The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/17/15
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: Naomi Schaefer Riley, Zac Bissonnette, thank
That is ALL IN for this evening. “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You know the font size on newspapers used to be a lot smaller than it is
now. Look. This, for example, this is the front page of the “New York
Times” on April 30th, 1903. Makes you feel old, doesn`t it? It`s seven
columns wide, what looked to be thousands of words in each columns just on
the front page. Even the big stories could this little tiny, tiny, tiny,
tiny, tiny headlines.
But in this issue of “The New York Times” the lead story, front page, above
the fold, right hand column, April 30th, 1903, was about a disaster in
Canada. It happened to the town called Frank in Alberta, Canada. And it
was the deadliest landslide ever in the history of that country. Those
little towns at the foot of a mountain, basically, and for some as yet
unexplained reason, in the middle of the night, in April 1903, the top of
that mountain decided to slide down that mountain and bury the town at the
There`re apparently had not been any warning signs. This is a
reconstruction that was done years later to explain what it might have been
like. Obviously, this isn`t footage of what happened. But the people on
that poor town, they did not have any warning signs, they did not have any
idea this is going to happen. The whole town overnight basically got
buried while they slept in their beds. This is one of the worst natural
disasters in Canadian history.
And today, that mountain top is still sitting at the foot of that mountain
where the town used to be. And it makes sort of for a kind of eerie moon
like landscape, right? All that mountain top land stone has slid into what
used to be the valley, right? It still looks weird even more than a
hundred years later. That side looks particularly weird right this second
because there has just been a giant train crash at that exact site.
Where that rail line crosses the 100-year-old rubble from that old famous
deadly landslide in Canada? There was a derailment at that exact spot.
Look at the landscape there. See all the piles of limestone around it?
Because it`s on the rubble site. That`s where there was a train derailment
this weekend on Saturday.
This is on Alberta, Canada. The sight of the town formally known as Frank.
It`s an oil country, the train that derailed was carrying rail cars full of
crude oil from the Alberta oil fields. Twelve of those oil tanker cars
derailed at that crashed site including a couple of them flipping entirely
over, miraculously, none of those blew rail cars full of oil blew up in
that crash, on Saturday.
Not to worry, though. On that same day, there was another oil train
derailment elsewhere in Canada where the oil tankers did blow up. That one
was in Northern Ontario. It was rail cars again full of Alberta tar sands
oil, headed east across Canada. And in Northern Ontario there was another
giant derailment and in that one, same day as the other one, seven of those
rail cars full of oil did blow up and they blew up in the way that oil cars
do, which is that they give you a cinematic display of what the end of the
world will probably look like.
Both of those oil train crashes including the seven rail cars full of oil
that did blew up, both of those crashes happened this weekend on
Then two days later, which is yesterday, this was the scene in West
Virginia. About 30 miles outside the state capital of Charleston, West
Virginia. Now this oil train it was 109 cars long. It was carrying Bakken
crude oil from North Dakota through West Virginia, on its way to Yorktown,
Virginia, where that oil is going to be loaded on to barges.
They got a lot of these trains now traveling this route through towns large
and small. And yesterday, for reasons that are still unexplained, on that
109-car long train, car number three, four, five, six, all the way back to
car number 28 came off the rails. Seven of those cars that derailed did
not blow up, but 19 of the cars that derailed did blow up. Nineteen cars
full of oil, one after the other.
Miraculously only one person was hurt in this conflagration in West
Virginia yesterday. One man was hurt. He`s been hospitalized since the
explosion. He`s been treated for inhalation injuries. He is the person
who had the misfortune of being home when the derailment and the explosion
The explosion set his house on fire and destroyed this man`s house. Sent
him to the hospital. It is a miracle that he was not killed. It is a
miracle that no one else was injured.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated from the local area. Power lines
melted in this huge blast. Telephone poles caught fire. Hundreds of
people are still without power tonight. People in multiple communities in
West Virginia have been without running water now for more than 24 hours
including a local hospital and nursing homes and schools.
The local water company says they think they`ll be able to draw clean water
from that river, where the crash happened. But even if people do start to
get water running through their taps locally, everybody is being advised to
still boil any water they might consume because nobody knows yet if it`s
going to be safe.
Yes. When we first reported on this derailment and this huge fire and
these explosions on last night`s show, we`d taken – all this footage that
was taken over the course of the day, mostly by local residents showing
what it had been like when the derailment happened, when those cars started
to blow up, one by one.
We talked on the phone to a local resident in Boomer, West Virginia, right
across the river from where the explosion happened. This was the view from
his living room. He had been home with his wife who was disabled when the
explosion happened. He told us about what it sounded like but it looked
like he said that noise was so loud and the explosion was so big that he
and his wife were convinced that a full-sized jetliner had crashed into the
ground across the river from their house in Boomer, West Virginia.
