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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/11/14

Guests: Christopher Farley, Henry Winkler, Marie Harf, Gloria Browne-Marshall

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks very much, Chris. Good to be back. Thanks to you at home for staying with us. It`s good to be back. Thanks to Steve Kornacki for filling in while I was away. There`s a lot going on in the world obviously. A lot of it overseas, none of which is good right now. Also a lot of news at home, politics and otherwise. There`s a ton of stuff to talk about tonight. And we do have a lot planned for the show. But the very unexpected and late breaking news that has come as a real shock tonight, particularly to those of us who have grown up stewed in American political and popular culture, is that one of the most recognizable and iconic comedic talents of this generation or last few generations has died unexpectedly today. Robin Williams, age 63, died today in his home in northern California, in what the Marin County sheriffs office is describing as a suspected suicide. It`s hard to overstate the fame and the popularity that Robin Williams achieved almost instantly, thanks to his remarkable television debut in the late 1970s. It was February 1978 when he went from being a relatively unknown comic to one of the most famous actors in America. Thanks to his appearance as a space alien named Mork during the fifth season of the humongously popular 1950s themed sitcom that was called "Happy Days" which I watched basically on a loop throughout my entire childhood. The Mork on "Happy Days" completely off the wall appearance freaked audiences out in the best possible way and from that appearance came the sitcom called "Mork & Mindy" which was an immediate sensation. If you were an American who watched television in the late 1970s, early 1980s, you knew chapter and verse about Mork from Ork and frenetic stream of consciousness, turn on a time dime, manic comedic brilliance of Robin Williams. His sitcom was huge. His appearances on late night talk shows were huge, a bigger deal then than they are now I think. His standup comedy was huger than huge. I mean, there had been comic actors before who could do 1,000 voices and comic characters before Robin Williams who were memorable and became household names. But nobody had ever done them in one comedically coherent rip, one after the other, right? With seemingly no unit, careening from bit to bit to bit, voice to voice to voice, at a million miles an hour in an almost unsustainable pace. If he was not the first, he was among the first funny people to make everyone in America sort of turn and ask each other, where does he come up with all that stuff? And in that way, Robin Williams changed the way people could be entertained. That style, the unique speed and range of things that Robin Williams could put together in every performance, made him almost instantly iconic. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNNY CARSON, THE TONIGHT SHOW: Would you welcome Robin Williams? People always think performers don`t get nervous. ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Not at all. Really? Oh, no, really, not me, no way. CARSON: Is there some reason you don`t -- is it the fact you get nervous? WILLIAMS: Very much so. I suffer from severe dyslexia, too. I was the only child on my block on Halloween to go trick-or-trout. Look, here comes that young Williams boy again. Better get some fish. Here you go. Say hi to your mom and dad. CARSON: Where -- where is home for you, or did you come from a home? WILLIAMS: They sent -- all the people in the institution, Tommy, if you haven`t taken your medication yet, it`s going to be fun. CARSON: Be back at 12:00. WILLIAMS: Be back at 12:00. All right, Mr. Williams, I`m real fine. Look at this thing. Look, flipper. Right now there`s a saw man going, what are you doing? Oh, God. Relax, relax, relax. It`s OK. I`m on TV. You`re a nice man. You won`t hurt me. CARSON: No, no. WILLIAMS: OK, thank you. Don`t be afraid. The sores went away. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Robin Williams` first ever appearance on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson in 1981. Imagine sitting down at the Johnny Carson show, the first time you`ve ever been there and having the chutzpa to do it the way he did. But beyond his guts, and his comedy, his raw comedy, Robin Williams also developed a real remarkable range as a performer which is part of the reason he`ll be remembered for as long as he is going to be remembered. He used his talent to do things other -- to do things other than make you laugh. His voices and his comedic ability carried the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam" in 1987 about a military disk jockey during the war. But that was not a comedic movie, right? You weren`t just laughing at that performance. Not even just at him. Two years later, he took a more dramatic acting turn as a prep school teacher in "Dead Poet Society," that`s a performance for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. (AUDIO GAP) MADDOW: Oh, we had a problem with the audio there. Don`t worry, I`ll act it out. Later. No, I won`t. Robin Williams in "Dead Poet Society" in 1989, that was a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination. After "Dead Poet Society", Robin Williams found huge commercial success in "Mrs. Doubtfire," in "The Fisher King" in 1997, he won an Oscar