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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/19/13

Guests: Jonathan Hafetz, Aaron Glantz

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. Rachel Maddow starts right now. Rachel, tremendous job last night. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Ed. Thank you for being so effusive about it, but also for focusing so much on issues at the heart of it. You`ve just been really, really kind. SCHULTZ: Well, it was jaw-dropping. MADDOW: Yes. SCHULTZ: You know, you almost feel guilty living through that period. But there were voices on the left, only 23 in the Senate that came up with a very courageous vote. I hope it`s a lesson to America for generations to come. Great work, my friend. MADDOW: Thank you. I really appreciate it, Ed. Thanks a lot. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. As Ed mentioned, last night we did air this new MSNBC documentary on why the Iraq war happened. It has sparked a lot of discussion, particularly the new reporting in the film. We`ve had a lot of feedback on it. I`m really glad we did it. We`re now talking about hopefully re- airing it some more times on MSNBC. But a lot of people have been asking specifically about the timing. Why do this now? Well, we specifically did not time the new documentary to coincide with the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq, of course, in March 19th, 2003. The invasion of Iraq and the war in Iraq are obviously a big deal and a specific thing that is worth examining in its own right. But what we did with "Hubris" was not tell the story of the Iraq war, but rather the story of what made us start that war. So, we didn`t peg to it the 10-year anniversary of the invasion, we pegged it earlier than that. We pegged it to the lying to us by our own government that made that invasion possible. And that irreducible truth, that we were told by our government that we had to go to war because of things they said were true about the world that were not true about the world, that irreducible truth is the most important thing about the presidency that preceded this one. And unless the revisionist historians get their way, that truth will be in the first line of the obituary of each of those senior members of the Bush administration when they eventually depart from this Earth. And that sets up a really interesting thing for us now in 2013 in terms of how that relatively recent political history from 10 years ago and our understanding of that recent political history affects our current debates now over policy now. Because still among us, still out there available for comments, of course, are the senior officials of the previous administration who perpetrated that deception 10 years ago. That`s why the kicker of "Hubris," the kicker of the film, essentially, the last line lands with such a thud. Because even after leaving office, President George W. Bush was still saying about the war in Iraq, "Hey, you know what? I don`t think I did anything wrong." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people? GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision. And I don`t believe it was a wrong decision. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That interview with Matt Lauer took place in November 2010. So, after he was out of office. I do not know if President George W. Bush still feels that way. I try not to read too much into the reports that former President Bush now spends his time painting oil portraits of himself, trying to get cleaned, self portrait in shower, self-portrait in bathtub. Maybe that`s just a coincidence. Maybe he`s not trying the get clean. Maybe he still does see nothing wrong about that decision to go to war, to get Saddam`s weapons of mass destruction and to stop his nuclear weapons and to stop Saddam`s ties to al Qaeda, none of which existed. President Bush may still believe that that was still a great decision. We know that Vice President Dick Cheney still believes that. But the country no longer believes that. Some of the post-9/11 national security changes that we made as a country obviously persist. There is still a Department of Homeland Security. There is still this new treatment of the CIA as if it is a branch of the military. There is still a Patriot Act. But much of what President Barack Obama has done over the last four years heading into now his second term has been systematically undoing some of the major decisions of the George W. Bush years. For example, the only decision and accomplishment of President Obama`s first term that is ranked more popular with the American people than killing Osama bin Laden, the only thing more popular than that was his decision to end the war in Iraq. Within days of taking office, President Obama also issued an executive order, making clear that anything the previous administration did to cast some pseudo-legal veneer over torture, that was over. That executive order made clear that torture was and is illegal. The president also ordered that the CIA stop operating secret prisons around the world. After moving quickly, as I mentioned in the war in Iraq, the new president also moved eventually toward ending the war in Afghanistan as well. The end of that war is still ahead, but it is on its way. There is, though, one vestige of the previous administration that it`s not only remarkable that it`s still around, it`s remarkable that it`s still around because everybody thought it would be gone by now. Everybody left, right, and center thought it would be again not just by now, but they thought it would be gone early on in the first term of the Obama presidency. One of the things that we decided to do as a country after 9/11 that we had never done before is something that everybody expected to be dialed