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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/10/13

Guests: Joe Cirincione, Francine Wheeler, David Wheeler

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cherish the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve but if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama today in Johannesburg quoting the words of Nelson Mandela in his extended eulogy at Mr. Mandela`s memorial today which was held in a huge soccer stadium that had been built for the World Cup in Johannesburg. President Obama was one of five presidents or heads of states who spoke at the service today. One of the others was Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro and lately the president of Cuba. President Obama`s hand shake with Raul Castro at this memorial service today does not seem to have been intended to have any diplomatic consequence other than being polite at a funeral. But it nevertheless caused a significant portion of the belt way and the American political right to get very, very excited today and not in a good way. Senator John McCain went too far as to say today that the hand shake with Raul Castro today was just like Hitler. Yes, that Hitler, seriously, that`s what he said. Here at home tonight, the big news out of Washington was the rather unexpected announced from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray that the two of them have come to an agreement. They have agreed on a bipartisan budget deal. If their deal does pass the house and pass the Senate at lightning speed basically by the end of this week, their plan would undo some of the pain of the sequester and it would make sure we don`t have another government shutdown threat sometime in mid- January. Some Washington conservative groups already said they were against this deal even before they knew what was in it today, so who knows if the Republicans in the House are going to be able to whip the votes necessary to get this thing passed? But unexpected, as of late tonight, it is at least on the table. In the Senate, today, they took their votes to confirm nominees for executive branch appointments, and federal judgeships, since the Republicans lost the ability to block nominees with only a minority of votes. By winning majority votes in the Senate, Patricia Millett was confirmed today to be a federal appeals court job and former Congressman Mel Watts was confirmed for a federal housing position. Getting confirmed because a majority of senators voted for you didn`t used to be a newsworthy thing in this country. But today, that was big news in Washington because it has not been that way for a along time now, but now that Democrats have killed Republicans ability to filibuster nominations, they`re actually getting people through. Also tonight in Massachusetts, voters have just chosen their newest member of Congress. When John Kerry was named secretary of state, his Senate seat, of course, opened up and it was ultimately filled in a special election by Democratic Congressman Ed Markey. That left Ed Markey`s district in need of a special election as well. And tonight, Massachusetts voters chose Democrat Katherine Clark to take Ed Markey`s old seat. Didn`t hurt that that district is pretty close to 100 percent Democratic. And her Republican opponent doesn`t even live in the district. But congratulations are still in order, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts is due to be sworn in day after tomorrow. But today on the East Coast, the snowstorm that was expected to snarl commutes and workdays and school days, ended up not being as big a storm as was feared. Though it does dump snow and slush and cold wetness on scenes like this. This is the street out in front of the federal immigration facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Elizabeth is a working class town, about 15 minutes south of Newark. And in Elizabeth, New Jersey today, in the very cold, very early morning, several dozen people gathered outside the immigration facility and they started chanting "Not one more, not one more," meaning not one more deportation, not one more family separated by the way that we run immigration policy in this country. Yesterday, before they went out there this morning, eight of the protesters posted a video explaining why they were doing this, why they intended to head out into the street and get themselves arrested for this cause today. And then this morning, with the snow falling and the slush piling up, those activists laid themselves down in the freezing wet street outside the building where the government holds people before driving them away in a bus for deportation. We have been following protests like this one in other parts of the country for the last few months now, young people, usually young people, putting themselves in the way, physically in the way of these busses filled with their mothers on their way to being forced out of the country. In Elizabeth today, they formed a human chain and they laid down in the snow covered street, the activists chained themselves together, but they put their arms inside these big PVC pipes when they did it so the authorities would have to very careful in trying to separate them, they wanted to slow the process down essentially. It makes the protests take longer so they`d have a longer time to make their point. In the end, firefighters and city police officers used small buzz saws to cut the pipes apart and then cut the chains apart and cut the activists apart, it took them about 20 minutes to cut