as his role as a psychologist to Matt Damon`s troubled unknown genius in the movie "Good Will Hunting." You just think about the range. Incredible that an actor who had made such a wide and indelible impression for his outrageous over the top 100-mile an hour hilarity, he could get all the way from that to the most considered, most controlled, most mature character play and make you believe that he was that guy, too. It was reported just last month even as he continued to work in movies and on TV and on Broadway that Robin Williams had checked himself into a drug rehab program. His publicist issued this statement tonight. Quote, "Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this difficult time." Joining us is Christopher Farley. He`s a senior editorial director at "The Wall Street Journal", where he oversees the newspaper`s "Speak Easy" culture blog. Mr. Farley, thanks for coming in. I appreciate it. CHRISTOPHER FARLEY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. MADDOW: He always -- Robin Williams always seemed like, like when Johnny Carson said, did you come from a home? He always seemed like he was a person where you could not imagine he came from somewhere. It didn`t seem like there was anybody before him who was ever like him. How should we understand him in terms of a continuum of performers? FARLEY: That`s a great point, because a lot of people that try to follow in the footsteps of comics like Jerry Seinfeld, someone like Richard Pryor who spawned a lot of imitators, not always successful. But someone like Robin Williams, he really was someone who was so unique that people would like to have his kind of success, but no one has been able to follow in his exact footsteps as a comic. He`s someone who really is someone who`s a brand unto himself. I mean, he had wild success. I mean, $5 billion worldwide, that`s gross of his movies; $3 billion in the U.S. made a lot of money. People would like to be like him no one has really managed to be exactly like him. MADDOW: Did he -- did he -- both his comedic style and acting capacity, did he change over time or just expand? Because it seems to me that even in his later work, there was still the recognizable manic energy in that bit to bit to bit speed that you saw in him in the late `70s. FARLEY: He did manage to stretch himself continually throughout his career. I remember early on one of the first big features I ever did was a story on "Awakenings". I spent a lot of time with Oliver Sacks, the neurologist at the center of the movie, who Robin Williams portrays. Oliver Sacks is a very low key kind of guy, not a manic humorist. He`s a neurologist. Like I think of himself, how is Robin Williams going to play this guy? And, of course, he did, to great effect and to great acclaim because he had that other gear. And only two years before that, he`d appeared on Broadway in "Waiting for Godot", opposite Steve Martin, playing in a great role. This is a guy who could always find another gear. Yes, he was a comic but laid the groundwork for other comics to stretch themselves, not just to be funny men but also be taken seriously as actors. Not a lot have been able to do that but he set a standard for an actor, an actor who could be taken seriously, also to be funny as well. MADDOW: Yes, a man who I think made comics seen as more whole performers than they would have seen before, and because of what he was able to personally do. Christopher Farley, senior editorial editor at the "Wall Street Journal" -- thanks for helping us out tonight. I appreciate it. Joining us by home is the actor/director, Henry Winkler, who was there playing Fonzie on "Happy Days" when Robin Williams` career exploded on screen in 1978 in that amazing debut. Henry Winkler, thank you so much for taking time with us on this tough night. I really appreciate you calling in. HENRY WINKLER, ACTOR (via telephone): Thanks, Rachel. First of all, can I just say -- MADDOW: Please. WINKLER: -- that the entire Winkler family, all of our thoughts are with the Williams family. MADDOW: Can I ask you about how you first met him and your first impressions when you first encountered him as then a not at all famous performer? WINKLER: We had a script about an alien, Mork from Ork. Gary Marshall, I believe that his son, his young son said, hey, dad, wouldn`t to be funny if Fonzie met an alien? So, they wrote this script and they couldn`t find the right actor to play him. Now, we rehearsed Monday from 10:00 in the morning until Friday 4:00 in the afternoon and then we shot the show Friday night 7:00. Wednesday, we still didn`t have an actor. MADDOW: Wow. WINKLER: Wednesday afternoon, Bobby Hoffman who was the casting director brought a young actor, first time, usually did standup to the set to start rehearsal. And I`m telling you, Rachel, no hyperbole. You knew you were in the presence of somebody very special, of some -- of greatness. And, you know, somebody said earlier in the show that he had chutzpa. And it was not chutzpa. It was not nerve. He needed -- it was his soul. It was the way he was put on the earth. You said something to him. He sucked it in and he blew it out and it came out so with originality and so powerfully and so funny that your jaw dropped. MADDOW: What was he like privately? I mean, was that -- in terms of that, you`re saying that`s sort of part of his soul, sort of who he was as a person, not just as a character? WINKLER: Yes. MADDOW: What was it like interacting with him when the cameras were