The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/11/15
ALICIA GARZA, BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT: – who are not sure if
they align with disruption or not.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Yes.
GARZA: But, again, we want to be very, very clear that every single
candidate will be pushed to acknowledge what they`re going to do to make
sure that black lives matter.
HAYES: Candidates on notice.
Alicia Garza and Bill Press, thank you both very much. I enjoyed
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Ari Melber sitting in
Good evening to you, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Thank you, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Rachel has the night off.
But it is here! It is finally here and I, for one, can hardly
contain the excitement. If you feel a little different today, a little
more energized like maybe there`s a spring in your step that is because,
yes, it has finally arrived.
It is the Fiorina surge. For weeks leading up to the first
Republican debate, she had been polling to the bottom if not at the bottom
of this large pack of 17 candidates. Things were not looking good for
candidate Carly Fiorina leading up to that big debate last week.
And needless to say, she did not make it to the prime time debate
stage. She was one of those seven candidates at that incredibly awkward,
audience-free kids` table debate.
But despite all that, she managed to kill it. She basically won the
night mainly by getting an invaluable shot of free advertising when the
moderators at the big primetime debate saying her praises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS MODERATOR: Remember, we had another debate on
this very stage from 5:00 to 6:00 that included seven other candidates.
This is a huge field.
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS MODERATOR: That`s right. I bet they are glad
Carly Fiorina did not appear in this hour, because, boy, she unleashed a
can, if you know what I`m saying, earlier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No opinion there. Just a little shout-out.
FOX News then also played a clip of Carly Fiorina from that earlier
debate for all the candidates on the big debate stage and then asked them
to respond to her positions.
So, Carly Fiorina got the most high-profile shout-out you could get
and she got the benefit of seeming like an underdog by not actually
participating in the big primetime debate while still getting seen and
heard and talked about at the primetime Republican debate. That was a nice
And, by the way, that debate was watched by 24 million people. Even
just the kids` table debate, even just that sad little event was watched by
something approaching 6 million people, which is almost double the audience
of the first Republican primary debate in the 2012 cycle. That was just
for the kids table.
So, yes, ever since the debate Carly Fiorina has been booked on every
TV show and her campaign is making it known that their fundraising numbers
are spiking, her poll numbers are right now are unlike anything we have
seen from her so far.
A new “Boston Herald” poll out of New Hampshire, look at this, she`s
in the top five. The last time that poll was taken, she was tied for dead
last with Pataki and Lindsey Graham. Now, she is a front-runner in New
Hampshire by that poll.
She is also tied in fifth and a new poll out of Iowa and NBC`s
national post-debate survey she`s tied for fourth place. And there`s a
Rasmussen poll out today. Fiorina tied with the other top tier candidates,
and just late last month, in that same poll, she was stuck at 1 percent.
She has catapulted into the top four.
So, this is what a come-from-behind surge looks like this year. It
is Carly Fiorina`s turn, apparently, and, of course, it helps that as a
candidate she`s virtually a complete unknown at this point. That`s
probably what most people know about her record and she won this debate.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump`s surge also shows no signs of abating even
after that debate performance regardless of what you thought of it. If you
look closely at the polls, there are still some signs of trouble here for
In that same New Hampshire poll that shows Carly Fiorina`s support
rising, Donald, yes, he`s number one. But when pollsters asked those
people about their views of his candidacy, 70 percent say they either think
he doesn`t have the temperament to be president or they just oppose him
And in the other national poll by Rasmussen, Donald Trump again top
of the field, but look at the change from their last poll a couple weeks
ago. He has lost a ton of support. But Donald Trump is, whether you like
it or not, he is still effectively by these metrics, the front-runner for
Tonight, he gave his first press conference since that big debate.
He also gave his speech at a local fund-raiser in Michigan. Here is how
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Trump, in all candor, do you think during this
campaign, there have been some times where you feel you have gone over the
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have what?
REPORTER: Gone over the top.
TRUMP: I don`t think so at all. I mean, I look at the polls. I can
only go by the polls.
I will be creating tremendous numbers of jobs, so I think we`re going
to do great and then the women`s health issues, I`m for that. I watched
Jeb Bush, give the worst answer the other day.
I think that is going to be his 47 percent. Romney possibly lost the
election for a lot of reasons, frankly, that he lost. One of the big
reasons was his 47 percent. That was a disaster.
I think that Jeb`s answer the other day on women`s health issues is a
disaster for him. And I don`t think – now, he then went and said he
misspoke. How do you misspeak about that?