all the locks and remove all the pipes and take those eight protesters off to jail. Those activists today are trying to persuade congress to pass immigration reform. Specifically they`re trying to persuade Republicans in the House, since the Senate already passed reform this summer, with 14 Republican senators joining the Democrats in voting yes. That was this summer, and now, it`s cold and month after month after month has drained away since the Senate acted. House Republicans have never brought it up for a vote and now, there is really there`s almost no time left. The House leaves town for the year on Friday, which means that Speaker Boehner has to bring up immigration reform tomorrow if he is going to bring it up this session at all. Supporters of reform have been fasting for a month now on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They`ve gone without food. They have been talking to anybody who stops by about what they are fasting for. They have been visited by the president himself and the first lady. By cabinet members, by members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, they say they have twice written to House Speaker John Boehner personally but they have not heard back from him. Yesterday, they posted this picture of the activists trying to talk to Speaker Boehner, asking him to please allow a vote on immigration reform in the House before the session is over. Dana Milbank at "The Washington Post" reports today that unless John Boehner surprises everybody and agrees to bring the bill up for a vote, those people who have been fasting on the mall in D.C. are planning to announce that they`re folding up their tents there and they will be moving to on to new strategies. And, you know, it would be one thing if immigration reform was just a Democratic priority that the Republicans were against and since they hold the House, they can stop it, right? That`s where a lot of things to stop in Washington, on those terms. But that`s not actually true about immigration reform. Republicans say they want it too. Republicans began this political season saying that immigration reform was something they wanted to do for their own party`s interests. I mean the tears had scarcely dried on Mitt Romney`s political headquarters in November when Republicans and conservatives in the media started saying that his anti-immigration stance had been wrong in the campaign and was a mistake in both policy and politics. It was not long after this election before the Republican Party said, you know what? We ought to be calling for immigration reform now, too. Mitt Romney was wrong, we need to move on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Immigration? REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: It`s an important issue that I think ought to be dealt with. I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue. And I`m confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all. HALEY BARBOUR: We not only need PhDs in science and technology, we need skilled workers and we need unskilled workers, and we need to have an immigration policy that is good economic policy. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: He we got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It`s simple for me to fix it. I think you control the border first, you create a pathway for those people that are here. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: All November 8th, those are all immediately after the election. In the aftermath of losing that last election, losing the White House, losing seats in the House, losing seats in the Senate, and into the 2013, Republicans have continued calling for immigration reform on Republicans` own terms. Congressman Eric Cantor said there ought to be a path to citizenship. Congressman Paul Ryan who had been Mitt Romney`s running mate. He started speaking in moving terms about immigration reforms being absolutely in keeping with Republican conservative principles. These are not immigrant activists sitting in a tent on the Mall. These are the leaders of the Republican Party saying that want to get it done, and they have had all year, and they have not gotten it done anything. They have all year, nothing. And neither have they done much of anything else. This Congress, the one now limping to a close, has passed fewer laws than any Congress in modern history. Seriously, they have made history for doing less than anyone ever. In legislative terms, they have made such little forward progress this year that it cannot be observed with the naked eye. They have established a new low, congratulations. If you`re one of those people who has wanted this Congress to do something this year, you have been out of luck. Congress has very likely not done whatever it is you would hope it would do, or even what Congress promised that it wanted to do. And that it has the votes to do if only they`ve allowed a vote. This Congress right now is just now in the business of doing things. So, if you wanted them to do something, they haven`t done it. Now, on the other hand, there are also people who have been hoping that Congress would not suddenly wake from its long slumber, who have been hoping that Congress could just snooze along for a few more days. Last month, President Obama announced a historic deal with Iran. It reached an agreement in which the U.S. and other countries would ease up on sanctions against Iran. In exchange, Iran would stop or slow down much of its nuclear program for six months while also allowing international inspectors to visit their nuclear