The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/01/15
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I love that guy.
HAYES: He is entertaining.
MADDOW: Exactly. Thanks, man.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Hey, so turns out the Republican presidential primary is a disaster!
Turns out it`s a total mess. And I don`t mean that in terms of the quality
of the candidates running or the issues on which they`re trying to appeal
to voters. I mean, literally, the process is broken and ridiculous and
unprecedented and now, as of tonight, it is back in chaos.
I had a completely different show planned for tonight. I was
planning on talking about something totally different than this, at this
point in the show tonight. But then, tonight, after the close of business,
the Republican Party and the CNN News Network decided that they were going
to pull the silverware drawer out of the kitchen counter and shake it over
their heads and announce a whole new big change in the way Republicans are
trying to elect a presidential nominee this year.
As of tonight, they have changed the next debate to – just like they
had to change the first debate, they have now changed the second one. And
it`s an important, substantive change that is going to affect the way
Republicans pick their presidential nominee. It`s chaos.
And we probably should have seen this coming when it became clear
that so many Republicans were going to be running for president this year.
Some of us kind of did see this coming.
But there really are 17 major candidates running for the Republican
nomination. And it`s not, you know, a few real candidates with real
resumes and a real shot at it and everybody else is just a joke. I mean,
there really are 17 contenders for the nomination.
It`s a big field. It`s a big field of serious candidates. It is
historically the biggest field in any major party, ever.
And that presents some really serious challenges in terms of how to
conduct that primary, right? How to do responsible polling of a field that
large. How to make sure all the candidates get a fair shot. How to
organize events at which all the candidates will be present. There are
logistical and strategic challenges posed by the fact that the field`s
But, it should have been clear from the beginning that the solution
to that big field problem was never going to be wishing it away, right?
Just deciding that the field really isn`t as big as it is.
But that is what`s happened. That`s what the Republican Party and
the FOX News Channel and, yes, CNN, as well, decided to do. They just
decided that they would deal with all the challenges of this big Republican
field by just establishing a smaller Republican field.
They would wave a magic wand, they would wield their influence
through the debates, and just through the debate process, specifically, and
they would just decree that there were really only ten serious candidates
for the Republican nomination and everybody else was something lesser.
Why did they pick 10 specifically? No idea. It is a nice, round
So, FOX was given the first debate by the Republican Party. After 17
major candidates declared that they were running for the nomination, FOX
announced their first change to their debate plans. Instead of just having
a regular presidential debate where the candidates would all be allowed to
compete, FOX instead announced that they would have a real debate, and then
a kids` table, a separate forum. Some kind of other event to which they
would exile the candidates who FOX deemed not worthy of being in the real
Ultimately, that was not the only change that FOX News ended up
announcing. They also announced the candidates would have to file
financial disclosure statements that they didn`t know they had to file
before, and that may or may not have been a way to try to keep Donald Trump
out of the first debate. FOX also announced at the very last minute a
change in which polls they would be using to decide who would be allowed
into the debate. At the very last minute, they decided to exclude one poll
that would have showed one percentage point difference between those who
got in and the candidates who were kept out.
So, FOX had have very vague criteria, they kept it deliberately
mysterious, and all along, they kept announcing convenient rule change
after convenient rule change. All along the process before they actually
finally got to their debate the first week in August.
But the most important change FOX announced was that first one. I
think of it as original sin. This idea that there would be only one real
debate that didn`t include all the candidates, some of the candidates would
have to do some lesser thing, because a news network had decided they
weren`t real candidates.
The Republican Party saw FOX do that with the first debate. They had
given the second debate to CNN. CNN, for some reason, decided that they
would stick with FOX`s idea of picking only ten real candidates. They
would stick with FOX`s idea of having a real debate and this other kids
Now, unlike FOX, CNN was not at all fuzzy about their criteria for
what polls would count and how they would decide which candidates got into
the real debate and which candidates they would keep out. CNN was very
specific, very detail about what their criteria would be, but they did
still stick with this idea. That it would be CNN who would designate ten
real contenders for president, and that he wouldn`t let these other lesser
candidates on to the stage to debate with the real candidates for
Now, inevitably, because it is voters and caucus-goers who are
supposed to make these kind of decisions and not news outlets, I think
CNN`s lengthy detailed criteria that they released well in advance,
inevitably those criteria led to fairly perverse outcomes. I mean,
candidates who are now consistently losing in the polls, like really
losing, candidates who are getting consistently 1 and 2 percent in the
polls on a good day, some of those candidates apparently have safe seats on
CNN`s debate stage.
