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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/26/12

Guests: Alice Rivlin, Richard Rosenfeld, Heather Hurlburt

EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: Good to see you, too, Michael. Thank you very much. And thank you to you at home for sticking around for the next hour. Rachel has the night off, but we have big news out of Washington where nothing and I -- absolutely nothing is happening. The House, it is not in session, and as of this moment has no plans to be in session for the end of the year. The Senate is quiet and it`s been agreed nothing is stirring, not even Harry Reid. Yes, I`m still in the Christmas spirit. The president, meanwhile, is in Hawaii and won`t be returning until tomorrow. Now, normally nothing happening would not be big news in Washington. Nothing happening is kind of the status quo in Washington. Getting nothing done is to our political system as, I don`t know, saying "great" is to Tony the tiger. It`s just kind of what we do now. But, right now, this week, nothing happening is huge news. And the reason is that usually when Washington doesn`t do anything, nothing happens. If you do nothing, nothing happens. That`s how it goes. In fact, that`s why people call it doing nothing, because after you do it, nothing occurs. But not now. Not this week. If Washington doesn`t do something, a lot happens. All the Bush tax cuts expire, the payroll tax cuts expire. Doctors participating in Medicare see their reimbursements cut by more than 25 percent. Good luck getting a doctor then. More than a trillion dollars in spending cuts are triggered. Unemployment insurance runs out. The economy probably falls back into recession -- and, oh, merry Christmas and happy New Year from Washington to you, the American people. This basket of problems is what Washington calls the fiscal cliff. You`ve been hearing about what we should call for months now cliff, curve, bomb, crisis. We`ll talk a bit more about that later. You`ve heard a lot about whether or not it will matter. You`ve heard about the offers and the counteroffers President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner put on the table. In fact, beginning this week, if you live in the Washington, D.C. area, and you drink Starbucks coffee, you`re going to be at least reading about the cliff whether you like it or not. CEO Howard Schultz explained in an open letter today that "rather than be bystanders, we at Starbucks have an opportunity -- and I believe a responsibility -- to use our company`s scale for good, by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue. This week, through December 28th, partners at our Washington, D.C., area stores are writing `come together`" on customer`s cups." I am hugely in favor of this new Starbucks initiative -- I want you to know that. And not because I think writing come together on coffee cups will bring anybody in Washington together, I have very horrendously, embarrassing coffee order, and I`m hoping that when they write on my cup, they writer over the part where people read what I`m drinking and then judge me. But back to the deal-making, this is crunch week. And tonight, here on the show, I want to step back and give you five things to remember the next week. Think of it as fiscal cliff notes. All right. Number one, there is a giant misconception to clear up. A key mistake at the heart of it. The thing people call the fiscal cliff, it equals too much austerity too quickly. This -- it drives me up the wall. People seem to think the fiscal cliff is a problem of big deficit, the big CEO group is formed around the cliff is called Fix the Debt. If you take nothing else away from the show tonight, take this -- the problem with the fiscal cliff, the thing we`re trying to avoid, the actual danger to the economy, is that we will get too much deficit reduction too quickly, about $600 billion next year alone. That`s more than there is in Simpson-Bowles, more than in the Ryan budget, or in any of the Obama or Boehner budget proposals. If reducing the deficit was what the economy needed, we could just go right off the cliff and leave it there. You can see it in this graph. That line going down, that is the fiscal cliff. If we went over, our deficit problems, gone baby -- totally, totally gone. Our economy, probably in the tank. One thing the fear of the fiscal cliff shows, by the way, in the fox hole, everyone`s a Keynesian. Republicans, Democrats, everybody agrees, government spending, take it out, cuts jobs. Taxes, push them, it cuts jobs. And go the other way, and you increase jobs. We`re all Keynesians in a fox hole. So, that is number one -- too much austerity way too quickly. And here`s number two: President Obama is not asking for that much in taxes. It`s worth getting a bit of perspective in here. You`ll be shocked to know, we got a graph for that. Here`s what happens if we go over the cliff. You get more than $5 trillion in tax increases off the bat. And now, here`s what happens if we pass the sainted Simpson-Bowles plan. You`ve heard the Simpson-Bowles, the big bipartisan debt commission plan. They have $2.6 trillion in tax increases. President Obama`s latest offer to John Boehner has $1.2 trillion in taxes. That is half as much, less than half than, in fact, as Simpson-Bowles, and less than a quarter of what is in -- simply going over the fiscal cliff. Now, I think the tax increases in Obama`s offer are too little. But still, they are what they are. And it`s something to remember as we reach the edge and you hear a lot of complaints about the tax side of Obama`s offer. What he`s asking for in terms of tax increases is not that radical, it is way less than if we don`t reach a deal. OK, number three: contrary to what you may have