IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/13/13

Guests: Jonathan Capehart

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour. You know, one of the best things about Fridays, if you work in the news business, one of the best things about working on Fridays is the proud tradition of the Friday news dump. Because the Saturday newspapers are the least read newspapers of the week, because news networks and news programs tip over into weekend programming schedules after Friday night. Friday night has always been a great time to hide news that you technically have to put out, but you really don`t want it to get a lot of attention. So, during the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney finally releases a single year of his tax returns, but he does it late on a Friday afternoon, hoping the smallest possible number of people will be looking. This year, when the White House had to release a report about that Keystone pipeline project so hated by progressive around the country, White House turned that vaguely pro-Keystone report loose because they had to, but they turned it loose late on a Friday afternoon. Last month, when Chris Christie got ready to veto a ban on .50 caliber weapons, a ban he himself had suggested in the first place, when he changed his mind and decided he should overrule the legislature to ensure that New Jersey residents could keep stockpiling weapons that shoot bullets the size of carrots, Governor Chris Christie dumped that unpopular news into the abyss of a Friday night at 6:00 p.m. It was a classic Friday night news dump. So, it`s a little weird, but if you were in the news business, you kind of look forward to come to work on a Friday because you never know what`s going to get dumped. But the principle of the Friday night news sump does not only app on Fridays. When the basic idea is that when you`re trying to slip something into the news cycle in a way that it will insure it doesn`t get much attention, and Friday is one way to do that. But you can also plan to release your news at the same moment as some other long planned news event that you know is going to be a big deal, you know it`s going to be a big enough deal, that it will probably crowd your story right out of most people`s attention. It will crowd most of the other news stories out of that news cycle. So, for example, if you find out a few days in advance that the president is going to give a formal address to the nation from the East Room of the White House about the prospect of us going into another war in the Middle East, you can be pretty sure that`s going to be a biggest news story, maybe even the only news story in the country for that whole news cycle. Therefore, the night of that speech would make for an excellent time for you to announce, say, that you have been questioned by federal law enforcement authorities in conjunction with a major corruption scandal in your state. It seems like as good a time to mention it as any. The biggest political race in the governor`s race in Virginia. The Republican candidate in that race, Ken Cuccinelli, sat down for a local news interview on Tuesday night, immediately before President Obama`s speech to admit for the first time that he had been questioned in the federal investigation into the Governor Bob McDonnell corruption scandal in Virginia. Candidate Ken Cuccinelli said he was questioned in that scandal months and months ago, but he is just admitting it now. He also announced in the same interview that he is finally paying back the $18,000 in gifts that he and his family received from the same generous business man whose gifts are at the center of the McDonnell case. The federal and state investigation into Governor Bob McDonnell in Virginia is going to try to determine if the actions that McDonnell took as governor to help one particular Virginia company had anything at all to do with the fact that he head of that company gave Bob McDonnell and his family a check for $50,000, and then a check for $20,000, and then another check for $50,000. And then, an engraved Rolex watch and a lake house vacation and a loan of $190,000 Ferrari and $15,000 chicken dinner for one of the daughter`s wedding, and then $10,000 for another daughter`s wedding, and a happy graduation trip to Florida last Labor Day weekend for the governor`s daughter and a friend, and a trip for the governor and first lady that same weekend to a fancy hotel in Cape Cod, and $7,000 worth of golf and golf gear at elite Richmond area country clubs for the governor and his sons and some staffers, and a $15,000 shopping trip in New York City for the first lady, from which she emerged with $10,000 suede jacket, a Louis Vuitton handbag, two pairs of designer shoes, and a very nice designer dress. Actually, I don`t know if the dress was nice, I`m just guessing. We know about all of these gifts from the Virginia business man to the Virginia governor and his family, because of tireless reporting, mostly by "The Washington Post" and it is thanks to that reporting that we learned just the other day that the same generous business man who gave the governor and his family all that stuff, that same business man also bought the Virginia first lady a second $15,000 shopping trip to New York City, which she apparently did not use, maybe no more room in the closet. But the timing on Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli coming clean this week on his gifts from the same guy, the timing on this is a little weird. It has been two months since Governor Bob McDonnell finally apologized for his role in this scandal and paid back at least some of the loot that he took. But Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican attorney general of Virginia, he also took a bunch of loot from that same guy which he says he is only paying back now. Two months after Bob McDonnell did. Ken Cuccinelli too rides in a private jet and a vacation for himself and his family at a lake side villa and a big catered Thanksgiving dinner. He also took thousands of dollars worth of the tobacco-related supplement that this guys` company makes. Ken Cuccinelli also held $10,000 worth of stock in the company which he initially did not put on his financial disclosure forms. He later went back and amended those forms saying he had just forgotten all about the stock. He also did not initially disclose all the thousands of dollars of gifts from the company. He waited until gifts from that same company blew up as a huge scandal for Bob McDonnell and only then did he come forward sand and say, yes, I, too, had thousands of dollars worth of gift from the same guy that I did not disclose now, but now I will. But bob McDonnell at least has paid them back now, most of them, some of them, he won`t release a list, but he says it`s everything. He at least paid some stuff back and he apologized. That was two months ago, and Ken Cuccinelli did not pay anything back or apologize. Ken Cuccinelli, for the past couple of months, has refused to pay anything back. The Democrats in Virginia, look, put up this billboard on Interstate 95 in Virginia saying, "Ken, pay back the gifts" with a handy picture of the turkey in case he forgot what they were. But, still, he resisted. He would not pay anything back. He said those gifts were like a bell that you cannot unring. He even had taken gifts from this guy while his own attorney general`s office was fighting that guy`s company on a large state tax dispute, but before this week, Ken Cuccinelli was unembarrassed by that. He was not planning on giving anything back. Now, all of a sudden, he is, with no explanation other than that -- he wants to wipe the slate clean. And it is understandable that he wants to wipe the slate clean. It is probably going to take more than this weird Tuesday night news dump to do it though. The election in Virginia`s only eight weeks away now, absentee voting starts next week in Virginia. And if the idea is to put the McDonnell gift scandal behind him, to get this issue out of the headlines on time for the election, that is not going to work because next week is when Bob McDonnell and his wife are supposed to go back again to meet with federal prosecutors again to plead their case again about why the governor shouldn`t be criminally indicted for corruption. That`s next week prosecutors say they want to talk to them again. So, this story is staying in the headlines regardless of ken Cuccinelli`s strategically timed efforts to distance himself from it. The head to head match-up between Mr. Cuccinelli and his Democratic opponent in the race Terry McAuliffe is looking worse and worse for Ken Cuccinelli with each new poll. The Rothenberg Political Report has now moved this race from a toss up to leans Democratic. The latest poll in the races from Purple Strategies, they have ken Cuccinelli losing by five points. But look at this. This is really interesting. This is one of the biggest gender gaps I have ever seen in a governor`s race. There`s a five point split between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe. But look at the split with women, Cuccinelli is losing Virginia women by 18 points. And if that gender gap persists, it does not matter what else happens in the campaign. That is fatal for the Cuccinelli campaign and the Democrats and progressives know it, and they are doing everything they can to press that advantage. They started with the issue of the Violence Against Women Act, which Cuccinelli would not sign on for as attorney general. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD) NARRATOR: When Congress failed to renew the violence against women act, attorney generals from 47 states spoke out to protect women, but Ken Cuccinelli refused. "The Roanoke Times" wrote, "Virginians should remember Cuccinelli`s cowardly inaction as he seeks to become the next governor. One either stands for tougher punishments for sexual assaults against women or not." Ken Cuccinelli, he`s focused on his own agenda. Not us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, Ken Cuccinelli losing women by 18 points in Virginia. Democrats and progressives he also gone after him for trying to make it harder to get divorced in Virginia. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD) NARRATOR: If Cuccinelli had it his way, a mom trying to get out of a bad marriage over her husband`s objections could only get divorced if she could prove adultery or physical abuse or her spouse had abandoned her or was sentenced to jail. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, the Violence Against Women Act making it harder to get divorced. They`ve also made it -- they`ve also gone after Ken Cuccinelli for wanting to make it harder in Virginia to get an abortion or to get birth control. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: Ken wants to cut access to Planned Parenthood`s preventive health services. He thinks your boss should be able to decide whether you have access to affordable birth control and Ken wants to outlaw safe and legal abortion, even in cases of rape or incense. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: On the issue of your boss getting to decide whether or not you get access to birth control through your health insurance, Democrats have also pressed Ken Cuccinelli about him sponsoring a bill that likely would have outlawed most popular forms of contraception. Now, he`s trying to deny that he ever had that stance that he took when he really did sponsor that personhood bill back in 2007, designed to outlaw abortion, which it would do, it would also outlaw arguably hormonal forms of birth control. And, of course, this all dovetails with Ken Cuccinelli`s history as a hard lined antiabortion activist and his role in the draconian crackdown on abortion rights that access to abortion that`s happened in Virginia under Ken Cuccinelli and Bob McDonnell. It was Cuccinelli who led the fight in Virginia to ram through these new changes in regulations. He threatened members of the sate health board if they tried to let more clinics remain open. But the rules Ken Cuccinelli wanted went into effect this year. They are already shutting down abortion clinics across Virginia, including the busiest clinic in the state, which closed its doors last month because of the new rules. Here in the final stretch of the campaign with Terry McAuliffe leading among women by 18 points, this is becoming an issue on the campaign trial in a very explicit way. Terry McAuliffe yesterday at a campaign event told supporters that he would take action if he`s elected governor to reverse those regulatory changes, to try to keep the clinics open. What`s fascinating here is that the whole reason we found out about those remarks Terry McAuliffe made yesterday is that antiabortion activists in Virginia started pushing on this issue. This is their campaign tracker`s cell phone video. They`re trying to make a campaign out of this from the antiabortion side. Antiabortion activists from Virginia are calling to Ken Cuccinelli from the right, saying, hey, Ken, come back to us, stop trying to sound all centrist, start running your campaign based on the fact that you have shut down the abortion clinics. Start bragging about that, Ken Cuccinelli. That`s how you`ll win. Ken Cuccinelli is going to lose the governor`s race if things keep going as they are and he keeps doing what he`s doing. Is the hard right in Virginia, the antiabortion hard right in that state, are they correct that returning to his roots as a hard lined antiabortion crusader might help him turn this race around? Both sides seem convinced that they`ve got a winning issue here. Which side is right? Joining us now is Karen Finney. She`s host of MSNBC`s weekend afternoon show "DISRUPT WITH KAREN FINNEY". She`s also the former communications director at the DNC. And I should say, aren`t you still on the board of NARAL? KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST: I am still in the board of NARAL. It`s the truth, America. MADDOW: So, Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli both come from the hard edge of the antiabortion movement. Their time in office have seen this huge role back in abortion rights. FINNEY: Vaginal ultrasounds, right? MADDOW: That`s why we call Bob McDonnell governor ultrasound. FINNEY: And the Cuch. MADDOW: And the Cuch. That actually, I have nothing to do with that, but you`ve got to say it. FINNEY: Yes. MADDOW: How is the governor`s race affected by all those reproductive rights politics in this? FINNEY: So, couple of things -- remember that in 2012, one of the things we saw for the first time ever was that in battleground states for women voters, access to abortion care was a higher intensity issue than the economy. And we`re seeing that trend actually continue in Virginia. I would also remind you that in Virginia, both in 2012 and in the last governor`s race, women were a little bit more of the electorate. So, what that means is, if Terry can get those women voters out, the Cuch is probably going to be packing his bags. Because this is the other thing, the Republicans have -- and we saw this last year and we talked about this last year. And the Republicans completely underestimated the intensity with which women are so offended, not just by the policies. But if you`re going say to me, you don`t trust me to make a decision about what medicine I can take, you want to -- it`s got to go to my employer, why should I think you trust me to run a company or a country? Right? I mean, they really fundamentally don`t understand how invasive and how connected to just basic human rights this feels like for women and women have stayed very active in paying attention to these issues. MADDOW: So, that is -- that I think is sort of a best case scenario from the Democratic side about how this issue plays to Terry McAuliffe`s advantage. You call him Terry because you know him, because you`ve worked with him through Democratic politics. FINNEY: Yes. MADDOW: Do you think he as candidate and that Democrats in general get how to run on that issue? You`re not running. You can articulate it. You`re an activist on these issues. FINNEY: Yes. MADDOW: But do Democratic candidates get it? I mean, the reason this made public attention right now is because the right sent their tracker and caught him saying it. FINNEY: Right. MADDOW: They`re not publicizing it from the Democratic side. FINNEY: Which is probably a mistake, but what I`m assuming that they`re doing, I`m just going to give them the benefit of the doubt here because there`s all these fancy tools you can use now to micro target voters and to very specifically target women voters, because the 18 percent that Terry -- the gap that Terry has, I think that`s grown over the last few weeks. So, clearly, they must be doing something right. Clearly, the messaging is working. So, it seems to me that as long as they keep pushing Cuccinelli to have the talk about these issues, which he`s been trying not to talk, as you pointed out, he`s been trying no not talk about. What are you talking about, vaginal ultrasound? No, that wasn`t me, right? MADDOW: Right. FINNEY: So, for Terry, they have got to very, very carefully make sure they are targeting those women voters, activating them and getting them out to the polls, because in a nonpresidential election year, you tend to have lower turnout. So, he`s really depending on not just high turnout, but high turnout of women voters. MADDOW: This is going to be -- I mean, we`re in the last eight weeks. What`s going to be fascinating -- I think you`re right, that that`s what the Democrat side is going to do. But you can see now the Republican side panicking. Cuccinelli upended his campaign staff this week. He`s done this Hail Mary, I`m sorry for the gifts, I`ve given away the $18,000 thing and you can see the hard right where ken Cuccinelli comes from, pressuring him to start campaigning as an antiabortion crusader and go back to his base. That would help the Democrats, but the Republicans think it would help them, too. Fascinating. FINNEY: Yes, I would like to see Democrats also take a harder line on what`s happening in these crisis pregnancy centers that also were part of the Cuccinelli agenda where basically you`re saying it`s legal to lie to women. I mean, they could be doing a lot more to message on that because that`s when you get more Kim Gosnell, the Gosnell cases. When women don`t have good choices, when women don`t have access to good health care, they are prey to those kinds of people. That`s the kind of thing that Terry could be talking about. MADDOW: Karen Finney, the host of "DISRUPT WITH KAREN FINNEY", which airs at 4:00 Eastern here on MSNBC, Saturday and Sunday -- Karen, thank you for being here. FINNEY: Thanks. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. So, this week, American conservatives have decided that they have a new man crush and we have scored some shirtless pictures of him. I know you would not expect that from me in particular, but we`ve got it. That story`s coming up. But first -- one more thing about Virginia politics and Friday night news dumps. We just got word -- thanks to a late Friday night press announcement -- that the spokesman who Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has hired to handle his corruption scandal is leaving. This just broke late tonight that the scandal handling pro who`s an old Republican hand who worked for Newt Gingrich when he was speaker and Dan Quayle when he couldn`t spell potato, that guy has left tonight. "The Washington Post" reporting that Rich Galen says his departure does not mean anything one way or the other about whether bob McDonnell of Virginia is about to be indicted. Quoting from "The Post", ask if his leaving meant an indictment is not expected anytime soon, Galen said it means what it says. See, this is why it always pays to work Friday nights in the news business. You never know who`s going to quit or confess or whatever else they don`t want you to notice. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In northern Illinois, right along the Wisconsin-Illinois border, there`s a lovely medium-ish sized city called Rockford. Rockford, Illinois, is the biggest in Illinois outside of Chicagoland. And even with that distinction, it`s not that big. It`s about 150,000 people. But mighty, mighty Rockford, Illinois, is home to something called the World Congress -- the World Congress of Families. If you are unfamiliar with it, the World Congress of Families calls it an international network of pro-family organizations that seek to restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit in the seed bed of civil society. And when they say natural, what they mean is no homo. As far as they are concerned, natural families do not involve gay people. Now, because they fancy themselves a world congress, this group in Rockford, Illinois, hosts international meetings every few years to do what they do. To promote natural families that definitely are not gay. They met in 1999 in Geneva. They met in 2004 in Mexico City. 2009, it was Amsterdam, that must have been hilarious. Last year, it was Madrid. But next year, next year for the big World Congress of Families 2014, they have gone out of their way to schedule their next world congress of natural families in Russia. And not just in Russia, but specifically at the Kremlin in Moscow. You might have seen "The Reuters" reporting this week that some far right groups in Italy, the national front, the ultranationalist party in Italy, the national front, they`ve put up posters around Rome praising Vladimir Putin, saying, "We stand with Putin". And then you go to the Web site associated with the poster and they explain that they stand with Putin because of his courageous positions against the gay lobby. So, just as Vladimir Putin is becoming a hero to literally fascist groups in Europe, for him being super anti-gay, Vladimir Putin and Russia under Vladimir Putin are also becoming kind of a North Star for antigay forces here at home in the United States. Since Mr. Putin signed a series of laws that essentially criminalize the gay in Russia earlier this year, Rockford, Illinois` own World Congress of Families declared that it was Kremlin next meeting. Another U.S. group called the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute declared that they admire Vladimir Putin`s stance against gay people. The quack group that claims to be able to cure people of being gray, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, they publicly applauded Vladimir Putin`s decision to sign the antigay laws, saying he was rejecting, quote, "The negative lesson of American homosexual decadence." Also, do you remember the evangelical antigay activist Scott Lively? The American guy who pushed in Uganda for the kill-the-gays bill