The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/20/15
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: I`m going to end this segment by
recommending dean`s writing on these issues particularly about the way the
medical cartel functions in the U.S., which is an under-recognized problem.
I`d like to see some disruption there.
Dean Baker and Kish Roger (ph), thank you both.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now, with Steve Kornacki, in for
Good evening, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. Thanks for
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has the night
So, do you believe the polls? How real is what they`re showing?
Those are big questions right now in politics.
For example, take the new Monmouth University poll out today in Iowa.
That poll shows Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker leading the Republican race
in that critical first in the nation caucus state. Walker built a real
lead in the polls out there. He`s first place now. You can see there with
And in second place, right behind Walker, Donald Trump. He`s moved
up in Iowa. Here`s the key to that number. That 13 percent you see there
for Donald Trump in second place in Iowa. The poll was taken over three
days, this past weekend. It was taken Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
It was on Saturday in the middle of that poll being taken that Donald
Trump really stepped in it. He says what everyone assumed he did, when he
was in Iowa on Saturday and he seemed to scoff at the idea that John McCain
is a war hero, that this is the key now. The pollster that took that poll,
Monmouth University, they say when they called voters in Iowa on Sunday,
right after Trump said all that he said about John McCain, there was no
drop-off in his support that they could find. There was no immediate
backlash against Trump, at least not in Iowa, at least not in that poll.
In that finding, the fact that there was no backlash that surprised a
lot of people today.
Now, how about this poll? This is a second poll out today. “The
Washington Post”/ABC News poll came out just this afternoon. This is a
national poll. Not just Iowa. This is the best poll yet for Donald Trump.
He`s in first place, 24 percent of the vote, almost doubling up Scott
Walker who is back in second place at just 13 percent.
Now that poll, that ABC/”The Washington Post” poll also comes with
fine print. It was also taken over the weekend but in this poll, there
apparently was a drop-off in Donald Trump support on Sunday, on the day
after he tore into John McCain.
So, this is what we`re trying to figure out right now. Is Donald
Trump going to pay a price for what he said? Is he already paying a price
for what he said about John McCain, for what he keeps saying about John
McCain? Or is he going to defy the laws of political gravity? Is he going
to survive this? Could he get somehow stronger from this?
This is a situation that in many ways is unprecedented. Obviously we
know that Trump has been surging over to last month but these sorts of
surges have happened plenty of times before. We saw it in the 2012
election plenty of times over in the lead-up to Republican primaries and
caucuses that year, when the former CEO of Godfather`s Pizza, Herman Cain,
remember him? He stormed to the top of the pack in late 2011, and then he
melted down. He didn`t make it to the starting line in Iowa.
We saw something very similar with Newt Gingrich. We saw it several
times in fact with Newt Gingrich back in 2011 and 2012. We saw massive
spikes in his polling numbers. There were times when he was blowing out
Gingrich was so confident at one point he said it was all over. He
was going to win the nomination. There was no way to stop him.
But then it really got serious because Gingrich won the South
Carolina primary. He won the primary big. And suddenly when he did that,
when he won South Carolina primary in a runaway, suddenly it looked like he
could actually win the nomination.
It`s that exact moment when Newt Gingrich did that, when that reality
started to dawn on the Republican establishment, it`s that moment that the
establishment decided they had to do something. They looked at Gingrich.
They saw a general election disaster in the making.
There was no way – this is what they decided – there was no way
Newt Gingrich could represent their party that fall against Barack Obama.
They did not want to nominate him and so they swung into action.
And there`s an art to what they did here. There`s an art to how the
Republican establishment handled that surge by Newt Gingrich. It was
actually pretty simple. They found every piece of ammunition they could
find and they used it.
This was not a takedown by the mainstream media by what conservatives
see as liberal media. This was a takedown orchestrated by Republicans, by
conservatives, by voices that the voters of the Republican Party, by the
Republican base, voices that they know and that they trust.
These are the voices who started trashing Gingrich and started
trashing him relentlessly. This is an example, “The Drudge Report”. This
is a major player in conservative media.
When Gingrich won South Carolina, when it suddenly seemed possible he
could be the Republican presidential candidate unless something happened,
when that happened, “The Drudge Report” devoted itself to putting out
banners. Gingrich repeatedly insulting Reagan, a callback to something
Gingrich said before. That`s a big crime in the Republican Party, saying
something negative about Ronald Reagan.
Here`s another example, Ann Coulter going out and telling that
Republican base, “Re-elect Obama, vote Newt.”
There`s Bob Dole, a former Republican presidential candidate giving
the Romney campaign a statement, Gingrich`s rival campaign, a statement,
about just how bad Gingrich would be for the party if he was nominated.
This was a statement that the conservative “National Review” said the
Romney campaign then passed along to them.
Bob Dole wrote back then, “I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich
but it`s now time to take a stand before it is too late.”
