The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/30/15
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Kerry`s in the marathon this weekend?
HAYES: He is. And he was in last year. And he just sent in you can
track – there`s an app now, you can track people to see where they are and
cheer them. It`s all very high-tech. Very exciting.
MADDOW: That is stupendous. I will never, ever do that in my whole
HAYES: No. I`m going to try to fix a radiator I guess this weekend.
MADDOW: Very good. Happy Halloween. Thanks, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
Happy forthcoming Halloween.
You know, I told you something was going to happen. Last night. I
told you. I told you this was all about to blow up.
I didn`t know it was going to blow up exactly the way it blew up
today. But boy, did it blow up. I was more right than I thought I would
be. Wow. What a day this has been in politics.
I want to start, though, with the news that is latest breaking. And
that is NBC News`s new national poll, which is just out tonight. This is
the NBC News poll done online by Survey Monkey and Survey Monkey is a funny
couple of words to say when talking about a poll but this is a big
scientific poll. This is the real deal.
And these brand new numbers are interesting. They polled on two
different things. The first thing they polled on is the horse race, who`s
winning nationally in the Republican field. And this new NBC News national
Republican poll has Donald Trump and Ben Carson tied at the top. They are
tied and they are way ahead of anybody else.
Both Donald Trump and Ben Carson have 26 percent of the vote, which
means between them, they`ve got a majority of the entire vote in the
Republican field nationwide. Donald Trump and Ben Carson both at 26, and
this is the rest of the field.
The other headline I think other than Trump and Carson being tied at
the top with just a huge lead and a huge proportion of the vote between
them is that Ted Cruz does pretty well here. He`s the only other candidate
in double digits, barely. He`s at 10 percent.
Now, of course, down at the bottom of the field these are pretty
terrible numbers for Christie, Huckabee, Kasich, and Rand Paul. They`re
all tied at 2 percent, which is just terrible numbers for that group of
The guys who are all at 1 percent or less kind of expect to be there
now. But do you expect Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, John
Kasich to be at 2? Two percent? If that tier of candidates keeps
averaging national poll numbers that look like that, those guys will not be
on track to make it on stage for the next debate. Two percent.
Honestly, though, these are also pretty disappointing poll numbers for
Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina. They`re at 5 percent and 4 percent
But if you want some insight into why these shifts that we`re looking
at now may be happening inside the Republican field, why you see some
people moving up and some people clearly moving down, you may be able to
get some insight into that from the other thing that they polled on in this
new NBC national Republican poll other than the horse race. They polled on
who do you like for the Republican nominee, the horse race part of it. But
then they also asked if people watched the Republican debate this week on
And among people who watched the debate, they asked basically, who
won? They asked who did the best job in the debate and who did the worst
job in the debate? And you can use those results, the answers to those two
questions, to get an overall net score for each candidate. So, you take
all the people that said a certain candidate did the best job. Subtract
from that number those people who said the candidate did the worst job, and
you get a net overall performance score for each of these candidates, kind
of a neat way to do it.
And if you look at that net result on the debate for each of these
candidates – well, Ted Cruz is right at the top. So, ah, maybe that`s why
Ted Cruz is the only other candidate who`s in double digits overall in the
horse race. Ted Cruz is ahead by kind of a lot. And he`s perceived to be
the winner. He`s got a plus 23 net score.
The beltway media I think mostly decided that Marco Rubio was the
winner. That is not how Republican viewers nationwide saw it. They saw it
that Ted Cruz won.
And that presumably might be what`s driving overall support for him.
But now, look at the other debate performance numbers from the other
candidates. Again, this is a really big national survey of Republican
voters and here`s how they ranked performance in the debate. Ted Cruz is
at the top. And then below him, it`s Marco Rubio, then Ben Carson, then
kind of a big jump down to Donald Trump at plus 8, then Carly Fiorina at
plus 4. Then Bobby Jindal who`s at a net debate performance score of zero,
meaning to balance it out, he was not perceived as having really won or
Below Bobby Jindal, though, all the results are negative. For all of
these candidates, more people thought these candidates did poorly in the
debate than did well. Below Bobby Jindal, it`s Chris Christie, Mike
Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and then George Pataki and then Lindsey Graham and
then John Kasich and then Rand Paul.
And then – who are we missing? Oh, right. Oh, right. Yes. Look at
the very bottom. That number is very small up there. But can you see
Approach your television. At the very bottom, look at that. Jeb
Bush. Look at the size of his negative result. His net score, his net
performance score in that debate is negative 36. I mean, looks like Rand
Paul did terrible with a negative 5. But Jeb Bush is more than seven times
that bad. That is off a cliff.
