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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/16/13

Guests: Cory Booker

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. Thank you my friend. Appreciate it. SCHULTZ: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour. On the morning of January 18th, 1989, that was a Wednesday morning, this is what America woke up to. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NBC news at sunrise with Deborah Norville. DEBORAH NORVILLE, NBC NEW CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. In Stockton, California this morning, officials still have no clue as to why a gunman sprayed an elementary school playground with automatic weapons fire. He killed five children and wounded 32 others before he took his own life. More from NBC`s David Burrington. DAVID BURRINGTON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: All of the dead and most of the wounded youngsters were from Southeast Asia, children of refugees. Authorities have been hard pressed to explain how such a tragedy is possible in this country. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The five kids who died in that mass shooting back in 1989 were all between the ages of six and nine. The gunman was a 26-year-old man who killed himself on the scene that day. The weapon he used on that Stockton, California schoolyard, almost 25 years ago, was an ak-47 assault rifle. The country was shocked by what happened that day in Stockton. Less than two months after that happened, the then president of the United States, George H. W. Bush, Poppy Bush, took executive action as president to ban the importation of some semiautomatic weapons. Weapons that could be considered assault weapons. Guns that he determined were not suitable for sporting purposes, which meant the president had the power to block them from being imported. President Bush had the power to do under the gun control act of 1968 which said and says that foreign-made weapons could only be imported to this country for civilian use if that civilian use was generally recognized as being a sporting purpose. It was already the law, but he took executive action under that law to ban the importation of specific weapons. The gun control act of 1968 that gave him that power was passed in the wake of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. And it is what gave George H. W. Bush to take that executive action that he took banning some rifles. In 1989, two months after that schoolyard massacre in Stockton, California. Years later in 1998, President Clinton followed in his predecessors` footsteps. Under that same existing federal 1968 law, President Clinton in 1998, took executive action as president to ban the importation of more than 50 different kinds of semiautomatic assault weapons. This was in addition to what Poppy Bush had done and it was in addition to the assault weapons ban that President Clinton had signed after passed through Congress four years prior. This was further action taken by the president alone in 1998. He joined Poppy Bush as being a modern president who took executive action to ban the importation of certain kinds of guns. Well today, President Obama became yet another modern president to use his executive authority for reform of gun-related laws or at least gun related practices. President Obama today did not use his authority as president in oust specifically aggressive away as his predecessors did. And I mean that in this sense. None of the executive actions that President Obama did today have anything to do with banning specific weapons, banning the importation of specific weapons the way that previous presidents did. What distinguishes what President Obama did today is the breath of policy changes that he enacted and that he proposed. He has proposed a policy changes on school safety, on mental health treatment, on existing background check system that we already got in this country. And, yes, on some access to some specific types of fire power in this country. But that is just one part of this very broad-based package of things that he has proposed. And that is what is ground breaking today. It is the breath of what he has proposed. It is that he has gone wider than any other president, not that he has gone farther than any other president toward restricting certain guns, he has gone wider in terms of his ambition in tackling this problem holistically. Now, many of the executive actions the president proposed today are being denounced as tyranny on the right, but there are things like publicizing or reminding relevant stake holders in the country about laws that already exist. President, for example, will ask the ATF to send an open letter to licensed gun dealers giving them guidance on how best to facility background checks, if they choose to. The department of health and human services will write a letter of the healthcare providers making sure that everybody knows that under existing law, mental health professionals can report people who may pose a direct and credible threat of violence. It is OK to do that already under existing law. One of the president`s executive actions today calls for a letter to remind everybody of that existing law, otherwise known as tyranny. Impeach him. The president`s announcement today was not just executive actions, it was also calling on Congress to pass legislative members. So, some of the areas so much the president wants change includes some executive action, some of it is congressional action he is proposing. For example, he`s calling for the department of justice to provide incentives under the existing cops program for police department to hire school resource officers. That means officers who are specially trained. That encouragement will happen from the justice department and the president can order that happen as a matter of his executive authority. But, at the same time, he`s also asking Congress for something. He`s also asking Congress for $150 million for school districts and law enforcement agencies so that they can spend the money to hire resource officers and psychologists and counselors. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As soon as I`m finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence. We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: For the record, that is kind of what the NRA has been demanding remember the NRA came out after Newtown demanding that there must be armed officers in schools. They put out a scary sci-fi style four- minute video today demanding that there will be more armed officers in school. And then, President Obama calmly today said, yes, sure. If schools want to have more armed officers in school, sure, they can do that. We`ll just have to do a whole bunch of other things, too. But your idea? Sure, that`s something we can do. In response, the NRA is telling its members that they will stand and fight. That this will be the war of the century between them this president who just said yes to what they want. Whew, we got what we wanted. Those bastards, tyranny, and pigeon. MADDOW: It took vice president Joe Biden less than one month to meet with 229 groups, not 229 people, 229 groups in the process of coming up with this menu of options from which President Obama assembled this plan today. And the speed of this effort continues to outpace even the administration`s own expectations. Remember, the president said he wanted recommendations from the vice president by the end of this month. It`s not the end of the month yet. Vice president Biden initially said, actually, you won`t get them at the end of the month. You`re going to get them early. You`re going to get them half way through the month. You are going to get them on the 15th. He then turned his recommendations in early. He gave President Obama his recommendations on the 14th. And now, today, the 16th, based on what the president outlined today, legislation is due to hit Congress next week, even before the time that President Obama initially said he just wanted to start considering what the recommendations might be. By that time, the Senate is already due to have started hearings on not just recommendations, but actual legislation that they are putting forward. The political common wisdom, of course, which I think is probably true is that speed is of the essence here in terms of the political will to get anything done. It has been one month and two days since the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. And the sense of urgency that there must be a response to that tragedy, maybe things with each passing day, that at least what we worry. But the president today made the case for acting quickly, not on political ground but on humanitarian grounds. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun, 900 in the past month. And every day we wait, that number will keep growing. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president speaking today to the urgency of the matter. What the president proposed today ended up taking Washington by surprise. Took political observers by surprise. Generally speaking, people in Washington has an expected him to factoring into his proposals, the widespread Washington cynicism that nothing can really be done on this issue. They expected him to in low, try for something very small, very non controversial and very specific so we can call it a win and then move on because you can`t really do anything in this issue, not really. The president did not do that. The president proposed not the most aggressive gun regulation that we had ever have proposed in this country But he proposed the most wide-ranging, most holistic, most comprehensive approach to the overall problem of gun violence that we have in this country. And the accommodation that he made in his remarks about the political realities of this issue were not about how hard it is to get it done because of the other side. They were not about the self-proclaimed, self fulfilling cliche prophecy of the gun lobby`s power to stop anything from happening on this issue. The political dynamic to which the president paid tribute today was not the NRA is so powerful. A gun lobby wants to stop us. What he paid tribute to today was the power of the American people to influence Congress to say yes to some things that even Congress is not inclined to say yes to for other more craving reasons. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The only way we can change is if the American people demand it. And by the way, that doesn`t just mean from certain parts of the country. We`re going to need voices in those areas and those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important. This will not happen unless the American people demand it. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsman, if responsible gun owners, if American of every background stands up and says enough, we suffered too much pain and cared too much about our children to allow this to continue, then change will come. You know, in the letter that Julia wrote me, she said I know that laws have to be passed by congress. But I beg you to try very hardly. Julie, I will try very hard. But she`s right. The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote and the American people need to make sure that they do. Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if they say no, ask them why not. Ask them what`s more important. Doing whatever it takes to get A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns or giving parents some piece of mind when they dropped their child off for first grade. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: First grade and let there will be no doubt. That President Obama sees the moment of political possibility here has been created by the country`s conscience being shocked by what happened at Newtown. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: And when I visited Newtown last month, I spent some private time with many of the families who lost children that day: and one was the family of Grace McDonald. Grace`s parents are here. Grace was 7-years-old when she was struck down. Just a gorgeous, caring, joyful little girl. I`m told she won`t pick. She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a painter. And so, just before I left, Chris, her father, gave me one of her paintings. And I hung it in my private study just off the oval office. And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace. And I think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her. And, most of all, I think about how when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now, for Grace, for the 25 innocent children and devoted educators who have so much left to give. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Because of that tragedy in Newtown, we all knew that the president would be making proposals today about reform, about guns and gun legislation included in that reform. We did not know that what he was going to propose would be something this week. Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The vast majority of Americans support common sense gun regulations. And, clearly, the White House was listening. On the legislative side, we asked for background checks for all gun sales and that is in the president`s plan. We asked for restrictions on military style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, and that`s there as well. We asked for tougher penalties for gun traffickers. It`s in there. On the executive side, we urged him to appoint an ATF director, increased prosecutions for those who lie on background checks, direct federal agencies to fill in the gaps on the background check data system and remove restrictions on gun violence date and research. And the president is doing all of those things. CLIP MADDOW: All of those things. Mayor Bloomberg has been a rather pungent critic of President Obama specifically on this issue. Not after today. Mayor Bloomberg, of course, is the founder of mayor`s against illegal guns. He`s mayor of America`s largest city. And today, he thanked President Obama and vice president Biden for surprising everyone with the breath of their reform recommendations for combating gun violence. The recommendations included and even went beyond the seven-step plan that this mayor`s group has been pressing for. One of the highest profile members of that group mayor is leader of New Jersey from largest city, Newark, New Jersey is Mayor Cory Booker. Mister Mayor, thank you for being here. CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY MAYOR: Thank you too. It`s actually a historic night to be here. I`m great and be honored. MADDOW: You said when you sat down, this was the Barack Obama that I was expecting. BOOKER: This is the guy I love. MADDOW: I was expecting this is the guy you love. This is the guy you support. BOOKER: And he really went big. He went broad. And he understands there`s no easy switch to flip. No one solution to this problem. You really need a broader base, across-the-base, comprehensive approach. Mayor Bloomberg, who I always joke and called the OB one Canopy mayor, pulled us together years ago, put together a list of common sense solutions. He paid a Republican pollster to poll gun owners and found out that these solutions are things that gun owners agree with. His plan has that and more in it. And as you and I were saying when I sat down, the powerful thing for me is studying the problem which we used to not being able to do to know where the guns really covering in Newark actually come from. Most evidence shows that gun retailer is only about four percent of them are sourcing so many weapons in my city here in New York City. Even letting the CDC is starting an inquiry and study what causes gun violence. Is it video games or is it something else? So, this is a comprehensive approach, amazing job done by the vice president. Incredible courage by the president where it`s not courage to me. Its courage by the president. But where it`s common sense to me is that most Americans, when you go through this, they agree. And perhaps, the one they put right up front and I`ve been holding onto this with such joy, the one right on top is simply to say that you should not be able to buy a gun in the United States of America without a background check. Seventy four percent of NRA members agree with that, over 80 percent of gun owners. Because those gaping loopholes in the background check law allow a terrorist who`s on the no-fly list who can`t fly to a gun show but they allow personal go a gun show and buy a trunk-load full of weapons. This is a comprehensive approach. It`s a thoughtful approach. And what I appreciated, you know, Newtown grievous and tragic. But, I love the fact that the president pointed, there has been 900 people, people in my city already. Were still in January, we`ve had people killed by gun violence in my city that I believe is preventable if we do the things that are in this proposal. MADDOW: You`re highlighting that issue of the background check. And let me take that as an example. In 1994, we had an assault weapons ban that ended up having some effect. It`s cuddled it with some reduction in gun violence, but it was also seen having tons