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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/14/15

Guests: Robert Gibbs

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Awesome debate. That was great. HAYES: Thanks. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you with us. So, there is good news and there is bad news about the international terrorist group that the U.S. government thinks poses the highest rick of launching an international terrorist attack against us here in the United States. There`s good news and bad news today about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Bad news first -- on April 2nd, you will remember that terrible attack on that University in Kenya, 143 college students killed in that attack that went on for more than 12 hours, at Garissa University in northern Kenya. That attack was mounted by al Shabaab, which is a terrorist group based in Somalia. They carry out attacks in neighboring countries as well, including in Kenya, and al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, specifically to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. So, one of the really hard things to fathom about that attack was how long it went on for -- how long it took for local authorities to get in there and stop it. Those al Qaeda attackers shot their way into that college something like 5:30 in the morning. It was not until 5:00 that night that police commandos were finally able to storm into the school and kill the al Qaeda guys and rescue the students. This is after an entire day when those al Qaeda terrorists terrorized the students as their hostages, separated the students by religion, killed the Christians first, made students call their parents. I mean, the whole -- it went on for an entire day before the police got there. We now know why it took so long for the Kenyan police to get there and respond to that attack. The police chief in Kenya who is charge of police aircraft in that country, which is how the police commandos were going to respond to that attack, this college was in such a remote part of the country, they were going to basically have to fly their SWAT team up there to that school to try to save the students once the attack started. That police chief in charge of police aircraft admitted to the "Daily Nation" newspaper in Kenya today that the plane that was supposed to be available to fly police commandos up to the site of the attack, that plane instead was in the coastal resort town of Mombasa picking up his family. The police chief`s family who had been on vacation there and they used the police plane as their ride home. And that`s where the plane was. "The Guardian" newspaper today posted these pictures taken from Instagram which reportedly showed the police chief`s daughter in law and another family member posing with the Kenyan police airplane while it was picking them up from their vacation instead of rescuing those kids who were being massacred over a period of 12 hours in northern Kenya. Now, the police chief does not seem to be embarrassed by this and he still seems to have his job. He told local reporters today when explaining where the plane was that the plane was picking up his family from vacation. He said, quote, "There is nothing to hide. I take full responsibility." So that is the terrible answer to one of the previously unanswered questions about that tragedy. A question of, you know, how on earth it went on for so long before local authorities could respond. Now we have the terrible answer to that question. But in today`s news, we also got an answer to another really important question about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is a question that was actually posed by the U.S. Justice Department late last year. And that question was, where is this guy, do you though this man? It`s a slightly weird thing about a Department of Justice sort of a quaint archaic seeming thing about what they do, but one of the things the Justice Department does when they want to solve a crime or find someone is that they offer loot. They offer to pay you if you will help them out in solving that crime or finding that person. They did it, for example, in 2008 on the 79th birthday of Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Whitey Bulger had already been on the run for 14 years, but as a birthday present to him, the Justice Department put out a press release reminded people he was missing on the run and they shouted from the rooftops anybody who helped find him could earn $2 million as a reward for their troubles. And as unlikely as it seemed after Whitey Bulger had been missing for so long, the Justice Department announcing $2 million reward really did, in fact, turn up a sighting of Whitey Bulger which resulted in him being captured after all those years. The reward worked. Just last week, the FBI announced reward to help them solve this crime. This was not long after the Oklahoma City bombing nearly 20 years ago now in 1995. Somebody wrote an Oklahoma bomber-style anti-U.S. government screed and they left it as a claim of responsibility, alongside this purposely derailed Amtrak passenger train in the Arizona desert. One person was killed in that derailment, more than 100 people injured, including a lot of people sent to the hospital with very serious injuries. Whoever caused that derailment did it on purpose. They pulled out more than two dozen railroad spikes, they removed a whole section of the rail line there, specifically to dump that train at speed off a highway bridge. It`s a miracle that more were not killed in that terrorist attack, but that was nearly 20 years ago. Nobody has ever been arrested in conjunction