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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/13/13

Guests: Elizabeth Esty

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Chris. Can I say you again in just a minute or two? CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN HOST: That sounds wonderful. MADDOW: Very good. I`ll see you here. Thank you at home for staying with us this hour. There`s a lot going on today, particularly in Republican politics in Washington and Virginia and a little bit in Wisconsin today. We`re going to have all those news stories coming up. Plus, there`s some new news on guns, and we have got a best thing in the world today that makes me very happy. We have a lot ahead over the course of this hour, including as you just heard, we will be bringing back the one and only Chris Hayes in just a few minutes as my guest. But we need to start tonight with some breaking news that`s coming out of the White House. Within the last couple of hours, high ranking White House officials have announced that it is now the official position of our government, of the U.S. government, that Syria`s President Bashar al Assad has used chemical weapons against the opposition forces in his country. President Obama has long said that chemical weapons would be a red line. That the Syrian regime should not cross. Since the government has now concluded that they apparently have crossed that line, the Obama administration says they intend, now, to arm the rebels in Syria. This news was first reported late this evening by "The New York Times." "The Times" quoting an internal memo that they said was circulating inside the government but once "The Times" published, the news was then confirmed by the White House, a short time later. During a conference call with reporters late tonight, the president`s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said, quote, "Our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year." Now, you may remember back in April, the White House announced, the president, himself announced that the intelligence community believed with varying degrees of confidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, but tonight the White House for the first time is going much further and saying chemical weapons have been used. Instead of that odd phrasing from April, varying degrees of confidence, the new statement says, "Our intelligence community has high confidence in the assessment," given multiple independent streams of information. So, we`ve gone from varying degrees of confidence to high confidence. We`ve also gone from no direct assertion that use of chemical weapons definitely meant that the Assad regime, itself, had used the chemical weapons. Now, they are saying they concluded that adds well. The White House tonight also saying they assess between 100 to 150 people to have been killed in these chemical weapons attacks since the start of this conflict -- although deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes described that 100 to 150 number as an incomplete number. In terms of what this means for us, what this means for U.S. policy, U.S. strategy and U.S. action, this means we are now wading into the Syrian civil war. White House announcing tonight that President Obama has decided to supply direct assistance including military assistance to some factions of the rebel groups who are fighting to topple the Assad regime. We are now going to be arming the rebels. Quoting again from the White House tonight, "The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition. That will involve providing direct support to the supreme and military council, which is one of the groups of rebels." And the same says that includes military support. The White House is not detailing what kind of military support will be provided, but tonight interestingly these rebel groups in Syria are wasting no time and saying publicly what it is that they would like. They`re asking for anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons and large quantities of other weapons and ammunition. Up until this point, the U.S. government says it has just been providing nonlethal aid, things like night vision goggles and body armor. The White House is saying tonight that that will change. They also say they have notified Congress and the United Nations and various international allies about these findings. They say they have specifically notified Syria`s best friend in the world, Russia, before they went public with this information tonight. President Obama`s headed to the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland this weekend. The White House says that while he is there, he will consult with European allies about next steps. The president is also expected to press Russian President Vladimir Putin on this subject directly. Putin has been one of Bashar al Assad`s strongest backers, including shipping him weapons during this bloody civil war and threatening to ship him more. In a sort of strange domestic development in all of this, the White House was actually briefly upstaged tonight in making this announcement. Before the White House came out publicly to declare that they have decided to provide arms to the Syrian rebel, Republican Senator John McCain went to the Senate floor to preannounce that decision for them. And, of course, also to announce that just providing arms to the rebels like he has been demanding is not enough. But, again, the breaking news at this hour is that the United States government has determined that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against the opposition. The Obama administration says they have high confidence in that assessment and they will now, on the basis of that high confidence assessment, be providing direct military support to one side in the Syrian conflict. It is unclear at this juncture what happens next, but clearly, this is a major escalation in this conflict. Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent. Andrea, thanks very much for helping us sort this out tonight. It`s nice to have you here. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: Obviously, there was some strangeness about the timing with both "The New York Times" and John McCain on the Senate floor jumping the gun a little bit before the White House made this announcement formally. Do you have insight into how the timing unfolded today and why this happened tonight? MITCHELL: Well, they`ve been working toward this now for a couple of days. We`ve all been waiting on this announcement and there was certainly a lot of evidence that there were meetings. We knew they had a big principals meeting at the White House yesterday. The most unusual thing is not that "The New York Times" broke the story because they`ve been working very hard on it and they`ve got excellent reporters. The most unusual thing is that John McCain went on the floor and announced it for them. And announced it by casting it in what has to be the most negative light. That it was the fact that he was applauding this decision but clearly it`s a decision that he thinks is too little, too late. It`s the least bad of a lot of bad choices according to administration officials that they knew get out in front of it. They`re getting a lot of pressure, Rachel, from the Brits, from the French who said there was evidence for months and the administration was really dragging its feet here in trying to say that that red line had not been crossed. It`s very clear that it was President Obama, himself, and his closest aides, his national security adviser, outgoing adviser Tom Donilon, who felt they did not want to get further involved. Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta and others on the foreign policy team had long argued for this since last year. So, it was finally incrementally joining the allies and really the rest of the Arab world as well in arguing this had to be done. MADDOW: The two sides of this, obviously, Andrea, have been assessing whether red lines have been crossed, assessing how bad things are in Syria, but also assessing whether or not America action, or allied action in some sort of international force might be helpful at alleviating that bad thing, at making things any better. Do we know if this action by the White House means they are more confident that when they send arms into the conflict in Syria, they are arming the people they intend to and the people who we will be happy in the long run got those weapons? MITCHELL: They`re not clear on that. They think that General Idris is the best choice, but they get into battlefield, if they were to lose an engagement, let`s say, (AUDIO GAP). We saw what happened all those years ago back in the `80s in Afghanistan and the blowback that we then experienced with all those weapons then being used against our own forces. But even worse than that, Rachel, the fact we don`t know if this is really going to help. I think the real tipping point here was not just the allied pressure but the fact that Iran had jumped in so completely that Hezbollah is so engaged. So, you not only had the Russians keeping Assad going to what would be a stalemate. Now, Assad was really winning and coming out in terms of having a real advantage. And we could not let that happen. Russia is now the real equation. What will the president say at this G-8 summit to Vladimir Putin that will at all push him off of his position of wanting to keep Assad in place? MADDOW: Andrea, this is probably too simple a question to be answerable, I guess. But I mean, talk about the United States getting pressure from allies like England and France on this, but them not going ahead without us. I mean, in some ways in Libya, France did go ahead without us and did some things that the United States was not willing to do, ourselves. They did not really do that in Syria. They have not been arming the rebels. And now we are. And we presumably will take part in some multilateral effort to do that with a lot of European partners. What difference does it make that we`re doing it? Why couldn`t the people who were so much more sure about this before we were do this on their own without us? MITCHELL: Well, certainly the Arab leaders have Saudis and Qatar, they`ve been arming them. We have the situation where the refugee crisis in Turkey and particularly in Jordan is really becoming critical. Jordan cannot withstand the continual flow of refugees. But I think the big difference is Iran. Now that Iran is so fully engaged, they were always arming and, by the way, Maliki in Iraq, he`s letting those arms go through. So, we have not been able to persuade Iraq and the government that we helped put in place to stop the flow of arms through its territory and over its territory, ground and air into Syria. But I think the fact was that Iran was helping Assad win and we could not consider the geopolitical ramifications of letting Iran win this victory and so then you have Assad there and Iran, more powerful than ever with an Iranian election tomorrow and more, you know, forceful leader presumably than Ahmadinejad has been. It`s just the worst possible calculation. And also the weakness that it projected throughout the Arab world for us to be dragging our feet. I mean, if the president had not said that the chemical weapon was a red line, you know, I`m not aware of other intelligence, but we have to be concerned, where are these chemical stocks? Where is Assad now moving them? Who has control of them? We have to figure that out. We understand the administration is very reluctant to go the full bore with what John McCain has said is necessary which is a no-flight zone, then presumably