The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/24/15
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: The “don`t be a jerk” rule, we can`t
exactly say that`s the golden rule but think it`s got to be some other form
of metal alloy, right?
HAYES: It`s basically that, right? And that`s what he`s so good.
Just be nice.
MADDOW: It`s very true. Thank you, my friend. Great to see you.
HAYES: Great to see you, too.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
So, I was in Washington, D.C. this morning. I`m back in New York now.
When I was in Washington, D.C. this morning, I was out before dawn to
try to get my place so I could make sure I could see the pope at the
capitol. And one of the strange things I wish now I had taken pictures of
but I didn`t because it was before dawn and I`m not a morning person is
that I saw the city of Washington, D.C. this morning and today using snow
plows in the streets. They used snow plows to augment all the jersey
barriers and the fencing and the absolutely overwhelming precedence all
different types of security agencies.
And it`s kind of weird to see snow plows on the street in the late
summer, early fall. A warm trending toward hot late September day. You
don`t expect to see snow plows. But when you need to have a security
operation this big, you use what you`ve got. And apparently, in D.C., that
meant giant municipal snow plows on the streets on a hot September morning.
In New York City today, it was the awesome New York City variant on
the municipal snow plow. In New York City what they`ve got is giant trucks
which double as both heavyweight snow plows and also dump trucks. Plow in
the front, dump in the back. Trash trucks were repurposed all over New
York City today as basically movable fortresses to take up space, to close
off roads, to be big bulky un-get-around-able metal barriers between Pope
Francis and anybody who might wish to do him harm.
After Pope Francis wrapped up his unprecedented address to a joint
meeting of Congress today, the next thing he did right after that is he
came out onto the speaker`s balcony at the U.S. Capitol.
I have never wanted to be speaker of the House before, until I
realized today that if you can speaker of the House, you get to control
that balcony, which is sweet. I mean, look at that view. That balcony,
that is better than anything at the White House.
I mean, they don`t even let him use the front doors at the Supreme
Court anymore. I mean, if you`re talking about branches of government and
controlling something cool, seriously, the single best piece of you can use
it architecture in Washington, D.C. is that speaker`s balcony, from which
Pope Francis thrilled the crowd of thousands of people that I was standing
in today when he walked out onto that beautiful balcony before that
beautiful crowd on that beautiful day and he said, “Buenas dias.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS: Buenos dias.
(through translator): And I ask you all, please, to pray for me.
And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I
ask you please, to send good wishes my way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pope Francis asking for prayers but then making this really
interesting acknowledgment through that translator there to that crowd at
the U.S. Capitol today that he did not assume that everybody who was there
to see him was Catholic.
Beyond that he didn`t assume that everybody there to see him even
necessarily believes in God. Explicitly asking people who don`t believe or
who cannot or will not pray for some other reason to please send him good
wishes. At which time John Boehner promptly opened the waterworks and
started crying. And so did I.
After Pope Francis left the Capitol, he went to a nearby Catholic
Church to speak to a group that included the area`s homeless. He reminded
those gathered that Jesus too had come into the world as a homeless person.
He said he knew what it was like to start life without a roof over his
Pope Francis skipped that D.C. power lunch that he could have had
today and instead opted for this street side soup kitchen outside the local
Catholic charities. He blessed the meal there. It was a boneless teriyaki
chicken breast and pasta salad. And he wished everybody buon appetito.
And then it was supposed to be a little down time, a little papal down
time in Washington before he got off on the rest of his journey. But
everybody in D.C. knows where he was staying. So, his trip back to the
Vatican residence where he was staying of course it couldn`t be that
simple. It entailed more meetings with more well-wishers and people
stacked up to see him in the streets.
And, of course, something that really seems to make him happy. You
can see the smile on his face there, which happens to be these spontaneous
unscripted meetings just with people in the street and particularly with
little kids. Blessing little kids seems to be one of the things that
brings up the biggest smiles on his face.
But that was the close of his public time in Washington today. And
then it was time to go to New York.
This evening when Pope Francis touched down at JFK Airport in New York
City, New York decided to be really, really New York about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you can make it here you can make it anywhere? They
played “New York, New York” to welcome Pope Francis to New York City today.
Which is so freaking awesomely New York I can hardly – ah, forget about
But even though the pope was landing in the borough of Queens, the
Brooklyn diocese wanted to make sure to get the name Brooklyn out there.
