The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/02/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us
How to make a nuclear bomb?
Step one: get blue prints. It`s not that hard. They`re not all that
complex. There are darker corners of the internet. There are even darker
corners of the used book trade where you can find pretty detailed
instructions for how to build your own atomic weapon.
There for example is a truck driver named John Coster-Mullen from
Waukesha, Wisconsin, who not only self-taught himself how to make a nuclear
bomb, he actually built it – a full-scale accurate replica of the bomb
that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. And this Wisconsin trucker, he
wrote a detailed sort of loose leaf book about how you too could build an
accurate replica of a working nuclear weapon. There are copies of that
book still here and there.
So, step one for building a nuclear bomb, figure out how to build a
nuclear bomb, turns out that`s not the hard part. The hard part is step
two – obtaining the nuclear material that makes a nuclear bomb go boom.
The Hiroshima bomb in 1945, it was basically structurally speaking, a
gun. Inside the outer casing that looked like a cartoon version of a bomb
was basically a gun mechanism used an explosive charge to fire a piece of
highly enriched uranium into another piece of highly enriched uranium. And
that created a nuclear reaction and a nuclear explosion. That was the
The second bomb the U.S. dropped on Japan three days later, that one
did it in a different way. The Nagasaki bomb again used an explosive
charge, but in this case, it was used for a different material. The
Nagasaki bomb used an explosive charge to squeeze together a hunk of
plutonium – not uranium, but plutonium. And that is how the Nagasaki
nuclear reaction was setoff.
Those two American bombs remain the only two nuclear weapons ever
been used as weapons in wartime anywhere on earth. We have not come up
with a lot of new ideas about nuclear weapons since then. It`s still
basically those two kinds of weapons. Pick one. It`s either a uranium
bomb or a plutonium bomb.
For all of the complicated politics and history around this issue,
the logistics of it are pretty simple. Uranium is something that can be
mined all over the world. It is a naturally occurring thing. When uranium
comes out of the dirt, it contains less than 1 percent of the isotope, the
particular kind of uranium that`s useful in a nuclear context.
So, in the dirt, it starts off at less than 1 percent. But if you
enrich that uranium, if you enrich it to 4 or 5 percent of that particular
isotope, well, 4 or 5 percent, that`s the level that gets used in nuclear
But you don`t have to stop there. You can keep going. You can keep
enriching it by the same means from which you got from 1 percent to 5
percent. Eventually, if you keep doing it, eventually you will enrich it
up to about 90 percent. And then, you`ve got something useful for a bomb.
It`s hard to do, and you need a lot of raw material. It`s hard to
enrich uranium all the way to up weapons grade. All the way up to 90
It`s hard to do, but it`s not that hard to do. And the nation of
Iran has been enriching uranium to 20 percent enrichment for quite a while
In the new deal, the new framework of a deal announced with Iran
today, Iran says they will stop enriching uranium to 20 percent. They are
agreeing, they are hereby agreeing that they will not enrich uranium above
3.67 percent for at least the next 15 years.
Because they have been enriching uranium for a while, they have a big
stockpile already. They`ve got about 22,000 pounds of enriched uranium
inside Iran right now. As part of this framework deal announced today,
they also said they`ll give up that stockpile. They`re going to give up 97
percent of the enriched uranium they`ve already got lying around.
Now, the way you enrich uranium is you use centrifuges. You either
use – forgive me – but you either use lousy ones like these ones that
were designed in the `70s and that run on software that`s basically Atari
level, or you use good advanced new centrifuges that enrich uranium much
faster and much more efficiently than the old ones.
Iran in total has about 19,000 centrifuges right now. In this new
deal, they have agreed to go down from 19,000 to 6,000. And they agree
that the 6,000 can only be the old crappy ones, not the good ones.
So, even if you just look at those little pieces of it, you can
already see why this is a really big deal. But that`s just uranium.
There`s two paths to the bomb, right? You can have a uranium bomb or a
plutonium bomb. A Nagasaki style bomb is built with plutonium. Plutonium
is something that you don`t just mine from the earth.
You have to make plutonium. You can make plutonium for a nuclear
bomb in basically two different ways. In nuclear power plants, after fuel
rods, uranium fuel rods are used to make nuclear power, they are called
spent fuel rods. When they are spent fuel rods, they are freaking
radioactive as all get out. That`s part of why it`s been so anxiety
producing to see the spent fuel rod pool totally screwed up and fuel rods
broken, and bent and spread everywhere at the Fukushima power plant that
blew up in Japan in 2011.