facilities every day, daily, for six months. And during those six months, negotiations would continue for a longer term and a bigger deal. It was a historic deal to work on a deal -- essentially a first step, but a really important first step that was really hard to get to. Inspectors were there on the ground in Iran this weekend. Their work has already started. The deal is already in effect. The only problem is Congress. Lawmakers in both houses on both sides of the aisle have been saying, oh, forget this deal, we hate this deal. We want more sanctions on Iran now. If they succeeded, if they passed new sanctions, the new agreement with Iran would be off immediately. Iran has been very clear on that. If new sanctions passed, the entire thing would be lost as soon as they passed. Now, everybody who likes that there`s this deal with Iran, a potential diplomatic solution to this vexing problem, everybody`s been saying, hey, Congress, don`t screw this up. Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to persuade Congress, do not screw this up. Do not to scuttle the agreement by messing with and trying to pass sanctions that would absolutely kill the deal. And it appears, maybe, and maybe just for now, that John Kerry has won that argument, at least for now. Or at least it appears that Congress can`t get its act together enough to pass the sanctions that they would like to pass that really would screw up the deal. After a year of record futility, Congress`s inability to do anything might have saved them their best efforts to screw up and undo a huge diplomatic achievement. So, congratulations, they have failed to fail. This Congress has set new benchmarks for incompetence and inability and do nothingness and obstruction -- nobody has ever been worse than this Congress in the history of there being congress. And if you wanted this Congress to act for your cause like say immigration reform, it is undoubtedly been a very frustrating year. But if you wanted them to not act, for their own cause, that you thought was a bad idea, well then, that`s the bright side. Their ineptitude and fundamental incompetence may finally have done you some good. They may have failed at their worst idea. Joining us now is Joe Cirincione. He`s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He`s president of the Ploughshares Fund, which is a global initiative aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons and he is the author of the new book "Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It is Too Late", which I`m telling you, I had read and is not nearly as scary as it sounds. Joe, how are you? It`s nice to see you. JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: I`m thrilled to be here. Thank you very much for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: My sense is that Congress really does want to pass new sanctions on Iran, they might very well have enough support in both Houses to do it. And that if they had done it, this deal with Iran, this fragile first step deal with Iran would have been kaput immediately. Is that true? CIRINCIONE: That is exactly right. It`s a deal explicitly rules out any new sanctions, it`s a deal negotiated between the U.N. Security Council and Germany and Iran. So it`s a seven-nation deal. It explicitly says no new sanctions are allowed. So, if the Congress patches new sanctions it would kill the deal. One of the benefits of a do-nothing Congress is those times where you really don`t want them to do anything. Do no harm. Thankfully, it looks like they won`t get a chance. MADDOW: You are the nation`s -- I think most a articulate advocate for the idea of down scaling nuclear weapons to the point of disappearance and taking care of both the nuclear threats and proliferation threats as they exist around the world. How impressed are you by the terms of the deal in Iran that now has not been screwed up? Is it an important first step? Is it possible that it will fail after six months and Congress might want to revisit the issue of sanctions? CIRINCIONE: Oh, it`s absolutely possible this might fail. The president himself gave this a 50/50 chance of success. This is just phase one of the deal. It freezes the Iranian program in place so that while you negotiate, they`re not stealing march on us. They`re not continuing to build. They can`t install any new centrifuges. They can`t turn on any of the centrifuges that are operating. This does what Mr. Netanyahu wanted a year ago when he stood up with the podium at the United Nations and how that cartoon of the bomb. He warned that if they continue to enrich uranium, they might cross the red line. This deal drains that bomb of the uranium. It pushes them further away from the ability to bolt. So, now, that your sanctions that the Congress passed and the executive actions that the president have taken have worked, you have Iran at the table, you`ve stopped the program, you`re working on a long-term deal, don`t screw it up by adding more sanctions by thinking that you can coerce Iran into even better terms of a deal, give diplomacy time to work. MADDOW: If the point of sanctions was to get them to the table, now they`re at the table. CIRINCIONE: Exactly. MADDOW: It doesn`t seem that complicated. If the U.S. does succeed with this deal, if again, as you said, it remains to be seen, but if progress is made down this path, the other vexing nuclear problem in the world in terms of -- would be rogue states is, of course, North Korea. If we can make progress with Iran by these means, does it potentially open up any doors with North