The Brooklyn diocese unveiled their giant banner on a nearby airplane
hangar that said the diocese of Brooklyn welcomes Pope Francis. Rather
than subject the pope to the admittedly and truly uninspiring drive from
John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens into Manhattan where he was staying and
where he was due this evening they decided to fly the pope that distance by
helicopter. That gave us this sort of remarkable scene of the helicopter
carrying the pope against the backdrop of the New York City skyline.
After the papal helicopter landed in Manhattan, Pope Francis then
linked back up with his trusty papal Fiat, which drove him to 5th Avenue.
Up at the top of 5th Avenue by Central Park, he then got out of the Fiat
and got into his awesome Jeep Popemobile, which then proceed slowly down
And it was quite a sight. The bells were peeling at St. Patrick`s as
he processed down 5th avenue toward the cathedral. And there were
thousands of people that gathered along that short route on 5th Avenue to
watch him. But whole swaths of 5th Avenue were blocked off. I mean, look
at the sides of the street here. Blocked off, kind of sealed off with
these big very imposing back fences they used as a security cordon for him.
And so, you know, undoubtedly New York is psyched to have Pope Francis
here. New York is a huge city. It`s the biggest city in the country.
It`s very diverse. There are tons of Catholics in New York City, tons of
immigrant populations in New York City of every stripe you can possibly
imagine and then the ones you can`t.
I mean, to the extent that Pope Francis is who he is because he`s an
urban pope who lived in the slums of Buenos Aires, having been born to an
immigrant family and having been through that experience and who`s
prioritized the needs of the poor. I mean, if there`s a city in America
that`s this pope`s kind of place, it is New York City. But you`re not able
to see yet at least the truly massive crowds that you might expect of New
Yorkers out in the street cheering for him and greeting him and handing him
their kids and hoping for a handshake or a blessing and shouting out to
their friends that they`ve seen him. It doesn`t look like that, at least
yet, in New York, because of that physical security that has been set up
And I say yet because that may change. Right now, at least so far in
New York, the security I think is so protective as to be at least
comparatively speaking pretty isolating for the pope. Look at the fences
they`re using along 5th Avenue. I`m sure they`re very safe but they`re
more shields than they are fences. They`re very tall. They`re basically
solid. They have the effect of putting the pope kind of in a tunnel where
many people cannot get to him and many people cannot even see him.
And so this impression, the fact of access to the pope and what it
looks like thus far, I should say that it may change in coming days.
Particularly because Pope Francis is due to take a long motorcade through
Central Park tomorrow afternoon. And that`s an event for which New York
City has ticketed 80,000 people. So, presumably, that will be more of a
people`s experience of the pope.
Right now, at least so far the first day of his trip to New York is
not like his trip to Washington. The bells are peeling. The head of Home
Depot, Ken Langone, is lined up with other rich people and bigwigs and
politicians to greet him on the steps of St. Patrick`s Cathedral. And this
journey, this plane, to the helicopter, to the Fiat, to the Popemobile, to
the cathedral, I mean, it is a journey that affords occasional distant
glimpses of white cloth maybe, but so far at least he`s hived off.
And it`s too bad. It`s too bad. Nobody would argue, though, that it
is an unreasonable precaution.
When Pope Francis spoke today in Congress with unusual specificity
about his opposition to the death penalty, he said today he supported the
abolition of the death penalty. He said, “I offer encouragement to all
those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never
exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.” And
execution by definition affords no hope for rehabilitation or anything
else, which is why the Catholic Church is opposed to it.
But when Pope Francis raised that death penalty issue so pointedly in
his remarks to Congress today, it sort of harkened back to previous papal
visits to the United States, in particular by John Paul II.
When John Paul II came to this country in 1999, one of several visits
he made to the U.S., he spoke out aggressively and repeatedly and with some
real urgency that the United States should stop the death penalty. The
United States should stop executing prisoners.
And that repeated advocacy by him, particularly from a pope who was
seen as a political conservative in this country or at least as an ally of
political conservatives in this country. That advocacy from pope John Paul
on the issue of the death penalty is credited in hindsight with changing
Catholic opinion in this country on the death penalty and ultimately that
shift of Catholic public opinion, it`s credited with at least partially
moving the country as a whole to be now much more against capital
punishment than we used to be.