But other candidates who are polling great now, who are polling way
ahead of those other loser candidates right now, those candidates weren`t
going to be allowed on CNN`s debate stage. That started to become clear
pretty early on in this process.
And you know, I do not mean to disparage CNN in an ad hominem way, I
have a lot of respect for CNN. They are a real news organization. I think
they really wanted to seem like a real news organization here. They wanted
to look objective and responsible here.
CNN has been really on the defensive about what they have done wrong
here. They`ve been saying over and over again, that they would not change
their restrictive plans for who they would allow in this debate. They keep
saying it with increasing vehemence. On August 10th, a spokeswoman says,
no changes have been made to our previously announced debate criteria.
August 26th, another spokesperson says, CNN published our debate
criteria on May 20th. Federal Election Commission guidelines make it clear
that these criteria cannot be changed after they have been published. We
believe our approach is a fair and effective way to deal with the highest
number of candidates we have ever encountered.
That was kind of a doozy, right? That was CNN just last week. Less
than a week ago, saying that not only are their criteria for this debate
good criteria and fair criteria, but by law, they cannot change them. That
was last Wednesday.
Two days later, CNN puts an exclamation point on that. This was just
a few days ago. This was Friday. CNN, quote, “Our criteria are totally
appropriate and we have been absolutely transparent about them throughout.”
By this point, it is the Carly Fiorina campaign that is complaining
loudly, publicly, and repeatedly about CNN and what they`re doing to the
Republican debate. They`re complaining about how Carly Fiorina is polling
better than a lot of the candidates who are basically guaranteed debate
slots under CNN`s rules, but she is set to be excluded and that makes no
So, CNN, on Friday, directly responds to her with a sort of
backhanded smack, quote, “If the Fiorina campaign has an issue with our
criteria, they could have raised it when we published them in May. They
did not. Revising the criteria on eve of the debate at the demand of and
solely for the benefit of one particular candidate is not something we have
done in the past and we will not do it now.”
That was Friday. CNN. “We will not do it now.”
Now, though, it`s Tuesday, and apparently now they will change the
debate. CNN sent this long, mad petition from the Carly Fiorina campaign
just before 3:00 today, demanding that CNN change their rules to let Carly
Fiorina into the CNN Republican debate two weeks from now. The Fiorina
folks say they sent that to CNN just before 3:00 p.m.
Less than 2 1/2 hours later, CNN caved. CNN announced, eh, you know,
actually, we are change organize rules. After saying for weeks that we
would not, they should not, they could not, it would be illegal for them to
change their rules, now CNN is changing their rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Now the Republican candidates are
gearing up for their next big debate. It`s right here on CNN. And
tonight, there has been a very important amendment to the rules.
CNN politics executive editor Mark Preston is here with the details.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, you know,
Brianna, there has been a lot of talk about who would actually be in the
top tier of the debate on October 16th at the Ronald Reagan Presidential
Library. The question was, would there be the likes of a Carly Fiorina who
could be added to the stage? Well, CNN has looked at rules that were
created back in May and we`ve decided to amend them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: CNN announcing tonight that they have changed the rules
about who will be allowed into the Republican presidential debate that
they`re hosting in a couple of weeks. They are changing the rules
specifically to allow “the likes of Carly Fiorina.” They`re allowing Carly
Fiorina, to be in that debate, which is very nice for the Carly Fiorina
campaign. They`re already sending out declarations of victory today,
talking about how this is a great political battle that they`ve won,
pressuring CNN to change the debate rules to let their candidate
effectively compete for the presidency.
But I`ve got to tell you, CNN is still planning on having a kids`
table debate and a real debate. They`re just planning on letting 11 people
into the real debate instead of 10 now.
So, the way they have made this rule change, specifically to help
that one candidate – well, that now raises the question of why they aren`t
going to do this for every candidate, for everyone still at the kids`
table, right? I mean, everybody still at the kids` table has reason now to
launch their own pressure campaign, to try to get CNN to let them into the
I mean, if 10 isn`t the magic, irrelevant number anymore, if 11 is
the magic irrelevant number now, why shouldn`t 12 be the magic irrelevant
number, or 13?
I mean, Rick Perry was the freaking governor of Texas for 14 years?
You`re not going to let him in? Bobby Jindal is the current governor of
Louisiana, you`re not going to let him in? What do you have against the
Lindsey Graham is the home state senior senator for the first in the
state primary, South Carolina is right after Iowa and New Hampshire.