off? WINKLER: It was just -- it was just Robin the being. MADDOW: Yes. WINKLER: And how he was off the set he was boundlessly energy, filled with energy. He never stopped working. He would go to the clubs at night and do his act and work on his acts. He would act all day and do the show with us, or eventually his own show. And then he -- we saw that he was limitless. That he could do great drama. He could do drama with comedy. He could do comedy. It was -- he was a miracle. And I`m not kidding. I mean, it took your breath away. And how was he when he was just talking to you? He was as quiet and as gentle as the breeze. You -- no matter when you saw him, no matter how long it was in between the times you saw him, you were first met with a hug. He`d talk to you like you were the only human being in the world at the moment. MADDOW: Henry Winkler, actor and director, longtime friend of Robin Williams -- I know this is a very tough night for everybody who was friends with him. Thank you for talking to us about it. I really appreciate it, Henry. WINKLER: Thanks for asking. MADDOW: Thank you. Robin Williams, again, the shocking news today, dead of an apparent suicide, according to the sheriff`s office in Marin County in his home in northern California at the age of 63. All right. There`s a lot of other big news tonight. We`re going to be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, every once in a while, a story breaks that makes government, makes news about the government, all of a sudden, into the most lurid and fascinating thing in the entire world. It only happens once every few years but when it does happen, it`s like a beneficent gift of safe for work pornography from the news gods. Here in the news business, you have to read this stuff. It`s work. Usually, it`s an individual politician doing something lurid and sleazy and simultaneously fascinating, but it`s not always just an individual. You know, the typical thing is like, OK, the governor of South Carolina says he`s hiking the Appalachian Trail, fascinating enough that he`s not hiking the Appalachian Trail and that nobody in the state knows where he is, nobody, while he`s governor. But then lurid turn, it turns out secretly he`s in Argentina with his mistress. That`s one of these stories. Or that time the governor of New Jersey was not just having his own affair, he was having an affair with the Israeli guy who he picked for the job of homeland security chief in the state of New Jersey. Or there was that time the Bush administration randomly gave a White House press pass to the bald hooker guy, the guy from Yes, see, there are not all that many types of these stories, but when they happen, they do tend to be memorable even years later. And in my short but happy working life in the media so far, the single-most memorable one of these stories, the most memorable of all of them, was the late George W. Bush administration scandal in the Department of the Interior that led to headlines like this, "Sex, lies, oil, gas and a toaster oven." This one, "Snorting speed off of toaster ovens." Or this one, "Sex, drug use, and graft." Or this one, "Oil, sex and money. Federal agency accused of sleazy anti antics." Look at this, "Houston Chronicle," September 10th, 2008. Dateline: Washington. "A program director allegedly snorts crystal meth off a toaster oven, a marking supervisor sells sex toys to her employees. Senior executives allegedly rig contract bids for a pal. Such is the culture the Interior Department`s inspector says she found at the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency responsible for handling billions of dollars a year in revenue from offshore oil and gas leases." So, as the fall of 2008, the inspector general at the Department of the Interior released three reports all at once about some astonishing behavior at a few offices at that federal agency. Over one four-year period during the George W. Bush administration, nearly a third in one of the agency`s offices reportedly took an array of gifts from the oil companies that they were supposedly regulating, a third of all the employees in the office. This was the same office with the federal official reportedly snorting crystal meth off toaster oven, multiple employees having one-night stands with oil industry employees. And according to the inspector general, one program director telling a subordinate that if she could score him some coke during a performance appraisal period, he would increase her performance award. It`s very simple. Good job. You got your boss some coke. That`s an excellent performance. Part of the reason the 2008 meth off the toaster oven scandal is so memorable is that it was so freaking lurid, right? And it wasn`t that it was just person, it was apparently way that whole office worked during the Bush administration and they did it for years. It was just amazing. But the other reason that that thing, the toaster oven meth thing has become a hall of fame lurid government scandal is because of where it happened. It happened in the Department of the Interior, the world`s most benign sounding major government agency. It`s like the committee of committees budget agency. It means that the Department of the Interior, in the United States the Department of Interior is responsible for managing natural resources, managing federal lands, issues related to Alaska, native Hawaiians and Indians. The Department of Interior is also responsible for management of U.S. territories overseas. The