back very quickly by the new administration. Nobody expected it to survive. But it is still here, and it is why we have this. This is a prison in Illinois that has nobody in it. It`s on 140 acres near the Mississippi River. It is surrounded by an electrified fence that is capable of carrying 7,000 volts. It has hundreds of surveillance cameras. It has hundreds of motion detectors. It has armed inner perimeter towers. It has armed outer perimeter towers. It is a state-of-the-art maximum security prison built in 2001 and nobody is home. Nobody is there. This prison was originally built to be used by the state of Illinois, which never had the money to run it and has never put anybody in it. By 2009, when we got our new president, and he said two days after taking office that Guantanamo bay prison was going to close, this prison in Thompson, Illinois, supposedly won the George W. Bush isn`t president anymore maximum prisoner lottery. Congratulations, Thompson, Illinois. Everybody knew that Guantanamo was going to close. In the 2008 presidential campaign, it was not just Barack Obama who was in favor of closing Guantanamo. The guy from the other party who he ran against was also in favor of closing Guantanamo, as also planning to do so. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It was just Barack Obama and John McCain who said that they would close Guantanamo if they became president. It was also the guy who was still president, the guy who had opened up Guantanamo in the first place. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I`d like to end Guantanamo. I`d like it to be over with. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Everybody knew that Guantanamo was going to close. There was nobody against it. The prisoners who were still there when Barack Obama became president, well, the expectation was that a lot of them would continue to be processed the way that hundreds of them had already been processed by President George W. Bush, which is that they would be sent to some other country. They would be repatriated. For the prisoners that were not going to be released anywhere for say the marquee prisoner who was ever held at Guantanamo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of 9/11, the expectation for guys like him was they wouldn`t get out of offshore pseudo limbo in Cuba. But it wouldn`t be to get repatriated to some other country. They would get off that legal limbo that we hold in this prison offshore in a communist country that we don`t have relations with and get out of that limbo and come here and face justice. Attorney General Eric Holder announced November 2009 that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of the 9/11 attacks, would face trial in New York City, in Lower Manhattan. He would not be treated like a soldier, the way he wanted to be treated. He would be treated like a terrorist, like the "Blind Sheik" had been treated, Omar Abdel-Rahman, or the shoe bomber Richard Reid, or the 9/11 henchman Zacarias Moussaoui. They were all convicted in U.S. courts and are currently in prison at federal maximum security facilities across the country. We as a country have experience prosecuting, convicting, and housing for life very dangerous people, including international terrorism suspects. That`s why Thompson, Illinois, had competition when they said they want these guys. That`s why Thompson, Illinois, had to compete with places like Harden, Montana, and Standish, Michigan, when they decided to seek the relatively lucrative labor intensive business of locking these guys up in their maximum security prison. And that`s why the city of New York initially greeted the news of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed`s forthcoming trial at the scene of his crime as not just justice, but poetic justice. And then we lost our nerve. What happened? The politics of the past administration or something decided to come back. New York officials who initially responded to the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed announcement by saying yes, let`s do it. It`s fitting that he`d face trial here where he killed so many Americans. We can handle it. We are not afraid. That was the initial response. But then they changed their minds and decide they were against it. In Illinois, a Republican congressman who was running for Senate, who eventually won, he decided to change his campaign Web site to Don`t send those guys to Thompson, never mind that the state was excited to win that contest. And the whole thing unraveled. And then it fell apart. And that was in late 2009, early 2010. It was more than three years ago now when that plan fell apart. And since that time, nobody, no new prisoners have been added to Guantanamo. There are still 170 some odd prisoner there. The president still says he wants to close Guantanamo. We`re still just as capable of trying and imprisoning terrorism suspects as we were before when the plan fell apart. Maybe we`re even more so now as we have tried and convicted even more so now as we have tried and convicted even more terrorism suspects in the past three years, including the times square bomber, Faisal Shahzad and the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. But even so, this vestige of the previous administration just lingers on. I mean, when it comes to fixing what went wrong in that era, this is not all that complicated an issue. The plan to close it was fairly simple. The only reason it didn`t happen is that Congress and elected officials, Democrats and Republicans, freaked out and decide they`d were scared of their own shadow back in 2009 and 2010, and then Congress acted to say, no, no, no, the president can`t do this. They decided to not do what everyone left, right and center had previously agreed needed to be done and