that and last week the FBI doubled down on the reward in that 20-year-old case in the hopes of goosing public interest in solving it all these years down the road. And at the highest levels of the Justice Department, they do this all the time. They really believe that rewards work. Late last year, the State Department`s Rewards for Justice program announced a $5 million bounty, a $5 million reward for anybody who could help locate this guy. It`s a man who`s originally from Saudi Arabia. He was found in Afghanistan during the U.S. war in Afghanistan in its early days. He was turned over to U.S. forces there. He was sent to Guantanamo where he served years in prison at Guantanamo. The Bush administration decided release him in 2006. They released him to Saudi Arabia where he went through an anti-terrorism rehabilitation program that was supposed to cure him of his al Qaeda affiliation and his al Qaeda sympathies. A few months into that program, however, he escaped from Saudi Arabia, he ultimately made his way to Yemen where he game the top spiritual adviser, the spiritual leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And as such, he earned himself that $5 million bounty. And now, it appears that somebody might be about to collect that $5 million. Since al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula dispatched the underwear bomber in 2009 to try to blow up an airplane over the United States, and then they sent the even more sophisticated printer cartridge bombs the following year, since the connections were exposed between al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, the United States government focused on al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula as the international terrorist group that seems most determined and potentially most capable of striking the United States with another 9/11-style if not 9/11-scale attack. One of the ways the U.S. has tried to keep that al Qaeda chapter in check is by stationing a pretty large number of U.S. special operations forces secretly inside Yemen, to keep tabs on the group, to continuously develop intelligence on them, to train local forces in fighting that group. Honestly, they`ve been waging a low-profile low-grade secret U.S. war against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mostly using drone strikes that the U.S. government never publicly admits to. That was part of why it was a big deal when the U.S. decided that they would extract all American personnel from Yemen last month. In the face of the rapidly escalating civil war in that country, the toppling of Yemen`s government, a fast expanding proxy war between Iran-backed rebels that overthrew the government and Saudi Arabia-backed forces that were trying to overthrow the Iranian groups, and then Saudi Arabia`s military getting directly involved in Yemen with airstrikes in that country, in the face of that escalating and expanding chaos and international conflict, the U.S. closed that Special Forces base in Yemen that they had been using to fight al Qaeda there. They pulled out all the Special Forces troops that had been operating in Yemen for so many years to fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And it has been this interesting and open question as to what would happen to the U.S. war against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al Qaeda in Yemen once those U.S. troops that had been based there for so long had to leave. What would happen to that war? And because of that unanswered question, it was kind of a big deal and kind of strange and definitely intriguing when "Reuters" reported this little squib yesterday, that for the first time since this big war started in Yemen and all the American personnel were pulled out of that country for the first time since all that happened, there was somehow for some reason what appeared to be a U.S. drone strike in Yemen yesterday. I thought we weren`t doing that anymore. This intriguing report yesterday from "Reuters", nobody really knew what it meant. And then today the other shoe dropped. Al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula put out a distraught press statement today expressing their outrage that what they called a crusader drone strike had killed their spiritual leader, had killed this guy, who the Bush administration had released from Guantanamo in 2006, who the Obama administration had just assigned a $5 million bounty to, and who was apparently the target of that drone strike yesterday. Does that mean that the U.S. is going to be able to keep up some level of warfare against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula even without any personnel on the ground there in Yemen? Leaving that base not matter for that war? Is the U.S. military or the CIA -- are they still going to be able to target al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula effectively even with no one on the ground in that country? I don`t know. But it appears at least that they got this guy who they were willing to spend $5 million for information leading to his location. The U.S. government is not confirming that he`s definitely dead but al Qaeda is. For whatever reason, we are rat a moment in American politics right now where we don`t really debate foreign policy as part of our politics. We don`t make decisions about foreign policy through our elected leaders. If we did, there would be a lot for them to chew on right now. Meaning, just with Yemen -- just since Yemen starting disintegrating and fall nothing this full-blown not just civil war but an international conflict in Yemen, even just in and around that country, it has been very hard to figure out what role the U.S. is