The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/6/15
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: And, by the way, I hope that scandal
you`re talking about destroys fantasy sports because I think they destroy
the concept of cheering for a team.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Wow, that`s strong words. I stayed out
of fantasy sports purely because I know I would get addicted and spent too
much time on it. That`s why I`ve stayed out of it. No moral objection.
That`s just time objection.
KORNACKI: Anything that keeps people away from it, I`m happy. But
thank you for that, Chris Hayes. Have a good night.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel is off
And let`s start with a trip in the time machine all the way back to
the summer of 1987. Gary Hart, he was the original overwhelming front-
runner. He had just dropped out of the race for the 1988 Democratic
Democratic field then suddenly had a new, young, rising star. He was
a senator from the state of Delaware. His name was Joe Biden.
Now, Joe Biden back then was many things. He was a prolific fund-
raiser. He was an energetic campaigner. He was also just about to get a
major national boost in recognition. He was the chairman of the Senate
Judiciary Committee. And in that role, he was about to run the Supreme
Court nomination hearings for Robert Bork, Robert Bork was an extremely
controversial pick that President Ronald Reagan had just sent up. This was
a major event in politics.
Most of although, back at that time in 1987, Joe Biden was gaining a
reputation as a captivating speaker. And a Democratic presidential debate
in Iowa that July, he wowed the audience with an eloquent and inspiring
closing statement, the consensus after that debate seemed to be that Joe
Biden had come out on top, that he was going to head into the fall with the
wind at his back. That was Joe Biden`s position as the summer of 1987 came
to a close.
But then, on September 12th, 1987, NBC News, “The Des Moines Register”
newspaper and a “New York Times” reporter named Maureen Dowd all came out
simultaneously with a story that cast that barn-burning Iowa debate
performance in a very different light.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden today faces
a controversy that his opponents could use in raising questions about his
character. Three weeks ago at a debate at the Iowa state fair, he used
phrases identical to those delivered by British Labor Party leader Neil
Kinnock. Biden did not attribute the words to Kinnock. Instead he said
they were his own thoughts.
Was it is plagiarism? Ken Bode reports.
KEN BODE, REPORTER: Joe Biden is known as one of the best orators in
the Democratic Party. So it was no surprise at a forum in Iowa recently,
he knocked their socks off with a stirring close. Listen.
JOE BIDEN, THEN-SENATOR: I started thinking as I was coming over
here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a
university? Why is it that my wife is sitting out there in the audience,
is the first in her family to ever go to college?
BODE: People in Britain would have been familiar with those words.
They heard the same ones in a political commercial from Labour Party leader
NEIL KINNOCK, LABOUR PARTY: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand
generations to be able to get the university? Why is Gladys the first
woman in her family in a thousand generations?
BODE: Biden saw the Kinnock commercial and evidently loved it.
KINNOCK: Was it because they were weak? Those people who worked
eight hours underground and then come up and play football weak?
BIDEN: My ancestors who worked in the coal mines in Pennsylvania
don`t come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours.
BODE: Biden had told other audiences he admired Kinnock. Not this
one. This one he later said he had listening in hushed silence.
BIDEN: No, it`s not because they weren`t smart. It`s not because
they didn`t work as hard. It`s because they didn`t have a platform upon
which to stand.
KINNOCK: Anybody really think that they didn`t get what we had
because they didn`t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the
commitment – of course not. It was because there was no platform upon
which they could stand.
BODE: Aides to Biden say another Democratic campaign is passing out
the Kinnock commercial to discredit Biden. That`s true. They also say it
wasn`t conscious plagiarism that Senator Biden has been under great
pressure preparing for Bork hearings and that night he was just on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: September 12th, 1987, did you catch that toward the end
there from Ken Bode, the NBC News correspondent? He said aides to Biden
say another Democratic campaign is passing out the Kinnock commercial to
discredit Biden. That`s true.
The whole plagiarism story was put out by a rival campaign back then.
At the time, no one knew whose campaign was responsible for putting that
tape out. But once the story was out, once that is piece aired on NBC,
once Maureen Dowd`s story ran in “The New York Times”, once that happened,
it had a life of its own.
Reporters started looking into Joe Biden`s other speeches, all of his
writing. There were more instances of passages apparently lifted from
other politicians including it seemed Robert Kennedy. Biden was forced to
admit that he plagiarized a law review article during his first year of law
school. The entire thing snowballed into a giant media scandal, and in a
remarkably short 11 days, it was all over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRICK UTLEY, NBC ANCHOR: The presidential campaign claims another
victim as Senator Joseph Biden drops out of the race.