would be done. And so we just got stuck by dent of Congress ultimately keeping open this unsustainable vestigial accident from the previous administration with no plan other than hoping that I guess maybe the prisoners might die of their own accord if we leave them there long enough? It`s not 2009 or 2010 anymore. A lot that`s in our politics feels different now in 2013 than it felt in 2009. Is this still impossible? And is anyone still working on it? I should also mention that quietly, very quietly, a couple of weeks before the election in October, the Obama administration decided to do an end-run around Congress when it comes to that big empty prison in Thompson, Illinois. Congress had been blocking the federal government from buying that empty prison for any purpose, just in case any purpose might include putting prisoners from Guantanamo there. But on October 2nd, quietly the Department of Justice wrote a check to Illinois for $165 million to buy that maximum security prison. That prison that once upon a time was going to be Guantanamo north, and everybody thought that was a great idea. It isn`t scheduled to be Guantanamo north anymore. Nothing is. But why couldn`t it be? I mean, George W. Bush does not admit that invading Iraq was the wrong decision. But even he admitted along time ago that Guantanamo was a mistake that should be shut down. Why is it still open? Joining us now is Jonathan Hafez, Seton Hall law professor. He`s the author of "Habeas Corpus After 9/11: Confronting America`s new global system. Professor Hafetz, thanks being here. JONATHAN HAFETZ, SETON HALL LAW ASSOC. PROFESSOR: My pleasure. MADDOW: I am making the process of what it would take to close Guantanamo simpler than what it would be than what be the dispensation of all of the prisoners. If Congress changed its mind, though, and decided to stop the administration from blocking it, that plan that they work working on in 2009 and 2010, could they work that way? Could they still do it? HAFETZ: Absolutely. I mean, the main obstacle now is the political obstacle and the legal obstacle, the legislation that Congress has put in place that bars the transfer of any Guantanamo detainee to the United States for any purpose, federal trial, or even continued detention. So once if that legislation were to stop, the administration could bring detainees here. In addition, it`s important to mention that approximately half of the prisoners at Guantanamo, over 80 of the prisoners there have been cleared for release by the administration. So, these are people the administration says we don`t even want to hold anymore. But Congress has placed significant restrictions on transferring them to their home countries or third countries which makes it difficult to close Guantanamo for that reason as well. MADDOW: Is it overstating the case right now to say that the path that we are on, if no further action is taken, is actually to just hope that those prisoners die and thereby the problem goes away? HAFETZ: I mean, we are on a -- it`s a spiral of inertia. I mean, we are the -- the only way to get out of Guantanamo at this moment, there are two ways, to be blunt -- you can either die in the prison, or you can be convicted by a military commission for war crimes and be given a sentence, which in many cases, except for the 9/11 perpetrators might just be the time you have served, and you get sent home. So, you can either die and/or be convicted as a war criminal and get out that way. Otherwise, you`re really fated for legal limbo. MADDOW: What -- if you were a prisoner or a lawyer for a prisoner who was facing legal dispensation, you were in this situation, looking at the history of terrorism prosecutions in the United States versus military prosecutions for war crimes, what tends to produce a stricter sentence and a more I guess a more reliable path to a guilty verdict for the prosecution? HAFETZ: I mean, there is no question about it, federal courts are -- produce a fair trial, but they also produce severe sentences for those who are convicted. But right now, we`ve got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the most important terrorism suspect probably in the history of the United States being tried in a proceeding at Guantanamo that really resembles a circus. I mean, it`s just come out that the military has been listening. They have devices in the rooms where the lawyers interview their clients, and they`re equipped with listening devices. So -- and the commander of the prison apparently didn`t even know about it. I mean, so this is our marquee federal criminal trial from 9/11, the most important trial, and we elected to go with a court that is untested, untried as opposed to the established federal courts which deliver justice in a fair way. MADDOW: In terms of recent terrorism prosecutions, I mentioned Faisal Shahzad, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, some of the other international or at least al Qaeda-minded terrorism suspects who have been prosecuted in federal courts. Did anything happen in the prosecution of any of those suspects or anybody else like them in recent years that should raise any doubt of the ability of the courts to handle a security of a trial like that? HAFETZ: Absolutely not. The federal courts are equipped. They have experienced defense bar, the prosecution, the judges. They`re used to handling these cases. Obviously, issues come up. They`re difficult issues, but they deal with them. And the process has integrity. It`s a bona fide process. MADDOW: Centuries in the making. Jonathan Hafetz, Seton Hall law professor, the author of "Habeas Corpus After 9/11: Confronting America`s New Global Detention System" -- thank you for helping us figure this out. I really appreciate it. HAFETZ: Thank you. MADDOW: I do find that amazing