So, Pope John Paul has tread this path before. Pope Francis today was
not hacking out new ground, right? Was not doing something that had never
been done before when he walked into Congress and said, hey, you guys
should abolish the death penalty. Previous popes have done that to great
effect in this country. And now, we know as of this address today that the
church is not giving up on that issue.
Pope Francis was also quite direct today in telling Congress to be
generous and humane on the issue of the refugees in Europe. He connected
that refugee crisis in Europe to America`s own experience of immigrants to
this country, immigrants wanting as he said to travel north to this country
in search of a better life.
When he stood before Congress today and called himself a son of
immigrants, presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who
himself is the son of immigrants, he wiped away tears at that point in the
Pope Francis was also very specific on the issue of climate change
today. He described it as the serious effects of environmental
deterioration caused by human activity, so as to leave no doubt, right? He
speaks slowly in English. And that`s a lot of syllables. But he wanted to
make sure he spelled it out. It`s caused by human activity – Senator
But then, this is amazing. In his very next sentence after that, the
pope said, this which itself is remarkable. It`s something we never hear
in this country. It is something incredibly foreign to our ears as
Americans. And it was something very nice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS: I`m convinced that we can make a difference. I`m sure.
And I have no doubt that the United States and this Congress have an
important role to play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “I am convinced that we can make a difference. I am
convinced that we can make a difference. I`m sure. I have no doubt.”
I have no doubt – he has no doubt that this Congress is going to play
an important role in addressing climate change. He officially is the only
person on earth who has no doubt that this Congress will play a role in
addressing climate change. I mean, I guess if you do want one person on
earth to be on the side of hope on an important issue like that, perhaps
the person you want on the side of hope is the pope.
But Pope Francis showed today that he thinks our Congress is worth
something, which maybe is a lesson for us. I mean, nobody expected him to
say yes when John Boehner asked him to address Congress. John Boehner has
asked the last three popes to address Congress and Pope Francis is the
first one to say yes.
Nobody expected him to say yes. Nobody expected him to do this. But
he decided to do it. He decided to pay Congress the honor of this visit
today, because clearly, he thought it was worth it to do so. He thought
Congress was an important and worthy place for him to speak. Important and
worthy, that`s not the way we think of this Congress. But that`s the way
he thinks of them.
He told Congress today that their work is important and noble. He
told members of Congress today that he trusts that they will do the right
thing, that they specifically, those people you can see in that shot, they
will do the right thing on the biggest and most important issues in the
He compared members of the United States Congress to Moses today. Our
Compared to how we usually think about our own politics and
particularly the capacity of our Congress, that is an almost unbelievably
radical bit of optimism.
We have earned our political cynicism as Americans. But honestly, one
of the things that I am left with about this visit is that this pope is
trying to cure us of that cynicism. He paid our Congress this incredible
honor today, and he told them he believed in what he thought they could do
and he thought they would do the right thing.
Let`s just hope nobody told him as he flew off to New York that that
same Congress he has so much hope in is only six days away from shutting
down the federal government through sheer incompetence. Who knows? Maybe
he inspired them enough today to avert that next week.
Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She was one of
the select few who escort Pope Francis into the House chamber this morning.
Senator Klobuchar, it`s great to see you. Thank you.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, thank you. I`m glad that
we`re a few words between you comparing Congress to Moses and me. So thank
you for that.
MADDOW: I feel like our Congress, the Senate, the Congress, both
sides of the aisle, you guys must be so used to people thinking of you as 9
percent approval rating, so used to people thinking that there`s never
anything positive that can ever get done in Congress. I imagine the Moses
thing was a little jarring to hear.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. But I think mostly you saw, as you noted with Marco
Rubio, tears going down his cheeks, that this was – this was a momentous
occasion and there was a feeling of hope and unity in that chamber. And
while there were a few instances where one side stands up, not the other,
almost every single time people were unified.
And I think part of this, while he raised all those difficult issues
that you just talked about, difficult for some people, not for others, he
did it with a sense of history, as you would imagine a pope would do,
steeped in our own heroes, talking about Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day
and really calling on Congress to remember what has made America great, the
dreams of the immigrants, this perseverance, this looking out for each
And I think he did it in a way that really was meant to bring people
MADDOW: Do you think that anything will happen in Washington after
this visit that wouldn`t have happened without it? Do you think that
either small-scale stuff or large-scale stuff is more possible or likely to
be derailed because of this visit? Does he change any trajectories?
