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

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/12/15

Guests: Paul Rieckhoff, Diane Rosenbaum

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: -- this hour. So governors almost never quit. Being a governor is a really good gig, why would you quit if you were governor? That main question, just -- how hard it is to imagine why somebody would give up that particular job. That was one of the challenges for the news media when Alaska governor and former Republican Party vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, decided to quit in the middle of her first gubernatorial term in Alaska. There just didn`t seem to be any good reason for her to quit as Alaska governor. She was not under any real pressure to quit. Nobody expected her to quit and then when she announced that she was quitting, for a long time into her speech, nobody could quite figure out what she was saying about whether she really was quitting, and if she was, why she was. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: If I`ve learned one thing is that life is about choices. And one chooses how to react to circumstances, you can choose to engage in things that tear down or that build up, and I choose to work very hard on a path for fruitfulness and for productivity. I choose not to tear down and waste precious time but to build up this state and our great country. It may be tempting and more comfortable to just kind of keep your head down and plot along and appease those who are demanding, hey, just sit down and shut up, but that`s the worthless easy task out. That`s the quitter`s way out. Only dead fish go with the flow. No productive fulfilled people determine where to put their efforts choosing too wisely utilize precious time to build up. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And so I quit. That`s the quitter`s way. I quit it. Quitting is a weird way to recommit yourself to the work of being governor of Alaska, right. But that is how Governor Palin explained why she was quitting. It was very confusing even very deep into her speech. More typically governors have quit in modern times because of romantic entanglements. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: I`m deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker and to all those who believe in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize. GOV. JIM MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governors very rarely resign. It is big news whenever a governor resigns. But the one that we might be in the midst of right now, the one that may be happening right now, tonight, in the country, is sort of somewhere between the romantic entanglement kind of un-quitting that we saw from Jim McGreevey and Eliot Spitzer. It`s somewhere between romantic entanglement quitting and to the Sarah Palin version of quitting which is more like, huh, what`s going on here, I don`t understand. Here`s my best understanding of what`s going on right now. But I have to tell you, this story is still unfolding right now. So events may have overtaken the story even by the time I get to the end of it. But basically, as far as I can tell, here is what`s going on. All right. There`s something called the National Association of Secretaries of State. Secretary of State is the person who runs elections in most states. Usually a state wide elected office. Almost every state has one. And everything national association for those folks. One of the secretaries of state from around the country is the president of that organization that served as president for a one-year term. This week in Washington the National Association of Secretaries of State has been having their annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C. I know it`s not the highest profile event in the world but still it ends up being really important. Stay with me here. The current president of the National Association of Secretaries of State is named Kate Brown. She is the Secretary of State of the great state of Oregon. And on Tuesday, in the middle of their winter meeting in D.C. for this organization that she runs as president this year, she got a call in Washington, a personal, direct one-on-one phone call from the governor of her state, from the Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon. And in that phone call on Tuesday, she says he asked her personally to please fly back to Oregon immediately for a one-on-one meeting with him. Leave this meeting that she`s chairing in Washington, come home, you need to meet with me face-to-face right now. Now Oregon doesn`t have a lieutenant governor. If the governor is forced out of office or dies or has to resign for whatever reason, the next person in the line of succession in the state is the secretary of state. John Kitzhaber, the governor of Oregon, has been hit by an escalating series of scandals over the past few months, almost all of those scandals concern his girlfriend. Basically, the main allegations against him are pay-to-play corruption allegations about his girlfriend, specifically whether she was paid by various interest group to advocate for specific policies in the Kitzhaber administration or even to try to implement those policies herself in her unofficial role as first lady. So there is an ongoing ethics investigation into Kitzhaber over these allegations about his girlfriend. There had been report that there is an open FBI investigation into the same allegations. There`s been plenty of public pressure for him to resign over these allegations including from the state`s largest newspaper, "The Oregonian." There had been headlines like this in the local papers this week. Rumors swirling that the governor is about to resign. And so with all of that going on, that call from him personally to the secretary of state, to the person who would take over and become governor if he did resign, that call from him on Tuesday that she needed to leave D.C. and race home to Oregon to meet with him face-to-face that was a dramatic and portentous moment. He made the call, she said, yes, sir. She told the National Association of Secretaries of State, "I know I`m the president of this group and we`re having our winter meeting but I`m sorry, I`ve got to go, emergency at home in my state, I might have to become the governor." So she flew home to Oregon on the first available flight. She was due to arrive at 4:00 p.m.