The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/22/2015
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 22, 2015
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Alex. Thank you very much.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. November 2011,
so just a little bit be earlier than now in the election cycle, the last
time we had a presidential election, so the middle of November, 2011, the
man who would go on to become the Republican nominee for president that
year, Mitt Romney, November 2011, he took a campaign trip to Michigan.
And on that trip, Mitt Romney said one of the strangest things he
said during that entire campaign. He said something that day in Michigan
that`s still to this day even looking back at it four years later, it still
makes no sense. I have no idea what this means.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love being in Michigan.
Everything seems right here. You know, I come back to Michigan. The trees
are the right height. The grass is the right color for this time of year,
you know, kind of a brownish greenish sort of thing. It just feels right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The trees are the right height. Congratulations, Michigan.
You have just suffered the most inexplicable apparent compliment any major
party presidential nominee has ever paid to any one individual state. “I
come back here, the trees are the right height.”
And maybe it is just Michigan. Maybe Michigan brings this out in
presidential candidates. Michigan is also where Michael Dukakis in 1988
agreed to put on world`s worst choice for a helmet as he rode around in a
tank at a General Dynamics plant in Michigan looking to all the world like
something between a giant baby and a jettisoned.
That was Michigan, too. But I just love playing that tape.
But you look at those kind of things going wrong. You look at, you
know, these decisions that cannot be explained from the campaign trail in
recent years. And in comparison to what they`ve got going on the campaign
trail, the old stuff seems so harmless. Those things seem so quaint,
because now, this year, when a presidential candidate goes to Michigan and
does something absolutely totally explicable, now it`s just like, oh, bad
choice for a helmet or what is he talking about with the trees. Now, it`s
more like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They said you know he`s
killed reporters and I don`t like that. I`m totally against that. By the
way, I hate some of these people but I`d never kill them. I hate them.
No, I think, no, these people – honestly, I`ll be honest. I`ll be
honest. I would never kill them. I would never do that.
Uh, let`s see. Uh, no, I wouldn`t. I would never kill them.
But I do hate them and some of them are such lying, disgusting
people. It`s true. It`s true.
But I would never kill them and anybody that does, I think, would be
Hello. Look at these people. Boy, what a bunch of losers, I`ll tell
You are a loser. You really are a loser.
Get them out.
Yes? Thank you. Yes, darling. Yes.
She doesn`t sound very tough. That`s a very weak voice. Go a little
louder. We can`t hear you, darling.
Wow. That`s not a – that`s not a protester prime, right?
You know, it`s so staged. They put them in different corners, so
staged. Really are a loser. Sad. It`s sad, because we`re all here to
make America great again. We don`t have to listen to this stuff.
I really believe if I took those three people and I think they`re
good unless they`re drugged out which is a possibility, I mean, honestly
because then I can`t reason with them. Who else would do this? You stand
up in a group of 9,000 maniacs that want to kill them, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Donald Trump talking about protesters at his political event
last night in Grand Rapids, Michigan talking about them as oddly brave,
almost uncannily brave because they`re willing to stand up and yell in
front of a group of 9,000 maniacs who want to kill them.
The 9,000 maniacs would be the crowd of his supporters he was
speaking to, 9,000 maniacs who want to kill them.
Last night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Republican presidential front-
runner Donald Trump berating the press calling the press disgusting and
liars, musing about the idea after killing reporters, joking about that.
I know some reporters who were there covering that event in Michigan
last night. They described it as a unique and somewhat anxiety-producing
environment to be penned in in the media pen up at the front of the room
literally surrounded by thousands of people who Donald Trump was whipping
up into a frenzy over what disgusting miscreants these reporters are and
how Trump really hates them and might want to kill them being in a physical
pen in the middle of that while the candidate was inviting that from the
crowd, people who I know who were covering that event last night say that
was a unique experience for reporters covering modern American politics.
But then there was this had part which appeared to be from his I
guess prepared remarks to the extent that he prepares remarks. This at
least appeared to be something that he intended to discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So Hillary`s going to get beaten. I haven`t started with
Hillary yet. What happened to her? I`m watching the debate and she
disappeared. Where did she go? Where did she go?
I thought she quit. I thought she gave up. Where did she go? Where
did Hillary go?
They had to start the debate without her. Phase two.
I know where she went. It`s disgusting. I don`t want to talk about
it. No, it`s too disgusting. Don`t say it, it`s disgusting. Let`s not –
we want to be very, very straight up, OK? But I thought – wasn`t that I
Let`s assume that Hillary becomes president. Oh, my God. Oh.