Spent fuel rods honestly are a little scary. They`re a huge,
dangerous nuclear waste problem and there are a ton of them at nuclear
reactors all over the world that are just being piled up and piled up and
piled up with nowhere to put them and everybody just hopes they are going
to be safe.
Those spent fuel rods can also be reprocessed into plutonium, which
can make a nuclear bomb. Yay!
That is another part of the deal with Iran today. Iran apparently
does not now have the technology or know-how to make plutonium that could
be used in a bomb by reprocessing spent fuel from nuclear reactors. They
apparently don`t know how to do that right now. They don`t have the
technology to do it. They have now agreed in this framework deal today
that they will not develop that reprocessing ability. They will not
develop it and they will not research it.
There is, however, one other way to get plutonium, and that is with a
specific kind of reactor where you don`t have to reprocess anything. It
just produces plutonium as a byproduct of running that reactor. Iran has
built one of those reactors, or at least is in the process of building one
of those reactors at a place call Arak, which is confusing because it
sounds like Iraq, but it is Arak, A-R-A-K, which is both a delicious
Lebanese liquor that tastes like licorice, and also the location of Iran`s
heavy water reactor.
Well, today, Iran agreed to take their Arak reactor apart. They
agreed to take it apart and rebuild so it won`t make weapons grade
plutonium anymore. Look, this is from the fact sheet they put out about
the deal today. Quote, “Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy
water research reactor in Iraq so it will not produce plutonium.” Quote,
“The core of the reactor which would have enabled the production of
significant quantities of weapons grade plutonium, that core will be
destroyed or removed from the country.” Wow.
So, if Iran does all of these things, they can, yes, still look up
how to build an atomic weapon basically at the library. But all of us can
do that. If this deal works as intended, the idea is that they will not be
able to get nuclear material to put in such a bomb. They will not be able
to get either highly enriched uranium or plutonium.
And so, therefore, they`re basically aiming at what that Waukesha
trucker was able to do, but nothing beyond it.
This is not a done deal. It is not signed. It is an agreement to
try to work from here toward assigned deal by the end of June.
The Republican reaction to the announcement of this framework and the
president`s remarks about it today is exactly what you would expect. Six
years into the presidency, though, we know that`s how he would react even
though if he was announcing was that he had personally cured cancer. They
would then be against that cure.
The international reaction, thus far, is basically elation that this
vexatious issue that has been such a nightmare for so many countries on
earth imagining Iran with a deployable nuclear weapon, there has been
elation today that that prospect might have been averted not with a war,
but with the radical idea of talking it through.
Now the question is, is it enough, will it stick, and will we be our
own worst enemies in trying to make it come true?
Joining us now is Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund.
He is the man who I think is better than anybody in the country at
explaining nuclear things to nuclear people.
Joe, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
JOE CIRINCIONE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you if I explained any of that wrong. I
fully admit I might have.
CIRINCIONE: That was brilliant. We got to package that. We got to
show it at schools around the country. There was a couple of small
details, but not worth getting into.
MADDOW: Oh, come on. Go on. Correct me. Seriously. Go on.
CIRINCIONE: The Arak reactor.
CIRINCIONE: It actually does make plutonium in the fuel rods and it
does have to be reprocessed, which is why this agreement is so significant,
because it bans Iran from ever having a reprocessing facility. It assures
that whatever fuel does come out after that reactor has to be shipped out
of the country. So, in addition to reconfiguring the core so it doesn`t
produce much to begin with, there are all these redundant steps.
Why is this such a big deal? A few years ago, Israel was saying that
reactor was the main threat. They were going to be able to produce
plutonium and Israel might have to bomb that reactor before they put the
first load of fuel in.
Gone. No Arak reactor to worry about. That is no longer a threat.
The plutonium path has been completely cut off.
MADDOW: Well – let me interrupt you, Joe. When they say that that
should be rebuilt and reconfigured so that it doesn`t produce large amounts
of weapons grade plutonium, you`re basically saying that you can`t
necessarily make it stop producing plutonium as long as it exists, they
just have to make it produce that less efficiently and then take it away
the plutonium once it`s made.
CIRINCIONE: Exactly. Every reactor core produces some plutonium in
the fuel rods. The original design, they would have been producing about
eight kilograms, enough for about two bombs a year. Completely reconfigure
the core, less than one kilogram, not enough for a nuclear bomb.
MADDOW: In terms of the objections raised by the Israelis, you
mentioned that Arak reactor. One of the things I know both they and Iran
hawks in this country have talked about is one of the Iran`s facilities
being basically unbombable, an underground facility that has been an
enrichment facility. People were very concerned that you couldn`t enforce
anything against it because it was too protected from even a military
What`s the resolution of that in this deal?