If you want to know how bad things are for Jeb Bush right now, that is
as good a metric as we have got. One of these things is not like the
others. That`s a bad metric.
You can also choose today`s personnel metric, and we got one of those
today from Jeb Bush as well. “The Wall Street Journal” reporting this
afternoon that the chief operating officer, the COO of Jeb Bush`s
presidential campaign is no longer the COO of Jeb Bush`s presidential
We don`t know if Christine Ciccone quit that job or if she was fired
from that job. I think clearly we can anticipate that the Jeb Bush
campaign might want to spin that high-level departure as best they can,
they`ll want to – they`ll want that to look more like Jeb Bush is knocking
heads together and firing people and turn his campaign around. They will
not want that to look like his top staff is leaving because his campaign is
failing but we don`t yet know the backstory behind that top-level
I mean, at a time when the Jeb Bush for president campaign may not be
able to endure all that much more bad press, it maybe a blessing for them
today that just as “The Wall Street Journal” was reporting that Jeb`s
campaign COO was out under mysterious circumstances and nobody was
commenting on why, just as that was happening, which was undoubtedly going
to be a big new wave of bad news about Jeb Bush, as that happened, a much
bigger political news wave broke right on top of it and swapped today`s
round of bad Jeb Bush news.
And that much bigger story as we sort of saw coming last night is that
the Republican candidates for president have collectively decided to blow
up the Republican primary process. Tada!
We did see this coming a little bit last night when candidate Ben
Carson said he was calling the other candidates together to demand new
moderators and a new process for the Republican debates here on out.
Politico then reported late last night that all of the campaigns or at
least almost all of the campaigns would be meeting in Washington this
Sunday night to basically go on strike.
I mean, if you think about, it what`s happened here is the Republican
presidential campaigns, all of them, this giant group of candidates, they
have basically decided to walk out on the RNC. They`re walking out on the
Republican Party and instead saying they`re going to organize their own
debate as candidates.
The Republican primary process of nominating that party`s presidential
candidate, the candidates have decided they don`t like the Republican Party
doing that anymore. They no longer feel like going along with how the
Republican Party wants this process to go.
And so, they`re now going to pick their own debate process. They`re
going to pick their own debate formats, pick their own debate moderators
and the RNC can do whatever it is they want to do, but the RNC`s going to
have to do it without any candidates because the candidates are doing it
Honestly, it`s like these guys just discovered union rights.
And, you know, the candidates, if you think about it, in terms of the
leverage here, in terms of who has the party they kind of have the party
dead to rights. I mean, the party can have its carefully selected rules
and its program of sanctions against candidates who don`t exactly do what
the party wants them to do and it can have its deals with media
organizations to run these things according to rules and, you know – but
if the candidates opt out, who`s to stop them? Nobody has any leverage
over them whatsoever.
So, that was the news last night. The Republican candidates looking
to start a revolt against the Republican Party convening a meeting this
weekend. That news sort of continued through the early part of the day as
we learned that yes, it`s not just a few of the campaigns, all of the
campaigns together are meeting on Sunday night and the RNC is not invited
to that meeting, the candidates jumping ship, leaving the RNC out of it,
doing it themselves. That was last night and that was this morning.
And then, I`m not saying this next news from today is related to that
but at midday today came the laugh out loud announcement from the RNC, I
can only speak for myself, I laughed out loud. Maybe everybody else
thought it was very serious. I laughed.
Midday today, there was this announcement by the Republican Party that
they would be basically leaving the management office, walking outside,
picking up a picket sign and joining the picket line against themselves
with the guys who just walked out on them.
The RNC today announced their great leap back into the supposedly
settled primary process to try to regain relevance in the face of this
revolt by their own candidates. The RNC all of a sudden declaring today
that NBC News and Telemundo will have their Republican debate suspended in
February. It`s put on hold. It`s not going to go ahead. Take that.
And NBC News put out a statement in response saying this was a
disappointing development and they hope to work something out with the
Republican Party here. You know, and that will be fascinating to watch. I
have to tell you I have no insider information to give you on this matter.
Technically, we are a sister network to CNBC, but NBC News doesn`t
have any editorial control over CNBC. We`re a family in corporate terms,
but we`re the kind of family that doesn`t talk very much, even at Christmas
or Thanksgiving. Not even really at birthdays. We don`t even really have
each other`s phone numbers.
But as that issue gets handled by the people that are going to handle
it, just consider – step back from that little drama. Consider the
This is the RNC. This is the Republican Party saying to NBC and
Telemundo you cannot host an RNC-sponsored presidential debate anymore.