Now, all of this, all of this activity against Newt Gingrich was
effective. It was brutally effective. Republican voters heard Republican
voices – voices they trust telling them that Newt was bad news and they
listened. That was the end of the Gingrich surge.
So, that`s the formula. That`s how the Republican establishment
takes down an insurgent candidate that rockets to the top of the polls but
who the establishment absolutely doesn`t want the party to nominate.
And now, this brings us to Donald Trump because Donald Trump is
playing that role. Donald Trump is the surging candidate who the
establishment wants the party to have nothing to do with. Trump surge, of
course, was sparked by comments about Mexico and Mexicans last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its
people, they`re not sending their best. They`re not sending you. They`re
not sending you. They`re sending people that have lots of problems. And
they`re bringing those problems with us.
They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists and
some I assume are good people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Those comments obviously sparked controversy. Trump
wouldn`t back down in the face of that controversy. And a big chunk of the
Republican base as a result rallied behind him.
That`s how he surged over the last month in this race. Now, this was
tricky for the Republican establishment to handle this as it happened.
They didn`t like Trump going out there and saying all of this, but they
also couldn`t really fight him when it came to the issue of immigration.
It`s because when you stripped away the inflammatory rhetoric,
Trump`s stance on immigration deeply resonates with the conservative
Republican base. So, it was tough for Republicans to condemn him while
also agreeing with his basic policy views.
A poll showed that around 70 percent of all Republicans agree with
Trump when it comes to the issue of immigration. So, the best in the face
of all this, the best the Republican national chairman Reince Priebus could
do was to place a call to Trump, a call in which he reportedly gently
scolded him and asked him to tone it down.
And Trump even disputes that that happened that the call went down
that way. He said that Priebus called him to tell him he was doing great.
To tell him he hit a nerve and should keep up the good work.
So, when Trump spoke out on immigration and got into all of that
trouble, the Republican establishment couldn`t do to him what they had done
to Gingrich four years ago. They didn`t have the right ammunition on that
subject. But now maybe, maybe – they do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: John McCain goes, oh, boy, Trump makes my live difficult. He
had 15,000 crazies show up. Crazies, he called them all crazy.
I said they weren`t crazy. They were great Americans. These people
if you would have seen these people, you – I know what a crazy is. I know
all about crazies. These weren`t crazies.
So, he insulted me and he insulted everybody in that room. I said
someone should run against John McCain who in my opinion has not been so
I supported him – and I supported him for president. I raised a
million dollars for him. It`s a lot of money. I supported him.
He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost. I never liked him
as much after that because I don`t like losers.
But, Frank, let me get it to it –
FRANK LUNTZ: He`s a war hero.
TRUMP: He hit – he`s not a war.
LUNTZ: He is a war hero.
TRUMP: He is a war hero –
LUNTZ: Five and a half years –
TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that
weren`t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.
He`s a war hero because he was captured. OK? You can have – I
believe perhaps he`s a war hero, but right now, he said some bad things
about a lot of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And with that, with those comments in Iowa over the
weekend, Donald Trump handed worried Republicans a weapon that`s much
easier for them to use against him in a Republican primary than anything
that he said about immigration.
Here he is attacking John McCain, this guy who was one of the first
ones in and one of the last ones out of Vietnam. He was shot down over
North Vietnam on his 23rd bombing mission back in 1967. He nearly drown
when he parachuted into a lake, fracturing both arms and a leg. He was
pulled out by North Vietnamese who proceeded to torture and interrogated
He was offered release a number of times by the North Vietnamese but
each and every time John McCain refused. He refused because he said,
because he was waiting until every man who was a prisoner before him was
released. McCain spent 5 1/2 years in captivity as a prisoner of war.
That is John McCain and that was his service to our country –
service that Donald Trump seemed to question, ridicule this weekend. And
so, now, the Republican Party can all read from the same script and condemn
Donald Trump for what he said.
The RNC releasing this statement in direct response to what Trump
said, quote, “Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his
country and sacrificed more than most can imagine, period. There`s no
place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who
have served honorably.”
In the past, this would probably be the beginning of the end for
Donald Trump. If we were looking at a regular candidate, we would be sure
that is what`s going to happen right now. But this is why there`s some
suspense, this is why there`s some uncertainty, this is why we`re not quite
sure what`s going to happen here – it`s because Donald Trump isn`t playing
by normal rules of political combat. He`s not backing down here. He`s not
giving an inch. That`s going to overcomplicate this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You said John McCain was – you liked people who didn`t
TRUMP: No, no, I do like people that don`t get captured. I like
REPORTER: Are you blaming John McCain for his capture?
TRUMP: I am saying that John McCain has not done a good job.
REPORTER: Why would you say you like people who don`t get captured?
It`s a simple question.
TRUMP: I do like people – I do. Why? People that don`t get
captured I`m not supposed to like. I like people that don`t get captured
and I respect the people that do get captured.
