The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/09/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
There`s a lot going on today and tonight.
Tonight, there are unconfirmed but somewhat tantalizing reports that former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has scheduled her announcement of when
she`s going to tell the country that she is running for president. We`re
going to be talking about that a little later on.
Plus, President Obama is having the happiest possible presidential trip
abroad today. He basically crowd surfed through the entire island of
Jamaica today. We`ve got some very funny details on that, including some
really funny tape.
We`ve also got some hysterical, in a different way, news, from the American
political right, about a communist takeover of one U.S. state and what you
can do about it.
So, there`s a lot going on today, there`s a lot of news, we`ve got a big
But late this afternoon, a new video was released by the South Carolina
State Law Enforcement Division, new video of the altercation that led to
the shooting death of Walter Scott at the hands of a North Charleston,
South Carolina, police officer this past week.
Now, previously, what we had seen was this tape, which was shot by a
bystander, who did not know either the police officer involved or the other
man involved in this altercation. He was just a young man walking by on
his way to work, he noticed something was going on between the police
officer and this man, and he happened to start filming on his cell phone.
The tape that he shot, which was shot on Saturday morning, during the
incident, was released publicly Tuesday. That tape started, literally,
seconds before the shooting that killed Walter Scott. There`s never been
any denying that the shots fired by that police officer are what killed 50-
year-old Walter Scott. Before this video emerged, though, the officer and
his police department claimed publicly that the reason that officer had to
shoot Mr. Scott, the reason those shots were justified is because the
officer was in fear for his life.
Even without seeing the initial altercation, it is hard to imagine how you
could be in fear for your life from someone who is unarmed and running away
from you with their back to you. And so once this bystander`s video
emerged of the shooting, a number of things happened in quick secession.
First, the lawyer who had been defending the police officer, defending his
actions to the press, apparently quit and said he would no longer represent
the officer. The officer was also then arrested and charged with murder.
That`s him being arraigned yesterday in South Carolina.
The officer was then fired from the police department where he worked,
although the department says they will still pay for his family health
insurance, in part because the officer`s wife is eight months pregnant.
But as that officer remains in jail today in South Carolina, today, we got
another video. We got what is thought to be the only other video of this
incident. It was shot from the dashboard camera mounted on that officer`s
Now, the video does not show the shooting itself. But it does show the
traffic stop that led up to the shooting. And as you can see in the video,
this is that dashboard camera video.
At first, it seems like a routine traffic stop. You see it from the
perspective of the officer`s squad car. Walter Scott stops his car.
Officer Slager approaches the car. There`s music playing. The music you
hear is in the officer`s squad car.
And it seems like this is going to be an unremarkable interaction. The
officer certainly seems very relaxed. You know, any number of – this is
like any number of annoying but unremarkable traffic stops in any city,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER MICHAEL SLAGER: OK. Let`s start with your license. Reason for
this stop is your brake light`s out.
WALTER SCOTT: OK. (INAUDIBLE)
SCOTT: Because actually I just bought the car from my neighbor.
SCOTT: And I was planning on doing that Monday. He still has insurance
papers on the car.
SLAGER: Do you have insurance on the car?
SCOTT: No, I don`t have insurance –
SLAGER: Well, if you don`t have insurance, it`s on your car since you
bought it, you have to have insurance.
SCOTT: I haven`t bought it yet. I`m saying I`m about to do that Monday.
SLAGER: You told me you bought it.
SCOTT: (INAUDIBLE) drive the car.
SLAGER: Oh, OK.
SCOTT: My car is down (INAUDIBLE) this car, I told him (INAUDIBLE)
SLAGER: Let me have your driver`s license. So, you don`t have any
paperwork in the glove box?
SCOTT: No, sir.
SLAGER: No registration in there? No insurance?
SCOTT: He has all that stuff.
SLAGER: Why isn`t it? OK. But you`re buying this car?
SCOTT: Yes, sir.
SLAGER: Did you already buy it?
SCOTT: No, not yet. I`m about to buy it Monday.
SLAGER: Just a minute ago, you told me that you bought it and you`re
changing everything over on Monday.
SCOTT: I`m sorry about that. (INAUDIBLE) everything is on Monday.
SLAGER: All right, be right back with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The whole first part of the tape, that`s kind of it, right? Very
routine, sort of boring, even – until it isn`t.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SLAGER: Stay in the car!
SLAGER: Taser! Taser! Taser!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that`s what we`ve got.
