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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/29/14

Guests: Bryan Norcross, Errol Louis

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for this hour. All right, this was election night in 2010, so November 2010 in Staten Island, New York. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: If I was Nancy Pelosi, I ought to be scared right now. (CHEERS) GRIMM: -- of the United States. Former FBI agent and the new congressman -- (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Michael Grimm. "Nancy Pelosi ought to be scared right now." Michael Grimm was first elected to Congress that night in November 2010. Last night Congressman Grimm performed the almost impossible political task of personally overshadowing the entire State of the Union address and every other response to it when he threatened to kill a reporter. Right there in the U.S. capitol building while the camera on him was still running. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1 POLITICAL REPORTER: So Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you. Why -- GRIMM: Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I`ll throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony. SCOTTO: Why? Why? I just wanted to ask you. GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again -- SCOTTO: Why? Why? This is a valid question. (CROSSTALK) GRIMM: No. No. You`re not man enough. You are not man enough. I`ll break you in half like a boy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "I`ll throw you off this f-ing balcony. You`re not man enough. I`ll break you in half like a boy." I really don`t get the "like a boy" part of it. Boys break in half. Men don`t -- I don`t know what that means. After the initial outcry, Congressman Grimm put out a statement after that happened last night, essentially defending himself and defending the reasonableness of his decision to threaten to kill that reporter. His statement said, quote, "I was extremely annoyed because I was doing New York 1 a favor by rushing to do their interview. The reporter insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview. I verbally took the reporter to task and I told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect." And so I threatened to throw him off a balcony. Yes, that was the first statement. Hours later, Congressman Michael Grimm apparently reconsidered his initial tact and reportedly did call the New York 1 reporter who he threatened to kill and told him that he was sorry, no hard feelings. And you know what? Consider the context here. Today, while Congressman Michael Grimm was changing his mind from essentially the little twerp deserved it to OK, OK, I`m sorry. While he was doing that today, a man named Bernard Carrick was also preparing to make his first public speaking engagement since being released from federal prison. Bernie Carrick is a former head of the New York City Police Department. He`s also the former head of the New York City Corrections Department. President George W. Bush in 2004 nominated Bernie Carrick to be the secretary of Homeland Security for the whole country. Mr. Carrick was recommended by Rudy Giuliani for that job. He was vetted by Alberto Gonzalez. You remember the story? It only took about a week for that nomination of Bernie Carrick to be secretary of Homeland Security, it only took about a week for that nomination to fall apart. Seven days after George W. Bush nominated him in this ceremony at the White House, Bernie Carrick withdrew his name from consideration saying he had unknowingly hired an undocumented nanny and housekeeper and so he couldn`t take the job in part because he`d be in charge of enforcing the nation`s immigration laws. Well, turns out that it was more than that. In 2006 Mr. Carrick was convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of home renovations for himself from an allegedly mobbed up contractor that had business before New York City. He admitted to lying about that, lying to the IRS, and lying to the White House when they vetted him for that Homeland Security job. But because this is New York, and because New York is as amazing as New Jersey, when Bernie Carrick pled guilty and was about to report to prison to start serving his sentence, they had to move really quickly in New York City to quick take Bernie Carrick`s name off the jail that he was about to have to report to. Less than 48 hours after he pled guilty to those corruption charges, they had to physically take his name off of the outside of the lower Manhattan detention complex, which Rudy Giuliani had renamed the Bernard B. Carrick Complex because that is how it works in New York. Your name can`t both be on the jail and on your inmate locater file. In the 55th Assembly District in Brooklyn, New York, you will find public amenities like the Thomas Boyland Park, the Thomas Boyland Baseball Field, the Thomas Boyland School, that`s PS-73. You`ll even find a very nice block called Thomas Boyland Street. Thomas Boyland, this person who had a seat in the New York State Assembly representing that part of Brooklyn starting in the late 1970s. He was beloved. He then died and his brother got the seat, William Boyland. And then William`s son got the seat after him, William Boyland Jr. And in February 2011 William Boyland, Jr., the assemblyman, was arrested in Manhattan on bribery charges. So he hires lawyers to help him fight the bribery charges. He gets released on bond in that case. While he is out on bond for the first bribery case, FBI agents taped him allegedly soliciting new bribes to help pay for