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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/04/13

Guests: Sandra Day O`Connor, Kevin Murphy

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening. Happy Monday. Thank you for sticking with us this hour. This weekend at Harvard Law School, the official who just stepped down as the top lawyer in the Pentagon weighed in on the next big civil rights cases that are coming up before the Supreme Court. This month, the court is going to be hearing arguments on same-sex marriage under the law. And former Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson told the Black Law Students Association at Harvard, quote, "Our gay brothers and sisters who are in the struggle for marriage equality right now in the state legislatures and in the courts of this country are marching step by step the same road toward equal treatment under law that we know so well. Their cause is our cause." The went on to explain his view that the impact of laws banning equal marriage rights would be particularly and are now particularly cruel and unfair in his words to people who are serving in the U.S. military. The same argument is made by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in a brief that they have filed, along with a number of other former military officials with the Supreme Court about one of those forthcoming marriage cases. They`re arguing that service members and veterans are treated unequally under the law because of bans on recognizing same-sex marriages, and they say that should be fixed. It was 1960 when Frank Kameny petitioned the United States Supreme Court to get his job back with the Department of the Army after he was fired for being gay. The court declined to hear his case. In looking at Frank Kameny`s papers this weekend, I was thinking ahead towards those cases coming out before the Supreme Court later this month, I came across this rather amazing image. Look closely at what this picture is here. It`s Frank Kameny, who is standing at the lectern there. He`s at the American Psychiatric Association. He is making the case that they should stop saying homosexuality is a mental disorder. But look at the guy sitting next to him. Crazy, right? He is wearing a mask with an attached wig. That man was himself a psychiatrist, a member of the American Psychiatric Association. And he too took the lectern to advise the association to stop listing being gay as a mental illness. But he had to disguise himself in order to do to keep his job. So, he wore a mask and a wig and a big baggy tuxedo jacket. And he disguised his voice when he took the microphone. He described himself as Dr. Anonymous. That was 1972. The distance between then in our country and now in our country seems like a million years, and like we have come a million miles. But we are still fighting over many of the same things. Only this time the political inertia, the weight of who is on each side of the "V", who is on side of the argument in a lot of cases is reversed. It was veterans organizations and many former senior military figures, and more than 200 major corporations and dozens of senior Republican figures, including former governors and former cabinet officers, and with the administration itself all weighing in on the pro-gay rights side in those forthcoming civil rights cases later this month. Here is the big question: does the Supreme Court care? When there are big social shifts in the perception of what is just in our country, how does that weigh on the nine un-appealable finite judges who get to decide these things for us as a country when nobody else does? Does it matter to them to know how the country feels about these issues that they get to decide? And should it matter? Particularly when on something like gay rights opinions are changing fast. On the other side of that question, how cognizant are the justices of how their actions shape the country`s view of the court? The country`s view of that institution that they represent and its legitimacy in our system of government. A couple of months ago, former Justice Sandra Day O`Connor did a interview in parade magazine of all place in which she was asked about public approval ratings for Supreme Court justices. Public approval of the justices had dropped from something like two-thirds, roughly 66 percent in the late 1980s down to 44 percent now. Justice O`Connor responded by saying she thought that drop was disturbing, and that, quote, "I think Bush v. Gore may have been a turning point. It was seen by the public as political." In Justice O`Connor`s new book, "Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court," she publishes a remarkable photograph that have I not seen anywhere else before I saw it in this book. It`s photograph taken on inauguration day this 2001. Justice O`Connor, you can see on the foreground, her husband on the right, Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Rehnquist are waiting for the inauguration of George W. Bush to start. An inauguration made possible by virtue of the decision Bush v. Gore. And I just find the looks on their faces and the overall mood of this photograph to be amazing. And so, how does the country look from the perspective of an unreviewable panel that is charged not with arbiting public opinion, but was arbiting the reach of the Constitution as our country grows older and changes. How do they see us, and do they care what we think? And should they care what we think? If part of