I will be great on women`s health issues. I cherish women. I will
be great on women`s health issues, believe me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining us now, reporting from the Trump event tonight is
NBC News correspondent Katy Tur, who`s been following the Trump campaign.
Nice to see you.
KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Nice to see you as well.
MELBER: Tell us about the crowd you saw and heard there, local
county fundraiser, $25 a plate. It was packed.
Who are these people coming out? What did they try of Trump and your
TUR: Not just packed but sold out. And there were all age ranges.
A mostly Caucasian crowd but everybody from college students to seniors.
We spoke with a few of them and they say pretty much what you keep hearing
on this campaign trail, that they like that he`s outspoken, they like that
he doesn`t seem to be beholden to anybody.
I did speak with one college student, though, before the event. And
he tells me that, yes, he was enticed by the draw of Trump celebrity and he
did come out partially because of that. Because he is such a huge draw,
because he gets so many viewers, so many eyeballs, 24 million for that
debate, he has a real chance to come out and lay out his plans for the
country and say specifically what he`s going to do and why he will be
He wanted to hear about education. I would imagine that he went away
from this being disappointed if he was asking for any substance. Maybe he
wasn`t disappointed he came out and gave a really big show and got huge
crowds and huge applause. But he didn`t really elaborate on any of the
substance of his campaign, giving a pretty standard stump speech.
He spoke to reporters beforehand and a lot of us are trying to move
past the controversial comments, past the he said/she said, what outrageous
thing can you say today? And now move on to giving an outline when he`s
going to start giving – putting some meat on the bones, if you will. He
says that he`s going to remain flexible with that and that he`ll give it
when he sees fit as of now – Ari.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, that`s one of the weirdest parts here is he`s
critical of politics as usual. But something people don`t like is how
vague politicians are, and they promised everything to different people.
He was asked point blank today what would be your alternative to Obamacare
there and this evening, he said, I don`t have an answer to that, but he
started talking about how he bought a hotel in Miami once and spent several
minutes on that.
How does that play out in the country?
TUR: Well, he kept saying that people need to trust him. And,
generally, when you speak to his fervent supporters, they say, we do trust
him. They think that he`s the man for the job, not necessarily because he
knows everything but they believe he`ll be able to put the appropriate
people into the appropriate positions.
They use “The Apprentice” a lot when you`re talking to them. They
use that as an example of how he`s able to do good things, how he`s able to
be so successful in business.
MELBER: Do they know that it was a fictitious television show?
TUR: I don`t know, Ari. I mean, that`s generally –
MELBER: I`m sorry.
TUR: That`s generally what they try to say.
I think what he is tapping into are people who are sick of the status
quo, they`re sick of politicians, they`re sick of that double speak, and
they don`t necessarily think that he is one of them.
But, then again, he hasn`t brought out any policy plans. Tonight,
his biggest applause was for building a wall again. It was for ISIS, a
strong military. And perhaps the biggest cheer of the night when he said
his second favorite book was “The Art of the Deal”, which he likes to talk
about a lot. His first favorite book, though, was the bible. So, he`s
certainly trying to appeal to a certain base of support within the
Republican Party, and he`s been successful so far.
The question is whether he`ll be able to broaden it out and bring
more into the fold in order to get the nomination. And if he does get the
nomination, will he be able to broaden it enough to go on to win the
presidency? And that certainly is the question out there and what experts
say there`s just no chance of.
MELBER: NBC News correspondent Katy Tur out on the trail. Thanks
for your time tonight.
The other news Donald Trump made tonight was that he was asked about
a possible third party run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to run as a Republican. I don`t want to run a third
party or as an independent, I want to run as a Republican. As long as I`m
treated fairly, that`s going to be the case, and fairly is an instinct.
It`s an instinct.
I know what fair is. You know what fair is. I know what it is, yes,
I know what fair is. And I think that`s happening.
And, by the way, win, lose or draw, I`m not just saying I have to
Now, I guarantee you this, if I win the Republican nomination, I
guarantee you all sitting there, I will not run a third party candidate.
Do you agree? OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I want to be the Republican candidate as long as I`m treated
fairly, he said. Well, that possibility haunts many Republicans and it`s
unusual for a candidate who leads the polls here to openly challenge his
party by threatening to run against it later, and that chutzpah was on
display in probably the most consequential electoral moment in Thursday`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Is there anyone on stage, and can I see hands, who is
unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the
Republican Party, and pledge to not run an independent campaign against
Again, we`re looking for you to raise your hand now, raise your hand
now, if you won`t make that pledge tonight.