the lawyers in his other bribery case. You give me $250,000, and I`ll get you your hospital. See, I need the money to fight these bribery charges. It all happened, according to the FBI, in an Atlantic City hotel suite. Obviously. The case is ongoing. Assemblyman Boyland reportedly rejected a plea deal that would have locked him for nine years on these charges. The case is going ahead. If he`s convicted now, he`s looking at potentially 30 years in prison. And again, the charge here is bribery to pay for the defense of the other bribery charges of which he was acquitted. First bribery charges acquitted. Second bribery charges, to pay for the defense of the first ones, those are the ones that are still pending. You want to talk about bribery around here? How about this guy? State senator, at one point he was the leader of the Democrats in the state Senate. His bribery case was that he tried to bribe his way on to the ballot to run for mayor of New York City. He is a Democrat, he`s a Democratic state senator, but he decided that he wanted to run as a Republican. Less competition. And you know, frankly when you`re operating at this level, who cares what party you are. But this state senator needed local Republican Party bosses in New York City to sign off on him switching parties, to say they would be OK with him running for mayor as a Republican, even though he`d been a Democrat all this time. So how do you get these local Republican bosses to sign off? Well, apparently in the Bronx the Republican Party chairman there was going to need $25,000, please, quote, "in an envelope," end quote. He asked for 25 originally, they jawed it down and eventually got it down to a $15,000 bribe, quote, "in an envelope." Over in Queens, it was the vice chairman of the Republican Party there, he wanted $50,000 as his bribe, but he wanted it kind of spread out so it wouldn`t look so suspicious. He`d take half up front and then maybe break down the other payments into less than $10,000. But it`s got to be 50, that`s the bribe for him. On one fine day, this past April in New York City, the state senator trying to get on the ballot from New York City mayor as a Republican, he gets arrested. The Republican Party chairman in the Bronx who demanded those bribes, he gets arrested. The Republican Party vice chairman in Queens who demanded those bribes, he gets arrested. A Republican city councilman from Queens gets arrested. He`s allegedly the guy who set up all the meetings and arranged all the bribes. He`s the one who specified that maybe those said the bribes ought to be paid specifically in an envelope rather than what? In a bucket? He thought that out of the deal, he might be able to become deputy mayor of New York City or maybe a police commissioner like Bernie. But if you want to understand the cesspool that we are talking about here, that former Senate majority leader, Malcolm Smith, the one on the right, who got arrested for trying to allegedly bribe his way on to the ballot, he is one of three recent Senate majority leaders from the New York state Senate who have been arrested for corruption. Yes, Democrats, Republicans, doesn`t matter. Three. Sure, everybody remembers Eliot Spitzer resigning in his prostitution scandal. But let us not forget, the state comptroller, also a Democrat, who just got out of prison last December for his role in a corruption scheme involving the state pension fund. And all of that is before you even get to New York`s congressional delegation, which is a thing of beauty. Literally a very beautiful thing. This, for example, is New York Congressman Christopher Lee. Republican from the Buffalo, New York, area, who nobody could have picked out of a lineup until the married congressman forgot to crop his head out of the shirtless selfie that he posted on Craigslist while looking for dates. When it comes to former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, I`m not sure anybody remembers what he cropped in or out of the selfies that ended his congressional career. That frankly wasn`t the part of those pictures that he or anybody else seem to most focus on. Congressman Christopher Lee is a Republican, Congressman Anthony Weiner, the pecks on the right is a Democrat. But again, in New York, this really is a bipartisan Kumbaya kind of situation. In 2010, the year that the New York Congressional Delegation got Michael Grimm. They also lost Eric Massa. That was one of the weirder exits from Congress ever. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC MASSA, FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN: Now they`re saying I groped a male staffer. Yes, I did. Not that I grope him. I tickled him until he couldn`t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday. It was kill the old guy. You can take anything out of context. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Turns out his staffers didn`t see it as just being out of context, and Eric Massa, a New York congressman, is gone. As is Vito Fossella, incidentally a Republican, but again who cares, he had the most surprising ending ever to a DWI. He was pulled over in 2008 and his blood alcohol level was reportedly double the legal limit. But the cascade of revelations that started with Vito Fossella`s DWI arrest ended with the revelation that Vito Fossella had a whole second secret family that nobody knew about until his arrest. These are all congressmen from the same state. Yes. Remember John Sweeney? This is John Sweeney reportedly quite drunk, dressed up like the congressman he is, plus hat, attending a frat party at Union College in Schenectady, New York, which I should mention isn`t even in his district. When the Union College student newspaper reported the congressman`s drunken visit to the frat party on its front page the congressman`s office responded with a very cheerful statement about the whole thing. Quote, "As a committed representative of the people throughout the area where he lives and works, the congressman enjoyed the discussion he shared with the students from Union College. The congressman was impressed with the energy and enthusiasm the students displayed, particularly on a Friday evening." Congressman Sweeney was a connected guy, he was a Jack Abramoff guy. He`d been seen as sort of maybe a rising star in the Republican Party. Ultimately, though, the frat party thing gave way to much more serious allegations of domestic violence. He eventually lost his seat, he pled guilty to a felony DWI, after law enforcement sources in that arrest say he nearly hit the state police cruiser that was trying to pull him over, and then he surprised the arresting officer in that case, who had thought that the congressman was alone in that car, but who realized upon approaching the vehicle that the congressman had a 23-year-old woman in his lap. And yes, Congressman John Sweeney was a Republican, but when it comes to New York and to New Jersey as well, it is hard to stress just how bipartisan -- let`s say nonpartisan a disgusting cesspool of public corruption and terrible behavior this really is. It was almost heartening in a way. Right? We always get so mired in how partisan everything is. Not here. Last year after about half the state legislature in Albany -- I`m only exaggerating slightly. After about half the state legislature got arrested in the space of a few weeks in New York, "The New York Times" put out this handy rogue`s gallery pointing out all the people who had recently been arrested, censured, convicted or in one case died in prison. And I mean, at one level it`s kind of nice -- men, women, black, white, young, old. New York and New Jersey politics are an equal opportunity den of inequity. And in that context, consider Congressman Michael Grimm of Staten Island, New York. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCOTTO: And so Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you. Why -- GRIMM: Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I`ll throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony. SCOTTO: Why? Why? I just wanted to ask you. GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again -- SCOTTO: Why? Why? This is a valid question. (CROSSTALK) GRIMM: No. No. You`re not man enough. You are not man enough. I`ll break you in half like a boy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Like a boy. What`s that about? On one level it is just an amazing spectacle that this happened. That the way some New York politicians apparently are used to behaving leaked on to television in this case because the congressman apparently didn`t realize the camera was still rolling. But what that reporter from New York 1 was trying to ask about at that moment was the ongoing FBI investigation into how exactly Michael Grimm became a congressman in the first place. That was an upset win back in 2010 on Staten Island. Yes, that was a Republican year, but that was upset win. Part of the reason that Michael Grimm was able to win in that upset race was that -- that he raised a hugely unexpected amount of money. Since then a federal grand jury was convened in July 2012 to look into allegations of illegal fundraising by the congressman. The FBI`s Public Corruption Unit has interviewed several Michael Grimm campaign workers. Earlier this month the FBI arrested a former Michael Grimm fundraiser on charges that she illegally funneled thousands of dollars into his campaign. Another key figure in the Michael Grimm fundraising world steered hundreds of thousands of dollars into his campaign, into his first campaign back in Staten Island for 2010, pled guilty last year to visa fraud. One of the things the federal investigation is reportedly looking into is whether or not Congressman Grimm or his campaign donors illegally gotten money for that campaign from people who aren`t American, from foreigners who are not legally allowed to donate to a campaign like that. But even understanding that context, consider also that this is not the first time that New York Congressman Michael Grimm has physically threatened anyone who questions him about the charges that he faces about his first campaign. In December, in an interview with the same news station whose reporter Michael Grimm threatened last night, New York news anchor Errol Louis pressed Michael Grimm hard about that ongoing FBI investigation into his campaign fundraising, the arrests of people associated with him. Well, today New York 1`s political director said that something previously undescribed in the press happened after that heated interview, which now takes on a rather new light, quote, "Following an interview with New York 1`s Errol Louis in December 2012, the congressman blew his top. But this time it was off-camera. After the interview, Congressman Grimm became red faced and started yelling at both Errol Louis and me, acting as if he were in a bar instead of a TV studio." The congressman, quote, "alluded to settling the issue by taking it outside with our political anchor Errol Louis." Joining us now is Errol Louis, political anchor for New York 1 and the host of "Inside City Hall" who has had some experience with Congressman Grimm. Mr. Louis, thank you for being here. ERROL LOUIS, NY1`S "INSIDE CITY HALL" HOST: Of course. Good to