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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/30/12

Guests: Ron Suskind, Maria Cantwell

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Have a great weekend, my friend. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: You, too. I will. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. And thanks to you at home for being with us on this fine Friday night. Do you remember the color-coded alert system we used to have? Remember that? Tom Ridge announced the existence of our national color-coded "be afraid" alert chart about a decade ago, in March 2002, so we could tell at a glance how alert we were supposed to feel. And if you didn`t feel like glancing at the be alert chart, at least a at the airport, they would read periodic recorded statements over the intercom telling you out loud that today`s threat level was orange. The threat level was always orange at the airport no matter what else was going on in the country. We don`t do that anymore. We don`t do that. We got rid of the color coded chart thing last year and nobody complained. We also no longer have this. This is the Google Street View of one of the secret prisons we used to have in Romania. "The Associated Press" did an overhead satellite view of it so you could see how snagged up our secret prison was against the railway lines in a really densely populated part of Bucharest. But, yes, that little thing there, that was ours. We are a country with 2 million people in prison or jail on any given day. America has thousands of prisons and jails here at home, but we decided to open up a little something in Romania, too, in secret. Also in Poland and a bunch of other places, we had secret overseas prisons. We don`t do that anymore either. They said they emptied them out in 2006. And then in 2009, it became official policy that we don`t do that anymore. For years, do you remember there was a ban on taking photos at Dover? A ban on taking photos of flag-draped coffins of Americans killed in war having their bodies brought back home to the United States. We the public were banned from seeing those pictures for years. But that ban is over now. We do not have that ban anymore. We don`t do that anymore. We are now allowed to see. For awhile, top level U.S. policymakers approved torturing people. And Americans did torture people based on cockamamie policy advice that it was legal for them to do so. But the current president, President Obama, put a stop to that right when he took office. We do not do that anymore. Some things we stop doing. Some things that we were told, yes, maybe this is unprecedented, maybe this doesn`t only seem like the kind of thing America does, but we have to do it. Some of those things from the past decade, what was really hard to get our heads around the fact that we were doing those things, some of those things are things that we have stopped doing. That said, some of the things we still are doing are still pretty hard to get your head around. We`re still fighting the longest war in U.S. history and it apparently still has two-plus years on the clock, unless the president spends up his withdrawal plan. It`s the longest war in U.S. history and for most of that war, we were fighting it at the same time as another one of the longest wars in U.S. history. If you had told anybody in advance of that plan, that that`s how our country would spend the first decade plus of the 21st century, you would have been laughed at. Before we started doing it, you probably could not have convinced anyone that after we closed our secret prisons in places like Romania and Poland, we would still keep one in a nearby communist country which doesn`t want us there. In advance of us starting to do this stuff, how would you have convinced somebody -- how would you have convinced somebody we were going to do these things? How would you convince somebody that the United States would consider it legal to find a wanted American citizen living abroad, track him down in that other country, and then for the U.S. government to kill him with a missile in that other country? The man`s father went to court in advance of our government doing that to try to stop the U.S. government from doing it. The father sued to say in advance that his son should be arrested instead of killed on the spot if he was found, but he was found and he was just killed on the spot with a missile, U.S. citizen. Then a month later, we killed his 16-year-old son too, also an American citizen. Same cause of death. We have done things in the past decade or so that if you asked anybody in advance of us starting to behave this way, whether the United States of America would ever be a country that behaved this way, there`s no way you could have convinced anyone. We granted ourselves permission to act this way when we said our response to being the victim of massive terrorist attack in 2001 is going to be that we were going to declare that we were at war. Congress passed an authorization of military force against the group that attacked us and associated forces. And the power granted by that authorization to use force undergirds a lot of the things we have done over the past decade, in this administration and in the previous one -- things that constitute unimaginable behavior for the United States of America. We`re on a war footing. And is that war footing forever? That`s the question, right? When does it end? It`s not a philosophical question. It is an empirical question because this is not a war that we ever planned on winning. We planned on just fighting it for awhile and eventually stopping, maybe. I`m not just saying that because that`s my take on it and I`m a commie, pinko liberal, although I am. I`m saying that because it`s been the understanding all along from the people who declared this war in the first place that this was never something we were going to know it was over because we had a winner. It was never planned that way. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: You said to me a second ago, one of the things you will lay out in your vision for the next four years is how to go about winning the war on terror. That phrase strikes me a little bit. Do you really think we can win this war on terror? For example, in the next four years? GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have never said we can win in four years. LAUER: No, I`m just saying, can we win it? Do you see that? BUSH: I don`t think you can win it. LAUER: Your daughters are how old now? BUSH: Twenty-two. LAUER: Twenty-two years old. They are approaching the age, President Bush, they`re going to have their own children. When their kids are teenagers, are they going to -- those kids, your grandchildren -- be reading about al Qaeda in the newspaper every day? BUSH: You know, I think if -- I know if we`re steadfast, strong and resolute and I say those words very seriously, it`s less likely that your kids are going to live under the threat of al Qaeda for a long period of time. I can`t tell you, I don`t have a definite end. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Definite end. I don`t think you can win it. Our country has used the idea that we are at war. Not just in Iraq. Not just in Afghanistan, but all over the globe. We have used the idea we are in this global war as the justification for us doing all kinds of things, and exerting all kinds of power that would otherwise be not just indefensible for a country with a Constitution like ours, not just indefensible, but almost unimaginable. In this global war of ours, they said from the beginning would not end because there was going to be a winner declared. There couldn`t be. It is not that kind of war. So, if that`s the case, and being in a war footing is what justifies all this behavior that we wouldn`t otherwise be participating in, when does this war end? When do we say that the global war that we declared more than 11 years ago is now over? Well, today, for the first time, a U.S. government official started talking about how this ends. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEH JOHNSON, DEFENSE DEPT. GENERAL COUNSEL: Now that efforts by the U.S. military against al Qaeda are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves, how will this conflict end? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is the top lawyer at the Pentagon. The general counsel of the Defense Department, Jeh Johnson, speaking today at Oxford University in Britain, broaching a subject that, as far as I know, nobody at a high level of government has been willing to officially broach since 9/11. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNSON: How will this conflict end? It is an unconventional conflict against an unconventional enemy and will not end in conventional terms. We cannot, and should not, expect al Qaeda and its associated forces to all surrender, all lay down their weapons in an old field or to sign a peace treaty with us. They are terrorist organizations. Nor can we capture or kill every last terrorist who claims an affiliation with al Qaeda. I can offer no prediction about when this conflict will end. Or whether we are as Winston Churchill once described it near the, quote, "beginning of the end," end quote. I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point -- a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al Qaeda, as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Approaching a tipping point. I just want to jump in for a second to say that this part here -- this is the unprecedented part. This is the part that we have been waiting for. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNSON: At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered a, quote, "armed conflict against al Qaeda and its associated forces." Rather a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the remnants of al Qaeda or are part of groups unaffiliated with al Qaeda for which the law enforcement and intelligent resources of our government are principally responsible. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It will, at some point, stop being war and will go back to being police work and intelligence work against terrorism as a threat that we fight, but we do not say we are at war with it anymore. How much would it change us back as a country to hit that point? Can we go back? Have we irredeemably and irreversibly changed ourselves by being at war for 12 years now? And is this first word on how we might do it enough to reasonably expect that we really are ever actually going to get there? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNSON: War violates the natural order of things in which children bury their parents. In war, parents bury their children. In its 12th year, we must not accept the current conflict and all that it entails as the, quote, "new normal." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is my friend, John Suskind. He`s Pulitzer Prize-wining journalist, senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics. He`s the author of many bestselling books, including "The One Percent Doctrine." Mr. Suskind, thank you very much for being here. RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR: My pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: Is there a window of political opportunity right now in Washington after this election to maybe change some of the very basic footing that we decided on after 9/11? Some of the stuff the president carried over from the previous president? SUSKIND: Indisputably. And that`s what people are hopeful about, working on this comment. It`s being pulled apart word by word right now, tonight, is this going to be a predicate, an opportunity for the president now that he doesn`t have to stand for reelection? To do some things people hoped he would have done in his first term. Certainly shut down Guantanamo was a big promise. He couldn`t manage it. He pulled back from that. There are clear issues here of the presidency hopefully snapping back into the shape it had prior to 9/11. That`s the hope of lots of constitutional scholars. It has not done that up to now. Most of the powers granted or obtained by the Bush administration have conveyed, if you will, to the Obama administration, with some caveats that you mentioned. So the question is, is this the beginning of the president creating I guess a new normal, as Johnson says, in which we are not in a state of war and the president is not executing war powers in a consistent and endless way? MADDOW: Ron, you are a student of leadership, both a student of good leadership and bad leadership. I feel like leaders good and bad can generally be counted on to never give up power that they have been granted. If this president does draw a hard line under the war, the war on terror and say the war is over and the powers that I have that were associated with this war are no longer the powers of this office -- I mean, is that -- is that a fantasy? Is this something you can imagine this president doing? Can you imagine any president doing it? SUSKIND: Well, you know, if he`s going to do it, this constitutional law president, it will be in this term. You know, it might be toward the end of his term. The issues, no matter what happens on some of these sort of legal sort of standards, the issues in a way don`t change. Small groups of people can get their hands on weapons that were once powerful and reserved for nations. That doesn`t change. That`s carried by technology and it`s one of the great perils of the modern age. Having said that, it`s clear that this president has thought a lot about how to establish that crucial principle. Rule of law dually designated to shape the U.S. policies. Now, here, let`s be clear on what`s at stake here. It`s not so much drone strikes. I think that`s been misinterpreted. The president under the powers -- the Article II powers of the president, can continue with essentially the kind of global war on terror, call it whatever you will, that he`s been conducting, especially with the drone strikes. What he can do is he can kill, but he can`t capture, interestingly enough under Article II. The big issue is Guantanamo, is that this particular pronouncement by Jeh Johnson really is about Guantanamo. Under the current legal framework that we`re looking at, Guantanamo, that won`t work if we`re not at war. They`ll have to come up with a different legal structure to make that operative. Now, certainly, Congress can do that at some point. But Guantanamo is the question mark based on what Johnson said. Maybe Johnson auditions for attorney general. You know, he`s out there in January. But it may be more than that, a predicate, a little bit of groundwork by this administration to say we`re thinking about this and this may be up ahead now that the president doesn`t have to stand for reelection. MADDOW: In terms of that as a predicate, maybe even a political predicate either for Jeh Johnson or for the administration as a whole, is there any significance in particular of him delivering this speech not in the United States? I mean, he did this speech at Oxford and did it right after the election. Do you see that as important? SUSKIND: Yes. You know, I think time and place is always important. The British have a bit of a different position than some of these things than we do. Actually, they are a little bit ahead of us, you might say, on some of the issues of detainees, of how we conduct ourselves globally. You know, look, I think we don`t really know here, Rachel, until we hear from the administration. This is raising a question. People are going to be pressing the administration saying can you give us specifics? Is this the start of a new way of thinking of policies that will be unfolding in the next couple months, let`s say? Or is this a trial balloon and you`re seeing how it looks and how people react to it and it may fall under the category of we`re trying, and here, you`re catching us trying, but not much is going to happen. Look, the fact is if there`s another terrorist attack in the United States, many of these issues go right back to where we were back to the restart button. And be clear, under the Article II powers of the presidency, this president can do a great, great deal, pretty much everything he does now and then some. The key issue is Guantanamo. Those prisoners, 166 prisoners including 50 hard-core, the president said we don`t know what we`re going to do with those people. They would be sitting without a legal framework if we pull back from this War Powers declaration from 2001. That`s a big issue. That`s a complex one. MADDOW: Ron Suskind, senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics, author of "The One Percent Doctrine" and many other books -- Ron, thank you. It`s great to have you here. Appreciate it. SUSKIND: My pleasure. MADDOW: All right. If you want to have a further gander of that speech from Jeh Johnson today, we`re posting clips from it at MaddowBlog.com, if you want to check that out. All right. So, you know the shady trickery from this year`s election about who would get to vote and how hard certain states were going to make it to vote this year -- all of that shady trickery is still paying dividends today, still. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the 2010 midterm elections, and all the excitement over Republicans taking over Congress that year, speaker of the House changing from Nancy Pelosi to being John Boehner instead. In the face of that big deal changeover after the 2010 elections, it was sort of overlooked for awhile that that election brought about an even bigger change outside of Washington. In the states, Republicans swept the power in state legislatures that year in a way they hadn`t done in ages. Republicans took control of more seats at the state level in that election than at any time since 1928. Their sweep in 2010 ushered in two years of Republican governance in the states that as much as anything else defined the Republican Party and what being a Republican stood for. So it was two years of rolling back abortion rights and stripping union rights and passing really hard line immigration laws and making it harder for people to vote, making it harder for people to register to vote. It was two aggressive, coast to coast years of Republican governance in the dates defining what it meant to be a Republican, in the way that the Republican Party`s national candidates sometimes tried to run away from. But ultimately, it ended being inescapable. The proof is in the pudding, right? We know what you will be like in power. We know what your party will be like in power because of how you have comported yourself with the power that you have already got. What happens in the states matters across the country, even in national elections. That was the legacy of 2010. This year, in 2012, overshadowed by the presidential election and the congressional results once again, this year again, something amazing happens in the states. In 2012, this past election, an avalanche of states that are previously been under divided government, with Democrats controlling one part of the government, Republicans controlling the other, those states have now moved to one party controlling everything. So, North Carolina, for example, the Republicans winning back the governor`s mansion there this year means that Republicans there will control the House and the Senate and the governor`s seat. In Minnesota, other direction. Democrats won back control of the House in Minnesota and the Senate there. And because they already held the governor`s mansion that means one party, Democratic control throughout that state next year. And so, it went across the country. In 2012, the parties consolidated powers at the state level in a way that is sort of without precedent in modern American history. Red states got really, really red; blue states got really, really blue. And it goes even further than that, because it`s not just one party rule, one party majority. It`s one party mega rule in a lot of states. Like take a look at California. Democrats don`t just have a majority in the California legislature now. They are going to have a super majority. Meaning that Republicans essentially don`t have enough minority power to stop anything the Democrats want to do. The same story in Indiana, but for the Republicans. Indiana Republicans will have a super majority in the House and in the Senate and they hold the governor`s mansion. Ditto Oklahoma. Republicans took a super majority and they turned it into a bigger super majority. This is what happened in 2012. Not just the disappearance of divided rule in the states, split rule between two parties, but the rise of super majority, one party rule. That is a position of immense power for whichever party it is that`s in control. They get to do what they want. If you think about it, you better trust those people because there`s no bulwark against them in these states. One state on the precipice of getting that sort of super majority status is the great state of Ohio. Heading into this year`s elections, Republicans in Ohio controlled the governor`s mansion, they controlled the House, they controlled the Senate. And in the Senate, Republicans currently have the super majority status. In the Ohio Senate, it is the Democrats -- there are Democrats there, but they are essentially powerless. And the Ohio House, Republicans are definitely in control there. They have the majority, but will they have a super majority there too? A reviewable, uncheckable mega majority that lets them rule at will? They might. They are one seat away from that in the Ohio House -- one seat away from giving Republicans total unobstructed control, rendering the Democratic Party and state government there essentially moot. They only need one House seat in order to get that. And right now in Ohio, there are two House seats that have not been called, that are too close and have gone to a recount. If Republicans win both seats, Republicans will have, what`s a nicer way to say a death grip on power in that state? How are those races going to be decided in Ohio? Remember this guy? Yes, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted of Ohio. Jon Husted you may recall worked tirelessly leading up to this year`s election to try to limit the number of days with early voting in the state. Early voting, of course, tends to favor Democrats. He attempted at one point to make it so Republican-leading parts of the state would have more of an opportunity to early vote than Democratic- leaning parts of the state. But the other thing Jon Husted did was fought up until Election Day to make it easier