Department of the Interior is about as low profile as agencies get in the United States. There are never any headlines about the Department of the Interior. The current secretary of the interior, for example, is this person. Can you put a name in the face? You are not alone. That`s no offense to our nation`s interior secretary, Sally Jewell. It`s just the Department of the Interior is almost inherently a low-profile thing. Interestingly, that is anomalous for us among nations. That is anomalous when you compare us to the rest of the world, because in the rest of the world when there is an interior minister or interior secretary, that job in other countries tends to actually be the most high-profile position in government other than whoever is the head of the government. In countries like France and Italy, the minister of the interior is responsible for basically every major administrative thing that happens in the interior of the country`s borders. That`s what interior means in that context. It means the department of here. They`re in charge of running the country`s elections, they`re in charge of homeland security, they`re in charge of policing, they`re in charge of administering local government. In some places, they`re in charge of the whole justice system. The minister of the interior in most countries is like our secretary of homeland security, our attorney general, our head of the immigration services and secretary of state who runs elections in every state in the country all rolled up into one person. In Britain, the position is called the home secretary. And it means roughly that you`re in charge of home. You`re in charge of Britain. And that job tends, in Britain and around the world, to be the highest profile politician in the country other than the country`s president or prime minister. Well, in the great nation of Iraq, this is the man who is minister of the interior. And if you looks familiar, that is because he also, for the last eight years, has been the prime minister of Iraq. Once he was prime minister, he decided he would make himself interior minister, too. So, he`s in charge of the overall government but also declared he was in charge of the myriad responsibilities of the interior minister. He also declared himself at one point to be the defense minister and declared himself to be the head of the Iraqi armed forces, which would be the equivalent to our chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. So, if you want to make a comparison, I mean, the Iraqi government and the U.S. government are obviously very different things, but there, the division of labor has become shall we say simpler, right? While Nouri al Maliki has been prime minister for these past eight years, it`s been very simple as to who`s in charge of pretty much everything in the country. But that apparently ended today because today, the Iraqi president picked another Shiite leader from Nouri al Maliki`s same party to replace Nouri al Maliki as prime minister. They`re ousting him. This happened after much haggling among the Iraqi parliament and a couple of missed deadlines. But the announcement was made in this formal ceremony today. The new prime minister has support of the ruling coalition in parliament. He was their choice. He`s accepted the job. And technically, that means that Nouri al Maliki, prime minister, interior minister, defense minister, and head of the armed forces, Nouri al Maliki has been replaced. And under the Iraqi constitution, over the next 30 days he`s supposed to prepare to hand over power to his successor. That is how it is supposed to go. But last night, in this eerie late night TV broadcast, Mr. Maliki stood silent and glowering while a couple dozen remaining supporters in parliament announced actually Nouri al Maliki would not be stepping down as prime minister. What was explained in that broadcast, which happened in the middle of the night local time, was that Mr. Al Maliki was going to fight to stay in power. He was not going to fight to give up power. The way he was going to fight was to bring a lawsuit. He was going to fight this out in the Iraqi courts. At daybreak, it became apparent that Mr. Maliki wasn`t just filing a lawsuit. He had also directed tanks and armored personnel carriers and Iraqi special forces units to fan out across the Green Zone in Baghdad, what used to be called the Green Zone, where the government buildings and ministries are and also to checkpoints across the capital city, apparently, because they`re not just planning on fighting it out in the courts. They also may be planning on fighting it out in the streets. And there are real questions as to what parts of the Iraqi military and how much of the Iraqi military and how many of the Iraqi establishment as a whole is loyal enough to Nouri al Maliki that he might reasonably be able to mount some sort of military coup, if that`s how he wants to try to hold on to power. But if the militant group, ISIS, wants to overthrow the government of Iraq, or wants to destabilize the government of Iraq, there have been moments in the last 24 hours with armored personnel carriers and tanks fanning out across the capital city, there have been moments in the last 24 hours where it sort of feels like if somebody`s goal is to undermine or destabilize this government, that might be a moot point. They`re doing a pretty good job of that, themselves. A year ago last August, a year ago last August, President Obama gave a statement in the Rose Garden about wanting to use American military force in one of the countries that borders Iraq. This time last year, last August, President Obama said, decided that the U.S. should make a military intervention in Syria. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. Our military has positioned assets in the region. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. But having made my decision as commander-in-chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I`m also mindful I`m the president of the world`s oldest constitutional democracy. I`ve long believed our power is rooted not just in our military might but in our example, as a government of the people, for the people. And that`s why I`ve made a second decision. I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people`s representatives in Congress. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A year ago, this past august, president Obama said that he had made a decision that we should intervene militarily in Syria. He laid out the case about why we should intervene, for what the U.S. military should do in terms of that intervention what he thought that intervention would achieve. But then he said, this was important, he said, actually, this is what I want to do but I want Congress to authorize it. So pay Congress. Let`s go. And, Congress, which had been clamoring for some sort of an American response to the atrocities in Syria and the Syrian civil war, when Congress was actually asked to vote on the matter, to authorize this thing they have been clamoring for, all of a sudden, they found they had much less to say on the matter. And so, when President Obama said I`d like to it, you guys authorize it, Congress never voted to authorize that force and the United States did not bomb Syria. We did lead an international effort to get Syria to give up its chemical weapons. That worked and thank God it did. But after the president said I`m ready to bomb, Congress, are you with me? Congress was not with him. We did not bomb. Now, the Sunni militant group, ISIS, or ISIL, which operates in both Syria and Iraq and says the whole region is a big Islamic caliphate under their control, that group now controls geographically, about 1/3 of the nation of Iraq, and they`re pairing their military advances and their terrorizing of local populations with an increasing international media effort, making their case that they are an Islamic caliphate and their leader is ruler of all Muslims on earth. But, also, they`re trying to explain their strategy and what it is they are hoping to elicit in terms of a response from the rest of the world to what they are doing in Iraq and Syria. If you`re familiar with the concept of an Internet troll, somebody who says things that are designed to be the most inflammatory thing possible, to try to get a rise out of you, targeting you to try to make you respond to upset you the most so they can see you at your worst when you`re most upset, you mad, bro? Familiar with the concept of an Internet troll? That is how ISIS is now using international media to taunt and provoke the United States into please getting involved in some sort of American direct war against them. They want that more than anything. This is some remarkable footage shot by Vice Media, which embedded one of their correspondents with the ISIS rebels inside Syria. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, VICE NEWS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say to America, that the Islamic Caliphate has been established. And we will not stop. Don`t be cowards and attack us with drones. Instead send your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq. We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God willing, the Caliphate has been established, and we are going to invade you as you invaded us. We will capture your women and you captured our women. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God willing, this general will fight infidels and apostates, the Americans and their allies. God willing. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Footage from Vice News. God willing send troops to fight us. God willing. That is what they want more than anything. As of two months ago, roughly, the United States has now sent several hundred troops to Iraq. Not to fight ISIS militants directly but to increase the capacity of Iraqi forces to fight them more effectively. As of late last week, U.S. pilots and remote piloted aircraft, aka, drones, are directly launching American airstrikes against ISIS, against this rebel group, Starting at 1:10 p.m. Eastern time today, in quick secession, we got this announcement that`s scrolling here. These announcements of four separate U.S. airstrikes against is checkpoints and vehicles, including armored personnel carriers and armed trucks and what some call a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle which is something everybody else in the world calls a Humvee. All today`s airstrikes took place at or near Sinjar Mountain, which is a site where tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been trapped and murdered by the militants. Sinjar Mountain is also not incidentally very near to Iraq`s border with Syria. That is not an accident. This militant group controls a third of Iraq, but they also control significant territory inside Syria. They have effectively opened the border to themselves in that whole region for what they consider to be their own state. So here`s the question: if the United States is conducting a sustained bombing campaign now against this militant group, designed to destroy this group or damage its ability to keep doing what it`s doing, can that be achieved by bombing at all? However happy you feel about that objective, can bombing achieve it? Can that be achieved? Can that objective get there from the air? If it can be achieved from the air, if it can be achieved by bombing, can it be achieved by bombing them on only one side of a border that the group does not acknowledge exists? Where the group exists fluidly between the two sides of that border? So, how long an operation is this going to be? How much damage does ISIS have to sustain before the U.S. will consider our military objectives to have been met? Is it feasible to imagine that those objectives will be met by bombing and if the United States is bombing in Iraq but not over the border in Syria -- because remember, we decided not to bomb Syria. Congress was handed that hot potato a year ago by the president and Congress promptly ate it and we never heard about it ever again. President Obama today made remarks supporting Iraq forming its new government, ousting Nouri al Maliki and installing a new prime minister. And in theory, if not, Iraq does as of today have a new government. Today was the fourth day of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A campaign that the president warned this weekend would not be a short campaign. But from the perspective of the U.S. government, and the American people, what is the point of the bombing? What is the strategic point of the bombing? When will the United States consider the objectives of these bombings to have been achieved? If the point is to target and degrade ISIS in Iraq, can that be done without also bombing in Syria? And if so, in fact, whether or not it involves Syria, doesn`t the president believe he needs congressional authorization in order to do this? When he wanted to bomb Syria, alone, he said I can`t do this without Congress. Now, we`re bombing into Iraq and not over the border in Syria. What is the point here, and who decides it and when do we hear from Congress on this? Joining us now us Marie Harf, she`s deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department and she never has to respond to an introduction that long. Thank you very much for being here and for your patience. MARIE HARF, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE SPOKESPERSON: Happy to be here, Rachel. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, what is the overall strategy behind bombing ISIS? I understand completely the case against is, why they are terrible, why it is in the American people`s interest that they be stopped. How will these bombing campaigns stop them? HARF: Well, Rachel, as the president said, this bombing campaign has some very limited objectives. The first is to improve the humanitarian situation on Sinjar Mountain. Some of those strikes you showed from today, in fact, were around Sinjar Mountain to help protect the people trapped on that mountain. They`ve, as you know, been coupled with humanitarian aid drops. But also to protect our people in Irbil and protect our people in Irbil, and the strategically important city of Irbil. We really wanted to prevent ISIL`s very rapid move on Irbil. It happened really over the past several days and that`s why you saw the president take very quick action because there was an imminent threat to Irbil, where we have a number of people today. He did speak with congressional leaders. We`ve talked to Congress quite a bit about this. They understood the need to move very quickly to protect our people there. And unlike Syria, the Iraqi government invited us in. They asked us all different leaders in Iraq, religious leaders, government leaders, tribal leaders, asked us to help in this case. That`s why you`ve really seen where we could act for very urgent humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people, as you mentioned, potentially about to starve to death on this mountain, when we can bring resources to bear quickly, unlike anyone else can. You saw the president say we absolutely have to do so in. MADDOW: In terms of that strategic and in some ways illegal decision about the Iraqi government inviting the U.S. in, you say as opposed to Syria, obviously when the president was talking about military intervention in Syria last year, he was talking about moving against the government forces of Bashar al Assad there. I mean, what`s the strategic calculation, if you squeeze them hard enough in Iraq, you`re just squeezing them further into Syria because they can cross that border at will. They control that border. HARF: Well, right. And strategically, as I mentioned, there are very limited objectives to our current military action. Longer term to fight ISIL, there`s no American military solution here. We can help the Iraqis and what we need to do now, what we`ve said we`re doing, is giving them some time and space to regroup, to re-equip. We`re helping them do that, and to get back on their feet, because long term, there`s no American military solution to this challenge. The Iraqi force need to be able to do this themselves. And in terms of the Syria comparison, in Syria, we were talking about limited strikes against the Assad regime after its use of chemical weapons, which as you mentioned we were able to resolve diplomatically instead which, of course, has been what we consider to be a fairly