White House,
much to the surprise of the Secret Service.
The man hasn`t been charged. Secret Service appears to believe his
explanation, that this was just some drunken screw-up.
But it`s not unreasonable to be worried about what happened there and what
it says about the safety of the first family when their home on the White
This is the drone that crashed at the White House. You can tell from the
Secret Service picture that it`s fairly large. It`s a four-rotor drone,
about two feet across. You can also tell that the drone doesn`t appear to
have been carrying anything, a camera or anything else.
Commercially available drones – they can carry things. That`s the whole
thinking about the Amazon drone delivery thing, that “60 Minutes” did that
slightly awkward press release for a few months ago.
This is a drone that was recovered by authorities just last week on the
U.S.-Mexico border near Tijuana. The working theory about why this drone
crashed is because the six pounds of meth that this drone had strapped to
it was a little too much for this little guy to carry.
But you know what? Had it been four pounds of meth instead of six pounds
of meth, this little guy very well might have been able to get to wherever
it was going across the border.
After that drone carrying meth crashed on the border last week, and after
this week`s drunk drone carrying nothing crashed at the White House, the
company that makes this model of drone, the one that crashed at the White
House, that company which is called SZ DJI Technology from China, they
announced yesterday that they are changing the software that powers their
drones so these drones will land themselves, they will override your
commands and land themselves if you try to fly them across a national
border or if you try to fly them into downtown Washington, D.C.
Apparently, they already have a patch in place that stops you from flying
these near airports. And because they`re a Chinese company, they also have
a patch in place that blocks you from flying these drones in Tiananmen
Square. But now, they say they will extend their pre-programmed “you can`t
fly here” firmware to include international borders, and also a 15 1/2
square mile space over Washington, D.C.
After the drone crashed at the White House this week, one of the ideas that
was floated for how we might protect the White House from that happening
again, particularly of the threat of a drone carrying some kind of
dangerous payload or surveillance camera or something, one of the ideas is
that the White House might proactively jam the kinds of signals a person
would use to steer a drone onto the White House grounds. Maybe they`ll do
that. Maybe that`s impractical, I don`t know.
But for now, at least, the drone companies themselves are using technology
you never imagined might exist to basically create and enforce their own
no-fly zones built into the drones. So weird. Watch this space.
MADDOW: Veto watch. We are now about to enter into a new era in American
politics, the likes of which we have not seen for years. We`re now about
to enter veto time.
Over the last six years, during the first six years that he`s been in
office, President Obama has vetoed precisely two bills. Neither of which
are anything you`ve heard of. Two noncontroversial vetoes made for
basically technical reasons on two very small scale pieces of legislation,
and that`s for the entire course of his entire presidency so far. That`s
it. That`s all he`s done.
But now, for the first time, the Congress is completely controlled by the
Republican Party, and so, it`s veto time. The collision course between a
Republican-controlled body that writes the bills and a Democratic president
who has to sign those bills, that collision course is about to go boom.
And it starts with what happened today.
Today, the Senate, by a vote of 62-36, they passed a bill to try to force
the approval of the Keystone pipeline. This bill was Senate bill one.
This is the first thing Senate Republicans wanted to do with their new
majority and today, they got it done.
Awkwardly, they scheduled the vote right in the middle of a troubling rash
of big pipeline spills and explosions all across the country, including
some brand new pipelines that are spilling and exploding. They`ve been at
least five big pipeline spills in explosions just in the past couple of
weeks. But they went ahead with the Keystone vote today any way and it
Our previous guest this hour, conservative Democratic Missouri Senator
Claire McCaskill was one of nine Democrats who voted with Republicans on
this thing. It passed pretty easily.
The House already passed their own version of the Keystone bill earlier
this month. They will now have to merge their bill with the Senate`s
version, but it`s basically done. We are set for a showdown, because
President Obama has already said that he will veto that bill as soon as he
gets it. Veto time is upon us. It`s exciting.
And this is really interesting. Today`s Keystone vote means one other
important thing is now set to happen. At the very end of the last session
of Congress, you might remember that the Senate tried and failed to pass
something called the Clay Hunt Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. We`ve
talked about it a number of times on the show.
This is a bill that veterans groups put together to try to end the epidemic
that we have of veterans committing suicide at a terrible rate – 22
veterans committing suicide every single day in our country. This veteran
suicide prevention bill designed by the veterans group themselves to try to
make it so vets stop falling through the cracks, to try to basically tune
up best practices and try to prevent the suicides – this little bill
passed unanimously in the House last year. It had all but unanimous
support in the Senate.
But when it reached the Senate, one senator, Republican Tom Coburn of
Oklahoma, he blocked it. He alone refused to let the thing come up for a
vote, even though he couldn`t persuade a single other person in the entire
Congress, either house, either party, of why he was doing it. He blocked
the veterans suicide bill alone.
But now, Tom Coburn is gone, and because of that, we have some news to
report. So, they spent all week voting on this Keystone thing that
President Obama is going to veto anyway. But now that the Keystone thing
is done in the Senate, the veterans suicide bill, you should know, has
already passed the House. It passed unanimously again. It passed the
Veterans Committee in the Senate unanimously.
And now, that Keystone is off the Senate floor, now that that stuff is
over. Now, we can report that the delayed one-man stymied veterans suicide
bill that couldn`t pass last year, the Clay Hunt Veterans Suicide
Prevention Act is going to get its vote, it`s going to get a vote on the
Senate floor on Monday.
You can put it in your calendar. You can put it in that app so your phone
beeps at you or whatever when it`s going to happen. It`s Monday, 5:30 p.m.
Eastern Time. They are finally going to get this thing done.
And when it happens, you can raise a glass to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn
and then pour it out, because this could only happen because he finally
quit and got out of the way. Heck of a legacy, sir – 5:30 Eastern,
Monday. You can count on it.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
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