So, Mr. Trump, to be clear, you`re standing on a Republican primary -
TRUMP: I fully understand.
BAIER: The place where the RNC will give the nominee the nod –
TRUMP: I fully understand.
BAIER: – and that experts say, an independent run would almost
certainly hand the race over to Democrats and likely another Clinton. You
can`t say tonight that you can make that pledge?
TRUMP: I cannot say, I have to respect the person that if it`s not
me, the person that wins. If I do win and I`m leading by quite a bit,
that`s what I want to do. I can make that pledge if I`m the nominee, I
will pledge I will not run as an independent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump has continued to taunt and threaten Republicans by
invoking that leverage and many have taken him at his word that he has
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I have leverage. I do have leverage and I like having
leverage. I`m a businessman. I`m a natural businessman. And, you know, I
do like leverage.
But I`m not talking so much in terms. I am right now leading by a
lot. Not just by a little bit. I`m leading by a lot.
I want to run as a Republican. I want to win the primaries. I want
to then run as a Republican. I think we will win, and certainly that gives
us the best chance of winning.
I don`t want to do the independent thing but I do keep it and it is
leverage and it is – there are some very positive things about keeping it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We actually have some new reporting tonight that casts doubt
on how long Trump really has this leverage. Trump`s basic premise is that
he can ride one road to the GOP nomination and if he losses that, he can
take an off ramp for a second road to the independent run.
Some Republicans clearly buy that premise because they`ve been acting
afraid and trying to pressure him to commit to the GOP. Many politicos and
reporters also clearly buy the premise. You can see that in the discussion
which assumes Trump can ride these roads and maintain his leverage
But that`s actually not the case. It`s certainly true that Trump
gets away with breaking many rules that other candidates have to follow.
Hard to imagine, say, Chris Christie topping the polls while bragging he
may run as an independent.
But there are rules and then there are laws. As a practical matter,
the election laws place an expiration date on Trump`s third party option
that`s far sooner than he may realize. To mount a credible, winnable
independent bid for president, Trump would need to get on the ballot in
virtually every state.
Unlike the FOX News rules for debate, high polling numbers and
celebrity status do not just get a candidate into consideration out there.
Every state has separate rules. Several big states have high bars and some
Take a look at this. The huge state of Texas, and its 38 electoral
college votes, key to any GOP victory. To get on the ballot, independent
candidates must gather over 79,000 signatures from a subset of voters, not
just residents or registered voters but registered voters who didn`t vote
in either party`s primary.
So, campaign`s organizers have to find people who are registered to
vote but didn`t vote in primaries. And they would have to want Trump on
the ballot as an independent. That takes a lot of time on the ground.
Then, there`s the crucial state of Ohio. No one has won the White
House without Ohio since 1960. And Trump`s leverage threat runs into a
brick wall here.
Take a look at this. The state has a sore loser law that bars people
from trying to run as independents after losing a party primary. In other
words, Ohio has already thought about the kind of leverage Trump wands to
wield, and they`ve deemed it a, quote, “sore loser move” that is banned.
Here`s the requirement exactly – candidates must be unaffiliated
from any political party and the required claim of being unaffiliated must
be made in good faith for the candidate to be qualified run as an
Not only that, the Ohio secretary of state who is a Republican, said
last week that Mr. Trump has already, quote, “chosen a party for the
election cycle and declared himself as a Republican in the state of Ohio.”
So the legal supervisor of elections there has determined Trump as a
Republican. Even if Trump wanted to redefine himself as an independent
there before the primary and fight these rules in court, he would legally
be required to exit the Republican presidential primary midstream because
Ohio`s primary is March 15. And there`s a precedent on that. A 2006
federal case holding that independent candidates must not be affiliated
with parties unless make that claim in good faith.
So, Trump does have this leverage for now, but to keep this as any
kind of real or credible threat, he`d have to start gathering those
hundreds of thousands of signatures and he`d have to decide by early March
if he wants to run as an independent with any shot at Ohio and, thus, the
Joining us now on this big story in politics is Richard Winger,
publisher and editor of ballot access news.
No better person for this ballot access discussion. Good evening to
RICHARD WINGER, BALLOT ACCESS NEWS: Hi. I`m very happy to be on the
MELBER: Tell me, does Donald Trump have the leverage he thinks based
on your reading of these laws, including Ohio?
WINGER: I`m glad you brought up Ohio. In 2011, Gary Johnson
declared for the Republican nomination. He was the former governor of New
Mexico and he was a Republican governor.