of loopholes. It has being very hard to implement, not only designed loopholes but just -- it was hard to do. It was hard to get done. With the gun -- with the background check, gun show loophole and the other things the president has tried to do. Some of it with executive action and some of what he`s asking Congress to do. Is it good enough? Will we just loopholes again? Can it be done? Is it too complicated? Is it too big a country to do something that requires that level of skill by government agencies to manage a data base that good? BOOKER: It makes a difference. And I said before, you can see some of the data. Women who are murdered by gunfire are 50 percent of them are people that are murdered by people they know. And those are people who domestic violence have misdemeanors or worse or domestic violence. When those folks can`t access that secondary market, where states have closed that down, it has dropped that level of murders down 40 percent. So, there`s no perfect solution. But doing things like this that are thoughtful, sensible and common sense actually do make a difference. MADDOW: And you think logistically we`re capable of pulling out? BOOKER: I think that we cannot under estimate America`s ability to change, to adopt, to get better. And so, I`m happy about the things that are executive orders. But Congress has to show an equal level of courage. And not even the people you think. But Congress people who are in strong gun tradition districts should step up now and say hey, wait a minute, I can get behind 80 percent of this, 90 percent of this. I`m going to be part of the solutions because we all have one decision to make in life, one decision. Either accept things the way they are or take responsibility for changing them. Nobody could accept this war we live in right now where America has to - just proportionate level of violence that takes children from Newark to Newtown on a chillingly regular basis. And so, congress people have to step up and say, am I going to be a damn blocking the rivers of change or am I going to be a part of it. Even f I don`t agree with the whole package, will I stand up and say, this is unacceptable. I`m taking responsibility for change. I`m going to champion the parts of this that agree with. MADDOW: Given that that is your world view, which has been the hallmark of all of your time in public service the whole time I have known you, what did you make of the sustainability of the beltway cynicism? This whole idea that nothing can be done. Just scanning through the front pages today, of all the beltway process in this Obama made statement as soon as the president made a statement, soon as the president made the statement. It was all, president make the statement. It will never happen. In some way or another, that was the essentially the entire reaction from the beltway. I mean, when I look at the polls, I feel, like, wow, America really wants this to happen. BOOKER: Right. MADDOW: I mean, that`s some of the PEW people that we`ve got right there on the screen. I mean, is this like Mitt Romney thinking he`s going to win even though the polls said otherwise? I mean, are these wishful thinking as the beltway wants this not to be what America thinks, but this is really what America wants and what they are going to get? BOOKER: Well, look. I`ve seen this history. American history is a perpetual testimony to the achievement of the impossible. We have a country that has shown in the worst ingrained social problems, economic problems. We banished poverty amongst our senior citizens by enacting programs that have lifted and out of poverty. I would have told you in a private conversation a year ago that I would never have imagined four states saying enough is enough on things like marriage equality and we should have a country that truly is equality under the law. So, I`m constantly buoyed by the testimony, the screaming testimony of the American history that when we come together as a nation, there`s nothing that we can`t do as be asking a problem, at proverbs says, even when spider webs united, they can tie up a lion. So, I`m, on this issue, I`m a prisoner of hope and the evidence says we all have to say there`s something we can do, something that`s individual. So if we just let Congress do this and surrender this idea that politics is a spectator sport, which it is not, it is a full participatory endeavor that necessitates all of our actions. If we just sit back and watch on TV and give commentary about what`s going on, nothing will change. We all need to step up. MADDOW: Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, New Jersey. You and I have to close a personal loop on something we started talking about last time you here. Can you pull out for just one second? BOOKER: Yes, absolutely. MADDOW: We have to close that loop. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`re back in Newark, New Jersey mayor, Cory Booker. Cory, the last time that you were here, we are talking about gun buy backs. And you said there was something going on in Newark. BOOKER: Yes, it`s a really innovative program where we`ve taken the actual weapons we recover from crime. What we used to just do is melt the ban and get them labeled. Now, we`re using them of instrument of more buy backs instrument of peace. And so, here`s actually, a piece of jewelry with a serial number on it from an actual gun that we recovered from a crime. MADDOW: That`s the weapon`s serial number? BOOKER: That`s the weapons serial number. It`s amazing. It has Newark on the inside of the bracelet and the caliber collection, they`re called. And the proceeds of large percentage of the proceeds goes to more gun buy backs in Newark. And when we have gun buy backs, I know many people pooh-pooh