Well, what if there aren`t any RNC-sponsored Republican presidential
I mean, the candidates seem determined that the RNC is not going to
have anything to do with the process anymore. The candidates are
determined they`re taking over, the RNC is irrelevant, the RNC is no longer
even invited to their discussions. They say they`re going to decide at
this weekend`s – they`re going to decide what they want to do. The RNC
desperately wants to be there at that table and the RNC will not be.
As for what the candidates might do on their own terms, well, apparent
debate winner Ted Cruz already has a very specific plan in mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How about a debate
moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh? That would be
a debate. But instead –
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: I`m in. And I think I can speak for the
other two, they`re in as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, that`s a plan, then. If you don`t know – you probably
know who Rush Limbaugh is. You probably know who Sean Hannity is if only
because that was the man speaking to Ted Cruz there in that clip from the
FOX News Channel.
The name Mark Levin, you may not be familiar with that name. Just for
a little taste of Mark Levin, here was Mr. Levin on his conservative radio
program giving his reaction to the CNBC debate on Wednesday night.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARK LEVIN, THE MARK LEVIN SHOW: Now, I didn`t agree with every
candidate on every issue. That`s quite beside the point. That wasn`t even
the purpose of this debate.
This debate was a historic debate. It was a historic debate because
the Republicans, not all of them, but most of them on that stage had had
enough! Enough is enough.
And I say that Reince Priebus should be fired over there at the
Republican National Committee. I don`t know. Did you hear that today from
12 different people? I doubt it. I don`t know.
That guy`s an incompetent. He`s a boob! The head of the RNC needs to
go. These debate formats are preposterous.
And let us not forget. The moderator food fights did not begin with
CNBC. It did not begin with CNN. You know damn well who it began with.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: He means FOX News, who had the first debate. What he means
is that FOX News is biased against the Republican Party. And why is FOX
News biased against the Republican Party? Because they`re left wing!
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LEVIN: These media corporations, all of them left wing at the top,
every damn one of them left wing at the top. They have decided that
they`re going to control the process.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch and everybody else who runs
FOX News, their left-wingers. You can`t trust them. We have to throw
these communists out. And Reince Priebus, the head of the RNC, he`s a
left-winger too. He needs to be fired. And that`s who Ted Cruz thinks
could put the moderate back in moderator.
That`s who Ted Cruz thinks should be moderating the Republican primary
debates from here on out, for balance he`ll be there alongside Sean Hannity
and Rush Limbaugh.
Now, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, what do you think about that? Now,
actually, somebody really did ask Reince Priebus what he thinks about that.
Watch this. I find this just astonishing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: This is what he said maybe should happen in the future. I
want to get your thoughts on it.
CRUZ: How about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and
Rush Limbaugh? Now, that would be a debate.
PRIEBUS: I think he`s right. You strive to get to a place where the
people that are doing the moderating are going to put on a fair show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, wants the
Republican Party debates moderated by the man who wants him fired because
he is left wing and incompetent and a boob. Just like those communists at
FOX News – which is an amazing thing to watch unfold.
I mean, not even so much as a matter of political science. That`s
just amazing to watch as a matter of human psychology. Do you like this
guy? Yes. I like this. I`m supposed to.
As a matter of practical expectations, though, for what`s going to
happen next, I think what we just saw there means nothing, because I don`t
think it matters what Reince Priebus thinks. I don`t think it matters that
what the Republican Party wants to do or its chairman wants to do because I
don`t think the Republican Party or its chairman gets to decide what
happens next in the Republican primary. I think the Republican Party has
just been completely thrown out of the Republican Party`s process of
choosing their nominee for president. What happens next?
Joining us now is Chris Jansing. She`s NBC News senior White House
correspondent. She`s covering the presidential campaign.
Chris, it is great to have you here. Thank you.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Great to be
MADDOW: You have been I know discussing this planned Sunday meeting
with the campaigns. What`s the latest you know about what they`re going to
JANSING: Well, there`s a lot going on. Let`s start with the fact
that Reince Priebus has apparently been calling organizers. He called them
multiple times last night. He called them again today and said let`s all
come to a nice agreement. Let`s talk. To which they said, you`re not
MADDOW: So, he`s calling the campaigns and saying I want –
JANSING: There are a group of organizers who are putting this
together who may be outreach to the campaigns. It was just late this
afternoon, early this evening that Jeb Bush`s campaign became the last
campaign to say yes, we will send a representative to this meeting Sunday
night to figure out what we`re going to do about the debates going forward.