He said he only learned when his wife got through to 911 that it had
actually been a train derailment.
So after talking to him on the show last night, we then went to a local
reporter who was on the scene. This was about 9:30 p.m. last night Eastern
Time. And the first thing that local reporter told me when I put him on
the air last night was, “Oh, by the way, the fire is still burning.”
So we`ve been showing all this footage of the fire burning over the course
of the day. I had no idea. I should have known. I mean, seeing how big
the explosions were and the fires were yesterday. But this thing happened
at 1:30 yesterday afternoon. By the time we are on the air last night at
9:30, talking to those guys, those fires were still burning while we were
covering it on the air last night.
And as of tonight, at least, as of when we got on the air six minutes ago,
it`s still burning right now. This thing burned all day long last
yesterday. All night long last night. All day long today. It`s still
burning. These rail cars, each of them full of about 30,000 gallons of
oil, have just been going off like bombs, one after the other. First
responders couldn`t even get to those fires, leave alone put them out.
This was the headline on “The Wall Street Journal” about it today. “Fires
from Derailed CSX Train Allowed to Burn.”
Oh, allowed to? That is rather generous. I mean, allowing it to burn
implies that you have a choice, that you could not allow it to burn if you
wanted not to. I mean, how many options did the local fire crews along the
Kanawha River in West Virginia – how many options do they actually have
for trying to put something like this out?
The same thing happened just down the line in Lynchburg, Virginia, last
year when the exact same kind of train with the exact same kind of rail
cars following the exact same – exact same route, taking the exact same
oil on its same way to the exact same terminal in Yorktown, Virginia. Last
year, that was Lynchburg, Virginia, when that train also derailed and blew
You remember that incredibly dramatic footage from Lynchburg, Virginia.
Again, all through a populated area. This is not the middle of nowhere.
When those train cars went up in Lynchburg, Virginia, last year in these
apocalyptic mushroom clouds of flame, local firefighters there too just had
no choice. They just let that guy burn out. What else are you going to
That kind of risk, the fact that this oil trains travel through lots and
lots of very populated places. The fact that this is the increase that
we`re experiencing right now. That`s between 2008 and five years later,
2013. This is the kind of increase we`re experiencing right now as a
country in terms of the amount of oil being shipped by rail. It`s a
multiple thousands percent increase in the number of these oil trains over
the last five, six, seven years.
I mean, that combined with what it looks like when this things blow up and
how helpless we are as humans before the magnitude of this kind of disaster
when it happens. A few options we have to contain the kind of damage or
even put out the fires when this happens. You combine all of those things
and yes, this is becoming a real source of concern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, a lot of this stuff does move through our
state. A lot of these tank cars apparently did not withstand this crash.
Do changes need to be made?
GOV. EARL TOMBLIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, you know, I think that`s
something that the National Transportation Board and the federal agencies
that regulate the railroad should be here later today to probably better
answer that question. Obviously, we want to assure that the trains move
through the state and on through the other state, they`re operating safely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Earl Tomblin of West Virginia today answering questions
For much of the day today, Governor Tomblin appeared alongside executives
from the railroad, from CSX. To their credit, they did make themselves
available for questions today about this oil train disaster, but that
doesn`t mean they had very many answers. For example, quote, “We try to
run a safe railroad. Obviously, something has gone wrong there in West
Yes, you think something has gone wrong?
So that`s the basic truth here, though. Right. Stuff does go wrong. I
mean, in West Virginia yesterday two days before that, it was two different
oil trains and two different parts of Canada on the same day.
Remember the huge derailment and oil train explosion in Casselton, North
Dakota, that huge one where this footage is from? That`s from December
2013. But you know what? It then happened again in Casselton less than a
It happened again in Casselton just this past November. And this time they
didn`t have to evacuate the whole town. This time they got lucky in part
because the oil tanker cars that derailed and flipped over again and
crashed again in the – second Casselton oil train wreck, the train cars
this time happened to be empty.
Lucky, lucky Casselton, North Dakota, the train was going the other
direction that time when it crashed. But before Casselton, it was that
Lynchburg, Virginia, crash that they had to just let burn out. Before that
it was the one in Alabama, before that the one – it was the one in Quebec
and Lac-Megantic, Canada.
It happens. Stuff goes wrong. Oil trains derail. And crash. And blow up
in huge apocalyptic fireballs that sometimes kill dozens of people. And
part of the way to try to lessen that risk is to make the trains themselves
safer, to make the cars that carry the oil more resistant to blowing up
like it`s the end of the world. And that`s one ongoing fight now over what
the standard should be for the kind of cars the oil goes into.