ANNOUNCER: “NBC Nightly News” with Tom Brokaw.
UTLEY: Good evening. I`m Garrick Utley. Tom Brokaw is on
Once again, the question of character dominates presidential politics.
First, it was Gary Hart who pulled out of the race because of his
relationship with Donna Rice. Today, it was Democratic Senator Joseph
Biden. In his case, the transgression was using other people`s words and
ideas, while embellishing his own record.
Here`s John Dancy.
JOHN DANCY, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Joe Biden found himself living the
presidential candidate`s worst nightmare. Television crews lying in wait
for him everywhere, at the train station where he wasn`t, and at home where
he was. The cameras presence part of this year`s now familiar drama, the
candidate in trouble.
This afternoon, the familiar end to the drama as Biden pulled out of
the presidential race.
BIDEN: I made some mistakes. But now, the exaggerated shadow of
those mistakes has begun to obscure the essence of my candidacy and the
essence of Joe Biden. I`m angry with myself. For having been put in the
position, put myself in the position of having to make this choice. And I
am no less frustrated for the environment of presidential politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And that was it, September 23rd, 1987, Joe Biden at that
moment took himself out of the presidential race. It was five months
before the first primary was held in 1988. And a week later, we found out
exactly how this all happened. We found out because Biden`s rival for the
nomination it turned out Michael Dukakis was forced to apologize.
Two of the aides to Dukakis, two of his top aides, including his
campaign manager sent to reporters a videotape with clips of the similar
Joe Biden and Neil Kinnock speeches. Dukakis fired both of those aides
and, of course, we know what happened from there – he did go on to win the
Democratic nomination. He lost in the fall to the Vice President George
H.W. Bush. Bush became the president of the United States.
It turns out, the whole episode, the whole Biden episode had started
with a phone call between Maureen Dowd at “The New York Times” and
Dukakis`s campaign manager, John Sasso, who tipped her off to the story.
Dowd asked for proof and then the campaign sent her and also sent to NBC
News that videotape that you just saw.
And Dowd`s article accusing Joe Biden of plagiarism appeared on the
front page of “The New York Times,” the nation`s newspaper, the paper of
record, on September 12th, 1987. NBC followed that night with the piece we
just showed you.
By September 23rd, that was it. Joe Biden the big rising star in the
Democratic field in 1988, he was out of the race.
It was a stunning collapse for Biden. It was a reminder of how
powerful a phone call to “The New York Times” can be.
So, let`s fast forward this year. Joe Biden went back to the Senate.
He presided over the Robert Bork hearings. He helped to derail the Bork
nomination. It made him a hero to liberals. He crafted some major
legislation in the 1990s, became something of an expert on foreign policy.
He restored his reputation, and he took that restored reputation and
he tried it again for the presidency in 20 years later in 2008. But his
candidacy went nowhere that year except that he did end up on the ticketing
with Barack Obama. He became vice president of the United States. He got
almost all the way to the top, 20 years later and is fulfilling at that job
has been for Joe Biden, the dream of the oval office, the ultimate prize,
the top job that dream is still there.
Joe Biden is 72 years old right now and this is it. We are staring at
it right now. His final chance. If he ever wants to take one last shot at
the presidency, it is here, 28 years after that campaign fell part. He
really is down to about ten days right now to make his decision.
He may be thinking how is this deadline different from any of the
other arbitrary time lines that had been reported about when Biden will
decide whether to run for president. Well, it`s because the vice president
is genuinely coming up on some hard nonnegotiable real world deadlines he`s
going to need to meet if he`s going to compete for the nomination.
You know how this works, in order to win the primary, you have to win
delegates. In order to win delegates, you have to be on the ballot in
primary states. To be in the ballot in any given primary state, you
generally have to submit signatures, you have to pay a filing fee, you have
to do something proactive and the deadline for getting on the ballot in
several states, those deadlines are fast coming up.
These are the states with the deadlines that come up first. Alabama,
that`s the first one, on November 6th. That is exactly one month from
Arkansas comes three days after that. Michigan, November 17th.
Florida at the end of the month. New Hampshire the first in the nation
state is somewhere in there, too.
If Joe Biden doesn`t make a decision in the next ten days or so to
start organizing to start putting a team together to start raising some
money, maybe to start gathering signatures to get money ready for fees to
get on these ballots, he`s going to start missing deadlines. If he starts
missing deadlines, it means he misses on the chance to win delegates.
Candidate`s going to need 2,232 delegates to win the Democratic nomination
for president. That`s the red line right there.