-esh yesterday. And then I will let her explain it because she has now put out a statement explaining what happened. And if I put it in my words, you might not believe it. Because it is so unimaginably weird, it can`t possibly have happened. But this is what she says happened. This is her official statement, look. Quote, "Late Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from the governor while I was in Washington D.C. at a Secretaries of State Conference. He asked me to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone. I got on a plane yesterday morning and arrived at 3:40 in the afternoon. I was escorted directly into a meeting with the governor. It was a brief meeting. He asked me, why I came back early from Washington D.C." Wait. Huh? Governor calls her and says you need to come back early from D.C. She says yes, sir. She comes back early from D.C., she walks into his office, and he says, "What`s are you doing back early from D.C.?" This is really weird, right? But wait, it gets weirder. Back to her statement. OK. So, "He asked me why I came back early from Washington D.C.," comma, "which I found strange." (LAUGHTER) "I asked him what he wanted to talk about, the governor told me he was not resigning," comma, "After which he began a discussion about transition." Now I guess transition can mean a lot of things? In this case it sounds like he asked her to come back early from D.C. and then he said, why did you come back early from D.C. And then he said I`m not resigning and then he said let`s talk about what happens after I resign. He told her he`s not resigning and then start to talking about what it`s going to be like when the transition happens. When she becomes governor because he is no longer a governor. There`s only one last line of the statement from this beleaguered and confused secretary of state. The last line of her statement is, quote, "This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation." Yes, no kidding. So the secretary of state had her drama yesterday with the governor, even though he apparently did talk to her about transition in state government. The governor then told reporters yesterday afternoon that he definitely wasn`t resigning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you been considering resigning? GOV. JOHN KITZHABER (D), OREGON: No, I have not. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It hasn`t crossed your mind at all? KITZHABER: Nope. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So Tuesday he tells his would-be successor rush back home. Then he pleads ignorance when she gets there. Yesterday he says he won`t resign. Today the secretary of state put out her statement explaining what happened there. And now the Democratic leaders of the Senate and the House, both came forward -- John Kitzhaber is a Democrat, Oregon is a blue state. The Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate both came forward early today and said not only do they believe that Governor Kitzhaber should resign, but they said they told him that to his face. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, did you meet with the governor this morning? And if so, what was discussed? STATE SEN. PETER COURTNEY (D), OREGON SENATE PRESIDENT: I met with the governor this morning, and the speaker and I both met with him, and I asked him for his resignation, and the speaker asked him for his resignation. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did the governor say? Will he resign? COURTNEY: He was struggling. He -- it`s unclear to me whether he will or not. He met with me in this office on Tuesday and led me to believe he was going to resign. He wanted to do it over have a transition period with the secretary of state. I supported that. He noted me to come earlier in the week. So I was ready to go, I even had a statement prepared, and so it was going to take care of itself. And then I could not tell anybody because he swore secrecy. I told my wife late that night, what do I do. And next thing I know a bombshell happened yesterday. What happened? What`s going on? The secretary of state is coming back, I don`t know. And then all of a sudden, I`m not going to resign. And I just said I can`t put --- I don`t know. I can`t fix this. I can`t fix it, I can`t make it better. I can`t save anybody. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was the Democratic president of the state Senate in Oregon. Democratic speaker of the House also says she asked Governor Kitzhaber to resign this morning. These two leaders in the state legislature, in the same party as governor, they made their request publicly, they also asked the governor face to face if he would please resign. The treasurer of the state, who`s the next highest elected official in the state, also a statewide elected official, he also came out publicly today, he also said Governor Kitzhaber should resign. And all of those calls for the governor to resign today happened before the next bombshell about Governor Kitzhaber landed in the press. Specifically in the "Willamette Week," look, look at the headline. "Governor John Kitzhaber`s Office Sought to Destroy Thousands of His E- mails." This happened after all those calls for his resignation today. It`s a heck of a scoop. According to the "Willamette Week," one week ago today, the governor`s executive assistant sent an e-mail, which has now been obtained by the "Willamette Week," asking the tech folks in Oregon state government to please destroy the governor`s e-mails. The governor uses both his official e-mail account and his personal e-mail account to do state business. That`s been revealed in previous documents from his administration but this written request last week was to delete, quote, "anything in the personal e-mail account from the state`s archives." Remember, at this point the governor is already under an ethics investigation, he is reportedly under an FBI investigation. And the day after his office sent this request to the state government to destroy all the governor`s personal e-mails and take him off the state servers, the very next day is when the Oregon attorney general announced a state level criminal investigation into the allegations against the governor. But here`s the good news. Here`s the good news, Oregon. The governor`s office sent that request one week ago today. "Please destroy my e-mails while I`m in the midst of all these criminal investigations of my behavior. You want to know what the good news this year? The guys in the tech department of state government who received that request to destroy the governor`s e-mails, they said no. So congratulations, Oregon, you have some conscientious public servants, including the field tech who got the request to destroy the governor`s e- mails. He did not act on it and instead asked his supervisor what he should do. You also have a conscientious public servant in that man`s supervisor who also didn`t act on the request and asked his supervisor what to do. You also have conscientious public servant in that guy`s supervisor who also did not act on the request. Quote, "Take no action at this time." Ultimately, the manager of the department in state government saying, quote, "I am not willing to make the call, to delete information out of the e-mail archive." And so the e-mails were not destroyed. The e-mail survived and the investigations go forward, and you should know that there`s no provision in Oregon state government to impeach a governor. If he goes, he`s going to have to go on his own terms. It seemed at one point, like he already was in the process of quitting but then he took backsies (ph) in a way that most people did not understand. And the reporting keeps flying out of the Oregon press, not only about the allegations against Governor Kitzhaber but the bizarre way that they are now being handled. And the weirdest gubernatorial scandal in a very long time continues to be totally unsettled as of tonight, at least it was when I started talking. Let`s see if it still is. Joining us now is Oregon state senator and Senate majority leader Diane Rosenbaum. Miss Rosenbaum, this is very difficult time in your state, thank you for being here to help us understand. SEN. DIANE ROSENBAUM (D), OREGON: Thank you for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: My impression as a total outsider to Oregon politics is that Governor Kitzhaber by and large has been a very well respected public servant. He`s been a public servant in the state Senate, an unprecedented four terms as governor. He was just reelected in November. Even the people who are criticizing him now seems to really care for him and think he is a good a public servant. What do you believe is going on with him? ROSENBAUM: Well, absolutely, I have the utmost respect for the governor. Not only has he done remarkably great things for the state of Oregon, but he`s a national leader on health care, and is seen as I think one of the foremost experts around the country. I think he is struggling, it`s a very difficult time for our state and for him personally. He`s got a difficult decision to make, and it can`t be easy for him, both in terms of his legacy, the work he has done for the state. The fact that we`ve just started a new legislative session and then on a personal level as well. MADDOW: In terms of the calls for his resignation, you know, there`s a lot of it you have to expect as politic noise, but it was striking today to see the state treasurer come out, the Senate president, the speaker of the House, Democrats all come out and say, all of them with pretty obviously heavy hearts that he really has to go. It had seemed this week like he was planning to go, certainly the state Senate president seems to have said that`s what the governor indicated to him. What`s pulling in the other direction? Who is telling him not to resign? ROSENBAUM: I can`t really answer that. I know that it`s been a very difficult time for all of us. I think for those leaders that you just mentioned, no one wants this to be the situation we`re facing and certainly they didn`t come lightly to the decision to ask for his resignation. MADDOW: You haven`t called for his resignation, and I can -- I can hear that you`re not doing that now. I do have to ask if the "Willamette Week" scoop today is born up, that the governor did ask for his personal e-mails to be deleted off of all state servers, and he did it a week ago today, in the midst of all these inquiries into his behavior. Would that change your feelings about whether or not he might be able to stay in office and be effective? ROSENBAUM: Well, I think we just learned that information late this afternoon. And it`s -- we`ve got a very strong public records law here in Oregon and a process to deal with that. I don`t want to rush to judgment but, you know, it certainly sounds like a serious matter. MADDOW: Well, Democrat -- Democratic Senate -- excuse me -- Democratic Senator Diane Rosenbaum, Senate Majority Leader in Oregon. I know this is a difficult time. I do feel like things are moving very fast in the state. Keep us apprised as best you can. I`m not sure why we`re more interested in it than the rest of the national news media at this point, if he does resign there`s going to be a huge scrum, but thank you for helping us understand what`s going on right now. I appreciate it. ROSENBAUM: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: I should also tell you that if you want proof that I`m a total outsider to Oregon politics, it`s apparently "Willamette Week," instead of not "Willamette Week." That`s how outsider I am to this story. All right. Lot`s more ahead, including House Republicans stomping on the brakes on confirming President Obama`s nominee to be the new attorney general. Plus, President Obama putting his pen collection to good use today. And later in the show "Fifty Shades of Grey." Those words apparently just came out of my mount. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Look at this. Look. This is not -- look. This is not what you want to see in front of you when you`re driving to work in the morning. But this is what the sky looked like in several small Spanish towns northwest of Barcelona today. That terrifying apricot colored plume of smoke was caused by an explosion at a chemical plant. Apparently two chemicals being delivered to a chemical storage warehouse somehow got mixed together and exploded, and it created that huge toxic, orangey, giant cloud. Three people who worked at the plant were injured in the explosion. Sixty thousand local residents were told to shut their windows and stay inside while the toxic smoke dissipated. Nobody meant for this -- look at that. Nobody meant for that thing to happen today. This was not an attack. This was an accident. But things go wrong all the time. Even with really dangerous and toxic stuff. Hold that thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There was a bill signing today at the White House. I know, this is the rarest of all endangered species in Washington but it happens. Today President Obama signed into law the Clay Hunt Veteran Suicide Prevention Act. We`re going to have more on this later in the show tonight but President Obama, when he was signing the bill today, he did that thing that presidents often do when they sign a new piece of legislation. He used many, many, many pens. He signs a little tiny piece of his name with a pen, puts the pen back in the holder and he takes another, then he takes another, then he takes another. Looks like he has maybe a dozen pens there. And that so he can then give those pens as mementos to people involved in or affected by the passage of the bill. Here is a pen that was used to sign that legislation. Usually, those folks who get the pens are the people who are standing around him as he signs. The presidential pen is about to get a real workout even beyond that because today it was that bill signing. But next, President Obama is gearing up for his first presidential veto of major legislation. He`s going to veto the bill that would force approval of the Keystone Pipeline. That bill got final approval from Congress yesterday. It`s not clear exactly when President Obama will veto it. Republicans in Congress want to make as big a deal as possible about the fact that he`s going to veto it. So they`re going to draw this out as long as possible even though they have already technically passed the bill. Once they do decide the president -- do decide to send it to President Obama, and he does veto it as promised, Republicans now say they`re just going to pass it again after the veto. And they say they`re going to pass it again after the veto, and then if he vetoes that they`re just going to pass it again and again and again and again and again. Just like that. Repeal Obamacare bill that they`ve now passed at least 56 times. The pipeline bill`s chief sponsor Senator John Hoeven said maybe what they`ll do next after the veto is they`ll attach the Keystone thing to some other bill, or maybe they`ll put it into a must-pass appropriations bill, or maybe they`ll put Keystone into every single bill in Congress from here on out, who knows. So this is going to start with President Obama`s veto, but then it`s going to get really fun, so says Senator John Hoeven. And Senator John Hoeven knows from pipeline, his home state of North Dakota has thousands of miles of crude oil pipelines. That`s thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines. They also have 20,000 miles of small pipelines called gathering pipeline that served as the connectors between all those other pipelines and the drilling sites where the stuff comes from. Last month a drilling company discovered that one of its small gathering pipelines near the town of Williston, North Dakota, had burst open. This was a little pipeline. It`s only a four-inch pipeline. But when it burst, it caused the state`s largest ever spill of toxic drilling brine. Three million gallons of brine that`s 10 times as salty as seawater, full of toxic gunk, and heavy metals and as crude oil mixed into it. Three million gallons of it all dumped into a creek that feeds into the Missouri River. The biggest ever spill of that kind. Here`s the thing, though. That pipeline was less than a year old when it burst. State-of-the-art pipeline, and it also never been inspected. And now we know why. At the time that pipeline burst for all those 20,000 miles of pipeline in that state, the state of North Dakota had precisely zero pipeline inspectors. Zero. The legislature approved funding for three inspector jobs for those kind of pipelines but as of January when that one burst, all of the pipeline