The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/18/15
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. We`re going to be
talking about that same subject a little later on this hour. But we`ve got
the Bobby Jindal-derived solution to the problem.
HAYES: Ah, you`ve come up with a decision procedure, the criterion
that will separate the wheat from the chaff?
MADDOW: Well, no.
MADDOW: But it will do something. Thanks, man, appreciate it.
And thanks to you as well at home for joining us this hour.
I should tell you that we have two great guests tonight. We have
Frank Rich here tonight in person and we`ve also got the one and only Dan
Rather, who`s going to be joining me in just a moment. Very excited.
All right. Thirty-five years ago today, it started as a magnitude
5.1 earthquake. And a large earthquake is almost never a good thing, but
when it happens one mile beneath a huge active volcano, it can be the start
of something that feels a little bit like the end of the world. When that
earthquake happened a mile beneath Mount St. Helens 35 years ago today,
thus started a huge volcanic eruption in the Continental United States. It
blew more than 1,300 feet off the top of that mountain in Washington state.
The whole north side of that mountain collapsed and quickly. That collapse
was the largest landslide in recorded history.
Rock and searing hot gases shot sideways out of the collapsed
mountain, going hundreds of miles an hour. Trees came down as far as 12
miles away from the initial blast.
The eruption started that morning at Mount St. Helens at 8:30 in the
morning. It kept erupting all day long till it ended finally just after
5:00 p.m. And in that day`s work, that huge volcanic eruption shot 500
million tons of volcanic ash into the air. That ash rose in a huge
vertical column that went straight up for 15 miles. And then it started
drifting. It started spreading around the globe.
By lunchtime, the ash from the eruption was raining down in
significant quantity on the city of Spokane, which is 250 miles away from
Mount St. Helens. Within two weeks that ash cloud that rose above Mount
St. Helens that day had traveled all the way east across the United States,
all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way across Europe, al the
way across Asia and had started to come back around the other side of the
world. That ash cloud had circled the globe within 15 days.
And what happened in the air is so massive and so hard to get your
head around. The ash and the way that it traveled has become sort of the
indelible image of what that eruption was like 35 years ago today. But for
the communities very nearby to Mount St. Helens, what was in the air
eventually subsided. It was what happened on the ground that even 35 years
later they are still having to cope with, because the largest landslide in
recorded history physically changed their world.
I mean, when the top of that mountain blew off and the whole north
side of that mountain collapsed, the debris from that in less than 10
minutes filled an adjacent river valley, it is filled 25 square miles of
that river valley to an average depth of 150 feet, in less than 10 minutes.
So, imagine taking this huge river valley and filling it with debris that
is the height of a 12 to 15 story building, 25 square miles, and it all
happens in less than ten minutes.
One of the rivers that flows through that part of Washington state is
the mighty, mighty Columbia River. The Mount St. Helens eruption basically
stopped the Columbia River. It flung more than a billion cubic feet of
sediment, rock and landslide stuff, mud into that river.
To get the Columbia River back open again to get the other smaller
rivers that were just inundated and completely buried under all of this ash
and sand and mud, the army corps of engineers started dredging that stuff
out of the rivers almost immediately after the eruption. And that dredging
process to clear the rivers went on for years after Mount St. Helen`s
erupted in 1980.
“The Seattle Times” looks back today and says that the amount of
stuff that they dredged out of the rivers after Mount St. Helens erupted
was enough material to build a 12-lane highway from New York City to San
Francisco – 12 lanes. They dredged all that stuff to keep the rivers
going. And they piled it up on banks next to the rivers.
In the little town of Castle Rock, Washington, the dredge piles were
dozens and dozens of acres. It basically created this moonscape of this
dredged up ash and sand and sediment that nobody knew what to do with, but
they had to do the dredging to try to save the town.
Just above Castle Rock is a lake called Spirit Lake, and Spirit Lake
took a brunt of this eruption. Spirit Lake had so many of sediment dumped
into it by the Mount St. Helen`s eruption, that the surface level of Spirit
Lake rose by 210 feet. And that`s up above Castle Rock. And so, that
nightmare, that potential nightmare right is looming over the town of
And it still is. They eventually built this tunnel – a tunnel to
channel some outflow from that lake so it would loom quite so dangerously
for the town. But even now, 35 years later, they are worried even now they
may have to go and widen that tunnel because it is filling up even today
with that sediment again and threatening the town again.
Mount St. Helens blew up 35 years ago today. It killed 57 people.
It changed the shape of the earth. It moved rivers. It turned a mountain
into a crater. Thirty-five years later, it is still posing challenges.
