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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/26/13

Guests: Steve Clemons, G.K. Butterfield

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. OK. When Japanese pilots turned to kamikaze attacks in World War II, it was meant to not be only effective in a direct sense, but also terrifying. The piloted aircraft used as a missile could obviously do great direct damage to whatever it hit. But the psychological effect of being up against an enemy who would do that, a military that would expect its own men to deliberately kill themselves, was also just meant to terrorize, to make their enemies believe there was nothing they wouldn`t do, no lengths they would not go to. When Iran and Iraq went to war with each other in 1980, a war that stretched on for almost the full decade of the 1980s, the Iranian side employed their own variation on the kamikaze tactic. And it had the same dual purpose. They used human beings, masses of human beings to clear minefields, to walk out into mined areas, thus, setting off the mines killing those people in the process but clearing for others to pass through the same area safely. They used swarms of humans often unarmed, untrained young boys to physically swarm over armed enemy positions. It was the human wave tactic. It was effective in direct terms by distracting and overwhelming the enemy and by soaking up their munitions. It was effective psychologically, because, my God, how could they do that, right? When you hear the estimates that the Iraq/Iran war may have killed a million people, it is tactics like the Iranians` human waves that help to explain how the casualty total got that high. But as existentially unnerving as it may be to think about what it takes to deploy a tactic like that, using your own people, your own children in some cases as guaranteed mass casualty strategic fodder, consider also what it means to defend against that kind of tactic, because in the eight-year-long war between Iran and Iraq, the human wave tactic was one of the more successful tactics that Iran used. And so to defeat that, to eliminate this threat posed by waves of human beings coming at them on the battlefield, waves of human beings who were ordered there specifically to attract artillery and rocket fire and bullets everything else in order to occupy the Iraqi troops and distract them and make them give away their position on the battlefield, in part to eliminate the threat the human waves posed. The Iraqis came up with their own unimaginable tactic. The goal was to make it impossible for these human wave attacks to keep advancing on them. They did not want to have to keep shooting at those human waves and they wanted to instill some terror of their own like with the kamikaze tactic, Iraq wanted to cause damage in a way that also sapped the morale of the other side, made the other side feel like they were up against an enemy that would stop at nothing. They did something that was designed to kill but also to instill fear and hopelessness, to make the other side want to turn around and run. It started in the summer of 1982 when Iraq decided to use tear gas on the battlefield. They used tear gas munitions against Iranian forces in southern Iraq, that was near Basra during the initial Iranian invasion of Iraq. Iraq hit the Iranians with mortar rounds loaded with tear gas. That was 1982. By 1983, the Iraqis were using mustard gas. It was like World War I in the desert -- trench warfare, these battles of attrition, and then mustard gas, blistering pain, blindness. That started in northern Iraq in the mountains, 500-pound bombs loaded with mustard gas dropped to stop an Iranian incursion in northern Iraq. That was 1983. By 1984, the Iraqis had moved past tear gas and mustard gas on the battlefield to become the first country anywhere in the world to use nerve gas in a combat situation on the battlefield. The details of those attacks are spelled out in great detail in recently declassified CIA documents that have just been published by "Foreign Policy" magazine today. The CIA knew all this was happening in Iran and Iraq as it was happening. Quote, "Iraq has begun using nerve agents on the al Basrah front. If Iraq starts using nerve agents in large quantities, Tehran will have to rethink its war strategy. Iran human wave tactics are especially susceptible to nerve agent attacks. And if Iran does not achieve a major military victory by this winter, it probably will not be able to in the future. Those Iranians not directly injured by chemical attacks would probably suffer morale problems and are likely to flee the battlefield" -- so said the CIA. All of these documents from 1983, 1984, when these attacks were happening, showing that the U.S. government, the Reagan administration then knew it was happening. They knew that Iraq was using chemical weapons, even nerve gas in its war against Iran, but the U.S. government did not say beep about it. Remember, in that war, the United States picked sides. We picked Iraq. Between Iran and Iraq, we picked Iraq. And when Iran went to the United Nations to say, hey, the Iraqis are bombing us with mustard gas and nerve agents, isn`t the world supposed to care about that? Isn`t that illegal? The United States said nothing to back them up, even though we now know our government had plenty of our own evidence to back up what the Iranians were saying, but we didn`t say anything. Iran`s envoy to the United Nations in January 1984 brought actual soil samples and rocks and part of a tree and some shrapnel to the