In December 2011, he said, “I`m quitting this Republican race. I
think it`s rigged. They`ve kept me out of the debates. I`m going to seek
the libertarian nomination.” And Gary Johnson got on the ballot in Ohio.
The same thing with John Anderson in 1980. He stayed a Republican.
He listed himself in the congressional directory all through 1980 as
That Ohio law you quoted doesn`t pertain to presidential candidates.
MELBER: So, what do you think is the leverage here? Do you think he
can play this out in a dual way in multiple states?
WINGER: I do. Don`t forget, Ralph Nader in 2008 got on the ballot
in 45 states. And he is not a really wealthy person. I think he`s
comfortable but not wealthy.
1988, Lenora Fulani, the New Alliance Party presidential candidate
got on the ballot in all 50 states. Perot did it without even having to go
to court in 1992.
MELBER: How early – I mean, several of those people, I would say
Nader and Perot, though, were in party primaries, right? They weren`t
doing this two-step. How early, in your view, would Trump have to start
doing things as opposed to just claiming the leverage?
WINGER: Well, if he`s serious that he really wants to keep the
independent route open, if I were him, I would not file in the presidential
primaries of Ohio or Texas or South Dakota. But we have precedence from
just about every other state that the sore loser laws don`t pertain to
presidential primaries, and the reason is a sore loser law says, if you are
defeated in the primary, you can`t run outside the major parties in
The trouble with that theory is no person has defeated a Republican
or Democratic presidential nomination in any one state`s primary.
Presidential primaries are different. The national conventions decide who
wins and who losses the major party nomination. That`s why until 2012, no
third party candidate in the entire history of the country had ever been
kept off the general election ballot because he or she had run in a
presidential primary after major party, and there`s been 12 people in the
history of the country who ran in major party presidential primaries and
then ran outside the major parties.
MELBER: Right. And you`re saying that because often at the state
level, it`s the collection of state results that leads to the total
determination of who the nominee is although in this case, in Ohio, we have
a different opinion from someone who matters, the secretary of state at
least thus far.
But, as you say, these are things that have been tested and debated.
If he spends enough time, if Mr. Trump wants to do it, spends enough time,
learning all these laws as well as you.
Richard Winger, publisher and editor of “Ballot Access News” – thank
you for your time tonight.
WINGER: OK, thank you. Bye.
MELBER: We do have lots more ahead. Hillary Clinton has been hard
at work on the campaign trail, addressing the Trump phenomenon and trying
to trade barbs with some of her other Republican rivals. That is next.
And later, a fascinating new way to hear one of the most important
speeches in American history.
Please stay with us.
MELBER: You`re looking here at a live picture. This is right now at
the Reagan Library out in Simi Valley, California. Republican presidential
candidate Jeb Bush is delivering a big speech there tonight on foreign
Now, we`re keeping an eye on that speech in order to play you some of
the most important parts in just a moment. Bush`s aides telling us he is
going to use this address to challenge Hillary Clinton on Iraq.
Jeb Bush has spent this whole week essentially picking a big public
fight with Clinton. Secretary Clinton has ignored her Republican rivals to
date, but that is apparently changing. That story is next.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Take a look at this.
This was the scene at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena last night, a
campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The
campaign says 27,000 people showed up to hear Sanders speak. It`s just one
day after another 28,000 people in Portland, Oregon, flocked to the Moda
Center to see him, not to mention those 15,000 he drew in Seattle the day
Sanders has received an outpouring of grassroots support in the West
Coast. And while the surge in attendance may not give him the nomination,
he remains the front-runner in terms of the number of people coming out to
see him over the course of this entire campaign thus far.
Hillary Clinton`s campaign meanwhile has been careful to avoid
positioning her as entitled to the nomination, even as she sails ahead in
many polls. As we get closer to the Iowa caucuses, though, and as Bernie
Sanders keeps drawing those record crowds, Clinton seems to think that
while she can this Bernie momentum play out unchecked, she cannot afford to
let the Donald Trump reality show on the right distract from the scrutiny
that should be applied to the other more likely Republican nominees.
We know this because just over the last 48 hours, she`s used her
bully pulpit like probably never before this cycle to go after a number of
leading Republican contenders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While what Donald Trump
said about Megyn Kelly is outrageous, what the rest of the Republicans are
saying about all women is also outrageous. When one of their major
candidates, a much younger man, the senator from Florida, says there should
be no exceptions for rape and incest, that is as offensive and as troubling
a comment as you could hear from a major candidate running for the
So, yes, I know it makes great TV. I think the guy went way
overboard, offensive, outrageous, pick your adjective. But what Marco
Rubio says has as much of an impact in terms of where the Republican Party
is today as anybody else on that stage, and it is deeply troubling and it
should be to the press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Hillary Clinton on the trail, trying to turn
everyone`s attention, our attention, reporters and voters alike, from
Trump`s rhetorical excess to Rubio`s policy extremes.