This video does not change the basic known facts of the killing here. We
do not know what happened after the man who was stopped by the police
officer and then ultimately the police officer ran off-camera. There`s a
gap in between what we see – there`s a gap in between what we see in this
traffic stop and Walter Scott for whatever reason getting out of that car
and running away with the police officer, we can hear, in pursuit. There`s
a gap between that chain of events and this chain of events, in the second
video, the bystander`s video, where we see how it ends, just moments later,
with Walter Scott dead in the grass.
This case, understandably, with this incredible visual record of the
shooting, and with the incredible contrast between the police department`s
initial explanation for what happened and what can be seen in that
bystander`s video, this case has ignited a new national discussion on
policing in plaque communities, the difference between black and white
experiences of law enforcement in this country.
In national politics, that discussion has included the Justice Department
investigating some individual police killings in the last few years. It
has also included the Justice Department intervening federally in some
police departments around the country. President Obama today was actually
asked about police violence in the United States, while he was on this trip
to Jamaica. He talked about the federal task force that he set up on the
issue of community policing after the riots in Ferguson last year that
followed the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a white
So, in our country, right, in the midst of all of the street-level activism
that has happened on this issue, and all of the media attention to this
problem, and the federal action to try to find solutions to this problem,
in the middle of all of that, there has also even been some noise that we
might get some even very, very, very, very slightly bipartisan reforms on
criminal justice issues.
Senator Rand Paul leading up to his run for the presidency, he has made the
case that he would be able to attract African-Americans to the Republican
party and to his presidential candidacy in particular, in large part
because of his own self-proclaimed support for some kind of criminal
Well, in the midst of the national hubbub over the specific South Carolina
police shooting, amid all this national consternation over the killing
itself, the almost shocking development that the police officer was
actually charged with murder in this case, in the midst of this whole
national discussion, the whole furor over this South Carolina shooting,
Rand Paul took his brand-new presidential campaign right to South Carolina
today. And he bravely, in the midst of this national discussion, on an
issue that he wants to be known for, Senator Rand Paul bravely today, while
he was in South Carolina, said nothing about it – nothing.
Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008, he once famously
said on this show that a presidential campaign is basically a full-body
scan for everybody who runs at a high level. David Axelrod who ran Barack
Obama`s campaign against Steve Schmidt`s campaign that year describes it
almost exactly the same way. He said that a presidential campaign is an
MRI for the soul.
Once you are officially running for president, you may like the political
press in this country or you may hate the political press in this country,
but if you are a candidate for president at a high level because people
take your candidacy seriously, you will receive so much scrutiny from the
people who are running against you and by the press that is covering you
all, that every single thing there is to be known about you will become
Rand Paul right now is not even to, like, the first x-ray part of his
campaign yet. And the press and his rivals for the nomination have only
just started to even give him a once over at this point. So, it`s going to
be really interesting to see, how long does he get to deep getting credit
for being a brave criminal justice reformer when he walks into the
epicenter of a huge national discussion about race and criminal justice
reform and he has absolutely nothing to say about it.
Similarly, there was just this astonishing visual today. Rand Paul in
South Carolina today decided to give his “I`m running for president” speech
again, this time in South Carolina, this time in front of an aircraft
carrier. Other Republicans and conservatives have been attacking him for
not being tough enough on defense to be a real presidential candidate, so
he`s obviously trying to rebuff that characterization visually, by standing
in front of an aircraft carrier, while he talks about being president.
But because he is Rand Paul, he also needs to try to keep alive the
libertarian-ish family name and reputation that got him 98 percent of the
way to where he is now in politics. And so, there is this amazing visual
today, where he`s got his “don`t forget I`m Ron Paul`s son” presidential
campaign slogan, right there on the moment, “Defeat the Washington
machine,” right? Defeat the Washington machine. That`s his campaign
But he`s got that campaign slogan plastered up there in front of what is
literally a Washington machine, a giant Washington machine. The biggest
one there is! An aircraft carrier built by Washington`s defense budget, to
defend the government of the United States of America and its people.
“Defeat the Washington machine” but pay no attention to that one. Or at
least think different thoughts.
What`s he trying to say there? Like that wasn`t built with federal tax
dollars? That`s the – oh, that`s the aircraft carrier that built with
Bitcoin. Oh, I got it!