As you can see, if Joe Biden doesn`t get on those November deadline
ballots, he loses on the chance to compete for 500 delegates. Those
hundreds of delegates would be guaranteed to go to someone else, all of
this before Biden even entered the race. That`s hard to come from.
If he were to wait longer, it would become just about impossible.
So, right now, as Vice President Joe Biden is forced to make this
decision, there`s actually no denying the country is in something of a Joe
Biden moment. It`s because of the tragic loss of his son Beau. It`s
because of how he has handled it with such public grace and dignity. It`s
because he has bared as a grief to the nation. You saw him do this on
Stephen Colbert`s show and elsewhere.
He`s more popular right now, Joe Biden is, than he`s ever been before.
He`s more popular than any of the other Democratic candidates and he`s in a
political position that he`s never been in before.
Look at this, less than a year ago, Joe Biden`s favorability in an NBC
poll was a negative 3 points. This month though, that same poll he`s
jumped to a plus 12 favorable rating. That`s a stunning turn around. That
puts him in better position than Hillary Clinton when it comes to that
question, better position than just about anybody else on the national
But now, as Joe Biden`s star is once again on the rise, as he is
starting to gain momentum, as he faces those hard deadlines and makes this
choice, now there`s a new controversy. And just like 28 years ago, just
like back in the summer of 1987, one of the most prominent players in it is
Maureen Dowd of “The New York Times.”
Back in August, Dowd published a column in which she said that Biden
was exploring a run for president. She wrote that his son Beau had urged
him to run while he was on his deathbed. Quoting from that column, “Beau
tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House
should not revert to the Clintons, that the country would be better off
with Biden values.”
This was a remarkable story when it ran. It got everybody talking.
It was also remarkably un-sourced, caused a lot of mystery.
And today, “Politico” published an explosive piece that claimed that
Joe Biden himself leaked that story to Maureen Dowd in “The New York
Times.” The “Politico” piece cast the vice president`s move as, quote,
Quoting from the story, “Biden effectively placed an ad in `The New
York Times` for his presidential aspirations.”
Now, a spokesman for Biden said, “The bottom line on the `Politico`
story is that it is categorically false and characterization is offensive.”
We reached out to Maureen Dowd today. Her office declined to provide a
Obviously, she and her source are the only ones who can say for
certain who told her what for that story, but that column she published in
August, it was unusual. Not only did it contain these intimate details of
Beau Biden`s last interactions with his father, some of the most personal
moments in Joe Biden`s life, but one passage was even written from inside
Joe Biden`s head. Quote, “At the table, Beau told his dad he was worried
about him. My kids dying in anguish Joe Biden thought to himself and he`s
making sure I`m OK.”
Even before today`s “Politico” piece, a reader half column would have
to wonder where did she get something that intimate? Even and as a
columnist, you would expect such a statement to be qualified with I don`t
know, two sources characterizing the vice president`s thoughts as or some
language like that.
If it is true, if it`s true that Joe Biden leaked his son`s deathbed
wish and its explicitly anti-Clinton motivation if he leaked that to “The
New York Times”, was it calculating? Was it just Joe Biden saying what
came to his mind?
We know that`s how Joe Biden talks so many times. He`s talking to a
reporter after all who despite all those events in 1987, he has now had a
good professional relationship with her for years. Maybe he was just
talking and talking and talking and that`s one of the stories that came
If it`s true though, does it change anyone`s feelings about Joe Biden?
All those warm feelings that people started having about Joe Biden over the
last six months?
And on Joe Biden`s end, does this “Politico” piece be as a chilling
reminder that if he does make the decision to get into the race for
president, that politics are going to be as nasty as ever? And nothing,
not even his son`s death will be off-limits? Does it make him think that
remaining above the fray like he is right now, well-liked, well-respected
on the sidelines, does it make him think that maybe that`s where he wants
to stay? He`s got a decision to make and time is running out.
Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, “Washington Post” columnist who covered
the 1988 Joe Biden campaign for “The New York Times”, along with Maureen
E.J., it`s nice to have you with us tonight.
Well, I want to start with just your interpretation of this whole –
call it a saga, because I remember when I read that Maureen Dowd column
back on August 1st, I was struck by the intimate detail about Biden`s
literal thoughts being quoted on the page. I sort of always assumed to
myself, Joe Biden must have talked to her for this.
How did you read that?
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: First of all, it was fun to sit
here and see my life of 28 years ago roll before my eyes on your monitors.
Yes, I did cover that campaign. And I think this is a really peculiar
I am quite sure Joe Biden has talked to Maureen Dowd and if you notice
in their statement, they didn`t deny that he talked to Maureen. And Joe
Biden was very open for a long time about what beau Biden said to him. In
“The Wall Street Journal” a month before, there was a story, more than a
month before, June 28th, there was a story that Beau Biden had wanted his
father to run for president. So, that wasn`t a secret.