United Nations building itself. He brought this stuff to New York and he held it up in the United Nations building. He held up all this stuff and then had to rush out of the room saying, "I have to wash because my hands are burning." He said his country could not testify the samples themselves, but he said he knew the U.N. could, and that was why he brought those samples to New York so the U.N. would study those things. And the United States through all of that said nothing even though we knew that what he was alleging was absolutely true. And it is not like 30 years ago, chemical weapons and nerve gas were no big whoop. We and the whole world were supposedly as outraged by chemical weapons then as we are now. But in that terrible war between Iran and Iraq, Iraq wanted to use chemical weapons, and so they did. And thanks to the documents unearthed by "Foreign Policy" today, now we know that the U.S. government knew about it, and the CIA thought at the time that that use of chemical weapons gave Iraq a pretty effective battlefield advantage in this war that we desperately wanted them to win. Still, though, I mean, nerve gas and chemical weapons? No matter how much the Reagan administration loved Saddam Hussein and wanted them to win that war, we are supposed to be outraged by anyone using chemical weapons, no matter who uses them. We are supposed to react publicly to the use of chemical weapons the way that Secretary of State John Kerry did today. I have seen John Kerry give a lot of speeches and make a lot of comments in his life as a senator and as a presidential candidate, and, indeed, as secretary of state. I have never seen him more outraged or emphatic about any public issue as he was today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all. A conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else. There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. No matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again. Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back, and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media. Now, I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us. As a father, I can`t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him -- the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms, human suffering that we can never ignore or forget. Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass. What is before us today is real, and it is compelling. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is compelling. The use of chemical weapons itself in the past has not been enough to compel an American response, let alone an American military response. At least it wasn`t during the Reagan administration. I mean, chemical weapons may seem like something that inherently demand not just international but specifically American condemnation. But in the past, we have let it slide when we felt like it, when it worked for us for strategic reasons. It should also be noted that Syria denies it has used chemical weapons. They deny that about the attack last week that was filmed that the secretary described in such great detail. About that last week, they say, if nothing else, their own forces were in the area that suffered this attack and they would wage an attack like that to which their own side would be susceptible. Syria`s ally, Russia, says if the U.S. decides to use military force to respond to Syria`s alleged chemical weapons use, it would be an echo of what George W. Bush did 10 years ago when our government said it was sure, but it was wrong, and the resulting war without U.N. approval was one of America`s greatest foreign policy mistakes ever, if not the greatest foreign policy mistake ever. So, now, here we are. The drum beat in Washington today says that there is going to be an American or an American and allied military hit of some kind against Syria. What will that do? What choices does President Obama have in terms of how to respond if he does want to respond militarily or otherwise? Does Congress get a say in the matter, and what happens if we are wrong about this? Our government`s track record on being wrong about chemical weapons is long. It spans multiple administrations for multiple reasons. And if the use of chemical weapons really is going to be a real red line in the world that demands a response when it happens, why is the world waiting for our government to make up our government`s own mind about whether this happened instead of waiting for the U.N. weapons inspectors to say definitively one way or the other? The U.N. weapons inspectors are in Syria right now. Why is the world waiting on the U.S. government, especially with our track record on this issue, instead of waiting on the experts who are right now looking into this? Joining us now is Steve Clemons. He`s a senior fellow at the New American Foundation. He`s also Washington editor-at-large for "The Atlantic" magazine. Steve, thank you so much for being here. STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC MAGAZINE: My pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: So, Secretary Kerry says there`s evidence that the Syrian government is responsible for that chemical weapons attack that the U.N. inspectors are investigating. Do we have any indication what that evidence might be? CLEMONS: I`ve spent much of my day today talking on background, with various parts of the U.S. government. And as you know from our previous encounter, I tend to be skeptical of many of these assessments. In this particular case, I believe that we have signals intelligence that tells us