some air strikes. Dennis Ross and others who have been administration advisers say we need to do that because what we`re doing now with trucks and equipment and some weaponry and communication gear to help build a more cohesive force on the rebel side is not enough. So it`s not only too little, too late, but some administration supporters believe that this step is also not going to do enough to really have a victory. One other factor, politically, is the Bill Clinton factor. John McCain`s Institute had the meeting -- that was supposed to be off the record, private meeting on Tuesday night, "Politico" broke the story. Maggie Haberman broke the story that Bill Clinton had said Tuesday night at this meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, that the president should not be looking to the polls and that he`ll some day look back and think, you know, I was a wuss for doing this. I don`t have the exact quotes, but they are online. We aired it today on our show and all the other shows all day. And that led to Jay Carney having to say that the president understands that there`s a lot of advice out there. What can they say? Bill Clinton criticizing Barack Obama on the Syrian policy at an institute, at John McCain`s venue. It doesn`t get much more uncomfortable than that. MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" here on MSNBC, this is an incredible story. Andrea, thank you very much. It`s good to have you here. Joining us now is the one and only Chris Hayes, who`s host of the excellent "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES," every night at 8:00 Eastern Time. Chris` book, "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy", is out in paperback as of this minute. Chris, thank you for being here. HAYES: It`s great to be at this side of the hallway. MADDOW: This is the United States getting involved in the Syrian civil war and arming the rebels. And as the president takes that step, already there is a clamor that it`s not enough, that he`s still projecting weakness. HAYES: You know, what`s interesting about John McCain stepping on the White House`s announcement was that, for me, who`s a persuadable voter on intervention in Syria -- I mean, I`m extremely skeptical but perhaps persuadable. The McCain argument was the worst one, right? John McCain says this is just the beginning of massive, massive all-in intervention in which we`re going to end up God knows doing what. Sending troops -- everyone says, no, no, troops. But if this doesn`t work, then something more. And if that doesn`t work, then something more, right? There`s a quicksand logic here. For John McCain to lead with that argument was the most terrifying, alienating argument for this incremental step that stepped on the White House`s very careful, measured rhetoric in their actual conference call. MADDOW: Right. HAYES: So, he set up the worst terms of -- for the White House to make their own message to the own skeptical public about this very intense political decision they`re making. And the most amazing polling on this, "The Wall Street Journal," is there are more people who favor boots on the ground, 15 percent, than favor arming the rebels at 11 percent. Arming the rebels is the least popular option, 11 percent of Americans favor it. And here we have the government announcing today that looks like what they`re doing. It`s very dangerous. MADDOW: Forty percent of the public that wants humanitarian assistance. You want 20 percent of the public that wants them to do nothing. HAYES: Yes. MADDOW: Clearly, there`s no political advantage to be gained here. There`s political cajole that`s going to be wage on every one of these choices. HAYES: That`s right. And what`s amazing to me, this is something you write about in "Drift" and we observe is the unique gravity of debates over war and military intervention, where something this unpopular in the domestic sphere, no one would be talking about doing. No one would be talking about doing something 11 percent of people favored. It would be political suicide. There is a kind of different sets of considerations partly because there are actual strategic considerations. But domestic political considerations, when you hear people talk about the pressure that`s mounting, what exactly does that mean politically? It means you`re getting criticized by John McCain on the Sunday morning shows? Like why does that matter? You`re looking weak in front of people? How important is looking strong if the cost of looking strong is cost of blood and treasure, right? I mean, those are the things to balance out here and it seems like the rhetoric on Syria from the beginning has existed in this separate sphere which is the kind of suspended logic rhetoric we have about war and intervention. MADDOW: What can happen politically? What could smart political interveners do in order to make this debate about whether or not our actions will be effective? HAYES: Yes. MADDOW: Rather than whether or not our actions are warranted by outrage? HAYES: To me, what I found most, I have talked to people who have been part of the conflict, reporting on it. My question is pragmatic, efficacy. Let`s say we want to help the rebels beat Assad. Let`s just say that`s our national strategic goal. Can we do that? And if we commit to that, can we do it in a limited fashion? And what I have heard from people who have been eyewitnesses there is I don`t think you can. I don`t think you can control the inputs of the weapons, the people that assassinate, that executed a 16-year-old boy for blasphemy in a rebel-controlled part of Syria the other day who are al Qaeda affiliates, I don`t think you can keep the people out of their hands. I don`t know if you can, short of really serious intervention, create the outcome you want. And so, to me the most persuasive argument against is