But the other fight or at least which seems like what ought to be the other
fight is over what is allowed to go into those train cars in the first
place before they take off across the country. I mean, last year after the
Quebec disaster, the one that killed 47 people. After the Quebec disaster,
and then the Casselton giant explosion, and then the Lynchburg crashed and
the giant explosion there.
After all of those happened in relatively quick succession, it suddenly
became a national news story that North Dakota, North Dakota specifically,
was pumping oil on to oil trains that were then setting off all across the
country. They`re putting oil on those trains that was particularly
dangerous to put on trains.
Here is what I mean. When oil is produced in Texas, like at the Eagle Ford
Shale in Texas, shale in Texas, oil producers there use a big piece of
equipment called a stabilizer to basically take out of the oil what they
call the light ends. The super flammable, basically, their natural gas
components that are otherwise mixed in with their crude oil and that catch
fire and explode really easily.
They use this big stabilizer machines to remove all of those super
flammable compounds from the oil before they transport that oil anywhere
else. This is in Texas. Not exactly known as the land of onerous safety
regulations, right? But Texas does that with the oil that they pump before
they transport it.
North Dakota does not do that. We`re experiencing this great energy
renaissance in this country, right? The North Dakota oil fields have
transformed the United States of America into a net energy producing
nation, right? It is a legit oil rush in North Dakota. People are making
their fortunes. They have Man Camps in North Dakota. Man Camps. To house
all the people that are coming into that state to produce all of that oil.
But even Texas is taking more care for the safety of the oil they`re
shipping out of their oil fields than North Dakota is.
Why doesn`t North Dakota have to do that, too? Well, here is the story for
you. This is incredible.
In September, North Dakota held hearings about whether or not they too
should start doing that. Whether they too should start stabilizing their
oil before they put it on to bomb trains and ship it off to the local rail
crossing next to your kid`s elementary school.
All right. The hearings were – they were in September in North Dakota.
They were fairly intense for North Dakota. People who were concerned on
the safety side showed up to make the safety case, a lot of oil industry
people showed up to make the oil industry not safety case. In the end,
North Dakota decided to split the baby, sort of.
They decided to kind of, sort of gesture in the direction of doing
something to make the oil that they`re shipping more safe. The state of
North Dakota decided late last year after the spate of terrible explosions
and terrible publicity about how irresponsible they`re being, they decided
to require not the kinds of stabilizers that they use in Texas, to make the
oil less flammable when they ship it around the country.
They decided instead that they would have oil producers in North Dakota do
something with the existing equipment that they had on hand. They have
them do something called conditioning the oil. So conditioning the oil is
not the same as stabilizing it. It`s not the same as what they`re doing in
Texas. It`s not as safe as what has to happen to the oil in another parts
of the country.
But at least, at least, North Dakota decided late last year to require oil
producers to do some processing of the oil. To make it at least a little
bit more safe before that stuff gets put into the rail cars and shipped to
your town. Those new regulations in North Dakota were agreed upon in
December, announced in December.
They made this plan. They announced in December. We`re going to make the
oil that we put in those bomb trains a little more safe. They agreed to do
it in December, that regulation goes into effect April 1st. So that means
For the hundreds of people who live in these little towns in West Virginia
who have been evacuated, who don`t have power, who don`t have water, who
don`t know when they`re going to get water. For everybody who counts on
that river as the source of their drinking water, for the guy who`s in the
hospital tonight after his house was quite literally blown up by an
Would it have made a difference if North Dakota had acted six weeks faster?
Those regulations that are going into effect literally on April 1st, would
they have kept those little towns from catching fire? Would they have kept
that part of West Virginia safe? Are we actually doing anything that is
going to make this safer in a material way and are we doing it fast enough?
Joining us now is Russell Gold. He`s the senior energy reporter for “The
Wall Street Journal.” He`s the author of forthcoming book “The Boom. How
Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Change the World.”
Mr. Gold, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
RUSSELL GOLD, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL SENIOR ENERGY REPORTER: Thanks for
MADDOW: So as they start to investigate what happens here in West
Virginia, do we know anything about the crude that was on those rail cars
in terms of its combustibility or safety, anything else?
GOLD: Well, we know is from the Bakken shale in North Dakota and every
time they go out and test the Bakken shale crude they find it that it is
particularly combustible and volatile. So as you put it, it`s got a lot of
light ends and it has a tendency to explode. This first caught our
attention at “The Wall Street Journal” back in December when the videos,
the amateur videos from Casselton, North Dakota, came out.
