Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 18, 2016 Guest: Hillary Clinton
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You`re exactly right. The big question in the Republican Party is who`s the Republican Party, especially on foreign policy and national security after Bush and Cheney. And in the Democratic Party, it`s who do Democrats want to vote for --
MADDOW: -- in the Democratic Party after Barack Obama. Both totally open questions at this point.
HAYES: And we don`t know anything. That`s what makes this interesting.
MADDOW: That`s what makes it fun coming to work every day. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Martin Luther King Day.
And in addition, if you are a resident of Mississippi, Alabama, or Arkansas, technically, I should also wish you happy Robert E. Lee Day. I`m not kidding. In those three states, they have decided to celebrate their official state observance of Martin Luther King`s birthday coincident with an additional state holiday celebrated on the same day to commemorate one of the Confederate generals from the American civil war.
People don`t believe me -- I try to say this every year. I try to do this as a little public service reminder. People do not believe me. But look. It`s true.
This is the official announcement on the website of the great state of Mississippi. You see it there in the upper left-hand corner, the secretary of state official seal for Mississippi. And then there`s the listing for today`s holiday in Mississippi. Martin Luther King and is Robert E. Lee`s birthdays. Both celebrated the third Monday in January. That`s Mississippi.
Here it is on the website, official website of the state of Alabama. They just conveniently put it on this little calendar. And you can see on their calendar they actually put Robert E. Lee first.
In Alabama today is Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King`s birthday. And on the calendar actually right next to today`s date that got a little thumbs up.
In Arkansas, and this is a particularly awkward listing, you can download the announcement of the joint holiday honoring both Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee from the Arkansas state website. And Arkansas state government conveniently gives you the choice of downloading that holiday bulletin either in color or in black and white.
Maybe, you know, you can post them over the drinking fountain or whatever.
Today, marks the 30th year that Martin Luther King`s birthday has been honored as a federal holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into federal law in 1983. It was observed for the first time federally in 1986, 30 years ago today.
But because of ongoing conservative opposition to any sort of honor for Dr. King, even though the federal observance technically started 30 years ago, it was not until the year 2000 that every last begrudging state in the Union finally started to celebrate it.
And again, I swear, believe me when I tell you, Alabama and Mississippi and Arkansas still only celebrate it by combining it with an equal honor for a slave-holding confederate general.
Today on the campaign trail, as best as we can tell, most of the Republican presidential field did not do special events or go to special commemorations for Martin Luther King day today.
One exception is Ben Carson. Dr. Carson rode in a parade in a very snazzy black convertible in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He participated in that king day event.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump does not appear to have gone anywhere or done anything that he was not already going to do today because of the holiday specifically.
But when Mr. Trump did give a speech today at Liberty University, he did in his own inimitable Donald Trump way, give Dr. King kind of a shout out, which also managed to be all about himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wow. Oh, this is so -- you get those teleprompters out of here. We`re going to have some fun, right?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Get those teleprompters. We have a president -- you know, our president. And I`m not talking about this -- I`m talking about that president. We don`t like those teleprompters.
I will say this. It`s an honor to be here and especially on Martin Luther King Day. We broke the record. You know, we had the record for about three or four years the last time.
And the first thing I said to Jerry and Becky when I got here, did we break the record? They said yes, you did, by quite a bit. So, we`ll dedicate that to Martin Luther King, a great man. And that`s a little bit of an achievement, I will tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To be clear, the achievement he is talking about there is his own crowd size, which he has decided to sign over as an accolade to the memory of Martin Luther King on the occasion of the federal observance of his birthday.
On the Democratic side, all three Democratic presidential candidates woke up today in South Carolina after their South Carolina debate last night, and incidentally, we just got the audience figure, speaking of crowd size, for the NBC debate last night in South Carolina.
This had been expected to be a bit of a bust in terms of viewership because they scheduled it for Sunday night in the middle of a holiday weekend when most people have Monday off. In fact, the debate did pretty well. It did better than the last two Democratic debates, got over 10 million viewers on NBC last night.
So, that was last night. South Carolina. This morning all three Democratic candidates participated in events in South Carolina to commemorate Martin Luther King Day. There was a prayer breakfast. There was a march. There was also this year`s observation of what has basically become a modern civil rights tradition in South Carolina. It`s called King Day at the Dome.