She`ll be the worst. Is that a president?
You saw her the other day in all fairness. You saw her the other
day. You saw the debates where they hide them in between football games.
They put them on crazy – how about the next debate they have?
They`re putting it against two NFL playoff games so that nobody watches.
Let me just tell you, I may win, I may not win. Hillary, that`s not
a president. That`s not. She`s not taken us – everything that`s been
involved in Hillary has been losses.
You take a look – even a race to Obama, she was going to beat Obama.
I don`t know who would be worse. I don`t know. How does it get worse?
But she was going to beat – she was favored to win and she got
schlonged, she lost. I mean, she lost.
But I watched her the other night. It was hard. It was really hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, in front of this very fired up at times sort of all but
frenzied crowd in Michigan, Republican presidential front-runner Donald
Trump rolls out something nobody can quite explain as his latest attack on
When I say nobody can explain it, I mean literally a spokesperson for
his campaign cannot explain what he meant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: OK. OK. So this one, here`s another one.
He said she got “schlonged by Obama in 2008.” Listen to this.
TRUMP: She got schlonged. She lost.
LEMON: Katrina, was that just an off the cuff because schlonged
usually means something else?
KATRINA PIERSON, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Well, I think
he was meaning like, slung to the ground, slung around. I mean, are we
really talking about the definition of the word –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, he did not, Katrina, come on. Don`t even
PIERSON: What does schlonged mean, then, Rick? Why don`t you tell
me what schlonged mean?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, it was not that long ago were wondering what does
Mitt Romney mean by the trees are all the right height? That was four
Four years later, now our conversations are like this because this is
the way that this year`s Republican presidential front-runner talks while
he is campaigning for the nomination nation to be president of the United
We`ve got presidential historian Michael Beschloss here to talk about
whether there is historical precedent for this kind of thing from a major
party front-runner in American presidential politics. He`s going to be
here in just a second, because I think it`s a legitimate question as to
whether or not major party politics have ever dealt with this particular
kind of verbal denigration and crassness and things other people are
reluctant to even quote let alone even repeat.
Not just in political fighting, not just in terms of what people
scream from the peanut gallery at the stage, but in terms things that are
said from the nominee`s podium from the very top tier of American politics.
We`ve got Michael Beschloss in just a moment on that. But before we
go to Michael Beschloss, who is an esteemed historian, I want to say
something before he gets here, because I do have one possible theory for
what happened here.
And I will admit right now, this is a bad theory and I don`t believe
in it. But in the spirit of Christmas cheer, I feel like I must put this
forward. In the spirit of wild, deliberately naive holiday inspired
analytical generosity, here it is, my gift to you.
Maybe it wasn`t what we think it was. Maybe this is not that bad.
Here`s an alternate explanation.
Barack Obama was first elected president in 2008. The first midterm
after he was elected was in 2010. Traditionally, after a new president is
elected his party always gets trounced in the midterms. The president`s
party almost always loses a lot of seats in the midterm elections. There
was no exception to that rule in 2010. The Republicans ran the table in
the midterms that year.
And in President Obama`s first press conference after the 2010
midterms, this was the day after those midterm elections, he was very blunt
about how badly his party lost, and he said something that might matter
here. This is President Obama from November 3rd, 2010.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, I had a
chance to speak to the leaders of the House and the Senate, and reached out
to those who had both won and lost in both parties. I told John Boehner
and Mitch McConnell that I look forward to working with them. And I
thanked Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for their extraordinary leadership over
the last two years.
After what I`m sure was a long night for a lot of you and needless to
say it was for me, I can tell you that you know, some election nights are
more fun than others. And now, I`m not recommending for every future
president that they take a shellacking like I did last night. You know,
I`m sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama not just conceding defeat and the loss of
both houses of Congress by the Democrats in the 2010 midterms, but
admitting that the Democrats his party got beat terribly in those midterms.
And what he said specifically was that they took a, quote, “shellacking.”
And you heard everybody laughed in the room when he said it.
But that turn of phrase, a shellacking they got shellacked, that
ended up becoming a new big part of our political lexicon, specifically
about those midterm elections and it has held on thereafter. It was an
important part of the way we talked about those midterms.