CIRINCIONE: Right. So, here`s another threat we can start to check
off assuming this deal is implemented and all the details are worked out
over the next few months. The Fordow facility, deep underground. Israeli
bombs can`t penetrate. They really wanted the enrichment activities there
That`s what this deal does. We`re going to leave some of the
centrifuges, but they cannot be used for any uranium enrichment. They can
be used to purify other gases that can be used for scientific purposes.
And this is a ban that last forever. That facility can never be used for
uranium enrichment again.
MADDOW: So, so much of these points of agreement, particularly that
one that you just mentioned, they depend on Iran basically being
MADDOW: That there being foreign scientists present, foreign
inspector, total transparency that they can`t cheat or occlude from
international view what they`re doing, that they can`t cheat or occlude
from international view what they`re doing. How strongly do you believe
that that`s possible? And what would be the consequences if they kicked
some inspectors out?
CIRINCIONE: Yes, the Iran nuclear complex is sprawling, but it`s not
infinite. With enough inspectors, enough cameras, enough safeguards, you
can inspect this.
And that`s probably the biggest breakthrough in this historic
agreement today. Iran has agreed to an unprecedented level of inspection.
Such a deal has never been negotiated in the history of the nuclear age
before. We`re going to have cameras, seals, inspectors. We`re going to
track the uranium from the time it comes out of the mines through the
processing until it`s stored in cylinders as a gas.
We`re going to have the entire supply. We`re going to have export
controls. We`re going to look at what they`re importing. What they`re
We`re going to have inventory controls. We`re going to be tracking
the scientists, the engineers in these plants. So, if 200 scientists don`t
show up some day at Natanz, we`re going to go well, where are they?
And this gives you the assurance during the lifetime of the
agreement, you`d be able to catch Iran should it try to sneak out or break
out or creep out of this agreement. And in addition to our intelligence
assets, we`ll be in a much better position to detect any covert activities.
MADDOW: Joe, do you think that domestic political pressure either in
Iran or in the United States is going to be strong enough to potentially
derail this before they get to a final agreement at the end of June, or do
you feel like this is going to be given enough breathing room to maybe
CIRINCIONE: Well, there`s going to be a fierce fight. And you see,
the people opposed this deal for political reasons are still going to be
opposed to it.
But this deal is so sweeping. It is so stunning in its detail that
it`s going to be very hard to resist it. There`s already political victory
Mr. Kirk who had just a few days ago claimed he had 60 votes to bring
a new sanctions bill to the floor of the Senate, he`s just announced he`s
going to delay that to July. So, whereas a week ago, it was heading for
action in the Senate, now he can`t even get a vote on it.
And I think what`s going to be critical to this is when the American
military and security establishment weighs in, this is a very convincing
agreement. I think you`re going to find broad support among national
MADDOW: Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, thank
very you for your time tonight. Thank you for letting me make you tell me
I was wrong and how. I really appreciate it, Joe.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend.
All right. We have lots more ahead including some more really
interesting news, interestingly, about Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois. All
of a sudden, he`s making a ton of news on huge national issues and it`s for
one very specific reason nobody`s talking about. So, we`ll be getting to
Also, there`s more news out of the great state of Indiana, where
Republican leaders thought they were going to have a nice, calm week. It
instead turned out to be pure, sometimes joyful chaos. Details on that
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our work is not yet
done and success is not guaranteed. But we have a historic opportunity to
prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran and to do so peacefully with
the international community firmly behind us. We should seize that chance.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is some amazing footage. It`s a little before midnight
local time in Iran when news of the nuclear deal broke in this country.
This was the reaction in Tehran.
People literally dancing in the streets. People getting out of their
cars in Tehran to dance in the streets, with what looks like from this
angle some unbridled joy.
People waved flags. They yelled congratulations for Iranian citizens
whose economy has been crippled by international sanctions. There was a
lot, a lot riding on this deal. And at first blush, they seem very psyched
that it has at least come this far.
They also seemed very psyched to see a certain president on Iranian
state-run TV. It was not their own president. Look at this guy. He
tweeted in Farsi, “Selfie with Obama.”
There were a lot of Obama selfies. People taking pictures with their
TVs. A lot of excitement. Maybe that is because as of today their country
is a bit less isolate, a bit less of an international pariah, and seeing
this particular speech on state TV in Iran is a sign of that.