for him to throw out provisional ballots. Provisional ballots basically ballots that are put aside because there`s so question about that voter`s eligibility or where they are voting. And in the two House races that have yet to be decided, guess what it`s coming down to. Look at this one, in one of the races, it`s 14 votes that separate the two candidates -- 14 votes between them. And in that race, the number of provisional ballots that Secretary Jon Husted has ordered be thrown away is 114. That might make a difference. And in the other House race that has gone to a recount, the candidates are separated just by this tiny margin of 119 votes. Guess how many provisional ballots Jon Husted wants thrown out? More than double the margin, 270. In those two races, Ohio Democrats are now alleging that those provisional ballots, which could decide these two races and thereby decide whether or not the Ohio Republicans have a super majority rendering Democrats moot in the state, Ohio Democrats are alleging that those provisional ballots are being thrown out illegally by Secretary of State Jon Husted. Democrats say the ballots are being thrown out, quote, "in violation of federal law". These races are so close right now their outcomes will determine the balance of power. They will determine if Republicans in that state have a veto-proof super majority that renders Democrats irrelevant. And that question is hanging on those provisional ballots that Democrats say the Republican secretary of state is having thrown out illegally. Ohio Democrats are now suggesting they are going to sue over what`s going on there right now and you can understand why they might. Any power they hope to have in the state depends on it. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The 80th Congress of the United States did very little. It got very little done. Little enough that when President Truman called it the do-nothing Congress, everybody agreed and decided to call it that forever after. Look up do-nothing Congress. It`s in the index of your high school history book. I swear. It starts with a "D." The 80th Congress, which changed the course of American political history by famously doing nothing, was like an auto plant working at full capacity boom economy, three-shift capacity, compared with the current Congress which is just now sputtering to its end. And wait until you see what the new incoming Congress has in store for itself. What we have just learned about what the new Congress plans for itself will make you want to be in Congress, even if nothing else in your whole blessed life has ever made you want to be in Congress before. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s a school of not so much political science, as sort of political pseudoscience, that says what the price of gas is determined what happens in our national elections. Now, it is not necessarily true. It`s the kind of correlation that sounds really compelling but the more facts you look at the correlation is not really borne out over time. Still, everyone says, sometimes that it`s true, it`s one of those things that gets passed on as if it`s a political science truth that people like to believe in, whether or not it is true. And in Newt Gingrich`s slow run at the presidency this year, it seems like Mr. Gingrich maybe got enamored with the fake political science wise tale. I think he thought he could reverse-engineer it by making his presidential campaign about gas prices for a while, thereby creating the impression nothing voters that gas prices might go down under him if he were elected president. That Mr. Gingrich`s planned road to the White House for awhile. That road did not lead to the White House. It didn`t even lead to a FOX News gig, apparently. What is Newt Gingrich doing now anyway? Gas prices are not just politically salient because of his cockamamie theories. Gas prices are politically salient because they are so salient to our economy. More than any traded commodity, the price of gas has a direct impact on how much pocket change Americans have to save or spend on anything else. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: People are not happy this morning that gas prices are going up once again. In fact, many people are flocking to places like this (INAUDIBLE) here in Davis to find the cheapest gas prices around. Right now, a gallon of unleaded is going to cost you $4.13. Last week, gas jumped as much as 16 cents at many gas stations in California. And prices are expected to go up another 20 cents in the next few days. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Gas prices go up and down, right? There`s supply and demand. But every once in awhile, like you saw in that report there, there`s really dramatic spike. The weird thing about that particular gas price spike in May that sparked that news report was that that gas price spike was really isolated. Gas prices went way up in California, even as gas prices everywhere else were going down. And at the same time that gas prices were going way up in California, crude oil prices were going down. And even weirder, gas inventories were plentiful. Gas inventories were going up. There was more supply. There was a lot of gas around. So, then why would it be getting more expensive? We were told is that it was refineries -- refineries were the problem. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Last week, gas jumped as much as 16 cents at many gas stations in California. And prices are expected to go up another 20 cents in the next few days. A petroleum analyst says refineries are at its lowest level in 20 years in several of California facilities that make clean burning gas. We`re also dealing with repairs and maintenance issues. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Repairs and maintenance issues at the refineries. So crude oil prices are down, plenty of gas in the inventories, but these refineries -- California refineries were not working at capacity because of repairs and maintenance issues. And so, California was getting a giant price spike. The biggest gasoline market in the nation had its prices going way up. They`re going down everywhere else, but up in California. That`s what we were told. It`s the refineries. But there was no real reason to question it when we were told, right, because this sort of thing has happened before. A Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, caught fire in 1989. Flames shot 100 feet in the air. Seven people were injured. Gas prices in the area spiked right away. And people blamed the fire. The fire slowed supplies to retailers by 25 percent. Gas prices in California went up. Refinery goes down, prices go up. March 1999, same refinery, another huge explosion. It was the second refinery fire in the state that month. You guessed it. After that conflagration, gas prices went up in California. Of course, they did. Just this past August, this August, same refinery in Richmond, California, caught on fire. Nobody was killed, thank goodness. But people in the area were told to stay in their homes with their doors and their windows closed. Drivers were told to close their windows, too. Four train stations were shut down. And you guessed it -- gas prices went up. You notice a trend here? That one refinery, that Chevron refinery in Richmond that has spent the last 25 years catching on fire over and over and over again, that`s one of the refineries we were told in May with that mysterious price spike, we were told in May that that refinery was offline. So, oh, that`s why we had the price spike. The other one was this one, the Royal Dutch Shell refinery in Martinez, California. We were told they were offline for maintenance. So these two refineries being down, well obviously then your prices are going to go up. That`s what drove up the gas prices in California, despite all the other factors saying that prices shouldn`t have gone up. That was in May. And people in California were obviously prepared to accept that explanation. History had prepared us to accept that explanation. However, check this out. Earlier this month, McClatchy news service got its hand on a report that looked at environmental documents, thousands of environmental documents from a point in time when those refineries were supposedly offline. Down for maintenance work, right? Well, here`s out McClatchy describes the reports` findings. This is amazing. Quote, "In May, a time when Royal Dutch Shell`s plan was reported to be down for maintenance for two weeks, it appears to have been making gasoline for at least half that time. State environmental records show. Nitrogen oxide emissions have returned to normal at the refinery, a full week before it was reported to have come back on line." Really? "Similarly, Chevron`s Richmond refinery was reported down for maintenance for two weeks in May, right, that`s what we were told, but emissions data suggests the refinery never ceased operation." Shell`s refinery in Martinez and Chevron`s in Richmond, they were supposedly offline not making anything. So, gas prices had to go up, but at least one report concludes actually they were up and running. What, they just didn`t want to say so? Everybody knows how supply and demand works. But in this case, if supply and demand do not explain what was going on here, that`s a scandal that had a huge economic impact. Were the companies lying about this just to boost prices up and pocket the difference? Does this happen all over the country? What`s going on here? And what tools do we have to figure it out if we`re being suckered? It turns out we do have a tool. It lives in the Department of Justice. Six Western senators are calling on the Department of Justice to conduct a refinery by refinery investigation of what happened during that gas price spike in May. And another one that happened in October. Is the energy industry snookering us and will they get caught if they are? Joining us for the interview is Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington state. She`s chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy. She`s been leading the charge for calling for this investigation here. Senator Cantwell, it`s nice to have you here. Thank you for joining us. SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Rachel. MADDOW: Let me ask in my layman`s summary of that discussion, both the supply and demand factors at work, but also what might have happened around may they get the basics of that right? Is that basically the situation? CANTWELL: Rachel, I`m convinced that Maddow matters, that you drill down on the substance of these issues and that`s exactly what we need the Department of Justice to do. MADDOW: What was it about the price spike in May and then again in October that seemed suspicious to you? Is there something that tipped you off to start questioning whether or not that was a legitimate price spike just explained by supply and demand? CANTWELL: Well, my constituents tipped me off that they were frustrated gas was going towards $5. What they knew is that one refinery went down, but why was everybody else saying that they were offline or a lot of the market response basically saying the price spike was caused by a shortage? Well, you outlined how inventories and supply were there. So, supply and demand didn`t seem to really be the issue. So our question