Oh, that`s the private sector aircraft carrier. You know, that whole
flight deck was donated by a wealthy philanthropist who was happy about his
So, there`s Rand Paul in front of the aircraft carrier, defeating the
Washington machine today. There`s Rand Paul still getting the Beltway
journalists to write about his appeal to young hipsters, even as he gets
further and further right in his anti-gay and anti-abortion policy
The press is still dutifully writing down that Rand Paul has a great appeal
to the tech community. He`s against net neutrality. He`s even against the
basic stuff that the tech world cares about.
So, I think we`re at this, you know, on race, on the youth vote, on tech,
on all this other stuff that he gets credit for, I think – on the
libertarian stuff, and even on the isolationist stuff. I think we are at
this bubble is about to burst moment, with a lot of the candidates who are
getting into the race.
I mean, right after they announce, they get a bump, right? They get a
flurry of attention and get this moment of sort of equipoise with the
national media, where everybody writes down the received conventional
wisdom about that candidate and writes down what those candidates want to
be said about themselves.
But then, if these guys are going to mount a real campaign, if these guys
are going to be taken seriously, the scrutiny, ultimately, is going to
hurt. And I think in part, because Ssenator Paul inherited his
presidential prospects fully formed from his father. He is probably the
one who the scrutiny is going to hurt the most. And we`ve got a juicy
story on that, next.
MADDOW: So, we`ve got lots to come tonight, including this awesomeness and
the story behind it. Like, yes, everybody run, everybody run across –
yep. This awesomeness, what this is, the story behind it and how it became
newly relevant. It is a night of amazing tape.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Whether or not you believe that Senator Rand Paul has the
experience and the temperament and the good sense to be president of the
United States, what is clear already from him getting into the race for
president is that there are good things and there are bad things about
being a presidential candidate, who is following in the footsteps of your
dad being a presidential candidate.
Here, for example, is a good thing about that. This is former Republican
congressman and perennial presidential candidate, Ron Paul. This is Ron
Paul campaigning for president back in 2012. And he`s campaigning here
with a guy I like to think of as his shadow. That`s Ron Paul on the right
side of your screen, but then there`s that other guy.
Everywhere Ron Paul went during that campaign, his ginormous hulking
personal bodyguard followed. So, there`s Ron Paul walking through a
stadium, hulking bodyguard right behind him. Here`s Ron Paul, giving a big
wave to the crowd, hulking bodyguard watching his every move. There`s Ron
Paul in a car, hulking bodyguard just outside of car, checking everything
Ron Paul`s bodyguard in 2012 was so excellent, so omnipresent, he was
essentially part of the presidential ticket. I mean, you want me? You get
him too, likely at 18 inches or less away from me.
That was 2012. This is now. Hey, you look familiar! That is Rand Paul,
son of Ron, walking offstage after announcing this week that he is running
for president. Not dad this time, him.
And yes, he has apparently inherited dad`s awesome bodyguard. Perhaps, the
Paul family got him on a long-term multi-generational lease.
So, having a very experienced ginormous personal bodyguard at your
disposal, who has already been in the trenches of a presidential campaign,
that is one good thing for Rand Paul, about taking dad`s entire
presidential campaign apparatus.
But with the good also comes the bad. During Rand Paul`s presidential
announcement event, you might have noticed that the camera kept panning up
to the bleachers on stage, where Rand Paul`s very famous father, Ron Paul,
Just a few rows back, though, was this gentleman, who we`re pointing to
with the arrow there. His name is Jesse Benton. He ran Ron Paul`s
presidential campaign back in 2012. And now, there he is for Paul the
younger`s big announcement, right up there on stage.
That turns the out to be an awkward thing, because Jesse Benton is also
currently playing a leading role in a federal investigation into the Ron
Paul for president campaign, specifically the question of whether or not
under his watch the Ron Paul for president campaign bribed people for Ron
Paul endorsements. The specific concern is whether the Ron Paul campaign,
under Jesse Benton in 2012, bribed this bald guy, a former Iowa state
senator named Kent Sorenson.
In the lead up to the 2012 Iowa caucuses, Kent Sorenson had been the state
co-chair for the Michele Bachmann presidential campaign, but then really
dramatically, just a few days before the Iowa caucuses that year, he
switched teams. He publicly ditched Michele Bachmann and said, “I`m
endorsing Ron Paul.”
We now know that Kent Sorenson did that because the Ron Paul campaign was
paying him off. Kent Sorenson pled guilty last year to accepting cash to
switch his support to Ron Paul, and to then working with the Ron Paul
campaign to essentially cover up the $73,000 in payments that they made to
him for his endorsement.