Every year, civil rights groups and politicians and South Carolinians convene at the state house in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Day. And it`s usually basically a protest of the fact that the Confederate flag is still flying on the state house grounds in South Carolina. That`s what this day has been for years in that state.
Well, this year, for the first time, King Day at the dome was among other things a celebration of that flag being down once and for all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s wonderful to be here in South Carolina facing the rising sun of this new day begun and to be here in the absence of the Confederate battle flag.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, South Carolina!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
What a beautiful morning for King Day at the Dome, and how wonderful it is to be here together without the Confederate flag overhead.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
That flag always belonged in a museum, not at the state house. I want to thank Governor Haley and the legislature for finally taking it down.
And, by the way, Brie Newsom deserves credit too for doing what a lot of people wanted to do, shimmying up that flagpole.
But you know who else deserves credit? Each and every one of you, because every year you`ve gathered right here and said that that symbol of division and racism went against everything Dr. King stood for.
We couldn`t celebrate him and the confederacy. We had to choose. And South Carolina finally made the right choice.
Oh, I know that some of you have never missed a single King Day at the dome. And I hope you feel a lot of pride today, because a lot of people are grateful to you, not just in South Carolina but across our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this morning while speaking at the South Carolina state capitol.
When she mentioned Brie Newsom there, do you remember who that is? She was talking about the activist who took the Confederate flag down herself as an act of civil disobedience before the South Carolina legislature voted to take it down.
You probably remember that just very dramatic footage of her climbing that flagpole. She was wearing climbing gear, grabbing the flag in her hands and then her coming down. Praying out loud as she very peacefully submitted to being arrested for having done that.
That was illegal, what Brie Newsom did that day. And that`s why she got arrested for it. But what she did, taking down the flag, is now truth. It`s now the law of the land in South Carolina. And the flag is down.
And so, she got that shout out today from Hillary Clinton as a direct action activist for helping make what happened in South Carolina possible.
I should tell you that we think, we cannot promise but we think that we might be getting a phone interview, a live phone interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this hour. It`s a bit of logistic -- the reason I think, it`s because it`s a little bit of a logistical matter. Secretary Clinton just wrapped up a campaign event in Iowa.
We are hoping to catch her before the end of this hour. It`s a little dicey in terms of the logistics, what we think we`re getting here. I will keep you posted. We might be speaking to Hillary Clinton live in just a moment.
Today marks two weeks exactly until the Iowa caucuses. Even though she and Senator Sanders both got pretty high marks from observers in terms of their performance in last night`s debate, it is Secretary Clinton who got the very, very good news today in polling.
Today, the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" national poll came out on the Democratic presidential nomination and that poll has Secretary Clinton leading Senator Sanders by 25 points nationwide. Clinton at 59, Sanders at 34, and Martin O`Malley trailing way behind at 2 percent. Again, a national poll, NBC/"Wall Street Journal."
Interestingly, though, in addition to that straight up polling, Nate Silver`s Web site, fivethirtyeight.com has also started doing its state by state predictions. And it`s a little controversial. What they do at fivethirtyeight.com is looking at not just straight up polls but also other things like endorsements that they think are important factors for predicting who`s going to win a particular state.
At fivethirtyeight.com, they combine polling with a whole bunch of other kinds of data and thereby produce a percentage likelihood for who they expect to win in each state. They don`t predict how much they think they`re going to win by. They just predict who they think is going to win. What the likelihood is that one candidate or the other will win.
And whether or not you like that kind of hybrid approach where you combine polling with other data, whether or not you like that form of analysis or are comfortable with it, I should tell you this system at fivethirtyeight.com correctly predicted the outcome of every single state, plus the District of Columbia in the 2012 presidential race. So, it is of interest.
And today, exactly two weeks from Iowa, fivethirtyeight.com says the likelihood that Hillary Clinton will win Iowa is 80 percent. Bernie Sanders likely, 20 percent likely to win. Hillary Clinton 80 percent likely to win.
And look at this, this is New Hampshire. If you just look at straight- ahead polling in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders is ahead by a pretty good margin in that state. But fivethirtyeight.com today says that Hillary Clinton actually has a 57 percent chance of winning in New Hampshire and Bernie Sanders has a 43 percent chance of winning in New Hampshire.