You`re not going to let him in? And on and on and on.
CNN tonight, amazingly, after all of their defensive piety on this
issue for weeks now, all this blowing smoke about how they`re legally
prohibited from changing these rules and there` s nothing wrong with these
rules, CNN is now announcing their bending their rules for one candidate.
Why not the others?
You know, there is a way out of this. And the way to do this fairly,
the way to fix what I think is an ongoing disaster here, to get rid of the
ethical concerns, to get rid of the small-d democratic concerns about a
media outlet deciding who`s a real candidate for president, instead of
allowing voters to decide that. There is a way to fix this easily.
Don`t just bend the rules about who`s going to be consigned to the
kids` table and who`s going to be allowed into the rule debate. Don`t just
bend the rules, just get rid of the kids` table idea altogether. Take it
from the guy who is right now tied with Donald Trump for first place in
Iowa, according to one recent poll. Ben Carson tonight putting out a
statement, praising CNN`s decision to bend their rules to let Carly Fiorina
in, but also taking the next logical, ethical, and dare I say, leadership
Quote, “I would add that I advise CNN to change their debate to allow
all the candidates in the prime time debate as well. No qualified
candidate should be excluded. The American people are best served with an
active, open and transparent process, and all inclusive debate format meets
CNN announcing this sudden, last-minute change tonight is going to
have a substantive, large impact on the course of the Republican
presidential primary process. But to be clear, CNN did not fix the problem
in that process tonight. They just broke their own rules to alleviate some
of the pressure that they were feeling about this problem that they did not
create, but that they are perpetuating for no good reason, and they`re
still perpetuating by doing a kids` table debate.
It will be interesting to see if any of the other candidates follow
Ben Carson`s lead on this. But regardless – I mean, CNN, in the end,
you`ve only got your reputation, right? And that`s forever. There is
still time to get out of the bias business in the Republican primary.
There is still time to just kill the kids` table idea altogether.
MADDOW: So big and unexpected breaking news in the Republican race
for the presidential nomination tonight. The news we just got from CNN
that they have changed the rules significantly for the next Republican
debate, even after insisting for weeks that they would do no such thing and
they could do no such thing.
The whole issue of the difficult bias problems in the Republican
debate plans this year was first raised back in May by a really astute
political writer at “Time” magazine named Zeke Miller.
And Zeke joins us now with some new reporting on these new changes,
how they were announced, how they came to be, and what they might mean.
Zeke, great to have you here.
ZEKE MILLER, TIME MAGAZINE: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I know you`ve been reporting on this controversy around
the Republican debates for a couple of months now. Was this a surprise
move from CNN to change their rules tonight, after all these weeks of
saying they wouldn`t?
MILLER: One hundred percent a surprise. As late as Friday,
officials in the Republican national committee were saying that they did
not anticipate these rules changing, as you mentioned earlier in the show.
CNN putting out that statement directly – directed directly at Carly
Fiorina campaign, saying if the Fiorina campaign had those concerns, they
should have raised them much earlier in the process, back in May. They
So it seems, at least a few days ago, that nothing would change. And
coming up today, just after the markets closed at the end of the business
day saying, hey, we`ve done it all without warning, there`s a new rule book
in play, was a little bit surprising, but, you know, understandable given
the pressure that`s been put on them in the last week, fairly effectively
now by the Fiorina campaign.
MADDOW: Well, to that point, obviously, they`ve created an incentive
for everybody else who`s consigned to the kids` table to start pressuring
them as well.
Does it seem they worked this out in conjunction with some of the
campaigns and their campaigns, or were all the campaigns as surprised to
hear about it tonight as the rest of us were?
MILLER: According to sources at the RNC and with the campaigns,
nobody, none of the campaigns were informed about this decision before it
was made. They were kind of blindsided, the same way everyone else in the
You know, it is interesting, you look at where Carly Fiorina was
after being in that happy hour debate, in the FOX News debate back in
August, she actually surged. Everyone else in that field either stayed the
same or fell. Rick Perry had that money trouble just a couple of days
after that debate and you know, started running into problems right there.
The rest of them looked like they belong there had. Fiorina looks like she
belongs on the main stage.
Interestingly enough, the way CNN did this is that Rand Paul and
Chris Christie are both keeping a spot on the main stage, even if you adopt
the Fiorina rules, which is the top ten in policy after the first debate,
just August and September follows, one or both of them might even be out.