When Kent Sorenson pled guilty, though, that was not the end of the story.
Bribery is one of those crimes that does not just involve a bribee, person
receiving the bribes, it also involves a briber, the person paying them.
Kent Sorenson pled guilty to receiving bribes last August. He`s facing up
to 25 years in prison. But now, eight months after he entered his guilty
plea, Kent Sorenson still has not been sentenced, eight months later. That
delay is because the Justice Department asked the judge in his case to
delay sentencing while Kent Sorenson helps out the Justice Department, with
a, quote, “larger investigation into that bribery scandal in Iowa.”
Last year, “The Washington Post” reported that federal prosecutors were
looking into the actions of people involved in the Ron Paul for president
campaign. They were looking to see if laws were broken by those
individuals, as well as the laws broken by Kent Sorenson. As part of that
investigation, subpoenas were reportedly issued for communications between
Kent Sorenson and, among others, Jesse Benton, who was running the Ron Paul
campaign at the time.
Now, Jesse Benton says he`s done nothing wrong, but while that federal
investigation continues, that same Jesse Benton has now just been tapped to
run the official Rand Paul super PAC, the organization whose job it is to
raise tens of millions of dollars to get Rand Paul, son of Ron, elected
There are advantages to taking over your dad`s entire campaign team, for
example, the awesome, enormous bodyguard. But sometimes it also means
having your campaign run by the guy who`s at the center of dad`s old
unresolved bribery scandal that`s under federal investigation. How`s that
going to work out?
Joining us now is Jason Noble, political reporter for the “Des Moines
Mr. Noble, nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
JASON NOBLE, DES MOINES REGISTER: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, Kent Sorenson pled guilty in August of last year. It`s been
reported that the reason he still hasn`t been sentenced is because the
Justice Department basically said, we want to keep working with Kent
Sorenson. Are they implying that his eventual sentence may depend on
whether or not he`s able to give them more information that might be useful
to some bigger fish?
NOBLE: I think that`s clearly the implication here. The Justice
Department is not saying much. Believe me, I`ve tried.
I sat in on a – kind of a sentencing update hearing in February, where the
attorneys for Kent Sorenson, the attorneys from Justice, and the judge got
together and talked over where this case was going, and they basically
said, just like you said, the government is engaged in a larger
investigation here, and that is ongoing, and clearly, Sorenson is involved
in that investigation in some way that is delaying his sentencing. He`s
facing 25 years, something like a half million dollars in fines. What it
will actually be depends on apparently this other investigation.
MADDOW: “Mother Jones” magazine reported this week that the Ron Paul for
president 2012 campaign has spent over $300,000 in legal fees, just since
August. We can surmise that some of those legal fees for a now long-dead
presidential campaign may have to do with this ongoing case.
Do we know who, from the Ron Paul campaign, Senator Sorenson was
communicating with around these bribes?
NOBLE: We do know one individual, for sure. A guy named Dimitri Kesari
from Virginia. And he was, I think he was the deputy campaign manager for
Ron Paul. And he actually had a face-to-face meeting with Senator Sorenson
and his wife at a restaurant here in Iowa in which this guy, Kesari, gave a
$25,000 check to Kent Sorenson`s wife. The check was written on Kesari`s
wife`s jewelry business, not the Ron Paul campaign, but it was part of this
effort to woo Sorenson over to the Paul campaign.
So, we know for certain that connection. Jesse Benton, obviously, was
running the Ron Paul campaign, was regularly in Iowa, a part of that Iowa
campaign leading up to the caucuses.
MADDOW: Jason, obviously, with Rand Paul now starting his own presidential
campaign, tapping Jesse Benton to have this key role in running his
campaign, running his super PAC, which in some ways is even more important
than the way you run the campaign these days, obviously, everybody is
wondering if this investigation is going to follow him into his own
presidential election efforts, whether Jesse Benton may end up getting
named if the investigation does result in further indictments or anything
In the meantime, while we wait for that and we can speculate on that, there
is a question about what this means for the Iowa caucuses. Is – should we
surmise from this proceeding around Kent Sorenson that people who are used
to getting bribed for their endorsements in Iowa, and that`s been part of
the caucuses` process?
NOBLE: No, I don`t think so.
You know, what actually tripped up Kent Sorenson from the beginning was a
state senate rule here. He was a state senator at the time, and this rule
said that if you are a sitting member of the Senate, you cannot accept
payment from a presidential campaign. And that`s the rule that Sorenson
was trying to evade in this whole thing, and that`s the reason why he, you
know, funneled the money in the way that he did to obscure the source of it
to make sure it didn`t show up on an FEC report.