Clinton is also using the Internet to directly confront other
Republicans on policy, showing up on Jeb Bush`s Twitter page to talk about
education and student loans and then today she went after Wisconsin
Governor Scott Walker for appearing to be delighted to slash investment in
colleges in Wisconsin.
Clinton has changed her game the past couple of days in a way that is
more combative, some would argue even personal maybe for good reason. The
latest PPP poll in Iowa shows Clinton behind in head to head matchups
against four Republicans. That includes Ben Carson, he`s four points ahead
of her. And also, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and Rubio, all a point ahead
A new poll in New Hampshire shows similar findings, Clinton just a
point or two behind Jeb Bush, Walker and Rand Paul in these hypothetical
Now, will Hillary Clinton`s new aggressive tactics calling out
Republicans by name on their policies and records one right after the
other, does that boost enthusiasm around her campaign? Does it improve her
standing in the states where she feels she may be neck and neck with
multiple Republican potential nominees?
Joining us now is MSNBC senior editor, Beth Fouhy, who covered
Clinton`s entire 2008 campaign.
Good evening to you.
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC SENIOR EDITOR: Hi, Ari.
MELBER: This seems to be a change in the narrative, in the focus
coming not from her aides, not from advertisements – we see negative ads -
- coming from the candidate.
Why is that?
FOUHY: Well, a couple reasons. One, all the action is on the
Republican side right now. Her campaign is not generating the kind of
interest, the kind of enthusiasm, even though Bernie Sanders is getting the
big crowds. He`s not getting the coverage the Republican side is.
Everything is going on in the Republican side.
So, Hillary Clinton has to step into that race if she`s going to get
noticed. It also helps her avoid having to get into it with Bernie Sanders
who she does not want to engage.
FOUHY: It allows her to focus, as she would, as a general election
candidate on the likely Republican nominee, and she`s figuring out who that
person is. You can read the tea leaves who she thinks those people might
MELBER: As you know from being on the field, it was often said that
early on in the 2008 cycle, the Clinton campaign did not see Barack Obama
MELBER: I think it`s fair to say they in the 2012 cycle along with
everyone else didn`t exactly see Donald Trump coming.
MELBER: What is the impact in your view on the Clinton candidacy, to
have this sideshow?
FOUHY: Well, again, she has to get into it. She`s in this funny
position because she went to his wedding. We all know this now. He
reminded everyone of that in the debate, and she had to take a question
about that at the press avail.
So, if she thinks he`s so outrageous, why is she going to his
wedding? It`s all kind of – it`s a total sideshow. So, that`s why she
brought the conversation back at the press avail that you played about
Rubio and really wants to focus on him, because the campaign believes,
Hillary Clinton believes if there`s going to be a nominee between Rubio and
Trump, it`s probably going to be Rubio. So, let`s pivot over to somebody
who actually has a chance of winning the nomination and not the circus act
of Donald Trump.
MELBER: Well, in her view on women`s health and rights here, is that
in a quieter debate, what Marco Rubio said basically abortion should be
banned in all cases would have been a big deal or, quote/unquote, “gaffe”
and it`s not getting attention because of Trump. Is that correct?
FOUHY: Totally. Absolutely. But she also I think saw that Rubio`s
performance in the debate was considered to be pretty strong. He
definitely was praised by many Republicans for looking great at that
debate, and to the extent anybody could stand out next to Donald Trump, at
that debate, he did a pretty good job.
She wants to squash that bug like before it grows because Rubio on
paper and in many ways in terms of performance is – could be a strong
candidate. He`s Hispanic, he`s from Florida. She needs to keep him down.
She`s trying to keep Jeb Bush down, as we know, engaging today over
foreign policy. Yesterday, they were engaging around higher education,
paying for bringing down the price of tuition. So, she`s eying who she
think is probably going to be the nominee and she does not think it`s
MELBER: Right. And that Donald Trump makes the others look to have
more sane temperaments by comparison.
MSNBC senior editor Beth Fouhy – thanks to you. Thanks as always
for joining us.
FOUHY: You bet.