who did what to whom, who ordered these commands, and the kind of intelligence that we have today is very different in nature than what was happening with lower level chemical weapons incidents that were documented before, in which there was some ongoing confusion about whether the regime or the opposition used those chemical weapons. I think the administration has evidence that they`re not sharing with us publicly, but which I believe is compelling, where in this particular case, we know that the command staff in Syria has responsibility for the deployment of these terrible weapons. So, this is one of these times where my own skepticism is suspended, and I -- and I actually think this is one of these cases that deserves a serious response. MADDOW: And we are hearing, Steve, that we are likely to get, released publicly, more specific information about why the U.S. government feels so confident in this assessment. If they are going to tell us that, as you put it, the command staff in Syria is directly responsible for ordering this attack -- does that mean that a U.S. military response or an allied military response would be against the command staff in Syria? Would be essentially a decapitation strike? CLEMONS: I think there will be -- the White House has gone out of its way as well as people in the Pentagon and people in the State Department have gone out of their way to make clear they`re distinguishing the actions that they`re planning to take. I think those plans are under way and certain at this point are different than an attack on Assad, an attack on the state or an attack meant to create a tipping point opportunity for the Syrian rebels. A lot of people commenting have been conflating the chemical weapons issue and the use of these weapons in this terrible incident with the ongoing civil war inside Syria. And in contrast with what the Obama administration did previously, they are being very clear that this is not about that. That this is about the collapse of a key international norm that Barack Obama and Joe Biden and other world leaders have come together several years ago to prevent and to try to prohibit and create a global allergy against the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction. And they believe that not to respond to this case -- it`s a very different case than the ongoing questions about Assad and internal instability and, you know, the fight for Syria. This is about a global norm, and that is why they are going to basically punish parts of the Syrian government and try to create a capacity. What`s odd about this is that they are basically telegraphing to the world that they`re going to do it, and one will have to assess after the fact whether or not Syria was able to harden, move, or hide assets that they fear will be attacked. It`s not often -- I mean, I -- if you were in a perfect military planning incident, you would attack without notice. But the Obama administration is giving very, very wide notice, that, in fact, an attack is coming in my view. MADDOW: Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New American Foundation and Washington editor at large for "The Atlantic" magazine, and somebody who is well-connected and very candid -- Steve, thank you for being with us. I appreciate you. CLEMONS: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: It is remarkable hearing what Steve said there about how the overall strategic idea here is about re-establishing that international norm, that international allergy on weapons of mass destruction while the U.N. weapons inspectors are there in that country, that we would act before we have actually heard from them what they found is very conflicting direction as far as I`m concerned in terms of what the point of this is. If the idea is that we`re supposed to reestablish international norms and an international regime against this sort of thing, while the tip of the spear there is the weapons inspectors. Why wouldn`t we wait for them? All right. Lots ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Before there was a Republican senator named Rand Paul out of the great state of Kentucky, there was a Republican senator named Jim Bunning from Kentucky. Do you remember Jim Bunning? Jim Bunning was known in part for offending people a lot, sometimes on purpose and sometimes just because he couldn`t help himself. One of the more offensive things that Jim Bunning ever said in public was when he predicted the death of a sitting Supreme Court justice. In February 2009, Jim Bunning predicted that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead in nine months. Justice Ginsburg had just undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer, and Senator Jim Bunning said, hey, nobody ever lasts more than nine months after being diagnosed with that. Jim Bunning said that on a Saturday. Then, the following Monday, Ruth Bader Ginsburg went back to work. She went back to work 18 days after surgery for pancreatic cancer. She has been on the job ever since, 54 months and counting. A year after Jim Bunning publicly predicted she`d be dead in nine months, Justice Ginsburg told a crowd in Washington, quote, "I`m pleased to report that contrary to Senator Bunning`s prediction, I`m alive and in good health." There is, though, one activity that justice Ginsburg says she can no longer take part in. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is about this big. She`s 80 years old. She is the oldest current member of the court. She`s survived two bouts of cancer. And she says there has been a consequence in her life from her advancing age and from her health challenges. She told "The New York Times" for an interview this weekend, "I don`t water ski anymore. I haven`t gone horseback riding in four years. I haven`t ruled that out entirely, but water skiing, those days are over." Supreme Court justices do not often sit down for interviews. They mostly keep their public appearances limited. But Justice Ginsburg spoke to "The Times" and she did make some news. She said she has no intention of stepping down from the court any time soon. She says she loves her job, has no plans to quit though she`s had to quit the whole water skiing thing. That was a bit of news. But she also had stinging criticism of where the court had been heading in recent years. She told "The Times," quote, "In terms of readiness to overturn legislation, this is one of the most activist courts in history." She was talking specifically about the court`s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act earlier this year. She said that decision was stunning in terms of activism and she said she made a mistake on signing on to a 2009 opinion that ultimately laid the groundwork for the court`s eventual gutting of the Voting Rights Act this year. Despite her opposition to that Voting Rights Act, that decision did happen this year. Since then, a number of states covered by the Voting Rights Act either wholly or in part, they have sprung into action to do things that that law would most likely have prevented them from doing were it still in effect. States have changed their voting laws in ways that would have been too racially discriminatory to have been allowed before under the Voting Rights Act, but now, they can get away with it and so they`re going for it. Last week, the Justice Department announced that they were going to sue the state of Texas over the voter ID law Texas Republicans put into place after the Supreme Court decision. A federal court in Texas is now reviewing the Justice Department`s complaint. But while that review goes on, the voter ID law in Texas is going into effect, and there is a fascinating little test case that`s going to play out there this week. This is a ballot for a local city council race in the city of Edinburg, Texas. This tiny local election is going to be the first one in the state that will be held under the state`s strict new voter ID laws. Opponents of the law are planning to watch that election very closely to see what effect this new voter ID law has on the ability of minority residents to turn out and vote. The fight is also on right now in North Carolina. That state`s new voter suppression law is seen as even more draconian than the one that was passed in Texas that the federal government is suing over right now. The North Carolina law, and all of the national coverage of that law, has kicked up a wave of opposition in the state. Last Thursday, North Carolina`s Republican governor Pat McCrory who signed that bill, he appeared at a CEO forum in Raleigh. The very next speaker after him at that event was former Secretary of State Colin Powell. And with Governor McCrory in the audience speaking right after him, Colin Powell, a Republican, took a direct rhetorical aim at Governor McCrory`s voting bill, saying, quote, "These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away. I want to see policy just turns people away. I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote." Those comments from Colin Powell in North Carolina on Thursday made a lot of waves in North Carolina. But then secretary, former Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterated that critique for a national audience when he went on CBS yesterday morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Here`s what I say to my Republican friends. The country is becoming more diverse. Asian- Americans, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans are going to constitute the majority of the population in another generation. You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message, you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side -- this is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote then give them something to vote for that they can believe in. Many states are putting in place procedures and new legislation that in some ways makes it a little bit harder to vote. You need a photo ID. Well, you didn`t need a photo ID for decades before. Is it really necessary now? And they claim that there`s widespread abuse or voter fraud. But nothing documents, nothing substantiates that. There isn`t widespread abuse. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on CBS` "Face the Nation" yesterday morning. As he spoke, this was the article that appeared on the front page of the "Charlotte Observer" in North Carolina, a super hard-hitting article exploring the origins of this particular variety of Republican politics in that state. It`s a long well-reported piece on the front page of the Sunday paper on where Republicans in that state found their inspiration for their agenda including that controversial voting bill, a bill that has now lit a fire under the Democratic Party across the state. Last week, we took the show to Watauga County in North Carolina where Republicans have voted to eliminate all of the polling places from a local university and instead make those students trek way, way, way off campus to vote at a really hard to get to location that doesn`t have sufficient space for parking, let alone a sidewalk on the way there. The Watauga Democrat newspaper now reports that the Democratic Party in Watauga County