So, in a way, CNN is, in a certain sense, winnowing the rest of the
field for everyone. The question will be the rest of the cycle. Will
anybody else, you know, have a kiddy table debate. Will there be another
happy hour debate? Or will it just be these 11? If you`re not in this
group 11, are you no longer a serious political candidate?
MADDOW: Zeke Miller, political reporter for “Time Magazine”, who`s
been on this angle of this screwed up process this year from the very
beginning – Zeke, thanks for your time tonight. Appreciate having you
MILLER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I will say that last point Zeke was making about guys like
Rand Paul and Chris Christie and some of the other guys who are really
scraping the bottom in the polling right now, CNN really did just,
seemingly, change the rules to allow Carly Fiorina in. They`re not saying,
OK, you can be in the top ten, we`ll look at the polls differently so you
can get in, they made it a top 11, conveniently sized to keep her.
And it looks like from the polling criteria changes that they`ve
announced, that they`ve basically just grandfathered in Rand Paul and Chris
Christie to stay there anyway, even as they plummet in the polls. This
looks very much like a news organization deciding who they want in the
debate and tinkering with their rules in order to make that happen on
stage. It`s not supposed to be that basically just grandfathered in Rand
Paul and Chris Christie to stay there anyway, even as they plummet in the
This looks very much like a news organization deciding who they want
in the debate and tinkering with their rules in order to make that happen
It`s not supposed to be that way, whether or not you like the
outcome. It should not be CNN`s decision or FOX`s decision or any other
media outlet. This is supposed to be a democratic process.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We have lots ahead on tonight`s show, including some very
important carp news. Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, also, doing something
that will make you want to shower after you hear about it.
We`ve got a lot ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s a thing to keep an eye on. Certainly in the next few
days, but perhaps even as early as tonight. You probably know Congress has
been out of town recently. The House and Senate took pretty much the
entire month of August off. It`s now September and they`re off this week,
too. Nice work, if you can get it.
But Congress is due back next week, and when they do come back, what
they`re going to be talking about is Iran, a nuclear deal with Iran that
was struck earlier this summer. When the Republican-controlled Congress
comes back next week, they will, of course, try to kill that deal. Which
is, incidentally, why folks like Liz and Dick Cheney have been on TV
essentially nonstop for the last few days to talk about how a diplomatic
deal with Iran is the end of the world. And we should take it from Liz and
Dick Cheney, because they`re always right about the Middle East, right?
Here`s what to watch for, though, because this did get really
interesting today. Heading into today, President Obama had 31 votes in the
Senate in support of the Iran deal, 31 of the 34 votes he needs nor the
deal to survive.
But then today, President Obama picked up two more votes. Today,
Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Chris Coons of Delaware
came out in support of the deal. Bob Casey became number 32. Chris Coons
became number 33. That means President Obama is now one vote away from
having the 34 Senate votes he needs to seal this thing up and get the deal.
And in terms of who`s left, who has yet to announce their position on
the deal, they`re all Democrats, 11 Democratic senators. If one of these
Democratic senators comes out in support of the Iran deal, just one of
them, it`s game over for the Republicans who are trying to kill it. And a
decision, of course, could come any moment now from any one of these 11
In the odd event that they`re all still wavering next week when
Congress comes back, I have to tell you that opponents of Iran deal have
planned something big. They have planned a final push to try to convince
these 11 senators to kill the Iran deal. They need all 11 Democrats on
And so, the opponents of the deal have planned a rally at the capitol
next Tuesday, featuring Glenn Beck! But not just Glenn Beck, also Donald
Trump and Ted Cruz. The three of them headlining at the “Stop the Iran
deal” rally, set to take place the day after Congress returns to town next
And, you know, if there`s anything that`s likely to persuade 11
Democratic senators to defy the president, it`s probably Glenn Beck, right?
I mean, this thing is not over yet, but today it got really close to
being over. The president is one vote away, with Glenn Beck and Ted Cruz
and Donald Trump doing everything humanly possible to make getting that
last vote as easy as possible.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: So there are some politics stories that just unavoidably
make you feel terrible. Mad, and disgusted, and bad. Sometimes, though,
their stories come with their own antidote. They come with their own cure.
And this is one of those. We do have to start with the bad.
This tape was shot four days after Vice President Biden`s son, Beau,
died of brain cancer. It was four days after Beau Biden died, it was three
days before Beau Biden`s funeral.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Vice President Joe Biden.
You know the nice thing? You don`t need a punch line.