You know, there is a spin being put on this story that Biden said this
stuff in order to I guess the words in “Politico” are put an advertisement
for his campaign for himself. I`m sorry, maybe I`m naive. But I`ve heard
Joe Biden talk about the death of Beau Biden. He did talk a lot about it.
He did talk about how he felt, how Beau Biden felt.
And anybody who has kids knows that that is a devastating loss. And I
just refuse to believe that when he was talking to anybody, including
Maureen, he was – he had somewhere in his head the notion, especially at
that time when it was so fresh, that notion that he was putting a feeler
for a campaign.
I just really can`t believe that. If makes me naive, I`m happy to be
KORNACKI: No, I had the same doubt I think and the aim question. I
thought of the Biden who the nation saw on Stephen Colbert`s show a few
weeks ago who was struggling to put words together at times, who was
jumping from one anecdote to another. I imagined that conversation playing
out whether it`s with Maureen Dowd or somebody else. And maybe this is one
of the details that emerges from Joe Biden just putting his thoughts
together like that. That seems entirely plausible to me.
But when we look at the raw politics of this, he is facing a decision
here right now. Part of that decision, I imagine, is do I want to subject
myself? Do I want to subject my family at this time to negative attack
politics? And like it or not, that`s one way of reading what happened
today. Do you think what happened today has a bearing on his decision or
DIONNE: I think it might. I think you were exactly right at the
beginning of the show when you said that when you`re out of politics, when
you`re not a candidate, people tend to be nicer to you. And the moment you
become a candidate, then every action that you take including talking about
your son hob died suddenly gets put into a political motif.
And you know, I think Beau Biden will play a big role in this decision
in his head one way or the other. On the one hand, running could be his
way of answering Beau Biden`s request that he run, a way to move forward
with his life. And if he doesn`t run as he said to Colbert, I think it
will also play a big role because he will just decide he is not ready, he
is not in a frame of mind to run for president.
So, I do think Beau is central to this. I just don`t think Beau is
central to a kind of calculating strategy.
KORNACKI: I put you on the spot here. Just a real quick answer.
Does your gut tell you one way or the other if he`s going to get in this
DIONNE: You know, my gut a long time ago said he wasn`t going to run.
A few weeks ago it said he was going to run. If Biden is trying to confuse
us, then he`s totally confused me.
But my understanding from a conversation tonight is he hasn`t made up
his mind and hasn`t made up his mind on a date. They`re very aware of the
deadlines put up there. They`re ready to roll when he announces if he
announces. I just don`t think he`s there yet. Now I have absolutely no
idea what he`s going to do.
KORNACKI: You and many, many other people. We are all waiting to
see. E.J. Dionne, columnist with “The Washington Post”, thanks for joining
DIONNE: Yes, good to be with you.
KORNACKI: All right. Much more ahead here on this very busy news
night, including a remarkable argument for gun controlling from nearly half
a century ago. And –
KORNACKI: And there`s lots more ahead tonight. As House Republicans
fight over who should be the next speaker, Hillary Clinton punches back
against the committee designed to bring her down.
That and much more still to come. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s also as we now know
very clearly the way that the Republicans are trying to bring my as they
admit poll numbers down and so, excuse me, so you know, I`m very committed
to answering questions, to being as transparent as possible. I`m scheduled
to testify before their committee, which we now know is nothing but a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Hillary Clinton yesterday to NBC`s Savannah
Guthrie attacking the house select committee on Benghazi. This after
Republican majority leader Kevin McCarthy basically let slip last week the
committee was created to lower Hillary Clinton`s standing in the polls.
Clinton obviously seeing a big political opening here and today, she upped
the ante with this new ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN AD)
AD NARRATOR: The Republicans finally admit it.
REPORTER: Republican Kevin McCarthy saying the committee
investigating Benghazi and Clinton`s e-mails was created to destroy her
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: Everybody thought Hillary
Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special
committee. What are her numbers today?
AD NARRATOR: Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary
because she`s fighting for everything they oppose from affordable health
care to equal pay. She`ll never stop fighting for you and the Republicans
CLINTON: I`m Hillary Clinton. And I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And that ad is actual Hillary Clinton`s first national ad
of this campaign. It started airing today on this network and on CNN.
It`s going to air through Thursday.
And Thursday is a very important day for Kevin McCarthy because
Thursday is when his fellow House Republicans are going to meet and he
hopes officially select him as their candidate to become the next speaker
of the House. McCarthy was quick to respond today to this new Clinton ad.