purely a practical argument about the efficacy of us taking these incremental steps. MADDOW: It`s ideologically fractured at this point. HAYES: For understandable reasons. MADDOW: Except for constant hawks like John McCain, it ought to be a pragmatic decision, which is why I would hope if the White House wants that to be the argument they would put into the public domain, not through leaks, but officially, what their evidence is and what they think they can do and make those arguments not in secret, make those arguments openly. HAYES: I agree. MADDOW: Thank you. They rework them (ph). Chris Hayes, who is the host of "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" -- no, who`s the host of "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES," previously known as "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES." HAYES: That`s right. MADDOW: Chris` new book is called "Twilight of Elites: America After Meritocracy," it is out now in paperback -- Chris, thank you. Appreciate it. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Yoga, voodoo, and their place in Republican politics. Seriously. They brought it up, not me. Yoga and voodoo. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: And now, time for your yoga and voodoo update from the Republican Party in Virginia. The last we left the Republican Party in Virginia, the governor was refusing to comment on news that a grand jury was now part of the investigation into his corruption scandal. The party`s nominee to succeed that governor, the state attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, he was trying as hard as possible to build a gubernatorial campaign that made him seem like more than just the social conservative crusader he has always been. I mean, sure, everybody knows Bob McDonnell as governor ultrasound, but it really is Ken Cuccinelli who`s been the one trying to shut down Virginia`s abortion clinics, who ordered the covering up of the insufficiently modest lady on the Virginia state seal, and who has led the fight for Virginia to try to keep its anti-sodomy laws even though the Supreme Court says those are illegal. In trying to seem more well-rounded than that, for his run for governor in purple state Virginia, a state just cast its presidential votes for a man named Barack Obama, again, although he`s been trying to soften up his crusading social conservative antiabortion activist bring back the sodomy laws image so as to run statewide for governor in this purple state, Ken Cuccinelli has been hobbled in those efforts. He`s been hobbled in his makeover attempt. By the rest of the ticket he`s running with. By the rest of the Republican ticket that Virginia Republicans chose to run alongside Ken Cuccinelli when they chose them at their party convention. Republicans did not choose their candidates in statewide vote in Virginia, they chose them at a convention attended by all the hardest of hardcore Republican Party base activists. So, they not only picked fire and brimstone Ken Cuccinelli, they also picked him a running mate who is not going to be an asset in any effort to soften the Virginia Republican Party`s hard line tiny tent message. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) E.W. JACKSON (R), VIRGINIA LT. GOV. NOMINEE: Their minds are perverted. They`re, frankly, very sick people psychologically and mentally and emotionally and they see everything through the lens of homosexuality. When they talk about love, they`re not talking about love. They`re talking about homosexual sex. The military has been decimated by this lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender policy that has now been implemented. And it`s an abomination. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the Republican lieutenant governor candidate running alongside Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia elections this year. He also says the Democratic Party is anti-god. The man who Republicans picked to be the running mate of both of those guy, Republican candidate for attorney general, turns out he`s kind of amazing, too. He`s best known for his demand for his proposed legislation that any woman in the state of Virginia having a miscarriage must by law report that miscarriage to the local sheriff within 24 hours. In case the sheriff wants to investigate the miscarriage, or something. But as promised, there is a yoga and voodoo update on this unexpectedly dank corner of in your face conservatism from the Republican Party in Virginia and it is the Republicans` lieutenant governor candidate, E.W. Jackson, he has now gone public to refute what he says are misunderstandings about his record. And to talk about what he would bring to state government in Virginia should the people of Virginia be genius enough to elect him. Here was how that big statement from him got picked up on local WUSA. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: E.W. Jackson, the ultraconservative minister turned politician addressed a room of less than 12 today, half of which were his own staff members. It was his first public news conference since he received the Republican nomination for Virginia`s lieutenant governor position. He refuted claims that he thinks birth defects are caused by sinful parents and that yoga is the work of the devil. JACKSON: I do not believe birth defects are caused by parents` sin and I do not believe that yoga leads to Satanism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, the reason the clarification is necessary is because of this. That`s his book, "The Ten Comandments to an Extraordinary Life." Commandments has two M`s. It could be a crypto anti-sodomy Virginia Republican message of some kind. Who can know? But in his book "The Ten Comandments to an Extraordinary Life", E.W. Jackson explains this about the yoga and the Satan. He