them, but we have parents that will bring in the guns of their children, we have social activists that will convince guys to turn in their guns. And so this is a (inaudible) one strategy. Remember, this is not a cure-all. But everybody has the power to do something little, something small and to make a difference. So I brought you and a certain significant other that I like a lot, as well. MADDOW: Oh, very good. You are - this is awesome. And we crashed their Web site the last time we talked about them on the show. BOOKER: Yes. MADDOW: People talk about them very gently. BOOKER: Yes. MADDOW: (inaudible) so you can learn more about this. Has Newark on the inside, the serial number on the outside, that`s awesome. BOOKER: Yes. MADDOW: Congratulations, I know you`ve been waiting for this kind of day in Washington for a long time. BOOKER: Yes. Thank you for your voice on this issue for years. MADDOW: Thanks. I appreciate it. BOOKER: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Are you ready for your word of the day? The word of the day is troll. Troll, which can be used as a noun. It is more easily used in relevant context today as a verb. As in trolling. In our relevant context today, trolling means that you`re trying to get a rise out of somebody. You`re trying to get them to take some bait. That you`re dangling with nefarious hope. You`re doing something to provoke a negative or furious or attacking reaction from somebody you are counting on getting it from. The etymology of trolling is a little confused The way we use the word now, especially online, it could come from Billy Goats Gruff, right, or the Goats Gruff who are afraid or the funny little monster under the bridge. They`re afraid of the troll. Or maybe the idea of trolling derives from the high art of puttering along at a slow speed in a fishing boat, dragging bait through the water hoping for a bit. Trolling. But whatever the roots of the concept of trolling are, you know trolling when you see it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANN COULTER: OK, explain to me why retard is inappropriate? MICHAEL SAVAGE: You want my health care, I`ll give you the Savage health care -- take the chocolate out of that fat woman`s mouth! RUSH LIMBAUGH: There is a movement on to normalize pedophilia. MARK LEVIN: Since when the hell do we Americans believe in separation of church and state? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Trolling is a key part of the conservative entertainment/media business model. These guys say stuff all the time that they do not intend to be persuasive. They`re not trying to explain something or to bring people along to their way of thinking. They`re just doing something to attract attention. And hopefully, condemnation and outrage from the mainstream, and particularly from liberals. They want to offend you. They seek to offend you. That is the point. They want the attention. And they really want the condemnation. Because, you know, hey, attention is attention and clicks are clicks on the Web site right? Bad publicity is still publicity. But more importantly, the key part of their base audience that they are trying to monetize likes anyone who gets condemned by the mainstream. It`s a badge of honor. So, it makes people sign up for the daily mega-dido (ph) buy gold newsletter or whatever. And pay their $9.95 for "I Used to Be on TV, but now I`m on the Internet, right? Sign up now for exclusive content you won`t buy in the lamestream media that hates me! It`s a schtick, right, it is a schtick that pays. And it pays big dollars to big name conservatives and it pays small dollars to others. Like, like this week maybe you saw there`s some poor guy trying to get national attention for charging liberals more than conservatives at a restaurant that he owns. He wants attention for his restaurant thing. He wants some maybe some combative conservative business owner three states away to hire him to cater or something. Just to stick a thumb in the eye of all of those offended liberals! We`re counting on you being offended! It`s a shtick, it is a tried and true shtick. And that guy, the restaurant guy with the pay attention to me designed to be offensive pricing publicity stunt, he is trolling. He is a troll. Ted Nugent is a troll. Donald Trump is a troll. When you see the conservative lady who used to be on "Saturday Night Live," now doing the Youtube song about the communists in the White House. Look, look, it`s a troll. We see trolling sometimes in elected officials, too. When a politician says something deliberately provocative in front of an audience that they know will be provoked, because they`re banking on firing up a smaller group of people who enjoy the way that speaker can make that other audience mad. Congressman Steve King is kind of a permanent troll. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STEVEN KING (R ), IOWA: We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn`t kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Comparing immigrants to livestock and using a visual aid to do so on the House floor. Trying to purposely offend people because he wants the attention. He`s a troll. Here`s another. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HERMAN CAIN: A poet once said life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it`s never easy when there`s so much on the line. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: When Herman Cain quoted Pokemon at the Fox News presidential debate, he was being a troll. He was trolling the entire democratic process at that point. Here`s another. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ALLEN WEST (R, FLORIDA): I believe there`s about 78, to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist party. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Trolling. Congressman Allen West, former Congressman Allen West begging America please be outraged by me, please condemn me. I will say whatever it takes to earn that kind of attention, I live to cause pointless outrage. I am a troll. The thing about trolling is that the troll, by definition, is not serious, right? They`re not serious about what they`re saying. By definition, they`re saying what they say only to make somebody mad. They are not presenting a position they think should be adopted, they are entertaining and satisfying and capitalizing on a tiny targeted base that loves the fact that that person can cause outrage. That they can drive otherwise serious people talking about serious things to be seriously distracted. They love the distraction and the disruption. They love deliberately causing it. Trolls serve a purpose. But no one should ever think that they`re trying to be taken seriously. As a think or a responsible party in the debate or discussion. Another good example of this phenomenon, is the new advertisement from the National Rifle Association. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UM: Are the president`s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools? His kids are protected by armed guards in their schools? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Besides the obvious fact that presidents and their families get Secret Service protection whether they want it or not, President Obama does happen to be just fine with having armed security in schools if that`s what schools want to do. He proposed funding just that kind of idea today. But the NRA did not just put out a 30 second version of the safety of the president`s daughters` advertisement today. On their Web site today, they post even much longer version, it`s a four and a half minute long version of the ad, which means it`s not for TV, it`s for their base. And in the long version, the trolling gets really obvious. You can tell they are trolling, because they spend more than a minute of this thing proving to their own followers, to their own base how mad the rest of the world is at the NRA for proposing the armed guards in schools. Which, by the way, the president agrees with them and wants to pay for. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UM: This is a simple idea from a simple guy that we need not to spend any time talking about it. UM: There`s no research that says that putting more firearms in the hands of trained or untrained professionals in a shootout is going to make anybody who`s sitting around safer. STEPHEN COLBERT: You, sir, are [bleep] in the head. WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NRA: If it`s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Please, call me crazy. I love it when you call me crazy. That`s how I earn my troll food! That`s my all reason for being! Trolls have a purpose in our politics. They help niche unpopular positions and people fond of themselves and promote themselves as pseudo-political actors by tricking people who ought to know better into punching down at them. But if that is the way you are operating in our political system, if you have to troll for it, if you`re going for purposeful outrage and nothing more serious than that, it is also a pretty good evidence that you`re not really all that relevant at the larger discussion that the adults are having. And that`s what is going on with the NRA. And, you know, the NRA has proved its political impotence in real politics, in recent electoral politics. And they did it in stark, empirical terms. In the 2012 election, the NRA`s main PAC spent $11 million on candidates; more than 99 percent of what they spent was wasted. 0.83 percent of the NRA`s money went to the results that they wanted in that election. In a year that was not kind to conservative money groups, the NRA distinguished itself. They showed themselves to be even a weaker political force than Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce, who really stunk. The NRA set a new bar for spending a lot and getting very little. We should change the name of this graph to "Who is afraid of the NRA." And the implicit answer should be nobody, not in politics, not anymore. Not if you`re paying attention to what happened to the NRA in this last election. And yet, when President Obama today announced his plan for reforming gun laws, this was the reaction in the Beltway press. "Obama guns plan meets fast resistance" and "why Obama`s gun plan may be doomed." And NRA chief on Obama`s real agenda. Oh, yes, let`s go ask the trolls. This is how we see the debate about gun laws in this country. This is how the NRA has taught us to see the debate, with Democrats and law enforcement and mayors and victims of violence and most of the American people on one side and themselves, the NRA, as an equal and perhaps greater force on the other. That`s how they have taught us to see it, and the Beltway is happy to write that down. But I do not think that`s how the debate is actually working now in real life. Here`s another example. Look at this. This is the home page of "The Hill" newspaper today in Washington, D.C. And they, like everybody else, is reporting the news about President Obama calling for gun reform. But can we zoom in on the other part of that screenshot there? Yes, this is the ad on that page over on the right. "My son was murdered in the mass shooting at Columbine." The front page of "The Hill" today, it`s sort of the yearbook for members of Congress. This is an ad from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Mike Bloomberg`s group, which has already shown that it can compete against the NRA and political races and win. And which today was organized and right on time and being taken very, very seriously. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, co-host of MSNBC`s "The Cycle" and he`s a senior writer for Steve, it`s always a pleasure. Thanks for being here. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Sure. MADDOW: Do you think it is fair to call the NRA a troll? That they are going for outrage here in order to please their base rather than trying to persuade anybody? KORNACKI: Yes, outrage to please their base, outrage to - outrage to raise money. And it`s something we`ve seen before. And I`m actually -- I`m actually struck by something that happened I guess, 17, 18 years ago back in 1995. And there was -- I forgot what the exact controversy was, but the NRA referred to some federal agent as, quote, "jackbooted thugs." If you remember, it was former President George Bush, George HW Bush at the time, who, at that moment, resigned his lifelong membership in the NRA, he was so disgusted by that kind of rhetoric. Now, at the time the NRA was kind of ascending. You just had the 1994 midterms. Democrats kind of believed that because of the assault weapons ban, because of the Brady bill, they had lost. They were scared of the NRA, so George H.W. Bush doing that didn`t have much of a political - measurable political impact. But I`m thinking of the current debate right now. And the NRA is doing the exact same thing now that it did in 1995, except gun control is on the table now in a very serious way. And think of the politicians who are out there who are like George H.W. Bush. That is to say, they have felt political pressure for most of their career to sort of toe the NRA line. They want to be anti-gun control. They don`t want to anger the NRA. But right now, there`s enormous pressure and there is enormous opportunity to vote for real gun control. The NRA is making it easy for politicians like George Bush Sr. to say, you know what, these guys are a bunch of jokesters. These guys are not taking it seriously. There`s been a real tragedy here that requires a serious response, and I`m ready to take action X. So I think the NRA could be hurting itself. They might raise a lot of money off this, but they are hurting themselves politically. MADDOW: And that actually, their -- their incentives here I actually think make this make more sense. Because if you are the NRA, you know that if President Obama got every single thing that he proposed today, America would still be a nation with 300 million guns in it. Nobody is getting their guns taken away. You still get people hunting and fishing, you still get people target shooting, you still get people collecting weapons. You don`t actually do anything to meaningfully take away the gun ownership base that you`ve already got. You continue to exist as the National Rifle Association. You`ve defined yourself as a hard-liner. You`ve defined the president as a tyrant and you can therefore continue to raise even more money than you`ve got now, and be slightly ineffective but definitely well- monetized pressure group that exists for the long haul. KORNACKI: Right. And so much of their success, really, for the last 20 years, since the 1994 midterm election, has been this appearance, this idea that exists in the heads of Democratic politicians that you don`t mess with these guys because you are going to lose at the polls if you do that. And I think the most dangerous thing for the NRA to come out of the 2012 election now is that Democrats are sort of realizing that the voters they were scared of losing by turning off the NRA, by going against the NRA, they don`t necessarily need them to win elections anymore. You don`t need to send John Kerry out goose hunting the weekend before the 2004 election anymore. You don`t need Barack Obama signing a bill that makes it easier to carry in national parks. You can go out there, and the Republicans have been calling them the gun control party since 1994. Now you can be the gun control party. You`re already paying the political price for it. You might as well get some of the benefit that comes with it, too. MADDOW: That`s exactly right. Steve Kornacki, very smart. Senior writer at Salon, co-host of "The Cycle," airing at 3:00 Eastern weekdays here on MSNBC. Steve, thank you. Spot on. All right, the best new thing in the world tonight involves my favorite live news moment, maybe ever. And it is coming up, and it has nothing to do with guns. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Map time. This is a map of North and West Africa, in terms of these countries being in the news recently, there is a trend here, right? In the last couple of years there have been regime-changing revolutions, here in Egypt, and here in Libya and here in Tunisia. As we talked about with NBC`s Richard Engel last night, there are al Qaeda affiliated extremist groups now that have tried to take over parts of this country, Mali. So the French this week sent French troops into Mali at the Malian government`s request, to protect the capital and surrounding areas from these Islamist rebels who are trying to topple the government there. The French went in this weekend, then the French said on Monday they were sending even more troops. The U.S. had reportedly been worried that the French were going it alone. But then yesterday, on Tuesday, a whole bunch of African countries said they, too, would send troops to help out. It was mostly Nigeria, but also Niger, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Senegal, all sending troops. At the same time, Algeria said they would let the French use their air space for what they were doing in Mali. That was yesterday. And today early this morning, there was an attack, and it`s now a major hostage situation