It does not happen every day, that Iranian state-run television airs
a speech by the president of the United States. A lot of what happened
today does not happen every day. This is a historic deal on a historic day
even though it`s not done yet.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A year and a half ago, the al Shabaab terrorist group pulled
off an attack in downtown cosmopolitan Nairobi, Kenya, that was almost
impossible to believe. Multiple attackers in broad daylight stormed a
crowded upscale shopping mall and started shooting, started taking
hostages. That siege went on for three nights and four days before all the
attackers were killed.
One of the hallmarks of that attack was that survivors said the
terrorists tried to figure out who was a Muslim and who wasn`t among their
hostages, so they could try specifically to kill the non-Muslims. The
attackers reportedly asked people trivia questions about the Koran, and
about the tenets of Islam. And people who couldn`t answer those questions,
who couldn`t prove otherwise to these guys satisfaction that they were
appropriately Muslim, those people were killed first. In all, in the
Westgate Mall siege, 67 people were killed.
Al Shabaab had not always been so discerning about the faith of the
innocent people they were massacring. Their previous most deadly attack
had been against people who dared to watch a World Cup soccer match in
Uganda, in July 2010, as Uganda bombings killed 74 people absolutely
As strange as it is to say it, those kinds of tactics were frowned
upon by al Qaeda, under bin Laden and under Ayman al-Zawahiri, after bin
Laden was killed, al Qaeda central made a habit of advising other terrorist
groups around the world who wanted to operate under the al Qaeda umbrella
that they should try to kill non-Muslims more than Muslims.
And so, there is weird evidence that al Shabaab may have made a
deliberate shift in the tactics to try to kill fewer Muslims but more non-
Muslims to please the top leadership of al Qaeda. Al Shabaab formally
joined al Qaeda in 2012. That would be after the Uganda bombings, but
before Westgate. 2012 was when they pledged allegiance to Ayman al-
Well, today, al Shabaab carried out their deadliest attack yet in
Kenya, at the only public university in northern Kenya. The school has
been open for only about four years. It has about 900 students. Today,
just before dawn at about 5:30 a.m. local time, masked al Shabaab gunmen
wearing combat gear shot their way through the gates of the school, they
forced their way into the heart of the college, and then they just started
killing people and taking hostages in the university dormitories.
All the students had basically been asleep when the shooting started.
One eyewitness told reporters that the gunmen at his door opened doors and
screamed in at the students inside, are you Christian or are you Muslim?
He said, quote, “If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot.”
It took two hours for Kenyan security forces to arrive at that campus
and begin evacuating the students from the dorms. Finally, it was after
dusk, it was about 15 hours later when officials finally announced that the
operation was over, that they had killed four terrorists and the siege was
done, 587 people were safely evacuated from that campus today, but at least
147 people, mostly students were killed – 147 people.
A U.S. counterterrorism official tells NBC News today that al Shabaab
had been planning this attack for a long time.
It also seems important to note that President Obama just this week
announced that he is planning to visit Kenya this summer for the first time
during his presidency. Kenya is a close U.S. ally. They`re considered a
very important U.S. partner when it comes to international counterterrorism
efforts. But on their own soil, with Westgate a year and a half ago and
now this today at this campus, Kenyans are paying a terrible price on their
own soil for the persistence of this group al Shabaab.
MADDOW: Today, in Indiana, print reporters and camera people and
radio journalists all rushed to the state capital to hear what Indiana
Governor Mike Pence was going to say now. They had been advised that
Governor Pence was going to speak, so they got set and they got ready and
they started waiting. And Mike Pence never turned up.
Want to know why? That`s next.
MADDOW: Congresswoman, combat helicopter pilot, wounded Iraq war
veteran – Tammy Duckworth of Illinois this week announced she is going to
run for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. She is going to run for the seat that
used to be held by President Obama.
Now, it is a big deal for somebody in the House to announce that
they`re running for Senate because they have to give up their current
congressional seat in order to make a Senate run. So, if you`re a serving
member of Congress, you don`t announce a Senate bid unless you`re pretty
sure you can win, because you really do have to give up your existing job
in order to make the run.
Well, Tammy Duckworth announced this week she is doing it. She wants
to challenge Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.
So, just on its own terms, this is going to be a really interesting
race. We think of Illinois as a blue state, but they did elect Republican
Senator Mark Kirk and they did just elect a Republican governor this past
But 2016`s going to be a presidential election year. And
Presidential election year turnout tends to be much more favorable to
Democrats. Mark Kirk is an incumbent. It`s always hard to pick off an
incumbent. But if anybody has a good chance of doing so, it`s probably
someone as impressive as Tammy Duckworth, someone with her record and her
bio, who is a Democrat running statewide in Illinois in 2016.