His office saying, “The mission of the select committee on Benghazi is to
find the truth – period. The integrity of Chairman Trey Gowdy, the
committee and the work they accomplished is beyond reproach. The serious
questions Secretary Clinton faces are due entirely to her own decision to
put classified information at risk and endanger our national security.”
Now, Kevin McCarthy also has two opponents in that vote among
Republicans that`s going to take place on Thursday. One of them is Jason
Chaffetz of Utah, the other is Dan Webster of Florida. Neither of them
though appears to have anywhere near the level of support that McCarthy
does. McCarthy is expected to win that vote on Thursday with ease.
But that won`t necessarily settle the matter, because to become
speaker, you need to win a majority in a vote of the full house. Both
parties coming together every member declaring his or her choice in public.
And that vote, that vote of the full House is still three weeks away. And
during that vote, any Republican who doesn`t want to vote for McCarthy
doesn`t have to. When they`re called on, they can call out any other name
they want. Doesn`t have to be someone who`s a member of the House right
And this isn`t just a theoretical thing. The last two times there
were elections for speaker back in January of 2013, back of January of this
year, there were multiple Republicans who refused to vote for John Boehner.
John Boehner came awfully close to being denied the majority he needed to
continue as speaker.
In 2013, there were 12 Republicans who defied Boehner in the vote of
the full house they either abstained or voted for other random people like
former Congressman Alan West or Colin Powell. This year, in 2015, more
than double, 25 Republicans turned on Boehner on the house floor, the
biggest depiction that any House speaker had faced in over a century.
Now, Boehner still had enough votes to hang onto the speaker`s gavel,
but it was very close and it was very embarrassing.
So, for Kevin McCarthy as he looks ahead to the big vote in three
weeks, the magic number for him is 28. He can afford up to 28 defections
from his fellows Republicans. Anything more than that, and he won`t have a
majority. He won`t have enough to become speaker of the House.
Joining us now is Jake Sherman, senior congressional reporter for
Jake, thanks for joining us tonight.
So, OK, let`s give McCarthy the win this Thursday when the Republicans
vote. Let`s take it to the full vote of the house, 25 defections for
Boehner, the last time we did one of these. Is there a chance there will
be more than 28 defections when Kevin McCarthy faces the full House?
JAKE SHERMAN, POLITICO STAFF WRITER: Three weeks is a very, very,
very long time for him to hang on. I think most people most insiders that
I`ve talked to expect he will be able to win the speakership and,
fortunately, for McCarthy, John Boehner was looking out for him and pushed
off the majority leader down the road into November, the number two and
number three slots. So conservatives are expected to try to take out
perhaps Steve Scalise who they don`t consider conservative enough for them,
and they`re going to try to direct their energy that way.
But, listen, these floor votes are never easy. The House is in a
constant state of chaos. So, you really – if you`re a gambling man, you
do not put money on Kevin McCarthy winning. But, obviously, he thinks he`s
going to win. And that`s why they`re holding the vote on Thursday.
KORNACKI: Game this out a little bit from the sort of conservative
renegade standpoint. If they want to deny him the majority in this vote,
let`s say they do that, let`s say he gets stuck on 205 or something like
So, then, there`s a second ballot. What is the theory? At that
moment he is sort of rebuked. A new candidate emerges? Is there a name
out there? What happens?
SHERMAN: I mean, there`s really only a couple people who could get to
218 which is the magic number to win that you were referring to. Kevin
McCarthy, Paul Ryan are the only two people that most insiders in the
capital think could get to the level. Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster
who are running for the speakership now don`t stand any chance of getting
to that level.
The problem is, I was talking to one these agitators who led the
charge that led to John Boehner having to step down, they kind of shook
everything up and caused this huge mess. But they really don`t have the
next step. They don`t have a candidate. There`s not one candidate who is
running for speaker majority leader or whip from the freedom caucus or the
right – the right flank of the House Republican conference.
So, they were able to mess things up for John Boehner and put Kevin
McCarthy at risk but 30 votes isn`t enough to put forth their own
candidate. That`s a problem for them.
KORNACKI: Very quickly, I`m curious about this, too, because there`s
a report that Ted Cruz will meet with some of these conservative who gave
Boehner such a hard time. He is going to meet with them tomorrow.
From Kevin McCarthy`s standpoint, is he at risk of having to
overpromise to the conservatives to keep them in line?