So, those organizers are picking up the phone, and it`s the RNC and
the RNC is saying, we want to be a part of this, we agree with you. And
they basically said too little too late.
MADDOW: So is it fair to see the shot at NBC and Telemundo as being
an effort by the RNC to show common cause with these campaigns to say
listen, we`re on the same side, you`re mad as heck, well, we`re mad as
heck, too, we`re all pulling in the same direction, let`s pull together?
JANSING: I can only tell you what a couple of campaigns told me,
which is exactly that. They said he needed to do something to show us,
those of us who are disenchanted, and that`s not exactly the words he used,
but who aren`t happy, or as one person put it to me, an unmitigated
disaster, calling the RNC, to show that we actually are on your side.
That`s what they think is going on here. They said basically, you`re
kind of the casualty of what has happened.
MADDOW: Well, Chris, in terms of what happens here, there`s been so
much about this campaign this year that`s been uncharted territory, just
things that have never happened before.
JANSING: I`m telling you, the spin room, which is what happens, we
all go and all the journalists are there with the folks from the campaigns,
we all just shake our heads. There are people who are covering their tenth
presidential campaign who have never seen this. No one has ever seen
anything like it.
MADDOW: So, can the Republican Party be ejected from the debate
process? When you talk to these campaigns and the organizers of these
events, do they see – is this as a protest action where they`re getting
the RNC`s attention or do they have a plan to do it without the Republican
JANSING: The answer is they actually think they want to do something
but no, they don`t have a plan.
So, here`s what they`re going to do. They`re going to get together
and everyone`s going to come in and they`re going to say this is how we
think the debate should go. Let`s just step back for a second and say
these are folks who have been competing against each other and they have
extremely different agendas.
If you`re Ben Carson or you`re Donald Trump, your agenda is to stay on
top. You`re doing great despite all the odds. You are the unexpected
front-runners. If you are Bobby Jindal or Lindsey Graham who are just
trying to tread water, who want maybe any opportunity for free air time,
you have a very different set of priorities.
So, all these different competing people and priorities are all going
to come in together, and they`re going to try to in an evening figure out
how many debates there should be, how long they should be, how long the
opening and closing statements should be, who should have control over the
moderators, should there be limitations on what the questions are. You`re
getting the idea.
MADDOW: It`s almost like there ought to be an objective broker who
only has the Republican Party`s interests broadly at heart who should make
these decisions. Oh, wait.
JANSING: And when they come up with a plan then what do they have to
back it up, right? That`s exactly to your point.
Are they going to say, well, we`re just going to do unsanctioned
debates, we`re just going to find our own place, hold our own debates, and
do it ourselves and we`re going to have Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and
Rush Limbaugh do the questioning? What happens then?
Now, there are some very serious people who are part of this effort
who want to say, how do we actually get some information out, it happens
every single campaign cycle, people complain about the debates, the
American people aren`t getting the information that they need. It`s
fascinating to see and hear after the fact, as we will, what happens next.
MADDOW: Yes, to see it turn from complaint, which we`re used to, to
revolt, which we`re not used to. This is going to be absolutely
fascinating to watch.
Chris Jansing, NBC News, senior White House correspondent. It is an
honor to have you here on my set. Thank you for being here.
JANSING: My pleasure.
JANSING: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We got lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we also just got the first new national poll numbers on
the Democratic side since Vice President Joe Biden announced last week that
he`s not going to be running for president. And even though Vice President
Biden is out, turns out at least in this first national poll, it doesn`t
really move the numbers between the remaining Democratic candidates.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at this knew NBC poll is at
50 percent, which is where she was back in April, when she had the field to
herself. Senator Bernie Sanders, you can see here, is more or less holding
at 30 percent. It`s a 20 percent gap between them. Martin O`Malley and
law professor Lawrence Lessig, they remain in the territory known as just
slightly north of negligible.
But clearly, Vice President Biden taking himself out of the running
has not dented Secretary Clinton`s fairly commanding lead nationwide in the
We`ve got lots more ahead tonight. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is the story that I have been looking forward to doing
an update on like this, ever since we first started covering it.
Do you remember all the church fires? The church fires in the St.
Louis area. There has finally been an arrest.
We have been following the story closely. The first church arson
happened October 8th. Within just a couple weeks there were six more, all
in a really tight geographic area, all within a few miles of each other in
greater St. Louis. These were all arson fires. They`re all deliberately
set, all set at the doors of various churches.