heard, Republicans want to raise taxes too. I know, shocker, right? The superficial take on this, one that you hear a lot, is that the argument between Democrats and Republicans is between Democrats who love taxes, just want to tax everything. And Republicans who totally Grover Norquist taxes, they hate them. That is not true. To a degree that kind of disturbs me, actually, the two parties mostly agree on keeping the Bush tax cuts, up to $250,000 in income, which is a lot of income. Democrats and Republicans and Democrats want to keep all the Bush tax cuts. In fact, Obama offered up to $400,000 in income. That`s way more than 80 percent of all the Bush tax cuts. They agree on all of that, no argument. Where they disagree is Democrats want to raise taxes on any income over $250,000. And they`ll accept at this point $400,000. And Republicans, though, this is what people don`t always know, Republicans want to raise taxes too. But they want to raise them on poor people. They want to let the payroll tax cuts expire and the stimulus tax cuts expire. Those are tax cuts that are helping poor and middle folks. And Republicans want them gone. That will taxes on those people, a family making $60,000 will see a tax increase of almost $1,000. The White House opposes that tax increase. So, that is the shape of the disagreement on taxes. Democrats want to raise them on the rich. Republicans want to raise them on the poor. That is where the fight is happening. OK, here, number four. And I cannot emphasize this enough. It`s just important to step back and say it clearly. This is really stupid. It`s been four years since we had a terrible financial crisis. The economy remains very weak, the job market not recovered, Congress has literally set a trap for the recovery. Now, when they were setting that trap, they told us, don`t worry, they would disarm it, well before it ever became a problem. It`s just there to make them do something even better. But now, it seems like it`s going to become a problem. In a sane political world, here`s what we`d be doing right now. We`ve got high unemployment and we can borrow for nothing, less than nothing once you account for inflation. We`d be putting people back to work, rebuilding infrastructure, cutting taxes for businesses that hire people. Cutting taxes for middle class people generally, and investing in the future of the country, the future of our infrastructure and jobs. Meanwhile, we`d agree to a deficit reduction package that would trigger the moment unemployment fell below 6.5 percent. Instead we`re going to cut stimulus now, hurting the economy, not do enough deficit reduction from later, and maybe we`ll just hang for recovery along the way. (INAUDIBLE) guys, and by that, I mean terrible, terrible job. It`s just impossible to overstate how dumb this whole thing is. Which leads us to number five, the fifth and final thing to remember this week as we approach the edge. The thing you really need to fear, the thing that keeps me awake at night: fear of the debt ceiling. A lot of smart people argue about how quickly the fiscal cliff will damage the economy. We`ll talk a bit more in the show about what the timetable it might be. But here`s what you need to know. Tonight, the Treasury Department said on Monday, on Monday, they need to begin taking action to keep us from breaking through the debt ceiling. They can buy us about two months with the sort of tricks that they have up their sleeve. But if we waste that time, we get to the debt ceiling and we haven`t climbed back up the fiscal cliff and the Republicans begin playing games with the debt ceiling, maybe it will tip over, that would be fiscal suicide. We breakthrough the debt ceiling, we`re talking depression. Not a quick recession. It would be the single stupidest and most damaging act of economic sabotage in American history. And it cannot be allowed to happen. And here, hopefully to tell me why it will not happen is Alice Rivlin -- who probably knows more about the budget and the budget deals than probably anybody else alive. She was former President Bill Clinton`s budget director, she`s appointed to President Obama`s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. And she`s currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Alice, thank you so much for being here tonight. ALICE RIVLIN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Happy to be here. KLEIN: Now, as I said, you know much more about this than I do. So, you heard the intro. First, I want to ask you, is there anything you want to add or correct anyway you see the fiscal cliff that you think people should know about? RIVLIN: No, I thought your five points were good ones, especially the one about austerity, what we`re talking about now is doing something really stupid as you said, and letting the wrong policies go into effect. Too much deficit reduction, too quickly, and we could push the economy into a recession. That`s just dumb. KLEIN: It is very dumb. Now, you`ve been in many, many, many of these negotiations? You`ve been also in the backrooms of a lot of the ongoing negotiations now. Do you think they have any chance of getting a deal before the first of the year? RIVLIN: I`m always hopeful, Ezra, but I`m less hopeful as every day passes. The problem is the rhetoric that`s flying back and forth between Republicans and Democrats sounds like we`re still having an election that it never was over. I think that now -- now that we`ve had an election, and the American public has spoken, whatever they meant, it`s time for the politicians to get together, come together as Starbucks is saying, and get something done. Nobody`s going to get everything they want. But it`s so much more important to solve the problem than for one side or the other to get what they want or blame the