And we are looking at these enormous fireballs coming out of these trains
and asking ourselves, wait a second, this isn`t the crude we know. This
isn`t the crude that we`ve grown used to. Crude doesn`t explode like that.
So we began asking what is going on, and the answer we found was that up in
North Dakota there is very little infrastructure.
And essentially, instead of removing these light ends, ethanes, propanes,
and shipping them off elsewhere, they were putting them into the crude and
trying to get them out to coastal refineries to be processed, straight
through West Virginia, Virginia, Philadelphia, Chicago, Portland, Oregon,
et cetera, et cetera.
MADDOW: So the towns – I mean, the towns along the way have to thinking
about who – not just who gets to make the decision, but what`s likely to
affect the decision of these oil producers about how safe this stuff is
going to be that gets pumped through their towns.
Is it honestly, prohibitively expensive for North Dakota oil producers to
separate this stuff out? I would – I would have no reason to doubt their
case that it is prohibitively expensive, except for the fact that in Texas
they think it`s OK to do.
GOLD: Well, the equipment is not prohibitively expensive. It will add a
few cents to the cost. But you can – you can take a step above what they
do right now which is basically heating it up to separate it. You can go
one-step beyond to really stabilize it. The problem is once you removed
it, what do you do with it?
Because the North Dakota oil field has grown so quickly, that they don`t
have crude oil pipelines, they don`t have enough gas pipelines and they
certainly don`t have enough pipelines to move all these gas liquids
So essentially, in the rush to produce oil, to go from producing a 100,000
barrels a day to 1.2 million barrels a day, which is what North Dakota does
right now, they`ve just – they`ve moved very, very quickly. That`s really
the only way to say it and they haven`t built all the infrastructure.
If they have the pipelines in place, this would be a very easy fix. But
they built the oil field first and now they`re building the pipelines and
the infrastructure that really required to have safe operations.
MADDOW: So in essence what they`re doing is they`re pumping oil plus other
stuff, and they`re pumping the oil and selling the oil because they can and
there`s a market for that. They`ve never bothered to create any sort of
system for dealing with the other stuff, whether it is this – these highly
flammable compounds that they can deal with another oil fields, or the
other kinds of waste that they still haven`t figured out how to process
like the radioactive filter socks that they don`t know what to with it.
And all of this other detritus that comes with – and waste water disposal,
all these other detritus that comes with oils, that comes with oil
drilling, they just never had to get their ducks in a row on that stuff
before they start to bring this stuff to market.
GOLD: Well, essentially they pumped first and now they`re trying to figure
out how to deal with this. I mean, you make good points. They are
building salt water disposal wells right now as quickly as they can to get
rid of some of this water that comes up. They`re trying to figure out what
to do with these socks which catch materials. Yes. They are coming up
with solutions sort of, as they go.
MADDOW: They`re coming up with solutions or not and the rest of the
country are paying a price for it, depending on where they can ship this
stuff out to. It`s an incredible story.
Russell Gold, senior energy reporter for “The Wall Street Journal,” thanks
for your time tonight, and I`m glad you`ve written a book on it because I
feel like this is the story that needs telling at length.
GOLD: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot for being with us. Thanks.
GOLD: Appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. There`s a lot more ahead tonight, including Hillary
Clinton and Elizabeth Warren meeting in the same room with each other and
the sky somehow refusing to fall. I know.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: This was last Thursday on the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I usually would finish the report like this by saying watch this
space. In this case really watch the space. This really feels like an
outbreak of shenanigans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Thursday night. I had a Scooby sense that some
shenanigans were on the way. Now tonight, those aforementioned shenanigans
have arrived. And that story`s next.
MADDOW: So there was an unexpected oh no, was just happens, kind a moment
this morning when our brand new Secretary of Defense Ash Carter pulled up
outside the Pentagon for his first day of work. Washington, D.C. is very,
very icy right now. A lot of things have been shut down a couple of days
in D.C. because of the weather but the icy conditions were not enough to
put off Ash Carter`s swearing in ceremony at the White House today and then
his trip to the Pentagon for his first day at work as our nation`s newest
secretary of Defense.
So his car pulled up to the Pentagon in very icy Washington, D.C. Our new
Defense Secretary Ash Carter got out of the car, he greeted some people, he
turned around, and then, well then something went down. And it went down
and I have to tell you just off camera, but still, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa. What happened?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whoa, whoa, what happened is that Ashton Carter`s wife, Stephanie
Carter, stepped out of that big car on to the icy road and she slipped, she
fell down. And it`s a real blessing that she was not hurt when she fell
down. I think it is also a small but significant blessing that the cameras
did not actually capture the fall itself so she never has to see that on
She got up, she was a champ about the whole thing. She joked about it as
she made her way up the stairs with her husband, so it ended up OK. It
happens to everyone.