SHERMAN: Absolutely. There`s no question. He is constantly
overpromising. That`s what you have to do to win an election and hope that
people kind of forget and realize they don`t want to the shut down the
government, they don`t want to default on the debt, and they don`t want to
do all these things that the Republican establishment really wants to
I wouldn`t put a ton of stock in the Ted Cruz news. He meets with
these guys all the time. And he has pizza and that`s basically all that
comes from it.
KORNACKI: All right. Jake Sherman, senior congressional reporter
with “Politico”, thanks for your time tonight. Appreciate it.
KORNACKI: And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our forecast, well, how about that. Boy, I tell
you. I don`t know what to say. Whew. Sunshine. That`s amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s South Carolina weather man was overcome with emotion
after seeing sunshine in Columbia for the first time in a long rainy while.
The death toll from the devastating flooding in that state is still
rising, 17 people are now confirmed dead, most of them in South Carolina.
Roughly 11 trillion gallons of rainfall soaked the Carolinas in the past
week. Columbia, South Carolina, got six months worth of rain in just two
Search and rescue efforts around the capital city are going to
continue tomorrow. Officials say they will stay out there until the entire
county has been covered.
Be right back.
KORNACKI: In May of 1968, a young Democratic presidential candidate
held a campaign event in Oregon, where he addressed what he said was the
need for gun control in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, THEN-U.S. SENATOR: Now, does that make any sense
that you should put rifles and guns in the hands of people who have long
criminal records, people who are insane, or people who are mentally
incompetent, or people who are so young they don`t know how to handle
rifles and guns? As presented by the John Birch Society as somebody`s
going to come in, the federal government is going to take your guns away,
or take your rifles away. Nothing is going to happen about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That, of course, Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
And he actually went on to lose the primary in Oregon that month. It
was a huge upset. He lost to Eugene McCarthy, but he quickly bounced back
and less than two weeks later after that speech, he won the California
primary. It was on that night just after he claimed victory in California
just after he vowed to fight onto the convention in Chicago and to win
there. It was just after that that Bobby Kennedy then just 42 years old
was assassinated. He was shot to death by a man armed with a .22 caliber
But that speech that Kennedy gave in Oregon days before he was killed,
it was remarkable, not just because of the subject matter. It was also
striking because of the reaction he got. The crowd there in Oregon heckled
him at points like when he suggested that some people shouldn`t have guns.
“The New York Times” reported at the time “a man in a cowboy hat booed
loudly and shouted, “They`ll get them anyway.”
It`s also striking about this article you`re looking at is this. Look
at it, the date line. Kennedy was speaking that day in Roseburg, Oregon.
And now, of course, Roseburg is back in the national spotlight following
last week`s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College.
But so too is the sentiment heard in that 1968 newspaper article, the
sense that no matter what the legislation, no matter what the solutions on
the table, the wrong people will always get their hands on guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately, in
this case of mental illness or in the cases of someone who just wants a gun
to carry out a crime, they`re not going to follow the law.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course it is the person
behind the gun. Guns don`t kill people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Guns don`t kill people. The refrain we`ve been hearing for
And today, Ben Carson went a step further. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: Dr. Carson, if a gunman walks up and puts a gun at you and
says what religion are you – that is the ultimate test of your faith.
CARSON: I`m glad you asked that question because not only would I
probably not cooperate with them, I would not just stand there and let them
shoot me. I would say, hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me
but he can`t get us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Given remarks like this and given the fact that Ben Carson
is now consistently polling as a top tier Republican candidate for
president, it would seem as if gun legislation is politically impossible.
But not everyone in Washington thinks so. And one of the senators who
doesn`t joins us next.
KORNACKI: In a political season where doing anything about guns seems
all but impossible, one senator thinks she may be able to get something
done. Senator Amy Klobuchar has proposed a bill that would make it more
difficult for domestic abusers to obtain firearms.
Joining us is Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota.
Senator, thanks for taking a few minutes tonight. So, I`ll start by
asking you about this legislation. The scope of it is very narrow. You`re
dealing with a very specific issue here given all of the failures to get
gun legislation through really over the last decade plus. Is that what the
key is to really narrow the focus?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, I think the key is to look
at what we can get done pragmatically. That doesn`t, of course, hurt big
gun owning state. My state, hunting. I always look at things, does it
hurt my Uncle Dick and his deer stand? The answer with my bill, the
background check bill that I think is so important that narrowly was
defeated last time, the answer is no, it doesn`t.
What my bill does is makes very clear that if you`re convicted,
convicted of a stalking crime, which we know a lot of the domestic
homicides involving intimate partners start with stalking, over 50 percent
of them, then you`re not going to have access to a gun. It also changes
some definitions with domestic abuse that are really important and even the
Republican witnesses supported the change to include dating partners, when
we had a hearing on this bill last year.