Those predictions again are just predictions. But they have to be very satisfying predictions for the Hillary Clinton campaign coming off of last night`s debate. Again, because of the ridiculous Democratic Party debate schedule. There will not be another Democratic debate before the voting in the Iowa caucuses on February 1st and the New Hampshire primary on February 9th.
Now, on the Republican side, fivethirtyeight.com has also put out its predictions for both New Hampshire and Iowa. On the Republican side in New Hampshire, it looks like a heck of a race. Fivethirtyeight.com today says that Donald Trump has the highest possibility of winning New Hampshire, but they still only give him a 39 percent chance of winning. And yes, that`s higher than everybody else, but it`s still not all that high.
Marco Rubio according to their calculations, has the second highest probability of winning New Hampshire according to fivethirtyeight.com. He`s at 19 percent. But that`s a tough one, New Hampshire.
In Iowa, this is fascinating. You`ve seen all the recent polling that puts Ted Cruz in the catbird`s seat in Iowa. Fivethirtyeight.com as of today, they do pick Ted Cruz as the most likely Republican to win in Iowa but they only give him a 51 percent chance of winning.
So, if you believe fivethirtyeight.com and their hybrid prediction model of combining polling with endorsements and other data, if you believe them the Democratic race is not as close as it might otherwise appear. And the Republican race is even closer than you think.
We will talk -- if the logistical gods concur, we will be talking with Hillary Clinton about that and much more in just a moment, coming up.
MADDOW: Look at this big room. This is an event that is under way right now. I think just wrapping up right now in Birmingham, Alabama. Look at the size of that room.
This is a rally in Birmingham, Alabama, of all places, held as you can see here by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. This is tonight. Really big turnout, obviously. Senator Sanders was introduced at tonight`s rally by Professor Cornel West.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both started the day today in South Carolina. Senator Sanders then went to Alabama. Secretary Clinton then flew from South Carolina to Iowa.
And then after her Iowa event tonight, in a hot minute she`s going to be talking to me. That`s just ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When Ronald Reagan ran against President Jimmy Carter in the presidential election of 1980, one of the huge national security issues that hung over that election like a rain cloud was the more than 60 Americans who`d been held as hostages by Iran since November the previous year.
Iran had its fundamentalist revolution in 1979. In November 1979, radicals stormed the U.S. embassy and took all those Americans hostage.
And then the following year, nearly a year into that ordeal, while the U.S. presidential election was coming to its end, Iran`s view of the world and of its most pressing problems in the world changed pretty dramatically because Iran got invaded.
In September 1980, Saddam Hussein`s Iraq invaded their much larger neighbor to the east. Iraq launched a full-scale conventional warfare invasion of Iran and thus started the unbelievably bloody Iran-Iraq war which would go on for eight solid years without a break and that would kill more than a million people including lots and lots and lots of kids.
So, that started, the terrible Iran-Iraq War started. It started five weeks before the U.S. presidential election in 1980.
And even though Iran by that point had been holding all these Americans hostage for more than a year, Iran decided that they would do a deal to let the American hostages out. And one of the reasons why is that they knew the deal would involve a lot of money. One of the things they would be trading the hostages for was the freeing up of Iranian assets. And they desperately needed that because of the giant conventional land war they had just entered into with one of their neighboring countries. They needed the money.
And so, as President Carter campaigned for his re-election in the 1980 campaign, Carter administration officials were hard at work in negotiation with the Iranians to get the American hostages out.
And the Iranians, by all accounts, really hated President Jimmy Carter. I mean, they hated America generally but they particularly hated President Carter. And they negotiated a deal to free the hostages that would go into effect the day that President Carter left office.
And so, Ronald Reagan had his Inauguration Day. At 8:31 that morning, the outgoing president jimmy carter advised the incoming president, Ronald Reagan, oh, by the way, the hostages are getting out today.
And then, Ronald Reagan was sworn in and in Tehran the planes carrying the hostages took off. At 2:00 in the afternoon that day the newly sworn-in President Ronald Reagan was able to make the announcement that at long last after 14 months those hostages were coming home.