KLOBUCHAR: I think he does. And I don`t think we`re going to know it
at first. We have the immediate problem of not shutting down the
government. I think you`ve seen clearly that leadership on both sides
would like to get through this with some extension so we can negotiate to
get to some of the other things the pope is talking about, helping the poor
and putting safety nets in place for people who are the most vulnerable.
So, I think that will be helpful.
Some of the other issues he raised, as you know, immigration reform,
we have a bipartisan bill that had gone through the Senate. So, we know
there`s that support out there for immigration reform. But I think he
really brought it up a notch.
One of my favorite lines that got a little lost today was when he
talked about the refugees and he said, these aren`t just numbers. These
are people. These are real faces.
And you could almost picture that lifeless body of that 3-year-old boy
being carried off on that beach by the rescue worker. That`s what he was
MADDOW: One of the moments that moved me a lot, because I think in
part because I`m not used to hearing it in a political context or even in a
religious context as a Catholic, you just don`t hear it very much, is when
he specifically spoke to the elderly, he talked about older people in this
country and he talked about not just having respect for older people in
this country but how much wisdom there is among the elderly, how much
essentially he wants to both comfort them and make us recognize how much
there is – that we can all learn from older people.
I thought that was – it was a simple comment but it was right up top
and I thought that was – it really struck me.
KLOBUCHAR: And I think it really set that stage again for looking at
history and the past and not being so knee jerk in how you react to things.
He also put at the top of the speech, religion, and he talked about
pretty much a message of tolerance, how religion can be used for bad
reasons, that all religions can for violence, but then his clear message
was of religious freedom and respecting other religions.
And I didn`t actually think he would start with that, but it`s a
little like how he started his talk on the balcony that you pointed out,
Rachel, where he appealed to people who might not be Catholic, that they
might not believe. He`s been inclusive as a pope. He wants to build a
house for everyone.
And I think there`s just no way he can turn away from that and say,
ah, that was political and I`m not going to listen to that. And that was
the magical effect he had today.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you. I totally agree with you
on the magical effect. It will be fascinating to see what that magic does.
But I think you`re right that –
KLOBUCHAR: Hang in there with us, Rachel. Hang in there with us.
MADDOW: I feel more optimistic. I`ve been commanded to feel more
optimistic and I feel it at least today.
Senator, thanks very much.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: I will say that hearing the pope talk about the fact that he
recognized he does not only speaking for Catholic audiences and he`s not
only here for American Catholics is – I am a Catholic. But I feel like
it`s a very – it`s a nice thing. We are a religious country in the sense
that we are a country of a lot of religious people, 70 million Catholics
alone but many, many other faiths.
But we by necessity have a secular democracy that respects religious
pluralism and religious freedom and we don`t usually celebrate religious
leaders in the seat of government. But for him to be cognizant of the fact
that he`s there not as a Catholic leader per se but as a spiritual leader
and somebody who has something to offer to everyone, that is what has made
this a national story and a political story and not just something for
America`s 70 million Catholics.
It`s been a big week, and there`s a lot more to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, last night, we promised you a major story that you have
not heard elsewhere about a major Republican presidential candidate and a
federal corruption trial that`s about to go off like a proverbial bomb in
the middle of his campaign.
This is not a story about Chris Christie. It`s about another one of
the Republican presidential candidates. You will not hear this story
anywhere else. But that`s ahead tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. This is potentially a big deal. We have some breaking
news tonight that so far is only being reported by “The New York Times.”
NBC News has not confirmed this.
But “The New York Times” is reporting tonight that China is about to
announce a massive new cap and trade program to limit greenhouse gases in
that country. If this is true, this is kind of the big kahuna in terms of
global policy to address climate change.
The Chinese president of course arrived on the West Coast earlier this
week. He arrived in D.C. this afternoon. Tonight, he`s having a private
dinner with President Obama. He`s due to have a state dinner with all the
But before that dinner, “The New York Times” is now saying that the
Chinese president is going to announce this new cap and trade program.
You`ll recall that President Obama has tried mightily to get our
Congress to pass a cap and trade program for the United States. Those
efforts failed in part because of objections that the Chinese weren`t doing
more about their carbon pollution, so why should we get ahead of them.
Now, if “The New York Times” is right and China is about to take this
big step, that is huge for the climate. It`s also potentially huge for
American policy on this subject.