Interesting on its own face, right? That said. Here`s the really
interesting part that just turned into the really important part. Because
even if Tammy Duckworth doesn`t beat Mark Kirk next year, her entry into
the race, the fact that Mark Kirk now knows he is going to have to run for
reelection as a Republican in a pretty blue state against a tough Democrat
like Tammy Duckworth, just her declaring that she is running is apparently
already paying dividends with really important national implications.
Because Tammy Duckworth declared she was running on Monday, within
two days, Republican Senator Mark Kirk now announced two great leaps
forward we had never heard anything from him about before. First, he
announced, as a Republican, he is absolutely opposed to the discrimination
bill that Mike Pence just signed in Indiana. All the 2016 presidential
hopefuls are all for that bill. But Mark Kirk came out against it.
Quote, “I strongly oppose what Governor Pence did. We should not
enshrine bigotry under the cover of religion. It`s not just bad practice,
it`s un-American.” OK.
And then, he announced he will vote for Loretta Lynch to be the next
attorney general of the United States. That puts the vote count on Loretta
Lynch at 51 senators for the first time.
The Republicans in the Senate are just maybe never going to allow a
vote on her ever. But if they did put her forward now, thanks to Mark
Kirk`s newfound enthusiasm for her, Loretta Lynch would pass. She would be
confirmed by the Senate.
And that is particularly nice for the White House and for Loretta
Lynch, because before Mark Kirk made this announcement, the deciding vote
for Loretta Lynch was probably going to have to be Bob Menendez, who has
just been indicted by the Justice Department on a dozen corruption charges.
So, honestly, in the name of decency, he really has no business
voting on who should be the next head of the Justice Department, even
though he said today he would be happy to cast that vote for her. I`m sure
he would. Wouldn`t you like the chance to have the head of the Justice
Department owe you one the day after the department just dropped a dozen
felony charges on your head? Ek.
Well, now with Republican Senator Mark Kirk pledging to provide the
deciding vote for lynch instead, it`s not only clear that Loretta Lynch
will be confirmed if they let the vote happen, it`s clear that the vote
won`t have to come with a giant conflict of interest corruption indicted
senator asterisk on it for all eternity.
So, thanks, Tammy Duckworth! I mean, Congresswoman Duckworth, I
think you very well may beat Mark Kirk in Illinois next election day. And
I think you are more likely than not to take that U.S. Senate seat in
Illinois and add another Democratic woman to the U.S. Senate chamber.
But in the meantime, just you announcing that you were running
against Mark Kirk has already paid these huge dividends against Mike Pence
and what he is doing in Indiana and for Loretta Lynch as the next attorney
general of the United States, and as we just heard from Joe Cirincione,
maybe not throwing up the round deal. Mark Kirk is off that hobby horse
too all of a sudden. Tammy Duckworth for the win.
Today, in Arkansas, we have some footage of Republican Governor Asa
Hutchinson making – signing a purported fix to the Mike Pence style
discrimination bill that the Arkansas legislature recently passed. We have
that footage of him signing the fix there.
Before the national outcry this week the against Mike Pence bill, Asa
Hutchinson had been on track to sign basically the exact same legislation
for Arkansas, maybe even slightly worse legislation for Arkansas. But
after seeing the boycotts and the national condemnation erupt against
Indiana, Governor Hutchinson changed his mind and said he actually wanted
that Arkansas bill recalled or at least changed to alleviate those kinds of
Well, today, he very happily signed that fix. With lots of cameras
there, lots of people there, lots of people applauding as he did so.
Today, Mike Pence also signed that kind of fix in Indiana. But we
don`t have any footage of him signing his fix. There was this weird moment
this afternoon when reporters for some reason were advised that Mike Pence
was going to make a new estimate about the latest whirl of his dervish as
he has careened chaotically through this week and this issue in Indiana.
Reporters showed up. The podium was set up. Microphones were
tapped. Everybody was ready for Mike Pence.
No Mike Pence. He never showed up. We are told that he did sign the
supposed fix in Indiana, but he did so in private. No cameras, no
reporters, no statements. Not this time, not like the last time.
So, this has just been a remark week. This backlash against Indiana
has been profound as have its consequences. As of today, Republican
legislatures in Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Tennessee have all put
on ice similar legislation, and Georgia as well, similar legislation that
they were all moving.
In Michigan, the Republican legislature there had three of these
bills pending. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder – Republican Governor Rick
Snyder of Michigan said he would veto any of them that get to his desk.