REPORTER: Why would you say that in the context of John McCain?
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. I like the people that don`t get –
you have many people that didn`t get captured. I respect them greatly.
You have people that got captured. I respect them greatly also.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, in response to all of this, John McCain went on this
network earlier today and said that Donald Trump doesn`t owe him an apology
but he does owe veterans an apology.
And Trump for his part took the opinion pages of “The USA Today” to
ratchet up his criticism of McCain. Not to concede to here, saying he
doesn`t need to be lectured by McCain.
Donald Trump is not backing down here. The Republican establishment
has been loudly condemning him for what he said, far more Republican voices
doing this, far louder Republican voices than anything we heard after his
But Donald Trump is not conceding anything to them. He`s only
getting more defiant, more aggressive, trying to throw it right back in
their faces. The way these things usually work, key opinion shapers in the
Republican universe latch on to something like Trump`s comments. They
start beating that drum and then Republican voters eventually follow them.
That formula has worked in the past and the polls will slowly start
to shift. The bubble will burst. That`s what usually happens.
But this is an unusual situation. We have seen this play out before
in terms of what the establishment is doing right now, is trying to do
right now. In the past, it has worked. It worked with Gingrich four years
ago, but they`ve never tried it on someone like Donald Trump. And that is
the key variable here.
Joining us now is Liz Mair, former director of online communication
for the RNC.
Liz, thanks for being here tonight.
LIZ MAIR, FORMER RNC ONLINE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Thanks for
KORNACKI: So, the Republican establishment goes to war with Donald
Trump. Their weapon right now is John McCain and these comments.
What effect do you think it`s going to have?
MAIR: I actually think in this case that may not be the thing that
takes Trump down. I actually think that Trump has a real numbers problem
as a result of these comments.
This country has a lot of veterans. We have a lot of people who
served their country and who didn`t suffer nearly as badly as John McCain
did for it. If John McCain`s service isn`t considered honorable and
meritorious, what are those people – what`s those people`s service
considered to be by Donald Trump?
That`s a real problem. The establishment can say whatever it wants
to about this. But I think the more that these comments are publicized,
the more you`re actually going to have grassroots individuals and actual
voters saying if he thinks that about John McCain, what does he think about
me? What does he think about my husband? What does he think about my
father? That`s not – the numbers will not work for him.
KORNACKI: I guess the question I have about that, though, those same
grassroots Republicans you`re describing, what they already think of John
McCain, so many of them as a politician, not as a war hero.
MAIR: Those are a lot of the same people that actually got John
McCain the nomination. There are a lot of grumpy old men out there who
many of them have military records and did serve. And they were drawn to
John McCain, are they also liked in some cases people like Ron Paul. They
like the grumpy old man.
KORNACKI: Sure, but you would say –
MAIR: Those people are not –
KORNACKI: There has been. I mean, one of the themes of politics for
the last decade or so, Republican politics for the last 15 years, starting
when John McCain ran against George W. Bush, and he was blasted as relying
on Democratic voters to beat him when he did immigration reform with Ted
Kennedy in 2006 and 2007, there`s been a particular strain of conservative
disgruntlement with John McCain.
MAIR: Yes, but –
KORNACKI: So, I guess my question is, when I look at the response
we`re seeing from some Republicans like Rush Limbaugh today sticking with
Donald Trump on this, the Drudge Report which teamed up against newt four
years ago sticking with Trump, I`m wondering if the fact this is John
McCain has anything to do.
MAIR: Yes, I think for certain people, that`s true. There are
certain people who have real issues with John McCain. But that`s actually
the sort of establishment that you`re talking about.
What I`m saying is when you`re actually looking at the voters, the
people who ultimately have to cast the votes, the people who you saw with
that “Washington Post”/ABC poll, you saw the numbers drop off sharply for
Trump between Saturday and Sunday, those are the people who will take him
down. I don`t even know if it`s going to be the establishment, although
you also do have very important voices like Erick Erickson of Red State,
also hosts a widely listened to talk radio show who has been extremely
critical of Trump.
And let`s not forget, another problem of Trump has or hasn`t been as
highlighted, is he also made some comments over the weekend I believe also
in Iowa that have been seized on by a lot of Christian conservatives and
evangelicals, where he basically said he`s never had to ask God to forgive
him for anything and basically equated communion to just eating a cracker.
That is not going to play well with the evangelical base of the party.
The comments he made about John McCain are not going to play well
with veterans. Veterans were a core constituency that actually helped
McCain get the nomination in 2008. Trump has a real numeric problem with
these two comments, and he`s probably going to keep shooting his foot and
create more of a numeric problem.
KORNACKI: Yes, that`s the question, too –
MAIR: I think when you look at further polling, you`re going to keep
seeing this slide. This is going to be an issue.
KORNACKI: We haven`t seen the slide yet. That`s the one thing.
MAIR: “The Post” poll, I think, yes.