Also so does this. At least this happens to pretty much everyone who has
ever met Vice President Joe Biden. During his White House swearing in
ceremony, there was this moment when Vice President Biden was trying to get
Mrs. Carter to stay on the stage, he was basically, trying to keep her from
shying away from the attention and from the camera shots on her husband`s
big day as he spoke to swearing-in ceremony.
But he did so in his very Vice President Biden way, right. Gave her a
quick shoulder massage, whispered something in here ear. Yes. She was a
champ about that, too. And somewhere between the fall and the shoulder
rub, we did get a brand new defense secretary.
Ash Carter was sworn in officially. He got his first day on the job
including a meeting with the president. He`s sworn in as of today.
President Obama`s fourth defense secretary. President Obama nominated Ash
Carter as defense secretary in December of last year. He sailed through
his confirmation hearings. The vote on him in the Senate was 93-5. He was
an uncontroversial highly qualified nominee who did really well during his
confirmation hearings. That was Ash Carter.
That was also Loretta Lynch. President Obama`s nominee to be the next
attorney general. Loretta Lynch, an incredibly accomplished prosecutor,
long and distinguish career, nobody who`s in the position to know has ever
publically expressed anything but admiration and respect for her and for
her record. She did great during her confirmation hearing. No one laid a
glove on her.
I mean, to the point of it actually getting a little weird because senators
decided that since they couldn`t lay a glove on her, instead they just
asked her questions about other people, get her to say stuff like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: You`re not Eric Holder, are you?
LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: No, I`m not, sir.
CORNYN: So no one is suggesting that you are, but of course, Attorney
General Holder`s record is heavy on our minds now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Loretta Lynch was nominated for her job a month before Ash Carter
was nominated for his job. And neither of them had a single hiccup in
their confirmation, or faced a single scandal or a single scurrilous
accusation, neither one of them even got a particularly hard question. But
now Ash Carter is our nation`s defense secretary, and Loretta Lynch is
still waiting for a vote.
And for awhile, it seemed like Republican senators were admitting that
there was no substance of objections to her nomination. For a while it
really seemed like she was going to get a vote. But then for some reason
they had paused. Now Loretta Lynch reportedly doesn`t have enough
Republican support to win confirmation as attorney general. Republicans
have cooled on her, whatever that means.
And if you are confounded by this turn of events is because it is
confounding. In part, because of what job she`s about to get, right? Or
she`s supposed to get, right? Who she is supposed to replace? There`s
almost no one Republicans in Congress object to more than they object to
the current attorney general. It`s not a secret, right.
Republicans in Congress don`t try to disguise their malevolence about
Attorney General Eric Holder. And yet here they are with a highly
qualified totally noncontroversial nominee to replace Eric Holder and get
him out of the job. This is their chance to get rid of him but instead of
voting on her, they`ve decided to keep Eric Holder around for awhile. Even
Eric Holder seems genuinely perplexed by this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is ultimately up in Congress, as to
when I actually leave office.
You`d think in some ways Loretta`s process would be sped up given their
desire to see me out of office. But –
Be that as it may, I`ve never – logic has never been necessarily a guide
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Attorney General Eric Holder saying today basically, “Hey,
Congress, you hate me. I know you hate me, everybody knows you hate me.
This is your opportunity to get rid of me. You know that, right?”
Maybe – so maybe the reason we can`t have a new attorney general is that
Republicans love hating Eric Holder too much. They love hating him so much
that they can`t rid of him. Maybe that`s what`s going on. They don`t want
to be without him. They enjoy the hatred for him so much. Raising money
off him or something, I don`t know. Or maybe it`s taken about five minutes
into this current Congress for Republicans to go all Ted Cruz on this
It was Texas Senator Ted Cruz back in the fall who said Republicans should
block all of President Obama`s nominees, however qualified, until President
Obama changed his mind and reverse his decision on immigration policy. It
was Ted Cruz who argued that Republicans should not only block all
qualified nominees, he said they shouldn`t even in worry about shutting
down the government.
That would be totally worth it as a tool of leverage to get President Obama
to change his mind on immigration and reverse his immigration policy.
Republicans in Congress decided to not go a full Ted Cruz and shut down the
whole government over President Obama`s immigration policy. They decided
instead to do kind of a half Ted Cruz and just shut down the Department of
Homeland Security. Funding for the Homeland Security Department will end
next Thursday. If Republicans in Congress don`t act to fund that
They say they won`t act to fund that department unless President Obama
changes his immigration policy. The Republican Party also decided not to
go a full Ted Cruz on blocking all qualified Obama nominees. After all
they were happy to confirm Ash Carter, but they apparently are going sort
of a half Ted Cruz on that strategy as well. They`re not blocking all of
President Obama`s nominees, but they are blocking Loretta Lynch apparently
as some sort of protest against President Obama`s policy on immigration.