has started fighting back in a new way. They`ve announced a formation of a voting rights task force that will do campus outreach and events to energize students to take action. They`re building what they call a progressive staff of young voters to hold elected officials accountable. In Watauga County, Democrats mobilizing on this issue in a big way, as are North Carolina students across the state, the student government representing the whole UNC system, University of North Carolina system, passed a resolution this weekend calling on the state board of elections to overturn the Republican-controlled county boards of elections that have been trying to limit voting on college campuses. The state board of elections is probably unlikely to do that given that it is also Republican controlled, but North Carolina students are now organizing on that issue, asking the state to get involved. I`m not sure that North Carolina Republicans expected this level of outrage and push-back to what they have done. But there is an incredible level of outrage and push-back that is now being made manifest every day. And if you want to talk about really interesting and really unpredictable, consider what also happened today in Washington, D.C. Today, one of the top Republicans in the House, James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Republican, said that he personally intends to resurrect the aforementioned Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court earlier this year. Congressman Sensenbrenner, again, a Republican, said that only does that law need to come back, it needs to come back soon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act as an effective tool to prevent discrimination, more subtle discrimination now than over-discrimination. My job is to fix the Voting Rights Act. Now, the first thing we have to do is to take the monkey wrench that the court threw in it out of the Voting Rights Act and then use that monkey wrench to be able to fix it so that it is alive, well, constitutional and impervious to another challenge that will be filed by the usual suspects. (APPLAUSE) I`m with you on this. This is something that has to be done by the end of the year so that a revised and constitutional Voting Rights Act is in place before the 2014 election season, both primaries and general elections. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is something he said that needs to be done by the end of the year. Now, you may have heard Congressman Sensenbrenner there saying, "I`m with you on this." Where he was speaking, he was at a Republican Party event commemorating the march on Washington, 50 years of the march on Washington when he said that. The very next speaker at the podium was RNC Chairman Reince Priebus who remarked, quote, "I think Jim Sensenbrenner just made some news here." Yes, he did. And if he gets to do what he said he`s going to do, that would not only be news. That would be huge news. We`ll have more on that next with somebody who`s helping to lead that fight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREASK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SENSENBRENNER: I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act as an effective tool to prevent discrimination, more subtle discrimination now than over-discrimination. This is something that has to be done by the end of the year so that a revised and constitutional Voting Rights Act is in place before 2014 election season, both primaries and general elections. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, today calling for the Voting Rights Act to be restored by the end of this year, by this Congress. He`s a Republican. Is what he`s saying a possibility? Joining us now is Congressman G.K. Butterfield. He represents Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where we visited and took this show last week. Congressman Butterfield is a former voting rights attorney and former North Carolina Supreme Court justice. Congressman, thank you very much for being back with us tonight. I appreciate your time, sir. REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Rachel. It`s good to see you again. MADDOW: After what the Supreme Court did with Voting Rights Act earlier this summer, I have not been hopeful that the Voting Rights Act could be restored by this Congress, in particular. But there was Congressman Sensenbrenner there saying it can be done, he will see that it will be done. What do you make of that from him? BUTTERFIELD: Well, Rachel, first of all, thank you for continuing to put the spotlight on this issue. This is very important to so many people. I am cautiously optimistic that we can reach a bipartisan compromise in the House of Representatives to amend the Voting Rights Act and to get Section 4 alive and well again so that we can enforce Section 5. The Supreme Court really surprised us on June the 25th when it invalidated the formula. But thanks to Congressman Sensenbrenner and hopefully Congressman Eric Cantor and others in the Republican conference, we`re going to cobble together a bipartisan compromise and we`re going to get this thing amended before the end of the year. We`ve got to do it. So many Republican members who served in 2006 are still with us in the House of Representatives, and I believe that they`re going to stand with Mr. Sensenbrenner and let`s get it passed. MADDOW: In terms of the opposition to that happening, is there overt, articulated opposition to that idea, the idea that the Congress should restore the Voting Rights Act, or is it more that people don`t want talk