Korea? CIRINCIONE: Yes, it does. You often hear people talk about states like Iran and North Korea. But there are no states like Iran and North Korea, there`s only Iran and North Korea, the only two countries in the world with nuclear programs this advanced, this dedicated. If you can solve Iran, if six months from now you can get a final agreement that dismantles large portions of the program that puts it under excruciating inspections, that you can be assured that they`re not going to get a bomb, but you have already solved half the problem. And that might serve as an incentive for North Korea to negotiate a deal and for those countries around it to try this same combination of pressures and incentives. And if you can do that, if you can solve North Korea, you`re really looking at the end of proliferation, this wave that has spread over the last 68 years since Hiroshima might actually have crested and come to a full halt. That is historic. MADDOW: Could be done with diplomacy, as long as Congress can`t get its act together to screw it up. I love that we`re dependent on that at this point. Keep tripping, keep tripping. Amazing. Joe Cirincione is president of the Ploughshares Fund -- the new book, again, is called "Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late." It`s excellent work. I blurbed it and I don`t do for anybody. CIRINCIONE: Thank you very much. Your great complimentary. Thank you very much. MADDOW: It`s great work. Thanks, Joe. Congratulations on that. CIRINCIONE: You`re an inspiration. Thanks for having me on. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Every time anyone calls 911, the call is recorded. And that makes sense. Not only do 911 dispatching calls need to be monitored in terms of their quality, but sometimes 911 calls end up being part of, for example, a criminal case, they end up being part of evidence. So, those kind of calls always get recorded. And in many cases, those recorded calls, of people calling 911, those calls are subject to public records request. That`s why you can hear on local news today in Wisconsin for example -- the calls that people made to 911 during this multi-care pile-up in a snowstorm this weekend. It`s why we get to gawk at 911 call audio for celebrities end up in accidents, or involved with the police for some reason. Calls to the emergency services in most cases end up being in the public domain. And when the mass shootings happened almost a year ago now in Newtown, Connecticut, there were two different types of 911 calls that were made that way, people calling 911 on cell phones, by and large, they had their called routed to state police. People called 911 from land lines, their calls were largely routed to the local police department, and it was those calls to the local PD that ended up being subject to public records request. Newtown did not want the audio of those calls to be released. The state tried to change the law after the fact, to shield those calls from the media. The state prosecutor who is investigating the shooting at Sandy Hook went to court to try to keep the sound of those calls from being publicly released. But a lawsuit by "The Associated Press" succeeded in prying the tapes loose. And then, last week, over the objections of many of the victims` families and the town and the investigators, those tapes were released and every media outlet had its own choice to make about whether or not to air them and most organizations did not air those tapes. Some did, including incredibly the "CBS Evening News" and also FOX News, they decided to broadcast the tapes essentially because of their entertainment value, because there really was no news content to those tapes at all. There was nothing that the public learned from those tapes, that was not only already known about the incident or that could not be discerned from transcripts. But some news organizations played them anyway, including the sounds of the gunshots that were fired at those kids and those teachers in real time. Why did we need to hear that? We have a free press. Every news outlet gets to make its own decisions about what it wants to broadcast and what is descent, and what its anchors and its executives can live with when they wake up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror. But on the day the tapes were released, this sign was put up on the telephone pole in Newtown, Connecticut. "Vulture media, you got your tapes, are you happy? Please leave." Obviously, this is nothing official and whoever put this up on the day the 911 tapes were played is not speaking for the whole town, but you do kind of get the point. In Newtown, Connecticut, over the last year, the town has taken pretty extraordinary measures to try to take care of itself as a community, not just in terms of handling their own grief for what they went through, but also handling the additional burden, the additional pain that has been caused however inadvertently by the intense national interest, the intense national concern for that town and for it`s families and its kids. As we have been approaching December 14th, which will mark one year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the public officials in Newtown have twice now organized events for the media to say, in essence, hey, cover us now, set up your cameras now, ask your questions now, get it over it, get whatever it is you need to be able to meet the demand for information about Newtown and this anniversary, but let us do this on our own terms so we have some control over how inundated we are with media requests and with the physical presence of the media and with the emotional toll that that presence takes on the town and its survivors. Let us have some control over the unending requests to have us interpret our grief for a national audience. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAT LLODRA, NEWTOWN FIRST SELECTMAN: We truly are hoping that we have provided enough opportunity with the print media and the TV media and particularly the local media, to answer questions and give the media the story that I know that the world`s going to want to hear on the first anniversary. JOHN REED: We went through this at the end of the last school year. We went through it when we reopened the Sandy Hook School last January. We went through it when we opened the school year this year. We went through it when there was an interest in the demolition of Sandy Hook School, and people we went through it after one of the reports was released that people are looking for background footage. We went through it even at Halloween, people were trying to come up to one of our schools to get pictures of the kids from Sandy Hook School in their Halloween costumes. LLODRA: There`s many of you and not so many of us so we pay that emotional and economic toll and really we were hurt very badly last year, as you all know, we don`t need to be reminded, we don`t need to relive it. We live it every day. We carry it with us, which are fully aware of our tragedy. So, we`re trying to say to the world, please give us a chance to grow into that really happy healthy place that loves children and families, who have great schools. We know who we are. We know that that`s our destiny. But we need you to help us get there by please staying away. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You realize we`re not one -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Newtown, Connecticut, does not have a mayor, they have a board of selectmen and the first selectman is the highest ranking elected official in the town. That`s the woman speaking there, Pat Llodra. She`s essentially has tried to absorb the public`s interest, tried to shield the town from the media, so they can be left alone to mark one year since the shooting in their own way. And so, as the media and all of us try to figure out how to do right by that community, which has been through so much and who we all feel so much for, there`s also the question of the families themselves. If you want to support the families of the kids in the school staff members who were killed at Sandy Hook, there`s nothing wrong with that feeling, if you want to reach out to them, if you want in some small way to try to help them, is there a right way to do that that isn`t going cause more harm than you intend? If all you want to do is help and you don`t know how to help without hurting, is there a way to do that? On the same day that city officials in Newtown held that event for the media that we just showed, the families who lost their kids or their mom or their sister or their wife at Sandy Hook Elementary, they also spoke that day in Newtown, Connecticut, yesterday, and they tried to answer the question of the right way to help, the right way to address your interest, and your feeling for them and your questions. If you want to know about each individual person lost that day, if you want to help them honor their memory in a way that is meaningful and constructive for the people who love them -- well, this Web site which they unveiled yesterday is one way that the families say you can do that in a way that help and not hurt. It`s called The site is a way the families feel comfortable about for people to learn about their loved ones and their children who were killed. Like that Jessica Rekos loved killer whales or that Dylan Hockley thought that lightning was beautiful and he called it beautiful. The family`s Web site also I think crucially directs you to the foundations and the causes that the families are supporting or that they have set up themselves to honor their lost child or their lost family member. One of the 6-year-olds lost that day last December was Benjamin Wheeler. Ben loved Beatles songs, his parents never let him skip a page when they were reading a book and he was anxiously awaiting the loss of his first tooth. Ben also loved lighthouses. And so, his family has set up a foundation in his name called Ben`s Lighthouse. The goal of the foundation is simply to help the kids of Newtown heal from what happened in their town last year. The families of the victims are doing what they can to not only mediate their own interaction with the world that is so intensively concerned and interested and full of feeling about what happened, but also to speak authoritatively with their own voice on their own terms in a way that means that nobody else can claim to act for them because they are speaking themselves on their own terms in their own way, (COMMECIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANCINE WHEELER, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: My name is Francine Wheeler. My husband David is with me. We live in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. David and I had two sons. Our older son Nate, soon to be 10 years old, is a fourth grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our younger son, Ben, age 6, was murdered in his first grade classroom on December 14th. DAVID WHEELER, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: We`re never going to stop being Ben`s parents and that`s complemented and made difficult by being the best parents we can be for Nate, who has his own journey. F. WHEELER: Yes, he -- Nate said right after Ben died, he said, this is tough. But he said, you promised you would protect us. D. WHEELER: Yes. F. WHEELER: And I did promise him that. D. WHEELER: Sure. F. WHEELER: You know? So what do I say to him? I can`t change what happened. I know it wasn`t our fault. We just sent him to school, but I`ll do whatever I can to help protect Nate and protect Ben`s spirit. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: David and Francine Wheeler, the parents of Nate and Benjamin. Ben was 6 years old when he was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. Joining us now for the interview are David and Francine Wheeler. David and Francine, thank you both so much for being here. D. WHEELER: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: We are coming up on one year since it happened, and I can`t imagine that it was an easy decision to make yourselves publicly available again to talk about this as we come up on one year. How did you make that decision and how do you feel about that one-year anniversary? D. WHEELER: We don`t exactly now how we`re going to feel on that day. I am -- I`m all over the map about it. We have decided to focus on Nate and decided to spend time together as a family. We have decided to distract ourselves a little bit, see some things we might not otherwise see. But, you know, as has happened so often in the past 11 months, we don`t really know what`s going to happen. So we`re just going to try and stay open and be kind and be loving and do our best. F. WHEELER: I think what David is saying is that we can`t really plan, we just sort of go with our feeling in the moment, you know? MADDOW: Yes. F. WHEELER: So if we plan to do something special, we can always cancel that or do it later or -- so how we`re feeling, like how I`m feeling right now is sad and angry, but that`s a usual feeling. MADDOW: Do you feel like looking back at the last year as time has passed there`s any advice that you would have given yourselves for how to survive, how to be kind to each other, how do the best that you could in circumstances over this year? D. WHEELER: Yes, I would tell myself certainly just take it easy and don`t always, you know -- don`t always believe yourself right away. You know, take a second and take a step back and see what exactly is going on and if that`s a good thing or not a good thing. See how you can direct things in that way. MADDOW: Sort of feel your instincts but not necessarily follow them always? D. WHEELER: That`s a good way to put it, sure. F. WHEELER: Being gentle with yourself. D. WHEELER: With everyone. F. WHEELER: Yes. MADDOW: The decision to be part of the project, the thing that really strikes me about this is that it is on your own terms, putting out the information that you want to put out, that you want to be known, and it is speaking authoritatively in your own voice, nobody can say that they`re speaking for you because you are speaking for themselves. What is valuable to you about this way of moving forward? F. WHEELER: It`s an honest way to share with the public, and if your family, for example, who`s very private but you want to honor your child or your mom or your wife, this is an opportunity for you to do that in a safe place. We get all the information. We are in control of the information that is released to the public. If the public wants to know what the families are thinking about something, if there`s an answer, and sometimes we don`t have one, but if we have an answer, that`s a very accurate place for you to find it. Where, you know, this is a group of people who respect one another and have come to realize that we can lean on each other. Because we understand how the other people feel. MADDOW: In a way that nobody else really does? F. WHEELER: That`s right. MADDOW: This is a separate initiative, this Web site, done by some of the Sandy Hook Promise. D. WHEELER: Completely separate. MADDOW: And Sandy Hook Promise has also been doing, some initiatives they`ve been doing. Parent together, to try to turn things in a constructive way that could help other communities. That work is also informed by some of the families at least and it seems like everybody`s sort of working together hand in hand, but doing different things going in some different directions. D. WHEELER: Well, the creation of Web site was a very healing experience for me and I think it was very healing for a number of the people involved so that`s been good. And that is, as you said, it`s a separate and completely distinct initiative from the families alone. Some of the things we talked about in January are ideas that have been put forward by the parent together program from Sandy Hook Promise. But they certainly reason -- resonate with what I believe and some of the things we talked about. The idea being that a parent or a grandparent, their love for their children is such a strong area of common ground that we can actually put aside political division and we can actually put aside this inability to make any progress and talk about something that everyone can agree on. It`s a terrific place to start. I think it`s really important. MADDOW: David, one of the things that you said in January, I went back and I read the full transcripts of our whole conversations that day. One of the things you said struck me in that you were talking about policy changes and if there`s going to be any policy changes in reaction to the nation`s grief over what happened. You said at that time. Listen, the kind of