You know, Iowa takes the caucuses very seriously and takes steps like that
Senate rule to avoid these sort of situations. And I think what we`re
seeing on the ground here now is the – that this was sort of an isolated
incident. This was an incident with Kent Sorenson. There haven`t been a
lot of changes in rules or laws or caucus procedures to address that.
That much bigger issue coming out of the 2012 caucuses was the result on
caucus night, when Mitt Romney was initially declared the winner and then a
recount a few weeks later showed that Rick Santorum actually won.
MADDOW: Right, it was Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, and ultimately the
delegates went to Ron Paul.
NOBLE: That`s right.
MADDOW: That logistical chaos was fun.
Jason Noble, political reporter with the “Des Moines Register,” thanks for
helping us sort this out. Appreciate your time tonight.
NOBLE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. We`ve got lots more ahead tonight, including how today`s
major diplomatic news took a detour through the Bob Marley Museum and a lot
Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the things we`ve been watching for in the news is word that
there will be an announcement from former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton that she`s officially starting her campaign to be president of the
United States. The reason we`ve been expecting that announcement to come
very soon is because the Clinton folks apparently rented office space for a
campaign headquarters late last week in Brooklyn, New York. That`s
important, because once you start spending money like – on core campaign
expenses like that, the FEC rules say you have to officially declare your
campaign within 15 days of doing that.
So, if they started paying rent on office headquarters last week, do the
math, carry the 1, the new office space had seemed to indicate there would
be an announcement any day now.
Well, there are two reports tonight in the “New York Daily News” and
“Business Insider” each citing one unnamed source, saying that the
announcement from secretary Clinton will come this weekend. “Business
Insider” says she`ll announce on Saturday or Sunday, the “Daily News” says
she will announce on Sunday, thus raining on Marco Rubio`s planned
announcement the following day – but also confirming that the office space
rental thing was actually the right thing to watch and it really does mean
that she is about to get in.
Now that we think she is starting her campaign and we know where she`s
putting her headquarters, two things to know about that headquarters.
First of all, the floors of office space that the soon-to-be Clinton-for-
president campaign has just rented in Brooklyn, they`re located, I kid you
not, on the corner of Clinton Street in downtown Brooklyn. Oh, that`s
Also, you should know that the new Clinton campaign headquarters is
literally across the street from the offices of Loretta Lynch, across the
street from President Obama`s nominee to be attorney general. Loretta
Lynch and her staff work out of a lovely regal building in downtown
Brooklyn. It`s very nice. Now, they will be able to gaze across the
street into the Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters, while their own
boss` attorney general nomination continues to languish than longer than
any other attorney general nominee in modern history.
Busy neighborhood over there on Clinton Street. When we learn more about
that campaign launch, we`ll let you know.
MADDOW: A couple of years ago, the nation to have Jamaica launched a new
tourism campaign, by installing the world`s biggest stress ball in Times
Square in New York City. The idea was kind of obvious. Come to Jamaica,
relax, de-stress, squeeze.
President Obama flew into Jamaica last night, and by this afternoon, he was
already so relaxed that he lost track of time. The president left a lovely
message at the guest book at the Jamaica prime minister`s office. The
message said, “May the deep and abiding friendships between our nations
continue for generations to come, signed Barack Obama, 10th of April,
It`s not yet the 10th of April, but getting there, almost. Oh, relax about
it, 9th, 10th, potato, potato, chill out.
Here`s the president visiting Jamaica`s Bob Marley Museum last night. He
says he was a big Bob Marley fan in his younger days.
But it`s not all relaxed. Part of this trip that`s going to freak out the
right wing and one Republican who is about to announce his presidential
campaign, that part is next both on the president`s itinerary and here on
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Less than two weeks from now, on April 21st, Rastafarians
everywhere will celebrate one of their holiest days of the year. It`s a
holy day called Groundnation Day or sometimes Groundation Day.
The Rastafarian faith is focused in part on a mystical reverence for the
nation of Ethiopia. And a lot of the faith`s holidays are focused on the
founding of that nation and its first modern leader, Haile Selassie.
So, Rastafarian holidays mark the implementation of the first Ethiopian
constitution in 1931. There`s a Rastafarian holiday that marks the
birthday of Haile Selassie, and the day on which he was crowned king of
Ethiopia on 1930.