KORNACKI: These numbers are new, and we`ll see what the fall is, but
we haven`t seen the slide start. I want to get this news in. This is just
out tonight, “The Des Moines Register”, the top newspaper in Iowa, the key,
first in the nation caucus state with an editorial calling on Donald Trump
to get out of the presidential race.
The headline on this, “Trump should pull the plug on his bloviating
sideshow.” They say the best way Donald Trump can serve his country is
apologizing to McCain and terminating this ill-conceived campaign.
Do you think, the resonance – this is the mainstream media now.
This isn`t the conservative media saying this. Do you think this has an
MAIR: I generally tend to think editorials don`t influence public
opinion as much as they reflect it. Same thing with endorsements, right?
So, you know, you say you get an endorsement from the, I don`t know “The
L.A. Times”, does that lead people? No, probably it`s more indicative of
where public sentiment has been.
So, I would tend to say this probably validates the concerns a lot of
people have that Trump has shot himself in the foot and he`s got an actual
problem with voters. I think he does legitimately have a problem with
evangelical voters at this point. I know that there are a lot of people
who are coming out of church this weekend, who were very, very bothered
what they heard him say, with regard to forgiveness and with regard to
And, clearly, veterans are very, very unhappy about the comments
about John McCain. The fact he`s doubling down, just means that that`s
going to get more air time, and more and more veterans are going to have a
chance to hear him essentially denigrating their service by proxy.
KORNACKI: It is interesting – of all people, Rush Limbaugh said
today, though, the pattern in these in the past has been when the candidate
sort of comes under fire from the establishment like this the candidate
will back off a little, and will try to apologize. The variable with Trump
is he will throw it back in their face. It would be interesting to see how
that plays out.
MAIR: I think this is true. Yes.
KORNACKI: Liz Mair, former director of online communication for the
RNC, thanks for coming tonight.
MAIR: Thank you.
KORNACKI: Appreciate it.
Much more 2016 news to get to tonight, including yet another
presidential announcement set to take place tomorrow.
Bernie Sanders with another eye popping display this weekend. More
record crowds for the 73-year-old senator in Texas and Arizona. That`s
coming up next.
Stay with us.
KORNACKI: It`s not every day you get to see a presidential candidate
in their shorts, but today is your lucky day because this right here is a
Republican presidential candidate without pants. Just some boat shoes and
a pair of shorts.
Now, this picture is from behind so it`s a test. Can you name this
Give you a second there. Time is up.
And the answer is – Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio. That
is Governor Kasich this past weekend, testing out the old podium.
That spot there is where Kasich is going to officially launch his
presidential campaign tomorrow. It`s a venue called the Ohio Union. It`s
on the campus of Ohio State University, the Ohio State University.
Tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, John Kasich is
officially going to become the 16th Republican candidate in the race for
president of the United States.
The Republican race for president is the one that`s gotten the most
of the attention so far. But there were some big developments this weekend
on the Democratic side as well. Many of them concerning a gentleman named
Bernie Sanders. That story, next.
KORNACKI: We sometimes forget what a slug fest they had back in
2008. Now, technically back then, there were eight candidates for the
Democratic presidential nomination, at least at one point. But very
quickly, it became a two-way contest. It was Obama versus Clinton, Obama
the insurgent. He struck first with a big win in Iowa and then Clinton
bounced back in New Hampshire. Then she beat him again in Nevada.
At that point, it looked at that moment like she was home free. She
started out as the big front runner. She was the establishment favorite.
Then, she took a hit and righted her ship and now she was rolling. That`s
how these things had always pretty much gone before. That`s how it was
supposed to play out again. Hillary would coast to the nomination after
But this time back in 2008, something funny happened. The next
primary after Nevada was in South Carolina. And in South Carolina, Hillary
Clinton lost again. She lost big. She was crushed by Obama. The margin
was nearly two to one. It was more than two to one in fact.
And that was when it became clear just how different, how
extraordinary, how unprecedented, the Obama campaign actually was, because
Obama was playing the role of insurgent candidate back in 2008. In a
typical Democratic primary, the insurgent candidate does well with one
specific segment of the party, typically white liberals, and then loses
because the rest of the party base doesn`t play along.
But Obama in 2008 put together a coalition that no one had ever put
together before. On his way to becoming the first African-American
president, Obama managed to unite the white liberals who backed him as the
insurgent candidate and the African-American voters who tend to favor the
candidate of the establishment.
No Democratic insurgent made a coalition like that work before. But
Obama did it in 2008 and in South Carolina was where everyone realized for
the first time that it was really actually happening.
So, in 2008, the insurgent Obama beat the establishment favorite
Hillary Clinton and won the Democratic nomination. He did what so many
other insurgents before him had tried and had failed to do, like Gary Hart
back in 1984, Paul Tsongas in `92, Bill Bradley against Al Gore in 2000.