other. The atmosphere is just wrong. KLEIN: When you -- when you hear the argument for going over the cliff, when it`s been told to me by both Democrats and Republicans, by actually some Republicans as well, they say that it would be easier to get a deal after January 1st, because taxes will go up, and anything they do is a big tax cut. Do you think that`s right? Do you think that we just need to wait this out and then it will happen quickly because the central political impediment would have been cleared away? RIVLIN: No, I think if we do go over the cliff or down the slope, that there will be every reason to get it done quickly, because people will be horrified at what`s happened. But I don`t think this argument that the taxes will go up automatically and, therefore, we can fool people into thinking that the same action that could be taken now and would be called a tax increase will be called a tax cut. That`s sort of too clever by half. KLEIN: When do you think -- you talked about the question, whether it`s a cliff or a slope, how quickly do you think the real economy will feel? The consequences of not coming to a deal? I mean, will it be a week, a month, two months, when will there be that kind of pressure from Main Street? RIVLIN: Nobody knows, Ezra, it isn`t just a question of how quickly the spending cuts go into effect or how quickly the tax increases go into effect. Those come in gradually and they could come in more gradually if the government officials thought there was going to be a deal and they better hold off. But the real uncertainty I think is what the markets will do. We look like a country that isn`t in control of its own destiny, because we`re acting that way right now. Now, if you`re an investor, whether you`re in some part of the United States or you`re in some other part of the world, do you really want to buy American securities? Do you want to invest in a country whose government isn`t functioning? I don`t think so. So, we could get a big market reaction, drop in the stock market. And that might scare people. KLEIN: How quickly do you -- sorry, go on. RIVLIN: But it would also be a bad thing. I mean, it would, in itself, contribute to the possibility of having another recession. KLEIN: How quickly do you think we`ll feel tremors from the debt ceiling now that the Treasury is beginning to talk about trying to avoid it? RIVLIN: Well, I think we`re seeing uncertainty about absolutely everything. It`s cumulative -- it`s the debt ceiling, it`s the fiscal cliff, it`s what taxes are going to be, it`s what spending is going to be. People feel uncertain and when they feel uncertain, they pull back. That`s a natural reaction, whether they`re investors or consumers. KLEIN: Alice Rivlin, thank you for your time tonight very much. RIVLIN: You`re welcome. KLEIN: As crisis go, you hope for the best and you prepare for the worst, right? Since the former is starting to not look so likely, the preparing for the worst options are beginning to ramp up double time. The emergency fail breakers, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Is there a new gun regulation that you could support? WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: I`ll tell you what would work right now. Tomorrow morning, and the NRA would be there every step of the way, if President Obama would walk in and tell the attorney general of the United States to tell every U.S. attorney, if you catch a drug deal on the street with a gun, I want you to persecute him, take him off the street. Violent felon, violent criminal, take them off the street. Look, if ever -- GREGORY: But there`s no new gun regulation you would support? LAPIERRE: This is what would work. If every U.S. -- GREGORY: Mr. LaPierre, I`m asking you a direct question. Is there any new gun regulation you`d be willing to support? LAPIERRE: I`m giving you the answer. GREGORY: No, you`re saying we should prosecute more criminals. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: Spoiler warning, Mr. LaPierre did not go on to answer the question directly. But we do know the answer. The National Rifle Association does not support any new gun regulations at all, period. End of story. Or at least end of the NRA`s story. The real story of gun violence and some things you probably don`t know about it is ahead. There`s actually some good news here, or at least promising news, scouts honor. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: News events need names, so we`ve got a shorthand way to talk about them. There are 1,000 names for the -- see? Before I choose a name, I can`t even tell you the thing I`m talking about, the fiscal stuff that`s going to happen at the end of the year. Congress doesn`t get its act together, and it will be bad. That`s not a great name. Congressional staffers tried to name it taxmageddon, which I like, but the problem was it`s not just about taxes. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, he kind of won the branding are actually, when he called it the fiscal cliff. Usually Federal Reserve chairman are not that quotable. But then, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said no, really, it`s not a fiscal cliff. It`s more of an easy slope, to which the Economic Policy Institute said, no, not a cliff, not a slope, not Armageddon, it`s a fiscal obstacle course with I guess a fiscal climbing wall, maybe a rope swing. First one to fall off the log gets voted off the island. I like to call it the austerity crisis because I think it`s accurate. But at a point I gave up on that and stopped trying to make fetch happen. You can go to Paul Krugman and call it the austerity bomb, tick-tock, tick- tock, with a hat tip to Brian Beutler of "Talking Points Memo," who first thought that one up. The point is, whatever you call it, the