I promise you it works. The next party you`re at, just walk up to
someone, say, Vice President Joe Biden, and just close your mouth. They
will crack up laughing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ted Cruz calling Vice President Biden a walking punch line
four days after Vice President Biden`s son died, three days before they
buried him. At a time when people were not just mourning Beau Biden
himself, but there was this national outpouring of sympathy for the vice
president and his family and this tragedy that had just happened to them,
presidential candidate Ted Cruz could just not bring himself to stop
pointing and laughing at Vice President Biden and trying to make him in a
joke. It was just awful. It was an awful thing.
Senator Cruz ended up apologizing for having done that. But it is
the kind of thing that sticks with you about a person even after the
apology. That all happened in June. It`s not just awkward, not just
tasteless, but because of its timing, this truly awful thing, at least he
did apologize, though, right?
But then, Ted Cruz did it again. The day after former President
Jimmy Carter announced that at the age of 90, he has very serious cancer
that has spread to his brain and east starting very aggressive treatment
against that cancer, the very next day after that announcement, Ted Cruz
thought it would be a good time to take a crack at Jimmy Carter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: I think where we are today is very, very much like the late
1970s. I think the parallels between this administration and the Carter
administration are uncanny – same failed domestic policies, same misery,
stagnation, and malaise, same feckless and naive foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was less than 24 hours after President Carter announced
to the world that he was fighting for his life against very serious cancer
that had spread to his brain. As the whole country, you know, poured with
sympathy for the former president, right? People of all ideological
stripes expressed administration for the calmness and grace with which he
announced he`s facing this terrible challenge at the end of his life.
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz decided to keep the “screw Jimmy Carter”
stuff in his stump speech.
And this time, unlike the time he did the same thing to Vice
President Biden, no apology from Ted Cruz. And it wasn`t just him.
Another Republican presidential candidate at the same time, Chris
Christie, decided that, he, too, would like to compete with Ted Cruz and
the race to stay classy with a “K” on this subject, he decided that it
would be a great time to take his own swipe at President Carter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president
has been the weakest president on foreign policy that we have had in my
lifetime. He makes Jimmy Carter look strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know how Jimmy Carter makes you look?
Governor Christie has not apologized for hauling into his stump
speech the 90-year-old former president who had just announced that he is
staring down cancer. Governor Christie has not apologized. Senator Cruz
has not apologized.
And that is a form of – I mean, I think you just call it meanness,
right? I think that a lot of people find off-putting or infuriating.
Apparently, our politics allows for that kind of thing, even from people
running for the very highest level of office.
That said, I think there might be an antidote for any sick feeling
you may be feeling about that.
Jimmy Carter has always taught Sunday school in his hometown. He
taught Sunday school before he went to the White House, taught after he
left the White House. Jimmy Carter has served at that same little church
in Plains, Georgia, since he was 18 years old.
And since he told the world how serious his cancer was, one of the
hopeful signs about his health, even as he said he`s had to scale down some
of his work, one of the hopeful signs is that he would keep teaching Sunday
school at his church in Plains. And then something amazing happened.
That first Sunday after President Carter announced his diagnosis,
nearly a thousand people showed up to hear Jimmy Carter teach Sunday
school. They lined up before daybreak to get into that little church to
see him, to hear him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Three days after revealing he`d started treatment for
cancer in his brain, today he took on another tough subject – love.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: I would say that just being able to
admit you might be mistaken and the other person might be right is a very
important aspect of Christianity and it`s an important aspect of love as
REPORTER: To hear that message, hundreds started lining up before
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We admire him as a president and we wanted to
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: It was wonderful to meet a president of the United
States of America, because I`ve always wanted to meet one, and it felt very
good to meet him.
REPORTER: Today, as he greeted the grateful congregation –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ohio.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: California.
CARTER: Just in the middle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: D.C.
CARTER: D.C. I used to live there.
REPORTER: And promised to pose for group pictures.
CARTER: If you come up, you know, we yourself, I won`t say anything,
but I`ll just wonder why you don`t have any friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the first Sunday after revealing his cancer
diagnosis. And this weekend, hundreds more people showed up to go to
Sunday school with Jimmy Carter. By 9:00 the night before church, we 9:00
Saturday night, people were lined up a half-mile long. People came from
all over the country. They had to open an overflow room for everybody who
couldn`t get into the church to see him, to go see Jimmy Carter`s Sunday
school class. People came to Plains, Georgia, to this church all the way
from California, from Maine, and from Illinois.
And you don`t need me to tell you that politics can be ugly and
politicians can do ugly things. But honestly, people are generally great.
People can be great.