that that hasn`t gone away. Anyway, here is a Zen question. If President Obama played a round of golf with Tiger Woods this weekend and the White House Press Corps was not permitted to cover it, did it really happen? And do you give a rat`s patootie about who was allowed to cover it? Lessons in inflated self-image and humility coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is "Parents" magazine. The subject matter is self- explanatory. They have stories about little kids and slightly bigger kids and the parents who love them and want to treat them well. But today, things were a little different at "Parents" magazine HQ, because they along with Facebook, hosted a town hall with Vice President Joe Biden. People posted questions for the vice president on the Facebook page of "Parents" magazine, and this moderator sitting with the vice president posed those questions to Mr. Biden, and he answered. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MODERATOR: Claire Ferris Bremer (ph) asks, does it make sense to provide armed guards for our schools like those that are provided for government buildings? Do you believe that banning certain weapons in high capacity magazines will mean that law-abiding citizens will then become more of a target to criminals? Tessa Gray (ph) asks, should parents who don`t have guns in their homes demand to know which of their children`s friends are gun owners? If the ban on guns did not work or taking them off the street, how do you think a ban on guns is going to different? JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have "Parents" magazine. I`ve never heard anybody in "Parents" magazine ask these kinds of questions, but I`m delighted to answer them. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s right. People do not usually ask those kinds of questions in "Parents" magazine. The kinds of questions that do get asked in "Parents" magazine tend to be like, is home birth for you? And is clean your plate a recipe for obesity? And this one is both a question and the answer. What time is it? It`s baby time! That`s the usual type of question that you get in parents magazine. But obviously nobody is going to say about their should I clean the plate, it`s baby time questions for the sitting vice president of the United States. People are going to ask him hard questions. Even in that John journalist-based Facebook-moderated forum, they`re going to ask him about guns in homes and armed guards in schools and the example of the war on drugs, right? Well, this weekend President Obama went to Florida, played golf with some friends. Also Tiger Woods. According to Mr. Woods, the president and him played as partners, and they beat whoever it was they were playing against. I do not know from golf. But even losing is probably fun if you are losing to, like, the greatest golfer ever, let alone playing alongside him as Mr. President did. Tiger Woods said they had a great time. Not having a great time? The press. The White House Press Corps is very angry about this weekend. Fuming, incredulous that the president was there golfing with Tiger Woods and they Were not allowed to watch. The White House press corps was kept out completely from the golf outing. The only journalist who got to go in was somebody from "Golf Digest". One ABC reporter calling it a disgrace. A FOX News reporter saying there was, quote, "extreme frustration." reporter saying the president must be fearful of talking with them, them meaning White House reporters. The Beltway press is seriously frustrated by what they see as their lack of access to this White House. But outside the normal interacts between the president and the press that covers the White House, the president and the president are putting themselves out there to answer direct questions about why a ban on guns would work when a ban on drugs didn`t? And should Internet freedom be added to the party platform of the Democratic Party? Should Democrats take a stand on that as a party? And this one, the mortgage interest deduction that helps people afford their homes, what`s going to be happening to that? And will the White House take action to limit the abuse of software patents? Would they, for example, support limiting software patents to just five years? Those questions, those substantive questions about real policy issues, those came not from professional journalists covering the White House as part of their paid beat, those came from regular folks that the White House put the president in the position of being questioned by on Reddit, and on Twitter and at a Google Plus hangout. And the gun questions, before, those were from parents magazine readers via their Facebook page. The professional press corps plays an important role. No matter how you feel about the Beltway media, you want the president and the vice president to get grilled by professional reporters answering to professional editors operating in the proud tradition of the free and professional press that is good for the country. That is as good for the country. That is as good for the country as any other check and balance that we have as a nation. But as the White House Press Corps pines for more access, there is a thing that we`re getting more and more of that we haven`t had since whenever the last time was that presidents mingled among us without intermediaries, if there ever was that time. Multiple repeated forums where regular citizens get to ask direct questions of the president or the vice president in a setting where you actually can expect an answer. It`s not journalism. It is not a substitute for journalism. But there is something important I think to be found in the distance between the types of questions that are being asked by regular folks when they get a chance and the types of questions that