MELBER: Ahead, Jeb Bush is in California tonight giving an address
about the war in the Middle East.
Now, is this the best topic for a man trying to distinguish himself
from his father and brother? We have the details just ahead.
MELBER: When you think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., what comes to
mind? Leader of the civil rights movement? A preacher, activist?
Certainly, one of the most gifted public speakers this country has ever
And yet check this out. Here is his official transcript from Crozer
Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. That`s where Dr. King studied when
he was in his 20s.
Lock closely at the transcript, though. You`ll notice Martin Luther
King Jr. got a “C” in public speaking his first year at the seminary. His
professor considered him average at public speaking. A “C” in public
speaking for one of the greatest public speakers of all time.
And there was remarkable news just today about Martin Luther King
Jr., the public speaker, specifically, about his most famous address ever
delivered. It`s an amazing discovery that was unveiled today. That is
coming up at the end of our show.
MELBER: We`re looking right now at some live pictures from the
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. There you
see Jeb Bush talking about something that is a little awkward for him –
Governor Bush has struggled with this topic, of course, for months.
In May, his inability to answer basic questions about his brother`s
decision to invade. He gave four different answers in four days. He
literally had years to prepare. Everyone knew those questions were coming.
And that set off alarm bells in many GOP circles. It was perhaps the
first big sign that maybe Jeb Bush was not quite ready for primetime.
Governor Bush`s debate performance last week did not much alleviate those
Asked what he would say to the families of service members killed in
the Iraq war, he made somewhat of a shaky pivot to attacking the Obama
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Knowing what we know now with
faulty intelligence and not having security be the first priority when we
invaded, it was a mistake. I wouldn`t have gone in.
Here`s the lesson we should take which relates to this whole subject,
Barack Obama became president and he abandoned Iraq, he left. And when he
left, al Qaeda was done for. ISIS was created because of the void that we
left. And that void now exists as a caliphate the side of Indiana.
To honor the people that died being, we need – we need to stop the
Iran agreement for sure because the Iranian mullahs have their blood on
their hands and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, that`s Jeb Bush at last week`s debate, taking a question
about his brother`s war and giving a winding answer about the Obama
In a speech tonight, he went even further taking that attack to
Hillary Clinton. Here is what he said just minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: And where was the secretary of state? Where was Secretary of
State Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed
the surge, then joined and claiming credit for its success. Then, stood by
as that hard won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.
In all of her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly
once. Who can seriously argue that America and our friends are safer today
than if 2009 when the president and Secretary Clinton, the storied team of
rivals, took office, so eager to be the history makers, they failed to be
the peacemakers. It was a –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is from just moments ago tonight. It`s a pretty bold
move on Bush`s part, not only trying to shift the burden on to President
Obama`s shoulders, who famously opposed the war, but also on to Secretary
of State Clinton`s and making it the centerpiece of really the first major
attack on Clinton.
And the Clinton campaign appears to be itching for this fight. Ahead
of Jeb Bush`s speech tonight, a top Clinton aide argued in a phone call
with reporters it was the Bush administration that sent too few troops to
Iraq, as many remember. They argue it was the Bush administration that
unleashed al Qaeda there and the Bush administration that set the
withdrawal date for American troops.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton both argue ISIS is actually a
direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq, which grew out of the U.S. invasion
and the vacuum it created.
Republican voters don`t have to take the Obama/Clinton line on this.
It turns out, they can now take it from the man eclipsing Bush and this GOP
primary and isn`t going away, like it or not. Donald Trump has been so
many things in this campaign. It turns out one of them in his estimation
is Iraq war critics.
Now, he may not have gotten around to opposing the war until over a
year after it started in public but he`s brought that up over and over.
He`s taken that opposition into this primary, bragging about it in a debate
and earlier this year, he proudly posed an article from 2004, quoting him
saying, quote, “Does anybody really believe Iraq is going to be a wonderful
democracy? Come on, two minutes after we leave, there`s going to be a
revolution and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take
Now, that was 2004. Jeb Bush making the argument that the Iraq clock
has to only start in 2009, and thus, President Obama mismanaged everything
from there on out.
Not only are President Obama and Hillary Clinton challenging that
narrative in this presidential campaign saying the clock started long
before, but now, the punitive front-runner in the GOP primary is saying
Jeb Bush has been struggling with the legacy of his brother`s war for
months. And it doesn`t look like that struggle is going to get any easier.
MELBER: We are officially smack-dab in the middle of a presidential
election season. Everyone knows that. And that`s usually the time when
But there`s actually one issue, a sleeper issue that has bipartisan
support where something could actually happen and there`s news on that
tonight. That is next.