playing, and even how we`re just protecting our basic interests there. The U.S. for years has said that Americans citizens shouldn`t travel to Yemen. That it`s too dangerous a country to even visit. But people ignore those warnings. There are lots of Americans and dual Yemeni- American citizens who live in Yemen, or who travel through there for whatever reasons. One of the things that has been strange since this conflict really blew up in Yemen has been seeing other countries like India or Russia or China mounting international rescue efforts to go into Yemen and extract all of their citizens from the middle of that war zone in Yemen. Since the war started, all those other countries have been going into Yemen and getting their citizens out, evacuating them. The United States has not -- which the State Department so far has had a hard time explaining. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: I`d like to ask last week you talked about that there are no plans to evacuate Americans from Yemen. MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT: That is true. REPORTER: Over the weekend, you know, the Indians have been able to evacuate people. Other countries have been able to evacuate people. With the U.S. with having so many military assets in the area, why can`t you? REPORTER: When you said that you alerted them to opportunities to leave the country -- HARF: Correct. REPORTER: -- what are those opportunities then, swim? Well, come on. I mean, the airports are closed. How are they going to get -- HARF: The one that we sent out on April -- REPORTER: Go to Aden, jump in the water. I mean -- what -- HARF: The one we sent out on April 5th was a specific boat that was crossing from Aden to Djibouti. The one we sent out on the 6th was from an Indian naval ship that was boarding passengers as well. So, we are alerting people to -- these are mainly maritime opportunity. REPORTER: So, maritime. So -- HARF: Because the airports closed. REPORTER: Understood. So -- but you have ship there is too, right? HARF: At this point, there are no plans for U.S. assets to be used to do this. REPORTER: I mean, people are there. Some of them may not have had a choice in going there. And now, they`re looking for help from their government. JEFF RATHKE, STATE DEPT. ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: Right. And so -- REPORTER: You`re basically them telling them to, well -- RATHKE: Continue, finish your sentence. REPORTER: Fill in the blank. RATHKE: Well, no, I would -- I would -- REPORTER: No? OK, what are you doing for them? RATHKE: I think I`ve just -- REPORTER: Nothing. RATHER: -- discuss with -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, this has turned into an awkward subject at State Department press briefings. It`s also turned into a real problem for Americans who are left in Yemen and don`t have a way out. One advocacy group in California set up this Web site, For Americans who are stuck in that country, they can input their personal information national hopes that some advocacy group can help them try to get out because the U.S. government is not moving people out. More than 40 Americans who are stuck in Yemen or have family members stuck there have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, saying the U.S. government has a duty to evacuate its citizens the same way that other countries have evacuated their citizens but the U.S. has not. This weekend, more than 100 Americans who had been trapped in Yemen, they were finally able to escape into the neighboring country of Djibouti. They were greeted by U.S. embassy staff from Djibouti. Remember there`s no U.S. embassy in Yemen anymore. There`s no diplomatic personnel or military personnel in Yemen anymore at all this. This is the closest U.S. embassy in the neighboring nation of Djibouti and those embassy personnel did happily greet the American citizens who were able to escape on their own by boat. The U.S. ambassador to Djibouti tweeted these pictures of Americans being so happy to have managed to escape Yemen on their own and get somewhere safe where they could get help from American ovals in a different country. I got to say, though, it is a little weird to see the U.S. ambassador tweeting "USA, thanks, India." Yes, because it wasn`t American boat that got these Americans out, India sent a boat to help get people out of Yemen. The United States did not. Thanks, India. Also, thanks, Russia. The Americans were also able apparently some of them to get on a Russian ship, as well because the Russians are sending ships, not the Americans. It`s not that there aren`t U.S. ships in the region. U.S. Navy vessels are participating in the war. They`re there participating in a blockade with Saudi Arabia to keep Iran from sending weapons into Yemen. This weekend, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that the U.S. sailors on an American destroyer had stopped and boarded a freighter that they suspected of delivering Iranian weapons into Yemen. Those U.S. sailors apparently didn`t find the weapons, they thought were going to be on the ship but imagine if they had? Right? That`s U.S. sailors on an American destroyer, what, seizing Iranian weapons on the open ocean? What if that turned into a firefight? What if some other country`s ship decided to intervene with the U.S. Navy trying to seize those weapons off the coast of Yemen? Our sailors are there right now, boarding other country`s ships. And we are all on one side in that war and not from a distance. We`re in the middle of it. There are hard questions, hard strategic questions that are worth asking about this complicated and tinder boxy and rapidly expanding war that we really are