see you. MADDOW: You didn`t actually take it outside with him? LOUIS: No, no, no, I didn`t even consider it. I mean, I`m in that part of the world like most professional employees, where when you do things like that, you get fired. MADDOW: Yes. LOUIS: If you threaten to throw people over balconies and stuff like that, most people would just get fired. And so I certainly didn`t consider it. I did tell my producer I wasn`t interested in talking with him anymore. And 2013 was Michael Grimm free. You know, I mean, I just told him just to keep him out of here because he was clearly out of control, and it could only get me and people around me in trouble. So we just figured it would be better to just keep him out of the studio. MADDOW: The reason I wanted to contextualize Michael Grimm amid other bad- behaving politicians of various stripes in this part of the world is because you`re at New York 1, you cover not just New York City but the New York region, the Tristate area, and there`s so much bad behavior by politicians. Is his personal behavior of a different stripe than other people you`ve had to have difficult conversations with in this very rough and tumble political environment? LOUIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Most of the people that you listed there are people that I`ve interviewed at one time or another. And, you know, you talk to a Malcolm Smith, you -- you know, you talk to a Joe Bruno, you talk to a Pedro Espada, even, people who in some cases end up going to prison, and, you know, they`ll play along. They`re professional politicians, they understand it`s part of their obligation, that when the public wants to know what`s going on and what these charges are, you put on a big smile and say, it`s false, or you put on a big smile and say, I can`t talk about it, or you put on a big smile and say, talk to my lawyer. Or you put on a big smile and say, I`m here to talk about the State of the Union, I don`t want to talk about it. Most people do that. What was so surprising last night -- because I was on the other side when he said "back to you in the studio," that was me. But the surprising thing was that he -- you know, he said he didn`t want to talk about it, OK, so far so good. He walks off camera and then he comes back and threatens the guy. I mean, why didn`t he just, you know, go have a drink or something, or go, you know, curse the reporter out or something? MADDOW: Yes, go kick the wall. LOUIS: Yes. Something like that. And he didn`t do that, I don`t think he could have done it. I mean, you know, there is an issue here, I think, about what personal resources he has to sort of, you know, fend off some of what -- some of the most difficult parts of his job. I mean, he`s got to answer these charges, you know? I mean, when the Ethics Committee in Congress is talking about you, and the Justice Department is talking about you, and "The New York Times" is talking about you, and everybody`s talking about you, your constituents want to know what the heck is going on. And so, you know, it`s really just a matter of him saying, like any other politician would say, the charges are false, I`ll be -- I`ll get my day in court, I`ll show you all. And it does happen once in a while. I mean, you showed a pretty broad rogues gallery and I know you only have an hour so you couldn`t go through much. But there are a lot of people, who, you look at the charges and it swirls around for a while and sometimes it does away. Or it`s not as bad as people first thought. MADDOW: Sure. I mean, right now, Michael Grimm has a new set of problems. And it`s interesting, I described this as a spectacle because I think that is how it`s being viewed right now. But Congress actually does have a decision to make now. Now that that happened, whether or not Michael Grimm apologized for it, as to whether or not that behavior towards your colleague at New York 1 last night, was it self-worthy of some sort of censure or some sort of response from Congress? He did threaten to kill the guy in not as many words. I wonder if you feel like in that context, with the Department of Justice investigation, the interest from the ethics committee, if the ethic charges, the previous problems that Michael Grimm has had, are well understood. He obviously refutes the charges. He says he`s totally innocent. But do you feel like the way they get nutshelled now that people are focusing on him nationally is accurate? LOUIS: Absolutely. MADDOW: OK. LOUIS: I mean, he -- look. He`s got to answer these -- I mean, you have, as you said, a question about whether or not somebody raised money from foreign nationals, that`s a yes-no question. The Department of Justice, they know how to do this. He used to be an FBI agent. He`s well aware of the power and the tools that they have at their disposal. They`re going to shake the trees, they`re going to talk to people, they`re going to put people under oath, they`re going to put people under pressure, they`re going to find out whether or not that`s true. But in the course of doing it, things like this arrest of his former friend -- or his friend come up, and there are other kinds of issues about whether there was money structuring or whether there were swapping of donations or whether or not people got reimbursed which some e-mails had suggested after giving him donations. So, you know, the tactic of saying, I`m innocent, and don`t you dare ask me, or I`ll commit physical violence against you, that doesn`t seem to be working. So we`ll see what Congressman Grimm comes up with, but the current strategy not working very well. MADDOW: Errol Louis, the host of "Inside City Hall" for New York 1 News, caught in the middle of something just horrendous last night. My apologies to your colleague who had to endure that. I know I didn`t do it, but it made me feel sick for him as a journalist. LOUIS: He`s a -- he`s a tough, tough guy, and he`s doing well. And he just needs a little bit of sleep and shook it right off. MADDOW: Good. I`m glad to hear it. Errol Louis, thanks very much. Appreciate it. LOUIS: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We will be right back, stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last night at this very moment, President Obama was right in the middle of delivering his fifth State of the Union address. The president`s speech last night ran longer than an hour. In part because he got a lot of applause breaks. 