“The Seattle Times” though today does have one – it`s remarkable
article. And it notes one bright spot basically in the Mount St. Helen`s
aftermath which is about that little town of Castle Rock. “Seattle Times”
notes today that the little town has finally figured out something to do
with some of that volcanic sand and ash that buried them 35 years ago.
Volcanic sand is useful it turns out for things like playing fields
and sand traps on golf courses and for some construction projects at a
small scale. And so, now, the city of Castle Rock is managing its sediment
pile by selling its volcanic sand. The town is earning not a ton of money,
thousands of dollars, in some years, tens of thousands of dollars, selling
its dredge, selling its dredge sediment sand for playgrounds and ball
fields and in one case a mountain bike park – Which is great.
Godspeed. You have to pull for them, right? I mean, Godspeed. I
wish them all best. What a challenge, right?
I mean, it is hard but it is probably good to be able to look back at
that one big disaster that really felt in a lot of ways like the end of the
world. It is hard but good to be able to look back at something that
consequential disastrous and finds maybe the one nice thing there is to say
That is also what we are doing in American presidential politics
right now when it comes to finding some nice thing to say about the biggest
disaster in American foreign policy at least since Vietnam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Knowing what we know now,
what would you have done? I would not have engaged, I would not have gone
into Iraq. That`s not to say that the world is safer because Saddam
Hussein is gone. It is significantly safer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Turns out you can`t sell the sand, you know? There`s that.
Was the Iraq war a disaster? You know, Saddam`s gone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it a mistake to go to war in Iraq.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don`t believe it was. The world is
a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn`t run Iraq.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Was it a mistake to go to war with Iraq?
RUBIO: It was not a mistake given the fact that what the president
knew at the time.
WALLACE: No, she didn`t say that. She just said was it a mistake.
RUBIO: Well, that`s not the same question. I question I was asked
is, what you know now? Well, based on what we know now, I think everyone
WALLACE: Was it a mistake – was it a mistake to go to war with
RUBIO: Two different –
WALLACE: I`m asking you –
RUBIO: Yes, I understand. But it`s not the same question.
WALLACE: But that`s the question I`m asking you. Was it a mistake
to go to war?
RUBIO: It was not a mistake for the president to decide to go into
Iraq because at the time he was told –
WALLACE: I`m not asking you that. I`m asking you –
RUBIO: In hindsight.
RUBIO: Well, the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein is
WALLACE: So, was it a mistake or not.
RUBIO: I don`t understand the question you`re asking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don`t understand the question you`re asking. Whether we
should have started – but Saddam`s gone. That`s good, right?
Presidential candidates Marco Rubio and soon to be presidential
candidate Jeb Bush have been getting dinged on the campaign trail the last
couple of weeks, suffered a slew of embarrassing headlines and are seen as
having badly handled questions about whether or not the U.S. should have
invaded Iraq in 2003. Jeb Bush has gotten in trouble for just seeming like
he didn`t know what to say on the matter. Last week at various times he
said he would have invaded Iraq and that he would not have invaded Iraq and
it would be offensive for him to answer the question whether he would have
invaded Iraq. He also said at one point, he didn`t understand the
question. Somebody else close to him said maybe he misheard the question.
Marco Rubio has also pled at one point to not understanding the
question over the past few weeks. He has also changed his statements
whether or not the war was a mistake, or may be it was the mistake, and he
had this very acrobatic, awkward interview on “FOX News Sunday” yesterday
when Mr. Chris Wallace confronted Marco Rubio and his evolution on this
The problem though is not whether or not Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio are
good at talking about this. Whether they have figured out how to make sure
they sound consistent as they answer it in different contexts and talking
to different people about it. The problem is not skill here, right? The
problem is not whether these guys are good at answering the question.
The larger problem is what is seen as the correct answer to this
question. Because while Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been getting in
trouble on style points, right, for not exactly knowing what to say and for
supposedly flubbing this answer, these are the guy who have been judged by
the commentariat and the beltway media to be acing this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I think it was a failure in many
cases in the intelligence that was given to the president and to the
Congress at the time.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Knowing then what w know now, no WMD in
Iraq, et cetera, was that the right decision to go to war?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: No, it wasn`t. Now, I think
president bush made the best decision he could at the time given that his
intelligence community was telling him there was WMD.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you care about the worst foreign policy disaster in a
generation and making sure that something like that does not happen again
in our country, on the one hand, it`s kind of exciting to be talking Iraq,
right? It`s kind of exciting to see everybody talking about George W.
Bush`s decision to invade Iraq and whether or not it was a good decision
and what was right or wrong about that decision. It is in one way very
exciting that this is finally a matter of high level political discussion.