And a number of the churches that were targeted were primarily
African-American churches. But not all of them were. At least one was a
very racially diverse congregation. Another church was almost entirely a
white congregation. Most of the churches targeted in these arson attacks
sustained minimal damage.
But one of them, the New Life Missionary Baptist Church, was nearly
destroyed by the fire. They still haven`t been able to hold services
inside. Again, they`ve been having their congregation meet outside.
But today, officials announced that they have made an arrest. The man
arrested is a 35-year-old local African-American man. He`s been charged in
two of the fires. Officials say the man lives in the greater St. Louis
area. “St. Louis Post Dispatch” says he has a long court record including
questions about his mental health. Police say surveillance camera footage
led them to trace the suspect`s car to the worst of the fires. They say
when they then searched the suspect`s car, they found a gas canister with
gas still inside, as well as a thermos that smelled of gas.
We reached out today to the pastor of that one very heavily damaged
church, the New Life Missionary Baptist Church. His name is Pastor David
Triggs. We had him here on the show just days after that fire gutted his
I have to tell you we got a lot of feedback about his appearance on
this show. People told us they were very moved by how big-hearted and
positive he was being even as his congregation had just been burned out.
But Pastor Triggs told us tonight that he is glad the suspect is off
the streets. He praised the efforts of local law enforcement and the way
officers worked with the community to solve this. And when you think about
where this happened, of course, the relationship between the African-
American community and law enforcement in the St. Louis area has been a
strained relationship for a long time. It was all but shattered after the
shooting of Michael Brown last year and the protests that followed.
But Pastor Triggs today told us the arrest after all those churches
burned, he told us that at least to him it restored a level of trust.
Police say they do not yet have a motive in this case but the suspect has
been charged with second-degree arson in two of the fires. He remains a
suspect in the other five attacks.
We`ll keep you posted as we learn more but I`m happy to at least give
you this update.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: See if you can spot new prescription-strength professional
political advice in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Meet Governor Jeb Bush. His once healthy presidential
campaign had grown tired. Listless. His poll numbers and his spirits were
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve got a lot of really cool
things that I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to
people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a
joke. Elect Trump if you want that.
REPORTER: That was last weekend before his doctor-prescribed
revolutionary new breakthrough in professional political advice.
Governor Jeb Bush agreed to take professional political advice twice a
day for a week. See if you can spot the change.
BUSH: I`m having a blast, and I`m – I`m getting my views validated
and challenged at the same time. It`s a phenomenal way to grow
intellectually, spiritually. Physically, I`m in phenomenal shape for an
old 62-year-old guy. In fact, I think we ought to have five-hour debates,
not two-hour debates.
REPORTER: Not two-hour debates. Five-hour debates. Bring it on!
Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is now in phenomenal shape. And you
can be too. Ask your super overpriced campaign consultant spin doctor and
feel the difference for yourself. It`s a blast.
Paid political advice is known in some markets as Reboundatrex,
trytryagain, or grin-and-bear-it-tol. Take only as directed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yesterday afternoon during peak Jeb Bush campaign freak-out,
a document, a long document from the Jeb Bush for president campaign
mysteriously leaked to the press. It leaked to “U.S. News & World Report.”
The document was a 112-page internal campaign blueprint, all sorts of
graphs and metrics to try to assure Bush campaign donors and supporters
that everything`s fine, Jeb Bush is in great shape.
And we don`t know exactly. That leak may have been strategic. It may
have been a way to try to quiet questions about the campaign.
But whatever it was meant to do and whatever it did overall, in a very
granular sense it was also a interesting look inside the Jeb campaign and
what they think is important. For example, my favorite slide was on page
38, which reveals that the Jeb Bush campaign thinks that one of the key
metrics people ought to look at to determine Jeb`s viability as a
presidential candidate and is his brother`s favorability rating. Look at
the title “GWB,” meaning George W. Bush, “improving nationwide. And the
graph does show George W. Bush`s favorability rating going up now to 52
percent from a low of 33 percent after he left office.
And, you know, the issue of George W. Bush`s popularity is interesting
on all sorts of different levels. Mostly when you think of his persistent
unpopularity, though, you think about foreign policy. You think about the
multiple ground wars he launched when he was president, the unpopularity of
those wars, hundreds of thousands of American troops getting bogged down in
the Middle East. That in part is what gave George W. Bush that 33 percent
favorability rating when he left office.
But today, it was his predecessor. It was the man who took office
pledging to end those wars, who started a new ground war, in Syria.
Today, the Obama administration announced that for the first time,
American troops will be deployed to Syria. They`ll be on the ground in
Syria in an ongoing way. This isn`t just a raid. They`re going there and
staying there. The plan is to help the fight against ISIS inside Syria.