In Georgia, a political cartoonist for the “Atlanta Journal
Constitution”, a cartoonist named Mike Luckovich, he drew a really great
political cartoon after Jimmy Carter`s cancer announcement about his
announcement. It`s a campaign sign, Jimmy Carter for cancer survivor.
Mark Luckovich drew that for the paper in Atlanta.
And I kid you not, since that cartoon appeared in the paper, people
have been posting those signs in real life. Jimmy Carter for cancer
survivor, people have been making those signs and putting them on their
lawns as one last political campaign for Jimmy Carter.
And I will not call this the best new thing in the world today,
because it`s still a sad story, but people being decent is a nice, human
antidote to our politics and our politicians sometimes being so mean and
being rewarded for it.
President Carter`s vice president, Walter Mondale, is still around,
still in great health. He was at the Democratic National Committee meeting
this past week in Minneapolis.
And it caught my eye, because “BuzzFeed” caught up with Vice
President Mondale while he was making the rounds of the DNC meetings
talking to people. “BuzzFeed`s” reporter Ruby Kramer (ph) reported on a
conversation that Walter Mondale had with a woman from Georgia about
President Carter making that announcement about his illness.
The former vice president was quoted saying, “Very few things have
moved me more.” Quote, “He was so gracious compared to these asses running
for office right now.” Tada!
There is a lot of classlessness in politics in general, particularly
in politics right now. People by and large aren`t that way, though. And
not all politicians are they way, either.
Jimmy Carter is still around. Walter Mondale is still around for
that matter. And you know what? Walter Mondale has one direct political
disciple in politics right now who is living in antidote here, living by
that example, a politician who has made decency and not being a jerk a
deliberate hallmark of how to do high-level politics and do it well and win
while doing it. And she`s here tonight for the interview.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: She got married in 1993. 1993, if you remember, was the
summer of health reform. Bill Clinton had just been elected president in
the fall of `92. He got sworn in early 1993. Right away, we were going to
have comprehensive health care reform, remember?
It did not work out. Not for almost another 20 years. But that`s
not because we didn`t need health reform back in the Clinton era. We
really did. And one of the kind of signature stories of that era for why
we needed health reform is what they called drive-by births or drive-
through deliveries. Insurance company rules that said women had to be out
of the hospital within 24 hours after giving birth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Four million new babies arrive each year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say baby.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Baby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good!
REPORTER: What many parents think isn`t so good is how soon mother
and baby go home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you`re all set to go, then.
REPORTER: Not so long ago, mothers and newborns would stay to
recover for a week or more. Today, they head home sooner than ever, most
leaving after 24 hours or following a cesarean section, after just three
days. A trend critics call drive-through delivery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nobody was happy about that in the early 90s. It seemed
like the thing insurance companies shouldn`t be able to do. Nobody was
happy about that.
But specifically for a family, not only having their first child, but
having their first child with a serious and unexpected health complication,
that rule, that 24 hours and you`re out rule, that was almost unbelievable.
And for this one couple, having their first child in 1995, it came down on
them like a ton of bricks.
Their newborn girl was born with a condition that she was unable to
swallow. They thought at first she was going to need emergency surgery
right after she was born. They decided the first day, she would have to be
transported to a neonatal intensive care unit.
She had this incredibly dangerous condition, but still, at 11:00 p.m.
That night, the hospital kicked the new mom out of the hospital. We`ll
keep the baby. You have to leave.
And it turns out that happened to the wrong new mom. Because once
the initial crisis of their newborn baby daughter`s health was stabilized,
it took a long time, once it was stabilized, that new mom went nuclear.
And she did it in the nicest, most constructive and most hilarious way
She decided to fight in her state`s legislature for one of the first
laws in the country that would guarantee new moms and their babies at least
a 48-hour hospital stay. She testified in support of the bill, realizing
that talking about stuff like episiotomies and breast pumping, and her
testimony would have the advantage of being so embarrassing to a still
male-dominated legislature that it made them nearly impossible to not pass
the legislation. And she did get the legislation passed. Legislature
wrote for the law.
But even when they knew they had won, they had gotten the law, the
health industry and hospital lobbyists were still fighting the delay the
law`s implementation, so she had another great brainstorm that was also
very funny. She found giantly pregnant women to bring to the state
committee meeting, making the decision about when to implement the new law.
She brought very visibly pregnant friends with her, enough to outnumber the
insurance lobbyists who were already packing the room.