Obama concedes shellacking. Obama reflects on shellacking in
elections, after shellacking Obama laments. Obama calls midterm elections
Actually, that will last one is from the “Christian Science Monitor”
and the “Christian Science Monitor” even went so far to put the shellacking
on their top ten political quotes list for 2010. That word “shellacking”
was not a phrase that got used in politics before President Obama used it
at the very high profile moment in his presidential press conference the
day after the 2010 midterm elections, that very, very, very consequential
shall midterm election.
He used that word shellacking. I will say it again, shellacking.
“The Washington Post” reports today the only other time that
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has been known in public
to use the word, forgive me, schlonged, was in 2011 when he was talking
about that same 2016 midterm election, that same midterm election in which
President Obama very famously described it as having been shellacked and
everybody talked about that midterm election using the word shellacking.
Donald Trump in 2011 tried to talk about the 2010 shellacked midterms and
instead he came out with the term schlonged.
He said that a particular Republican candidate in the 2010 elections
had been schlonged, she had lost her race. In that case, it was a
Republican candidate losing to a Democratic candidate and, it was a
Republican female candidate losing to a Democratic female candidate. He
said she got schlonged.
So, maybe this is like a malaprop. Maybe this is like an
alliterative reaching for the word failure. I once got in an argument with
a guy who was illegally parked and blocking the crosswalk by my house.
We`re having this heated back and forth, which should have been 15-second
argument, but it went on and on and on and it`s getting more and more
heated and it`s not at all constructive, and it`s going to end well and I
can tell it`s not going to end well and I`m regretting I`m in the argument.
And at one point, I was all head up and tried to tell him he was
confused. Instead I told the guy he was convoluted. I kind of sheepish
little looked down and ended the argument and he stayed parked in the
Sometimes stuff just comes out wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: She was going to beat, she was favored to win and she got
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Shellacked? Could that have been on the way to shellacked?
He got a little diverted?
I told you this was a bad theory. I don`t actually believe this. I
don`t actually believe he meant something else and it came out wrong but
you know what, it`s Christmastime, and it`s sometimes nice to imagine a
nicer world than the one in which we live, one where the Republican Party`s
leading presidential candidates, at least their leading presidential
candidate, one of them, says stuff like this and does stuff like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Mr. Trump, one of the things people love
about you is you speak your mind. And you don`t use a politician`s filter.
However, that is not without its downsides in particular when it comes to
women. You`ve called women you don`t like – fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and
Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women`s
looks. You once told a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice”, it would be a
pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the
temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer
the charge from Hillary Clinton who is likely to be the Democratic nominee
that you are part of the war on women?
LEMON: What is it with you and Megyn Kelly?
TRUMP: Well, I just don`t respect her as a journalist. I have no
respect for her. I think she`s highly overrated.
She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous
questions. And, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her
eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
TV ANCHOR: He appeared to mock a reporter with a disability. Take a
TRUMP: Written by a nice reporter. Now the poor guy, you got to see
there guy, I don`t know what I said. I don`t remember. He`s going like, I
don`t remember. Maybe that`s what I said.
TV ANCHOR: That reporter is Serge Kovaleski, who now works for “The
New York Times.” He suffers from a chronic condition that impairs movement
of his arms.
TRUMP: They said, you know, he`s killed reporters. I don`t like
that but I do hate him. Some of them are such lying, disgusting people.
It`s true. It`s true. But I would never kill them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At the beginning of this presidential campaign, we would
look at newly outrageous things that Mr. Trump had said or done and we
would wonder if those things were going to hurt him in the polls and how
quickly that hurt would be evident. We have now been doing this long
enough that we can say I think safely, nothing that outrages people about
Donald Trump is going to hurt him in the polls. It only makes his
supporters like him more and it only apparently turns more Republican
voters on to him.
At this point in the presidential campaign, at this late date when we
have learned that lesson, at a time when honestly nobody in modern history
who has had a lead this big at this time has ever gone on not to win the
presidential nomination of the Republican Party, now at this point when we
have learned our lessons what Republicans think about this stuff and we
have seen Donald Trump`s lead be apparently totally politically
bulletproof, the thing to ask after the latest one of these deliberate
shocks by the Republican front-runner is – I think, what else in history
is like this? Is there anything in the American political past that is
like this, that could be predictive of how this is going to weather with
the American people?
And if this is who Hillary Clinton or I guess maybe Bernie Sanders is
going to be running against in the general election, is there anything from
prosecuting American history that tells us how this kind of thing, this
deliberate shock is going to affect that race?
I know just who to ask, next.