Again, “The New York Times” reporting tonight that the Chinese
president is about to announce a massive cap and trade program for his
country tomorrow. NBC News not confirming this yet. But if it`s true, it
is a huge deal.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It was supposed to be a major announcement. It was supposed
to be a game changer in the Republican presidential race. Monday
afternoon, right around 12:30, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul
was preparing to make news of the right kind. Good news.
Rand Paul`s campaign has been struggling to get any good press for
anything. But he was about to change that because he had just nabbed a
major endorsement in the all-important early primary state of South
Carolina. No member of Congress had yet endorsed a presidential candidate
in South Carolina. But Rand Paul of all people had just landed the first
one. A Republican congressman named Mick Mulvaney.
There had been speculation that this very conservative congressman,
Mick Mulvaney, he might endorse Ted Cruz for president. But no, he went
with Rand Paul. And Rand Paul was so excited about this that he announced
that the two of them, he and Mick Mulvaney, were going to go on an
endorsement tour all across the state of South Carolina.
So, this was big great news for Rand Paul. It broke around 12:30 on
Monday. And then just a short time later came word that Scott Walker was
about to come out and make some sort of announcement. Oh.
And on the one hand, great news for Rand Paul. The field just shrank
by one major candidate. On the other hand, hey, anybody want to cover my
big Mick Mulvaney endorsement?
That is sort of how it`s gone for Rand Paul in this campaign, stepped
on by somebody else`s news at every turn. That`s about to happen to him
again. Although this time, the somebody else is his own dad.
Here`s the story. The Rand Paul for president campaign for most of
the last year, they have had a little best a shadow following them around.
It`s a scandal that started in the Ron Paul for president campaign in 2012.
Allegations that the Ron Paul campaign paid a bribe, that they bribed an
Iowa state senator in order to get that senator`s endorsement.
Federal prosecutors say the Rand Paul for president campaign made more
than $70,000 in secret bribery payments to this Iowa state senator and then
they conspired with him to cover it up. That scandal has already led to
that Iowa senator pleading guilty in federal court.
Earlier this summer, it led to federal indictments of three Paul
family staffers, two of whom have been work recently to get Rand Paul
elected president this time around.
Now, all three of them have pled not guilty. But this scandal from
his dad`s campaign, it`s already led Rand Paul to lose two of his top aides
at a time when he really can`t afford to be losing anybody. But they were
charged. They`re pleading not guilty. They`ve got to fight the charges,
they`ve had to resign from Rand Paul world.
So he`s lost them. And now, there`s new bad news for Rand Paul in
terms of what`s about to happen in this story. The federal trial for these
three indicted Paul family staffers begins a week from Monday in Des
Moines, Iowa, and one of the guys who`s on trial has been trying to get
that trial moved out of Iowa into Washington, D.C.
Now, whether or not the trial`s going to get moved, I don`t know. But
in the process of fighting about that, in the process of trying to get that
trial moved something sort of fascinating has been revealed, because each
side in this federal case has to make filings with the court in order to
have this argument over where the trial`s going to be held.
Thanks to those new filings, we can now report that the Justice
Department is planning to call as witnesses in this trial Rand Paul`s dad,
former congressman Rand Paul, as well as Rand Paul`s sister, who has a
connection to one of the defendants.
These documents were first published by the Web site “Mother Jones”,
but they show that Rand Paul`s dad and his sister are on the prosecutor`s
witness list to potentially be called to testify in that federal criminal
And that`s not all. Check this out. The defense lawyer who`s
representing one of these Rand Paul staffers said in these same court
filings on where the trial`s going to be, he also says who he`s going to
call, and he says he`s going to call Rand Paul`s current chief presidential
strategist, the guy who is the – running the operation, the brains behind
Rand Paul`s entire presidential campaign. The man currently trying to get
him elected president is potentially going to be called as a witness in
The trial is set to begin a week from Monday in Iowa, which means in
the run-up to Iowa caucuses where Rand Paul is already polling worse than
Scott Walker, who just dropped out of the race because his numbers were so
bad in the run-up to the caucuses where Rand Paul is in terrible shape,
he`s now face the prospect of his father and his sister and his top
campaign strategist all being hauled into federal court to testify under
oath in a trial about how the Paul family tried to allegedly bribe their
way to victory in the Iowa caucuses the last time around.