It is also at the same time very disconcerting to see the Republican
Party and to a great extent the beltway press settling in on an explanation
for what happened in Iraq that is not at all what actually happened to
start the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq did not start because of an
intelligence failure. The war in Iraq was not a well-intentioned
understandable oops by an administration that had no idea the intelligence
was so wrong. That`s not what happened.
When President George W. Bush stood up at the State of the Union and
said Saddam Hussein was buying uranium in Africa, that was also a
discredited claim within the intelligence committee. When Vice President
Dick Cheney said Iraq and al Qaeda were working together, when he said it
was, quote, “pretty well-confirmed” one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed
Atta, had been meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague, he said
that was pretty well-confirmed.
It was not well confirmed at all. Not only did it never happen, the
intelligence community broadly did not believe that it had happened. But
Vice President Cheney said it anyway. Said it was pretty well confirmed.
Who are we to question him?
The Bush administration made a decision that they wanted to go to war
in Iraq, they built a public case that they thought would provide a good
pretext for going to war in Iraq. It was not the CIA that cooked up,
right? It was the political folks.
I mean, they told us the smoking gun was going to be a mushroom
cloud, if we didn`t invade Iraq, there was the possibility of an atomic
blast in the west. Saddam had nuclear capability. When they wanted to
sell that story about Saddam buying aluminum tubes that he was supposedly
using for his nuclear program, that lie was leaked from Vice President
Cheney`s office, to a reporter at “The New York Times” named Judith Miller.
She wrote the article based on what his office told her.
After his own office had given her that information, Dick Cheney went
on “Meet the Press” and went it`s been reported in the “New York Times”
Saddam has these aluminum tubes in his nuclear program.
But all of that history is known now. I mean, it`s documented. It`s
well-understood history that the Bush administration got us to go to war in
Iraq. It wasn`t the CIA who got us to go to war in Iraq. It was the Bush
The Bush administration was not passively lied to. They weren`t
duped by the CIA. They made the case that they thought would be most
persuasive even when it wasn`t true. They made that decision to go that
way at a political level.
And in many cases, the case that they made was a made up case. They
picked little true things here and there and cast them in a way that made a
best political case, because they wanted that war. And the people who did
it don`t want to admit that they did it because that would be a terrible
thing to have to admit, right?
But you know what, people like Judith Miller got fired at “The New
York Times” and the country turned on Bush and Cheney with a vengeance.
And the country not only realizes that the Iraq war and Iraq invasion in
2003 was a mistake but that we went there for reasons that were not what we
And there is this is rump line of defense, right, of people still
trying to excuse the Iraq war, saying it was all an honest mistake even if
it was a mistake. But that ought to be seen for what it is, that ought to
be seen as a self-serving defense by the guilty parties to avoid
responsibility because taking responsibility for something like that, whoo.
And usually, that`s how it feels when you see them articulate that
defense, right? Usually, you can tell that`s what`s going on. God, they
don`t want to accept responsibility and so, they have to cast themselves in
the best possible light.
Usually, you can see those wheels turning. This is just a couple
weeks ago, Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” hosting former “New York Times”
reporter Judith Miller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: I believe that you helped the
administration take us to like the most devastating mistake in foreign
policy that we`ve made in like 100 years but you seem lovely.
JUDITH MILLER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES” REPORTER: That`s what the
intelligence community believed.
STEWART: That`s what they were feeding you. They created –
MILLER: No, that`s what they believed, Jon.
STEWART: All right. Well, obviously we`re never going to see eye to
eye on it. I mean, I appreciate you coming on the program. These
discussions always make me incredibly sad because I feel like they point to
institutional failure at the highest levels and no one will take
responsibility for it.
MILLER: I think they point to –
STEWART: They pass the buck to every individual other than
MILLER: I think they point to intelligence failures that I still
worry about every day because we`re still relying on the same intelligence
communities to give us information about Iran, North Korea and the other
countries we have to deal with.
STEWART: Well, hopefully, given the same effort we`ll get to invade
all of them soon.
MILLER: We won`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is satisfying in an uncomplicated way to see Jon Stewart
take Judith Miller apart as she continues to try to say it was a
intelligence failure and deflect from her own portion of the responsibility
for helping to start the Iraq war under false pretenses.