are being asked by the White House Press Corps when they get their chance. That distance is a big distance. It is worrying about the press corps that those two streams of questions being directed at the White House from citizens and from the Beltway press often seem like they are from two totally different universes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: News update from the great commonwealth of Massachusetts. A few weeks ago, we reported that former Senator Scott Brown was spending his very late night weekend hours tweeting out pugnacious little insults to his online critics. Things like "whatever, bud." And that soon turned into some other epic thing like bqhatevwr. Was that odd string of late night and then deleted tweets from Scott Brown and early indication that Senator Brown was not of mindset to be running again in Massachusetts? Well, finally, we have an answer from Scott Brown about -- (SIREN WAILING) MADDOW: Oh, I`m sorry. I put a bullpucky alert on my phone, the app. Can we just turn it -- can we just turn it -- it`s the alert. Come on, turn it off. Turn it off. Right. Silly. It`s a butt dial mistake, right? You like to sit down on the phone. And I have to keep that right there. It`s so embarrassing. Anyway, as I was saying about Scott Brown. (SIREN WAILING) MADDOW: It`s not actually the phone. I think we have another actual bullpucky alert. Do not be alarmed. Actually, this is for real. We have protocols. We are well staffed. We have a bullpucky alert coming up. It`s code 4. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: More than 33 million people watched President Obama deliver the first State of the Union address of his second term a week ago today. That`s actually a low number for a State of the Union relatively speaking. But that just goes to show you what a giant audience that annual speech has if 33 million is a low number. But as it turns out, on the same day this was happening in Washington, something else was also happening in Washington -- a secret meeting between the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden and nine members of Congress. This Navy SEAL, who has never revealed his name publicly for obvious reasons, was not there to divulge some new previously secret thing about the bin Laden raid. He was this to talk about life after the bin Laden raid -- life after the bin Laden raid for him and his family. This Washington meeting with nine of the most influential members of the Senate and the House, according to reports, was to discuss the difficulty that soldiers, and especially members of the elite Special Operations Forces have in transitioning to civilian life. Last week, "Esquire" magazine and the Center for Investigative Reporting ran a lengthy profile of this Navy SEAL, allegedly the one who killed bin Laden, that included a lot of new details about the raid. The SEAL says that he shot bin Laden twice in the forehead as bin Laden stood before him, and shot him once again in the same place after he fell. He says bin Laden may have tried to use his wife as a human shield. He was at least holding her in front of himself or moving her in front of himself when he was killed. He says the CIA analyst who briefed him on the compound told him she knew with 100 percent certainty that bin Laden was on the third floor of the compound, which he was. The SEAL says that after the raid was over, he gave that CIA analyst the magazine from his rifle, which was still full, except for the three bullets he had expended into Mr. Bin laden. So the further details on the raid and the people who made it happen, those are new details. But the part of the story that got the follow-up on Capitol Hill on State of the Union day, the follow-up on Capitol Hill for the man who killed bin Laden with nine members of Congress was the part about him leaving the Navy, leaving the Special Forces, leaving the military altogether, and how hard he has found it to get by ever since. Hence the title of "Esquire`s" interview with him, quote, "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden, dot, dot, dot, is Screwed." Quote, "When he leaves after 16 years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage and blown disc, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension, no health care for his wife and kids, no protection for himself or his family." Once the story was published there was some controversy about whether "Esquire" made a factual error when they described his benefits. It turns out he is entitled to benefits for five years, but none for his family. They clarified that. Beyond that, though, there`s this -- like many vets, he will have to wait at least eight months to have his disability claims adjudicated, or even longer. The average wait time nationally is more than nine months. The Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed the wait times for 58 veterans affairs offices across the country. They made this interactive map with the data that they found. What they discovered was that many vets are waiting way longer than that nine-month national average for their disability claims to be processed. In New York, the average wait is 412 days. In Oakland, California, 427 days. In Waco, Texas, veterans are waiting on average 441 days. In Phoenix, it`s 451 days. In Los Angeles, it`s over 500 days. So almost a year and a half veterans in Los Angeles are waiting just for a preliminary answer from the V.A., waiting while in some cases they are unable to work, hence the disability claim. A year and a half just waiting to hear back about whether that claim is going to be accept order denied. Wait until you have to appeal. You`ve heard before about this backlog, right? How the government is blowing it on keeping this promise that we made to the people who signed up to