I mean, at least – what`s that guy`s name? He`s got – at least he`s
got Mick Mulvaney. He`s got that big Mick Mulvaney endorsement. So maybe
none of this matters. Maybe it will all be fine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOROTHY DAY, JOURNALIST: If your brother is hungry, you feed him.
You don`t meet him at the door and say wait for a few weeks and you`ll get
a welfare check. You sit him down and feed him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Dorothy Day speaking in 1971. Dorothy Day was a
journalist. She was a long-time activist. In 1933 she started a newspaper
called “The Catholic Worker.” And that small one-cent paper became a
movement in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAY: “The Catholic Worker” is essentially a school, you might say. I
mean, it`s the place where you – a lot of young people come to us. It`s a
pacifist, anarchist movement, and they come to us to learn more about this
point of view of beginning a change from the bottom up rather than from the
top down, through unions and credit unions. You do away with banks by
credit unions. You do away with interest. You do away with mutual aid.
You do away with possession of goods by sharing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do away with possession of goods.
Dorothy Day, that small paper, “The Catholic Worker,” became an
organization of soup kitchens and aid centers, places that provide food and
money to help the poor. Those places still exist.
Dorothy Day was not born a Catholic. As a young person, she was
actively anti-war. She was an advocate for women`s suffrage. She dropped
out of college to become a radical journalist. It was not until she was 30
years old that she converted to Catholicism. And that is when she started
“The Catholic Worker.”
And she protested war and she fought for unions. She was a pacifist.
A pacifist to the extent she refused to pay taxes that she said would
support wars. She was arrested and jailed many times.
Here she is in 1973 at the age of 76 being led off to jail by the
police woman you see on your right there. This was after she was
protesting with the United Farm Workers Union. She spent ten days in jail
at that time. One of America`s bravest and most beloved and true radicals,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS MERTON: Christianity is against alienation. Christianity
revolts against an alienated life.
I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism and to these great
Asian traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the
potentiality of our own tradition because they have gone from the natural
point of view so much deeper into this than we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Thomas Merton. Like Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton was
not born or raised Catholic. She converted when she was 30. He converted
at the age of 26. He became a Trappist monk. Trappist monks do not take a
vow of silence, but they do live a life of solitude. They avoid speaking.
They speak when necessary. They lead a very disciplined life.
Thomas Merton served at the abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky. He was
known for his essays and for his poetry. He was passionately anti-war. He
wrote passionately against the arms race and the nuclear standoff that
characterized the Cold War and dismissed and attacked by some as a
dangerous leftist because of it.
Thomas Merton believed in interreligious and intercultural
understanding. He was a friend of the Dalai Lama. He traveled extensively
in Asia. He wrote about Buddhism and Taoism and other Eastern traditions
for western audiences. He preached about the need for openness to other
faiths. Thomas Merton.
Those were the two Catholic Americans that Pope Francis went out of
his way ton just mention today but to talk about in some detail today in
this historic address he made before a joint meeting of Congress.
He called Thomas Merton a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between
peoples and religions. He talked about Dorothy Day`s social activism. He
talked about her passion for justice.
Why did Pope Francis single those two American Catholics out? Why did
he put them right at the center of what he wants Americans to Google and
figure out and watch YouTube clips of and learn from? Right at the center
of the most high-profile moment of this incredibly high-profile and
historic visit. Why did he pick them?
Joining us now is Father Matt Malone. He`s editor in chief of
Father Malone, thank you so much for joining us.
FATHER MATT MALONE, JESUIT PRIEST/AMERICA MAGAZINE: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Do you know why he picked Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton or do
you know what those figures might mean to him given what we understand
about the pope?
MALONE: Yes. I think so. Well, I can venture a guess. We had a lot
of talk leading up to this speech about is he going to say something that`s
going to play into the left wing? Is he going to say something that`s
going to into the hands of the right wing?
This pope is a radical. He didn`t give a liberal speech, didn`t give
a conservative speech. He didn`t give a moderate speech. He gave a
Catholic speech. It and it`s a radical Catholic vision of the world.
He sees in these two people radicals. He sees two people who took the
gospel mandate literally and tried to apply it in their lives. These two
people were troublemakers, right? And they were seen by both the
authorities in the church and the authorities in the state as
troublemakers, and they were in different ways castigated for it.