They all had their moments, but they all ultimately fell victim to the same
Now, let`s fast forward to this year – this year`s insurgent
candidate. Of course, you know him, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sanders is technically an independent. He`s a self-described socialist,
which actually makes him pretty much the perfect candidate for the chunk of
the Democratic Party where insurgents tend to draw their deepest support
from those white liberal voters.
Sanders has been drawing huge crowds as a candidate. He has
presented way more of a challenge to the establishment candidacy of Clinton
that most people had expected. But so far, Bernie Sanders is nowhere when
it comes to African-American voters. Sanders has polled as low as 9
percent among nonwhite voters overall, and as low as 2 percent among black
So, with that kind of showing, Sanders can`t win or even make this a
contest for too long. He says he`s trying though. His campaign officials
say they are making inroads. And this weekend, at the annual Netroots
Nation conference of progressive activists, Bernie Sanders faced open
opposition from the voters of color he is trying to win over and he needs
to win over. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: “Wall Street Journal” poll – Wall –
SANDERS: I will answer your question, but I would like to speak for
a few minutes. I was told that that –
MODERATOR: A couple of more minutes and then we`re going to get.
SANDERS: I was told we had 15 minutes, right?
MODERATOR: Watch me. A little shorter than that, sir. A little
shorter than that.
SANDERS: The issue is –
HECKLER: Black lives!
MODERATOR: Hold on one second.
SANDERS: The issue is that it is –
HECKLER: Black lives!
SANDERS: Shall I continue?
MODERATOR: Hold on. Hold on.
SANDERS: It`s OK with me.
Listen, black lives, of course, matter. And I spent 50 years of my
life fighting for civil rights and for dignity. If you don`t want me to be
here, that`s OK.
MODERATOR: No, sir, we want you to be here and address that and all
of the other questions.
SANDERS: I don`t want to out-scream people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was how Bernie Sanders spent his Saturday at Netroots
Nation. Now, you can feel bad for Sanders because he was sandbagged there
and conference organizers willingly stood by and let him get shouted down
by protesters, but he also seems to have adjusted his message to in
response to what happened.
By Sunday, Sanders was directly addressing the Black Lives Matter
movement. He did it again at his rallies yesterday in Texas where he got
more huge crowds and where he spoke out about police brutality as he gets
ready to move his campaign into heavily black states like Georgia and, of
course, the all important South Carolina, the first stop after Iowa and New
Does Bernie Sanders need to change his message if he`s going to break
out of his white liberal base? Could he expand his appeal? Is there a
message out there that would let him do that? Does Sanders have any chance
of reassembling that magical Obama coalition that made history back in
Joining us now is Karen Tumulty, the national political correspondent
for “The Washington Post.”
Karen, thanks for being here.
So, Obama put this together. This coalition we`re talking about in
2008. Bernie Sanders has a piece of it. It`s the piece that sort of is as
you there for the insurgent. Do you see a scenario where he`s able to
expand it like Obama did?
KAREN TUMULTY, THE WASHINGTON POST: He`s got a couple problems.
Obama not only brought in the African-American vote and really they didn`t
believe – I mean, Hillary Clinton was leading Barack Obama among African-
Americans until Obama won Iowa.
So, African-Americans were believing this guy had a shot, but Obama
also appealed to independents, moderates who were as burned out on the Iraq
war as liberals were at that point.
So, there are a lot of questions right now about Bernie Sanders. I
think that his reaction to that outburst at Netroots Nation sort of showed
that he doesn`t have, at least not yet, the bandwidth to get beyond his
basic core message of income inequality.
In the meantime, you do see Hillary Clinton who has, you know, a
great comfort with these issues kind of outmaneuvering him. He talks about
jobs, not jails. She, today, on her Facebook page said we need to
acknowledge hard truths about race and justice and one of those is that
racial inequality is not nearly a symptom of economic inequality. We saw
her husband a couple days ago acknowledge that his policies of the 1990s
had made – had created the incarceration problems that so animate so many
KORNACKI: Do you think it`s interesting watching what you`re
describing and watching that play out these last few days did, especially
Hillary`s comments today in that Facebook forum. Is it an indication that
Clinton campaign is worried about Bernie Sanders and they see that he`s
struggling when it comes to African-American voters right now, they see how
important African-American voters are to the coalition she needs to win and
they`re basically trying to head him off right here?
TUMULTY: Exactly. I mean, we`ve been seen this, too, that she`s
talking about income inequality, about middle class issues. It`s – we are
seeing she`s obviously nervous. There`s still a real question whether
Bernie Sanders is going to end up being Howard Dean of `04 or has the
potential to build that coalition.