serve. What is amazing, now, in a bad way, is that the backlog is not getting better. It is getting worse. At the start of 2012, it was taking six months or so, 188 days for the V.A. to resolve a claim that was by the start of the year. By the end of the year, we had gone from six months to nine months, 262 days -- 262 days of checking the mail, logging into your account, checking your e-mail, waiting to hear back. In September of last year, the wife of one Iraq war veteran posted a video to YouTube that she titled "The V.A. doesn`t care." In the video, she said her family had filed her husband`s disability claim when their baby was six weeks old. Around the time of their child`s second birthday, she said she was tired of waiting to hear back. She posted the video. The video garnered enough attention online that the V.A. responded to her with their own video. But look at the response. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Recently, the spouse of a veteran posted a video to YouTube asking many of the same questions we often see from veterans, their families, and survivors. So, we thought this was a really good opportunity to respond so veterans don`t feel like they have to post a video to YouTube just to get information. Personally, I understand your frustration. I`m an Air Force veteran. My husband is Marine Corps veteran, and both he and I have claims that are currently part of the backlog. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You`re part of the backlog too and you work there? They can`t even fix it for you? The V.A. spokeswoman went on to say that the long wait times are unacceptable, that the V.A. knows they`re unacceptable, and they`re working to make the process more efficient and more accurate. That back and forth happened last year, and that family that took their complaints to YouTube did eventually get their claim resolved. I don`t know about the spokeswoman. The V.A., of course, has promised they`ll try to do better. Well, just this month, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that the V.A. is making so many errors when it processes veterans claims, and the backlog of claims is so long that 53 veterans are dying every day now while they are waiting to receive word on their disability benefits. These are veterans of all wars, veterans of all ages, but 53 every day. And that is not just some weird way of parsing the statistics to make a shocking-sounding statement. It is so common for American veterans to die while waiting on their disability claims that there is an alliterative phrase that people use to describe it. They call it delay, deny, wait until I die. Quote, "The common refrain we hear from many veterans is delay, deny, wait until I die." That`s a quote from Congressman Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He calls the backlog on benefits claims a national embarrassment. Delay, deny, wait until I die. What we`re talking about here is a paperwork problem, and a bureaucracy problem. It`s a problem about which the speed at which paperwork is processed. It is not a sexy-sounding problem, however sexy we think all things associated with Navy SEALs are. But this is a problem that really specifically hurts the men and women who do the hardest job that we as a nation can ask anyone to do, and that in many cases we lionize for their service. We just don`t make good on their promises that we made them while thanking them for what they do. We are hurting them and their families by not getting this right. The V.A. says their transition to a paperless system has experienced initial bumps that have worsened the problem for now, but that it will get better with time. They say advances in medical treatment and body armor mean more soldiers are surviving injuries and returning from war, and that`s a good thing, but that their system has to catch up with the increasing numbers of folks who need help once they come back from war. They are trying to catch up, and they are failing worse and worse all the time. President Obama mentioned veterans twice during his State of the Union speech last week. His administration has made veterans a priority. First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Biden, have made veterans and their families a very high profile priority. The president did not have to mention Osama bin Laden in the State of the Union this year because Osama bin Laden is dead thanks to the Navy SEALs. The man who killed Osama bin Laden has some ideas about what the government can do now to help men and women like him as they are coming home. He told members of Congress who met with him in secret, they had to meet in secret, that he can help with a plan to make things better. Let`s hope he has an audience. Joining us now is Aaron Glantz. Aaron is reporter with the Center for Investigative Reporting, the news organization that co-reported the story with "Esquire" about the SEAL who killed bin Laden. Mr. Glantz has spent seven years covering the war in Iraq and what awaits Iraq and Afghanistan veterans when they get home. He`s the author of the war comes home, Washington`s battle against America`s veterans. Aaron Glantz, thanks very much for joining us tonight. AARON GLANTZ, CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: My pleasure. MADDOW: What do we know about the meeting between this Navy SEAL and members of Congress on the day of the State of the Union last week? Obviously, his identity has to be shrouded for safety reasons. But do we know if he had a receptive audience when he met with these members of Congress? GLANTZ: Well, what members of Congress and their staff told us at the Center for Investigative Reporting is they`re very moved. Here is the guy who killed the most wanted man in our modern history, and he came to them and he apparently didn`t