jobs were vacant. Now we covered this on the show last month after that giant brine spill. And then we decided to try to find out who, if anyone, had applied for these inspector jobs that the state has on the books but nobody was actually in them. We made a formal request to the state to see the applications of people who applied for those jobs. And it was some very friendly, very helpful North Dakota officials who provided those applications to us under their state`s Open Records Law. Here`s what we learned. Between July and January, a total of 21 people applied for those jobs. Twenty-one people applied for one of these three pipeline inspector jobs listed by the state of North Dakota. Just last month, they did fill one of the three jobs. So there`s now one inspector for those 20,000 miles of gathering pipeline. As for the other two positions, the states says they just have not found enough qualified candidates. Now I obviously am no expert on what makes a qualified pipeline inspector. There do seem to be some lovely hard-working folks with nice resumes among the applicants that we have reviewed. There`s 21 applicants, come on, North Dakota. State officials did decline to offer us their thoughts on why they`re having trouble finding the right candidates even as people are applying for the jobs. But consider this, the department that oversees the state`s larger pipelines, they have explained what`s going on with their vacant inspector jobs. They say they have trouble keeping inspectors for the larger pipelines in the state because every time they get somebody into the job, that person leaves for a better paying job in the oil industry. That larger pipeline inspector position, that one is also open right now. That job pays up to $96,000 a year. The one for the smaller pipelines, that one pays $51,000 a year. $51,000 a year is good money, right? But when you`re competing with the most profitable industry the earth has ever known, yes, maybe $51 K isn`t enough to hold on to people. Yes. You might have to pay a little more. On that point on one North Dakota official told us, quote, "The pipeline industry is a competitive industry. We have and will continue to work to make the positions` salaries as competitive as possible." But as of tonight, there are still these two open positions. And if there are any experienced or aspiring pipeline inspectors out there, North Dakota says they would like to know. From the job listing, do you have excellent written and verbal communication skills, individual initiative, ability to work effectively with diverse groups of people? Are you adaptable to the northern plains climate? Any relevant pipeline experience? If so we have posted the application at MADDOW blog. Seriously, North Dakota needs you, the country needs you. But that`s basically the state- of-the-art for how we deal with pipeline safety in this county right now in 2015. Keystone, by the way, that`s a 36-inch pipeline. The one with the three million gallon brine spill, that was four inches. But on the Keystone matter, looks like a veto is on the way. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we don`t usually cover movie premieres, but one movie coming out tonight, I`m told it is called "50 Shades of Grey." This movie has caused a little bit of a stir all across the country, particularly it turns out in the American South, where ticket sales are outpacing the rest of the country, states like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other Deep South states. Really? The Deep South in particular is really psyched for this movie. Which has led to awkwardness for one of the most powerful organizations in conservative American politics. This amazing story is coming up right at the end of the show. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over and a new generation of veterans is coming home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: How is this for timing? At the exact moment that President Obama was saying that today at the White House, while he was saying that our combat mission in Afghanistan is over and the veterans are coming home, at the exact same time he was making those remarks, the "New York Times" was posting online for the first time this story about how combat operations in Afghanistan actually are back on and in kind of a big way. The hook for their new story is a laptop that Special Operations forces were able to obtain in October somewhere in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border when they raided the home of an al Qaeda suspect. Apparently, that laptop has been a treasure-trove of information on al Qaeda in that part of the world. Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives and other militants who work with them in that part of the world. And according to "The New York Times," based on that trove of intelligence found on that single laptop, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, going after these militant groups, specifically, is apparently back in full swing. Quoting from "The Times", "The spike in raids is at odds with policy declarations in Washington where the Obama administration has deemed the American role in the war essentially over." Quote, "The raids appeared to have targeted a broad cross section of Islamist militants. They have hit both al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, going beyond the narrow counterterrorism mission that Obama administration officials had said would continue after the formal end of American-led combat operations last December." The tempo of operations in Afghanistan right now according to one military official who talked to "The Times" is, quote, "unprecedented for this time of year." It`s also unprecedented for a war that supposedly no longer exists, right? So, that