He also doesn`t have the kind of infrastructure that Barack Obama
already had at this point. His ground operation is nowhere near the kind
of campaign that Obama had put together.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting, too, if you look at the poll numbers
that Bernie Sanders has right now, it`s been impressive in a way that he`s
gotten to the point I don`t think anybody saw that coming. I don`t think,
for instance, Martin O`Malley saw that coming, he thought this might be
But at the same time, if you look at it, what he has right now is
what Elizabeth Warren had. A year ago everyone tested Elizabeth Warren
against Hillary saying she should get in the race and Elizabeth Warren
looked at the numbers a year ago that Sanders has now and she said not
enough to win, not enough to even try, I`m not going to run.
TUMULTY: Certainly as formidable as Hillary Clinton was the in `08,
I think she is even more so now. These crowds that Bernie Sanders are
drawing, they`re impressive. I`m not sure they`re significant.
What`s more significant is the fact that he has raised $13.5 million
and three-quarters of it is from small contributors. So, he does have a
lot of passion and energy out there. But the question is whether he can
take that and build upon it and broaden it.
KORNACKI: Yes, that`s the key question going forward. A lot of
polls will be coming out. Let`s see if he starts making headway where
nobody thought he would make headway. That`s the key test for him.
Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for “The Washington
Post” – thanks for your time tonight.
All right. Still ahead, the U.S. starts a new era with two long
standing and supposed enemies. Diplomacy is breaking out in all sorts of
historic ways. That is coming up next.
KORNACKI: Just like you and me, sometimes politicians hit the gym in
order to clear their heads and to think. Sometimes, it`s to zone out and
work on guns, sometimes to flip through the opinion pages between reps,
maybe it`s just to work off a little on-the-job stress. Politicians go to
the gym just like you and me but unlike you and me.
But unlike you and me, sometimes what they`re trying to workout there
is how to avoid nuclear Armageddon. How that last part works is next.
KORNACKI: So, do you want to see two U.S. senators on a horseback
ride together? Well, sure, who wouldn`t? So, here you go. This is how
Arizona Republican Jeff Flake and Nevada Republican Dean Heller spent their
They took a ride at Heller`s ranch out in Nevada. It`s the ranch, by
the way, where he grows alfalfa. Flake posted this photo to Twitter. He
noted that the ranch is called, get this one, Heller High Water. Give that
a minute to sink in.
This is a good reminder that some senators actually are genuinely
good personal friends, and sometimes the stuff that gets discussed on the
weekend horseback ride is more important than what gets discussed on the
Senate floor. For instance, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller are also two of the
only Republican senators who have supported President Obama`s moves to re-
establish ties with Cuba. Now, maybe that`s a policy belief they hold
independently of any conversation they ever had or maybe it started as a
conversation on a nice, long horseback ride or something like that.
Or, for example, take the Senate gym. It`s not just the place
senators go when they want to work out. It`s also the place where
important relationships can be formed, sometimes across the aisle. That`s
what Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told me when I sat down
with him on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: A guy I work with on issues even
though we`re miles apart is Jeff Sessions. A lot of relationships
ironically start in the Senate gym. Most Republicans exercise early. Most
Democrats exercise late. But I exercise early.
KORNACKI: Is there a reason for that?
SCHUMER: I don`t know. You will have to ask some P.E. guy or some
psychologist or something.
But – so I get there early. Who is in the gym? Lamar Alexander,
one of my best friends. John Thune who I work closely with. Jeff
I recruited Marco Rubio to be part of our group of eight being in the
gym. Dick Durbin was in the gym. He`s even earlier than me and he helped
recruit him, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Because the Senate gym is where Chuck Schumer talks with
his colleagues, because the gym is where he sometimes recruits colleagues
to support his position on things. That gym may play a pivotal role in the
Iran nuclear deal.
Think about this: Chuck Schumer is a key vote. Chuck Schumer is
probably the key vote when it comes to this deal. He`s a close ally of the
president, he is also one of Israel`s fiercest advocates in Congress. And
on top of that, he`s poised to be the next Democratic leader in the U.S.
Now, the fear among the deal supporters, obviously, that includes the
White House is that if Schumer decides to go all out against this deal, he
could also bring quite a few Democrats with him. I asked Schumer about the
tough position he`s in on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: I`m not going to comment until I read the document. That`s
what`s going to guide me. Look, when I think the president is wrong, I go
against him. I just voted against the trade bill and TPA because I thought
it hurt middle class incomes. The president talked to me regularly on this
But I told him, unless it changes, even if it helps corporate
profits, I`m not going to be for it if it decreases middle class incomes
and I think it does. So there are times when I`ve broken with the
president before when I really think that I have a different point of view
and the right thing is not what he`s doing.
KORNACKI: You mentioned that you are a very sort of staunch defender
of Israel. Advocate for Israel. And not only is Benjamin Netanyahu very
outspoken against this, the prime minister of Israel, but the leader of the
opposition in Israel also is against this.
You have basically the Democrat and Republican in Israel are against
this. Could you be pro-Israel and still –
SCHUMER: There are all kinds of – many people, many different
places have many different opinions. I got to read it. Listen to them but
make up my own mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, Schumer is such an important vote when it comes to
the Iran deal that Republicans and pro-Israel groups have actually made him
a centerpiece of their efforts to derail this deal.