thing is bad. No one has suggested happy economic fun time because it would not be a happy economic fun time. The question is, how bad it will actually be. Even with the clock running down, even if the clock runs out. The federal government has a great deal of control over how much paint is spilt by whom and when. By choices within the government`s control, the fiscal cliff or slope or bomb could hurt a little or could hurt a lot, at least in the short run. That is up to the government and the choices the government makes for the first weeks or month or two at least. For instance, the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service, can decide what to do about how they treat the tax increase. The agency could delay increasing the amount it withholds from your paycheck each week assuming that Congress and the White House will reach a deal. That way, you wouldn`t notice the tax increase in law and hopefully it would be turned around before you did. Of course, if it didn`t get reversed, well, you`re going to get quite a bill from the taxman. Also, if we go over the cliff, and the spending cuts begin to take hold, the various agencies of the federal government can consider putting employees on furlough. Meaning those employees take unpaid days off. That`s considered a better alternative than layoffs, though, at some point, if we don`t get a deal fairly quickly, those furloughs will have to become layoffs, and that will mean real pain. The great question is how quickly that pain will begin. Would it hurt the real economy before we get a deal? Or the prospect of pain create so much political pressure that Congress will change course before things actually get bad, before we actually feel it. The strategy of the folks who want to go over the cliff, the theory that is behind that idea is that going over will create so much political pressure, so much political pain that we`ll quickly get a deal because congressmen won`t want to stand before that amount of political anger. It will happen before it causes much real damage to the economy, we won`t go over for long. It will be a week or two. That`s where these plans to blunt the impact could actually have a very unintended consequence, though. If they work well enough, they take away the pressure that is supposed to force a quick deal. That would drag this whole thing out, meaning more damage gets done to the economy in total. Over the past week, government agencies have been sending out memos like this one, from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The memo reassured staffers their jobs will not be in danger next week if we go over the cliff. It seems the agencies are preparing for a short run in which they shift funding around and delay making painful cuts until Congress gets it together. The contradiction here, of course, is if the pain of those cuts which is supposed to make Congress act doesn`t come, then perhaps Congress will not act. So, the government will wisely try its best to reduce the amount of economic turmoil we might see in the New Year, is potentially lessening the political pressure it needed to bring that turmoil to an end. Maybe the market or the CEOs will be scared enough that they will mobilize before the effects are felt on Main Street. Maybe they will force Congress to act before the public knows anything is really wrong. But maybe not. Eventually, if we go over the cliff, the government will not be able to hide the effect. Budget wonk Stan Collender told us today he thinks the White House won`t even want the agencies to hold out for very long, maybe just until the end of January. Quote, "They want someone to feel the pain, so they`ll make a deal," he told us. "If I`m trying to get them to reach a deal, I want defense contractors to start seeing their contracts have actually been cut." This is a dangerous game Washington is now playing with the economy. Both sides are preparing strategies in which they hurt the economy just enough to break the other party`s will, but not so much that matters get out of hand. It is a very delicate balance to strike. And this is not a Congress that`s proven so adept at delicate situations over the last few years. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: If my calculations are correct, and it looks like I did the work all right, you did not spend any time at all on Christmas Day or the day after thinking about the farm bill. If you did, maybe we can be friends, because you and I -- we get along, we know what is up. The farm bill is a big deal. Not just a policy wonks and the farmers, but to people who purchase and eat food, which might be you, particularly, if you purchase and eat dairy products, which might skyrocket in price. We`re talking $7 milk here, people. Which is why you may want to pay attention to tonight`s E.K. Challenge. Can we in two minutes or less, explain the farm bill and why it might totally mess up your grocery bill? Can we get the clock? We have the clock. All right. Here we go: The farm bill covers billions of dollars in farm programs. America needs a stable farm economy, which we currently kind of have. Congress always passes a farm bill or renews one that is already in effect. They do it, because if they don`t do it, the farm legislation lapses and we revert to farm laws from 1938 and `49. So, the Senate passed the farm bill months ago, but the House has not even voted on its version. Congress doing nothing about even the stuff everyone is paying attention to, not to mention being famously not in session, it seems highly unlikely the House is going to get it done in time. So, what? Here`s what, in one example. If there is no new farm bill six days from now, the government will have to abide by the provisions of a 1949 law regarding milk. That law would require the