is this: did these entities create the perception of an artificial shortage and thereby drive up the price of gasoline? That`s what we want the Department of Justice to investigate. We want the FTC and the Department of Justice to be the policeman on the beat on something so important as gas. As you said, it`s like the lifeline of an economy. If you affect it by that price spike, it really does affect day to day consumers and our economy and jobs and everything else. MADDOW: Do you believe that the Department of Justice is capable of mounting this investigation in a rigorous way? That they have the tools that they need? Do they have a track record of investigating stuff like this well? CANTWELL: Do they have the tools they need. Why we`re asking the Department of Justice to be involved now, in addition to the FTC, is that the investigative arm of the Department of Justice can marry up with the regulatory authorities in agencies like the Commodities Future Trading Commission have or other agencies and do a comprehensive approach to get all the data. And, yes, this task force existed before when it tried to tackle the Enron problem. Another area of energy, electricity, but an area where we saw a lot of the same schemes being perpetrated on the public, you know, by people moving supply around or creating images about supply that really weren`t true. And in this case, it appears that there`s some evidence that we want them to investigate. The fact that while they said they were down, emissions were coming out of these facilities, which would lead you to believe they were actually producing supply. MADDOW: We contacted the Western States Petroleum Association today to get their response to this, to the McClatchy report and also to this call for the investigation. They told us, "If the Department of Justice or any other agency elects to investigate gas markets on the West Coast, we`re confident the investigation will reach the same conclusion that dozens of other investigations over the past few decades have reached that gasoline and diesel prices in the West Coast are determined principally by supply and demand." They also said the author of the report, who I cited here, they said that he is not an expert in the oil industry and clearly does not understand refinery operations. His report contains many suspicions and theories, but doesn`t prove anything. Let me get your response to that remark from the Western States Petroleum Association. CANTWELL: Well, there`s a lot to cover there and let me just say this -- that there is a new law on the books of the last few years that basically says that it is against the law to have any manipulative devices or contrivances as it relates to moving oil supply. This is a relatively new statute. It`s not the issue of whether the oil companies got together in an antitrust conspiracy to set pricing. This is about whether somebody, as I was saying before, created the image of an artificial shortage just to drive up price. And the reason why that law was passed is because we saw too much going on in our energy markets -- something that`s so critical to our economy -- that we wanted to have a tougher regulation on the books. So this authority has been used in electricity and natural gas and a federal agency overseeing those entities have instigated over 100 -- I think 107 cases and have had hundreds of millions of dollars of fines against companies who have had bad practices. So, we`re asking that the FTC and DOJ use the power that`s in statute, although relatively new to do that kind of policing in these energy markets. And to Mr. McCullough in Oregon, we couldn`t thank him enough in the Northwest, because when the federal entities in charge of electricity failed to investigate fully the Enron case, Mr. McCullough provided crucial evidence by investigating tapes and documentation on behalf of our utilities in the Northwest that proved successful in saving our consumers over $1 billion. So I could tell you, he`s done great work before. And he`s a first to admit that what we really need now is the Department of Justice to use their full power and get to the bottom of this. MADDOW: Senator Cantwell from Washington state, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy -- thank you for helping us to understand this. Please keep us apprised as this goes forward. I really appreciate it. CANTWELL: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. I should also say, manipulative devices or contrivances was the name of my band in high school. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY LENO, TV HOST: Tell me if this is a problem. Here are the GOP committee chairs. Show that picture. Every one is a middle aged white guy. OK. Is there a diversity problem in the Republican Party? NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: The fact is, that picture by definition, is not helpful. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mr. Gingrich, I agree. That picture is not helpful if you are a member of the Republican Party. A party that just got shellacked in the most recent election, among any voters who were not, themselves, middle-aged white guys. It turns out there`s a whole bunch of those voters. It is not helpful for the Republicans for the country to see a picture of the 19 Republican congressmen elected to chair all of the Republicans` congressional committees this next year -- 19 committees, 19 white guys, some of whom defeated Republican women members of Congress who wanted those chairmanships. But Republicans gave it to the guy instead. Like for example, Congresswoman Candice Miller. She`s a representative from Michigan`s tenth district. She`s a Republican. She wanted to be picked to chair the House Homeland Security Committee. She was a member of that committee. Her party said, no, she was not picked. They picked a guy instead. And not picking of women set off a kind of amazing attempt at damage control in the House, much of which was conducted by Republican congresswomen themselves. And ultimately, they set their hopes on the fact that there were still two committee chairs to be doled out. Nineteen committees had been assigned to 19 Republican men, but there were two more committees where the chairmanships were doled out by the speaker of the House, himself. So maybe he`d pick a woman for those committees, right? The problem of course is that in this upcoming Congress, there are zero Republican women serving on either of those two remaining committees that are still looking for a chair. So how could you put the chair to the committee when there`s nobody in the membership -- who`s Speaker Boehner going to put in charge if there are no Republican women on those committees? I mean, has that ever been done? Has the speaker ever taken somebody who is not a member of the committee and made them the chair of that committee? Has that ever happened? We have been digging around for an answer to that all day. And the answer appears to be, never, at least not since the 19th century when committees were assembled in a very different way than they are today. That`s what makes today`s news so interesting because House Speaker John Boehner announced today that he did find a gal, Congresswoman Candice Miller, he`s decided to put in charge of not the Homeland Security Committee -- no, the House Administration Committee. So the woman who wanted to chair Homeland Security and was on that committee, instead, got a consolation prize. She`s going to be chair of a committee she hasn`t been on before, a committee that among other things oversees the House cafeterias. So, this not helpful picture is now, if I have done the math right -- suddenly 105 percent more helpful. Look, diversity. And Speaker Boehner has one more chairmanship to bestow yet. There could be more unprecedented diversity to come. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Harry Truman`s 1948 reelection campaign had all of the hallmarks of failure. Two years earlier, his Democratic Party lost house of both parties of Congress. His legislative agenda was stalled. One of the guys who used to serve in his cabinet announced he`d run against his former boss as a third party candidate. Truman`s approval ratings were bottom of the barrel low. Things were not looking good. He expected to lose his bid for reelection. The Chicago "Daily Tribune" went so far as to print a headline saying he did lose his bid for re-election. But Truman won, and Truman won in part he`d run his campaign not just against his Republican challenger but also against that Republican Congress. At his nominating convention that year, President Truman delivered one of his most fiery speeches ever. He called the Republican-controlled Congress the do-nothing Congress and he called on that do-nothing Congress to return to Washington to a special session to finally do its job and pass legislation -- thank you very much. After that fiery convention speech, Congress did come back for a special session and they still did nothing. And President Truman, therefore, continued to call them the do-nothing Congress. And he railed on them about it on the campaign trail. And that campaign trail led him all the way back to the White House for a second term. 1948, Harry Truman talking about and criticizing the 80th Congress. This Congress, the one in Washington today is the 112th Congress. Here -- that is Truman`s Congress with the red arrow there. That`s the one they couldn`t get anything done. That was terrible and hapless and unpopular that Truman was able to run an otherwise hopeless campaign against them and win. The graph shows how much legislation was passed by that Congress, right? That was history`s do-nothing Congress. Here`s our current Congress, the good old 112th. Here`s our current Republican-led Congress. Truman`s Congress passed a meager 900 or so bills. Our Congress passed fewer than 100 -- the weakest most anemic record on record for any Congress ever. Since the congressional clerk started counting the number of bills passed, no Congress has accomplished less than John Boehner`s Congress. You know what? It turns out people still care, just like they did in Truman`s time. The esteem the American people have for Congress right now is mired in the low double digits. So there are still a few more days left in the 112th Congress. But they have set a new mark for congressional uselessness. The good news is nowhere to go but up, right? Maybe not. Today, the Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor released the new House calendar for next year for the next Congress. And if you`re hoping for a little more production next year, compared with this year, look -- 365 days on the calendar next year. Republicans have decided to give themselves 239 days off including the weekends. They`ll only be in session for 126 days, roughly a third of the year. That`s it. The other two-thirds of the year is reserved for time not spent at work. There are three months next year when the House will be in session for a grand total of eight days. So if you liked the do-less than the do-nothing Congress we`ve got this past year, you are going to love the next Congress, next year. Don`t blink because you might miss them. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Have a great weekend. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END