MADDOW: Late update, late tonight, Republican presidential front-
runner Donald Trump has now tweeted an attempted clarification about the
word that he used last night to describe Hillary Clinton`s primary loss to
us Barack Obama in 2008.
Mr. Trump tweeted tonight, quote, “Once again, mainstream media is
dishonest.” The word I got us to say it, I`m sorry, the word he used
schlonged, he says, is not vulgar. “When I said Hillary got `schlonged`
that meant beaten badly.”
In response to that tweet tonight, in response to Donald Trump trying
to clarify that language, NBC`s Andrea Mitchell said tonight, quote,
“Clearly, he doesn`t know Yiddish.”
That was Donald Trump late tonight. We`re going to have more on this
in just a moment. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hate some of these people, but I`d never kill them. I hate
them. No, I think, no, these people, honestly, I`ll be honest. I`ll be
honest. I would never kill them. I would never do that.
Uh, let`s see. Uh, no, I wouldn`t. I would never kill them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, last night
musing, joking about whether or not he would kill reporters who he hates
and who he says are disgusting.
Between that and the new Donald Trump explicable but vulgar language
used in describing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, I feel that we
ought to call in a presidential be historian to tell us if this kind of
thing is par for the course and we`ve just forgotten or is this sort of
Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Michael, it`s always a pleasure to see you. Thank you very much for
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Me, too, Rachel.
You know, I`ve been spending the whole day going through the papers of
George Washington, looking for did he use that word. But Donald Trump, I`m
so relieved now that he did that tweet telling us that it`s not vulgar, but
I don`t think Washington used it.
MADDOW: You know, the idea – like we`re trying to find whatever the
1778 equivalent of this.
BESCHLOSS: Equivalent might have been.
MADDOW: We turn to you for historical context on these things. Are
there inflammatory or derogatory comments we have heard from presidential
contenders? I`m thinking specifically when it comes to women and
minorities and the disabled. Is there precedent for this kind of stuff?
BESCHLOSS: I think it`s pretty much going into new territory here,
especially because you know in some cases have you Donald Trump saying this
to people`s faces. I mean, I was amazed when I heard him say in one of
these Republican debates not too long ago, I think it was right to the face
of Rand Paul, making fun of the way he looked, and even the last 24 hours
talking about Hillary Clinton is a liar and my mind began to go forward.
You know, what are these debates going to be like if he have
nominated and he`s debating with Hillary Clinton and saying these things
face to face in the context of a presidential debate? We`ve never seen or
heard anything like this.
MADDOW: One of the things that struck me in his remarks about
Hillary Clinton. Obviously, there was the – what he now is maintaining to
be I guess a misuse of a Yiddishism or I don`t know.
There`s also the comments that he made about of all things, the
bathroom break that happened in the Democratic primary debate this weekend.
He`s essentially inviting disgust. He says it`s disgusting. It`s
disgusting. I don`t want to talk about it, but asking people to think
That is a psychological tactic that you use as a way to almost
animalize people. I don`t know if there`s anything like that from any of
BESCHLOSS: I think we saw that in what he said about Megyn Kelly,
his way of knocking people off balance, trying to create doubts about them.
Another reason he does this I think is that when there`s possible bad news
or when there might be three hours in which he`s not at the apex of public
attention, he does this kind of thing to sort of bring attention back to
himself. And you know, if you`re trying to come up with a hypothesis,
maybe this week, there are some polls that show that Ted Cruz is beginning
to give him a run for his money and this might be one way of yanking things
back to himself.
MADDOW: Have we seen in other election cycles in years past, have we
seen people push the envelope in terms of what a presidential candidate or
presidential contender is supposed to be able to get away with, is supposed
to be able to say in terms of offending people`s sensibilities or
denigrating specific groups of people, in a way that helped them short term
even if it didn`t help them long-term?
BESCHLOSS: Sure, George Wallace ran in 1968, as you know, as an
independent candidate. At one point, he had 25 percent of the vote
according to one of the pollsters. He did that by needless to say creating
a lot of fear among many white voters about African-Americans and, you
know, others who were jeopardizing what he called law and order.
You know, there is very much that history there. Another thing that
reminded me of Trump when I was thinking about George Wallace was that at
Wallace`s rallies, sometimes, he would denounce a particular reporter who
was right there in the press gallery and all these heads would turn and
people would worry for the guy`s safety.