federal government to buy milk from dairy farmers at hugely inflated prices based both on 1949 era production cost and on adjustments for inflation since then. If that law takes effect again in 2013, the government will be forced to pay double what it currently pays for milk. For a short time, it will be awesome for dairy farmers. They can sell as much milk as they can to the government and make a ton of money. But even dairy farmers, or at least people who speak for dairy farmers in the media, know that the windfall will be bad news real quick, because the government run on milk will lead to shortages for people who buy milk at the grocery store or buy it to make dairy products like cheese, which is found on things like pizza. And the American people -- we love our pizza. The short supply of publicly available milk would drive up prices by as much as double. That would make a gallon of milk more than 7 bucks. And while I went to U.C.-Santa Cruz, go Banana Slug, and I can handle my soy milk, I don`t want it all the time. So, you`re right not to think about the farm bill over Christmas. Christmas is not about the farm bill, but New Year`s, you are going to want to be thinking about the farm bill over New Year`s. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: On Christmas, one day after a man in Webster, New York, allegedly set the house he lived in with his sister on fire, and then shout four volunteer firefighters who arrived (INAUDIBLE), killing two of them. The local police chief announced the gunman`s sister is likely a third victim of homicide. We knew the gunman`s sister was missing, she and the gunman lived in the house together but were not on good terms. Their mother lived there too until she died in October. Human remains were found in the home. Police believe they are those of the shooter`s sister, who was in her late `60s. There are no word yet on the shooter`s motives or how he got the guns. In the 1980s, he was convicted of killing his 92-year-old grandmother. And therefore, as a convicted felon, he was not supposed to be in possession of firearms. Among the weapons used by a shooter was a Bushmaster assault rifle. That sounds familiar. It is the same weapon used in the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. The two shooters had something else in common, too. Neither obtained their guns illegally. In Washington, we`re trying to figure out how to stop these massacres. One is far too many, and they seem to be a terrifyingly regular occurrence in our country. Still, these horrific events shock us so deeply because they remain, particularly compared to other kinds of violence, rare. And because the circumstances of mass shootings are each so specific, it is very difficult to make government policy to prevent them. Most of the policies we think about in the gun control space wouldn`t have worked. The federal private sales loophole often called the gun show loophole, though, it`s much bigger than gun shows, it is all private schools, should be closed. But there is no evidence the killers bought their guns at gun shows or through the loophole more broadly. Background checks should be stricter, but the guns used in western New York and Connecticut were not registered in the names of the shooters. Waiting periods make sense for gun buyers and particularly to prevent suicide. But, again, they would have had little effect on killers who did not purchase their guns through legitimate channels. The assault weapons rifle ban should never have been permitted to lapse. But if it were still the law, there`s little evidence that it would stop private killer, even forced them to use a different kind of gun. The ban was full of loopholes and any guns before it took effect were grandfathered in as fully legal. Taking large capacity magazines off the market, another feature in the assaults weapons ban, that would be a good idea. There`s not much evidence it would stop such violence at least not in the near term. Last time we tried it, manufacturer`s flooded the market with high capacity magazines before the ban went into effect, making it unusually easy for anyone to get one. Some gun enthusiasts have argued that if more people carried guns, these killers would have been swiftly stopped. In Newtown, the killer`s mother loved guns and was highly trained in their use. Those guns did not save her life or protect her. They caused her death. The country could surely do a better job providing mental health resources and de-stigmatizing treatment. But here`s also no evidence, at least not yet, that an inability or an unwillingness to get mental health treatment was a problem for either family. And we need to be very, very, very careful that we do not tip into profiling the mentally ill, who are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. Perhaps the wisest, single sentence I`ve read in the aftermath of the shooting came from Mark Klaidman (ph), a crime specialist at the UCLA. "Figuring out how to prevent another gun massacre or specifically the next gun massacre at a school is a classic case of solving the wrong problem," he wrote. "The right problem is gun homicide generally, or homicide generally." According to the Brady Campaign, in United States, more than 12,000 people die in America, 12,000, after being shot in a homicide each year. More than 18,000 kill themselves with a gun, almost 600 are killed in a gun accident and more than 66,000 are injured by guns. These traumas are sad but they are so common that they no longer have power to shock. But they do get to the truth of the underlying policy issue. We may not be able to stop every gun death, but there are lots and lots and lots of gun deaths that we can stop. And a deadly mass shooting like the one in Newtown is specific and idiosyncratic in