The backlash has been strong nationwide. The backlash has been so
strong in Indiana specifically that beyond this purported fix to save face
on this Mike Pence bill, Indiana`s Republican-led legislature might now
actually move for the first time ever to substantively protect the rights
of LGBT people in Indiana law. They`re saying they might.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. DAVID LONG (R-IN), PRESIDENT PRO TEM: The discussion
about special class protection for the LGBT community is going to happen.
All right? That`s – today has started that discussion. It will happen.
And I think it`s important for people to know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the Republican leader of the Indiana state Senate.
And who knows if Indiana will actually do it, but wow, what a difference a
week makes, right? A week of unbridled national disgust can change things.
In the big picture, though, what is turning out to be kind of the
weirdest thing about this whole remarkable story is Indiana just whipsaws
on this issue, and Mike Pence completely collapses into incoherence. And
all these other Republican states around the country whipsaw on this issue
and pull their bills and change their minds and realize they don`t want to
do something like what Mike Pence just did.
In the midst of all that happening nationwide over these last few
days, this remarkable story – in the midst of that, every single one of
the presidential candidates for 2016 who has commented on this issue has
said that they stand with Mike Pence. They stand with the unreconstructed
Mike Pence. They stand with the bill that Mike Pence signed in the first
So, yes, like with this Tammy Duckworth challenge, Mike Kirk may now
be blazing a new Republican trail on this, but not a single one of the 2016
Republican candidates with them.
Joining us now is Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for “The
Ryan, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Nice to be here.
MADDOW: I should be clear that I don`t know if Rand Paul has made
any comments on this issue, now. I said all of candidates who have
commented have spoken in favor of what Mike Pence did. Has Rand Paul
talked about this at all?
GRIM: He hasn`t and he`s not going to talk about Iran either. He`s
telling people – well, his spokesperson is telling people that he is,
quote, “out of pocket,” unquote, until April 7th when he is supposed to
launch his presidential campaign.
It`s good timing for him to be out of pocket. But actually, it seems
any week is pretty much good timing nowadays for Republican candidate to be
out of pocket.
MADDOW: I wonder, though, thinking about Rand Paul on this just
because he is in this unusual position where he is sort of under radio
silence while there has been so much Republican chaos on this issue, I
wonder if that ultimately will be advantageous to him, because the
Republican party it feels like hasn`t yet settled on what they`re going to
think of this issue. We do have all of these Republican candidates saying
they`re in favor of what Mike Pence did originally.
Mike Pence at least halfway and with no cameras there tried to undo
some of this. We`ve seen all of the other Republican leaders around the
country, including some very well-respected ones climb way down on this
issue. The Indiana legislature is thinking about an employment
nondiscrimination act on LGBT issues now.
I mean, is it clear to you how the Republicans are going to settle on
GRIM: I think the Republicans generally know – I think Republican
presidential candidates outside of Rand Paul, I think it is pretty clear,
that they`re going to go as far right as they can on this.
Except you saw Jeb Bush, who, you know, he`s a little bit rusty. You
know, coming out of the gate, he hasn`t been a politician for a while. So,
the first time he was asked about it, he said oh, well, I`m with Mike
Pence. That`s the kind of politician reaction. I`m with the base here.
Then he gets asked by Silicon Valley donors who are not with Mike
Pence. He says, oh, well, I`m not with Mike Pence. He`s clearly rusty.
In private, he`s the only one that`s kind of wavered on this.
But the other one, particularly Ted Cruz leading the way, Scott
Walker, Marco Rubio, they know that in Iowa, you know, it`s evangelicals
and it`s ethanol. Those are the two things you have to win out there.
Rick Santorum proved you don`t need any money, you don`t need a
viable path to the White House to win in Iowa. If you win in Iowa and you
have a little bit of money coming out of there like Ted Cruz or Scott
Walker will, then that`s your ticket. And so, Cruz and Walker and the
other folks, they`re all in with Pence, with the unreconstructed Pence
here, to say – look, Republican activists, I`m your guy, I`m going to
support religious liberty at this moment.
MADDOW: Fascinating. The dynamics and internal so close to them are
so different than the national dynamics discussion.
GRIM: Yes, completely.
MADDOW: It`s very important to see it that way. Ryan Grim,
Washington bureau chief for “Huffington Post,” Ryan, thanks a lot tonight.
I appreciate it.
GRIM: Thank you.
MADDOW: You know, it`s very easy to look at those guys and say, oh,
it`s going to be an incredible political detriment to them to be so
contrary to the way the rest of the country feels on this issue. They
don`t care the way the rest of the country feels in this issue because most
of the country doesn`t vote.