And then the first thing that he did as a former president, Jimmy Carter, who negotiated the release of the prisoners and who got it done as his last act as president, the first thing he did as a former president is that he flew to Germany to greet the freed Americans. And the crowd held signs that said, "Thanks, Jimmy." He did it. Took him to the last moments of his presidency but he got them out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is worth emphasizing that Iran released our hostages in 1981 the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which is true. But he didn`t do it. Ronald Reagan didn`t do it by waving a magic wand as soon as he got inaugurated. Jimmy Carter did it.
It`s funny, though. This year`s Republican presidential candidates, they like to bring up Ronald Reagan whenever Iran comes up in any conversation. Rand Paul did it at that same debate where you just saw Ted Cruz was speaking. Chris Christie randomly brought up Ronald Reagan in his first campaign ad about Iran.
This weekend, Marco Rubio raised the specter of President Reagan while he lambasted the Obama administration for getting four Americans freed this weekend from Iranian prisons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: So, under President Rubio, you would not have negotiated any sort of prisoner exchange for those four American hostages?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDDIDATE: When I was -- when I become president of the United States, our adversaries around the world will know that America is no longer under the command of someone weak like Barack Obama. And it will be like Ronald Reagan, where as soon as he took office, the hostages were released from Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Because Jimmy Carter made the arrangements. It really wasn`t magic.
But Senator Rubio is saying essentially that he himself is like Ronald Reagan in that he would never trade anything with Iran. He would never negotiate with Iran on American prisoners or anything. Just like Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that`s true. But the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After Jimmy Carter got the 1979-1980 era American hostages freed from Iran, President Reagan during his presidency had to deal with a new slew of American hostages, taken by groups supported by Iran, particularly in Lebanon, and not only did President Reagan negotiate with Iran to try to get those Americans freed, he negotiated a deal that involved illegally shipping Iran a bunch of weapons in secret.
And did I mention it wasn`t legal? And it didn`t work. And it was the biggest scandal of his presidency and one of the larger and more salacious presidential scandals of all time, particularly since it resulted at one point in the criminal indictment of most of the president`s serving national security staff.
But that, Ronald Reagan, that is who today`s Republican presidential candidates like to cite as a role model for handling Iran. They like to cite the president who made an Iran deal so bad that he secretly sold Iran weapons and he still didn`t get the hostages out.
The great and big-hearted E.J. Dionne at "The Washington Post" has an excellent book out called "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond." And it is a great book, and the central thesis of the book is, that I`m quoting E.J. here, "The history of American conservatism is a story of disappointment and betrayal."
In the opening chapters of the book are about Ronald Reagan and among other things, this fascinating and weird development in our time in which Ronald Reagan is basically deliberately misremembered on the right. How Ronald Reagan`s real record has been submarined and all of his faults and compromises have been ascribed to other people and not to him.
So, conservatives can have one hero in modern history about whom they don`t feel terrible disappointment and betrayal. They basically reinvented Reagan as perfect. Even on Iran of all things, because they need something to believe in, even if it`s fake.
But because he`s E.J. Dionne, he says it much more nicely than that and with way more footnotes. Joining us now is the great and big-hearted "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne.
E.J., it`s great to see you. Congratulations on this.
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: I -- the whole book is not about Reagan, but this element of Reagan being remembered as perfect because modern conservatives need a hero is a very evocative thesis to me.
DIONNE: Well, I think it`s absolutely true. And right at the beginning of the book I quote a conservative Charles Krauthammer who says you can choose your Reagan.
DIONNE: Because I think one of the ways in which conservatives can hold Ronald Reagan up is -- there`s different kinds of conservatives, remember different Reagans. A lot of the Tea Party conservatives remember the movement Reagan. At the beginning I quote Chris McDaniel, that right-wing candidate down in Mississippi who remembers this really hard-line Reagan.
And then I quote Governor Haley Barbour who remembers Ronald Reagan as a very flexible guy. Purity is the enemy of victory says Hailey Barbour.
But if you actually go back at that time, there were a lot of conservatives who were very critical of Reagan, among other things for being too dovish. He committed those troops to Lebanon. I was there at the time. It was a terrible mistake. But then he pulled them out. And he --
MADDOW: He said he wouldn`t pull them out and then he pulled them out. Yes.
DIONNE: Which was the right thing to do. Only it was too late. There were conservatives who criticized him for not sending troops down to Central America.