But Groundation Day, which happened April 21st, that day marks the day that
King Haile Selassie, king of Ethiopia, revered as a messiah on earth and
almost as a deity by the Rastafarian faith, Groundation Day is a high
holiday every year in the Rastafarian faith, because April 21st, 1966 is
the day that Haile Selassie came to Jamaica personally, himself.
And you know it is one thing, I`m sure, for hundreds of thousands of people
an ocean away to revere you as a god on earth, it is another thing to have
to contend with that in person. And on April 21st, 1966, 100,000
Rastafarians who wanted to see their god up close, they came to greet Haile
Selassie at the airport when he landed in Jamaica. It was a momentous
occasion for the Rastafarian faith.
But for Haile Selassie, personally, for Haile Selassie, the man, it was
kind of a mob scene. The faithful stampeded the tarmac and Selassie, who
did not himself consider himself to be a Rastafarian, he was a lit freaked
out by the size and fury of the welcome.
And that was the scene, as a famous moment in Jamaican history, that was
the scene that one Jamaican news anchor recounted last night as he and the
rest of Jamaica awaited the arrival of a totally different kind of a
foreign dignitary. But watch this, she tells that story, but then check
out her reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEMALE TV ANCHOR: You know, it is interesting, in 1966, when Emperor Haile
Selassie came, there was such a furor here as I mentioned earlier with the
Rastafarians, about 100,000 strong of them. When he came out of that
aircraft, just as he emerged from the door and saw what was happening, he
actually went back into the cabin and remained there a number of minutes
before he came back out. It was just out of this world what he – ah, here
The 44th president of the United States of America, about now to make his
way down these steps to touch down on Jamaican soil, for the first time.
We hope it won`t be the last.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama arrived in Jamaica last night, for the first time,
visiting for the first time as president. He was definitely not greeted by
tens of thousands of Rastafarians on the tarmac. I`m quite sure the Secret
Service would not have allowed that, even if the Rastafarians were
interested. But President Obama is definitely feeling the love on this leg
of his trip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you, one my inspiration,
our champion of hope, the president of the United States of America,
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you! Thank you very
much. Thank you. Greetings, massive! Wah gwaan, Jamaica?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was how the students at the University of West Indies greeted
President Obama today and how he greeted them back.
When the Jamaica prime minister met with him today, she told him, quote,
“You are well loved in Jamaica. I can say to you publicly, I love you.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTIA SIMPSON-MILLER, PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA: Thank you, Mr.
President, for visiting with us, and I just want to say to you, you might
not know, but you`re very loved in this country, Jamaica.
You`re well-loved in Jamaica. Well, first of all, I can say to you,
publicly, I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That doesn`t happen every trip.
President Obama also made an unannounced trip to the Bob Marley Museum,
which he called one of the most fun meetings he has ever had as president
of the United States.
Earlier tonight, the president left Jamaica en route for Panama for the
Summit of the Americas. At that summit, he will meet a lot of different
national leaders, including, probably, this guy, Raul Castro, the president
of Cuba. This will be the first meeting between President Obama and Raul
Castro since the U.S. started normalizing relations at the end of last
And on the eve of that meeting, we got sort of an amazing new poll out of
Cuba. You`ve never heard that phrase before, a new poll out of Cuba.
This is believed to be the first independent poll of Cubans in decades, and
it shows – not to put too fine a point on it – but they are really
psyched! Look at those results. Really psyched about reestablishing ties
with the U.S. – 97 percent of Cubans say they think normalizing relations
with the U.S. will be good for Cuba, 97.
And when it comes to political leaders, this is interesting, 44 percent of
Cubans say they have a favorable opinion of Fidel Castro, 44 percent. The
approval rate for brother Raul is slightly higher, 47 percent. When asked
about President Obama, though, 80 percent of Cubans say they have a
favorable opinion of President Obama.
This informal meeting between President Obama and Raul Castro is expected
to happen tomorrow in Panama. If and when it does, that will be historic,
in part because Cuba is still officially designated by the United States as
a state sponsor of terrorism, right up there with Iran, Sudan, and Syria.
And that`s awkward.
But today, the president announced that the State Department has completed
its review of whether or not to remove Cuba from that list, and now remains
the question of when and how the decision on that will be announced, and
what decision, of course, will be.
Joining us now live from Panama City is Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief
foreign affairs correspondent, host of “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS” here on
Andrea, I`m very jealous that you are in Panama. It`s great to see you.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I am
so happy to be in panama, in Panama city. I`ve never been here before.