there? He was credited with inspiring the kill-the-gays law. Scott Lively is now suggesting that American conservatives should move to Russia, specifically because of Russia`s awesome new antigay laws. Ahead of the Russian vote on the antigay law that Putin eventually signed, Scott Lively published an open letter to the Russian people, where he lauded them for becoming a model pro-family society. He said if they pass those antigay laws that they were considering, quote, "I believe people from the West would begin to immigrate to Russia, the same way that Russians used to immigrate to the United States and Europe." American conservatives should move to Russia. All hail Vladimir Putin. Antigay activists in this country embracing Russia and the KGB`s own Vladimir Putin. This has been one of the weirder and more unexpected turns in our own domestic politics this year. But it turns out that the antigay part of the American right, those folks were just ahead of their time because now, a big chunk of the rest of the right in this country have chosen themselves a new hero, who is fun of riding shirtless on the backs of large mammals. It is not just the far, far, far right antigay right anymore. It is the right in general. Both in Congress and in the conservative media peanut gallery, who have decided that real Americans should show how much they love our country by maybe moving to Russia. If you love this country, you ought to move to Russia because Vladimir Putin is the kind of strong and decisive leader that we want and we love. That we love here in a totally different country. The role that Vladimir Putin has taken in the diplomatic negotiation in Syria this past week, the big op-ed that he wrote in "The New York Times" this week, the way he has tried to throw his weight around thus far in this international crisis, it has made the American political right suddenly get very hot to Trotsky about him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vladimir Putin is coming to the diplomatic rescue here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin is riding to President Obama`s rescue. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia is the player here. It is the big player, not the United States. I think frankly in the last week, Vladimir Putin has looked like a statesman. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Instead of a pariah, he`s a statesman, he`s a partner in peace, and he`s in a position that we can lecture the United States of America. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, you know, if this were a tennis match, it would be the umpire shouting, "advantage, Putin". UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin really has been schooling our president of the United States on how to be a leader, hasn`t he? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir Putin has filled the leadership gap because Obama and your buddy, Kerry, can`t make up their mind. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t like Putin. But I respect that guy. He is tough. He delivers what he says he`ll deliver. He knows his people. He presents himself as a real he man, but he lives up to it. Our president talks tough, but in a clinch, he`s gutless. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: You know, there was a moment in the `08 presidential campaign when the American right got so hot for Sarah Palin that it actually became a little NC-17. Remember, there was this writer for the conservative magazine, "The National Review," who said that when he saw Sarah Palin, she sent star bursts straight through the TV screen straight at him? Remember that? He said, "It was so sparkling, it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little star bursts through the screen. It`s either something you have or you don`t and, man, she`s got it." He said, "I`m sure I`m not the only male in America who when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, hey, I think she just winked at me." No, conservative magazine guy, she was not winking at you and neither is Vladimir Putin taking his shirt off just for you guys at FOX. It`s one thing for the right to fall in love with its own politicians, to make Ronald Reagan a saint, to make Sarah Palin their collective fake girlfriend. But the president of Russia, you guys? He is not that into you. Seriously, I know you guys hate President Obama, so it feels good to have a man-crush on somebody else, but this guy is a president of Russia. Zip it up, you guys, seriously. Have some respect. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There is a best new thing in the world today and it happened on tape. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: What exactly is going on there and it is amazing is the best new thing in the world today. I will explain what this is and what it`s for. It`s coming up right at the end of the show this hour. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Behold the Texas fruitcake. Pineapples, and cherry and raisins, and it`s covered in pecans. To get true Texas fruitcake cred, if you are a baker of such things, your fruitcake must be covered by Texas pecans. Pecan tree is Texas` official state tree after all. And Texas fruitcake is the signature sweet thing from the famous Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. If you want to send me a Texas fruitcake for Christmas, that`s where you`d send it from. I`m just saying. The Collin Street Bakery`s fruitcake is famous for a reason, but the Collins Street Bakery has been in the news this week for reasons unrelated to its gorgeous pecans. Turns out the guy in charge of the money at the Collin Street Bakery was indicted yesterday for allegedly embezzling almost $17 million. Who knew it was possible to embezzle $17 million from a bakery? According to the complaint, the allegedly fruit cake embezzler spent all those millions on 43 luxury cars, he bought a second home, he bought 60 watches and 600 fine bottles of wine. When managers of the bakery found out, they fired him, obviously, and they called the police in Corsicana, Texas. But the police in Corsicana, Texas, turned around and they called the FBI. The FBI was tasked with nabbing the alleged fruitcake embezzler because this kind of crime falls under the purview of the FBI. The FBI led that investigation into that alleged crime as part of their white collar crime division, which is one of the things they`ve focused on. We think of the FBI has going after terrorism suspects or kidnapping suspect, but the FBI has a pretty broad mandate, that includes a lot of very specifics, from international terrorism, to art theft, to insurance fraud, to all kinds of white collar crime. The FBI is busy. But because of the self-imposed never supposed to happen federal budget cuts known as the sequester, the FBI has decided to close for 10 days this year. All of its offices and HQ in Washington closed. For those ten days, quote, "The bureau will only have a skeleton crew on hand, which raises questions about how effectively it can respond to crime." According to an unnamed FBI official talking to "The New York Times", those 10 days will probably fall on either side of the weekend, you know, Fridays or Mondays. Fruitcake embezzlers, take note. This is on top of a hiring freeze the FBI has had to put in place. Oh, and also, no more cars for the FBI, because why would FBI agents need cars? They can get a bus pass, maybe monthly. Back in July, there was news of a Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky -- that name might ring a bell recently given this week`s world events. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: Welcome to the beautiful rolling hills of Kentucky, home of the Bluegrass Army Depot. Located on 250 acres, the Bluegrass chemical activity safely stores a stockpile of chemical weapons made up of nerve agents GB and VX, and mustard, a blister agent. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A blister agent. Because of the highly sensitive nature of the more than 500 tons of chemical weapons that are stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky, that site has their own specialist firefighters, which seems like a good idea, except that a few months back because of the budget cuts, those firefighters got scheduled for furloughs, sent home. Don`t come to work. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: We spoke with a firefighter at the Bluegrass Army Depot, or BGAD. He expressed concern for the community`s safety. BGAD regularly detonates conventional weapons and also stores weapons of mass destruction. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ammunitions or munitions might leak. Potentially, they could explode. That hasn`t happened. REPORTER: Security personnel received an exception from the furlough. Firefighters appealed for one. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Firefighters protecting our nation`s chemical weapons arsenal having to beg to do their jobs. Thanks, Congress. At the last minute, the week before the firefighters furloughs were scheduled to begin, those firefighters did get a last minute exception. We came within a week of canceling our firefighting abilities at the place where we store our chemical weapons in an ammunition depot. Genius. Do not have to look far to see examples of the dumbness of the sequester. Because of the sequester, for example, there are 41 countries where we think there`s a reason to investigate theft of American intellectual property, 41 countries -- because of the sequester, we`re only following up on one. Ukraine drew the short straw. But the other 40 countries that are ripping us off, we`re just letting them slide. Is that going to be good for our economy? And this is not even to mention the 50,000 American children who have been forced out of preschool because of cuts to federally supported programs, leaving those preschool kids to have to try to raise money for preschool by decorating tiny little toddler sized chairs trying to sell their chairs to pay for their preschool tuition. This is a group doing this in Colorado Springs. The head of that group telling "The New York Times" she`s trying to see this as an opportunity. She said, quote, "Otherwise, I would have to sit in the corner and cry." The situation here with these dumb threats and threat of cuts, this is what we ended up with because of the last round of budget negotiations that happened in Washington. We ended up with the dumb sequester thing in part because Republicans said they were so worried about the deficit. We had to take this drastic action even if it was going to be in sort of nonsensical ways that were going to hurt the country and the economy. The deficit was so bad that we had to do something as drastic as furloughing the firefighters who protect our chemical weapons arsenals. It turns out actually the deficit is on track to be the smallest it`s been in five years, but that apparently does not matter. The sequester is what we got the last time. And now, it is that time again. Congress is due to pass spending bills to keep the government running. They got to do that by October 1st or the government will shut down. By mid-October, Congress has to vote to raise the debt ceiling so we don`t default on our debts with all the economic disasters that implies. Democrats are saying they not only want to move forward with not shutting down the government