The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/30/14

Guests: Dahlia Lithwick, Welton Gaddy, Paul Rieckhoff

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I`m outraged by the very suggestion. Thank you very much. CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: How dare you. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Thanks, Chris. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Last week, we finished off the week last week by Republicans in Congress saying they were going to sue President Obama. Well, today President Obama made a surprise announcement in which he brushed them right back on that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If House Republicans are really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills. Pass a bill. Solve a problem. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama speaking in the Rose Garden today. This was a surprise and sort of surprisingly emotional announcement from the president. Emotional enough that at one point he used the word "darn" and sounded like he meant it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, is bad for our economy, and is bad for our future. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama almost never says the word "darn." I looked it up and found it three times in White House transcripts over all of these years he`s been president. But he did seen darn angry today at Congress, and no president ever really likes Congress. Every Congress frustrates every president. But no president has ever before had to deal with a Congress like this one in one very specific sense. There has never been a Congress in the history of Congress that has done less than this one we`ve got now. I don`t mean that as an epithet. It`s a matter of a historic fact. I mean, the record holder for the least legislation passed, the least action taken by any Congress in U.S. history is the last Congress that wrapped up last year. The current Congress that we`re in right now is on pace to beat even that record. And so, yes, every president gets annoyed with Congress, but this one has sunk to a whole new level of you`re making me crazy, man. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes or no vote on this bill, or for that matter, any bill. They`d be following the will of the majority of the American people who support reform. And instead, they`ve proven again and again that they`re unwilling to stand up to the Tea Party in order to do what`s best for the country. And the worst part about it is a bunch of them know better. There are others in the Republican caucus in the House who are arguing that they can`t act because they`re mad at me about using my executive authority too broadly. This also makes no sense. I don`t prefer taking administrative action. I`d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face. Certainly that`s true on immigration. I`ve made that clear multiple times. I would love nothing more than bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk, so I can sign it. That`s true about immigration. That`s true about the minimum wage. It`s true about equal pay. There are a whole bunch of things where I would greatly prefer Congress actually do something. I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it`s bad for our economy, and it`s bad for our future. So, while I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act, and I hope their constituents will, too, America cannot wait forever for them to act. And that`s why today, I`m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president making a surprise announcement. This is a speech they did not announce in advance before today, a speech in which the president said he has sort of started a process by which at the end of summer, he`s going to get advice on what he can do alone without Congress to reform the immigration system in this country since Congress is not going to act on that issue, itself. And, again, this is right after House Republicans said they were going to sue him for doing too much, himself. And if there`s any doubt that today`s announcement in the Rose Garden was a rejoinder to that threatened lawsuit from the House Republicans, check this out. Look at this. This was a statement put out by the White House today explaining why there was going to be this late addition to the president`s schedule that we didn`t know about before. Why the president was suddenly going to be appearing in the Rose Garden to make this announcement. The statement, of course, as is their habit, from an unnamed White House official but it names John Boehner specifically as the reason this announcement had to happen today. This is the very top of the statement. Quote, "Last week, Speaker Boehner informed President Obama that the House will not take a vote on immigration reform this year. Today, in a statement at the White House, the president will address the Republican leadership`s unwillingness to --" blah, blah, blah, blah. So, the White House is saying, oh, you`re going to sue the president, you`re going to sue the White House? You don`t like executive action? You want the Congress to do these things instead of the president doing these things? Well, you`re the Congress. And you`re not doing anything and that`s why the president has to act to clean up the messes that you will not fix. They put it right specifically on something John Boehner told the president, they say last week, about yet another thing that Congress is not going to take any action on. John Boehner`s office today at first would not even confirm that John Boehner and the president had had this conversation last week about immigration. Wait, wait, I did what now? I said who? It`s causing you to who, what? Later in the day, the speaker`s office put out a statement saying that all John Boehner had done when he talked to the president last week was say the same thing he always said on immigration. He wasn`t trying to make news. If this lawsuit threat, what the president called that lawsuit stunt, if that was intended to scare the president or intimidate the White House into them not doing much anymore, to doing less with the executive branch, the president`s response to that little shove from House Republicans last week was to shove back and shove back harder. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I`ve told Speaker Boehner that even as I take those steps that I can, within my existing legal authorities, to make the immigration system work better, I`m going to continue to reach out to House Republicans in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill. Maybe it will be after the midterms when they`re less worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year. Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner. I`ve been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don`t consider perfect. And the Senate bill was a good example of the capacity to compromise and get this done. The only thing I can`t do is stand by and do nothing while waiting for them to get their act together. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In terms of the specifics, President Obama today said that Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will be tasked with giving the president a list of things that he can legally do, himself, to try to fix the immigration system. Again, acting alone and without Congress. The president today said, quote, "If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours. I expect the recommendations from the attorney general and Secretary Johnson before the end of the summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay." I should tell you at this point that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is going to be here on this show on Wednesday. He`s going to be here live on Wednesday night show. So we may be able to find out more about what that might look like. But beyond the specific policy questions around immigration, this fight, this type of fight where the president asked Congress to pass legislation, Congress does nothing, then the president seeks a way to it or at least part of it on his own, that apparently is the second term of the Obama presidency. I mean, today dramatically on immigration, Congress will not act on immigration so the president says that he will. Congress also would not raise the minimum wage, so the president raised it for companies that have federal contracts because that is what was in his power to do. Congress would not pass a low on women and men getting paid the same for doing the same work, so the president acted again to at least make that policy change for companies with federal contracts. Congress would not act on the DREAM Act and so, the president, this was in his first term, but acted to delay deportation for immigrant kids. Congress would not act on student loan reform, so the president acted alone to make student loans easier to pay back. On climate, not only has Congress not acted, Congress pretends it doesn`t even understand what the issue means. It goes la, la, la, la when it comes up. So, the president and the administration pursued new anti- pollution rules to do what they can without Congress. Just tonight, even after the immigration announcement, the president said he would take up another issue on which Congress has refused to act. He said he would act alone to make it illegal for companies that have federal contracts to discriminate based on their employees` sexual orientation or gender identity. And we knew about the sexual orientation part of this before, but the president announced tonight that executive order will also include gender identity. There is something unique about the Obama presidency, and, again, I do not mean this as an epithet. I mean this as a historical description of fact. What is unique about the Obama presidency in terms of the powers of our government is the fact he is governing alongside a Congress that is historically different from every other Congress we have ever had. No Congress has ever done what this Congress has done. That is they that refuse to pass any substantive legislation at all. So, it is an interesting experiment in American democracy it turns out. I mean, in the event that Congress chooses to stop governing, how much governing than the other parts of the government do to pick up the slack? That`s the experiment we`re all part of right now. At the Supreme Court, the five conservative justices in the court`s majority today ruled that some companies are exempt from regulations about health insurance in Obamacare. It`s a weird ruling. We`ll be talking about this more later. But it`s kind of a weird ruling because the justices in the majority -- they went out of their way to say that your religious objections can only get you out of one part of this one law. They said specifically only contraception laws are subject to religious beliefs. Other laws aren`t. So, if you`re lucky enough to be employed at a company where five or fewer people hold at least 50 percent of the stock in the company and those people have religious beliefs about what kind of contraception you should