right in the middle of already. And it`s not the only one we`re right in the middle. Today, President Obama hosted the prime minister of another country where we are directly right in the middle of another complex war right now -- the Iraqi prime minister, making his first trip to Washington today since he was elected prime minister in Iraq and since the U.S. restarted our war effort there in conjunction with Iraqi forces fighting against ISIS. Yesterday, the Defense Department put a cherry little chart claiming since the U.S. started its air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, ISIS is giving up about 30 percent of the territory that they held in that country. That included ISIS recently losing control of the city of Tikrit after a fierce week`s long fight in that city. ISIS still does hold Iraq`s second largest city after Baghdad. They still hold the city of Mosul. It`s expected that the next big battle against ISIS in Iraq will be a ground war for the city of Mosul. U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria are now in their eighth month and there are lots of American troops on the ground training forces involved in this fight, back into the old bases where U.S. troops used to be based in our war there when we called it a war. The U.S. Congress has not felt the need to weigh in on that war or make any decisions about it whatsoever since it started back in August. The air strikes started in August. In December, President Obama asked for congressional authorization of that military campaign, Congress ignored him. In January, he asked again as part of his State of the Union Address, Congress ignored him. In February, the White House even sent over draft language for Congress to consider so they could take a vote on authorizing this military force in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. Congress has done no such thing. They never brought it up. Yesterday, the House majority leader, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy told reporters that there`s just never going to be a vote on that war. There will never be a vote on authorizing the use of military force against is in Iraq and Syria, even as those air strikes continue every day and even as thousands of U.S. military personnel are involved. Yesterday, Kevin McCarthy told reporters he would not even allow the language to authorize that military force to go to the floor. Nor does he have plans to introduce any competing language that he might be more comfortable putting up for a vote. They`re just never going to be debate it or weigh in on it ever. They really don`t care. The war effort that President Obama has ordered the U.S. military to fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the thousands of U.S. military personnel are involved in, that war apparently is just his it`s his own. Congress is not interested. When President Obama several weeks ago announced that he would team 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan through the end of the year, which is a huge change in U.S. policy, it affects thousands of military family`s lives in this country, there was literally zero response from Congress on that. Not a peep. Zero response, zero commentary, nothing. A vote, are you kidding? Now, it`s not just U.S. interests but literally U.S. forces are right in the middle of a rapidly expanding deeply complex shooting war in Yemen. Congress also -- eh, just not that bothered. It`s the president`s thing. Let him do it. Congress ignoring and want to do nothing with all these hot wars that we are already in feels all the more remarkable in the day like today when the Congress got up on hit hind legs to start yelling about their prerogative to get involved, not in one of our myriad existing wars, but instead in a diplomatic effort to avert war with Iran. Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously to insert themselves into the diplomatic conversations the U.S. has been involved with over the last several months with Iran over Iran`s nuclear program. President Obama had previously threatened to veto any such effort to interfere by Congress but now looks like Congress has a veto-proof majority in both Houses, so the White House veto threat has been withdrawn. And on the one hand, if you care about the executive branch having too much power in our country, Congress abrogating its responsibilities when it comes to national security and foreign policy, on the one hand, it is kind of exciting just in structural terms to see Congress decide to care. But why this and only this? Constitutionally, the administration sets foreign policy of the United States and negotiates on behalf of our country. Constitutionally it is Congress that makes decisions on matters of war and peace. And at this fraught time in the world, it is nice to see Congress perk up and take notice of the world around them. It is strange, though, deeply strange, that they have only discovered this interest in getting involved when it comes to the administration`s efforts to avert a new war when they can`t seem to muster any interest at all in the wars that we are already in. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Here`s one super humiliating sign that election season has truly started. That`s Hillary Clinton`s van getting mobbed in Iowa. Reporters -- floor it, get out of here. That and what was going on there and lots more still ahead. Please stay with us. Oh, God! (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, this was embarrassing. I was not there. I was humiliated by proxy. Hillary Clinton was in Iowa today. She was on the first leg of her presidential campaign, right, on the ground meeting people one-on-one. At about 2:00 p.m. Eastern today in Iowa, she set off by car to go to an event in Monticello, Iowa. And if you happen to be watching cable news at the time, this is what you would have seen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Here it is. There she goes, and Secret Service following behind her. OK, they`re going around to the back, so we`re not -- you can see the media running behind me here to chase the Scooby van. TV ANCHOR: Wow. REPORTER: She`s going around to the back. TV ANCHOR: Wow, they`re -- REPORTER: We`ll see her -- we`re going to see her soon. TV ANCHOR: The guy in the orange pants is quick. Alex, I mean, I`m looking at these people. Wow! All right. Orange pants, he`s really outnumbered now by all of the people that are racing around the back. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, what do you think you`re going to get from the van? It`s now chasing cars season. This is very embarrassing. We should have known it is coming. We are now officially in media frenzy mode when it comes to the 2016 presidential race and that can be silly and sometimes even stupid. But there is method to this scrum. There is method to this madness. The fact there are this many reporters chasing the candidates around now means it is unavoidable that the candidates actually will get asked now about things they don`t necessarily have great answers to yet. Take for example, Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio, along with just about every other Republican presidential hopeful, he rushed to support Indiana Governor Mike Pence last month when Governor Pence and Indiana Republicans went head long into their religious freedom bill debacle which made Indiana nationally famous for being the state that wanted to allow businesses to refuse service to people on the basis of sexual orientation. We don`t serve gay people here. Feel free to put up that sign in the window of your business. Indiana passed that law. Mike Pence signed that law, and then after all H-E double hockey sticks broke loose about it, they just tried to change the law. They tried to backtrack the PR disaster that they had caused. And that left all these Republican presidential hopefuls who have lined up behind Mike Pence a little confused about what to do. So, now, Marco Rubio, now that you are officially running for president, where do you stand on the old Mike Pence law? Are you with the old unreconstructive Mike Pence, or are you with Mike Pence with an asterisk after he sort of half backtracked the thing? Do you think it should be OK to put up a "we don`t serve gay people here" sign in your business? NPR Steve Inskeep asked Marco Rubio about this yesterday. The clip is a little bit long, but listen to the hoops Marco Rubio is trying to jump through as he tries to defend his position on this. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) STEVE INSKEEP, NPR NEWS: You defended the law and spoke about the hypothetical example of a florist who was asked to participate in a gay marriage and wanted to refuse. You said that person should have the right to follow their religious beliefs. Indiana, though, has since changed the law. Do you still support that concept? SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, to be fair, I haven`t read the change in detail to give you an opinion on it specifically. But I`ll tell you where I stand -- I do not believe you can discriminate against people. So, I don`t believe it`s right for a florist to say, I`m not going to provide you flowers because you`re gay. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: So, this is new, right? Marco Rubio is now against the Mike Pence law. He says it shouldn`t be legal for a business to refuse to provide services to, say, a gay couple, shopping for catering or flowers or whatever for their wedding. It`s good to know. Except then he clarified so now you have to un-know it. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) RUBIO: The difference here is we`re not talking about discriminating against a person because of who they are, we`re talking about someone who`s saying -- what I`m talking about anyway -- is someone who is saying, I don`t want to participate as a vendor for an event, a specific event that violates the tenets of my faith. INSKEEP: What if two gay people get married and then they go that night to a hotel. Can the hotelkeeper refuse service to them? RUBIO: That`s not part of an event. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: See the wedding night is definitely not part of the event. So, basically in Marco Rubio`s world, it is totally wrong and un- American and ought to be illegal to discriminate when serving someone at your business unless the reason you won`t serve them at your business is because the thing they`re asking for might be used in a ceremony of some kind in which case discriminating is totally cool and American and ought to be legal. Capisce? I think what he wants us to do is maybe tie a little bell around the flowers that rings if the flowers get near a wedding. If so, then the florist can run into the church, see who is getting married, maybe seize the flowers back. Perhaps it could be a dye pack in the daisies that blows up if it senses the presence of too many homosexuals. Nationally, the country is very getting over its prejudice and fear of gay rights. By and large though, that`s not true of the Republican base. That tends to vote disproportionately in presidential primaries. And so, one happy byproduct, one benefit of the frenzy around the candidates right now is getting to see them invent new lines for themselves to tiptoe down as they try on the spot to present reasonably sounding anti- gay positions that accomplished this neat trick of not turning off the vast majority of the country by seeming too much like a homophobe, but also seeming aggressively anti-gay enough to be electable inside the super anti- gay base bubble. Take it away, Rand Paul. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: What you do in your home is your own business. I`m a leave me alone kind of guy. REPORTER: But not when it comes to marriage. PAUL: Well, no, I mean states will end up making the decisions on these things. I think that there is a religious connotation to marriage. I believe in the traditional religious connotation to this, but also believe people ought to be treated fairly under the law. I see no reason why if the marriage contract conveys certain things that if you -- if you want to marry another woman, that you can do that and have a contract. But the thing is, is the religious connotation of marriage that is being going on for thousands of years, I still want to preserve that. You probably could have both. You could have both traditional marriage which I believe in, and then you could also have the neutrality of the law that allows people to have contracts with another. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Gay people should be allowed to enter into legally binding contracts. Like humans. Wow, thanks Rand Paul. I think should be allowed to enter legally binding contracts too. Tell your wife I said hi or your lawyer or whoever. This is a time where presidential candidates are being hounded by the press to the point where the press is literally chasing their cars around Iowa like a bunch of 6-year-olds playing soccer. But one benefit of all that outsized attention is that it is still early enough in the process that these candidates are going to get asked questions when they have not worked out coherent answers to them. They are going to be working this stuff out out-loud talking about issues they would rather not be asked about. And that turns out to be a lot of fun. Joining us now is Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary to President Obama. It`s nice to see you, Robert. Thanks for being here. ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: How does the cultural war play in this election do you think? Or at least how is it playing thus far? GIBBS: Well, I mean look I think you pointed it out in your segment -- there are going to be a lot of issues, some local, some national, that candidates are going to want to jump on until they don`t want to jump on it and don`t want to answer it. So, look, I think there are -- and I`ve said this before for presidential candidates, there are probably a dozen trap doors every day that you`ve got to navigate around and figure out whether or not you`re going to entertain questions on this and what you`re going to say about them and does that exceed what you want to talk about on any given day and do you want to get into these issues. So, it`s going to be interesting and fascinating to watch. MADDOW: Are there similar trap doors for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or any other Democrats that she`s running against? I mean on the social issues right now, it seems to me like the Republicans have a real mind field to navigate between -- in terms of the difference between national opinion on these issues and what the Republican base feels. I don`t feel like there`s that same dance that needs to happen on the Democratic side. But, am I just missing something? GIBBS: I don`t think there`s probably as pronounced on social issues on the Democratic side. I have though doubt that there are a series of, you know -- my guess if you`re a reporter trying to make news with Hillary Clinton, you might ask her a series of things that the president supports, does she support them? You know, there are again -- I just think there are so many trap doors every day. On cultural issues I don`t think there`s any doubt that Republicans have a greater tightrope to walk. You saw the Indiana law I think probably as good an example as any because it got walked back so quickly, and you had such an outcry from businesses and business leaders across this country, many of whom are in Indiana, that wanted to do something a lot differently than what the governor ever in parts of the legislature wanted to do. MADDOW: At the same time, we`re seeing Bobby Jindal, himself a presumptive candidate for president, rushing full speed ahead in Louisiana, to do an unreconstructed sort of mega-Indiana-style bill. All of the 2016 candidates on the Republicans side are saying they`ve got no problem with what Mike Pence did in the first place. He only shouldn`t have walked it back. I mean that sets the Republican Party at odds with the business community that they try to speak for most of the time. GIBBS: Well, I think for some of these candidates, maybe like Governor Jindal, you`re trying to gain the notoriety quite frankly that the campaign or the exposure that the campaign has yet to bring you, to try to get on people`s radar screens. I don`t think it`s necessarily a strategy that`s either going to result in you getting the nomination or being in a place in which you can appeal to a broad number of people or enough people to be elected president. But I have no doubt that there are everyday going to be some of these issues that they want to talk about and some they don`t in order to try to get into the American consciousness and get on people`s television screens and inside their newspapers. MADDOW: Robert Gibbs, former press secretary for President Obama, MSNBC contributor -- it`s nice to see you, Robert. Thanks for being here. GIBBS: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Still ahead -- an extraordinary new visual perspective on one of the great shocks in American history. One that has not been displayed publicly anywhere you would have seen it. But that is coming up here. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) The fact that they believe that if you made eye contact with anybody other than the Senate president, it might make you less civil in your discourse and therefore less collegial in your legislature. If I am going to like talk incredible smack about Isaac and I have to look at Isaac while I do it, it would make me like -- it would be a mitigating factor, you know what I mean? PRODUCER ISAAC-DAVY ARONSON: Especially with my crazy eyes. MADDOW: Exactly. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) I hate Julia Nutter, easier to say than I hate (INAUDIBLE) (MUSIC) SUBTITLE: That story is coming up at the end of the show. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is an incredible story. Depending on how you figure it, Oklahoma City is 500 miles from anything that might count as ocean. If you want to spend a day at the beach and you`re starting in Oklahoma City, you will want to allow eight hours or so for a drive to the nearest ocean at the Gulf of Mexico. Oklahoma has many charms but views of the ocean are not among them. And yet, right there in Oklahoma City, you will find a gigantic anchor. This anchor weighs ten tons. It is huge. Truly huge. And the reason that anchor is there in the middle of landlocked Oklahoma is that that anchor used to belong to a U.S. Navy ship named after the Sooner State. The battleship USS Oklahoma was built for use in World War I in the Atlantic. The Navy later modernized the Oklahoma and brought it to the Pacific. And on the morning of December 7th, 1941, the USS Oklahoma was one of eight U.S. battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. And we all know what happened there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL GOODYEAR, USS OKLAHOMA: They were coming in from our starboard side. We were watching them. NARRATOR: Torpedoes. You`re seeing what he did. He remembers how it felt. GOODYEAR: Just like one of my aunts used to shake me, it does, it shakes it. It would move that 29,000-ton ship. I wasn`t worried about the Oklahoma. I was worried about me, so I just started running. Want to know the truth. This ship was 90 degrees over and I could see it was going farther. NARRATOR: Goodyear jumped from the ship. Within 10 minutes, the USS Oklahoma had rolled over trapping 429 men in her watery tomb. GOODYEAR: I have prayed that most of the kids down there were killed by the torpedoes and didn`t suffocate and drown. I think that`s the thing that haunts most Oklahoma men. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Four hundred and twenty-nine men or, as he said, many of them not more than kids died on board that ship. Only 40 or so have ever been identified. Most of the others, the other 380 plus men who died are buried here at the national memorial cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. They are memorialized buried with honor as men who went down with the USS Oklahoma. But they are not buried as individuals. They`re buried as a group. And that might be about to change. Today, the Pentagon announced that they will exhume the remains of those lost service members from the USS Oklahoma, so they can do the analysis that could identify them individually and get those sailors home to their families for a final resting place all these years later. Pentagon officials now believe they have the technology and the know- how to get this done three-quarters of a century after the sinking of the Oklahoma, so they`re going to try. Rear Admiral Mike Franken saying today that the Defense Department is now, quote, "prepared to begin this solemn undertaking." Solemn undertaking, indeed -- just an amazing story. We will let you know more as we learn more. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. is a national treasure. It`s a Smithsonian Museum. It`s free to the public. It`s yours after all. The National Portrait Gallery is full of portraits of U.S. presidents like this, it`s very strange one of Richard Nixon which somewhat incongruously was painted by Norman Rockwell. Portrait Gallery also has a giant collection of U.S. presidential portraits they hang around the museum with great care. Not everything is hanging out at once but everything sort of gets a turn. They also have portraits of other famous Americans and famous artists like this awesome self-portrait by the artist Joan Brown. On the left that`s Andy Warhol`s portrait of the artist Jamie Wyeth. On the right, that`s artist Jamie Wyeth`s portrait of Andy Warhol. Both of those are at the National Portrait Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery is just great, amazing portraits of all kinds. And there`s this -- this exists. There is, in fact, a portrait of Stephen Colbert at the National Portrait Gallery. Last year, they hung that portrait of Stephen Colbert after he waged sort of a campaign about it on his show. They ended up hanging it on the second floor of the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery. They hang it right in between the men`s bathroom and the women`s bathroom, and right above a nice brass water fountain. The National Portrait Gallery hung this Stephen Colbert portrait that last year. Now, they say, though, they are giving it back. They`re taking it down and sending it back to Comedy Central because Stephen Colbert`s show is over. Who will they put back over the water fountain to replace him? What we choose to show in our excellent National