policy changes we need is going to take longer than the careers of any legislators who exist right now. We need to do things that are going to get us on course for a long time and not getting stuff done right now does not worry. You still feel that way? D. WHEELER: I do. I absolutely do. The legislative part of it is really important. It still is, and April was a disappointment when we were in Washington and things didn`t go the way we hoped they might. But this is a bigger matter than that. This is a matter of parents talking together and communicating together in a way that supersedes any particular ideological boundary. I mean, you know, one of the things that the promise did recently was to talk to parents of all ideologies and many, many different faiths all over the country, and it is not surprising that when they started talking about parents desire to make the country safer for their children, everyone is in agreement. MADDOW: Yes. D. WHEELER: It`s a very simple, common place to start. MADDOW: Well, we`ve got links to and also to the Sandy Hook Promise and some of what they`re doing, posted on our Web site tonight. And I just want to thank you personally for having these conversations with me. Whenever you want to talk about anything, open door and I`m -- it`s an honor that you guys are willing to be here. Thanks. Good to have you here. D. WHEELER: Thanks. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the middle of the financial meltdown in 2008 and 2009, it looked like General Motors was going to go kaput. As part of the overall rescue effort for the financial system in the U.S. economy, the federal government decided to try to save G.M. with a bailout. And conservatives knew at the time, they just knew that it was going to be a total disaster. There was no way that the government could save G.M. (BEGIN VIDEDO CLIPS) SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: It`s just postponing the inevitable. This is a dead-end. It`s a road to nowhere. REP. TED POE: You can`t call it a bailout, because that might be too honest a statement to our citizens, so we call it a bridge loan. Actually, it`s a bridge loan to nowhere. Hey, does anybody really think the federal government knows anything about the car business? SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (D), TENNESSEE: You know what`s going to happen? Congressmen are going to be causing the president of General Motors to drive his hybrid car to Washington to talk about hiring your grandmother, what kind of car you`re going to have, what you`re going to paint it, where you`re going to buy your engine. They`re not going to be having time to making any cars. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Hiring your grand -- despite his worries about you lobbying for your grandmother to get hired down of the auto plant, Senator Lamar Alexander and the other dooms saying Republicans back then were wrong. As of yesterday, the U.S. government has now sold off the last of its shares in G.M. So, the bailout is officially over. You can factor in the cost of the bailout initially, minus what we got back when we sold the stock. The taxpayer cost was about $10.5 billion to save G.M., which was a real bargain in the end. The Center for Automotive Research has now reported that the government -- that if the government had decided not to bail out G.M. in 2009, it would have cost the U.S. economy almost 1.9 million jobs that year and the next. Lost tax revenues, unemployment benefits and other safety net programs for those 2 million unemployed people would have added another nearly $40 billion in costs to the taxpayers. So, we can see now this retrospect that was the choice, right? Don`t bail out G.M. and it will cost you 2 million and $40 billion or do bailout G.M. and it will cost $10.5 billion, but the American auto industry will be saved. G.M. will be the biggest or one of the biggest car companies in the world again. Since the bailout, G.M. has now been profitable for 15 straight quarters. G.M. has added thousands of new U.S. jobs and it`s thinking about paying a dividend to it`s stockholders now because of its strong growth and because it sitting on so much cash from selling so many cars that people like, that are made in America. G.M. is not just alive. G.M. is thriving. Bailout done, bailout worked. And to add a little historic icing to the cake, G.M. today just named their new CEO. Her name is Mary Barra and she`s been with General Motors for 33 years, most recently as head of global product development. Not only did she work her way up from the bottom rungs of the company, she is now the first woman to ever lead a major auto company anywhere in the world. Mary Barra will be replacing the outgoing CEO of G.M. who is installed at the time of the government bailout, and whose requirement now coincides with that government bailout wrapping up as being a success. One other note, though, of course nobody who got bailed out in the financial crisis did nearly as well as the big banks and the Wall Street firms that caused the crisis in the first place. But today those interests did finally lose a round in Washington. All the key regulatory agencies in Washington today voted to enact something called the Volcker Rule, which is hard to spell but easy to understand. It`s named after former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. The rule essentially aims to re-establish the old rules that had been put in place after the Great Depression that said banks can`t gamble with your money. Today`s decision will start to put the wall back up between banks, which are supposed to be safe, and the kind of Wall Street wheeling and dealing that crashed the global economy in 2008. Banks hate the Volcker Rule, and they spent years and millions of dollars lobbying against it. But today, they lost. And the reformers won. It took a while, but it happened. More to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: At Nelson Mandela`s memorial service today in Johannesburg, President Obama was one of five heads of state to speak today. And he was greeted with a huge ovation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would like to now welcome off to the stage and to the podium and ask him to address us, and that is our very son of African soil, President Barack Obama! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That cheering, foot stomping roar went on for almost a full minute before President Obama could deliver his eulogy today. We`ve got more on that straight ahead. (COMMERIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and the young people around the world, you too can make his life`s work your own. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama today at the memorial service for former south African President Nelson Mandela. The political reaction in this country to Mr. Mandela`s death has been one of near universal praise for him and the example he set throughout his life. And as nice as that reaction feels, it would be weird and wrong if that reaction obscured the uncomfortable historical fact that support for Mandela`s political cause, support even for Nelson Mandela`s personal freedom in his lifetime was no sure bet in America, especially on the America right. This is something that sort of disappeared down the memory hall. If you needed to be reminded of it, you can look no further than the American far right today. Here, for example, is the cover of this week`s edition of the "World Net Daily" magazine. They have one. This is their commemorative Nelson Mandela edition. See? Icon. Get it? Nelson Mandela was a con man. A communist wolf in sheep`s clothing who managed to fool the world. He was a con artist. "World Net Daily" ran an online poll last week after Mr. Mandela passed, asking their readers, how do you assess the life and work of Nelson Mandela? The leading response was this one, "He was a violent communist revolutionary who never should have been released from prison." Wow. In the mid-1980s, as most of the American political world was rallying to Mandela`s side and uniting against the South African government, the political right in this country was in the midst of a big civil war on this issue. The Republican president at that time, Ronald Reagan, was adamantly opposed to sanctions against the apartheid government. He had serious backup from the religious right, which amazingly found itself in solidarity with South Africa`s racist government. Democratic members of Congress were drawing up sanctions against South Africa`s racist apartheid government. And there was the Reverend Jerry Falwell arm in arm with South Africa`s president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Falwell will return to the United States urging American companies to invest in South Africa and urging the Senate to vote against economic sanctions next month. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Urging investment in South Africa, not divestment, but investment. At that point, Nelson Mandela had been in jail for more than 20 years. And American conservatives, primarily on the religious right, were leading the charge against him and his African National Congress, leading the charge in support of the apartheid government. It was not just Jerry Falwell. It was also televangelist Pat Robertson who was taking of the anti-Mandela cause. He said, quote, the blacks in this country have made this whole matter into an extension of the civil rights movement. I don`t think they understand what they`re dealing with. The religious right was joined by their allies in Congress. Among them, Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina who filibustered a bill in the Senate to impose sanctions against South Africa. There were also joined by their ally, future vice president, Dick Cheney, who was then just a back bench Republican congressman from Wyoming, but one who was willing to take a stand against sanctions and divestment. The conservative Heritage Foundation argued in the 1980s that the U.S. should stop advocating for the release of Nelson Mandela. President Reagan, of course, vetoed the sanctions bill against South Africa. Eventually his veto was overridden by Congress, including by Republicans who disagreed with him. Those sanctions did put extraordinary pressure on the South African government and Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. And even though it may seem now that opposing Nelson Mandela, something that couldn`t have happened in this country, it did. And it didn`t go away. When Nelson Mandela came to the U.S. in 1994 to deliver a joint address to Congress, one Republican congressman from California called the invitation to Mandela, a national disgrace. And Jesse Helms, one who filibustered the bill that called for Nelson Mandela`s release, Jesse Helms turned his back on Nelson Mandela and his visit to the U.S. Capitol. That history has been mostly lost down the memory hole, but on days like this an uncomfortable thing to remember. But it is the truth. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us tonight. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END