82 separate applause lines in the speech. They always get a lot. The State of the Union is a speech that`s essentially built with applause lines in mind. But during last night`s speech there were two moments in the speech when the president was laying out first his domestic policy agenda and then his national security agenda. Two moments that got huge applause lines. One was a minute and 44 seconds of sustained applause for a wounded Army Ranger who had been hurt grievously on his 10th deployment. That was the emotional crescendo of the speech. Before that, though, the other huge applause line which happened during the domestic policy part of the speech, it was an applause line that sort of seemed to take everybody by surprise in the room. Certainly it seemed to take the president by surprise in the room. It was just sort of a reaction from the assembled lawmakers in that room that wasn`t like all of the others. It was this moment right here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yet today women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong. And in 2014, it`s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (APPLAUSE) Now it is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. This year let`s all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to main street to give every woman the opportunity she deserves because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Roaring standing ovation, high fives, fist-pumps from the audience. That applause line right there sort of had it all. And it was apparently not just women inside the capitol who responded to that particular section of the speech in a way that was just slightly overwhelming. President Obama`s emphasis on equal pay for women last night, the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg did a dial testing survey in Denver during the speech. He found that with his focus group, when the president hit that particular line about equal pay, Stan Greenberg says that was met by his focus group with, quote, "near universal approval from Democratic and Republican women," sending the approval specifically of unmarried women, quote, "off the charts" of the dial meter. Going into last night`s speech, there was some speculation as to whether or not the president would address women`s issues specifically, how specific can get to them and specifically whether he would talk about reproductive rights and the fight over access to reproductive rights for American women. The president did not address the issue of reproductive freedom directly. Instead he got that huge applause line on the issue of equal play and workplace policies getting out of the "Mad Men" era. But still, thanks to Republicans, the specific issue of reproductive rights did get its moment in the sun on State of the Union day yesterday. Because the thing that House Republicans decided to do, right before coming to the State of the Union address was pass yet another abortion ban. This one would make it all but impossible for private health insurance plans to cover abortion. It would impose tax penalties on small businesses if their health plans covered abortion. This bill is a perennial favorite in the Republican controlled House. They have passed it twice before. But it`s still right at the top of their priority list. The bill number on this thing is HR-7. It was the first bill that the all-male Republican membership at the House Judiciary Committee decided to move on this year. This is the full Republican membership of that committee which first moved this bill after clearing this committee with unanimous support from every Republican, and there they all are, the bill then passed the full House yesterday on almost an entirely party line vote. And now it will die immediately in the United States Senate. And if by some miracle it does not die in the United States Senate, it will surely be vetoed by President Obama. So why do it then? All the punditry about the Republican Party`s problem with women voters tends to focus on gaffes or language and perceived sensitivity to women or a lack thereof. But Republicans alone made the decision yesterday that on the highest profile workday in the whole political calendar, what they wanted to be seen working on was another purely symbolic effort to roll back access to abortion. Democrats tend to be incredulous that this is what Republicans want to be known for, but believe it, judge them by their own actions -- the issue of abortions is what Republicans want to be known for more than anything else. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: After last night`s State of the Union Address, Republican strategist Steve Schmidt mentioned that one of his favorite lines in the speech last night was the part where President Obama really stuck it to Vladimir Putin. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our leadership is defined not just by our defense of threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good, and promote understanding around the globe. We do these things because they help promote our long term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment when Team USA marches the red, white and blue into the Olympic stadium and brings home the gold. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s one sure fire way to get lots of applause, and I think Steve Schmidt is right that that line was a little thumb in the eye to Vladimir Putin who has pushed all these anti-gay laws in Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics, which start next week in Russia. That kind of push back from our president against Putin is the sort of thing that can bring together all Americans, right? Other than the ones who like Russia being so anti-gay. It was a nice thing. Republican like Steve Schmidt can like a moment like that, liberals like me can like a moments like that, that was a nice thing. But that is not the best new thing in the world, no. The best new thing in the world today is still to come on tonight`s show. It is a visual. It is laugh-out-loud funny, it`s amazing, and it`s going to get even better next week at the Olympics, and I think it too will really annoy Vladimir Putin. Best new thing in the world is coming up at the end of the show tonight. It`s really good. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The snow started late yesterday morning in Atlanta, Georgia, and there was not much of it, a couple inches, maybe three, but the result was an urban nightmare. It was truly terrible. It was like a zombie movie, gridlock that stretched for miles along the highways that bring commuters into and out of Atlanta every day. It seems like every commuter in greater Atlanta decided to try to rush home all at once, and then at the same time, officials called off school and started sending kids home, except that nobody in a car or a truck or a bus could go anywhere for hours, for five hours, and 10 hours and 12 and 20 hours and counting. People sat in their cars on icy roads all day and all night. Cold, hungry, absolutely stuck, a true urban nightmare. In the next state over, in Birmingham, Alabama, people experienced the same instant unwinding of normal life, as parents tried to race home from their jobs to pick up their kids before the snow and ice locked them in place. And, frankly, the snow and ice largely won. Steven Nix (ph) took this photo yesterday near Birmingham, Alabama. This is on Interstate 280. It`s showing where drivers gave up on trying to drive and started walking down the highway to try to find some sort of shelter. Some of what happened in this great snow-pocalypse of 2014 was just an act of God. Brian Barrett (ph) at "Gizmodo" wrote today, quote, "walking up in Birmingham to snow is like walking up in New Hampshire to quicksand." You just do not expect it or plan for it. But some of what unfolded in the South looks less like just an act of God and more like the result of bad decisions on the part of government officials, frankly. In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed defended his city`s response to the storm, but also acknowledged the city could have staggered the closing times for businesses and schools, so the city didn`t end up with thousands of people spending Tuesday afternoon in their cars and also Tuesday night in their cars and then also Wednesday. Thousands of kids spent the night in their schools last night. Teachers posting on Facebook that they were feeding the kids supper and everyone was going to be OK. It`s been a really scary event. At least 10 people killed in the Southeast since the storm began yesterday. A lot of people only just now making it home to their families again after this American disaster. In suburban Atlanta, a tech worker named Michelle Sollecito (ph) started a Facebook page to try to link anybody who wanted to help with people who needed to help. Fifty thousand people ended up joining this Facebook page, snowed out Atlanta. They made a map where you could register where you could register with your offer to help. Look at that sea of pins. Each one of those marking strangers willing to say, hey, walk down the road a little bit and ring the bell, we`re offering to help. The flip side of seeing your neighbor sleeping in the aisles of local stores is that the people who work in those stores made the decision to help them, even if it was just to offer them a place on the carpet and some sort of makeshift pillow. It`s 2014. It`s just amazing. Now, the worst of this disaster appears to be over or at least ending. The South is expecting warmer weather tomorrow and that should clear the rest of the ice and snow out. They do still have an enormous mess to clear, thousands of drivers who are going to need help retrieving their abandoned cars for one. That process starts in earnest tomorrow morning. And, frankly, a lot of people have questions about whether the official response to the storm was good enough or whether officials waited too late to recognize the emergency that was about to engulf them. Is this going to happen again with the next storm? Along with the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal has taken criticism for not closing schools and businesses before the storm hit. Governor Deal, it should be noted, is up for re-election this year. At the time that the storm was rolling in, Governor Deal was posting this photograph of himself on Twitter. It`s a photo of him and the Atlanta mayor at a luncheon where they were honoring each other as the storm rolled in. That`s the mayor, you see there, getting his Georgian of the Year portrait as the storm was rolling in that crippled his city and much of that state. Governor Deal said that for the next storm, he will order a shut down ahead of time. But he defended not doing so this time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: We don`t want to be accused of crying wolf. Because if we had been wrong, you all would be here saying, you know how many millions of dollars you cost the economy or the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and this state? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Wouldn`t that have been terrible facing those questions? Governor Deal also today called the storm in the South unexpected, was his turn of phrase. That does not seem to be true. Over at the Weather Channel, a sister network to MSNBC, Bryan Norcross writes today that emergency managers really could have known from the forecast that real trouble was possible. Mr. Norcross says that the governor, quote, "was more afraid to be wrong in closing down the city than he was of people being stranded in their cars." Until we can develop a system that keeps politics out of it, and let`s science and good judgment drive the decision making bus, this kind of thing is going to keep happening. Joining us now is Bryan Norcross. He`s a Weather Channel meteorologist and hurricane specialist and he`s based in Atlanta. Mr. Norcross, thank you very much for being with us. BRYAN NORCROSS, WEATHER CHANNEL: Thank you, Rachel. Good to be here. MADDOW: So, you write that some forecasters knew that real trouble was possible. But officials somehow didn`t know that, even though the forecasts were there. What went wrong? Where was the breakdown? NORCROSS: I think you hit it right on the head there, the forecast for some days showed that trouble was possible. It never got to the point of saying, trouble was absolutely going to happen. And listening to the governor and the mayor today, I think that`s what they were waiting for. But they were waiting for the wrong thing, because 20 percent chance of a cataclysm like we had yesterday is a really big number, 20 percent of that. But 20 percent chance of rain isn`t very much. So, you have to think about disasters in a different kind of way, and really weigh what`s your threshold of risk. Now, somehow, the governor and the mayor sent that threshold very, very high, much higher I think than emergency managers would in a lot of this country, that had more experience than dealing with this kind of a weather forecast, risk situation that could lead to a disaster. MADDOW: Do you think that is a systemic problem where the way the risk is both expressed and accepted and reacted to by policymakers should change in a way that maybe the South needs to think about this differently or other parts of the country that are maybe ought to be thinking about weather events that aren`t typical for them? Should there be a sort of systematic change or is this just a matter of policymakers getting their acts together? NORCROSS: It`s a challenging thing in the United States. We have this division between federal, local and state people, and they all have their own policies. The mayor in New Orleans shut down that city, because they had an ice storm warning. It turned out the ice was not really too terrible in the city of New Orleans. It was kind of bad around the city. But not right in the city. In South Carolina, they shut down things, but they made a different decision in Georgia. And I think part of it is, that these people don`t really do this very often. You know, things don`t come along in Georgia that often that require you to shut down the city like happens in New Orleans, like is more likely to happen in the Carolinas, because of hurricanes, or in the Northeast, the idea of having a school day, and shutting down the city and keeping kids home, because it might be a bad snow day is not a foreign idea. That is a foreign idea here, but the fact is, if they had thought about it ahead of time, had a good plan for it ahead of time, they should have been able to react to it, but it does not seem like they had that here in Atlanta. MADDOW: Well, if the political feedback loop works the way it`s supposed to, having experienced this disaster will make them make better decisions next time, or at least think harder about it before they blow it off. Bryan Norcross, Weather Channel meteorologist based in Atlanta -- thanks for helping us understand this. Good luck to you. NORCROSS: All right. Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. Post-State of the Union, conservatives are hitting President Obama for his out of control, socialist, dictator abuses of executive orders. "Chart Imitates Life" coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Chart Imitates Life". This is a good one. President Obama wasn`t even finished with the State of the Union last night when a new talking point tore across Republican social media -- edicts, decrees, dictates. We will not hail to this usurping thief. Performance artist and Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas says he walked out of the State of the Union last night, explaining in one of his many daily press release, quote, "I could not bear to watch as he continued to cross the clearly defined boundaries of the constitutional separation of powers." The congressman said, "President Obama has openly vowed to break his oath of office and begin enacting his own brand of law through executive decree. This is a wholesale violation of his oath of office and a disqualifying offense." Issuing executive orders is a disqualifying offense. There were also these tweets from Kansas congressman, my new friend Tim Huelskamp, during the speech. "The new imperial presidency, Obama will do everything without legislation to advance his radical agenda." This one, too. "Imperium. Wherever and whenever I can act without restraints, I will. #lawless." And then there was the gold medalist in the tweet the looniest thing possible contest last night, Congressman Randy Weber from Texas who, we checked, is an actual congressman and who has not complained recently that his twitter account has been hacked. Last night for the State of the Union, Congressman Weber wrote this -- yes, it`s real. "On floor of House, waiting on `Kommandant-in-Chef.