and not defaulting on our debt, they say they would like to undo the sequester that we`ve all been living with, in ways that are making children auction off the art they can produce on their chairs so they can go to preschool. Republicans meanwhile held their 41st vote yesterday to defund Obamacare. And their speaker in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has gone to the White House now asking for the Democratic Party`s help and the Democratic president`s help to please help him somehow sort out the problems he is having with his own caucus, with his own members of the Republican Party on these budget negotiations. He`s going to the Democrats for help. Yes, this feels like Groundhog Day, but this is actually all upon us all over again. As we go through this again right now, is there in any chance that any of this stuff is going to get better and get resolved? Or are we at risk of things getting even worse than they already are? Joining us now is Jonathan Capehart. He`s a columnist for "The Washington Post." Mr. Capehart, thank you very much for being here on a Friday night. JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, the threat of the sequester was not enough to bring Congress around to any sort of long-term budget agreement last time we were in this position. Will the reality of the sequester and how dumb it is do the trick this time? CAPEHART: I`m not sure. I don`t think so. Matt Bennett at Third Way when the sequester was put in, called it sort of a slow roll disaster. And as you showed in your intro, lots of communities around the country had been hit by elements of the sequester rolls. Until enough members of Congress hear from enough people in their districts about the real world impacts of sequester, nothing`s going to happen with it. I mean, the other thing we have to keep in mind, Rachel, is that when we were facing sequester before it went into place, there were people in the building behind me who were saying out loud in public, maybe sequester wouldn`t be a bad thing. After all, we do need to cut spending. We do need to get our financial house in order. We have to get the deficits under control. So, the idea that you`re going to get the Republican-controlled House in any way to do anything substantive on sequester I think is really wishful thinking. MADDOW: So, the Republicans are threatening to shut down the government again. They are threatening to bump up against the debt ceiling, which is scary prospect for the country, not just in the short term, but in the long term in terms of how expensive it is for us to borrow. The Democrats have tried to open up the menu of options to include also fixing the sequester. All of this needs to be decided in very short order. It seems like Democrats getting what they want is unlikely. Republicans getting what they want is unlikely. What`s the default position if things go the way they are? If nobody scores a Hail Mary, nobody wins big, what do we end up with? CAPEHART: Well, what we end up with in the short-term is a government shutdown. As you said earlier, October 1st is that day. Right now, if memory serves, there are only nine working days that Congress will be in session. Now, they could come back into session I believe September 19th or September 26th so that later this month when they`re supposed to be off, there have been talk -- there have been noises made about having Congress come in and try to get some of this done before October 1st. But it`s going to require I think at this point for Speaker Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to show some real leadership and get their caucus in line, because if they think they`re going to strike some sort of deal to keep the government running and open by handing the president a bill that says he will delay the implementation to Affordable Care Act or completely defund it, they`re crazy. MADDOW: And that`s actually the right way to end that, because I feel like that`s where we`re it -- that`s where we`re at. Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" Jonathan, thank you very much. Appreciate your time. CAPEHART: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: I know it feels like Groundhog Day whenever we talk about this, you know, government shutdown. The sequester that we`re going to have a debt ceiling. It feels like Groundhog Day? It`s just because we never fixed this problem and we have to go back and try to fix it again now. I don`t know when this starts getting better. Just feels like it`s getting worse every time we have to go back to it. All right. A much needed best new thing in the world is still coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is, what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it. To my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America`s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just. To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama making the case this week in his address from the East Room of the White House that what happens in Syria matters. And that our country ought to not just care about what happens in Syria but we ought to act, because he made the case that we can act in ways that are not futile, that can make a difference there. This is interesting. Before the speech and after the speech sort of bookended polling that was done by CNN, that show that the president`s speech did shift Americans` views to be more favorable for the prospect of some kind of American involvement in Syria. It wasn`t a huge shift, but it was a shift among people who watched the speech. That said, the polling broadly says that Americans still do not want our military involved over there at all. And, of course, the fight