But at another level, right, yes, that`s satisfying to see but we
really are back in a situation again where great liberal heroes like Jon
Stewart and “The Daily Show” and liberal columnist Paul Krugman in the “New
York Times” today, and leading lefty bloggers like the great Josh Marshall
at “Talking Points Memo” and good old Greg Sargent at “The Washington
Post”, they are all arguing passionately again about the fact that this
wasn`t an intelligence failure, this is the Bush administration lying us
But that`s kind you have just account left, right? The Republican
political position and the mainstream media position on the Iraq war in
2015 is now becoming something that`s not that. When these Republican
presidential candidates flub the answer on Iraq, they get dinged for
flubbing the answer or saying things inartfully. But when they come up
with this answer that the Iraq war was the right decision at the time, it
was well-meaning, it was just that bad intelligence and – oh, by the way,
it`s nice Saddam`s gone – by and large that`s treated as the right answer.
You know, on Sunday morning that doesn`t get followed up with
questions rebutting that. That is seen as the correct answer. If the hard
questions we ask ourselves about the Iraq war is whether or not there`s a
more stable or less stable Anbar province now with Saddam gone, if that`s
the hard question, then we are arguing about the relative merits of where
to sell our volcanic ash and sand after it buried us in that disaster,
The problem here is not, you know, what to do with the side effect
that you might feel good or bad about. The problem of the Iraq war is not,
how did it work out? The problem here for us as a country which is an
almost existential moral question for us as a country is how did we go to
war on the basis of a deliberate lie. That`s the question.
And if that`s not what we are debating, it doesn`t matter what the
Joining us is Dan Rather. He`s host of “The Big Interview” on AXS
Dan, it is great to you. Thank you so much for being here.
DAN RATHER, AXS TV: Delighted to be with you.
MADDOW: I love covering politics and I love election season because
it gives us these crystalline moments to tell good stories who we are as a
country and who we want to be and to have big fights about important
things. I`m so excited we`re fighting about Iraq but I`m bereft at the way
we`re fighting it.
How do you see this issue?
RATHER: Well, I see it as something the American people in the main
and as a whole understand. They understand that going into Iraq was a
strategic blunder of historic proportions –
RATHER: – with terrible consequences that are going to echo and
resonate for a long time. They understand that this was the a colossal
If I`m going to judge and frequently, I`m not, they want to talk
about what do we do now? We`re paying the price for it now. Listen, in
Iraq, several trillion dollars went. More importantly, 4,500 or so of our
best men and women, American men and women died in that battlefield. Tens
of thousands of Iraqi died and for what?
MADDOW: Hundreds of thousands.
RATHER: Hundreds of thousands.
This was a result of this colossal mistake. So, I think the American
people see this clearly for what it is. I think that they are surprised,
stunned, I`m tempted to use the word sort of stupefied by the Republican
candidates who have responded thus far, particularly former Governor Jeb
Bush and Marco Rubio that they seem to be unprepared for the question.
Now, let`s say it clearly. These are two intelligent men. And they
do have a record of public service of their own. You do not like them if
you – but nonetheless, these are not dumb people. How and why they made
these mistakes with former Governor Bush giving four different answers to
the question as you pointed out, Marco Rubio give diagnose several answers
I don`t understand it. They`re too intelligent to do this.
On the other hand, not only have they done it, they continue to do it
and they leave the impression, I think an erroneous impression that they
would score in the high 90s on a dumb test, because no one would give these
kind of answers.
Fortunately for them, it`s still early in the campaign. It`s still
long way to go. And can they recover from this? I think the answer is
probably they he can.
But it leaves unanswered two questions. Number one, how and why did
this happen? They`re too smart for this. They`re too experienced for this
and each of them, by the way, having very strong, very smart advisors. I
know some of the advisors in each of these two camps. They`re smart
But I`m mystified how this can happen. The other question is, are we
going to ask ourselves the really tough questions.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly.
RATHER: And are we going to seek answers on the really tough
questions or are we just going to kind of plow around the base of the
mountain with this business of – well, they misspeak. I think those are
the important things.
MADDOW: Do you have faith that the campaign – either through the
process of journalists covering the campaign and interviewing these
candidates or the debates or the way they`re going to go after each other,
do you have faith that the campaign process can actually do that hard work.
Not the gotcha stuff but the real hard work there.
RATHER: I do not have faith. I do have hope.
RATHER: That hope springs eternal to use the cliche but I don`t have
faith in it because it hasn`t been the case in the past. And I think we
have to remember in the background of this, and I think one of the answers
possibly to why did they do this, why did they bungle answers to the
obvious question being asked is this will be a $5 billion plus presidential
And I think one of the reasons that the candidates are getting in
trouble early on with answers is they are trying to give answers that will
satisfy their biggest contributors, the kind of contributors who can give
$100 million at a shot. It`s the only explanation I can come up with why
they`re staggering around it.