says, "When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yogi, talking about finding the mantra and striving for nirvana. The purpose of such meditation is to empty ones self. Satan is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want." To be clear, although Satan will fill you up when you`re doing yoga, that`s what`s in the book, now he`s caving on that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACKSON: I do not believe that yoga leads to Satanism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Anymore. He does not believe that anymore. So, that`s your Virginia Republican Party yoga update. Now on to voodoo as promised. Republicans in Virginia running sodomy law Ken Cuccinelli for governor and report your miscarriage to the sheriff, Mark Obeshain for attorney general, and yoga Satan E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor, that same Republican Party of Virginia, they have also just appointed a new state official who says voodoo causes earthquake. I know you don`t believe me, so watch this. All right. One of the things about Virginia Republicans that maybe should have been a tip off about where they`re coming from right now in that state is the fact Governor Bob McDonnell, ultrasound guy, he got his master`s degree from Pat Robertson, from the televangelist Pat Robertson. T Pat Robertson has a school, a college in Virginia. He founded it as Christian Broadcasting network University. And then changed its name to Regent University but it is the Pat Robertson televangelist school. And that is where Bob McDonnell wrote his master thesis as an adult student on why Christian conservatives must take over government in order to use public policy to publish fornicators. The specific phrase from his thesis was cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators. Public policy must be used to punish them. Bob McDonnell wrote for his degree at the Pat Robertson televangelist school. All right. Do you remember after the devastating earthquake in Haiti when Pat Robertson said on his televangelist show that the reason Haiti got hit by that big earthquake was because Haiti was cursed? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: You know, Christy, something happened a long time ago in Haiti and the people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you`ll get us free from the French." True story. And so, the devil said, OK, it`s a deal. And they kicked the French -- the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Christy`s like, hmm. The man who the Republican Party just named its state director of African-American engagement in Virginia is the pastor who came forward in Virginia after pat Robertson said that, to say, you know what, Pat Robertson`s right. What caused the earthquake in Haiti was a curse, specifically what caused the earthquake in Haiti is voodoo. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REV. JOE ELLISON, JR: I know his comments angered a lot of the so- called, in my opinion, liberals. What he said about the comments about Haitians. And from a spiritual standpoint, we believe Dr. Robertson was on target about Haiti, Haiti in the past with voodoo. And we believe in the Bible that the practice of voodoo is a sin and what caused the nation to suffer. Those who read the Bible and study history know that Dr. Robertson said was a biblical truth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Voodoo caused the earthquake in Haiti says the new state engagement director just hired by the Republican Party of Virginia. The party`s press release announcing his hire celebrating him as a great asset who will share why Ken Cuccinelli should be our next governor. This really is what the Republican Party is like right now. Even after the 2012 elections, and the supposed nationwide tip to tail diagnosis that the party needed to re-brand, maybe take it a little easy on the fire and brimstone hot sauce, at least for the next few elections. Even after all of that, this is who they are. They are more like this now than they were last year and than they were the year before that. This is not the Beltway narrative media about what`s going on in American politics right now, but it is exactly what is going on if you watch how they behave and who they are and what they say in public. Virginia will be the first whole statewide elections we`ve had since the presidential election and this is who the Republican Party has put together as their best face in that state. And it is not just Virginia. This is the Wisconsin state Senate president yesterday forcing through the Republicans` forced ultrasound bill in Wisconsin yesterday. It passed the Republican-dominated Senate yesterday. It passed the Republican-dominated assembly today and heads to Republican Governor Scott Walker, a presidential hopeful who started his career in politics as an antiabortion activist and now says he`s looking forward to signing this new forced ultrasound bill as soon as it gets to his desk. He wants to run for president. A lot of people are calling him the front-runner for 2016 for the Republican nomination. And he is the new governor ultrasound. Now, in Washington, in the next few days some time, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor has arranged for there a vote on the House floor for the Republicans` new federal abortion ban -- banning abortion nationwide at 20 weeks. The Republicans are going to vote on the abortion ban and they`re going to pass it in the House, after the all-male Republican side of the committee for this one did the preliminary work of voting down all the proposed exceptions for things like victims of incest and victims of rape. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: When my friends on the left side of the aisle here try to make rape and incest the subject, because the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Trent Franks, the Republican sponsor of the party`s new nationwide abortion ban that John Boehner and Eric Cantor are putting up for a vote next week and is expected to pass the House -- Trent Franks says he does not want to be taken out of context for those remarks. The whole Todd Akiny issue of him saying that women don`t get pregnant from rape that much. To be fair, the context he was making that point was he was trying to explain he does not care if you`re pregnant because you have been raped. He does not care if the reason you`re pregnant is because of incest. He does not care. He will still force you to go through childbirth against your will after 20 weeks no matter what. He will decide for you. (END VIDEO CLIP) FRANKS: To say we wait until then to say that there`s a rape or incest involved is waiting too long. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: More than anything else going on in the Republican Party, this is what`s going on in the Republican Party. They disagree on Syria, they disagree on immigration, they disagree on NSA surveillance, they agree on this stuff. This is what they`re working on the states and in Washington where the Beltway media pretends that really they`re just thinking very hard about the fiscal conservative principles behind a potential grand bargain. That`s not what they`re are working on. They`re here. Literally today, they`re in this room that you see in this footage at the Christian coalition conference in Washington with Ralph Reid and Phyllis Schlafly and Sarah Palin and it`s not just the Michele Bachmanns and Herman Cains of the Republican Party, it is all of the Republicans who want to run for president. It`s Scott Walker, right, it`s Marco Rubio. It`s Paul Ryan, it`s Rand Paul, it`s Ted Cruz, it`s Jeb Bush -- Jeb Bush. The Beltway media line is still Jeb Bush is the adult in the room in the Republican Party. He`s the one who doesn`t traffic in this fire and brimstone nonsense. He is Mr. Serious Policy. Well, Mr. Serious Policy, Mr. Adult in the Room is going to be the featured speaker at this Christian coalition conference that started today in Washington alongside Virginia`s finest, the Satan yoga guy -- because this is how things are now. Everybody keeps saying this problem is in the past for the Republicans. It`s not in the past. It`s worse than it has ever been. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Whatever else Garrett Morris and Chevy Chase ever do or did their legend is secure because of this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now, as a public service to those of our viewers who have difficulty with their hearing, I will repeat the top story of the day headed by the headmaster of the New York school for the hard hearing, Garrett Morris. Our top story tonight -- (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- is still dead. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good night. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- good night and have a pleasant tomorrow. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Garrett Morris, Chevy Chase and today`s best new thing in the world today, the United States Navy shouting it out, coming up at the end of the show today. I`ll have one more of those. I cannot wait. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: For the past couple of weeks the Nevada governor`s office has been getting so many calls they set up a special automated hotline to answer the calls by machine without a human having to do the work. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) NEVADA GOVERNOR`S OFFICE HOTLINE: You have reached the office of Governor Brian Sandoval. If you`re calling to vote in support of Senate Bill 221, please press 1. If you`re voting to press against Senate Bill 221, please press 2. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: They don`t actually get to vote but they get to express their preferences. The people of Nevada have been asked about the main idea in Senate Bill 221. The first poll showed 86 percent support of it among Nevada voters. That was in February. The next month, the same idea, same poll result, exactly 86 percent support for this bill from voters in Nevada. Liberals said they like it. Moderate said they like it. Conservatives said they like it. Even on the right, it gets 78 percent support. And this very popular bill did, in fact, pass the Nevada legislature. They voted for this bill this month. They sent it to the governor or signing. But here`s the thing. That bill is a gun bill. It calls for a background check for anybody seeking to buy a gun in Nevada. And no matter how popular the idea of gun reform might be among the voters, even among conservative voters, actually doing it, actual reform of actual policies has been kind of a nonstarter in big swaths of Republican politics. And Republican politics is from Nevada`s governor, Brian Sandoval, would very much like to have a future. Governor Sandoval has real ambitions in his party. He wants to be talked about as maybe even a vice presidential prospect the next time around. Governor Sandoval waited a week to decide what he was going to do about the popular gun measure once it landed on his desk. But then, just few hours ago, he made his decision. He vetoed it. The legislatures passed the background checks bill, but the governor said no. Now, two time zones east of Nevada, in the great state of New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie faces the same kind of decision there. The nationally ambitious Governor Christie said that he would be interested in doing something about gun violence. So, the New Jersey legislature responded by sending him half a dozen bills to sign. They passed the very lowest hanging fruit of gun reform. The most popular stuff -- stuff like