He has repeatedly said go out and stir things up, go out and make
trouble. It was the last utterance he gave to the folks at World Youth Day
last year. He said go and make trouble. He said if we are not making
trouble or making things uncomfortable or feeling uncomfortable ourselves,
then we`ve failed to realize how radical this message is.
MADDOW: When he uses such dramatic language to make that case, when
he talks about wanting a church that is battered and bruised and dirty and
wanting a church that smells like a sheep, when he uses those kinds of
language to talk about – he says he wants a poor church, he wants a church
that has given everything away.
MALONE: That`s right.
MADDOW: What is he asking for materially? How radical a change does
he really want, or is that symbolic language, is that religious language
that means something that we might not get in lay terms?
MALONE: No, it`s certainly not symbolic. He wants to take those
words and put them into action. But he doesn`t have a policy prescription
for us. He doesn`t have an ideology or philosophy he wants to impose upon
the church, right?
He wants each of us to discern in our everyday lives as these two
Catholics did, how is it that I am to live out this radical gospel call?
What he`s saying is, you know, it`s not enough to say that you`re a
Catholic or to say that you`re a Christian. If you spend the rest of the
week after Sunday mass in the relentless pursuit of profits in the bond
markets, because what is absolute in your life is not God, it`s something
else, right? He`s calling us to reflect on and to revisit the very ways in
which we live our lives, just as he thought about what kind of car do I
drive, where should I live, who should I talk to, he wants us to be asking
those same questions too.
He said it to the folks in Congress this morning. He said if to the
priests and religious at St. Patrick`s tonight. It was the same message.
You`ve got to rethink your lives and rethink your work in light of this
gospel imperative, to go to the margins, to meet people, to empower them,
to lift them up.
MADDOW: And in that incredibly high-profile speech in the secular
seat of government, in English, finding those American examples of that way
of living, that radical way of living and that controversial way of living
was a very pointed way to do it.
Father Matt Malone, editor in chief of “America” magazine – thank you
very much for helping us understand what happened tonight. Thanks.
MALONE: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: Much more ahead tonight. Very, very busy news night. Stay
MADDOW: So I need to update our breaking news from just a few moments
ago because NBC News has now confirmed that the president of China is going
to announce a massive new cap and trade program for that country tomorrow
during his official visit to D.C. This is the biggest news in climate
policy maybe ever. Happy visit to the United States, Pope Francis.
“The New York Times” is first to report the news of this sweeping new
policy on greenhouse gases in China. NBC News, again, has just confirmed
it. President Obama, of course, has tried to get the U.S. Congress to pass
this kind of program, or some other program to limit carbon in the U.S. the
congressional resistance has been in large part because China wasn`t doing
enough and so therefore why should we.
Well, now, if China is forging ahead here in dealing with climate
change using a U.S.-designed policy to do so, this could change everything
in the political climate around the climate climate.
Again, “New York Times” first reporting this. NBC News now confirming
the announcement tomorrow that there will be a cap and trade program in
China. It is due to start, to go into effect in 2017. So, it`s on a short
This is huge news for the environment globally and potentially for
policy in the United States. This is almost as big as environmental news
Stay with us.
MADDOW: One more big story left for you tonight and it involves the
unexpected importance of Sheryl Crow, remember her? Sheryl Crow in the
national news, plus a weird hospital in Missouri. It`s a weird story.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: When John Kerry ran for president against George W. Bush in
2004, that`s the year there was a swift boating effort against Kerry where
tried to say he didn`t earn his medals in Vietnams. And Republicans mocked
the Purple Heart with band-aids that wore at the Republican convention.
That was the year when four days before the election, bin Laden
released a new al Qaeda videotape taunting the United States over 9/11.
Four days before the election.
That was the year when a young Senate candidate shocked the country in
a good way with the single most memorable, and maybe most consequential
speech ever given at a political convention in modern times.
There were a bunch of legitimately shocking things, good and bad that
happened in that election, but that was also the election when they said
that John Kerry, as the Democratic nominee for president, he couldn`t get
communion anymore. The archbishop of St. Louis said in January `04 if John
Kerry came to his archdiocese, quote, “I would have to admonish him not to
present himself for communion.”
Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis is a rabid conservative. He so
disliked Kerry`s politics that he said Senator Kerry should be denied the
sacraments of his faith.