good success in that regard. So, they`re just very different. We`re continuing to arm the moderate opposition in Syria who is fighting ISIL, not just fighting the regime. So, it`s a very different situation in Syria versus Iraq and we have different tools we use in each of those countries. MADDOW: I have to ask you about the issue about arming the Kurdish forces. And I realize that`s somewhat sensitive in terms of what parts of the U.S. government may be doing that and how much can be described. But to the extent the U.S. has moved with some alacrity to defend Irbil and to help the northern Iraqi regional government essentially maintain its integrity, defend itself, including reportedly the pretty direct provision of weapons -- is there a risk that the U.S. is ultimately contributing to the breakup of Iraq essentially by rarifying and reinforcing a regional government that would very happily be separate from the entire, the rest of the Iraqi nation, if they had the wherewithal to do so? HARF: Well, you know, one thing I think that`s been interesting over these past few days, and in fact, heartening, is that the Iraqi security forces have been assisting the Kurdish security forces, the Peshmerga, in a way that`s truly unprecedented. We have never seen this kind of cooperation. The Iraqi security forces have been doing things like providing air support, providing ammo, providing weapons from their own stockpiles to the Kurds. I think many people would have thought this was fairly unbelievable if you said that even just a few weeks ago. We also have existing stockpiles of weapons. We are working now to expedite shipments to the Kurds. Basically all of us are working together. It`s really a team effort here. We know they need more weapons on the ground. Not just the Kurds but the Iraqi security forces. So, we`re actively seeing what more we can do. We know this is an urgent challenge and we want to get them the tools they need because, again, as I said, there`s no long term American military solution to this challenge in Iraq. What we can do is help them. And that`s what we`re doing. But they have to stand up and step up and put a strategy in place under this new government that really can address this threat long term. MADDOW: Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department -- I appreciate you being here tonight, especially this late at night. HARF: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Ahead, we`ve got the very latest on the investigation into the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old by a policeman that triggered riots in the St. Louis area. There`s new news on that tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The tension between police and the community in the St. Louis area is simmering tonight in the wake of a fatal police officer shooting of an unarmed teenager. Well, now, the FBI has gotten involved and it turns out that`s a pretty important turn. We`ve got the latest on that, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is the Foothill Freeway. That`s major east/west highway in San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, Route 210. On March 3rd, 1991, a man named Rodney King was driving down the Foothill Freeway with two other passengers. As he sped down the roads, officers tried to pursue him. He refused to pull over. There was a high-speed chase. Several officers and patrol car, a helicopter ultimately joined in. Finally, officers cornered his car and the result was captured on amateur video. That incident, that video, that beating became one of the most famous pieces of police footage in U.S. history. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAN OLIVER, NBC NEWS REPORTER: The full tape shows the man attempting to escape, but does not show him offering any resistance. After the incident, King was hospitalized and is now in jail. His condition, unknown. There was immediate criticism of the police. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Los Angeles Police Department members acted Sunday morning as though they were members of a gang. It`s the kind of activity that we will not tolerate in this city. OLIVER: Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said he was shocked and outraged. The police commission wants a full accounting and police chief Daryl Gates said a full and complete investigation is under way. DARYL GATES, POLICE CHIEF: I think even if we determine that the officers were indeed out of line, in this case, it is an aberration. OLIVER: But some critics say police brutality, particularly against minorities in southern California is so prevalent a congressional investigation is needed. The FBI has entered this case to determine if King`s civil rights were violated. Dan Oliver, NBC News, Los Angeles. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Two days after that meeting, the FBI launched an investigation into the Rodney King incident. The following week, then-U.S. attorney general under then-President George H.W. Bush, he announced the Justice Department would review every police brutality complaint to the federal government over the previous six years. Previously, the Justice Department had always handled police brutality cases on an individual basis. They looked at cases at standalone instances. They`ve never analyzed where the cases were filed and if there were patterns of brutality within a department or a specific region of the country. So, that announcement by the attorney general marked the first time that the federal government looked into patterns of alleged brutality by police departments. That was 23 years ago. This past weekend, on Saturday, around noontime, an 18-year-old unarmed teenager named Michael Brown was fatally shot multiple times in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer. We do not know much yet about what exactly transpired. Police say there may have been some sort of physical altercation, perhaps a struggle over the officer`s service weapon. Ultimately, 18-year-old Mike Brown was shot multiple times in the street several dozen feet from the officer`s patrol car. Broad daylight. Witnesses say that Young Mr. Brown`s body lay in the street for hours after he was killed. There were multiple witnesses to the aftermath of the shooting. There reportedly were several people who saw the whole incident occur. The same day of the shooting, protesters in Ferguson took to the streets protesting the use of force saying the killing of an unarmed teenager is representative of deeper tensions between black residents in Ferguson and the predominantly white police force in that town. The protesters have been met by a strong police presence in riot gear. There`s been armed response at times. And while many, most of the protests have been peaceful, some protests have turned violent. There was looting. Smashed car windows in shops. Protests still going on today in Ferguson, Missouri. This afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement announcing that the FBI is launching an investigation into this shooting, alongside local authorities and the Justice Department civil rights division to look into exactly what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, this past weekend and what federal civil rights implications there may be. Over the past two decades, since the Rodney King beating, the federal government has shown a pattern of getting more involved in investigations of this sort. They have taken a more active role. Does it help? More than 20 years later, how much have things really changed since the 1990s? And what has the federal government done to try to address this problem in a systemic way? Does it work? Hold that thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LESLEY MCSPADDEN, VICTIM`S MOTHER: The violence needs to stop. The support is all needed, all needed, but not the violence. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was the mother of Michael Brown thanking the public for their support but also pleading for a stop to the looting and the violence that also has happened during protests against her son`s killing this weekend just outside St. Louis. Joining us now is Gloria Browne-Marshall. She`s associate professor of constitutional law at John Jay College. Professor Browne-Marshall, thank you for being here. GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: Thank you. MADDOW: So, the announcement today that the FBI and the Justice Department civil rights division would be getting involved in this case, sort of alongside the local investigation, is that something that the U.S. government has been more willing to do over the past few years and has it helped? BROWNE-MARSHALL: Because of the Obama administration pushing Eric Holder, U.S. attorney general, into certain priorities that include, will include intermediate-type police departments and police actions, there is more of a federal presence when it comes to these types of the issues. It all depends on the administration and their priorities. MADDOW: Does it help overall for there to be that kind of government pressure and the attendant public attention to these things when they happen? BROWNE-MARSHALL: It helps. It helps greatly because it shows the importance of not just a killing but a killing with a government hand. It also shows that it`s more than just a local matter, it`s a federal matter. And when the federal government intervenes it sends a message to the whole country as well as all the police departments that there has to be a change. If not, then it just gets pushed under the rug and the next thing you know, there`s another incident. And they`re isolated as opposed to having a general stance, pattern and practice that could be changed by police policies nationwide. MADDOW: So, we`ll be watching over the course of this investigation to see if policy recommendations as well as the individual investigation. BROWNE-MARSHALL: And forcing the police departments to actually follow through and not just have another commission and then have it all go under the rug. This way they have to have some type of oversight by the federal government to make sure that there is a change in place. MADDOW: Gloria Browne-Marshall, associate professor of constitutional law at John Jay College -- I hope you come back and talk to us about this as this unfolds. We obviously have only the very initial basics here, but I hope you`ll come and talk with us about it again. BROWNE-MARSHALL: Certainly. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Obviously, there`s a ton going on in the news right now, but the late-breaking news this evening, again, is the death by suspected suicide of iconic comedian and actor Robin Williams. Robin Williams died today at his home in Tiburon, California. The Marin County sheriff`s department making the announcement tonight. That`s it for our show but coverage continues now with Lawrence O`Donnell on "THE LAST WORD." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END