MELBER: Before that huge crowd of 27,000 people in L.A. last night,
Bernie Sanders departed from typical political talk about American
exceptionalism to raise an area where America is lagging behind other
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no
president who will push harder for fundamental changes in our criminal
We do not want to be the country on earth that has more people in
jail than any other country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Modern presidential politics is not a field that is usually
defined by appeals for a measured approach to crime. Since Richard Nixon`s
law and order campaign in 1968, candidates in both parties have jockeyed
over who could be tougher on crime.
But that is changing. There are more calls to rethink a broken
criminal justice system and not just in position papers or quiet
discussions. Candidates are pushing the issue, bringing it up themselves
and drawing some huge applause.
And it`s not just antiestablishment candidates like some see Bernie
Sanders, and it`s not just liberals. These calls are coming from both
parties to challenge the U.S.`s harsh policies of mass incarceration.
Now, there are two major criticisms often offered against the way our
justice system works here. One, that it targets minorities unfairly and,
two, that an aggressive war on drugs has caused a quadrupling of our prison
population over a generation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A primary driver of
this mass incarceration phenomenon is our drug laws, our mandatory minimum
sentencing around drug laws. The statistics on who gets incarcerated show
that by a wide margin, it disproportionately impacts communities of color.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The war on drugs has
disproportionately incarcerated African-Americans and Latinos. Something
has to change. The war on drugs has gone awry.
CLINTON: Of the more than 2 million Americans incarcerated today, a
significant percentage are low level offenders, people held for violating
parole or minor drug crimes. There is something wrong when a third of all
black men face the prospect of prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is certainly understandable. But the picture is
actually a bit more complicated.
First, it is a fact that criminal law is frequently applied with
racially disparate results. In America, minorities often subject to
stricter policing, more stop and frisk regardless of conduct, and harsher
penalties for the same offenses committed by other Americans.
To a degree, the war on drugs is certainly also a driver of this
problem. Our prison population has exploded since President Nixon first
declared war on drugs in the `70s.
But this problem, this mass incarceration is not just from drugs. As
some states legalize marijuana and some Republicans in Congress talk about
rolling back those mandatory minimums, there are reformers noting that even
changing those laws wouldn`t remove the U.S. from its position as the
highest incarceration rate nation of any democracy in the world.
A recent article in “The New York Times” says even without its many
inmates who are convicted of drug charges, the U.S. still leads the world
in imprisoning people. A true challenge to mass incarceration means
tackling problems that run deeper than the drug war itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to recognize
that young people make mistakes. And we should not live in a world of “Les
Miserables” where a young man finds his entire future taken away by
excessive mandatory minimums.
PAUL: We want to help people work and help people to vote. We`ve
got to fix the over criminalization problem.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: We have the challenge of over-
criminalization, of over-incarceration, and over-sentencing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Over-criminalization. The deeper issue here is that the so-
called tough on crime politics have raised a generation of legislators who
wanted to outdo each other in adding defining crimes and punishment,
ballooning all kinds of activities that are now newly considered criminal
and we`ve seen a generation of prosecutors facing pressure to always seek
the maximum penalty.
Now, this may sound like a broad diagnosis. How do you actually
break out the problem to challenge it and change it? Well, the Urban
Institute, a think tank devoted to civil rights, has a new tool that shows
how different policies could alter this mass incarceration.
It shows if you cut in half the number of people sent to prison for
those drug crimes, that would reduce the prison population 7 percent. So,
that`s drugs, the topic that everyone has focused on.
Look at this, though – if we cut in half the sentences for those
convicted of property crimes, look at what happens. That would remove and
reduce the inmate population by more, by 10 percent. You reduce the number
of people behind bars for all nonviolent offenses, America could cut the
prison population by 23 percent.
That`s a lot of change. There`s been a lot of movement here. But is
there political will to make any of this happen?
Joining us now, a very special guest, Bryan A. Stevenson, founder and
executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, a professor at NYU School
of Law and his Ted Talk in the issue of criminal justice reform, went viral
with well over 2 million views.
Professor, an honor to have you here tonight.
BRYAN STEVENSON, EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE FOUNDER: Thank you. Great
to be with you.
MELBER: Is there a political will on this issue now?
STEVENSON: Well, I hope so. We are experiencing a political moment
unlike anything we have seen in the last 40 years. I think it can`t be
stressed enough, that for four decades our political discourse has been
corrupted by the sort of politics of fear and anger, where everybody is
competing with each other over who can be toughest on crime.