MADDOW: We`re going to try to – I was, I have been thinking about
that, too. It`s one thing to denounce the press as a whole. We`ve seen a
lot of politicians do that, but to pick out individual reporters and make
them targets of a heated up crowd is something we`ve seen only a few other
times. We`re going to try to find that old footage or at least old
coverage if we can.
NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss, you are a wealth
of information and help. Thank you for your time tonight.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Hillary Clinton campaign sent out a big fund-raising e-
mail today. Since today is a day that ends in Y, that`s not surprising.
What was surprising though was this. The first line of it, quote,
“Dear Hillary Clinton supporter, Bernie Sanders` campaign is on track to
out-raise us this month.”
Oh, really? I mean, Hillary Clinton has been the almost presumed
Democratic nominee for a zillion months now but her campaign says as of
today they are about to get outraised by Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders did just break the all-time U.S. politics record for
the total number of individual contributors he has at this point in the
campaign. Hillary Clinton`s campaign says in dollar terms, he`s also going
to outraise her this month.
Is the Clinton campaign just trying to inflate expectations for what
Bernie Sanders is going to report to have raised in December so then they
can shock everyone when it turns out the Clinton campaign did better than
him? Are they trying to shock their own supporters off their wallets to
give before the end of the year? I don`t know, but it is fascinating and
we`ve got more on the subject coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Five years ago today, just ahead of Christmas, President
Obama signed a bipartisan piece of legislation at the White House. He was
surrounded by members of Congress. The bill he signed five years ago today
ended once and for all the 17-year long Bill Clinton era ban on gay people
serving openly in the military. President Obama five years ago today
repealed “don`t ask, don`t tell”.
Shortly after President Obama signed that bill, Air Force Major
Adrianna Vorderbruggen, she got married to her long-time partner, one of
the first active U.S. service duty to be married to her same sex partner
after the repeal of “don`t ask, don`t tell”. She and her wife had a son
together. They lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. And
yesterday, she was one of six U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan,
when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck a convoy near Bagram Air Base.
It was all members of the United States Air Force who were killed.
They include Staff Chester McBride Jr. He was a native of George. He
graduated from Statesboro high school in 2003.
He was a star football player. He joined the Air Force after
graduating from college. Today, the mayor of his hometown lowered flags to
half-staff to honor him, to honor his service.
Also, Staff Sergeant Peter Taub. He`d been in the service for eight
years. He was married with a 3-year-old at home. His father told NBC
Philadelphia that his son had not told his family that he was in
Afghanistan so as not to worry them. His mother owns a restaurant in the
D.C. area posted on Facebook, quote, “My son Peter Taub was one of six
killed yesterday in Afghanistan. The restaurant is closed for the rest of
Staff Sergeant Louis Bonacasa, he was raised in Upstate New York. He
reportedly dreamt of military service. His mother told NBC that he wanted
to enlist in the Marines when he was 17 but she convinced him to wait and
also to join the Air Force instead after he graduated. He was married with
a little daughter. This was his fourth deployment to the Afghanistan.
Technical Sergeant Joseph Lemm was also killed. He was an NYPD
detective. He was married with two kids, a daughter and a son. This is
video of him and his family from 2013 when he surprised them after
completing a ten-month tour of duty. This was his third overseas
And also, Staff Sergeant Michael Anthony Cinco of Rio Grande Valley
in Texas. He was 28 years old. His death was confirmed by the military
tonight, but his family is declining to share additional information about
him at this time.
Monday`s attack outside of Bagram killed six American troops. It
injured three others. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for this
attack. It`s the deadliest attack on U.S. troops since 2012 by the
And it comes as the Taliban are reportedly mounting an effort to
retake the largest provinces in Afghanistan, Helmand Province. Helmand
Province, of course, has seen some of the fiercest fighting in this now 15-
year long war.
Joining us now is NBC News national security producer, Courtney Kube.
Courtney, thanks very much for being here. I really appreciate your
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: Thanks for
MADDOW: So, obviously, this is a very sad story. As far as I
understand it, we have not lost this many American troops in a Taliban
attack in Afghanistan in more than three years since 2012. Was this attack
a fluke success by the Taliban? Is this a sign of bigger changes there and
their re-ascendance there?
KUBE: It`s really just a sign no matter how the administration, how
the U.S. wants to classify what American troops are doing in Afghanistan,
they continue to be in danger. This was a relatively routine, that`s what
the military called a senior leader engagement. They were going on a
meeting with some Afghans and the airmen who were killed were part of a
security detail taking them. They were only a couple of kilometers from
Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. air base in Afghanistan. And a lone
suicide bomber on a motorcycle was able to go in and detonate himself and
It just proves that they continue to be in danger no matter what the
mission, the overall mission is classified as.