ways that make it very difficult to confront through policy, the average gun death follows a much clearer pattern, a patter that better policy can quite reliably interrupt. When I asked to Klaidman about what we can do, he said he wasn`t the guy to ask. He said to call a criminologist named Richard Rosenfeld at the University of Missouri, at St. Louis. He joins us here tonight. Richard, it is good to see you. I appreciates you being here. RICHARD ROSENFELD, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, ST. LOUIS: Thank you, Ezra. Good to be here. KLEIN: Give me your three policies. Give me the three policies if the question is, how do we prevent gun deaths generally, that you would put into place first? ROSENFELD: If we`re talking about gun deaths generally, the first policy I would put into place is already in place in many cities in the United States, and I think should be spread even further. And that it often goes under the popular term hotspots policing. Policing has been shown to reduce what you referred to earlier as average gun violence if any gun violence could be said to be average. That is to say enhancing police patrols in those neighborhoods or even smaller areas of the city where gun violence is highly concentrated, typically during the night and evening hours, that`s been shown to reduce firearm violence and incidentally without spreading it to adjoining areas. The research literature is very clear on that, my own city of St. Louis recently implemented such a program and experienced very substantial declines in gun violence where the program was implemented. So, policy number one for reducing our largest gun violence problem, which is the problem of typically two young men in a dispute, one or both of whom are armed, one kills or severely injures the other. We do know how to reduce that problem. We`re not going to eliminate it, but it`s important to keep in mind that over the last two decades, firearm homicide notice United States has declined by roughly 50 percent. KLEIN: Right, it is a huge success story. ROSENFELD: It is a huge success story. We don`t know all the reasons for the decline. But in those places in which smart policing of the sort I described has been implemented, we`ve seen reductions, not simply in gun violence but in other forms of criminal activity as well. KLEIN: And how about policy number two? ROSENFELD: Policy number two has to do with our other gun violence problem. The problem we`ve been talking about over the last few days and indeed over the last year. And that`s the gun violence problem associated with the mass shootings. That`s a rather different problem. Smart policing of the sort I just described is not going to work as well because as you pointed out, mass shootings are rare, they`re not spatially concentrated. And so smarter policing -- KLEIN: You don`t mean all in the same city? ROSENFELD: They don`t occur all in the same city. They don`t occur in the same neighborhoods. They`re so rare, they don`t occur clustered anywhere, fortunately. There it seems to me restricting access to high-powered weapons and large capacity magazines is a necessary step. As you point out, it`s not going to lead to an immediate elimination or even, it seems to me, important reduction in the number of incidents. But overtime, I`m reasonably certain that it would lead to a reduction in the number of victims. We call these mass killings because of the number of victims involved. And if there`s less access to the kinds of weapons that show up disproportionately to these killings over time, there should be fewer victims. KLEIN: And we could have a tighter assault weapons ban going-forward as well. Richard Rosenfeld, criminologist at the University of Missouri at St. Louis -- thank you very much for your time tonight, and your work on this issue. ROSENFELD: Thank you, Ezra. KLEIN: You probably remember Jack Klugman. He was Oscar Madison on "The Odd Couple" and he was "Quincy", the most heroic medical examiner in TV history. But Jack Klugman was also the most heroic actor to play an American medical examiner in American political history. And that story, and it`s a great story, is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: Tonight, the state of Hawaii has itself a brand new United States senator-elect. Congratulations, Hawaii. A little more than a week ago, long time Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye passed away outside of Washington at the age of 88. His passing immediately kicked off a process to replace him in Hawaii, and it is a process that`s kind of unique to Hawaii. The law requires the state Democratic Party provides Hawaii`s Governor Neil Abercrombie with a list of three potential replacements for Senator Inouye. The three names they put together were current Democratic Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, a state official named Esther Kiaaina, and the state`s current lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz. Hawaii`s governor got to choose among those thee and tonight he announced his decision. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. NEIL ABERCROMBIE (D), HAWAII: I have informed the leadership of the United States Senate, spoken personally with Senator Reid, the majority leader of the United States Senate, that I have appointed Brian Schatz as the next United States senator from Hawaii. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: Brian Schatz, Governor Abercrombie chose his own lieutenant governor to be the state`s next senator. Brian Schatz is a former state representative. He`s a former chairman of Hawaii Democratic Party. And he was state chairman of President Obama`s presidential campaign back in 2008. His appointment is not without controversy. Senator Daniel Inouye`s last request before he died was that he`d be replaced by Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. Hawaii`s governor, however, chose to honor that request. Tonight, the Senator Inouye`s office released this brief statement. Quote, "Senator Inouye conveyed his final wish to Governor Abercrombie. While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the governor`s decision to make. We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck." According to White House officials, Brian Schatz will leave Hawaii tonight with President Obama aboard Air Force One, in order to be sworn in tomorrow evening in Washington. Yes, Brian Schatz has been promoted. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: You remember the whole Susan Rice fiasco a few weeks ago? We spent weeks arguing about who knew what over talking points someone else wrote when. Good times, right? Susan Rice ended up withdrawing her name from consideration for secretary of state before she was even nominated for the job. And President Obama nominated Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. No one expects his confirmation to be a problem. But during that whole Susan Rice fight, there was almost no discussion over whether she would have been good at the job. There`s not been much over whether Kerry would be better. These invented scandals can be obsessing, you spend so much time and energy running forensics on whatever idiotic claim is leading (INAUDIBLE). But by the end, you`re exhausted with the topic and you`ve learned nothing of value, and nor is the public. That I fear might be happening again with another high level cabinet post. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GREGORY: Senator Graham, final question, quick answer. Can Chuck Hagel become secretary of defense if he`s the president`s nominee? SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: A lot of Republicans are going to ask him hard questions, and I don`t think he`s going to get many Republican votes. I like Chuck, but his positions, I didn`t really quietly frankly know all of them, are out of the mainstream and well to the left of the president. I think it will be a challenging nomination, but the hearings will matter. SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), COINNECTICUT: If I were in the Senate on the Armed Services Committee, and he was nominated, I would have some serious questions to ask him. BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think Senator Hagel either will not be nominated or not be confirmed. He conceded in the Obama White House, he was a Republican, so Republicans will go for him. He was a Republican senator. But on foreign policy issues, especially in the last several years as a senator and since, he`s been way to the left of President Obama. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has been leaked not nominated -- leaked as a potential nominee for secretary of defense. And there was already a massive counter offensive against him. Now, to be fair, it does have more substance to it, than the attacks against Susan Rice, although a fair amount of that substance consists of insinuations that Hagel is anti-Semite. So, the sides are forming, there`s the Chuck Hagel defense corps and the anti-Hagel chorus of vitriol and assault. What is not happening as we go through to his nomination wars is just sitting back and asking the simple question, would this person make a better defense secretary than the alternatives, who are the other people up for the job? Would one of them be better? The front-runners for secretary of defense are Chuck Hagel, of course. Then there`s also Michelle Flournoy, who is very well-qualified. She served as undersecretary of defense for policy. She`s advised the defense secretary on national security policy and oversight of military plans and military operations. Also in the running is Ashton Carter, the current deputy defense secretary. Now, defense isn`t my issue, but I`d like to know, which of these people would do the best job. We keep skipping the interview process, going right to the smearing portion of the evening. But not here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. Tonight, we have someone who really knows these people and their records and the institution they might lead and she is going to walk us through the part that everyone else keeps skipping over. Joining me now is one of the smartest defense wonks I know, the executive director of the National Security Network, Heather Hurlburt. Heather, it is good to see you. HEATHER HURLBURT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Ezra, that`s quite an introduction to live up to. KLEIN: I`m sure you`ll do fine. So, tell me -- when you think of the defense secretary job, what is the job description? What do they actually need to be able to do well? HURLBURT: So, the next defense secretary is going to have to do three pretty hard things well. One is to lead the Pentagon out of Afghanistan, lead our military into redefining itself, what is it, what is it do, why do you join it? What do you serve in the post-post-9/11 era? Second, lead the Pentagon and the country through more defense spending cuts, which are coming, which the defense industry thinks everyone except the few Republicans in Congress think is coming. And third thing is to really to lead the nation through a discussion of what`s our military for in the post-post-9/11 era? What`s the role of counterterrorism? What are the limits of counterterrorism? What are we doing in Asia? How do we work with our allies and with China in Asia? Where has the Pentagon taken powers that maybe need to go back to the civilian agencies? Those are three enormous jobs they require you to work well with Congress, to work well with the defense industry, to be trusted by our men and