So, I think that bill is a strong possibility. There is a bipartisan
effort in the House, the Republican cosponsor with Debbie Dingell of
Also, the background check bill. I think we need to look at ha again.
Senator Manchin put together this bipartisan bill two A-rated NRA senators
were willing to really step up and put that bill forward, and certainly the
victims families in Sandy Hook, they were so brave and worked so hard to
get that bill passed. That has got to be still to me one of the most
disappointing days we had in the Senate.
KORNACKI: Yes, that universal background checks bill you`re talking
about. That was a 2013. That was a different Senate. That was a
Democratic controlled Senate. And they were unable to get to the 60 votes
they needed to break that filibuster. There were a few Republicans who
came on board. There were a few Democrats who defected.
Let me ask you about this, whether we`re talking about background
checks, whether we`re talking about your legislation. Let me ask you about
this, what I hear about the strategic politics of this from opponents of
They say it`s a slippery slope argument essentially. Maybe there`s
nothing wrong with universal background checks. Maybe there`s nothing
really wrong with what Senator Klobuchar is proposing. But if we give the
gun control forces a victory on anything, they`re going to come back for
more and then it`s going to start to hurt us. What do you say to that?
KLOBUCHAR: I`d say first of all, you have people that are supporting
these bills that are strong believers in the Second Amendment that believe
you have a right to have guns. But what we`re talking about here is
something that 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent, even the majority of gun
owners support having stronger background checks, closing those loopholes
that allow people to not have background checks when they buy a gun at a
gun show or over the Internet. It`s a pretty straightforward idea, Steve.
The other thing is to make sure we`re putting the data like we didn`t
have happen in Virginia tech, putting the data in the background check
system so that the states are doing that. These are pretty straightforward
criminal justice ideas, supported by law enforcement. And I think when you
look at the numbers of Americans that support this, what we need here is a
grassroots movement. A grassroots movement to say, you know what, we know
this won`t solve everything. But we have to do something that makes a
difference. And this will make a difference.
And the people of this country when you look at those numbers, you
know where their hearts are, I`m hopeful this will be different this time.
KORNACKI: All right. Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota –
appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. And still ahead, could we be at the beginning
of a major change in the Republican race for president?
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought the debate was
very fair. I thought the CNN people were very professional. The questions
I mean, the one complaint would be it was a long debate. You know, to
be three hours has got to be a record. So, I would say the one thing is it
was very, very long, three hours. And I hope viewers liked, but you know,
they obviously sold a lot of commercials but it was a very long debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Donald Trump last month immediately following the
second Republican debate, complaining about how long he had to stand on the
stage, three whole hours.
And now just three weeks later, well, while he`s still leading in the
polls, there`s a question we want to ask about Donald Trump`s campaign.
KORNACKI: Donald Trump`s new show opened this weekend in Mexico City.
Well, it`s not exactly his new show, it`s a new show, but it`s about him.
It`s an 80-minute sketch made up of Mexico`s most popular comedians
basically roasting and lampooning Trump. It premiered last Friday.
There`s already talk about taking it to L.A. or Chicago or some other
Donald Trump`s showmanship, his shtick, his persona, it turns heads.
That`s part of the appeal of watching him. The appeal of how fun he is,
seeing him put on a show, even seeing others put on a show about him.
But when you`re a showman, there is one rule above all others that you
have to live by. You have to keep it fresh. You have to keep it fresh
constantly or you`ll lose your audience.
On June 16th, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and
it`s now been more than three months since that announcement and since that
time, he has succeed wildly in being a presidential candidate than we`ve
ever seen before. Trump ridicules his opponent, he tweets outrageous
things, he calls people names. He gives out his opponents` phone numbers.
He says and does things that are supposed to destroy a candidate and
instead he spends the entire summer surging in the polls, dominating in the
media`s coverage and becoming the Republican front-runner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best.
They`re not sending you. They`re not sending you. They`re sending people
that have lots of problems. And they`re bringing those problems with us.
They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists, and
some, I assume, are good people.
You know, he lost. So, I never liked him as much after that because I
don`t like losers.
But, Frank, let me get to it. He hit me –
FRANK LUNTZ: He`s a war hero.
TRUMP: He`s not a war hero.
LUNTZ: He`s a war hero.
TRUMP: He is a war hero –
LUNTZ: Five and a half years –
TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that
weren`t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. Do you agree with that?
LUNTZ: He`s a war hero.
TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. OK?