One pro-Israel group funded a six-figure web campaign targeting
Schumer earlier this year. Its executive director told “The Hill” last
week “If Schumer comes out and says I looked at the bill and studied the
details and think it`s a good deal and will stop Iran from getting weapons,
there will be zero hope of overriding an Obama veto. If Schumer says this
doesn`t do it, it lifts the arm`s embargo and doesn`t have any time
anywhere inspections, then we have a fight on our hands. He is a lynchpin
or a bellwether.”
Could Chuck Schumer really derail his president`s biggest foreign
policy priority and still become the top Democrat in the Senate? Well, he
pointed out he bucked the president on another big priorities, the Trans
Pacific Partnership, that trade deal he was just talking about, because he
said he thought it was wrong.
On the other hand, could Chuck Schumer who describes himself as a
guardian of Israel, could that Chuck Schumer really go against AIPAC and
the Israeli government on their biggest priority? Well, he`s done that
before, too. He voted against the Gulf War back in 1991.
So everyone is looking to Chuck Schumer but so far he`s staying mum.
Meanwhile, today, the United Nations Security Council unanimously
voted to move towards lifting sanctions on Iran. This is a critical step
in making the nuclear deal work.
But the idea of sanctions relief infuriates congressional
Republicans, not to mention their reflexive distrust of anything having to
do with the United Nations, but perhaps most damaging to the deal was the
endorsement this week from Iran`s supreme leader. Without his support, of
course, the deal would go nowhere, but now, skeptical members of Congress
can point to his support as evidence that a deal must be bad for the United
The ayatollah`s derisive comments about the U.S., his insistence that
the deal is a victory for Iran`s nuclear program, those don`t help when it
comes to the politics of the United States either. This week, Secretaries
Kerry, Moniz and Lew will brief members of the House, including a session
just for house Democrats, and they`ll testify before the Senate Foreign
So, how exactly is the Obama administration going to sell this deal
in Congress? Is it just a matter of avoiding a veto override, or do they
think they might be able to be convince skeptics over the next two months?
Joining us now is Steve Clemons. He`s editor-at-large at “The
Atlantic” and MSNBC contributor, as well.
Steve, thanks for being here.
STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
KORNACKI: So, let`s start with the United Nations and the ayatollah.
The U.N. to make this deal work has to do what it did today. For this deal
to work, the ayatollah has to be behind it, has to support it.
So, these are necessary steps. How much do they complicate domestic
politics here in the United States when it comes to this congressional
CLEMONS: They screw things up a lot when it comes to how Congress
feels about itself and its role. The 15-0 unanimous vote in the U.N.
essentially puts a gun to the head of Congress and says if you want to
defect, if you want to isolate the United States and walk away from the
rest of the world, go ahead and do it.
But right now, the fundamental issue of countries like France,
Russia, Germany, England all on board to move in a different direction.
So, it`s in a very different place.
The ayatollah is a little bit different. He can come and sort of
kick and spit at this thing, and that actually isn`t necessarily a bad
thing. And to the degree that he remains ambivalent isn`t good. If he`s
overjoyed with what`s going on, that would also be read as a canary in the
coal mine as a bad thing.
So, I think the more that certain sectors of Iranian society raise
negative things about it, that`s probably good for prospects in Congress.
But, ayatollah, remember, even when Sadat did his deal with Israel, he
remained very unpopular in Egypt. It`s not clear that Rouhani and Zarif
and the momentum that they have right now will be sustained over time.
We`ll have to see how it plays out in Iranian politics.
KORNACKI: So, let`s talk about in terms of domestic politics. Let`s
talk about Schumer and his role in this. Right now this is pretty much –
I know there are some exceptions – pretty much right now this breaks down
as Republican/Democrat typical partisan divide issue. The risk for the
White House trying to get this deal through is Schumer after he reads this
decides he`s against it and not only then is Schumer against it but that
could offer a bunch of Democrats cover as well to turn against this thing.
That is the root to this thing being derailed. How likely do you
think that is?
CLEMONS: It`s going to be complicated for Chuck Schumer, because
he`s going to have to meet a standard that the president is asking
Republican critics to meet, which is what is his alternative? Is he a man
just of a predetermined sentiment for Israel or can he rise above that and
think through the nuts and bolts of a serious national security deal and
either make a principled case for it or a principled case against it.
If he ends up going against it, the question is he flamboyantly
against it or is he just modestly against it? Modest opposition is
something that the White House can deal with. Flamboyant opposition is
likely to bring on a lot of other people that want to be in Chuck Schumer`s
world. We`re talking about Schumer offending the president`s priorities.
There will be followers of Schumer who want to be careful of their
priorities as he`s heir apparent to become leaders. So –
KORNACKI: I think that`s such an important distinction. You can be
against something or you can really be against something. There`s a
possibility for Schumer to try to split the difference a little bit here.