`" Chief? I don`t know. "The socialist dictator has been feeding U.S. a-lying." Or is it a-lying? There it is in all of its linguistically incongruous glory. The commandant-in-chef. The easily rattled edges of the Republican conference were very upset about President Obama, announcing last night that he would use an executive order on the issue of the minimum wage for federal contractors. But it wasn`t just upset at the edges. Consider also Arizona senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for president in `08. At various points in his life he has been known to have been a supporter of various practical things, like, for example, immigration reform. But as mainstream as you get as a Republican, John McCain is now doing it, too. He has signed on with congressional Republicans who are taking President Obama to court over his hugely excessive use of executive orders. John McCain says, "We haven`t gotten many more options except telling the American people that we`re seeing an abuse of the intent of the Constitution." If you listen to Republicans right now, the Constitution never intended for this massive abuse of executive orders we`re seeing from President Obama. It`s time to sue this president. It`s time to call in the kommandant-in- chef. That President Obama`s abuse of executive orders is unprecedented. OK. Are you ready? This is a chart of how frequently presidents have used executive orders over the last 115 years. Some presidents were only there for four years or less. Some were there for eight years. FDR was there forever. But this chart shows on average, over the course of a presidency, how many executive orders that each president issued. They`re ranked from most executive orders to least executive orders. Over there on the most side, on the left, you see FDR. You see Herbert Hoover, Wilson, right? Over there on the far right, the president who has issued fewer executive orders per year than any president in the last 115 years? That is a president named Barack Obama. Fewer than both Bushes, fewer than Reagan, fewer than Clinton, fewer than Eisenhower, fewer than anybody. Barack Obama -- o if you prefer, the kommandant-in-chef. We have posted that chart on our Web site in case you want to print it out and male it to your local insane right wing radio talk show hosts because it will make them lose their minds further. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world. First, let`s get out of the way. This is what the U.S. Olympic team is going to be wearing at the Olympics this year. This is what you`ll see them in at the opening ceremony in Russia next week. It`s kind of quilty looking. Not a bad way, on top. White fleecy pants are kind of a startling choice. And then there`s red laced hiking boots. That`s what the U.S. team is going to be wearing. Here`s the thing, though. Heading into these Olympics, basically, everybody thought the odds were 100 to zero that once the games got under way, the steal the show outfits would be the guys from Norway, specifically the Norwegian men`s curling team. Curling teams usually wear blacks, at least black pants because curling is a very sober sport apparently, you need to focus. So, you wear black pants basically as a means of creating no distractions on the ice. This was the American team. This was the Swiss team cheering and excited, but wearing sober, traditional for curling black pants. Not the Norwegians, though. In 2010, the Norwegian curling team showed up wearing these pants, blue argyle, red, white and blue argyle. They won a silver medal at Vancouver in their very, very loud pants. Now for Sochi, the Norwegian curling team is doing it again. They unveiled their new even louder pants before anybody else unveiled their outfits, weeks before. This year, it`s a give you a seizure red, white and blue zigzag pattern. And surely, the Norwegians are thinking -- everybody is thinking, this is going to be the most outstanding outfit of all the sports in all the nations in all the Olympics. Not true, it turns out, because look who is beating the Norwegians at their own game this year, if not also at curling. Mexico. Look at this. The Mexican ski team, the entire team is skiing in Sochi in an amazing ski suit that`s mariachi themed. Black bolero jacket, white ruffled shirt, red tie, red cummerbund, the whole Mexican ski team will wear this outfit. And the whole Mexican ski team is one guy. His name is Prince Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, which isn`t a very Mexican-sounding name because he`s only 1/8 Mexican. He lives in Austria. He`s 55. He`ll be racing the slalom and he`ll be doing it in the single greatest mariachi-themed ski suit in all of civilization. Best new thing today, by far. Ball is in your court, Norway, OK? OK. That does for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END