They`re counting on the people who do care about this issue in a
right wing way and who are all in favor of what Mike Pence did in the first
place, they`re counting on those people voting at such a higher percentage
than the Average Joe in this country that the politics of this makes sense
for them to be as right wing as possible, even as the rest of the nation
recoils. Welcome to your low participation democracy.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Kind of a weird night in the news. We`ve got two big
stories still to come. One of them is a very, very happy story about a
roll of carpet wearing a seat belt.
Plus, we`ve got a story out of Alabama that will curl your hair.
Both of those stories ahead.
MADDOW: So, the man in this next video was the lieutenant governor
of the state of Alabama. He was a Republican. This was 1999. And what
the lieutenant governor appears to be doing in this clip is peeing into a
jug in the Alabama state Senate chamber.
The new Republican lieutenant governor was caught in a filibuster
fight in which Democrats were trying to take away some of his powers. He
decided he would rather pee in a jug than leave the floor and risk losing
Obviously, I can`t be totally sure this is the right tape. Obviously
you cannot see a jug. Just a minute later the lieutenant governor does
seem to be laughing about something that is out of sight on the floor. And
he later bragged about what he did. Oh, Alabama.
Politicians in Alabama could not agree on anything at this time in
1999, to the point where they ended up peeing in jugs in the state Senate.
But there was one thing Alabama lawmakers could and did agree on that year.
That same year that the lieutenant governor was peeing into the jug, that
very, very divided Alabama legislature also voted unanimously in both
chambers for a bill to help new mothers.
The bill said that in Alabama after a woman gave birth in the
hospital in that state, she could stay in the hospital for two days after a
typical birth, or for four days if the birth was more complicated.
Insurance had to cover that.
Moms in Alabama because of that law have a right to rest after giving
birth and to be looked after. They can`t just be rolled out to the curb
and sent home.
That bill was drafted by a man whose wife died after giving birth in
Alabama. Her name was Rose Church. She had not been given a $5 medical
test that might have saved her life. And she got sent home right after she
had her baby and she died. Her baby daughter survived, but she died.
And that newly widowed father brought their baby girl to that
incredibly polarized state capitol day after day. He brought her in his
stroller. And with his infant daughter, he went door to door and asked
lawmakers to pass Rose`s Law, Rose`s Law, named after his wife, so new
mothers in Alabama would never have to go through that again.
The sight of that new father and that motherless little girl and the
good sense of what they were asking for was irresistible. The lieutenant
governor put the law on the agenda. Alabama lawmakers passed it
unanimously five months to the day after Rose Church passed away. Rose`s
law went on the books in 1999. Simple nonpartisan, noncontroversial
unanimous win for the political process and for public health and for
Rose`s Law worked. It became the new normal in that state. No
And then last year, in 2014, the doctor under whose care Rose Church
died, that doctor decided to start a new career. Larry Stutts had started
off first as a veterinarian. He then became an OB/GYN and then 2014, he
decided he wanted to become a Republican state senator.
Dr. Larry Stutts ran for office as an obstetrician. His campaign
shirts said, quote, “He delivered me, and he will deliver in Montgomery.”
Larry Stutts won that Senate race by 70 votes.
When he got to the state capitol in Montgomery, he picked something
to deliver. He decided he would work to get rid of the law that was named
after his patient who died. Seriously.
Freshman Alabama Republican Senator Larry Stutts decided the state
should repeal the law that gives women the right to stay in the hospital
for a couple of days after they have a baby, even though that law was
inspired by the death of his own patient. It is literally named for his
patient who died under his care when she was sent home too early.
Senator Larry Stutts enlisted the help of six other Republican
lawmakers to repeal Rose`s Law. He said it was an Obamacare style law that
Alabama needed to get rid of. All six of the other Republicans who he
recruited to be with him on this measure, they were all six men.
All six were apparently not told by Senator Stutts that he had been
the OB/GYN in the Rose Church case that led to Rose`s Law in the first
place that they were now signed on to repeal.
They may not have known, but the Alabama press soon figured it out.
We spoke yesterday to Rose Church`s husband, Gene Church, who had worked so
hard to pass that bill. He told us he had gotten word of Senator Stutts`
bill from his now grown up daughter. Mr. Church said when he heard what
Larry Stutts was trying to do, quote, “I contacted a couple of reporters
and said just Google Larry Stutts and Rose`s Law. It would have never
occurred to me that he, Senator Stutts, would think this is a good idea.”
The resulting headlines in Alabama and ultimately nationwide were
clarifying. The “Alabama Political Reporter” was the first outlet to
report the story, and after they reported it, they then ran one of the most
brutal opinion pieces I have ever seen about any politician or any subject.