Museums says something about us as a people, about what we believe about ourselves, about what we want to remember from our history and maybe what we want to forget. What we choose not to display in public can also say just as much about us as what we show. And that story about what we are emphatically refusing to look at, that story is just ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A hundred and fifty years ago on a Friday night, a German artist named Carl Bersch was sitting on his balcony in Washington, D.C. sketching the scene of the locals celebrating the surrender of the Confederate Army, the victory of the Union, the ending the civil war. And then a little after 10:00 that night, the scene that he was sketching changed rapidly, and people started shouting that everybody need to clear the streets because the president had just been shot. And when that scene in the street changed, Carl Bersch began sketching this, which is what he ended up seeing that night. The title of this painting is "Lincoln Born By Loving Hands". Carl Bersch recorded what he saw that night using the tools that he had. That night in 1865, 150 ago tonight, Carl Bersch created the only eyewitness visual document we have of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the effort to keep him alive after he had been shot. But as Michael Ruane of "The Washington Post" reports, a century and a half down the road, nobody seems to want to show that painting. It wasn`t publicly displayed at all for the first 60 years of its existence. And after 60 years, it was lent out to the Lincoln Museum inside Ford Theatre, the site of the assassination. Then, it was willed to the White House which did not display it. Then, it was transferred to the Park Service. Now, finally, it has found a home in the resource center of the National Park Service`s museum. They say it does get lent out from time to time, but mostly it lives in storage. It has been a century and a half since President Lincoln`s assassination. Apparently, we can still scarcely bare to look. This is the only eyewitness account. We spoke to the National Park Museum`s curator today who said she doesn`t know why Carl Bersch`s painting is not a permanent fixture at somewhere like the Lincoln Museum at Ford`s Theatre or any other museum for that matter -- but it`s not. The one eyewitness account we do have of that assassination and the effort to save Lincoln, it really is stuck in a storage facility in Maryland. At some point as a nation, maybe we will be ready to see the real painting and not just pictures of the painting. But 150 years ago tonight, that artist Carl Bersch knew that night that that moment needed recording. It says something about the trauma of that moment that we still do not want to see it 150 years later. The painting is called "Lincoln Born By Loving Hands". (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, if you ever find yourself in a robust debate in the Minnesota Senate, you had better observe Senate Rule 36-8 which reads as follows, quote, "All remarks during debate shall be addressed to the president." The idea is by not addressing each other, the Minnesota Senate will somehow remain more civil. It means whenever you are talking in the Minnesota Senate, you have to talk to the Senate president. It doesn`t matter if you`re answering a question from another member of the Senate or arguing with somebody or even talking about a friend of yourself or making a point about them. The only person you are allowed to look at is the Senate president. You have to maintain eye contact with that specific person. Sandy Pappas, you got something to say? You are only allowed to say it to Sandy Pappas. No matter what it is you have to say, stare at Sandy Pappas while you say it. Yesterday, Senate members tried to amend the rule so they could look at somebody else, anybody else, please? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE SEN. WARREN LIMMER (R), MINNESOTA: I find the -- this particular rule of the Senate, dare I say, antiquated. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Antiquated? How dare you? Say that to my face! Oh, that`s right. You can`t unless I`m Sandy Pappas. I`m sorry. Carry on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LIMMER: You know, if I wanted to have a historical reference to something, I certainly would turn to my good friend and colleague, Senator Cohen. So, if I wanted to talk to something that was going on in the judiciary committee, I`d want to turn and visit with Senator Laff (ph). (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What if I wanted to talk to my friend over there, I think, about that person, Sandy? The Senate voted down the amendment, 44-15. The eye contact amendment, they decided not to change it. And so, that means you must continue to stare directly into the eyes of Sandy Pappas whenever you are doing the business of the Minnesota state Senate, 44-15. That is one thing to keep in mind if you are thinking about running for the Minnesota Senate. No direct eye contact. Same thing with bears. Yesterday, members of that same Senate also tried to change a rule that bars beverages of any kind on the Senate floor. They wanted to change that rule to allow senators to drink water if they need to. That bill was voted down. No water. Hydrate on your own time, bucko. You can`t do that at work. The Minnesota Senate is a weirder place than I imaged it might be. But if you have an issue with that, tell it only to Sandy Pappas. Direct your grievances right into the steely gaze of Sandy Pappas, Minnesota Senate president. That is your only option. Tell her. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END