MADDOW: Courtney, we got news recently some anonymous reporting that
American special ops are playing a more central role, a more combat forward
role in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Today, we got news
that the British military has redeployed troops to Helmand Province which
they clearly didn`t expect to be doing. Obviously, you`re saying it
doesn`t have to be frontline combat in order for it to be a deadly,
dangerous situation for American troops, but it seems like for American
troops and maybe now for British troops, there are more frontline combat
operations going on than they`ve been willing to publicly talk about, too.
KUBE: Yes, and neither the U.S. nor the British will acknowledge
that there`s any kind of frontline role that the troops are playing down
there. The U.S. deployed these Special Operations, these Special Forces
down to Helmand several weeks ago, it was in Lashkar Gah, the capital, was
in danger of falling. They also stepped up some air strikes, U.S. air
The U.S., of course, they`re able to justify this by saying it`s part
of the overall rules of engagement, it falls in the rules of engagement
because it`s Afghans who are threatened and the U.S. and NATO coalition
have both the responsibility and the right to help defend them.
But when you talk to U.S. defense officials and military officials
who are there in Afghanistan, had he deny that those U.S. Special
Operations Forces are actually on the frontlines despite the fact they`re
there advising and helping the Afghans to try to stop the Taliban from
taking back that critical province. They`re also threatening Sangin,
they`ve been threatening Marjah. These are twos very critical and very
symbolic locations for the U.S. and for the British force who`s lost a lot
of troops there.
MADDOW: That`s right. A lot of American and British and other
coalition blood has been spilled in those places to see them being fought
over again and the Taliban taking them again has a lot of emotional
resonance in this country in particular.
NBC News national security producer, Courtney Kube – Courtney, thank
you for your tonight. I really appreciate it.
KUBE: Thank you.
MADDOW: We got some more ahead tonight, including some brand new
reporting on a big story that we did on Friday night that got a huge
response from you guys. It`s a story about Flint, Michigan. And that`s
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Big day for Jeb Bush today. Jeb Bush today showed up in
first place. While Donald Trump turned up all the way at the bottom,
bottom of the barrel.
And so, I am obviously not talking about polls. I`m talking about
who is spending the most money, between the super PACs supporting Jeb Bush
and his actually Jeb Bush campaign, team Jeb Bush has spent over $38
million on ads this year. We just got in the new ad spending numbers
today. They basically sum up what got spent over the total of this year.
And the big picture is overall that what has been spent this year in
2015 is three times what had been spent at this point in the last
presidential election. And you can basically think Jeb Bush for the
overall size of that number. In large part because Jeb Bush`s ad spending
this year is greater than everything spent by all the Republican candidates
combined at this point in the race four years ago.
And for his trouble for spending way more than anybody else in the
race for president this year, for spending more than the entire Republican
field combined spent in 2011, Jeb Bush is still below 5 percent in the
polls now. And he is nowhere near leading in any single state.
Prohibitive front-runner Donald Trump, meanwhile, has spent just
$217,000 on ads. Mr. Trump has spent half what George Pataki has spent,
and I maintain that George Pataki is not even really running for president
since he`s not even trying to get on the ballot.
So, Jeb Bush is spewing out money like a volcano with indigestion,
tens of millions of dollars, bottoming out in the polls. Donald Trump
leading by a mile, he has spent 200-something thousand dollars.
But these spending numbers may not capture all of the help that
candidates are getting on the ground because here`s one that I`m getting
you have not seen before. A friendly Michigan viewer of the show, Michigan
is kind of a theme tonight, sent us this photo today through
She says she came out of a movie theater in Canton, Michigan, the
other night and she found this flyer tucked underneath her windshield
wiper. It says at the top, quote, “Is America like Panem?”
I`m going to stop right there, because if you`re like me, you may not
know that Panem is the fictional post-apocalyptic dictatorship in the
So, it says at the top, “Is America like Panem? In the Hunger Games,
Michigan would be in district eight. Our job would be producing textiles.
The Panem capital promises to free stuff, security, food and a job, but
what you really get is hunger, torture and a lack of opportunity.
America has wealthy rulers living in the capital just like Panem.
The political elite think they are entitled to your hard-earned money to
support their extravagant lifestyle, but it doesn`t have to be that way.
Join the rebel underground.”