When beloved liberal Senator Ted Kennedy died, that same archbishop,
Raymond Burke, said Ted Kennedy should have been denied a Catholic funeral.
When Obama spoke at Notre Dame, Archbishop Raymond Burke lost his mind
and said it was the, quote, “greatest scandal that they would offer a
speaking slot to the sitting president of the United States.”
Archbishop Raymond Burke famously lost his mind over Sheryl Crow. He
resigned in protests from a hospital board because Sheryl Crow played a
benefit concert for that hospital. He thought that was so outrageous that
he quit the board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATHER RAYMOND BURKE, ARCHBISHOP OF ST. LOUIS: My concern is a
fundraising event, which is to take place on this coming Saturday. At the
fundraising event, the featured artist will be Sheryl Crow. It is
unacceptable to the church that it features any person who is in such grave
error regarding the natural moral law and the church`s teaching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sheryl Crow, too scandalous for Archbishop Raymond Burke and
so the hospital must suffer. Ted Kennedy can`t have a Catholic funeral.
The president of the United States can`t be a graduation speaker,
presidential nominee John Kerry should be banned from the sacraments of his
Archbishop Burke was fired up and incredibly right wing and pretty
confrontational about it. And the last pope loved that about him. He not
only promoted Archbishop Burke to be a cardinal, he brought him to the
Vatican to make him America`s highest ranking official at the Vatican.
And once Archbishop Burke ascend to that hugely high profile job, he
used the opportunity to truly indulge in which ended up being the most
public love affair with the most ornate vestments and trappings that any
cardinal is supposed to wear for anything. He took it to the nines.
And the pope then, Pope Benedict, he loved it. He made Raymond Burke
essentially the chief justice of the Vatican version of the Supreme Court.
But then that pope, Pope Benedict, quit, which is amazing. Popes don`t
really quit, right? But Pope Benedict did.
That`s how Pope Francis became the new pope. And Pope Francis didn`t
have the same feelings about Cardinal Burke. He demoted him. He yanked
him off the Supreme Court and gave him basically a ceremonial job where no
one would ever hear from him again.
The highest ranking American official in the Vatican under the old
pope was sent to a desk job by Pope Francis.
One of the most amazing things about Francis is that he made the whole
scandal, the whole mystery of this pope who quit, the second pope, this
pope emeritus, he made that whole scandal and story kind of disappear.
That was a world shakingly bizarre and inexplicable scandal when the
previous pope stepped down and nobody knew why.
One of the almost miraculous things about Pope Francis is that his
papacy has been so consequential and such a big deal, that it has totally
eclipsed the scandal that opened up the position for him in the first
place. But he could not be more different than the man who so mysteriously
quit and he replaced.
The previous pope, Benedict, had supported radical right wing
archbishop waging war on John Kerry in `04. When he ascended to the papacy
himself, he promoted that archbishop above anyone in the American church.
Francis undid that and made it a point to make sacrament aren`t prizes for
award for good behavior, they should be seen as sustenance to give people
strength to do the right thing.
And you had to wonder how that is all felt to old John Kerry, who by
now is secretary of state in the Obama administration. And when Pope
Francis came down to center aisle at that joint meeting of Congress, like a
president arrive as a member of the State of the Union, the members of
Congress who are designated as blockers by the two parties to keep other
members of Congress from touching the pope, to keep their fellow
politicians from reaching out and trying to shake hands with the pope.
Those blockers, they did their job. The pope was able to walk down
that aisle unmolested by any politicians. People applauded him, they
smiled at him, they welcomed him with cheer, but he didn`t have to worry
about touching anybody or shaking hands as he came in.
And then he got to the bottom of the aisle and he decided actually
there was someone there he wanted to shake hands with, who he wanted to
single out and touch and talk to personally, just one, one in the whole
chamber. And it was John Kerry, secretary of state.
John Kerry did not expect it, clearly, but it was the one moment of
the pope`s choosing where he singled out a politician for this hand shake
and this greeting and these words.
And, you know, Pope Francis supports the Iran deal. He was intimately
involved in setting up the Cuba conversations. He`s advocated for an
increased response to the refugee crisis and Kerry said we will up our
response to that. There are a lot of places in which these two see eye to
But it`s hard to not see this as coming full circle, as closing a
chapter. And if the church is going to be used as a right wing weapon
against some American politician again, it seems like it`s not going to
happen again soon, not while this one is in charger.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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