And when the legislators asked when the bill should take effect, the
giantly pregnant moms all raised their hands and said, um, now! Now! We
need this – and she won that fight. And that was her first-ever political
And that is how the great state of Minnesota got rid of drive-through
deliveries and women in that state got the right to stay at least 48 hours
in the hospital with their new baby. She won that first fight in Minnesota
and ultimately that became federal law, too.
And then she decided to run for county prosecutor. And she lost the
first time, but she won the second time. And then when she was up for re-
election four years after she won, the Republican Party didn`t even bother
to run anyone against her.
And then she decided to run for the second office she had ever run
for in her life. She decided to run for a little thing called the United
States Senate. This mom, this political newbie, she won that seat for the
United States Senate by 20 points. And that 20-point victory was
apparently just a warm-up act for her re-election, because she won her re-
election by 34 points. Not she got 34 percent of the vote. She won by a
In a state that`s supposed to be a purple state, turns out when it
comes to the basics of winning elections and getting stuff passed, Senator
Amy Klobuchar is a really good politician. She`s consistently centrist.
She appears to not have an enemy in the political world. She has never
been known to say a mean thing about any other politician or possibly even
another person on the public record. She`s also consistently very funny,
which I firmly believe is part of her political success.
She is also one of the only people at a very high level of American
politics either Democrat or Republican, who you can imagine knowing. Like,
as a person. I mean, unless you`re used to the rarefied world in which
most high-level politicians live in and come from, she really is one of the
very few high-level American politicians who you can probably imagine
actually knowing in your own life as a person.
As for Abigail, her daughter, who started her life in that scary and
very challenging way, Aabigail is fine. She`s better than fine, she`s
awesome. And she`s in college.
And mom is here for the interview. She`s got a book out now called
“The Senator Next Door,” which is just out from Henry Holt Publishers.
Senator, was that very embarrassing?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: OK, yes, a little bit. It was a
bit humbling, but thank you so much, Rachel.
And also thank you for the nice things you said about Jimmy Carter
and Walter Mondale. I was there at the DNC with Vice President Mondale and
he was just as sharp as he`s always been and has been such a mentor to me.
My first job was with Mondale. I walked in this young college kid
and my first job was to take the inventory of all of his furniture, which I
recount in the book, crawl under every lamp, chair, and sofa and write down
the serial numbers.
MADDOW: That was your college internship in the vice president`s
office, crawling under the furniture.
MADDOW: That was your first office in Washington – first job in
Washington. Second job in Washington –
KLOBUCHAR: This one! So I tell college kids, take your first jobs
and internships seriously. And no matter what thing you`re given to do, do
MADDOW: Well, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you now, at
this moment in time, and with the book on this particular subject, but also
what`s going on in politics is that I feel like you sort of own up to being
a little bit of a disciple of Walter Mondale. Not just by happenstance,
but because of how much you respect him and how you knew him early on as a
very young person. I also feel like you are sort of his inheritor of this
legacy of civility, of not making personal enemies even when you try to
make political gains. Is that fair?
KLOBUCHAR: I try my best. In politics, you always get a little mad
at people, or you would. Maybe if you`re doing your job. But I think part
of this is, when you look at how people treat each other in Washington, so
many times they just lose friendship, lose years of work together over one
TV show or over one thing that they say that`s mean about another person.
And I just don`t think that`s worth it. I think when you look at
people who are willing to get things done, they may not always be moderate
in temperament or may not be right in the middle of two points, but they
are people that tend to look at how the other person`s feeling, and they
tend to be able to understand where the other person`s coming from, to see
that common ground.
MADDOW: Do you feel like, in the middle of this presidential
campaign, which is bigger and getting a lot manufacture attention than I
thought it would be at this point. I mean, we`re still obviously more than
a year out and everything, but do you feel like the presidential campaign
is modeling bad behavior on that score? If that`s good behavior?
KLOBUCHAR: To a certain degree, I think on our sides, obviously, we
have some vigorous campaigns going on. I just don`t see those personal
attacks. You saw Senator Sanders this morning talking about how he wasn`t
going to attack Hillary Clinton.
MADDOW: And she said the same thing.
KLOBUCHAR: And she has certainly been respectful to him. I think on
the other side, we are just seeing some pretty ugly, you know, when Trump
put out Lindsey`s telephone number, I always liked it, because Lindsey
always called me back. Now, that was – you know, I guess I`ve got, he
gave his new number.
The point of it is that, I think that was – a lot of things have
been going over there that coarsens politics. And hopefully, that will
change. I think it was David Axelrod that said of Trump and his Miss
Universe pageant, he said, you know, they are still is at this swimming
suit level of the competition. When you get to the talent round, it`s a
whole another thing.