expanded reporting to help with background checks. Stuff like banning people on the federal terrorists watch list from buying guns. People on the terrorist watch list who cannot fly because they`re on that list can still buy explosives and assault rifles legally. Not by evading the law somehow or getting something on the black market, but legally, by staying within the law. The law lets them do that. Can`t fly, that`s no problem. Would you like to buy black powder? How about some assault rifles? It`s bizarre. A bill fixing that in New Jersey is on Chris Christie`s desk and he like Brian Sandoval is going to have to decide whether he`s going to sign it or veto it. Nobody knows what Chris Christie is going to do. We keep asking his office. They won`t peep to us. As we come up on the six month anniversary of the Newtown elementary massacre which is tomorrow, six months since tomorrow. The movement for gun reform in this country has a lot going on. Families of the kids and teachers killed at sandy hook are back on Capitol Hill this week. Meeting with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who sponsored the background checks bill. They met also with House Republicans. They met with Speaker John Boehner and with Eric Cantor yesterday. Today, the families read the names of the Newtown victims, this morning as it started to rain in Washington. They read the names again this afternoon indoors at the Capitol with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Senator Reid promised that background checks will pass in the Senate. He said it is only a matter of time. After those meetings with the House and Senate leadership, the families also toy met privately with the president and with Vice President Biden. Next week, Vice President Biden is planning on doing the first White House gun reform event at the White House since the background checks measure initially failed in the Senate back in April. Tomorrow, on the six-month anniversary of Sandy Hook, Mayors Against illegal Guns is launching another nationwide bus tour, 100-day tour that starts in Newtown. Also tomorrow, members of organizing for action, which is the organization that used to be the Obama campaign, they`re planning on phone banking and doing vigils in their own states to mark six months since Newtown. And perhaps the most pressure of all is being leveraged by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, leader of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. "The New York Times" reporting this week Mayor Bloomberg has been writing to the richest and most prolific Democratic donors in the country, New York City donors who have supported him, both as mayor and in his nationwide crusade for gun reform. And Mayor Bloomberg is writing to those donors to tell them to cut off and not support any Senate Democrat who doesn`t get behind real gun reform. The four Democratic senators who voted no last time, they received millions of dollars in support for the last campaigns from these specific donors who Bloomberg is writing to now. Now, Bloomberg is telling them a no vote on gun reform should be much to cut them off from that funding until they change. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval apparently didn`t have the stones to issue his veto of background checks for gun sales on the exact six-month anniversary of Sandy Hook. Tomorrow, the anniversary was Governor Sandoval`s deadline for making a decision but he decided to jump a day early thus avoiding to have to answer that particular question or to look in the mirror that particular day. The clock is ticking for Chris Christie now, too, and for Congress, too. Tomorrow`s six-month anniversary should be a big deal on this issue. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ELIZABETH ESTY (D), CONNECTICUT: But here in Washington, here you have encountered inexplicable political cowardice. In the six months since that terrible day, since we lost 26 lives in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly 4,800 fellow Americans have been cut down by gun violence. In that same time, the House of Representatives has not held a single vote. Not a single vote on common sense efforts to reduce gun violence. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut whose district includes Newtown. That was her speaking on Capitol Hill today at an event attended by a number of the Newtown families. Congresswoman Esty joins us on the eve of the six month milestone since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Congresswoman Esty, thank you very much for being with us tonight. ESTY: Great to be here. Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: So we are seeing activity in Washington and in national politics this week. Some people are describing it as a new push on gun reform. Do you see this as a new push? Or is this a -- we`re just now again noticing the sustained effort that has not been covered as much recently. ESTY: I think it is a sustained effort, really. It is perhaps renewed because there is some additional energy around the six-month anniversary. And frankly, the shootings in Santa Monica last week were a vivid reminder of continuing price for the political inaction in both the Senate and House. MADDOW: Mayor Bloomberg is urging donors even Democratic senators who will not support common sense gun reform. There is debate within the Democratic Party we keep reading with some people making the argument to him, hey, listen, it`s better to help the Democratic Party as a whole because the party is better on guns than the Republicans are, as a whole, don`t push these individual members even if they`re not doing -- going your way on this issue. What do you think about that strategically? ESTY: Well, I`ve been keeping my focus tightly on what we needed to do in the House and Senate. And frankly, I