be using, well, your boss is the one who gets to decide what kind of contraception you can have regardless of what you think or your doctor thinks is best for you. And that kind of religious belief exception to the law only applies when it`s contraception. The five conservative male justices who issued this ruling today said if the government thinks it is so important for women to have access to contraception, the government should directly provide women access to those forms of contraception which religiously motivated employers would otherwise block their employees from getting. The government should just provide access to that contraception directly. Government should two it. Easy peasy. That shouldn`t be controversial at all, right? I mean, certain forms of contraception which the religious right has decided are the equivalent of abortion, the government should just pay for that stuff directly. Right? Congress will have no problem enacting that. Senate Democrats today did actually make noises after the Hobby Lobby ruling they would act in Congress to restore lost access to contraception the court just imposed. What to you think the likelihood is, this Congress that has done less than any Congress ever in the history of Congress, is actually going to act to make sure that American women get access to contraception? Particularly the kinds of contraception that people on the far religious right think is the same as abortion? Do you think that will be the one thing this Congress can get done in an election year? Maybe they`ll do it all in a rush before the August recess. Yes, right. This particular Congress can`t even keep the lights on. This particular Congress can`t do the easy stuff. This particular Congress cannot even do the stuff that nobody cares about. Let alone the stuff that makes people protest in the streets and set their hair on fire. And so once again, we are back to it. We are back to the question of the second term of the presidency of Barack H. Obama. If Congress won`t, can he do it without them or is it now true forever if you want an IUD you have to ask your boss? If presidential action is now the only policy recourse in a Washington that has otherwise stopped doing the work of governing, how much presidential action is possible? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Just after 10:00 a.m. Eastern today, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that when it comes to access to contraception, a company like Hobby Lobby can cite its religious beliefs as a reason to not follow part of a law. And to therefore deny their employees insurance coverage for contraception, coverage that those employees would otherwise have. Shortly after the ruling, an employee of Hobby Lobby sent us this letter, which our source tells us was distributed companywide to all the thousands of people who work for that company. "Dear employee family". To be clear, this is not sent to the family that owns Hobby Lobby. This is a letter sent to their employees of whom there are about 13,000. They`re not all members of the Green family or have the same religious beliefs of the Green family. Nevertheless, "Dear employee family," it starts, "we`re thrilled with today`s Supreme Court decision and what it means for the protection of religious liberty in our nation. We look forward to continuing to operate our family business in accordance with our faith and principles. We`re grateful to continue to provide an excellent work experience for our thousands of valued employees across the country." Excellent work experience now with 100 percent less access to the range of contraceptive methods that you or your doctor might want to choose from to find the one that`s best for you. Interesting thing about this ruling today, do you remember how in Bush v. Gore, when the court decided Bush v. Gore, they had this weird provision in that ruling where they said this ruling only applies to this specific case? This ruling, Bush v. Gore cannot be a precedent for anything else, it only applies to this one presidential election in which we choose George W. Bush to be president? Well, today`s ruling says that it also only applies to this one case. It says that only the issue of contraception is subject to exceptions on religious grounds. The ruling says explicitly, if a company objects on religious grounds to some other health insurance regulation like covering blood transfusions or vaccines or something, the ruling says explicitly there would be no religious exemption available for that. There`s only religious exemptions from birth control rules. How does that make sense? Joining us now is the person to whom we turn when things don`t make sense to me, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com. Dahlia, thanks very much for being here tonight. I really appreciate it. DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM: It`s my pleasure. MADDOW: So, the court`s majority opinion today insists that this is a narrow ruling, that you can only get a religious exemption specifically from laws about contraception. Do I understand that right? And does that make sense? LITHWICK: It`s certainly asserted in the majority opinion that is penned by Samuel Alito. He says all this other bad stuff that Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent really kind of unspooled the parade of horribles, you know, Jehovah`s Witnesses and blood transfusions, and scientologists, mental health air. He said, none of that is going to happen because it`s not going to happen. So, it`s a little bit strange reading