about their opposition and essentially just want to slow walk the issue, not deal with it overtly but make sure it doesn`t get done? BUTTERFIELD: Well, there are clearly differences of opinion in the House of Representatives, but it takes 218 votes to get anything through the house. There are 233 Republicans and 202 Democrats, and we`re looking for 218 votes. I can assure you that the Democratic caucus is prepared to vote almost unanimously to amend Section 4. And so, we only need, perhaps, 20 or 30 Republican votes in order to reach the 218 threshold. We`ve got to get Section 4 behind us because we cannot afford to see voting rights eroded throughout the South. We fought too hard for these gains over the last 30 years, and the Voting Rights Act has been our protector and I can tell you the Congressional Black Caucus and the others of us in the House are ready and willing and able to put together a compromise to get this reauthorized. MADDOW: Your state, North Carolina, has become, along with Texas, a bit of a poster child with what the states would like to if Voting Rights Act does not constrain their behavior, with the way the states have moved so quickly after the Supreme Court`s action to institute policies that nobody thinks would have been allowed to go forward had the Justice Department been responsible for pre-clearing those policies. What do you think is going to happen in your state in terms of the pushback that we`re seeing now against the changes to voting rights that have happened both in law and in policy? BUTTERFIELD: Well, there`s outrage and pushback all across North Carolina -- not just from African-American citizens, not just from students, but forward-thinking people of goodwill. We don`t like what has happened in North Carolina. We`re going to insist that the attorney general of the United States bring a federal action against our state to enforce our constitutional rights. I spoke with Eric Holder the other day at the march on Washington. I did all of the talking. He did not give any a commitment one way or the other, but I expressed to Eric Holder, Attorney General Eric Holder what I said to him in a letter earlier this month. We must have federal action and we must have it now. He correctly filed an action in the state of Texas for the same reasons we must do it in North Carolina. If not, this Republican majority is going to become a tyranny in our state and we don`t need that. The policies that they`re beginning to enact in the North Carolina legislature are just draconian. They declined the Medicaid expansion, unemployment insurance. They gutted public education. We cannot go down that path. We`re a progressive state. We want to stay that way. MADDOW: Congressman G.K. Butterfield, Democrat of North Carolina, representing a beautiful corner of the eastern part of the state which I was able to see last week. Congressman, thank you very much for your time tonight. BUTTERFIELD: And thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Lots including unexpectedly liberal news from Alabama, specifically from Republicans in Alabama. Liberal, seriously. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have some breaking news tonight out of New Mexico. A judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has ordered the most populous county in that state to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This is a state district judge who has ruled that New Mexico`s constitution bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The judge is saying that that fact requires the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples who seek them in the state of New Mexico. New Mexico is the only state in the country that has no specific laws either allowing same-sex marriage or banning them. So, this is an important change in what`s true in the state. Bernalillo County plans to start issuing marriage licenses at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. The county clerk is reportedly ready telling "The Associated Press" that she had 1,000 licenses printed up just in case the judge ruled in favor of same-sex marriage tonight, which the judge did. Again, tonight`s breaking news -- looks like tomorrow morning is going to be a festive morning in Albuquerque, as a state judge orders New Mexico`s most populous county to start issuing marriage licenses to same- sex couples right away and in this case -- right away means 8:00 a.m. local time. We will have more ahead on this issue. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JESSE TYLER FERGUSON, ACTOR: I did not know I`d be sitting in front of a seal speaking to news cameras. So this is not my -- but, you know, speaking about people who oppose marriage equality, it`s certainly something I have dealt with, you know, every day of my life, and now being in the public eye I certainly deal with it very directly. You know, it`s -- it`s something that I`ve grown a thick skin for. You know, I certainly respect everyone`s rights to their own opinion. But I think at the end of the day we have to all agree treating any American as a second-class citizen is just not OK. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is the actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. He`s an openly gay actor on a sitcom called "Modern Family" What Jesse Tyler Ferguson was doing in that clip was lobbying the state of Illinois on gay rights, trying to get that reliably blue state to legalize same-sex marriage. Not a big shock, right? Handsome, well known, celebrity-type person with attractive beard supporting equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, making that case at a bedrock Democratic state. It`s almost a cliche, right? That`s every social conservative view of how this issue works. In Illinois, even the head of the Republican Party said that Republicans should support same-sex marriage. He said, quote, "I think it`s time for people to support this." Right, because it`s Illinois. It`s Illinois. It`s Obamastan. Of course, even the Republicans there are for gay marriage. You think. Except when the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party came out and said that being in favor of gay marriage, the rest of the Illinois Republican Party got furious with him and they essentially forced him out as chairman of Republican Party in the state because he supported gay rights. He ended up resigning not long after those comments and the furor they caused among his fellow Republicans. So, that happened this year in Illinois. Illinois which we think of as being somewhere in line with Massachusetts and Vermont and California and the race to be the deepest of deep blue states, right? It`s weird. Well, if you head a couple states south of Illinois, and a little to the right, you will find yourself in the great state of Alabama, which is not a blue state. It is not even close. Not even remotely purple, crimson tide and all that. Well, in Alabama on this issue, something weird has also just happened. After the pro-gay marriage ruling from the Supreme Court earlier this summer, the chair of the Alabama College Republicans came out in support of what the Supreme Court did. She came out in support of marriage equality in Alabama -- in Alabama Republican politics. She even went so far as to criticize the record of harsh anti-gay rhetoric from her fellow Republicans saying, quote, "We are governed by the Constitution and not the Bible." Alabama, Alabama Republicans did not see that coming, right? Once that happened, though, what happened next was probably inevitable. The old muckety-muck in the state Republican Party decided this upstart president of the College Republicans needed to feel the wrath of a Republican Party purge. They decided they would set out new bylaws requiring that anybody in a job, like, say, being head of the college Republicans in the state, would have to agree with everything in the Republican Party`s national platform. No dissent allowed. If you did not agree with the national party`s anti-gay official platform, you could not be in a leadership role in the state. So, college Republican president says something shockingly not anti- gay. Alabama party elders decide to change the rules of the party so to as allow themselves to kick her out of her job for not holding that anti-gay enough views. And this weekend, the party voted on this issue and decided that they would side with the president of the college Republicans. In Alabama -- Alabama Republicans voted not to change their rules to allow themselves to fire her. So, she gets to keep her job. And that means if you are keeping score at home, Republicans in Alabama it turns out are less anti-gay than Republicans in Illinois. Go figure. This is a super interesting, super unpredictable moment in our politics. I mean, the map of states with marriage equality is a pretty blue map. It`s pretty much a blue state map. But a lot of what`s going to happen in terms of determining what becomes of this map, how this map changes, is not just whether the state votes red or blue overall. It`s what happens internally inside the state in the state in Republican Party politics, in the remaining states that still don`t have equal marriage rights. I mean, mostly with some exceptions but mostly Democrats are on board with marriage equality now. Republicans are the ones who are all over the map and changing fast, and changing in unpredictable ways and in unpredictable places. And those internal Republican dynamics which we will be learning about and we will be surprised by one red state at a time all over the country, those are going to be the determining force for what happens in this major civil rights issue in our country right now, which is why it makes sense that when the ACLU decided to hire a new strategist to try to flip more states into being pro-marriage equality they did not hire a Democrat, they hired a Republican. They hired a major league hugely respected Republican heavyweight strategist to try to flip more states into supporting marriage equality. They don`t need a Democrat. They need a Republican, because that`s where it`s all happening right now. And the Republican strategist they picked to do this state by state is Steve Schmidt -- Steve Schmidt, who you know and love from this program. The ACLU has hired Steve to noodge Republicans across the country toward marriage equality in states that do not yet recognize it. And Steve Schmidt joins us tomorrow night to talk about that big, unpredictable fascinating project that he is right in the middle of. Watch this space. (COMEMRCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In October 2009, the U.S. military abandoned an outpost called Camp Keating, that was up in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan in the mountains near the Pakistan border. Stuck between two rivers with high ridges surrounding them on three sides, they were on the low ground with the high ground surrounding them. The soldiers stationed at Camp Keating said they felt like they were in a fishbowl or maybe of shooting gallery. This footage of heavy gunfire at Camp Keating was posted online by a veterans group last year. Soldiers stationed at Camp Keating were forced to defend that base almost constantly. Five days before the Army abandoned that site, before they blew it up so they wouldn`t be leaving behind anything of value that could be used by the other side, five days before U.S. troops left Camp Keating for good in October 2009, all hell broke loose there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their worst fears became a reality. Fifty-three American soldiers were suddenly surrounded by more than 300 Taliban fighters. The outpost was being slammed from every direction -- machine gun fire, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, sniper fire. It was chaos, the blizzard of bullets and steel. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was what became known as the battle of Kamdesh. It was an ambush. The night before, local villagers had been warned to evacuate because something big was about to go down. Nobody knows if there`s civilians left but the local police got out of dodge. More than 300 Taliban fighters then launched a coordinated attack, firing down on the physically indefensible Camp Keating. Eventually, the camp was overrun. Some of the Taliban fighters got inside Camp Keating. Now, the American troops called in air strikes, called in air support to help, but in the meantime, the outnumbered Americans on base were left to fight for their lives and to fight for their base, including one group trapped inside a Humvee, pinned down by enemy fire. They were able to hold out for a long time, in part because of Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, who made it his job to personally resupply that Humvee with fresh ammunition. He ran back and forth between the Humvee and a supply room three times, dodging explosions and gunfire. He also provided covering fire so his fellow soldiers could try to make a run for it and escape. And when some of them did not escape, when their bodies were lost in the dust and in the smoke, Staff Sergeant Carter and a fellow soldier defended that trapped Humvee for hours until the smoke cleared and they could see what was around them, including their fellow soldiers who had been wounded or killed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: And if you`re left with just one image from that day, let it be this -- Ty Carter bending over, picking up Stephen Mace, cradling him in his arms, and carrying him through all those bullets and getting him back to that Humvee. And then, Ty stepped out again, recovering a radio, finally making contact with the rest of the troop, and they came up with a plan. As Clint Romesha and his team provided cover, these three soldiers made their escape. Ty, Brad carrying Stephen on his stretcher through the chaos, delivering Stephen to the medics. And the battle was still not over. So, Ty returned to the fight. With much of the outpost on fire, the flames bearing down on the aid station with so many wounded inside, Ty stepped out one last time, exposing himself to enemy fire, grabbed a chainsaw, cut down a burning tree, saved the aid station, and helped to rally his troop as they fought yard by yard. They pushed the enemy back. Our soldiers retook their camp. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Of the 53 U.S. soldiers who defended that outpost that day against 800 enemy fighters, eight Americans were killed and 25 were injured. And two of the survivors have been named as recipients of the nation`s highest military award. In February, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to one of the soldiers you heard him mention there, Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha. Today at the White House, the president awarded the Medal of Honor to the soldier who defended that Humvee and buried the wounded to safety and saved the aid station, including the gallantry with the chainsaw. Staff Sergeant Ty Carter. Twelve service members have received the Medal of Honor for heroism in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Of those 12 only five of those Medal of Honor recipients are living. Seven of them were awarded posthumously. Staff Sergeant Carter today is the fifth living recipient of an Iraq or Afghanistan-related Medal of Honor. For he and Staff Sergeant Romesha to have both received the medal for actions in the same battle is exceedingly rare. That has not happened in 40 years. That has not happened since the Vietnam War. Although eight Americans were killed in action at the battle of Kamdesh in eastern Afghanistan, for his part, Staff Sergeant Carter says he considers that battle to have a ninth fatality, a fellow soldier who committed suicide less than a year after the attack. Until he survived that battle, Staff Sergeant Carter says he thought that post-traumatic stress disorder was a myth, a made-up excuse. In the wake of the battle, he personally resisted seeking any help for himself, but he did eventually reach out. Staff Sergeant Ty Carter is still on active duty in the Army, which is a rare thing for a Medal of Honor recipient. He says he wants to help other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with their own PTSD. That is the lesson he says he wants everybody to take away from his heroism in Camp Keating`s final days. And, of course, from all those cameras that were focused on him today as the commander in chief placed the nation`s highest military honor around his neck. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great night. We`ll be back with you tomorrow with Steve Schmidt. Stay with us. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END