But I think one of the things that saved Reagan is the presidency of George H.W. Bush. In a way, George H.W. Bush died for Ronald Reagan`s sins, because when Reagan raised taxes seven or eight times that didn`t matter, but when Bush raised taxes, that became a great sin.
MADDOW: He became sort of a heat shield in that sense? Anything that Reagan had done that conservatives didn`t like, they decided it was a Poppy Bush problem.
DIONNE: Exactly. And I think the border problem is -- I appreciate your doing the opening sentence because I think this sense of betrayal on the part of conservatives, even if they hold Reagan off, reflects the fact that ever since Goldwater`s time, and I take it all the way back to Goldwater, conservative politicians have had to make a series of promises to the conservative base that they couldn`t possibly keep.
They promised a much smaller government but the country doesn`t really want it. Even Tea Partiers who are on Social Security and Medicare don`t want a smaller government. They promised to roll back cultural change, but guess what?
Most of the country actually supports the cultural changes since the 1960s. Most of the country supports equality between men and women. Now, most of the country supports gay marriage.
So, you have all these conservatives out there who feel we elect our guys and then they don`t get done the things that they said they get done, and I think that gives us this campaign, where Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the two leading candidates of the primaries.
MADDOW: And the -- I mean, it`s not incidental that Goldwater who sets this tone is the Goldwater who lost and never had to govern by the principles that he was articulating. And the Goldwater who ended up repenting later in life when some of his hardest-line positions is one who would have not been welcome in the party today.
DIONNE: Right. And Ronald Reagan did a lot of things that would not be welcomed in the party today as well. And when you look at -- I also had a lot of fun in the book talking about Richard Nixon because Richard Nixon is such an ambiguous figure. In some ways he was one of the most liberal presidents we have had if you look at the creation of EPA, the creation of the Occupational Safety Administration, but he was also one of the hardest- line presidents on race, on law and order.
And if you go back to history, his staff reflected this double mind of Richard Nixon. And again, he really contributed to this cycle of disappointment on the right.
MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, the book is "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From Goldwater To The Tea Party and Beyond." Everybody keeps talking about Donald Trump and to a lesser extent Ted Cruz like they`re a big surprise. This is the explanation of why it`s not a surprise. Congratulations.
DIONNE: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead. And if all goes well, I`ll be speaking with Hillary Clinton in a second.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Lester, I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what`s happening in Flint, Michigan.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And I think every single American should be outraged. We`ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead- contaminated water.
And the governor of that state acted as though he didn`t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I`ll tell you what. If the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secretary Clinton was right, and what I did, which I think is also right, is demanded the resignation of the governor -- a man who acts that irresponsibly should not stay in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Democratic presidential candidates were not asked last night about the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan. But first Hillary Clinton and then Bernie Sanders went out of their way to bring it up of their own accord at the close of the debate last night.
This weekend, on Saturday, President Obama granted Michigan Governor Rick Snyder`s request for a federal emergency declaration in Flint. That frees up $5 million in federal money for bottled water, water filters, and lead testing kits. So, the president said yes to the federal emergency declaration.
But the president said no to Governor Snyder`s request that the federal government should also spend tens of millions of dollars to replace Flint`s ruined water pipes. The Snyder administration is appealing that part of the decision. But even if the state wins that appeal and gets everything it has asked for, it would still just be a fraction of what Flint needs.
In Governor Snyder`s letter to the president this weekend requesting help, the governor estimates that the total cost of replacing Flint`s damaged water infrastructure is more like 3/4 of a billion dollars. They`re not asking for anywhere near that. Whether or not they get it.
Where`s that kind of money going to come from? Especially because the only reason the pipes are all ruined is because of something the Snyder administration did.
President Obama is heading to Detroit the day after tomorrow. He`s going to be there on Wednesday. No word on whether he might pay a visit to Flint on that trip. But it is only about an hour`s drive north. Just saying.
When pressed in an interview with the "National Journal" tonight, Governor Rick Snyder said that it is fair to call the Flint crisis his Katrina. He also said in that same interview that he is not considering resigning as governor but he said he is considering releasing all of his e-mails released to the flint crisis, something he has not yet done, but that the "Flint Journal" and the "Detroit Free Press" are now basically hounding him daily to do.
To top it all off, tomorrow night, Rick Snyder is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address in the middle of all this. He`s going to have to make the case to the people of Michigan for how he`s going to continue to lead the state when he has become such a poster child for bad governance that the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination is now making his name part of her stump speech.