their responsibility as justices is to maintain the prestige of the court, to keep us all respecting the court, to keep us all in agreement that their word is final and ought to be, how does that factor into which cases they choose to decide and how they decide them? If it factors in at all. Joining us tonight for interview, I`m honored to say, is former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O`Connor. She is the author of "Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court", which comes out tomorrow. Justice O`Connor, thank you so much for being here. SANDRA DAY O`CONNOR, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Well, I`m glad to be here with you, thank you. MADDOW: I know that you cannot discuss the legal particulars of any matters that are still before the court. But am I asking an appropriate question here? Is it worth considering how changing political views, changing social mores are felt within the court? O`CONNOR: Well, the members of the court are human beings. They read the newspaper and they probably watch a little of the news from time to time. They`re not immune or restricted from being aware of what is going on around them. But I certainly think they are conscious about not letting that determine their decisions. They`re not running a popularity contest there against other government actors at all. They`re trying to do what they are there to do, which is determine the law as it affects certain questions that the court has agreed to resolve. So I think that`s determinative for them, not public opinion. And I don`t think the court does or should be governed by public opinion on how an issue should be resolved or whether to take a case. MADDOW: There is a lot of political impact outside the court of the kinds of briefs that different groups and individual file with the court on an issue like this controversial cases about same-sex marriages. O`CONNOR: Yes. MADDOW: Do the justices care what is in those briefs? Does it matter? O`CONNOR: Oh, the justices read them, and it isn`t that you read it and you care because such and such a group filed it. You read it for its content. Is what the brief says important to you in terms of resolving a legal issue? If it`s all fluff or you know, drama? No. But if it gives you intelligent -- an intelligent look at the legal issues, then it might be of some value to you, as a justice. MADDOW: In terms of the two-way street of public opinion, one of the things that is clear in this book, and I actually saw some parallels with Justice Breyer`s last book which I read before this and Justice Stephen`s book which I read since he retired -- all of you very clearly concerned with the view of the court as an institution with its perceived legitimacy. O`CONNOR: Yes. MADDOW: Do you feel that that`s threatened? O`CONNOR: At the moment -- well, I mean it`s threatened always to some extent if there is some highly visible issue out there on which public opinion is divided, that you`re aware as a justice that there is an important issue that many people care about. And so, therefore, you want to be particularly careful as you decide it. Not to unnecessarily offend people by what we say or do. But it doesn`t govern the decision. The fact that a great many people care about an issue is not a governing factor in how the decision comes down, what the legal theory is. MADDOW: When you diagnosis the impact of Bush v. Gore on public opinion as having been perceived as political, do you believe that the justices should take care to comport themselves while they`re sitting on the court in ways that don`t allay themselves with any particular political sect? O`CONNOR: Well, they don`t. But having taken a legal position, it might put you on one side or another of an issue because of your view of the law will affect the outlook of some people about you as a justice. They`ll think oh, you did so and so, and therefore draw conclusions from that. And that can`t be helped, I guess, because justices are forced to take a position on the legal issues that they`re there to decide. They have to do that. MADDOW: But should Supreme Court justices be governed by the same ethics, advice that applies to lower court justices? O`CONNOR: Yes, of course. MADDOW: They`re not -- O`CONNOR: What you thinking of? MADDOW: I`m thinking of Justices Thomas and Scalia giving speeches to groups that frequently take one side in court arguments and portraying themselves I think as activists in the political atmosphere. O`CONNOR: Well, I don`t think that many of the members of the court want to be perceived as political activists. I don`t think they do. But at times, justices are asked to speak, and maybe they express a view on something that is also a topic of political activism one way or another. And so I`m sure in doing that, the justice doesn`t want to be perceived as being a political activist at all because they decide the cases not based on their personal views, but on their perception of the legal doctrines that govern their decision. MADDOW: And it`s important that we see them that way? O`CONNOR: Yes, it is. MADDOW: Do you wish that you were still sitting on the court? O`CONNOR: No, I had 25 years there, and that`s a good long-term on the court. MADDOW: I`m going to -- I`d love to play one sound bite for you, which will be familiar to you, because it is from your own history. And it is not President Reagan announcing that he is choosing you, but it is President Reagan as a candidate for president. So, candidate Reagan promising that he will pick a woman for one of his first Supreme Court vacancies. Let`s listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Now, I`m announcing today that one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration will be filled by the most qualified woman I can possibly find, one who meets the high standards I will demand for all court appointments. It`s time for a woman to sit among our highest jurists. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was just a few weeks before the election. O`CONNOR: I know he said that because he was running for the presidency, and he felt that the time that maybe he wasn`t getting as much enthusiastic support from women voters as he would like to see. And I think he saw that as a potential issue! That might help him in the election. MADDOW: It seems. O`CONNOR: And I knew he had something like that. That`s the first time I had seen or heard exactly what it was he said. But I knew he had said something along those lines. MADDOW: At the start of that press conference, at the very top of it, he expresses himself in exactly the terms you just said, where he says, I think I have been unfairly tarred as being not a great candidate for women. And so I would like to announce. O`CONNOR: Yes, yes. MADDOW: Did you have any idea he was talking about you? O`CONNOR: I don`t think he was because he didn`t really know at that time when or if there would be a vacancy during his period as president, if he became president. And so, he had no way of knowing that he would be or that he would fairly soon after taking office have a vacancy to fill. MADDOW: Do you think that candidate Reagan who then later became President Reagan was right to privilege the characteristic of gender in looking for a nominee? I mean, we can see the political logic to why he did it, but was he ethically right to do that? O`CONNOR: Well, he certainly was entitled to do it. And I don`t see any unethical that you were going to include women in a group that has never had one as a member. I don`t see anything unethical than at all. MADDOW: What is it about a more diverse bench that results in better decisions, if it does in fact result in better decisions? O`CONNOR: It may not. You don`t know. That would depend very much on the qualities of the person appointed. And it didn`t -- it wouldn`t rest on gender normally. But we tend to think of ourselves in this country as being open-minded on matters of gender and race. And so it would not be unusual to have someone say, look, on a body that represents the whole nation and has to make critical decisions, we`d like to see it racially balanced, and we would like to see it gender balanced in some fashion. That`s not a surprising action for a president to take, for me, particularly in a country where half the voters are female. MADDOW: And sometimes more. O`CONNOR: Sometimes more. MADDOW: I want to ask you about the photo that I showed from your book. O`CONNOR: Yes. MADDOW: Page 16 of the book, worth buying the book for this alone. I`ve never seen this photo before. I don`t know if it`s ever been published anywhere before. But it`s you and Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Rehnquist -- O`CONNOR: Yes. MADDOW: -- on Inauguration Day in 2001. O`CONNOR: On those days, the justices typically have space over in the Capitol building where they can sit around until their presence is required. And so that was what was going on. MADDOW: So, those are long days, but there is a lot of waiting? O`CONNOR: Long days, a lot of waiting. MADDOW: Is that what we`re seeing on your faces in that picture? O`CONNOR: What page is it on? MADDOW: Page 16. And so this is about a month after Bush v. Gore was decided. O`CONNOR: Yes. MADDOW: Because that was decided in mid-December 20. This was January 20th, 2001. O`CONNOR: I think people are just sitting around being a little bit bored, waiting to go out and do something, to move around. You can see that. I can see that in all the faces. There they are, just agh, what do we do now? MADDOW: Well, how did it feel to you to know that you effectively with your vote, I guess you could say any one of you, who were the five who decided with the majority in Bush v. Gore had effectively decided who would be president? How did it feel that day? O`CONNOR: I don`t recall any special feeling about it at all. I mean, we just were dealing with cases like we`re required to do. And that was a dramatic one, but it didn`t -- it didn`t cause you to feel differently somehow when you were waiting for the inauguration and killing time. MADDOW: When you saw the tens of thousands of people protesting the inauguration, defying its legitimacy, did it make you feel any differently about the weight of that decision? O`CONNOR: No, it didn`t. We all knew it was an important decision for everybody. I mean, you couldn`t fail to know that. MADDOW: Yes. Justice Sandra Day O`Connor, you`ve been there for so much history and you made a lot of it yourself in this book is both very fun and a great catalog of Supreme Court history. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. O`CONNOR: Well, thank you. MADDOW: Thank you very much. All right. This weekend there was a very moving postscript added to one of the most notorious confrontations of the civil rights movement. Five decades after the fact, the right thing was done. It surprised everybody. And the man who did it is going to join us from Montgomery, Alabama. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, the United States Senate, an image problem, and a yacht club. Guess how these things fit together. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: As of today, we have an all but official lineup for the Senate election in Massachusetts to fill John Kerry`s seat. Today was the deadline for certifying signatures for candidates who are trying to get on the ballot. Now, on the Democratic side, Congressman Ed Markey and Congressman Stephen Lynch both got their signatures certified and turned into today. Congressman Markey is still considered to be the favorite. The more conservative Congressman Lynch was really hoping to cut into that perceived advantage by getting the AFL-CIO to endorse him. But that did not happen. He did not get enough votes from the executive board of the AFL-CIO. So, Stephen Lynch`s hopes have been dashed, and the biggest labor group in the state is not going to endorse anybody in the Democratic primary. So that means practically that Ed Markey is more favored than ever in the Democratic primary. That`s the Democratic side. On the Republican side, three candidates are trying to get on the ballot. It now seems as if they are all on their way to doing that. And with three Republicans likely to be on the ballot and the primary set for next month, the Massachusetts Republican Party decided that they should hold a straw poll in the race. This is kind of the first official word from the party on this big occasion, right? This is a high profile occasion. No other Senate race in the country is going to be going on when this happens. This is Massachusetts Republicans picking somebody to run for the United States Senate. Who is going to be the next guy after Scott Brown? How are they going to follow that up? This is a really high-profile moment for Republicans in Massachusetts. And so, the Republican Party in Massachusetts scheduled their straw poll at a yacht club, lovely, because nothing brands a party trying to get over its Thurston Romney III problem like local news reports having to describe the multiple glittering chandeliers under which the Republicans choose their favorite candidate in their straw poll that they held at a yacht club. If you are thinking the whole gathering beneath glittering chandeliers at a yacht club thing seems like the wrong face forward for the party at this point, you are thing along the same lines as the guy who won the straw poll under the glittering yacht club chandeliers. "The Boston Globe" reporting that Republican State Rep. Dan Winslow slipped out from the yacht club before the votes were even counted, before even finding he had won the straw poll. Quote, "But before he left, he said he thought the event set the wrong message. They gave us three minutes to speak today. Three minutes is longer than I ever wanted to spend at a yacht club. I am not a tea and crumpets Republican. I am here because there are activists here. I am running a grassroots campaign." Which is probably closer to the right message for Massachusetts Republicans, even if he might be exactly the wrong messenger for that message, because even though candidate Dan Winslow says he did not want to spend three minutes in a yacht club, and really even that was too many, candidate Dan Winslow himself has a apparently been on the board of directors of a Massachusetts yacht club as recently as 2011, he disclosed he was deserving on the board of directors for a very nice yacht and tennis club. That`s according to this disclosure form uploaded by the Center for American Progress. We have a link on our blog if you would like to peruse. But the bottom line is Mr. Winslow is not to be confused with a tea and crumpets yachting Republican. He is in fact a yachting and tennis club Republican, and I guess that`s a whole different thing. And I guess there is nothing wrong with, that unless, of course, you`re campaigning for office by in part telling people that you are not the kind of guy who would voluntarily set foot inside a yacht club. If you`re that guy, then the fact that you`re on the board of directors of a yacht club is embarrassing. The primaries in Massachusetts are next month. They happen on April 30th. The special election is going to be in June. And from the looks of things so far, this is going to be a fun one to watch. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Programming note: there are those among us who cannot help but be up early in the morning. Tomorrow, I will join that merry flock of early birds because I will be on the "Today" show on NBC in the 7:00 a.m. hour, which means if I am smart, I will go directly to sleep at 10:01 p.m. tonight. I will be on the show to talk about my book, "Drift" which gets released in handy dandy paperback form. It comes out tomorrow. And in honor of the paperback release, I`m psyched to get back on the road on a little book tour adventure. My first stop is this coming Sunday. I`ll be speaking at South by Southwest in Austin on Sunday afternoon. Then, I`ll be heading over to Houston to speak at the Progressive Forum later that same night. So the book is out as of tomorrow. You can see the whole list of tour dates at, as well as links and stuff to help you score tickets for the places that still have some left. And tonight, we are about to come back with the police chief who you probably heard about this weekend, and who you could not believe he did the thing he did. He is our guest, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: As the Supreme Court decides whether or not to dismantle one of the main pillars of American civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act, we had on the show last week, Congressman John Lewis, whose near fatal beating on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 was part of the inspiration for the Voting Rights Act in the first place. As you know, it was March 7th, 1965, John Lewis and Hosea Williams set off with 600 protesters. They were trying to walk in a nonviolent protest from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were trying to march this 50-mile distance. It was a march for the right to vote. Well, the marchers never got far out of Selma. They were set on by police with billy clubs and tear gas. John Lewis was clubbed in the head violently enough that he is lucky not to have died. Two days later the marchers came back with not 600 people this time, but 2,500 people. And they crossed the bridge. The following Sunday, they marched again, and it was not 2,500 people, but 25,000 people by the time they walked all the way to the Montgomery state capital. And President Johnson had by then convened a joint session of Congress, citing Selma, citing those beatings on that bridge and demanding the legislation that became the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is what the Supreme Court is now considering gutting. Yesterday, they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge again. It has become an annual event, with members of Congress and elected officials and community leaders and civil rights workers, all celebrating the courage of the people who first made that trip half a century ago. Vice President Biden was there this year. At the event he apologized personally for not having made the trip to Selma the first time when he was a young man. The vice president said, quote, "I should have been here 48 years ago." When Congressman John Lewis was hurt so badly on that bridge 48 years ago, that was not the first time he had put his life in danger for that cause. Four years earlier, in 1961, he took part in the freedom rides -- two integrated busloads of people, black and white passengers traveling together, trying to make the trip from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. The Supreme Court had ruled the year before that it was unconstitutional to have forced segregation in interstate bus and rail stations. So that segregation was unconstitutional, but it was still happening in the South. So, the Freedom Riders were trying to make that ruling true. They were testing in effect whether the Constitution and the rulings of the United States Supreme Court stretched even into the South. In Rock Hill, South Carolina, Mr. Lewis and the others were attacked by a mob for trying to use a whites only waiting room. Farther down the road in the town of Anniston, Alabama, one of the buses got firebombed. And when the passengers on board tried to get out of the burning bus, the mob held the door shut and shouted that the Freedom Riders should be roasted to death inside. They were lucky to escape with their lives, and they traveled on. The second bus made it to Birmingham, and a white mob attacked them at the bus depot. Police responded by arresting not the mob, but the bus rider, including John Lewis. But still, they traveled on. Think about this for a second. The Freedom Riders had been beaten in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Their bus had been set on fire and they were nearly burned to death in Anniston, Alabama. They were beaten again in Birmingham before they left for Montgomery. So given this kind of trajectory so far, what kind of welcome do you think was waiting for them in Montgomery? What kind of welcome do you think was waiting for the Freedom Riders in May 1961 when they reached the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery, Alabama? You can imagine, right. It was this kind of a welcome. Freedom Riders attacked by whites in Montgomery. This is John Lewis standing with fellow activist Jim Zwerg. Mr. Lewis had been hit in the head with a wooden Coca-Cola crate. Mr. Zwerg I think in this picture is feeling out what he has left for teeth. Because even though the whole world knew the danger they were in, the police department in Montgomery chose to do nothing. When that very easy to predict mob descended on the bus station in Montgomery, the Montgomery police department did not show up. They did not try to prevent the violence. They did nothing. Well, this weekend as part of this commemoration where they once again marched across the bridge in Selma, with so much more weight on it than usual because of the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court right now, this weekend, at the commemoration of this events, something happened that surprised everyone. It happened in Montgomery at a church service. It was the chief of police -- the chief of Montgomery`s police department now is named Kevin Murphy. He had not yet been born when the Freedom Riders were attacked in his town. But he is the chief there now. And he says he grew up in Alabama hearing the stories about how wrong it all was. Well, on Saturday, that chief stood in the First Baptist Church in Montgomery and apologized to John Lewis, now Congressman Lewis, for the inaction of his police department way back then. Watch this. This just amazing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHIEF KEVIN MURPHY, MONTGOMERY POLICE DEPARTMENT: When you got off the bus in 1961, you didn`t have a friend in this part. And you`re good friends with the president of the United States. And I want you to know that you have friends in Montgomery Police Department, that we`re for you, we`re with you. We want to respect the law and adhere the law, which is what you were trying to do all along. This symbol of authority which used to be a symbol of oppression is a symbol of reconciliation. Fifty-two years ago, what you stood for has made a difference. The world that we live in today, this city that I get to serve as police chief is changed for the better because I wouldn`t be standing here right now if it weren`t for you. And this is a token of that appreciation, Congressman, because you changed this city. You changed this state. You changed this country. And as Pastor Moore said, you changed the world. And for that we are truly grateful to you. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The police chief gave him his badge. History cannot be changed. What happened happened, right? Before Chief Murphy, at least, the past is worth still wrestling with for the sake of what comes next. At least that`s how it seems. Joining us now is Chief Kevin Murphy of the Montgomery, Alabama, Police Department. Chief Murphy, thank you for joining us. MURPHY: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: How did you reach the decision that you would offer this apology in those terms for your police force in this way? MURPHY: It was a very easy decision to make. Congressman Lewis is one of the most decent, brave men that I think I have ever known. And, you know, he has stood in the face of danger, scorn, and ridicule. He is a nonviolent man, a man of peace, but a man of great conviction. And as I told him, a badge is an officer`s symbol of trust. And he said to me he didn`t think he was worthy to receive it. And I said he was worthy more than any man I`ve ever met, that what he stood for and it`s changed our city for the better. And I`m most indebted to him. The citizens of Montgomery are indebted to him for his acts of bravery and courage. And I wanted him to know that we love him in Montgomery. We want him to come back. Montgomery is his city. Fifty-two years ago, it wasn`t the case. He was a 21-year-old man at the time. He had no idea that he was going to be a United States congressman one day. But he put his life on the line for our country. And that means an awful lot to me. MADDOW: Have you had much reaction to your apology in Montgomery, either positive or negative, anything unexpected? MURPHY: All positive. Hundreds of e-mails, a lot of phone calls. I`ve been stopped on the streets. It`s been overwhelming. MADDOW: Chief, I know you have been chief for a couple of years now, and I looked into what you`ve been doing as chief. I know that one of the changes you made when you got the job is you started a class for the entire force that`s called "policing in a historic city." You teach every officer about the city`s place and its civil rights movement, its history with race relations both during the movement and for decades after into the present day. What are you hoping that education will do for police officers of Montgomery? MURPHY: Well, it`s a critical analysis of the Montgomery Police Department`s role during the civil rights movement. And, you know, it`s unflattering at times, some of the things that the police department did or didn`t do. Case in point, we weren`t there to protect the Freedom Riders when they arrived in Montgomery, and they were brutally assaulted. The police department`s job, fundamental function is to preserve lives and property. They failed to do that that day. But we go through a case analysis throughout the years and it`s an educational effort to try to show our officers, especially the very young ones, who -- some were born in 1991 and are now wearing a badge, that, you know, we can`t repeat the mistakes of the past. We have to be very receptive to our public. You know, part of the things that happened back this that era to this day still have a wall between us and the community that we serve. But I will say with this new class, we have actually started to break that wall down. There is a greater trust with our department and members of our community. But we have to continue to work at it. I don`t think that that work will ever be done. It`s a work in progress. MADDOW: In terms of getting that work done and moving forward, how does -- how does the apology function? You`re obviously thinking about this in long-term -- with long-term horizons both historically and looking ahead. What do you think that you can move on to once you have covered this specific ground with making the apology? MURPHY: Well, I think Montgomery and Alabama and the United States for that fact needs to heal. And segregation was a horrendous institution that scarred this country for many years. It scarred Montgomery. But it`s a new day. And, you know, people are working together more than they ever have in the history of our country, in the history of our state, certainly in the history of our city. And we need to continue to move forward. But I think the apology was very important because you even heard Congressman Lewis say he had never been apologized to for all the things that he had been through, the mistreatment and the indignities that he had suffered -- that had never happened. And I think it was very appropriate and quite timely that he received that apology. MADDOW: Chief Kevin Murphy of the Montgomery, Alabama, Police Department -- thank you so much for talking to us. MURPHY: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: If you would ever do it, I will come steal away and sit in on that class some time about policing in such a historic city. It sounds like an incredible piece of work. MURPHY: Well, thank you. MADDOW: Thanks, sir. MURPHY: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. OK, sin in haste, repent at leisure. Let the cutters` remorse commence. That story is ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: President Obama`s second term cabinet is almost complete. He took a while to get going on second term nominations. We`re weeks into his first term before he nominated anybody. But now the cabinet is actually filling up. Earlier today, the president nominated three people to cabinet-level positions. First, he nominated Sylvia Matthews Burwell to run the very important Office of Management and Budget, OMB to its friends. She`s currently the head of the Walmart Foundation. Then, the president nominated a nuclear scientist with amazing hair named Ernest Moniz to run the Department of Energy. He will replace his fellow physicist, Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu. And then, Gina McCarthy, the president nominated her to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Gina McCarthy is currently a deputy at the agency. At EPA, she heads up the Office of Air and Radiation, because that`s one office. In the last few years, she has made quite a splash. She helped write new pollution rules related to lung-killing things like soot and mercury. Power plants spit that stuff into the air, and it was Gina McCarthy`s job to say hey, let`s do that less. Not to over-generalized, but environmental groups at least seem to be pretty happy with an EPA pick like Gina McCarthy, which means environmental groups had a much better Monday than they did a weekend. And that`s because of what happened in the Friday afternoon news dump. At 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday, or as most people call it, 90 minutes until the weekend o`clock, somebody at the State Department decided it was time to release that department`s long-awaited news that they figured would upset a lot of people. It goes without saying that if you want something to get a lot of attention, if you want the media to pay attention to it, you want stories and blog posts and TV shows about it, release it on a Monday morning. But if you want something buried, we suggest the later in the day hours on a Friday, like the State Department did with their report on this big pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil into the United States from Canada. Hence the need for the State Department to be involved since it crosses a border. It`s an international matter. The pipeline crosses the border at Montana and then runs clear down to the bottom of Nebraska. For this pipeline, there is the meta-environmental issue of whether tar sands oil is the future we want given the global warming consequences. But also, there is the less meta-environmental issue which is all about the land this pipeline runs through. All those ranch lands and those fresh water aquifers and lakes and homes, honestly, we do not have great technology to clean up normal oil spills. But tar sands oil spills? We really do not know how to clean those up. That was the problem with the big disastrous Kalamazoo River oil spill a few years ago, because tar sands oil it turns out is harder to clean up. We`re bad at all oil spill cleanup, but we are really bad at tar sands oil cleanup because we don`t know how to do it. So what happens if and when something goes wrong? The State Department and ultimately the president will have to consider those kinds of questions when they make a decision on whether or not to sign off on construction of the Keystone pipeline. The pipeline, of course, has its boosters, Republicans tried to make it an issue during the election against the president because he had not approved the pipeline. But it`s also easy to find people opposed to this thing, both locally where the pipeline is supposed to go and nationally. In August 2011, there were two weeks of anti-Keystone protests. Protesters doing civil disobedience outside the White House. Two weeks, more than 1,000 people arrested. Two months after that, anti-Keystone protests in San Diego, California. A month after that, November 2011, a big protest outside the White House, thousands of people at the White House gates. November 2012, protests in Texas and more protests in Washington, D.C. December 2012, activists climb into the pipeline and blockade themselves inside it. January, the start of this year, anti-pipeline protesters in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Texas occupy the offices of the company that is building the pipeline. The following month, February, more protests in Texas and California. That`s San Diego, California you`re looking at. And then also last month, big protests in Washington, D.C. This was a large protest. Organizers claim there were tens of thousands of protesters there. There`s been a lot of protests overall, including a lot of civil disobedience on this issue. Activists say more than 1,500 people have been arrested protesting the pipeline in less than two years. And so, then, on Friday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and almost time to go home, the State Department released its environmental impact report on the pipeline. And according to the report, the pipeline won`t have too much of an impact. Won`t have too much of an impact on the environment or at least seemingly, it won`t have enough of an impact to warrant the State Department scuttling the deal on those grounds. Environmental groups as you might imagine are not psyched. The State Department will be taking comments on whether you think it should be approved or not for the next 45 days. The environmental group says they are still training more people in civil disobedience techniques, which means I expect we will be seeing more of this kind of thing over the next few weeks and months. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Just before 9:00 on Friday night, the White House issued a presidential order, "By the authority vested in me as president by the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that budgetary resources in each nonexempt budget account be reduced by the amount calculated by the Office of Management and Budget in its report to the Congress of March" -- what it means, the sequester -- or as we like to refer to it around here, congressional storm Earl -- has arrived. Earlier that same day, President Obama convened a meeting with the congressional leaders of both parties to try to stop it, to try to stop the $85 billion worth of cuts from going into effect. He said the cuts would hurt the economy and cost people their jobs. He called the cuts dumb and arbitrary. And then pretty much right after he got done calling them dumb and arbitrary, he had to go sign this boring presidential order executive ordering them into law. President Obama was not saying these cuts are dumb and arbitrary because he personally does not like them. These cuts are dumb and arbitrary by design. Both sides agree they are dumb and arbitrary, the whole point of the sequester was that they would be dumb and arbitrary so nobody would want them. The cuts are dumb and arbitrary and purposely hurtful in a bipartisan fashion, because the whole design was about it being equally unpalatable to both parties. That was the whole idea, right? That was on purpose. Democrats were supposed to hate the sequester, because of the dumb and arbitrary cuts to stuff like housing programs for the poor, and early childhood education, and WIC, the women, infant and children nutrition program which provides food and baby formula for low income families. Not to mention cuts in funding for things like national parks and scientific research. Republicans on the other hand were supposed to hate the sequester because of dumb and arbitrary cuts to national security spending. It was supposed to be a "sword of Damocles" hanging over the Defense Department. No way Republicans were going to let that happen, right? Well, all of this collective hatred of on-purpose, dumb and arbitrary cutting was supposed to force both sides to work together to avoid the cuts. That, of course, failed. The sword of Damocles failed. And now, we`re budgeting what the government spends its money on using mandatory cuts that every hates, that were never supposed to happen in the first place. Well, what happens now? As you might imagine, they`re trying to retroactively undo it, but in a very specific way. Today, House Republicans introduced retroactive efforts to get rid of these dumb and arbitrary cuts, to get rid of some of these dumb and arbitrary cuts. It turns they just want to fix the parts related to national security and defense spending. The stuff put in there specifically because it was supposed to be unpalatable to them. So, their plan would not just ease the cuts on the Pentagon, it would give the Pentagon $2 billion more than the president asked for in non-war Pentagon funding. So, Republicans -- think about this -- would keep all the austerity for the programs that the Democrats don`t want to see cut. But the cuts that they don`t like would be mostly reversed. That`s how they`re going to fix it. To review, the sequester was supposed to be the equal pain for both parties -- bipartisan dumbness. Bipartisan arbitrariness. That was the whole point. That was the design. Today, House Republicans said the parts we do not like, we think we`re going to undo them. But all the rest of it, the reduction in funds for housing programs that could leave more than 100,000 people homeless could force people in emergency shelters out on to the street. The reduction in WIC funding that could leave three quarters of a million low income women and children without benefits. When you`re talking about WIC, that means without infant formula. Or 11 percent reduction in unemployment benefits for people who have not been able to find a job. All of that will stay gone away. It`s fine for all of that to have gone away. Those cuts must be seen now as permanent. But the things that the Republicans will miss, they`ll come back. House Republicans today advancing a plan to undo the part of the sequester their party doesn`t like, while keeping the part Democrats do not like, which is just strategic genius, such a deal. Why didn`t I think of that? If every time I had to make a deal with somebody, the part they didn`t like about it, they could undo afterwards and leave the part I didn`t like intact, I would make a lot more deals. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow morning on the "Today" show and then again tomorrow night for this show. 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