MADDOW: Do you feel in your experience in the ways you have been
involved in politics, with those having been your values really
consistently about the whole time of your political life, that`s what
basically the book is about – do you feel you have learned anything how to
uncoarsen politics? I mean, we have been lamenting how, you know, puerile
and mean-spirited politics is, you know, not just for decades for some way,
is there a way of uncoarsen it when it`s really bad?
KLOBUCHAR: I think part of it is those discussions behind the scenes
when you talk to someone and say, look, this is what happened and this is
why and having people trust you because you are not going after them
publicly when you see them as a potential ally on a bill. It doesn`t mean
you are not going to talk about what Ted Cruz did when he brought everyone
back, but you at least bring out the good things in people. So I talked
about, you know, McCain taking me to Vietnam and standing in the cell where
he was held five years and what that meant to me, or I talk about the work
that I`ve done with Susan Collins on prescription drugs so we passed a bill
that so that you wouldn`t have the kind of delays that you saw in getting
drugs out to people.
So, all of those things, I think if you use those examples and people
are willing to say good things about people on the other side of the aisle,
that`s why I have the section called Republicans I have loved to work with,
it is – you know, I think that`s part of the solution here.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota.
The book is called “The Senator Next Door”. I`ll tell you, the reason that
you should buy this book if no other is to hear what Senator Claire
McCaskill yelled at Amy Klobuchar`s husband out of a car window while he
was carrying a pink box.
KLOBUCHAR: Pretty good.
MADDOW: It`s pretty good. I have yelled it out loud to three or
four different people, I made everybody laugh out loud.
KLOBUCHAR: There are some funny stories in here, which is part of
the solution to, is remembering to take the issues seriously but not always
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you for being here.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, about the time we went on the air, another
really large stack of Hillary Clinton e-mails were released from the State
Department. Since then, almost every media and political outfit in the
country has been picking through all of that mishegoss, looking for
something, anything that for lack of a better term appears to be less than
Instead, we have found something very kosher in those e-mails and
MADDOW: At 9:00 last night, the State Department released another
7,000 pages of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails from her time as secretary of
state. That`s us printing them out.
And who knows, there could be something scandalous and earth-shaking
lurking in those 7,000 pages. But right away, one of the most interesting
finds had to do with this stuff – Gefilte fish, a Passover staple,
basically a fish eater`s meatloaf.
But last night, in that gigantic release of Hillary Clinton e-mails,
dated March 5th, 2010 was this urgent note from Secretary Clinton.
Subject: Gefilte. “Where are you we on this?” Demands the secretary of
state of the United States.
At the time at that email, it turns out Gefilte fish, specifically
the carp to make Gefilte fish was a real international diplomatic issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DON MANZULLO (R), ILLINOIS: I have the world`s only fish
processor of Gefilte fish.
MANZULLO: Thank you. Thank you. Israel imposed 120 percent duty.
There are nine containers of this that are locked up. We`re in contact
with the ambassador from Israel.
Passover is coming quickly to Israel. We`re working with the rabbis
there who inspect this facility in Thompson, Illinois. I want to make this
public and see if there is anything you can do to get the Gefilte fish to
Israel by Passover.
HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-SECRETARY OF STATE: Congressman, I will take
that mission on.
MANZULLO: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I will take that mission on. The very next day, the very
next day, Hillary Clinton did bring up the Gefilte fish issue with the with
Israeli defense minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Minister Barak, it is indeed a pleasure and we have so many
serious measures to discuss together. But there`s been one matter that I
have to raise that I was asked about at a congressional hearing yesterday
and that is trying to get nine containers of Gefilte fish from a processing
plant in Illinois to Israel in time for Passover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton was not letting those nine containers of
Gefilte fish go. Eventually, the Illinois company was able to complete
their shipment, partly because of her intervention both in public and
behind the scenes, and we know the meaning of this mysterious Hillary
Clinton Gefilte fish e-mail now because Yair Rosenberg from “Tablet”
magazine figured out what it is about.
But that is the back story. That is why you will understand what is
going on, when there is soon a long list of conspiracy theories on
conservative radio about Hillary Clinton and carp.
And what I was hidden in those secret e-mails. You will know when it
starts on FOX News and talk radio, it really was about Gefilte fish and
that`s all. It`s not code. It`s just Gefilte fish. That`s it. Scandal.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you tomorrow.
Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD”. Alex Wagner in for Lawrence
Good evening, Alex.
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