The announcement was made not by President Obama himself but by his
press secretary, Josh Earnest. The White House through that symbolism and
some other methods as well went to great lengths today to just downplay
this as much as possible.
But however much they wanted to downplay it, this really is a major
shift in U.S. policy. They said today it`s going to be less than U.S. –
excuse me – less than 50 U.S. special operations forces in Syria. Those
forces will technically be advising and assisting U.S.-backed rebel groups
who`ve been fighting ISIS in Syria. They`re going to be trying to give
those groups quicker access to equipment and U.S. logistical support.
But – yes, you cut to the chase. This is American troops on the
ground in Syria in a way that has been explicitly off the table up until
this point. When President Obama announced the first U.S. military action
inside Syria in 2013, he said explicitly then and he has said since that
U.S. boots on the ground in Syria was just not an option for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of you have asked,
won`t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? My answer is simple
– I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.
What we`re not talking about is an open-ended intervention. This won
be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the
In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would
involve boots on the ground.
This is not Iraq. This is not Afghanistan. This is not even Libya.
We`re not talking about boots on the ground.
The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the
ground I think would be a profound mistake and I want to be very clear and
very explicit about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It would be a profound mistake. But that is what the Obama
administration announced very quietly today – American boots on the ground
inside Syria, which is unavoidably, something President Obama has
explicitly said would not happen.
Well, the White House went out of its way today, and this is stressed
as well by a lot of the press reporting about this, they went out of their
way today to stress that the total number of troops being sent into Syria
is very small. They say it`s less than 50 special operations forces.
But bottom line here, it`s not like we`re sending that number of
troops because that`s the size of the ground force that the Pentagon and
the administration believe we need on the ground in Syria. Now, in fact,
the senior official indicated today, told “The Associated Press” today that
this is just the beginning of the commitment, not the end of it.
The official telling “The A.P.” that, quote, “a first group of forces,
possibly a couple of dozen, will go relatively soon to assess the situation
and determine which groups on the ground the U.S. can best work with. More
special operations forces would follow once the U.S. better determines what
the needs are.”
So, it`s some number smaller than 50 troops now, but they`re there to
figure out what work should be done by the troops who come next.
So, here`s my question: how many more of them are there ultimately
going to be? How much danger will they be in? What will they be trying to
accomplish on the ground? Is what they are likely to accomplish on the
ground likely enough to work that it is worth the risk to put them there?
How big of an escalation is this going to be?
Joining us now is NBC News national security producer Courtney Kube.
Courtney, thanks for being here. I feel like there`s little
incremental developments like this that keep seeming like a big deal and
proving themselves so. This is a pretty significant change, isn`t it?
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: Absolutely. I
mean, what we`re talking about here initially is these 50 U.S. Special
Operations forces who will be going into northern Syria. But as you
mentioned in the intro, this is very significant. This is U.S. troops on
the ground in Syria.
And despite the fact that the administration has said they`ll be going
in in an advise-and-assist capacity, they will not be, quote/unquote,
“outside the wire”, it`s sort of hard to imagine a place in Syria that`s
not dangerous right now, that`s not outside the wire. Just the very nature
of the fact that they`re going to be there in the country, in a country
that is so divided, that is so dangerous, it`s hard to imagine that U.S.
troops will not be in danger just by virtue of the fact that they`re there.
MADDOW: Courtney, in terms of I guess the risk, obviously that`s not
the only way to think about military operations in terms of the danger that
they`re putting themselves in. You have to think about the likelihood of
success for what they`re going to be able to do as well. There are two
sides to all of those considerations.
But it does seem like there`s a lot of very unquantifiable things
about the risk they`re going in, not the least of which is the fact this is
now becoming an international conflict. There are reports of Iranian
troops on the ground in Syria and Hezbollah fighters on the ground inside
Syria and even Russian troops on the ground inside Syria, although the
Russian government would deny that.
Is there worry – are they acknowledging worry either at the Pentagon
or the White House that this may end up being not just involvement in a
Syrian conflict but a big international conflict?
KUBE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there`s hundreds of Hezbollah troops,
hundreds of Iranian troops that are there, and they`re actually making some
progress on behalf of the Assad regime over in the East and up toward the
north right now. They`re helping Assad stay in power, as is, of course
Russia, as we`ve talked about on the show.
Russians are conducting airstrikes, they`re using artillery, and
they`re supporting these Hezbollah and Iranian troops there on the ground.