I`ve been all over the region, but this is a first. And this is going to
be an historic meeting.
When these two leaders meet tomorrow, there`s a lot of tension, unexpected
tension that has to be dealt with. And some of that may actually be
addressed tonight, because John Kerry is, as we speak, meeting with Cuba`s
foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez. And they have an unexpected problem to
deal with, and that is Venezuela, because the White House, people in both
political parties, Cuba observers, people who have been watching this slow
dance to normalization do not understand why the administration chose last
month, just weeks before this summit, to decide to slap sanctions on
Venezuela`s leaders and the majority of the administration, because they`ve
basically set up a situation where Raul Castro has to decide between Cuba`s
longest ally, closest ally, the ally that replaced the Soviet Union in
subsidizing Cuba all these years, when it was completely isolated and
economically bereft, and normalization with the United States, because
Maduro was going to come here tomorrow and make a big show of protesting
MADDOW: Is it likely that that consternation and that deliberate stirring
up at this summit, where obviously this has the opportunity to do it, is it
likely that that`s going to scuttle any stuff that is actually right –
sensitive right now between Cuba and the United States? Obviously, the
U.S. is considering this state sponsor of terror decision, and that`s very
important. That doesn`t have to be announced on any particular time frame.
Is there anything that has to be happen that that new tension might screw
up for this summit?
MITCHELL: Not really. I think that the decision of Cuba as a terror
sponsor has long been sort of intellectually bankrupt, because Cuba has not
sponsored terror for, you know, many, many years. I mean, the last known
incident was Cuban Migs shooting down brothers to the rescue in 1996 in
Miami. And they do not, by any measure, belong in the same category as the
other states on that list.
And it has become just a terrible, more than a thorn in their side. It
has, they believe, prevented American banks from letting Cuban diplomats in
New York at the U.N., in Washington, at their intersection, to do any kind
of normal banking, any credit. And that has made their lives and their
work experience miserable. And the administration agrees with that and has
been pleading with the U.S. banks to help, but they say until this terror
decision is lifted.
Now, the president cannot lift it himself. He can say, I accept the
recommendation of my secretary of state, and I will forward that to
Congress. And then after 45 days, if Congress does not act to overturn it,
which is very unlikely that they would get their act together to do that,
then it goes into effect.
MADDOW: Fascinating. And thinking about just the domestic timing at home,
if there was an unexpected announcement about that and it was going to get
kicked to Congress, with Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio planning to
announce his presidential campaign Monday.
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton expected to announce her presidential campaign on
Saturday or Sunday, obviously, that becomes an international call with
serious domestic political consequences here. Sounds like tomorrow will be
a suspenseful day, though, in terms of seeing what happens.
Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent.
MITCHELL: And you know –
MITCHELL: You bet.
MADDOW: Andrea, thanks very much. Appreciate having you here.
Andrea Mitchell reporting tonight from Panama City for us and “ANDREA
MITCHELL REPORTS” MSNBC weekdays at noon.
All right. Lots more still to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Debunktion junction, what`s my function?
All right. We begin with a story that starts with a weird thing that
happened on this show way back when we were little, a tiny little show and
I interviewed Lincoln Chafee, a former senator from Rhode Island. Senator
Chafee came on the show to talk about the rift in his former party, the
Republican Party, and then while I was talking about that, he made an
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINCOLN CHAFEE, FORMER RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR: I`m running as an
independent here in Rhode Island. Rhode Island has a strong streak of
independence, and it`s the largest voting bloc of unaffiliated voters in
Rhode Island. So I decided to run as an independent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lincoln Chafee was running for governor of Rhode Island.
MADDOW: Not quite. The morning after Lincoln Chafee made that
announcement on this show, I`m running as an independent, he took it back
the next day. It`s not that he didn`t mean he was running, it`s just that
he still had this job at Brown. He didn`t actually mean to make the formal
announcement that he was running until that job was over.
So, I know I said I`m running for governor. It`s not what I meant yet.
Eventually, he did announce – re-announce his candidacy and he did win
that election and become governor of Rhode Island.
But that history gave a good reason to be skeptical when these super
surprise headlines popped up today. “Lincoln Chafee considers run for 2016
Democratic presidential nomination.” Whoa!