Crime is sort of like a litmus test you had to pass before you could
talk about getting elected. And what`s it created is an environment that
is difficult to get reform. So, I do think we are in a political moment.
But I also think we have to define the objectives much more precisely than
most of the candidates have done.
MELBER: You mentioned the candidates and we showed Republicans using
terms not as familiar to many people. What does it mean when with we see
some of those Tea Party folks that say there is over criminalization, that
too much conduct can be prosecuted?
STEVENSON: Well, I think many of them are motivated by the same kind
of big government approach that has shaped policy making in other areas.
But I also think money is a big part of this. I mean, we spent $6 billion
on jails and prisons in 1980. Last year, we spent $8 billion. The truth
is that most of the stuff is happening at the state level.
The federal government only produces about 10 percent of the people
who are in jails and prisons. At the state level, that kind of dramatic
increase in spending on jails and prisons has really compromised the
ability of states to make their budgets balanced, to do the kind of public
service work and support work that electorates want.
And so, we can`t sustain this level of spending. I think both
political parties recognize there has to be a shift in the dollars that are
being sent to jails and prisons. Now the question is how are we going to
And ending the war on drugs is the beginning. But as you point out
it is not sufficient. We`re going to have to radically redefine what are
appropriate punishments for a broad range of crimes.
MELBER: And to imagine alternative, what should be the purpose of
prison for the less serious crimes?
STEVENSON: I actually don`t think if people – if people are not a
threat to public safety, I don`t think we should think of jail or prison.
We don`t need to spend the kind of money that incarceration costs to
actually manage that population.
If we think of drug dependency as a health issue rather than a crime
issue, for less money, not only can we keep them out of jails and prisons
but help them recover. Look, I represented people for serving life without
parole for writing a bad check, for stealing a bicycle, for stealing a
slice of pizza. Those kinds of sentences are functions of three strikes
laws, mandatory sentencing laws, all of that I think we can eliminate.
But I also think we have to deal with some of other problems. We`ve
got 50 percent of the people in jails and prisons that suffer from mental
illness, 20 percent are acutely mentally ill. We`ve got to come up with
solutions for treating and serving and helping the mentally ill that do not
involve jails and prisons.
Children, we began demonizing children, calling them super predators
in the 1980s and we sent thousands to prison that created a lifetime of
criminality for them. That`s something else we can do.
But I think if we just step and start looking at what are reasonable
responses, then we can really create a lot of progress on this issue.
MELBER: Bryan Stevenson, director of the Equal Justice Initiative,
and professor of NYU School of Law, thank you for your time tonight.
STEVENSON: You`re very welcome. Glad to be with you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
And the best new thing in the world is up next. So, stay with us.
MELBER: We have a best new thing in the world tonight. It`s a great
We start in Washington, D.C. 52 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION: I have a dream my four
little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged
by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have
a dream today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: MLK`s “I Have A Dream” speech on Washington. One of the
well-known speeches in history, and yet, there are still aspects of it
which people remain unaware of.
For example, the most famous part of that speech where he tells the
crowd about his dream was not in the original draft. We know this thanks
to a man named George Raveling, a former basketball player and coach who
volunteered as security in that march, asked for a copy just after Dr. King
finished. He had been offered millions for that copy of the speech over
history but he refuses to sell.
Because of the volunteer`s quick thinking, we know the “I Have A
Dream” portion, we know that is Dr. King going off script.
Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer, reportedly shouting at MLK
to, quote, “tell them about the dream, Martin.” So, the most famous lines
in one of the most important addresses in our history, they were actually
In keeping with the theme of learning new things about this speech,
the march on Washington wasn`t the first time he told people about his
dream. In fact, in the years or so leading up to that, March, Dr. King had
been delivering versions of the I have a dream address to supporters around
the nation, versions that can be traced all the way back to a high school
gym in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, in November 1962.
Now, until now, all we had were reports from the Rocky Mountain
report to corroborate that. Today, that changed because audio of the
speech recently unearthed by local historians was released to the world.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KING: So my friends of Rocky Mountain, I have a dream tonight. It
is a dream rooted deeply in the American Dream. I have a dream that one
day, down in Sasser County, Georgia, where they burned down churches a few
days ago because Negroes wanted to register and vote. One day right down
there, little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands
little white boys and little white girls and walk the streets as brothers
and sisters. I have a dream.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: A new recording of an important speech by Martin Luther King
That is easily far the best new thing in the world today.
That`s our show. Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>