women in uniform, and to have a really close relationship with the president. That`s a big job description. KLEIN: So if we take the sort of broad description then as guiding the Pentagon through that period, it sounds like retrenchment and reimagining. How do you see the strengths and weakness of the front runners? HURLBURT: Well, so the first thing to say about Senator Hagel is that he clearly has a very strong personal relationship with the president, which is something you really want. He`s also a decorated war hero, saved lives of his company mates in Vietnam and is really well respected by folks in the military, which matters, which matters a lot. Michelle Flournoy may be one of the pre-eminent defense intellectuals of our generation, and even before -- well, for her whole career, she`s been thinking about how do you re-imagine the military? How do you modernize the military? She`s held several big jobs at the Pentagon and is very well-respected. Ash Carter, currently the number two, he has actually spent the last few years wrangling with the defense industry and also with Congress. So he comes in with that kind of nuts and bolts experience of how to work through this period of reshaping. KLEIN: And when you think about Hagel`s personal views on Iran, because that`s, I think, the most substantive of the foreign policy critiques against him, what are they and do they matter for this job? Sometimes I hear him and it sounds more like a secretary of defense issue than a secretary of state issue. HURLBURT: Well, we have had, as you well remember, it has not been a year since the last time we had a manufactured crisis about going to war with Iran. So I would expect to at least have one other one during Hagel`s tenure. And his views which have been that we should exhaust negotiated options before we think of a military strike on Iran, and that, unfortunately or fortunately, depending how you look at it, but a military strike on Iran will not necessarily stop Iran`s nuclear program, and Hagel has been quite publicly skeptical about it -- a skepticism which is shared by the current secretary of defense and his predecessor and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Israeli military, and, by the way, the majority of the American public who only want a strike on Iran if they`re sure Iran has the weapon. So this notion that Hagel is outside the mainstream, he`s definitely not outside the Pentagon mainstream, not outside the American mainstream. He may be outside the mainstream in Congress, but Congress is its own animal. KLEIN: Heather Hurlburt, the executive director of the National Security Network -- thank you very much for walking us through this tonight. HURLBURT: Thanks for having me. KLEIN: Next up, a real-life medical triumph achieved by a fake TV doctor. This story is great, I promise. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: The actor Jack Klugman died this week on Christmas Eve. He was 90 years old. By the late 1970s to early `80s, he was already very famous for, among other things, playing sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison in a TV version of "The Odd Couple", and was starring his own hour long mystery series, about a medical examiner named Dr. Quincy. And he was in that role that Klugman became a pioneer in the use of celebrity on Capitol Hill. "Quincy" episodes were often ripped right from the headlines. So, when Klugman`s brother heard about a House sub-committee hearing on why pharmaceutical companies were not spending money on drugs for diseases, diseases that were named orphan diseases for this reason, because few enough people have these diseases, so drug companies saw no profit motive to try to cure them. So Klugman`s brother wrote an episode about it in 1981. The disease was correct. The episode was called "Seldom Silent, Never Heard." And the week after the episode aired, Jack Klugman was testifying on Capitol Hill himself in front of Congressman Henry Waxman`s subcommittee about how to convince drug makers to work on orphan diseases, despite the fact they would not necessarily get rich doing it in the private sector. Klugman`s presence got the hearing and the issue a huge headline in "The New York Times" and it got it attention and that freed the bill. The resulting bill was called the Orphan Drug Act of 1982. It offered drug makers incentives including a very big tax credit to pay for clinical trials. It made it profitable for them and it was popular. The bill passed the House, no problem. But according to reporter Joshua Green, co-author of a book with Congressman Waxman, the bill ran into trouble in the Senate at the hands of Senator Orrin Hatch, who for reasons reportedly having to do with senatorial perk stripped out the biggest incentive in the bill, the tax credit. So, what did Jack Klugman and his brother do? He and his brother produced another "Quincy" episode in which a fictitious holds up passage of a bill very much like the Orphan Drug Act of 1982. Until "Quincy" himself, with the help of a crowd of extras, and all these extras were suffering from orphan diseases in real life, go outside the Capitol and shamed the senator into giving in by protesting. After that episode, the real Senator Hatch, according to Green, gave in. What is now known as the Waxman-Hatch Orphan Drug Act became law. In terms that were not used in 1982, Jack Klugman pretty much rolled Orrin Hatch, not an easy thing to do. Ladies and gentlemen, you can behold the power of television. Jack Klugman lived a famous life that`s worthy of note. He didn`t just save lives on TV, he saved lives. May he rest in peace. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Don`t forget to check out my work at "The Washington Post" at Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END