MADDOW: And any strong statement about what was wrong and who was
wrong and how it was done wrong, potentially either offends somebody or
closes of potential analysis or course of action that they may have to take
at some point in the campaign.
RATHER: As far as the debates let`s say very clearly. What we call
ca debate in presidential campaigns are not debates. They`re glorified
This has been the case almost from the very beginning of these so-
called presidential debates. So, we shouldn`t kid ourselves when we say
will the debates deal with this. We`re asking ourselves, will the
glorified press conferences –
RATHER: Which well off as debate, will they deal with that? And as
I say, I don`t have faith it will happen, but I do have high hopes.
MADDOW: This year, I have particularly high hopes about the debates,
which is what we`ll be talking about later on in the show. The chaos on
the debate stuff makes me very hopeful that something surprising, like real
information could happen there.
Dan Rather, it is always such an honor to have you here, sir.
RATHER: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: Great to have you here. Thanks.
RATHER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Dan Rather is the host of “The Big Interview” on AXS TV, AXS
All right. We`ve got a big show tonight. Frank Rich is here
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have a stacked show tonight. We already heard from Dan
Rather. We`re going to have Frank Rich here, as well.
We also have the latest on the shooting, the giant mass biker gang
shooting out of Waco.
We`ve got news of a clutch of embarrassing resignations and some
refusals to resign by scandal ridden politicians across the country.
All that plus the Jindal solution to the Republican debate problem
that has me so very excited.
Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, here`s one thing to consider about the deadly massive
biker gang riot that happened yesterday in Waco, Texas. There were at
least five rival gangs involved, nine people killed, 18 people wounded,
over 100 weapons recovered from the scene, including knives and chains and
brass knuckles and guns.
Police apparently had been worried that something was going to happen
yesterday at this site. They knew where the gangs would be turning up.
Police had had SWAT teams members stationed nearby watching that restaurant
where they thought the riot might happen.
That, though, was not enough to stop it from happening, or to stop
all those people from getting killed.
Here`s the thing, though, once you`ve got nine people dead and 18
people sent to the hospital, and you`ve got not just 100 or 150 but more
like 170 of these biker gang members arrested, where do you put them,
right? I mean, if they`re killing each other in a 200-person pig pile that
involves not just gunshots and stabbings, but blunt force trauma on an epic
scale, can you put them somewhere together once you`ve arrested them?
Police at first detained suspects on site at the restaurant where the
melee happened that led to these somewhat weird pictures of people involved
in effect in a mass murder scene being treated up like they were just
picked up at a college party that got too rowdy, or maybe a demonstration
of some kind. After calmly detaining them on site for a very long time,
Waco police eventually decided to put them on to buses and then sent them
to the Waco Convention Center for processing. They stayed overnight, all
these rival gang members that tried to kill each other, they stayed
overnight at the convention center last night and they booked them into the
county jail today. They`re still being processed at the county jail today.
So far, 170 suspects have been arrested. All are expected to face
organized crime charges linked to capital murder.
And now, in the wake of this nine dead massacre with all these guys
in custody and processing through the system, Waco has got fun days ahead,
right? For one, the McLennan County jail now houses 170 more violent gang
members than it did before, and they`re not all in the same gang. They`re
in rival gangs that want to kill each other and have been trying heartily
to do that, right?
They`ve also just been through a situation in which a number of
members of multiple gangs were just killed in a gang battle. And than
presumably means that some sort of terrifying revenge cycle among the gangs
is about to start.
And that is the prospect that looms over the ongoing investigation of
this huge crime scene just as a physical place because not every member of
these motorcycle gangs was arrested or injured or killed in this melee.
Who knows how the rest of them out in the world are going to respond to
what has just happened in Waco.
But as police investigators were going through the crime scene, as
they were picking up shell casings and collecting evidence at the crime
scene yesterday and today, they were watched over by a team of police
snipers who set up on the roof of the restaurant and on a nearby highway
overpasses to try to keep the investigators safe. Police say they have
received multiple threats in retaliation for the arrests.
They say there are reports of other gang members now flooding into
Waco in response to the shoot-out. Law enforcement say they have upped
security of all kinds all around Waco in response.
So nine killed and 18 wounded and 170 arrested already in Waco. And
now with that riot resolved, consider what they`ve got on their hands in
the jail, consider what they`ve got on their hands in the town, in the
aftermath of this remarkable deadly scene.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: The story we`ve got next is the 2016 campaign equivalent of
this process. We will make them fit. The great Frank Rich is my guest
next. Squeeze, squeeze.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Now, you got to be
audacious to think that you can be president of the United States because
it is an overwhelming concept, right? Then you look at the other people
running and say hey, wait a minute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The big news out of Republican-ville today is that yet
another person is about to formally announce a run for the presidency. The
headlines today say that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham will
announce his decision on June 1st. That said, I`m not sure what more he
could announce other than what he`s saying already. There is absolutely no
mystery as to what his announcement will be.