Quote, “Rose`s Law was passed to protect other women from the fate of one
of his patients. Yet he used Obamacare as a cover for his past deeds.
Stutts sold his bill to senators, comparing to it Obamacare. The president
may be the state Republican`s punching bag, but in this instance it was not
a punching bag, but the body bag that contained the remains of Rose Church
that was behind this act. Senator Stutts is arrogant and careless, and now
we know he is evil.”
After a few days of miserable headlines for him and his colleagues,
Senator Stutts withdrew his bill to cut hospital care for new moms. He
withdrew his bill just days before it was going get a hearing at which he
and his co-sponsors would get to explain to everybody just what in the
world they were thinking.
And so, yes, in Alabama, you can pee in a jug inside the Senate
chamber and laugh about it and tell the story on yourself later on as a
badge of political courage you. Do that.
But you cannot repeal medical care for new mothers, not at least when
it turns out the death of your own patient spurred the law in the first
place. That, that you cannot do. At least that.
MADDOW: Are you ready for a good news story? A happy story?
Behold, the story is basically a culture note, just a quick one.
Yesterday was my birthday and for my birthday folks here at the show
got me some attack owl beer from Vagabond Brewers in Salem, Oregon. It`s
called Attack Owl IPA.
You may remember that Oregon`s state capital had an issue with a
giant great owl that keeps attacking joggers there. We covered the story.
Our graphics department suggested a warning sign that got adopted by the
city of Salem. They literally put it up as a warning sign.
You can buy personal sized versions of the sign as a fund-raiser for
the city`s parks now. It`s all very, very cool.
As part of our ongoing coverage of Salem Oregon not only having an
attack owl, but having the most generous and awesome possible attitude
about their attack owl, we noted that one of the things that has happened
in Oregon since the owl started attacking joggers is that not one, not two,
but three different Oregon breweries have started brewing attack ole
There is the Attack Owl IPA from Vagabond which I got for my
birthday. It is great, exactly the kind of beer I like, just delicious.
There is also one called Hoot Attack from Gilgamesh Brewing, which usually
uses the attack owl sign on its label. They`re giving part of the proceeds
on that to the parks, which is great. And because it`s Oregon, there`s a
third one, the Owl Capone IPA from the McMenamins Brewery, Owl Capone is
the official name reader of the local paper, “The Statesman Journal”,
decided to give the attack owl when they did a poll on it.
Here`s a thing though – Oregon is apparently a state which you can
judge the importance of local news stories in the state by whether or not
they result in the naming of a new beer. Some places name weird holidays
after things that are important to them. In Valencia, Spain, there`s the
holiday for throwing tomatoes at each other. I get it. Everywhere is
different. We all commemorate things differently.
But where else is in America do they commemorate things, do they
signify important news events by christening new delicious beers to mark
the occasion? Because apparently, it`s not just owls in Oregon.
In the largest city in Oregon, in Portland, the airport in Portland,
Oregon, has long had this slightly twitch inducing disco carpet, with the
teal background and the purple asterisks thing going on. When local
authorities announced that the Portland airport was going to replace that
carpet, Oregon got really upset about it. People apparently really love
That started a suspiciously wide phenomenon of people taking their
own pictures with their feet on the carpet. It`s mostly their feet.
Sometimes it`s more than their feet.
Then, the PDX carpet, the Portland airport carpet got itself a media
presence, including an active Twitter account, PDX carpet.
When they moved to actually roll up the carpet and put up new carpet
at the Portland airport, the port authority there had the good sense to
save a few thousand yards of the carpet that they pulled up. They licensed
it to local businesses, so local businesses could turn the carpet into
keepsakes of the beloved airport carpet.
And so yes, naturally that means there is a PDX carpet beer, because
Oregon, Rogue Ales makes the PDX carpet beer, I`m told it`s delightful.
And now, because it`s never enough, Oregon has decided that at the annual
starlight nighttime parade in downtown Portland this year, the grand
marshal of the parade will be the carpet, rolled up, wearing stick-on
googly eyes and an airplane seat belt. Because he is the PDX carpet, they
call him Peedee.
The chairman of the parade tells the “Oregonian” newspaper, quote,
“In any other city in this country, it would likely be considered weird to
name a carpet as the grand marshal of the parade, but this is Portland,
Oregon, thank you for the beer. Thank you for taking good care
around your attack owl. Thank you for being the freaking weirdest state in
the country, in a good way. A lot of states in this country are weird and
not in a good way. You are weird in a really good way.
I live for the day when the other states in our great nation compete
for the title. But right now, it is so clear yours, all yours, it`s yours
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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