So good for Ted Cruz. He`s been half getting his way, right, on holding up
everything in the government as a way of trying to block the president`s
policy on immigration, as a way of trying to get the president to not
implement that policy.
Well, today the calculus on all of that changed in a pretty big way because
today a conservative federal judge blocked President Obama`s immigration
order anyway. The president said today his administration will appeal that
ruling, but in the meantime the sole policy that the Republicans hate so
much, it`s on hold, it`s not happening. It`s on hold because the
Republican Party – excuse me, it`s not on hold because the Republican
Party made threats and promised to shut down Homeland Security.
It`s not on hold because they said we can`t have a new attorney general.
The reason the policy is on hold is because it`s getting held up in the
courts. At least temporarily. And so now here`s the big unanswered
question. Now that the conservative complaints about President Obama`s
immigration policy are being handled in the courts, now that the judiciary
is on that, does that mean that the country will please be allowed to have
a Homeland Security Department again?
Can we have a Homeland Security Department since the immigration is
blocked? And can we have a new attorney general? Can we have any one of
those? Or do you guys really just want to keep Eric Holder as attorney
MADDOW: To the extent that political parties can be said to have souls,
Senator Elizabeth Warren is all of that and a bag of chips, and a root
beer, and flexi straw, and a cookie for the modern Democratic Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Now look, you build a factory,
and then turn it into something terrific or a great idea, God bless, keep a
big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a
hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Elizabeth Warren gave that unscripted speech during her Senate
campaign 2011, this year this Senator Warren keeps saying that she is not
running for president in 2016. But she has, today, quietly become a signal
that something is going on in the presidential race for 2016 that may be an
unprecedented thing in American politics. And that story is next. Please
stay with us.
MADDOW: The Republican field for president feels – what`s the word?
Cluttered. They are all very nice people, I`m sure, but there are a lot of
them. There`s some clutter.
The Democratic field, however, not cluttered, spartan, ascetic, even
minimalist. There is the former U.S. senator from the great state of
Virginia, Jim Webb, who announced that he might be running late last year,
launching this campaign with this video which he found lodged in a broken
Fisher-Price camera from 1987. Despite that big launch, this weekend
Senator Webb seemed to maybe change his mind saying in an interview that he
might not be able to raise enough money to actually go through with running
Then there`s the former governor of Maryland, Martin O`Malley, who had an
interesting and totally weird physical injury just happened to him. We are
told that Martin O`Malley is apparently doing his campaigning now with his
arm in a giant brace because he broke his elbow in a mysterious weight-
lifting accident that no one will explain.
Even with all of that, human interest intrigue, I mean, how does that
happen, what does his injury look like, what does the brace look like.
Even with that human interest level, we can`t show you a picture of him
campaigning for president with his elbow brace cast on because we can`t
find one anywhere because nobody is taking pictures of him as he travels
around the country.
There is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, technically independent
senator. He may be running. He`s making noises to make it sound like he
will run. I say this with absolutely no offense intended and I like
Senator Sanders a lot. But I believe his run will probably be a run to get
his ideas out there on a presidential platform more than anything else.
There is a large and committed effort you may know among the Democratic
Party faithful to try to draft Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to
run. It really seems, though, like she is not going to. She`s not doing
any of the things you would be typically doing. No. If you`re going to
run for president.
Today there was a little bit of a jolt of excitement in Democratic circles
when the “New York Times” reported about a one-on-one meeting in December
between Senator Warren and Hillary Clinton. It apparently happened at Mrs.
Clinton`s house in Washington. Senator Clinton reaching out to Senator
Warren to ask her to come over one-on-one without staffers and talk policy.
What`s a tad unclear is exactly why this unnamed Democrat briefed on the
meeting is leaking this news to the “New York Times” now if the meeting
happened in December. One can only wonder about that. But what is clear
is that Senator Elizabeth Warren really does not seem to be running for
president, which then forces a difficult question of who is left and what
that means for the Democratic chances of holding on to the White House in
I mean, is Hillary Clinton going to run effectively if not literally
As a matter of history, that would be almost unprecedented for an open run
for the presidency. In 1968, the Republican and Democratic Parties created
what we now consider to be the modern nominating process, with binding
primaries and binding caucuses instead of just working everything up by the
insiders at the conventions.