And then it says, “Paid for by Ted Cruz for president.” And there`s
the Ted Cruz for president logo.
The Cruz campaign today denied that this has anything to do with
them. They told us, quote, “That is nothing we produced or paid for.” But
somebody is impersonating them and saying it`s they`re the Ted Cruz for
president campaign and using their logo, which is weird.
I will point out the Michigan for Ted Cruz Facebook page uses some of
the language that`s on that flyer on their Facebook page. They also use
the symbol of the Hunger Games hero, that symbol the mockingjay has shown
up in Ted Cruz graffiti in different cities over the past few months.
But, again, the Ted Cruz campaign tells us the flyer about joining
the rebel underground is not theirs. Then again, that`s probably just what
the rebel underground would say.
MADDOW: Hey, new news tonight on the next debate in the race for the
presidency. The two debates right before Iowa for the Republicans are
hosted by FOX News and FOX Business, which is hilarious. You guys sure
Tonight, we got the FOX Business qualifying criteria for their debate
held in South Carolina. It`s really interesting because they are doing
something that hasn`t been done before. It looks like they`re trying to
cut off the field.
Here`s what they say, in order to make the main debate stage at the
FOX Business debate January 14th, candidates needs to either finish in the
top six nationally based on an average of the five most recent national
polls. You need to be top six nationwide or you need to be in the top five
in Iowa or New Hampshire based on an average of the five most recent polls
in Iowa or in New Hampshire.
So, you need to be top six nationally or top five in Iowa and New
Hampshire. Based on that criteria, at this moment if the debate were
tonight, it appears that John Kasich, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul would all
be in danger of not making it onto the main stage for that debate.
Again, the debate is scheduled for January 14th. FOX says they`ll
consider polls up until that week. So things could change but this has to
be worrying news for the Kasich, Fiorina, and Rand Paul campaigns, at
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Amazing what a little democracy will do. On Friday night,
we brought you the utterly, hair-raising, blood boiling, horrifying story
of Flint, Michigan, where the drinking water got poisoned with lead,
starting next year when the Rick Snyder administration allowed that town to
switch from getting its water pumped up from Detroit to instead drawing it
directly from the Flint River. It was cheaper.
There`s nothing inherently wrong with getting your drinking water
from a river, lots of places do it. But the chemistry of the river water
makes it more corrosive kind of water. So, you have to give the water
special anti-corrosion treatment before you send it coursing through the
pipes and into the homes of your town.
If you fail to do that, that more corrosive river water eats through
your pipes and the lead solder that`s used to hold your pipes together and
the people get lead poisoning.
So, on Friday, we talked to a heroic pediatrician in Flint, Michigan,
who with no funding and no staff, just of her own volition, ran the first
study showing that kids in Flint, Michigan, were two and three times more
likely to show elevated levels of lead in their blood after the state of
Michigan inexplicably allowed the town to make this switch in their water,
without making it safe first.
Dr. Mona Hannah Attisha told us that lead is as bad as any neurotoxin
on earth and that every kid in Flint who drank that water or who ate food
cooked with that water is at risk, life-long risk of some level of damage
that may already be done and again, cannot be turned back. The formal
write-up of those results in the “American Journal of Public Health” was
just published today.
There`s no safe amount of lead that you can be exposed to. And if
you get too much exposure, the results particularly for kids are not just
irreversible, they`re awful. It`s rashes and skin lesions. It`s also lost
IQ points and emotional problems and behavioral problems.
So, the very poor town of Flint, Michigan, now has two huge
challenges. First, can they intervene fast enough and fully enough in the
lives of these kids who were poisoned by this policy decision, can they
intervene early and fully enough to mitigate the physical harm that has
been done to those kids` brains because of what the Snyder administration
did to them? First.
Second, can Flint undo the harm to its infrastructure caused by all
that unchecked corrosion in all the water pipes all over the city, and in
every single inhabited residence and every school and every public building
and every private building, everything, everything plumbed to have running
water needs to be looked at if not fixed because of what they put through
So, number one, save the kids. Number two, save the city, both have
been seriously harmed.
The reason this is a government problem, a Governor Rick Snyder
problem specifically, because under him, they knew lead levels was rising
rapidly in Flint`s water months before they took any action. They could
see it in test results from Flint`s water heading into the summer. They
could see it even earlier in February, in alarmed letters from the federal
EPA to the state of Michigan.