I think she`s got a beautiful face and I think she`s a beautiful
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: What Donald Trump managed to do this summer, what he has
done for the first three months of his campaign is to keep things fresh.
The number one rule for a showman, he`s always coming up with some new
shocking or outrageous or funny twist. Keeping the audience on the edge of
its seat, wondering what could possibly come next.
And that`s hard to do. To hold the entire press, the entire political
world`s attention for three whole months. And let`s give Donald Trump
credit. He has managed to do that.
But guess what? It`s still only October 6th. The first primary is
still four months away. Four months. That`s longer than the entire Trump
campaign has lasted so far. That means Donald Trump still has to find a
way to keep it fresh for four more months, to stay fresh, to stay exciting,
to stay unpredictable, to avoid becoming stale, to avoid falling back on a
familiar bag of tricks, to keep that audience from getting restless in its
seats, from getting up and just walking away.
And that`s why the last couple of weeks have been – well, they`ve
been interesting, because there may – may be some signs that Donald
Trump`s freshness is wearing off. The first indication is his poll
numbers. Now, he`s still up. He`s still ahead. He`s still leading in
pretty much every poll you see.
But his lead has shrunk in New Hampshire. It`s shrunk in Iowa. This
according to new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal”/Marist polling. His rise
in the national polls, it has stopped. It`s maybe even receded a bit. Ben
Carson is creeping up right behind him in the polls. Carly Fiorina
suddenly not so far behind.
And then there are his speeches and his rallies, there`s also a chance
there. All summer, cable network, and this network very much included,
wouldn`t think twice before covering any Trump event live. It was
something unpredictable. It was fresh.
Last week, when some cable channels did carry a rally for Trump in key
New Hampshire live, they`ve all tuned out when he decided to surprise the
crowd with some choice words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They hate more than anybody in this room hates their neighbor.
But it`s political bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you understand? That`s what
happened. And then as soon as we left, they knocked the (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) out of everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So the networks aren`t always carrying his speeches live
anymore. They missed that part of it. And when you think about it, that
moment seemed kind of uncharacteristic of Donald Trump. Was that maybe his
way, swearing, of trying to stay fresh, of trying to add a new twist, the
candidate who`s happy to be profane?
And now this week, Trump is taking swings at Marco Rubio. He`s trying
to do it in a flashy way. He sent a 24 bottle case of Trump spring water
to Rubio`s Washington campaign office, complete with his face on it, plus
two “Make America great again” towels and bumper stickers and said, quote,
“Since you`re sweating, we thought you could use some water. Enjoy.”
That care package was delivered yesterday. It`s a twist on a strategy
that`s worked well for Trump so far. He went after Jeb Bush, he poked fun
at Lindsey Graham, he ridiculed Rand Paul. It helped him. It seemed to
hurt all of them.
But is there a chance with Rubio, maybe he`s picking the wrong target?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Donald Trump is saying over and over again that you`re
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Only when it`s hot.
REPORTER: Are those personal attacks getting under your skin at all?
RUBIO: No. This election is about the future of America. It`s not
about these other things. It can`t be. We can`t afford to get it wrong
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s the kind of confident, coolly dismissive response
that the other Republican victims of Trump`s attacks haven`t been able to
Another sign that things might be starting to change a bit for Donald
Trump is now he`s starting to answer questions about whether he would get
out of the race potentially, telling NBC`s Chuck Todd this weekend that if
his poll numbers do drop and the public loses interest in his campaign,
many wouldn`t subject himself to the nominating process. Essentially, he
wouldn`t let anyone actually see him lose.
Now again, Donald Trump is still ahead in the polls. He is still
getting plenty of media attention, maybe all of this doesn`t add up to
But, but is it possible that all of the tricks that have made Donald
Trump the most unusual presidential candidate we over seen, that have
riveted the media, that have filled convention hall, that have propelled
him to the top of the field, is it possible they`re starting to get just a
little old? That Donald Trump, the candidate, Donald Trump the political
phenomenon, isn`t quite as fresh as he used to be?
When he first started moving up in the polls, a lot of people assumed
that Trump`s campaign was bound to end with a bang, some wild, over the top
comment or controversy that would derail him in an epic fashion.
But maybe that gets all wrong. Is it possible that his campaign will
end sometime down the road, not because the masses revolt against him in
outrage, but simply because the act stops being fresh and the audience just
slowly gets up and files out? A whimper, not a bang.
Donald Trump`s demise has been predicted before and so far he`s still
standing. Maybe he`ll stay standing all the way through this race. But
those first primaries and caucuses in February – they are still a long way
off, and that is a long time for even the most talented showman to keep it
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back here tomorrow night.
And now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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