the opinion. You wait for him to explain some legal principle or rule that both cabins this to closely held corporations, you know, small family corporations like the Greens. And that cabins is to contraception and it`s not there. It`s just kind of we really feel good about this one. That`s a little worrisome to the dissent. MADDOW: And to that point, I guess they`re saying it doesn`t apply to blood transfusions or mental health care or vaccines or any other thing. There`s also the issue about whether it applies more widely to contraception. I mean, if you`ve got a family held corporation, with devoutly Roman Catholic family members running it and they are opposed to not just contraception they believe is abortion but they are opposed to all contraception -- doesn`t this ruling essentially open the door that they can establish that as the rule for their employees` health insurance? LITHWICK: It`s something that Ginsburg expressly says in dissent. She says, at oral argument, the Green family was asked does your argument change if it`s not 4 of the 20 types of contraception, if it`s all of them? And the answer is no. The argument doesn`t change. And there are cases in the pipeline of employers who want to say no contraception. So I don`t think this can be limited to just plan B and IUDs. I think there are equally strong deeply, deeply felt objections by some employers in closely held corporations that are for-profits that are going to come forward and say, zero, zero of the 20 are OK with us and the court is going to have to contend with that. I don`t see how they get around that. MADDOW: And all of a sudden, there`s going to be a lot of pressure on the issue of things beyond contraception, the same type of objection. Let me just also ask you about the court`s suggested fix. I laughed out loud when I first heard Pete Williams explain the court`s suggested fix on this which is that the government should just pay directly for these objectionable methods of contraception which some people in certain religious traditions believe are abortion. That`s the fix to this. The government pays directly and takes it essentially out of the employer health insurance system. Not like there`s any controversy around the government paying for things that people consider to be abortion, right? I mean, how feasible is the court`s suggested fix here? LITHWICK: Well, given we have the Hyde Amendment and Hyde Amendment Plus, and then, plus, plus, we had to promise a thousand times that the government, you know, is going to promise and promise and promise not to get involved in the abortion business. It`s amazing to think they`re simply going to say, but we will pay for everything that Hobby Lobby refuses to pay for. But the other thing that`s interesting in the Ginsburg dissent, she says really, this is a fix, any time an employer doesn`t want to pay for something, the taxpayer subsidizes it? What if an employer doesn`t want to give a woman equal pay to a man? Does that become the taxpayer`s problem? It`s the opposite of a fix. It`s the way of shifting burdens that really terrifies the dissent. MADDOW: This is the kind of ruling you look at the dissent and think, oh, yes, this is definitely going to get overturned on appeal -- and then, you realize, oh, God, there`s no appeal. Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor for "Slate" -- thank you for helping us understand this. I really appreciate it, Dahlia. Thanks. LITHWICK: Thanks. MADDOW: All right. Lots still to come tonight, including the importance -- the big, big, big deal importance of something called the Piggie Park. That`s ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today was one of those summer news days where nobody was really expecting anything. I mean, we knew there`d be Supreme Court rulings this morning, last day of the term. But beyond that, I mean, come on, it`s the Monday of the week of the Fourth of July. Basically nothing was on the calendar. But then, the president announced the new head of the V.A., and the president threw a roundhouse at House Republicans and said he`s going to do immigration reform on his own. There was the notification to Congress that another 200 troops are being sent to Iraq. The president`s letter says they`re going to help secure the airport in Baghdad and the U.S. embassy. Then, there was the terrible use from Israel from the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers apparently being found. Then, there was the news from Ukraine where the Ukrainian president declared an end to the cease-fire with Russia and said, and I quote, "We will attack." It is the start of a holiday week, and today was not expected to have nearly this much news in it. But it did. In the middle of this whirly gig of a news cycle today, all of a sudden, this white suited, white-steeded gentleman is of new and historic importance. We`ve got that story coming up as well as Paul Rieckhoff here to respond to the V.A. getting their new chief. Lot`s still to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE WALLACE, FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR: In the name of the greatest people that have ever plowed this Earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the garment before the feet of tyranny and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Alabama Governor George Wallace declared at his inauguration that racial segregation would always be the law of the land in Alabama. Governor Wallace famously stood in a doorway to personally physically block integration at the University of Alabama. He said it was a matter of conscience. He said God had put his state in that crisis and God-fearing Southerners should grasp their destiny and lead the nation forward into a segregated future. Listen for the way he invokes the divine here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WALLACE: We invite the Negro citizens of Alabama to work with us from his separate racial station, as we will work with him, to develop, to grow in individual freedom and enrichment. This is a basic heritage of my religion of which I make full practice, for we are all the handiwork of God. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Wallace said that day, quote, "Southerners have played a magnificent part in erecting this great divinely inspired system of freedom and as God as our witness, Southerners will save it." George Wallace was by no means the last racist to stand in the doorway to try to preserve racial segregation. That clip you just saw there from that inauguration. That was George Wallace in 1963. In 1964, it was the owner of a South Carolina barbecue chain who stood in the door of his restaurants, they were called Piggie Park Restaurants. He stood in the door of the Piggie Park so that African- Americans could not eat there. Maurice Bessinger didn`t just think segregation was a good thing, he thought segregation was biblical. He came from the school of slavery even as a divine right. A divine right for white people and a not so bad situation for black people. And the civil rights movement and the end to legal racial segregation never changed his mind about that. In this century, into the 2000s, he was still distributing pamphlets at his Piggie Park restaurants with titles like "A Biblical View of Slavery", while you waited for your ribs and your coleslaw, you could read about the many African slaves who blessed the lord for allowing them to be enslaved and sent to America. This neo-Confederate titan of pulled pork told "The New York Times". That black people ate better than his other customers because their segregated dining room was actually in the kitchen. Maybe the food was hotter when it got to them or something. Maurice Bessinger still did hold those views about God ordaining slavery and segregation as recently as the year 2000 and when he wrote a book about it in 2001. This is the cover of his autobiography complete with a giant stars and bars. He held these beliefs into the 21st century. But in the 21st century, he could no longer enforce these beliefs at his business. In the 1960s, Maurice Bessinger had taken his case for divinely inspired racial segregation, he took his case to federal court, argued the civil rights act contravenes the will of God. He had to be allowed to ban black people from dining rooms in his restaurants because he believed that God compelled that and the U.S. Supreme Court heard that argument from Maurice Bessinger of the Piggie Park Barbecue empire of South Carolina and the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that he actually had no right to discriminate just because he said God told him to. The court looked at the right of the barbecue guy to hold his religious views and they looked at right of Americans to move freely in society and rallied for other Americans not to be impeded by his religious views however sincerely he held them. They ruled 8-0, 1968. It was unanimous. Almost two decades later, the federal court got another case. This one from California. The founders of an evangelical private school believed, they really, really believed that men are divinely appointed to be the head of the household. And as a school, as an employer, they based their HR practices on that belief. In the 1970s, they started off paying male staffers more than female staffers because men were supposed to support their families and women were whatever. But after they realized that was probably illegal, they decided instead what they would do is offer health benefits only to husbands or to single people. So, if you were unmarried, you could get health insurance with your job there. If you were a married man, you could get health insurance with your job there. If you were a married woman? No. Your husband is supposed to take care of that. And so at that evangelical school in California, a wife grudgingly could be allowed to bring home a little bacon, but definitely no insurance. God says. In 1986, the federal courts looked at that religiously inspired discrimination and said, no, you cannot deny people health benefits even if you say God told you to. The court looked at the right of the school to deny women health coverage and the right of women to get the same benefits as men and they ruled for equality. At the Piggie Park restaurants, the same kind of religious inspiration to discriminate turned out not to be a legal justification to discriminate. So, 1968 with integration, 1986 with work benefits, and now, we have 2014, we have a very, very different decision in 2014. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that your boss can refuse to cover your birth control if that is what your boss thinks God would like to have happen. The five members of the conservative majority voted that the religious beliefs, or lack thereof, of a company`s employees, those are effectively overruled by the religious beliefs of the boss. The boss` religion determines what laws apply to his or her employees and his or her business at least on this issue. A court today said it made no judgment as to whether or not the religious beliefs against contraception in this case were beliefs that were reasonable or scientifically accurate. The court said their only job was to figure out if those beliefs were sincerely held. That`s enough. You know Maurice Bessinger? He is dead now, but even dead, he might still find this conclusion, because his belief as divinely ordained, that was certainly sincerely held lifelong. Certainly, it was based in religion. But in his case, that was not enough to deprive other people from protection and rights that they were afforded under law. Now, though, the court today said apparently religion is all you need. Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy is the president of the Interfaith Alliance. The Interfaith Alliance filed a brief in this case. Reverend Gaddy, when this ruling came down from the Supreme Court today, released this rather this blistering statement. "The Supreme Court made a grave error today. The balance between religious freedom and other compelling interests has always been tenuous. But we may very well remember today`s decision as the moment that balance was radically recalibrated. The First Amendment is at its best when it is used to protect the rights of minorities from the whims of the powerful. Today`s decision which gives the powerful the right to force their religious beliefs on those around them, today`s decision is a far cry from the best traditions of religious freedom." Joining us now is the Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy. He`s president of the Interfaith Alliance. Reverend Gaddy also serves as the pastor for preaching and worship at Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana. And full disclosure, he`s also my friend. Welton, it`s nice to see you. Thank you very much for being here. REV. C. WELTON GADDY, INTERFAITH ALLIANCE PRESIDENT: Hey, Rachel, glad to see you. MADDOW: You, too. Why do you consider today`s ruling to be such a grave error? I was struck by the starkness of the terms in which you put your response today. GADDY: Because it is a grave error. I know that the words about it that you`ve used tonight are that it`s a very narrow opinion, that it focuses just on these medications related to abortion. But, Rachel, this case, this decision, left unanswered so many questions and the court basically said to corporations come on to us and file your complaints disguised as religious convictions and we`ll tell you whether you qualify or not. That is a dangerous way to go. We don`t know what a close ownership is in a corporation. We know that the "Wall Street Journal" and "Slate" says it could be as many as 90 percent of the organizations in this land. Think about that. And the promise that this wasn`t going to heighten discrimination that could be hidden under religion is simply not true. Do you want the Supreme Court of the United States deciding what is a sincere religious belief? That in itself is scary. So, we don`t know where this is going. It`s very easy to see how this ruling, though it is narrowly about contraception, can be taken in courtrooms all across this nation and applied to all kinds of other discriminatory behavior that has the disguise of religion. And the court has invited that. That scares me. I think it`s a bad decision. MADDOW: Well, one of the things I naught was very interesting about the court asserting that this only applies to contraception is that the Justice Alito writing in the majority explains some other things that wouldn`t apply. He`s talked about Jehovah`s Witnesses and opposition to blood transfusions or I believed he mentioned another religious group with a potential objection to vaccinations. Are the justices in effect putting themselves in the position of saying these religious beliefs about contraception and/or abortion, these are reasonable religious beliefs, but these other ones about the blood transfusions or vaccines, we don`t take those as seriously and therefore we`re sort of affording state protection to some beliefs, to some religions, but not others? GADDY: I actually tend to go more with what Justice Ginsburg wrote than I do what Justice Alito wrote. I think that they protest too much, and that`s why I am worried that what they are painting is a very narrow little stretch of authority is going to expand exponentially. And, Rachel, a part of the reason that people are confused about this is because we`ve seen a campaign for at least five years, maybe 10 years, in which people are trying to change the very definition of religious freedom. Many of the people you saw today cheering for religious freedom are the people we`ve engaged over the last five or 10 years opposing religious freedom. So, if you`re losing when you`re opposing, you just change the definition and then start cheering for it. And I think that is a lot of what`s happening today. The free exercise of religion in this nation is a guarantee of the Constitution, but that free exercise of religion for one person stops when that person`s free exercise compromises the freedom of another person. And so, here we`re saying because there`s a close-knit family that believes this, that their belief is sincere enough we can go with it. Now, anybody else that has that kind of sincere belief will consider letting you do the same thing. That`s not the role of the Supreme Court. And it is, I think, an offense to what the Constitution promises us in the religion clauses to the Constitution. MADDOW: Reverend Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance. He`s pastor for preach and worship at the Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana. Welton, thank you very much for being with us. It`s good to see you, my friend. GADDY: It`s good to see you. OK. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Lots ahead tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: A graduate of West Point, General Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam where he lost part of his foot and was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars. Throughout his nearly four decades in the United States Army, he won the respect and admiration of our men and women in uniform because they have always been his highest priority. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You can tell from no gray hair. That was 5 1/2 years ago. President Obama nominating Eric Shinseki to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. President spent most of that speech talking about General Shinseki`s four decades in the U.S. Army. He was a general, three Bronze Stars, wounded in combat. All of that mattered very much for the job running the V.A. because he was a good military man with an excellent military record. He was needed to fix what was seen as a military problem. Well, today, exactly one month after General Shinseki resigned, in the midst of a continuing crisis of confidence in the V.A. and a scandal not just about veterans` access to care about the V.A., but the V.A. covering up the problem that veterans were not getting access to care. Well, today, President Obama announced he was tapping a new choice for V.A. secretary. His name is Robert McDonald. He`s a man with a limited military background, but a very robust and polished big business background. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: What especially makes Bob the right choice to lead the V.A. right now is his three decades of experience in building and managing one of the world`s most recognized companies, Procter & Gamble. As CEO of Procter & Gamble, Bob oversaw more than 120,000 employees with operations around the world, selling products in more than 180 countries, in more than 2 million stores, reaching some 5 billion customers. In his career, he`s taken over struggling business units, he knows how to roll up his sleeves and gets to work putting an end to what doesn`t work, adopting best practices that do, restructuring, making operations more efficient and effective. In short, he`s about delivering better results. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The new choice to run the V.A., Robert McDonald, he did go to West Point. He spent five years as captain in the Army, but then he spent 33 years working for Procter & Gamble. Is that kind of very big business expertise what the V.A. needs at the very top in order to fix its problems? Its problems are still considerable. The report came in Friday from the assistant to the president, who the white House sent to the V.A. to basically ride herd on them trying to fix this problem, his assessment was brutal. He calls the scheduling standards at the V.A. arbitrary, ill-defined, and misunderstood, little transparency or accountability. Technology that is cumbersome and outdated. Corrosive culture affecting both the pace at which they`re providing care and the morale at the agency. Oh, and oh yes, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into the V.A.`s scheduling practices. Other than that, this job basically takes care of itself. So welcome, new V.A. chief. Here`s the reins, ek! Joining us now is Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Paul, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Good to see you, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: I know that you were surprised by this pick because I know you put out a statement to that effect. But was this guy not on the radar at all, did you have any expectations? RIECKHOFF: No, he was on no one`s radar whatsoever. I mean, he doesn`t come from the military, he`s not a retired general, he doesn`t come from the health care space, he hasn`t served in Congress. It appears he`s a Republican. So, this was on nobody`s radar. But also the V.A. has been keeping this close. I mean, they haven`t been opening up the process, haven`t been meeting with veterans` groups. The president hasn`t reached out. So, they`ve been working on this, it appears, a couple of weeks. It`s good they finally got a nominee because the acting secretary`s been there almost a month now. MADDOW: Right. RIECKHOFF: So, we needed a nominee, we need the Senate and Congress to push it through quickly, and he needs to get to work because he might have the hardest job in Washington right now. MADDOW: They were so quiet about the selection process that I assumed, wrongfully, that Sloan Gibson, the acting secretary, was going to be tapped to take over on a permanent basis. How did he do? Or how had he`d been doing as acting secretary? RIECKHOFF: I think he`s done a good job, been very aggressive, been transparent, reached out to veterans groups, went down to Phoenix. And he`s classmate of Bob McDonald. So, they have a working history together. I think a lot of folks hoped Sloan will stay there and continue that momentum. But there are also about six or seven senior level positions open at the V.A. So, McDonald is going to fill all those. He`s got to restore confidence. And he`s got to do a total rebranding. I mean, his experience at P&G may actually prove helpful because nobody has a worse brand in America right now than the V.A. So he`s got to turn that around, restore the confidence, and really reach out in a very tough political climate and try to