Since then, since 1968, you want to know how many non-incumbent nominees
ran unopposed? Zero. None. I mean, the closest example is 2000 when Vice
President Al Gore faced opposition in the form of former U.S. senator, Bill
Bradley. That election, though, Al Gore won every single primary and every
single caucus. He was also running as the sitting vice president at the
And yes, there are a few years where there was one prohibitive front runner
in Ronald Reagan in 1980, John Kerry 2004, Mitt Romney, frankly, in 2012,
but there was at least some competition pushing that front runner, and that
front runner in all those cases didn`t win 100 percent of the delegates.
I mean, Hillary Clinton running de facto unopposed for the nomination? For
an open seat?
From what we can tell that would be unlike anything that has ever happened
before in American politics. An unprecedented first. Which means that we
can`t predict from history how exactly it would turn out.
I mean, isn`t an uncontested nomination for Hillary Clinton a good thing?
Where she`d be fresh as a daisy for the general election having been able
to essentially sit out the primary season? Or would it be a bad thing for
the Democrats` chances of hoping to hold on to the presidency? I mean, if
a primary toughens you up for the general election? And she`s not really
going to have one.
Is there a plan in Hillary Clintonville to basically plan around that
problem? To compensate for that difficulty that she oddly might have as
the Republicans fight it out amongst themselves to pick a nominee to
compete against her, and she just gets to walk to the general.
Joining us now is Anne Gearan. She`s a political correspondent from “The
Washington Post” assigned to cover Hillary Clinton and her possible
Anne, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
ANNE GEARAN, WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: Thank you. Glad to be here.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first as a professional Hillary Clinton watcher
now, as your job. Am I asking the right question? Do I – the way I just
framed this, is that the way they are approaching the prospect of her
GEARAN: Yes and a little bit no.
GEARAN: So on the yes front, certainly all of the many Hillary Clinton
backers and Hillary Clinton insiders are delighted that at this point there
isn`t some giant primary problem that she has to overcome, anything on the
order of Barack Obama in 2008. It makes things a whole lot easier in terms
of assembling a campaign operation, raising money, and as you alluded to in
your intro, essentially coasting to what, at this point, looks like a
nearly uncontested election.
At the same time, many Democrats, including many who are close to her, know
that that is, in many ways, unorthodox, and probably not a great idea in
terms of having a battle tested ready candidate for the general. You don`t
want all of the things that might come your way to hit you in the general
You want some of that to be worked out in the primary. At least that`s
sort of the general theory of why primary opposition is good. And she
won`t, at this point have much. It certainly doesn`t look like she will.
MADDOW: Is there any way that they`re thinking, as far as you know, that
they can plan around that? I mean, I think part of the reason that people
are so intrigued by this report today about the meeting between Hillary
Clinton and Elizabeth Warren is because part of the reason people want
Elizabeth Warren to run is to give Hillary Clinton somebody to run against
in the Democratic context, so Democratic ideas get flushed out and
Democratic fights happened before the general election.
The idea of them talking if not colluding while one of them is obviously
going to run and one of them isn`t I think has piqued people`s interest in
terms of how the Clinton campaign might get around this constraint that
they have in terms of running an unprecedented no primary general election
GEARAN: Absolutely, and it was a nice scoop that Maggie Abraham had today
on that meeting. And you can only kind of imagine what the conversation
must have been like. And given that it really does not look at all like
Elizabeth Warren is going to mount a campaign of her own, she is a very
smart politician and she is using her leverage in exactly, it seems to me,
the most effective way, which is to – and in this case she was invited by
Hillary Clinton to come and talk to her.
To keep Clinton honest, to say here is a – you know, here I represent a
very large potent and important part of the party, certainly a big
important part – particularly in the primary stages. And I am going to
tell you – Elizabeth Warren, I`m going to tell what that part of the party
It`s not as if Hillary Clinton doesn`t know already, but here she has
someone who kind of personifies something that Hillary Clinton is not. And
that`s an important thing in the primary phase. At this point it`s the
closest thing that Clinton has to primary opposition. An undeclared and
extremely unlikely candidate embodying a thing that she is going to have to
take in – take on board and be able to reflect in order to get the kind of
party support and enthusiasm that she needs.
One thing that Clinton supporters don`t want to see is her close to a
nomination and have the entire party be just bored stiff by the entire
MADDOW: Right. Exactly. It`s one thing to consolidate the party behind
you, it`s another thing to make everybody forget it`s happening because
there`s no politics on TV anymore.
GEARAN: Exactly. Exactly.
MADDOW: Fascinating stuff.
Anne Gearan, reporter for the “Washington Post.”
GEARAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Who has a particularly exciting beat right now.