involving civilians from a bunch of other countries, civilians including Americans. It happened in Algeria. At least three Americans and about two dozen other foreigners taken hostage at a natural gas facility partly owned by BP. The other hostages are reportedly from Norway, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Japan and France. The natural gas facility, we`ll show you, it`s here, in a remote part of eastern Algeria. The group claiming responsibility for the attack says this is retaliation for Algeria letting the French use Algerian air space for their operations in Mali. The leader of the group that`s claimed responsibility for the attack used to be affiliated with an al Qaeda franchise that operates in that part of Africa, but he has reportedly struck out on his own now. According to the Algerian government, the hostage-takers were traveling in three cars with lots of guns. They first tried to attack a bus transporting employees who worked at that plant. When that failed, the attackers reportedly went to where the employees were housed, and it was there at the residential quarters that they were able to take between 20 and 40 people hostage, including the Americans. There are many, many Algerians who work at the plant, too, and some of them were reportedly captured at first, but they are being released, even as the hostage-takers have been holding on to the foreigners. The State Department here in the U.S. is not confirming any of the details about the Americans who are being held. That`s for their own safety. But they have issued a travel warning for Mali and now for neighboring Niger. So we have got religious militant groups holding territory and advancing on the rest of that country. We`ve got a Western military force intervening to stop it. We`ve now got the expanding involvement of troops from a bunch of different nearby nations. And in one of the neighboring nations that is helping in a small way in that multinational effort, we now have got a related but different militant group holding dozens of international civilian hostages in retaliation. At a giant, multi, multi-nationally owned natural gas facility. And this is happening outside of the Middle East. Kinds of puts the whole idea of there being a debt ceiling crisis into perspective, right? We`ll keep you posted. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, best new thing in the world today. House Republicans left D.C. today for Williamsburg, Virginia to go to their annual retreat. It is a three-day event, it is apparently titled the 2013 Congress of tomorrow, which is a little weird, right? As opposed to the 2013 Congress of last month? Anyway, it is their annual three-day retreat. It`s pollster briefings and speeches and strategy sessions, and reports that this year, there will be two motivational speakers for House Republicans. One is a man who used to tour as a comedian with Garth Brooks, the other is this man you see on your screen. His name is Erik Weihenmayer. He is an adventurer. He`s famous for having been the world`s first blind person to climb Mt. Everest. And is this story starting to sound familiar? Blind mountain climber? Blind guy climbing Mount Everest? Anybody remember one of the most awesome news bloopers of all time? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right after the break, we`re going to interview Erik Weihenmayer, who climbed the highest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. But, he is gay -- I mean, he`s gay -- excuse me, he`s blind. So we`ll hear about that coming up. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He is gay, I mean, blind. An Albuquerque news anchor in 2001, right, five years later the clip was uploaded to Youtube for some reason, and a cajillion people got to enjoy the best gay, not gay joke of all time. And yes, that is the same gay-blind mountain climber who will be motivating America`s Republican members of Congress tonight. And the best thing about all of this is that Erik Weihenmayer, who was the first blind person to climb Everest and who is the famous blind athlete in the world, and who really is not gay, Erik Weihenmayer has demonstrated nothing but the best attitude about this blooper since he first heard it happening, as it was happening. This is reportedly the video of Mr. Weihenmayer listening to that tease from that Albuquerque station during the broadcast as he waited for the interview. As you can tell it is bad quality video, but you can see him dying laughing as he hears the anchor say what she said. Since this became a famous thing, Mr. Weihenmayer apparently even runs the video of that blooper when he makes his motivational speeches. He finds it hilarious. So House Republicans might be seeing this right now. A couple of years after that blooper happened, the anchor who did it moved to a Dallas station, and her new station staged a reunion, so years later she finally got to explain to Erik Weihenmayer why she said what she did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right before this story, we had done extensive covering about the story of a woman who was gay, gay was in the head. And we came out to the tease for you, and I was so excited, and boom, it happened. And you were so gracious. We did the interview, we never talked about it, and we moved on. And I`m sorry. ERIK WEIHENMAYER: No, please, I should be thanking you. It is the greatest thing ever. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is the greatest thing ever, and the guy who thinks so is motivating all of the Republican members of Congress right now as we speak. Which is the best new thing in the world today, and you guys be careful. Because gay is in the head. 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