This is a message from the EPA to two different officials in Rick
Snyder`s environmental agency. They`re dated last February, February 26,
2015. This is a little less than a year after Flint had switched over its
water. The EPA writes, quote, “The main purpose of my e-mail is to alert
you to the high lead levels reported to a citizen yesterday by Flint water
department.” The EPA says, quote, “This goes back to what you and I were
talking about yesterday, that the different chemistry water is leaching out
So, Rick Snyder`s government got that news from the federal EPA in
February and they did not say a word about it to the public for the better
part of a year. We knew that as of Friday. Now, there`s something new.
The McArthur Genius Award-winning drinking water expert from Virginia
Tech who dropped everything when he heard what was going on in Flint and he
drove 15 hours straight to start testing the water in Flint, that Virginia
Tech professor now says in addition to ignoring the EPA telling them what
was wrong, the state of Michigan under Rick Snyder also intentionally
withheld even its own data – the Snyder administration`s own data which
showed the levels of lead in blood tests in Flint going up.
The professor has now posted new documents that were obtained from
the state through the Freedom of Information Act request. Those documents
include this one from a Michigan state health worker who wrote to her
colleagues in July. Quote, “There does appear to be a higher proportion of
elevated blood levels last summer compared to usual.”
And again in September from another health worker, sounds like there
might be more to this than we learned previously. Yikes. Literally that
word is in the FOIA document. Yikes.
So, that was what was going on inside the halls of Governor Snyder`s
administration internally while the town of Flint was being poisoned and
while the governor and his administration`s public face was that everything
Back in March as they were coming up on a year since they made the
switch in Flint`s water, when Flint water was already showing signs of
being seriously dangerous and protests over the water had already started,
even though people didn`t yet know how bad the problem was, in march, this
past March, March 2015, the neutered little Flint City Council, one of the
vestigial reminders of elected representative government in the town of
Flint since Governor Snyder took away their local control, the neutered
city council voted 7-1 this past March that the city should undo the water
switch. They should go back to their old safe, clean water.
But the city council was just window dressing at that point. They
were just a reminder of what democracy used to be, because the real person
in charge of Flint by then was the emergency manager appointed by Governor
Rick Snyder to run the town instead of its elected officials. When they
took that vote to go back to their clean water source, the emergency
manager called that decision, that vote, quote, “incomprehensible”. He
said, quote, “It is incomprehensible to me that seven members of the Flint
City Council want to send more than $12 million a year to the system-
serving southeast Michigan. Even if Flint rate payers could pay it, water
from Detroit is no safer than water from Flint.”
Wrong! Wrong a billion times over. But of course, he was the
emergency manager. He got to decide what Flint did, not the just-for-show
city council. And, yes, so they may have voted to switch back and save the
kids of Flint, but that was dead on arrival with Rick Snyder`s emergency
manager who kyboshed the whole thing.
In this disaster, counting that guy, and the guy who signed the order
to switch the water and signed the assurance that the water from to the new
source would be safe, all in all, we have tracked three emergency managers
who had a role in this mess, all of whom replaced locally elected officials
and all of whom reported just to Governor Rick Snyder. Plus, there`s the
state environmental agency which reports to Governor Snyder. Plus, we have
the state health agency, which found evidence of elevated lead levels of
Flint human beings over the summer while the state publicly maintained that
everything was fine, everything was safe and anybody telling you otherwise
was a kook or a crank.
The boss of all of them, the one they reported to is Rick Snyder,
governor of Michigan.
The new mayor of Flint just decided to test to see what powers she
might still have in Michigan. She decided to declare a state of manmade
disaster, state of manmade emergency in Flint. That`s how she`s spending
her holidays. Her office tells us they`re currently working on a response
plan. They say they`ll try to get the most help for Flint kids and for the
town and they`ll have a better chance of getting that help if Governor
Snyder supports their disaster declaration because that could open the door
to federal help.
Governor Snyder`s office tells us they did send over some
representatives from the Michigan state police to talk to Flint about it.
They said they will closely with Flint now, and the governor`s office would
very much like us to mention the $10 million they allocated to try to fix
As for whether Governor Snyder is going to block or support Flint`s
declaration of a disaster, though, the governor`s office would only tell us
that so far, they have not received it. So, that`s word today from your
governor, Rick Snyder, Michigan. We will see what help you get.
And this is a Michigan disaster, but honestly it`s starting to feel
like it`s no longer Flint, it`s no longer Michigan waiting for his answer
on this anymore. It`s starting to feel like it`s the whole country. Watch
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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