get things moving in a short period of time because we`ve got a new president coming in and we don`t know if that person will keep him. MADDOW: In terms of business background, you have a business background, yourself. And I know that you and I have talked a lot over the years about the value of technocratic management. Do you think that not coming from a big government agency, not coming even from the big bureaucracy at the high levels of the military, but rather coming from the private sector, it affords a very shiny experience but is it the kind of experience you think is going to be relevant at moving something that is after all headquartered in Washington? RIECKHOFF: Well, it`s helpful that he comes from the outside, and he`s got fresh eyes. But let`s be honest. You know, Procter & Gamble, I said this before, it`s going to feel like driving a Ferrari compared to the V.A. The V.A. is a very difficult bureaucracy, it`s very difficult to fire people. There are questions about transparency. And now, an ongoing FBI investigation. So, people will likely go to jail. I think we`ve got to take a bigger step back and understand Congress has got to help, the president has got to help, the Department of Defense is involved here too. If they don`t get those changes through, Superman can`t run the V.A. effectively. MADDOW: Right. RIECKHOFF: So, this isn`t just a flip the switch and everything is OK. This is going to be a long, hard fight. And the president`s really got to keep his eye on the ball because he took his eye off it for about six years. MADDOW: It`s going to be something that takes a lot of finesse with Congress in terms of getting stuff done. Right now, nobody has that ability including anybody in Congress. RIECKHOFF: Yes, the V.A. bill is stalled too. Sanders and McCain, you know, trumpeted this big compromise. That`s stalled, too. We`ve got to get that through and keep everybody`s eye on the ball as we now send more people into Iraq. We`ve got to take care of the folks we sent over there the first time. MADDOW: That`s right. They went into that conference committee on the V.A. bill, and then just poof. RIECKHOFF: Absolutely. MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of IAVA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America -- thanks, man. Thanks. RIECKHOFF: Thank you, appreciate it. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Eighteen days ago, three Israeli teenagers went missing. The three were last entering a car at a known hitchhiking stop outside an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The three were studying at a religious school. Today, the bodies of those three teenagers were found. They were found buried under a pile of rocks in an open field near a Palestinian village just north of Hebron. It`s about 12 miles from where they were last seen. Israeli officials say the three are believed to have been murdered shortly after their abduction. Israel, so far, is blaming the militant group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip. Last week, Israeli authorities released the names of two suspects they described in the case, both of whom are reportedly Hamas operatives. Hamas has denied any direct involvement in the kidnapping and killing of these three young men, but the group did at one point praise the abductions. Tonight, following the discovery of the three bodies, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency cabinet meeting. He reportedly started the meeting by saying this, "With deep sorry, we found three bodies this evening. They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals. Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay." Tonight, President Obama released a statement extending condolences to the families of the three murdered teenagers. President Obama also said he urged all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation. Since the three first disappeared on June 12th, the Israeli military has launched one of the largest and most aggressive military operations in the West Bank in more than a decade. It`s called "Operation Brother`s Keeper", 2,500 Israeli troops entering Hebron, the biggest Palestinian city in the West Bank, conducting House searches and raids and arrests and airstrikes. Through the course of this operation over the last two and a half weeks, Israeli soldiers have arrested more than 400 Palestinians, mostly members of Hamas. Five Palestinians have died during this operation. Tonight, Israeli security forces have set up roadblocks and set up a no-go zone around the town where the bodies were found. This is the scene tonight in southern Gaza, where the Israeli military is carrying out airstrikes. Tonight, a spokesman for Hamas told AFP any attempt to carry out an escalation or a war would, quote, "open the gates of hell" on Israel. Tensions appear to be at an all-time high tonight in the West Bank. All this comes on the heels of yet another breakdown in more U.S.-brokered peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Those talks broke down just about three months ago. But as of tonight, literally, as of this moment, it is unclear what is going to happen next in this fragile and fraught corner of the world. Things are never good but things tonight are very, very much not good and also very much in flux. Nobody quite knows what daybreak is going to bring. We`ll keep you apprised of developments as this continues to unfold. Thank you for being with us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Mr. O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END