How about the other side of this? We say so much reflexive
opposition from Republicans just across the board on the Republican agenda.
Is that going to apply here or do you see a scenario where the White House
could actually win over some Republicans?
CLEMONS: I talked to Senator Joe Manchin who is a Democrat but he`s
sort of in the middle of this. He has good insight into what some of the
Republicans say. There are some things that would move people like him and
others, and that is to understand, for instance, from the administration
what went wrong with the North Korea deal.
So, in the North Korea deal, let`s look and understand the nuts and
bolts. We provided them energy aid, food aid. We had promises, we had
inspectors. We had deals where our nuclear weapons labs were involved in
monitoring their materials and it all went awry and they have nuclear
So, some people, and that includes people like Bob Corker, want to
understand the dimensions of that and how this nuclear arrangement is going
to be substantially different. Corker continues to impress me as someone
who is differentiating himself from knee-jerk Republican opposition,
continues to keep his powder dry. He comes from a place of skepticism and
he may shame some others who look at this not in a knee-jerk way or raw
political way because it`s such an important arrangement he may inspire a
chunk of people.
I still think the Senate largely is going to vote in opposition, but
I think at the end of the day, you may end up with a couple Republicans
that actually end up supporting the arrangement.
KORNACKI: All right. We`ll look for Schumer on the Democratic side,
Corker on the Republican side, two keys to this deal.
Steve Clemons, MSNBC contributor and editor-at-large for “The
Atlantic” – thanks for joining us tonight.
And we`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: Still ahead tonight, the remarkable scenes out of
Washington, D.C. and Havana, Cuba, today as the relationship between the
United States and Cuba continues to thaw.
Stay with us.
KORNACKI: This much was the scene in Chattanooga, Tennessee over the
weekend as people gathered around a makeshift memorial along Lee Highway in
front of the armed forces career center, one of the two military facilities
that came under attack on Thursday by a lone gunman. Four marines were
killed in the Thursday morning attack at the second facility, the navy
operational support center and marine corps reserve center. Those marines
were Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, Lance Corporal Skip Wells, Staff
Sergeant David Wyatt and Sergeant Carson Holmquist. On Saturday, a fifth
service member also passed away, Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith died from
injuries sustained during that shoot-out at the navy operational support
Over the weekend, we learned a little bit more about the gunman. His
family says for years he suffered from depression and had a history of
substance abuse. And that last year, he left the United States to visit
Jordan for several months, apparently in an effort to escape some of those
bad influences back at home.
That trip took place prior to a DUI arrest in April of this year.
So, that is what we learned over the weekend. There is still a lot we
don`t know about the circumstances of this attack, including the motive.
The FBI is leading that investigation. They`re reportedly in the
process of conducting an analysis of the gunman`s cell phone and computer
in an effort to determine whether he was influenced by or involved with the
terror group ISIS. Although officials have told NBC News it does not
appear at this point that he was involved in any terrorist groups.
And then, there`s the investigation of the crime scene. The FBI has
not released many details about the course of events that led to the deaths
of those five service members at that second military facility location.
But today, “The Washington Post” is reporting that authorities have
recovered a pistol that may have been privately owned and used by one of
the marines killed in the course of that attack. They are trying to
determine, based on forensics whether the gun which does not appear to be a
standard issue pistol for military personnel was used to wound the gunman
during the shoot-out on Thursday.
In the meantime, officials are taking steps to ensure this kind of
attack is not replicated. Last night, the commander of the U.S. Northern
Command sent out a directive to increase security at recruiting stations in
reserve centers across the country. The shooting has prompted governors in
seven states to authorize the arming of full-time National Guard members in
an effort to beef up security.
Be right back.
KORNACKI: This weekend with very little fanfare, the U.S. men`s
national team won their match against Cuba. They didn`t just beat Cuba,
they throttled Cuba, 6-0.
The game, though, did have some historic significance. It marked the
last international competition between the U.S. and Cuba before the two the
countries restore normal diplomatic relations. It has been more than 54
years since President Dwight Eisenhower severed ties with Cuba, closed the
U.S. embassy in Havana amid deteriorating relations with Fidel Castro.
But, today, for the first time since January 3rd, 1961, the U.S.
embassy in Havana was officially open for business, with hundreds lined up
to apply for visas.
And back in Washington, D.C., the Cuban embassy was raising its flag
over the D.C. embassy for the first time in 54 years, surrounded by
cheering fans and diplomats. Also, some protesters showed up to chant the
name of long-time leader Fidel Castro.
America`s embassy in Cuba will not officially raise the U.S. flag
until next month when Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit. Many
questions remain about America`s crippling trade embargo, about Cuba`s
human rights abuses and the base at Guantanamo Bay to name a few.
But after more than 50 years, having both embassies open for business
seems like a good place to start.
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 to you, Lawrence.
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