in Washington and the fight at the U.N. now is about the maybe of international military intervention, or international diplomatic intervention to at least seize and secure all of Syria`s chemical weapons. Not all of the action that might make a difference in Syria has to happen through governments and through militaries. To the extent that President Obama`s attention and all debate and all of the news coverage this week about what Syria is going through, to the extent that is motivating regular American citizens who want to help, want to help the people there in some way, there are nonpolitical ways to help. Individual people, us random civilians, of course, cannot negotiate with the Russians or with the Assad regime. But there is stuff that we can do. The U.N. Refugee Agency has made an urgent appeal for donations even just from individuals to help the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled their country because of the violence there. The World Food Program also from the U.N., they`re seeking donations to help feeding families who are still in Syria. People can also donate to the Syrian Crisis Fund at Save the Children, which is setting up temporary schools in refugee camps. The International Rescue Community is doing work helping displaced people both inside Syria and in the cross border refugee camps that they have fled to. There`s a British charity called Hand in Hand for Syria that has also been helping at three field hospitals inside of Syria. The inspiring and intrepid group, Doctors Without Borders, they won the Nobel Peace Prize, they always need help. If you so choose, if you are so moved by what you are hearing out of Syria and you want to help there specifically, you can designate that your Doctors Without Borders donation goes specifically to their work in Syria. This is a big overwhelming story about a big overwhelming crisis. But beyond the politics of it, beyond the international wrangling between countries of it, if you personally are moved to try to help in a small way yourself, there are ways you can do that. We`re going to put links to all of those places that I just mention and a few more, tonight at Check it out. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, happy Friday, best new thing in the world. The Motor City, the great city of Detroit, has produced lots of great cars, lots of great art, lots of great music over the years. And now, the great city of Detroit has produced this. Behold the light dragon. This is the brain child of two artists, Detroit based artist Ryan Doyle and Hong Kong born artist named Teddy Lo. It`s called the light dragon. It is made entirely of salvaged metal and rubber and lights. It was apparently 60 feet long and it weighs 17,000 pounds. It sits on top of a stripped down 1963 Dodge dump truck. It`s equipped with 2,500 feet of color changing LED lights. And because it is a dragon, naturally, it can breathe fire. No, really it can shoot a 20-foot burst of flame through its dragon nostrils. That part is going to be really important later on in the story. So, put a pin in that for a second. The city of Detroit as you may be aware is going through a rough stretch right now. The city filed for bankruptcy in July. They`ve been under the control of an emergency manager who makes all the decisions regarding the city`s finances. That has rendered local democracy essentially dead in democracy. One of the things that emergency manager did in city recently was that he hired Christie`s Auction House to appraise the art that is house the inside the amazing, iconic, Detroit Institute of Arts. The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the country`s greatest art museums. It has a world famous collection of Rembrandts, and Michelangelos, and Diego Riveras, like you wouldn`t believe. It is a truly incredible collection of art and it is owned by the people of Detroit. It`s municipal owned. The city owns the collection. It belongs to Detroit and its people. And when the emergency manager announced that he was having the entire place appraised to find out its cash value like in case he was going to sell it off, Detroit started fighting back. And part of the way they have been fighting back is with art. And that is where the fire breathing dragon comes in. Late last night, as the rest of the city was preparing to go to sleep, the LED lit 60-foot long junkyard dragon, equipped with its own D.J. booth on the back, rolled through city of the Detroit, pulled right up to the front lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and as only a fire breathing dragon can do, it left a simple message for Detroit`s emergency manager about how the city feels about its art museum. Watch this. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Save the art. If you are going to try to send a message to the powers that be in your city, that is the way to do it. Send your fabric wed metal flame on fire, and with flames you shoot 20 feet out of your dragon nostrils. The artists who created that performance stunt made their escape shortly after setting the protest sign alight. The sign was then extinguished by dragon artist supporters, and also by the Fire Department. However, you have been making your political case, however you have been trying to convey your political feelings, you need to know that out there somewhere, there are dudes in Detroit who are getting their political point across with fire breathing LED, 60-foot dragon that breathe fire and have a D.J. booth on the back. The bar has officially been raised, America, step it up. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again Monday. Now, you must go to prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END