They`re pushing forward. They`re really – Assad was sort of on his heels
not long ago until these troops came in there and started pushing forward.
So, it`s an international fight, and as you mentioned in the intro
there`s really no end. We don`t really know how much bigger this is going
to get. A defense official who we spoke with today said that this first 50
is going to go in and they`re going to gauge what`s possible. So imagine
what that means.
It means that they`re going to go in and say there`s these groups over
here that we can work with. And there`s these groups, they`re going to be
looking initially at Syrian Kurds, Syrian Arabs and Syrian Turkmen to see
which groups there will be the most likely capable partners for the U.S.,
that the U.S. will be able to support, whether it be with ammunition,
logistics, tactics, even weapons, that they can support them and that they
would be able to go take the fight to ISIS.
So when you consider it that way, this has almost limitless
possibility for how big the U.S. role could get in an advising and
assisting role in Syria.
MADDOW: NBC News national security producer Courtney Kube –
Courtney, thank you. I appreciate that very much.
KUBE: Thank you.
MADDOW: I will also say the White House, obviously they let Josh
Earnest handle this today but it is the president who is on record saying
over and over and over again directly to the American people, there will
not be boots on the ground.
A time needs to come very shortly in which the president explains why
that previous assurance no longer holds. It was his promise – promise to
the American people that this would not happen. It is now happening. We
really are going to have to hear from the president himself about why his
previous advice and promises are no longer operative in this terrible fight
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: On the issue of national security, last night we told you
that the Pentagon had just transferred a man out of the prison at
Guantanamo and back to his home country of Mauritania. This man had been
held for 13 years at Guantanamo, never charged with anything. He`d been
cleared for release from Guantanamo six years ago. But yesterday he got
out. That was the news we had for you last night.
Well, now there`s more to the story because overnight they released
another one. And it`s a really interesting case. The very first prisoner
who was released from Guantanamo after President Obama was sworn in as
president was a British guy, resident of the U.K. who was sent back to the
U.K. from Guantanamo about one month after President Obama was sworn in in
Sort of a sensitive issue, right? Brits at Guantanamo. We are such
close allies with the British, it`s a little awkward that we have to hold
their citizens and their residents as prisoners in our mysterious offshore
prison in Cuba. It`s an awkward diplomatic issue in terms of the very
close relationship between our two countries.
Why can`t the Brits just handle their people if they`re suspected of
terrorist offenses? Why do we have to keep them in Cuba?
Well, after Binyam Mohammed was freed after the first month of the
Obama presidency in 2009, as the first Guantanamo prisoner freed under the
new president, that left only one more British guy at Guantanamo, and for
that remaining British prisoner, Tony Blair lobbied for him to be sent home
to Britain. David Cameron lobbied for him to get sent home to Britain.
The head of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbin lobbied.
There was this huge cross-party effort at the very tip top of British
politics, even celebrities in Britain lobbying for this last British guy at
Guantanamo to be let out and sent back to the U.K. It`s been a years-long
Overnight last night at midnight, they finally sent him back, after 13
years. He has been cleared to be released for the last eight years. And
Britain is our closest ally in the world. But it took all this time.
This man was at Guantanamo for 13 years. He has a wife and four kids
who live in London, including a 13-year-old son who he has never met. His
son was born the day after his father was sent to Guantanamo 13 years ago.
His father has never laid eyes on him his entire life. But tonight he
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One week from tonight, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and
Martin O`Malley will all be in Rock Hill, South Carolina, for what is being
called the First in the South Democratic Candidates Forum, hosted by me.
If you have something that you would like to ask the Democratic
presidential hopefuls, this is your chance. I would please like your
questions. If you go to our Web site, MaddowBlog.com, you can submit the
question there that you want the Democratic candidates to have to answer
If you want a little advice, I would say the guiding principle of your
question should be that you shouldn`t know in advance. You shouldn`t be
able to predict what the candidate`s answer to that question might be. But
if you can come up with questions for them where you really can`t predict
how they`d answer, I would love to hear it, MaddowBlog.com.
Also, we`re taking the show on the road next week in advance of the
forum. The forum happens on Friday. But the night before, on Thursday,
we`re going to be doing this show live in my personal favorite environment,
a bar. We`ll be coming to you live and sober, I promise, Thursday night
from a bar in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
We`re going to have details on that, and everything else about the
forum and everything – all at MaddowBlog.com.
Please do send questions for the candidates. This forum is going to
be a big deal. I`m very excited. Totally not nervous. I don`t look
nervous, do I?
MADDOW: On October 28, 2003, this headline ran in the “Miami Herald”:
Lawmakers Skip Out for Marlins.