He has been announcing it for weeks now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I`m running because of what you see on television. I`m
running because I think the world is falling apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As you can see, he`s not actively non-metaphorically
running. He`s talking about running for president. That`s being described
as Lindsey Graham hinting that he might run for president, which is true if
by hinting you mean saying directly that he`s running for president without
any hinting about it at all. So, he`s in.
Today, we also got the news that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is
forming an exploratory committee which is a nice old fashioned idea. He is
contemplating throwing his hat in the ring for president. Vetting is
closed on the question of what his explorations will lead him to decide,
about whether or not he`s going to run. Clearly, he`s running, too.
This has been our running master tally of declared and likely
Republican presidential candidates so far this year. We started with 22.
So far, we have only been able to winnow it down from 22 to 20.
The only people we poofed off the list are Michigan Governor Rick
Snyder and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton who both said they`re not
running. Other than that, they`re all apparently still in it, which
creates this fascinating numerical challenge for the Republican Party as to
how they can hold debates with that many people in the running.
Well, interesting point here. Last week, Jonathan Martin at “The New
York Times” reported on the Republican Party going through this process and
going through these arguments about how they`re going to do the whole 20-
plus candidates debate thing.
He reported this intriguing news about what the Bobby Jindal camp is
asking for, what the Bobby Jindal camp is reportedly pushing for is a whole
new kind of debate idea that has never been done before. Quote, “One idea
they have floated is back to back debates with seven or eight candidates in
each chosen at random.”
So, basically the Jindal folks are lobbing to have like a debate
tournament, like heats. Back to back debates featuring random pools of
candidates. Now, if it`s 21 candidates, that could mean like three debates
with seven candidates each, randomly assigned. Does raise other questions
if the number goes up to 24, do you do six heats of four, or four heats of
six, or two heats of 12, or three heats of eight, right? What if it`s a
If it is three heats of seven, say, how does that work in the nitty-
gritty? I mean, do you run them all through in one night and do a seven-
candidate debate, and a seven-candidate debate, seven-candidate debate.
Does it go fire drill style where everybody changes podiums and they stay
on the same set? Is it a tag team? And once you get tired, you get to
pull in another candidate to replace you?
Once you get picked to be in a certain debate, can you swap? Can you
arrange a trade with somebody in another podium, in another heat? Like say
you`re Scott Walker, and you don`t want to go up against the group that has
Donald Trump in it.
Can you swap places with your friend Chris Christie who`s may be in
the group with Rand Paul? Will it maybe be like “Survivor”? Do you get to
like vote to eliminate each other at the end? Can the other candidates
vote one candidate off the podium?
Rand Paul, the tribe has spoken.
Will they use Tiki torches for the elimination? If they do, does the
moderator get to put out the torch? I mean, why not do it March Madness
style, right, where they do one-on-one debates and we can all watch it and
sort of, you know, bracket, right? Random matches.
I`d like to see Ben Carson debate Jeb Bush one on one. Marco Rubio
versus Carly Fiorina. Ted Cruz versus Donald Trump.
You know, it`s a round robin. They knock each other out, single
elimination style. And they move onto the next early voting state. You
get to make brackets, we get an office pool, we get to bet on them.
Seriously, though, who the Republican field of candidates is, right,
the candidates from whom the Republican Party will choose their nominee for
president of the United States is a rip-roaringly important thing for our
country, and for the world and for the future of mankind, frankly, if you
want to extrapolate from the power of the American presidency. It`s a
really important thing.
But how them are going to pick is an absolutely hilarious mystery at
this point, how are they going to do this? Hold that thought.
Frank Rich joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: Seriously, is EPA the one you were talking about?
RICK PERRY (R), 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, sir, we were
talking about the agencies of government, EPA needs to be rebuilt. There`s
no doubt about that.
MODERATOR: But you can`t name the third one.
PERRY: The third agency of government I would do away with
Education, the Commerce, and let`s see. I can`t. The third one I can`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you thought the last type out was fun, now imagine that
happening, except there`s 20 different people on stage. What could
possibly go wrong or right? Oops.
Joining us now is Frank Rich, writer at large for “The New York”
Mr. Rich, it is great to have you here. Thanks for being here.