talk very much about himself. He talked about the other people in his unit and the 820,000 other veterans that like him are waiting on their disability claim. And a lot of them are in a lot worse strait than he is. And so, he spoke about that. He spoke about the difficulties of finding a job after you leave, you know, Special Operations where all your work is classified. You can`t exactly sit down at a job interview and say hey, I just killed Osama bin Laden, give me a job. It`s all classified. All this is very, very moving, I understand, and as you mentioned, he met with senior members of Congress from both parties, the chair of the House -- the chair of the Veterans Senate Affairs Committee and other leaders. MADDOW: Is there anything we know that might be a concrete change that could come out of these discussions? Obviously, he is a guy who speaks from a very specific perspective, and he will have the ear of anybody who he can arrange to speak with because of what he has done and who he has been associated with. I think a lot of, particularly sort of tier 1 operator veterans feel that way, that they have political capital. The nation is very grateful and very respectful what they have done. There something specific that he wants changed or that they want changed that might make a difference in the kind of problems they identified? GLANTZ: Well, I think the problem is that the members of Congress that the shooter was speaking to are also at their wit`s end with this. You know they have appropriated more money to the V.A. They have heard the president of the United States say the right things about veterans, and yet at the same time, the problems that are facing these Iraq and Afghanistan veterans when they come home are getting worse and worse and worse, to the point that even if you kill Osama bin Laden, you`re stuck in the same backlog. And, you know, he has literally gotten letters from the V.A. since he filed his disability claim in the fall that say basically, don`t call us, we`ll call you. Just hold it. So, they put more money towards this problem. The V.A. says they`re going to computerize claims. But we at the Center for Investigative Reporting found that after four years and half a billion dollars, the V.A. has only processed 75 claims electronically. And so, if you`re a member of congress, you want to solve this problem, you can`t actually force the V.A. What can you do? You can hold hearings. You can pass laws. But it`s really up to these administrators to get on the ball. MADDOW: And this is something that I can`t believe hasn`t become more -- the fact that we went through an election year where we fought about the basic functions of government, supposedly, we had this basic debate I can`t believe this didn`t become more of a partisan issue. I don`t want things to become partisan for that purpose. But we`ve got to fight over this or something, that this is going to get any better in this country. The political will is there. It`s just not working. Aaron Glantz, reporter with the Center for Investigative Reporting -- thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate it. And I`ve been following your work for a long time. Thanks. GLANTZ: Thank you. MADDOW: Aaron`s book is called "The War Comes Home: Washington`s Battle Against America`s Veterans." We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We are one week away from the first national election since the presidential race, at least the first federal election since the presidential race. And we have news to report about that race. It`s for Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.`s old seat in Illinois, which he resigned. It`s a heavily Democratic district, whoever wins the Democratic primary a week from tonight is widely expected to win the seat. That`s why at the outset, 17 different Democrats said they would like a chance at this one, 17. All over the weekend, that crowd of primary field got less crowded in a significant way when Illinois State Senator Toi Hutchinson, one of the front-runners, dropped out of the race. Now, the important context here is this: New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg`s super PAC has spent $2 million and counting on pro-gun reform ads in this district. On Friday, the PAC launched this ad, calling out Toi Hutchinson by name for having an "A" rating with the NRA. The other front runner under pressure from the Bloomberg for the same reasons is former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who also got an "A" rating from the NRA. Debbie Halvorson responded to the Bloomberg ads by including gun safety as an issue for her campaign. You can see there, it is the second thing on her issues page, gun control and gun safety. Debbie Halvorson also posted this open letter about her position on guns after Mike Bloomberg began saturating her district with ads against her. But lest there be any doubt about the contrast now in this primary, this is the campaign for the candidate the Bloomberg super PAC endorsed last week. This is who the PAC endorsed against the two candidates who had the NRA "A" ratings. The Bloomberg endorsed former State Representative Robin Kelly. And, look, look at her Web site, Robin Kelly`s campaign is centrally, almost totally now about her commitment to leading on gun safety. Gun policy is the central point of this race at this point, which is, after all, our first federal race since the shootings at Sandy Hook. There has not been much polling yet. The race is a week from today. But based on what we see so far, the contest looks like Robin Kelly running on gun reform, almost single-minded focus on gun reform against the remaining front runner who has the A rating from the NRA who now says she wants to talk about gun control. One week to go, we`ll keep the election music close at hand. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THEN-SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: As always, I rely on Gail`s love and support and that of our two lovely daughters. So I want to thank Ayla and Arianna for their help, as well. And just in case anybody who is watching throughout the country, yes, they`re both available. (CHEERS) BROWN: No, no, no. No -- only kidding, only kidding. Only kidding, only kidding. Arianna definitely is not available, but Ayla is. UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Stop. BROWN: This is Arianna. And this is Ayla. (CHEERS) BROWN: Well, I -- I can see I`m going to get in trouble when I get home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Some activity today in the race for John Kerry`s recently vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts. A new poll just out from PPP shows Congressman Ed Markey beating Stephen Lynch for the Democratic nomination for that special election. The primaries will be held in April. The special election will be held in June. "Politico" is reporting that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is going to be hosting a fundraiser for Congressman Ed Markey for that sit next month. Republicans are trying to use that against Ed Markey. They`re calling for him to withdraw from the fundraiser, stay tuned for how that plays out. On the Republican side, though, the biggest story continues to be the one that got away, the Republican who decided not to run. Perhaps the earliest indication that recently ousted Senator Scott Brown was not going to run in that special election to try to return to the Senate was a series of tweets he posted after midnight one weekend in January. Ungrammatical or misspelled and pugnacious little tweets, including this instant classic which linguistic scholars believe is pronounced (INAUDIBLE). And he decided there after to not run for senate again, the tweets probably would have been just the last thing to have happened in the public eye concerning former Senator Scott Brown, right? The problem is he believes he may run for something else. And in the local interview in which Scott Brown said he would run for governor of Massachusetts, he also had to talk about (INAUDIBLE)? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: How about that tweeting thing? BROWN: Anybody ever hear of a pocket tweet, a dial? I mean, it was pretty simple. I have an iPhone 5, and if anybody has an iPhone 5, OK, the keys are small. So very, very sensitive. Ayla was teaching me how to obviously get on Facebook and twitter and there were areas I didn`t really understand. After her concert, we were here in the living room and responded to a couple of people. And then put it in my pocket, the next thing I wake up -- REPORTER: Becomes a news story, Scott. BROWN: Trended worldwide. REPORTER: So you`re saying it was just a mistake? BROWN: Well, what would it be? What am I randomly pressing numbers? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What else would it be? So simple, I have a pocket, a phone, you do the math. It cannot be that was in any way, you know, not with it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: First of all, I rarely drink. The last time I was ever drunk was my bachelor party, that was what, 28 years ago, or 27 years ago. So I guess no one has ever pocket-dialed or tweeted before. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, Senator Brown, people have pocket dialled and tweeted before. But your thing does not look like a pocket dial. It looks specially like a really badly misspelled of the word whatever which you were in the middle of tweeting to people over and over and over again, after midnight, on a weekend, apparently on purpose, both before and after the alleged pocket dial. This is what you may expect a pocket-dialled tweet to look like. This happened to Congressman Keith Ellison a year ago. Now, we don`t know what type of phone he had, but he was apparently sitting on the R and F keys which are right next to each other. He was not using words using keys that are spread out all over the keyboard. But we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW were not the only ones who are suspicious of Scott Brown`s butt dial defense. The folks at "New York" magazine`s daily intelligence blog caught with the inventor of the Twitter iPhone app that he found it unlikely that (INAUDIBLE) was a pocket tweet. He even went so far as to try personally to recreate a Scott Brown (INAUDIBLE) level pocket tweet himself with his own phone in his own pocket with the screen on, mashing the keyboard. Here is what he got. M, quote, "only one character was inputted. And I was vigorously matching it in my pants for a while for science." It is kind of hard to believe that (INAUDIBLE) was a butt dial. But one thing is certain, when presented with an opportunity to apparently embarrass one or both of his daughters, Scott Brown will take that opportunity. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Arianna definitely is not available, but Ayla is. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop. BROWN: Ayla was teaching me how to obviously get on Facebook and Twitter, and there were areas I didn`t really understand. After her concert, we were here in the living room. And responded to a couple of people. And then put it in my pocket. The next thing I wake up, I said to some -- REPORTER: It becomes a news story, Scott. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know, drunk tweet, butt tweet, pocket tweet, whatever, nobody is really going to hold that against you. But take some responsibility, man, blaming the daughter, really? Whatever, like whatever. That does it for us, we`ll see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END