Didn`t see that coming, but I have to ask now, is that true or false that
Lincoln Chafee is maybe going to run for president? He`s at least testing
MADDOW: True. Lincoln Chafee has got himself an exploratory committee,
and a Web site, and an announcement video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAFEE: I`m Lincoln Chafee. I`m a Democrat considering a run for
president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, it`s official. It`s official. Lincoln Chafee is exploring a
run in 2016.
Because it is Lincoln Chafee, though, you should also keep checking. Just
in case he changes his mind. He will be on with Lawrence O`Donnell in the
next hour on MSNBC tonight in case you want to check early.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Do you have an angry great-uncle who sometimes e-mails you about
things that make him angry? Do you sometimes feel like you don`t have the
same understanding of the news, so sometimes what your uncle is angry about
is kind of a surprise to you?
Well, here is your gift from the news cycle. Here`s the latest thing some
people are very angry about, even though it does not exist in the real
news, it only exists here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALE TV ANCHOR: What`s the communist flag doing flying next to our
American flag over a state capitol? Didn`t take long for a few patriots to
take care of that. They took it down. Find out where it all happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A communist flag flying over a state capitol. Takeover has begun.
Grab your gold. Get to the bunker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: And listen to this one out of Washington state. A Chinese
communist flag flown next to an American flag at the state capitol in
Washington state. Governor Jay Inslee ordered that that flag be flown for
his meeting with a Chinese ambassador.
But some local patriots were not pleased with that. They took matters into
their own hands. With the help of a capitol official, the men took down
the Chinese flag. They said flying that at the same height as Old Glory
was simply disrespectful.
Those are your headlines. I`ll see you in a little bit.
TV ANCHOR: Man, oh man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOWE: Man, oh man.
Your angry great-uncle who watches FOX News every day, this is the thing
you couldn`t understand that he was so mad about. There have been
headlines in the right wing media about this.
Look, “Patriots remove communist flag from Washington state capitol.
Washington flies communist China flag at state capitol. Patriots come out
and take it down. Washington flags, communist China flag, patriots strike,
patriots tear down communist flag at state capitol.
Here`s the thing. The patriots in the video they`ve been plugging on FOX
News in their headlines, the patriot protesters in the video, did not
actually do any removing or striking or tearing down of the communist flag.
The guy doing the actual lowering of the flag is just a regular run-of-the-
mill Washington state employee who has to put the flags up and down as part
of his job. The reason he was out there at that moment lowering the
Chinese flag in front of the Washington state capitol is not because of a
patriot revolt but because the Chinese ambassador had gone home from his
meeting with Washington state officials.
My best guess at what went wrong here is maybe the good folks at FOX News
Channel did not check with the state to see what was going on here when
they got breathless e-mails from fans in Washington state about the
communist China flag outrage. Had they actually tried to figure out what
was going on here, the governor`s office probably would have told them what
they told us. Quote, “When dignitaries of recognized nations visit, we
raise a flag. The flag is then lowered after their visit. Earlier this
week, the flag of Austria and Finland were raised when their respective
ambassadors were visiting as well. Earlier this week, the Scottish flag
was raised in observance of Tartan Day.”
Tartan Day? I will not (INAUDIBLE)
So, yes. What FOX News has gotten dear old Uncle Ralph upset about is the
flag of China went up at the Washington state capitol because the Chinese
ambassador was visiting the state. And then, when the ambassador left,
they took the flag down. Just like they do whenever they have a foreign
dignitary visiting, or maybe just in honor of some countries` holidays
celebrating the majesty of flag.
But remember, FOX News sold this story nationwide as an outrageous decision
by a Democratic governor to fly a communist flag until a group of angry
patriots ripped it down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALE TV ANCHOR: What is a communist flag doing flying next to our American
flag over a state capitol? Didn`t take long for a few patriots to take
care of that. They took it down. Find out where it happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, no, not at all. Not at all. What actually happened is people
watched while a state employee took down the flag as normal, like they do
all the time. Except this time the state employee doing that had to have a
state trooper there as backup because of the angry Tea Party people who had
gathered in outraged ignorance of how the whole flying flag thing works.
It has always worked at their state capitol.
And then, FOX News broadcast their mistake, which not only reaffirms their
wrong beliefs to the people who are wrong in the first place, it spreads
that ignorance from sea to shining sea. And now, everybody who watches the
FOX News Channel who believes that is news is just as angry about your
Uncle Ralph about patriotic protesters doing a thing they did not do to
protest a thing that did not happen.
And that is how Republican America gets what it calls the news. That is
victory over tyranny.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>