FRANK RICH, THE NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to be here. Nice to see
MADDOW: I will tell you I have great hope, I feel like necessity is
the mother of invention. That the logistical chaos on the Republican side
borne of the fact that they have this huge number of candidates and no way
to easily exclude them makes for a chaotic process that will necessarily be
better. If only because it will be less predictable and we`ll see more
what we should know about these guys.
RICH: You`re probably right. It could be incredibly entertaining,
even if it doesn`t produce the civic result we want. You were saying
before about “Survivor” being a possible model they could use. Why not
“The Apprentice”? You know, Trump would love to license it to them. I
assume with NBC`s permission and the only problem is Trump himself would be
a candidate. They`d have to find someone else to say “You`re fired”.
Maybe they can hire Bill O`Reilly would be very good at it.
MADDOW: You could prop a big mirror next to him. That might create
a whole another dynamic that you didn`t necessarily want to show on TV.
RICH: Exactly, objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.
Another idea occurred to me I listened to you before was they could
eliminate in the first debate on FOX, have a lightning roundabout Iraq. If
you stutter more than twice, you`re gone. And then have a second lightning
roundabout rape and a third lightning roundabout same-sex marriage, and see
who`s still standing, doesn`t have an oops moment.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, I mean, I have to say I feel like I agree with
Republicans who have been trying to spin the giant field as a plus.
MADDOW: They don`t have – they don`t have anybody who is inheriting
the nomination. Jeb Bush has all the money but he doesn`t have – doesn`t
poll well, not particularly beloved by the base. It won`t be easy for him.
It won`t be easy for anybody.
It makes their process all the more important. We`re at a time when
we really ought to have good policy debates as a country. I`m heartened by
the fact that we`re talking about Iraq even if we`re talking about it like
we`re idiots and don`t remember what happened. The topic is a good one.
Let`s stay on that for a while.
Is there something that either the media could do in terms of the way
the thing is covered or Republican activists could arrange so the campaigns
themselves could make the process better? It`s important that it be a good
process on the Republican side.
RICH: Well, I think give it more airtime. I think people would want
to watch it. It`s going to be more interesting than watching Hillary
Clinton hypothetically debate a couple of opponents who have no chance, if
I may say so. So, I think people could get into it.
What`s interesting is the Republicans can`t quite pivot to the fact
that it might be a blessing because after the last election, after Romney`s
defeat, they made this big show of we`re going to streamline the process,
we`re not going to have the circus we had in the primary season last time.
The Republicans are supposed to make the trains run on time. They
completely lost control of it, so they should go with it. Look, FOX News
which is doing the first debate who, says it has to be 90 minutes. I guess
there`s some commission. But then, give the Democrats equal time or
MADDOW: No, the commission isn`t until you`re in the general
RICH: Exactly. So, you know, is the rest of what`s going on therein
so more entertaining? It would be hilarious.
MADDOW: Right. I do feel like there is a sort – there is a karmic
whiplash going on from them trying to they earlied up the convention. They
came up with these rules to prohibit them from doing any non-approved
debates. They shortened up the debate schedule.
The one thing they didn`t control for is who`s going to run. And
now, it`s like eight times three. I mean, it`s just – it`s really – it`s
going to be fascinating.
RICH: I mean, it`s tragic that John Bolton isn`t running. But we
can`t have everything.
But look at someone like Rand Paul who everything thinks is such a
wildcard and kind of has an independent streak from the rest of the party,
and somewhat less processed. I`d be great to have him interact, Ben Carson
is completely untrained political candidate. They should go with it.
And you know, if you feel as I do that Hillary Clinton`s election is
hardly a foregone conclusion, why not make the most of this if you`re a
MADDOW: Yes, I think the Jindal`s proposal for heats where people
get randomly assigned provided you give them a chance to trade with each
other and tag team and do all the other things, to switch the heats up, I
think it would be the greatest political –
RICH: “The Voice,” it will be great.
RICH: High ratings.
MADDOW: Writer at large for “New York Magazine”, Frank Rich, it`s
always great to have you here. Thank you.
RICH: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s this belief out there that disasters come in threes.
I don`t know if I`m superstitious enough to believe that is true. But I do
know that there are three types of political resignations. And I know that
of those three types of political resignations, two of them are always
disasters. And we are seeing each of them happen right now in unison in
tonight`s news. That`s next.
MADDOW: OK. This is incredible. When it comes to politicians
resigning from office, there are really three kinds. There`s – wow, that
was fast. The spectacularly rapid collapse resignation.
There`s the prolonged painful crumble when resignation looks like the
only possible outcome but it just takes forever it will ultimately happen.
And then there`s the third kind generally called oh, my God, how is
it possible that this guy hasn`t resigned yet.