Lawmakers did not leave the state capital to go fishing. These
Florida state lawmakers actually left to go watch the Florida Marlins
baseball team play in the World Series that year.
It turned out to be a big deal in Florida at the time, because while
those state reps were watching the World Series from the comfort of the
Florida Marlins invitation-only owners box in Miami, they were missing what
was hyped as one of the most important votes in in-state history, a vote on
a $300 million economic deal that was thought to be vital to the state`s
And of all those lawmakers who skipped that crucial vote to go watch
the game instead, the most famous one of those lawmakers was then State
Representative Marco Rubio. The reason Marco Rubio was famous even then 12
years ago is because he was not just a run-of-the-mill state lawmaker, he
was the Republican majority leader at the time. So, he probably should not
have missed that vote.
But that was then. Now Marco Rubio is a United States senator, and
judging by his recent comments, he takes voting much more seriously now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you don`t want to
vote on things, don`t run for the Senate. If you don`t want to vote on
things, don`t run for office. Be a columnist. Get a talk show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Be a columnist, get a talk show. Don`t run for office.
Don`t be in the Senate. That was Senator Rubio in April.
Here he was last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: There`s really no other job in the country where if you don`t
do your job you don`t get fired. But in this instance, we`re just limiting
it to one agency. This should actually be the rule for the entire
government. If you`re not doing your job, you should be fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You should be fired if you`re not doing your job, so says
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio who, by his own standards, should get at least be
getting a stern talking to right now, because Marco Rubio really does have
the worst voting record of anybody in the U.S. Senate.
And that doesn`t mean he votes rightly or wrongly. It means he
doesn`t vote at all. He`s missed more votes than any other U.S. senator by
a lot. And it turns out these absences have been noted.
On Wednesday this week – actually, it was 12 years to the day that he
was called out for skipping that big vote in the Florida house and going to
the World Series instead, 12 years to the day, he was confronted by another
big Florida newspaper, the “Sun Sentinel.” This was their blistering
editorial this week on Wednesday.
Quote, “Senator Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator
this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee
meetings, and intelligence briefings. Sorry, Senator, but Floridians sent
you to Washington to do a job. You`re paid $174,000 a year to represent
us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. You are ripping us off,
Look, a lot of us are frustrated by our jobs in office politic, but we
still show up to work every day to earn a paycheck. You are taking
advantage of us. Your job is to represent Floridians in the Senate, either
do your job, Senator Rubio, or resign it.” Blistering.
That same day the editorial was brought up live in a presidential
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: So when the “Sun Sentinel” says Rubio should resign, not
rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do your job,
when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?
RUBIO: Yes, let me say – I read that editorial today with great
amusement. It`s actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Marco Rubio was widely praised in the press for his debate
performance, including shutting down his former mentor Jeb Bush in one
But in this particular issue of the “Sun Sentinel”, it turns out Marco
Rubio did not get the last word, because it turns out hell hath no fury
like a newspaper scorned. The editorial board of the “Sun Sentinel” today
has a follow-up.
Here`s how it starts: “For a guy who keeps talking about new kinds of
politics, Marco Rubio is falling back on the oldest dodge in the political
playbook – blame the media. The public deserved better from Florida`s
senator at Wednesday`s Republican debate.”
That editorial then points out that the senator was asked about the
paper demanding his resignation and he dismissed them at the debate by
saying it`s liberal bias in the media.
It turns out the “Sun Sentinel” is not going to take that lying down.
They say, quote, “For the record, we endorsed Rubio for the Senate in 2010
and Mitt Romney for president in 2012, because we were frustrated by the
pace of hope and change in Washington and they both promised to work hard
to make a difference. But ever since he got to Washington, it seems Rubio
has been running for higher office.”
And here`s how they finish it up: “If Rubio wants to be president, he
should go for it, give it all he`s got, full steam ahead. But the demands
of the presidential campaign have proven too great for him to do his day
job. Given that, Rubio should resign his Senate seat.” Just to reiterate,
in case it wasn`t clear enough the first time two days ago.
It is a blessing for any politician to get a big endorsement from a
home state newspaper. But it`s a blessing for all of us when that doesn`t
stop that paper from aggressively watchdogging even the candidates who they
And honestly, it`s an inspiration to all of us when a home state paper
gets punched at and patronized by a powerful politician, and that paper not
only refuses to back down, they punch back even harder. That`s
inspirational. That just makes me happy. No matter who the politician is
or the paper, that just makes me happy. Well done. Courage.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday.
Now, sorry, prison.
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