is awkward to be talking about the war being over in the midst of this very detailed new reporting coming out simultaneously talking about how the war is not at all over, in fact it is kicking way back up. The other thing that happened while the "New York Times" was breaking that story and while the president was mentioning the war being over, literally in the same half-hour period, we also got a new secretary of defense, Ashton Carter. Ash Carter, Rhodes scholar, physicist, lifetime Pentagon wonk, he was confirmed in the Senate today 93-5. Because there was such overwhelming support for Ash Carter`s nomination to be defense secretary, his confirmation process, honestly, was not really the occasion for any significant debate in Washington either about him or about broader issues regarding national security, and the wars, and what military is doing right now. I mean, that debate about the military fight against ISIS is only just starting now in Congress more than six months and more than 2,000 airstrikes into the ongoing military campaign that U.S. troops are waging against ISIS. That debate is just now starting in Congress in the last 48 hours with President Obama sending over his proposed language to authorize that military force that we have been using for months. That debate, I believe, is long overdue, already though, even though it`s just started, it`s already quickly become sort of unpredictable and therefore interesting. Lawmakers from both parties already are coming down on the president`s request for authorization to use military force in some surprising and partisan -- surprising and unpredictable ways, at least unpredictable in partisan terms. Today, for example, we learned that Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, who`s a very high profile brand new member of the House from Massachusetts, he`s a Marine Corps veteran who served four tours of duty in Iraq, Congressman Seth Moulton signaled today that he will not support President Obama`s request for military force. At least not the way it`s written right now. Seth Moulton said today that the American strategy to beat ISIS should be lead by political efforts and diplomatic efforts locally in the Middle East, in the region, and that American troops should be supporting those efforts, not leading them. Interesting, right? From a decorated combat veteran, one who is in the president`s own party. Super interesting. So, we are finally having a debate. Now, it does seem like that debate ought to include at least some mention of what`s really going on in Afghanistan where 10,000 troops are supposedly still there and it is supposedly not a war. But it does not at all appear that the war has wound down and combat operations are over even if they have changed the name of what we`re doing over there. I mean, clearly, the war in Afghanistan, at least in one level, is still very much on. That may require further debate, maybe further legal authorization as well, I don`t know. Now, a little sunshiny ray of hope right here, the one reason to be optimistic that maybe we as a country are capable of a real debate and real decision making on any of these issues, one reason to be cheerful about that prospect is these guys -- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. IAVA today proved that politics is still possible. In a Congress in which nothing gets done, and everything is partisan to the point of stupidity, and there can be substantive problem-solving whatsoever that does not get subsumed into some dumb, divisive, obstructionist smoking pit of failure, see for example the fact that the Homeland Security Department is about to shut down and no one knows why -- in a Congress where nothing gets done, in a Washington where nothing is possible, IAVA and the family of Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, who took his own life after coming home from two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, they did the impossible today. They actually made politics work. And today, they were at the White House today for the president to sign into law a small, direct, constructive little piece of legislation that is aimed at preventing veteran suicide. These guys were able to muscle this through, this terrible dysfunctional Congress. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: And just to be clear about the bipartisanship here -- this is one of those areas where we can`t have an argument. Now, Clay`s parents are Texas Republicans. You know, I mean that is not just run-of-the-mill Republican. And they worked with this entire spectrum, conservatives, liberals. And that`s just a reminder of what we can accomplish when we take a break from the partisan bickering that so often dominates this town and focus on what matters to the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Paul Rieckhoff, founder and president of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, one of the key advocates behind today`s passage of the Clay Hunt Act. He was at the bill-signing today at the White House just over the president`s shoulder there. Paul, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Congratulations, man. PAUL RIECKHOFF, IAVA: My pleasure, Rachel. And thank you. I just came from where all of the vets are celebrating with Susan and Richard, at a barbecue place here in D.C. and she asked me to pass thanks to you personally for staying focused on this. And to all your viewers around the country and around the world, who stood with us on this fight. This is a real team win and we appreciate all the support that you and everybody watching gave us. MADDOW: I just been covering what you are doing and watching in amazement as anything gets done in Washington, but also watching with real admiration for the tenacity