Those are the three varieties of political resignation. Right now,
we are experiencing all three.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: And the wait here continues. Members of the media
gathered outside the speaker`s office here. Some members have been here
since 2:30 this afternoon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was last week in the state of Missouri. The speaker of
the Missouri House had barricaded himself inside his office in the state
legislature for more than eight hours with reporters camped outside. When
he emerged from his office after 11:00 on Wednesday night, those reporters
followed him down the stairs and followed him to his car while he refused
to answer their questions.
That morning, “The Kansas City Star” had published a series of
sexually explicit text messages exchanged between Republican House Speaker
John Diehl, the most powerful man in the state legislature in Missouri, and
a 19-year-old intern. I`m not going to read the messages out loud because
– you can read them yourself if you would like to. Air sickness bags are
in the seat back pocket in front of you.
But the speaker admitted sending these texts to the teenaged intern
and then that night, he barricaded himself in his office all night and the
reporters chased him and by the next morning, Missouri House Speaker John
Diehl was gone. He not only stepped down as speaker, he resigned his seat
in the legislature entirely.
So, this all happened in a flash last week, and it was right at the
end of the legislative session in Missouri. Missouri Republicans did end
up having to swear in a new speaker of the House to replace him. But when
they did so, there was only seven hours left remaining in the whole
legislative session for the year.
So, in Missouri, the speaker of the House is gone. Sexual texts to
teenager in the morning paper apologized and said he wouldn`t quit during
the day, spent afternoon locked in the office, got chased by reporters and
then, done, dusted, gone by the next morning. Twenty-four hours soup to
nuts. That`s Missouri.
Then, there`s New Hampshire. This is one of the Granite State`s two
members of Congress, Republican Frank – how do you – Guinta, Juinta. I
have it so many ways, I am on good authority it`s Guinta. But if I`m
wrong, Mr. Guinta, I pre-apologize.
Last week, the Federal Election Commission found the Congressman
Frank Guinta had accepted $355,000 in illegal campaign contributions from
his mom and dad. Congressman Guinta now has to refund all that money to
his parents and pay a $15,000 fine.
Congressman Guinta does continue to proclaim innocence in this
matter. He`s offered an explanation for getting all that money from his
parents. It`s an explanation his county Republican chair called, quote,
“more plausible than at explanation we got from the Patriots on
deflategate.” So, that`s a ringing endorsement.
Today, New Hampshire`s Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte said that
Congressman Frank Guinta should resign from Congress, so did the state
Senate president who is a Republican, so did the stays House speaker who is
a Republican. New Hampshire`s conservative newspaper the “Union Leader”
not only published an editorial entitled “Guinta must go: He has violated
his trust,” the paper also ran this special pictorial editorial.
This is it. This is the entire editorial. Six words, “Frank Guinta
is a damned liar”, and it`s signed by the paper`s publisher.
As of this moment, Congressman Frank Guinta is still a congressman,
but it is going to be hard for him to avoid resigning. So resignation
accepted in Missouri. Resignation eagerly anticipated in New Hampshire.
But in the state of Vermont, believe it or not, apparently, we`ve got
no resignation in that state`s legislative scandal. Seriously, this guy is
still a senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The 63-year-old senator who lives in this home in Franklin
allegedly forced his female farm worker to engage in sexual acts according
to investigators. Court paperwork says victims were told they could live
in this trailer in exchange for sex.
In addition, at least one victim told police the senator offered to
take her to a farm where she could have sex with a group of farm hands for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Vermont Senator Norm McAllister was charged with three
counts of sexual assault. The investigation into him continues. Police
are speaking to other lawmakers in the matter. They say more charges are
possible. One of his alleged victim has said publicly that she was
definitely 16 but maybe even 15 when he started abusing her which if proven
would put him on the hook for charges related to assault or rape of a child
Senator McAllister`s colleagues have called for his resignation.
They kicked him off Senate committees. They`ve said they are looking into
ways to expel him, but the legislature wrapped up its session on Friday.
He hasn`t step down, so Norm McAllister is still a senator getting paid by
the good people of Vermont.
There`s no provision to remove him from office no matter what charges
he`s facing. So, the lieutenant governor now says any action concerning
Senator Norm McAllister probably couldn`t happen until the legislature
reconvenes in January, and that`s if they could figure out what to do with
If Mr. McAllister is convicted before then, he will then
automatically lose his seat, but if his trial is ongoing, he could remain a
state senator for the whole rest of the year while out on bond on sex crime
Politicians disgrace comes in lots of different varieties. But
disgrace and ceasing to be an elected official are two very different
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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