Anne, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today is the last day in office for the longest serving governor
of Oregon in the state`s history. He got elected to his first term in
1994, then another term in 1998. Then he took a few years off. Then he
came back and he got elected again in 2010. And then he just got elected
again in 2014. He just got elected again this past November.
But today is Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber`s last day in office as he
steps down from the governorship. Technically voluntarily but under a ton
of pressure after all the other major Democratic leaders and elected
officials in the state called for him to do so, and his ethics
investigation of him spread from the state ethics commission to the state
attorney general`s office to the FBI.
Governor Kitzhaber leaves office under raging storm clouds of suspicion and
recrimination, mostly about the role of his girlfriend in his
administration, and alleged efforts of him to cover his tracks as governor
once the investigations into her role started.
Oregon is a state that has had far less than a state`s usual share of
political scandal and corruption. And so from all accounts, Governor
Kitzhaber leaving office under these terms, the scandal that got him to
this point may have left the state more than a little shook up, which is a
hard place to start if you are the new governor. But that is what Oregon
gets tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. local time when Secretary of State Kate Brown
is sworn in as Oregon`s 37th governor.
Oregon doesn`t have a lieutenant governor so as secretary of state, Kate
Brown is next in line. And becoming a new governor when you never expected
to has got to be hard for anyone. Taking the reins of the state government
that is in chaos and shock is a challenge for the ages.
Good luck, brand new governor, Kate Brown, Oregon`s new governor as of
10:00 a.m. tomorrow.
MADDOW: We spend a lot of time on this show talking about people who give
politics a bad name. Politicians who go bribe shopping like they`re going
to pick up a quart of milk. Politicians who are convicted felons.
Politicians who run as family values crusaders while they have a hooker
thing going on, on the side. Politicians who steal speeches from WikiPedia
or who steal quarters from parking meters.
It`s hard to think sometimes why anyone would want to go into politics when
you look at who goes into politics. But in today`s news we have found the
cure for that feeling, and that story is next.
MADDOW: Not quite a year ago, the brand new mayor of Charlotte, North
Carolina, was arrested in an FBI sting for taking thousands of dollars in
bribes. The city council chose a state senator to fill his shoes. So when
that senator resigned to take over as mayor of Charlotte, there was a
vacancy seat for the Senate seat.
Under the arcane rules of the local Democratic Party, 49 people gathered in
a Charlotte church to choose the new senator for that now open seat. 49
people, there were four candidates. The winner with a grand total of 25
votes was this guy. His name is Jeff Jackson, although really the biggest
winner of the night was Mr. Jackson`s stepson because Mr. Jackson had
promised that if he won, he would get the kid a puppy.
It think we have a picture of Jeff Jackson here. Yes. There he is. He`s
an army veteran, he served in Afghanistan. Also serves as an assistant
district attorney, prosecutor.
You probably have heard that snowy, icy weather has been pounding North
Carolina and much of the southeast these past couple of days. Well,
Senator Jackson arrived at work this morning at the North Carolina state
capital in the middle of the snowstorm and he discovered that he was alone
there. Nobody else had showed up to work in the hall legislature.
Now you or I, this is probably the time where if we were in the North
Carolina state legislature, we`d think snow day, awesome, turn around and
go home. But Senator Jeff Jackson didn`t do that. Instead he said,
quoting from his Facebook page, quote, “I feel like I should hurry up and
pass Medicaid expansion. Anything else while I`ve got the place to
And then this, quote, “Just came back from the Senate chamber. All votes
were unanimous, Medicaid expanded. Teachers paid.” A few minutes later,
“Independent redistricting, check. Invest heavily in wind and solar,
check. Support early childhood education, check. Broad-based economic
development, check. North Carolina is quickly becoming a national model
Then about an hour in, “I`m now receiving lots of calls from actual
lobbyists. Even the false appearance of power gets their attention.”
Another hour down, “Just had a big debate over whether to cut our
university system even more. In a 1-0 vote, we decided that would be a
terrible idea.” Two hours later, “I just defeated a filibuster because I
needed a drink of water. That removes any opposition to new childcare
In the end, Senator Jackson presided over a marathon five-hour, one
lawmaker, totally fake, but very fun-to-watch legislative session. He was
like a guy diving into his backyard snow drifts just because they were
Winter gave Senator Jackson of North Carolina the chance to be a
legislature of one today. And you know what? The guy dove right in –
almost the best new thing in the world today.
It looks like weather has canceled all of North Carolina`s legislative
business tomorrow, as well. Gleeful North Carolina State Senator Jeff
Jackson, get back to work. I`m sure you have more to do.
That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD WITH
Good evening, Lawrence.
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