found the single most effective way to do that is to help ensure that my colleagues in the House and Senate meet with these families. The Newtown families are extraordinary. They are extraordinary. Faced with unimaginable loss, they would have every reason to crawl into a hole. They would have every reason to be angry beyond belief. But instead they have responded with compassion and courage and unbelievable resiliency and dedication. And the people who meet with them, I spoke with some of my colleagues today were incredibly moved. And they do find it very hard to look the families in the eyes and say, I`m not going the do anything. And in fact, some of my colleagues are so aware of that in both the senate and house they were refusing to meet with the families. MADDOW: Still, people are refusing to meet with them. I thought -- seeing the John Boehner and Eric Cantor meeting happening, I thought maybe those flood gates have opened and people will stop saying no, but people are still saying no? ESTY: There are some people saying no, there definitely are, and part of my mission is to make sure everybody sits down and talks to them, because it brings home vividly those 4,800 Americans who have died in the intervening six months of inaction. That is intolerable and inexcusable. MADDOW: Coming up on this sixth-month milestone, and you are absolutely right to talk about how this is not a Newtown problem. This is a national problem. But having gone through what you went through, how is your district? How are people doing? How are you doing, and is this milestone important in Newtown? ESTY: It is, as soon as we finish to vote tomorrow, I`ll be flying back to Connecticut and joining a vigil and interfaith service. And I was meeting with some of the families this week, both those who lost family members, children and daughters and wives, as well as other community members who are deeply affected. And one of them shared with me a letter that she had written in the local paper recently, talking about how six months out, there is a wide variation of where people are. Some are in mourning, some are deeply committed and highly involved in this cause. And others are feeling a bit lost. It`s what you would expect after such a tragedy. MADDOW: Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, whose district includes Newtown -- thank you very much for your time tonight and best of luck as you go ahead with the events marking this milestone. I appreciate it. ESTY: Thank you, and thank you for your ongoing commitment to not let this story go away. MADDOW: Absolutely, thanks. ESTY: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a much-needed, much-needed best new thing in the world, coming up. Hold on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now, as a public service to those of our viewers who have difficulty with their hearing, I will repeat the top story of the day headed by the headmaster of the New York school for the hard hearing, Garrett Morris. Our top story tonight -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our top story tonight -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the CIA has been involved in attacks on -- (CROSSTALK) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. Best new thing in the world: ever since the beginning of the Internet, back when we were using electronic bulletin boards, and joining use net networks like, or alt.comedy.slapstick -- there has been one piece of etiquette that users used since the dawn of Internet time, that is if you type in all capital letters, it means you are shouting. Earlier example, a user named Ruth in 2003 says, "I have three home computers and have just purchased Windows XP professional. I have installed XP on one and activated it. Now, I want to load it on the others, how do I" -- a fellow user from 2003 named John interrupts and says, "Stop shouting at everyone," repeat five times. Yes, we are in an information age, but honestly what that means for most of us most of the time is in a typing age, and keeping the caps lock key on while you type is yelling, no matter who you are. This, for example, is Oprah`s first tweet. 2009, all caps, "Hi tweeters." Even though she is Oprah, and I have a feeling that nobody ever tells her what to do, people told her what to do with the yelling. People like Shaquille O`Neal, the Shaq, the very Twitter literate basketball player. He responded to Oprah`s first tweet by gently telling her gently, "Your caps are on, BTW." When Microsoft Office did their 12 tips for better email etiquette, they made it a rule, rule number 3, use sentence caps, because using all capital letters look as if you are shouting. It`s a rule. It`s a rule right? It`s one of the only ones we`ve got. One place where it is still normal to write all communications with the caps lock key on is the United States Navy. Since the mid-19th century, all official naval messages have been typed in upper case, and that is in part because the Navy was the adopter of the teletype machine, which had very limited options for type face, and so it ended up being all caps all the time. For decades, all military communiques have been expressed in capital letters. No sentence case, all caps. But now, writ large, the Navy has announced that it will henceforth no longer use all caps. Sentence case is now the accepted form of communication and all naval personnel are hereby authorized to use mixed case, shift at will -- except, apparently in the subject line of any official message. They will stay all caps for some reason, but the body of messages no longer will be constantly inadvertently screaming. The U.S. Navy grasping this newfound opportunity for communicative nuance is a small thing, but it is the best new thing in the world today. Now, it is 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