it took to get this done on the part of Clay`s family and you guys. I mean, you`re a good advocate for your cause. I have seen you pass stuff when I didn`t think anything could pass before. What is the lesson learned here about how you did it? RIECKHOFF: A total team effort. You know, bringing together people from all different backgrounds and all across the country. Most of all this is people power. If the people lead, the politicians will follow. All the politicians were up there on stage but the real leaders were in the audience. We had 40 veterans or so from around the country who are every day people who took up this fight and kept pushing forward, and what we learned overseas was asymmetrical warfare. What we`re applying back here at home is asymmetrical advocacy and asymmetrical activism. We`re using the media -- I mean, we`re on Fox and MSNBC. We`re using social media extensively. We`re partnering with folks ranging from Lady Gaga to Linkin Park, to Keil Connelly (ph), a NASCAR race driver. But most of all, we`ve got people on the ground, around the country in every city who are fighting for change and we`re sick of Washington being broken. So, this is a win, it`s a big win, but it`s a first step. We`ve got a long way to go. But we hope this is a shot in the arm to Washington, but also gives people hope that things can get done if we stick together, we work as a team and we stay focused on what matters. And that`s principles, not politics. MADDOW: Well, that`s honestly as an observer of politics, and a reporter on politics, that`s sort of what I`m trying to figure out -- whether or not you guys can do this stuff because you`re veterans, because of your skills in getting it done, but also people feel about veterans in a way that can - - is powerful enough to transcend politics, whether or not there is anything that can transcend your issue area of focus and whether or not this can work for other stuff. Do you feel like it could? RIECKHOFF: We hope so. I mean, when I was standing up there today, I was between Senator Blumenthal and Senator McCain. You probably won`t see them stand together on a stage together again this year. MADDOW: Yes. RIECKHOFF: And if we can be the one issue that brings them together, that`s outstanding. But I think we`re ready to lead across this country. And I think it`s also important to know, we`re leading outside of Washington. We`re not going to wait for Washington because Washington has been so dysfunctional. So, this is really grassroots power. This is Mr. and Mrs. Smith going to Washington. Susan Selke is a powerful advocate because she`s honest, and truthful and she`s from outside the Beltway. And she is tough. There`s an old saying that the only thing tougher than a marine is a marine`s mom. And that`s what we saw tonight. She`s been so selfless and such a true leader. She`s what this country is all about and I think she personally has inspired people from all across the country to get involved. MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, celebrating tonight with IAVA and the Selkes -- Paul, congratulations. Thanks for being here tonight, man. REICKHOFF: Thank you, Rachel. We appreciate it so much. MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead. Please stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Amid unimaginable grief, Clay`s family, Jake, and his fellow veterans, made it their mission to spare any more families the pain they endured. So, they shared Clay`s story far and wide. They reached out to members of Congress. And they lobbied and they testified and made personal appeals. And thanks to their tireless efforts, we are particularly grateful to Clay`s family, for being able to transform grief into action. Today, I will sign the Clay Hunt Save Act into law. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A week ago tonight on this show, I made a very specific offer to the good city of Salem, Oregon, and then this happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: Salem is taking a step to help protect people from angry owls. This hazard sign started as a gag on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," but now, the city is actually going to install them in city parks. There have been four instances where an owl has attacked joggers. Just last week, an owl swooped down and stole a hat right off a man`s head. The city has identified the birds as barn owls and that park goers should be especially careful from dusk to dawn. The new signs are expected to be installed by Friday. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It turns out they didn`t wait until Friday. The Salem Parks Department really did take us up on our offer, and today, they -- look. Behold. It actually happened. Look. Our suggested beware of angry owls sign is now the official "Beware of Angry Owl" sign in Bush`s Pasture Park in Salem, Oregon. You know what? Write my obituary right now. If we have accomplished nothing else on television, let this be the legacy of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, simply the coolest thing that ever happened to this show. Thank you, Salem, Oregon. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Just because you get there first doesn`t mean you get in first. At least that`s not how it works in the United States Senate. Just because Loretta Lynch was nominated to be attorney general nearly a month before Ash Carter was nominated to be defense secretary doesn`t mean she will get a confirmation vote before he does. Loretta Lynch sailed through her confirmation hearings in the Senate. Nobody laid a glove on Loretta Lynch. Because they couldn`t lay a glove on her, the hearings ended up basically being about the current attorney general instead of about her. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: You`re not Eric Holder, are you? LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: No, I`m not, sir. CORNYN: So, no one is suggesting that you are, but of course, Attorney General Holder`s record is heavy on our minds now. (END VIDEO CLI) MADDOW: Loretta Lynch, just like Ash Carter, she aced her confirmation hearings in the Senate. But today, it was Ash Carter confirmed to become the next secretary of defense, even though his nomination went up a month later. Loretta lynch, apparently, Senate Republicans are having second thoughts about her. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to vote on her nomination but at the last minute, they decided not to do it. Why the change of heart? Nobody is saying. Now, they`re not planning on giving her a final vote until March, until five weeks after her confirmation hearings. There`s no indication before now that she was going to have any trouble. I usually would finish a report by saying, watch the space. In this case, really, watch this space, with this Loretta Lynch confirmation delay, this really feels like an outbreak of shenanigans is imminent. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Elvis was from Tupelo, Mississippi. The great swiveling pelvis of rock and roll built his Graceland in Memphis, yes, but he was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi. The electronic music genius Diplo was also born in Tupelo. He grew up in Miami but he`s apparently a Tupelo native. Former WNBA star Tamika Whitmore, she was also born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi. The guy on the right here was not born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was from Chattanooga. But he moved to Tupelo. His name was Frank Raines, and he was a simultaneous talker. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has the ability, Carol, to no matter what I say, talk right along with me, and can do it in any language, even though he may not know the language in which the person is speaking. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t even have to look at me to know that he`s doing this. And (INAUDIBLE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He gets in your mind so you can`t talk after a while. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Frank Raines, the simultaneous talker. And Elvis, Diplo and Tamika Whitmore, they are all from mighty Tupelo, Mississippi. Also from Tupelo, Mississippi, these guys. The American Family Association, our new favorite far right religious activist group, with the guy who blames Hitler on the gays and says Jewish immigrants to America should be forced to convert as a condition of coming to this country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Number one, those who came to our shores would be expected to adopt our religious values and our traditions. That would mean Christianity. The religion of their homeland and the god of their homeland, they would leave them behind. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: From their home base in Tupelo, Mississippi, the folks at the American Family Association have figured out how to make a real wonderful living with running radio shows and leading crusades against Sponge Bob and boycotting skinny model who is eat hamburgers in Super Bowl ads. They reportedly also have been hauling leaders of the Republican Party around on an expenses paid trip to Israel. After news got around that Republicans, the National Republican Party convention was being hosted by this Mississippi on that trip, both the Republican Party and the American Family Association stopped talking about it. We`ve been asking for weeks now whether Republicans went ahead with that trip, by their own schedule, they should have gone and returned already. But still, the Republican Party won`t answer our questions about that trip to Israel, neither will the American Family Association in Tupelo. That said, I`m sure they have plenty to work on besides answering questions from liberal TV ladies. Por ejemplo, this is now being unleashed by Satan on Cineplexs everywhere. From their headquarters in Tupelo, Mississippi, the American Family Association has been busy this week fulminating against "50 Shades of Grey", telling you and your mother and everybody else why they must not see this movie. Quote, "A more apt title would be 50 shades of evil." Now, it`s not for me to say whether you should see this movie or object to it on whatever grounds you find convincing. But I can tell you that the American Family Association, from its Tupelo, Mississippi headquarters, most certainly wants you to not buy a ticket for "50 Shades of Grey." But when they open their Mississippi newspaper in the Mississippi morning, this is the news they`re seeing. "Mississippi, the most eager state in the country to see `Fifty Shades of Grey"." Nowhere in this country are people so hot to see this movie as the people of Mississippi. Advanced tickets for this devil show have been selling there four times faster than the national average. In the home state of the American Family Association, which is very busy telling everybody not to buy a ticket. The first theater in the country to sell out for this movie, every ticket gone, is in Tupelo, Mississippi! The actual backyard of the American Family Association. Tonight in Tupelo, Mississippi, the first three shows of "Fifty Shades of Grey" are completely sold out. Yes, American Family Association, your town really wants to see "Fifty Shades of Grey" and they really don`t care what you say about it. But, we`d still like to hear your answers to our questions about that trip you took with the Republican Party. So please check your inbox. Thank you. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END