Hillary Clinton talked about Flint again today at a Martin Luther King Day event in South Carolina. She called the Flint water crisis a civil rights issue.
Secretary Clinton joins us live, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: When African-American kids are 500 times more likely to die from asthma than white kids and when the children of majority black Flint, Michigan, have been drinking and bathing in lead-poisoned water for more than a year, making sure all Americans have clean air and water isn`t just a health issue. It`s a civil rights issue. We would be outraged if this happened to white kids, and we should be outraged that it`s happening right now to black kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton today in Columbia, South Carolina, saying the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday lives on in the national outrage over the lead poisoning of the kids of Flint, Michigan.
Joining us now from Iowa is the former secretary of state, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
CLINTON (via telephone): Thanks so much, Rachel. It`s good to talk to you again.
MADDOW: I know you are casting Flint, Michigan, as a civil rights issue, which makes it a federal issue by extension. This weekend, President Obama approved $5 million in some limited aid for FEMA. He did deny Michigan`s request for more help to rebuild Flint`s infrastructure.
I wanted to know your reaction to that decision by the president.
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think it`s really important for the federal government to get in. It`s been unconscionable, as you`ve pointed out, for the residents of an American city to be living with water so dangerous that G.M. won`t even use it because it was corroding their car parts.
And I think it`s important that the federal government really push the government of Michigan, particularly Governor Snyder, to ask to set up a comprehensive health monitoring for kids who`ve been exposed. I know that the Obama administration is standing ready to assist, but the governor needs to make the ask. And he needs to make it now for the sake of those children.
The state of Michigan also needs to do its part in dealing with the long- term health and infrastructure issues. They created this disaster in the first place through their negligence and incompetence, and the governor and his administration apparently knew or had reason to know that the water was contaminated and chose not to take action.
So, this is an environmental (INAUDIBLE) issue, a health issue, in every way that we can imagine a crisis of the first order. So, we`ve got to keep pressing the state to ask for what the federal government can provide, and as I said on your show, we need to keep helping and pushing the federal government to see what it can do to actually intervene and do more for the people.
MADDOW: When you brought up the Flint crisis at the debate last night, you went out of your way to do so. You weren`t asked about it directly but you brought it up. Senator Sanders then talked about it too. Senator Sanders says that he wants Governor Snyder to resign over this issue. The governor of Michigan responded to you two on Twitter. He said, "Political statements and finger-pointing from political candidates only distract from solving the Flint water crisis."
Do you have any response to that?
CLINTON: Well, I do, because thanks to what we have done, and you`ve been a big part of this, the national spotlight is shining on the horrible situation in Flint. And it`s clear that as attention has increased so has the governor`s apparent willingness to deal seriously with the issue. I don`t call that politicizing. I`d call that getting results.
And I think we should take advantage of the fact that the country is coming together behind the people of Flint. But I think we`ve got to make sure we do everything we`re supposed to do to help the children and families that have been drinking and bathing in this poisonous lead-contaminated water while their representatives in state government did nothing. That`s why I keep reiterating the governor needs to request comprehensive health monitoring of kids who may have been exposed to lead. I think the state should set up what I think should be called a future fund to take care of children who`ve been poisoned.
And looking at where the state of Michigan is, the governor is actually sitting on a budget surplus and a rainy day fund, and as far as I`m concerned, if there were ever a rainy day in Flint, it`s right now and the money should be forthcoming.
MADDOW: Last night`s debate, Madam Secretary, was the last Democratic debate until mid-February. I`m struck by the fact that even though the Republicans just had a debate and they`re about to have another debate before Iowa, there isn`t another Democratic debate before Iowa or before the primary in New Hampshire.
Do you wish there were more debates? Are you enjoying these debates when they do happen?
CLINTON: I love the debates. I really do. I feel that it gives me a chance to get up on the stage and explain my positions, answer questions from the moderators, draw contrasts with my opponents. So, it`s been a good experience for me so far. And I think it`s helped me make my case for my candidacy.
MADDOW: The sparse Democratic Party debate schedule this year, particularly when compared to the Republicans, a lot of people in the political press have ascribed that to your campaign, have ascribed that decision to your campaign essentially wanting a low-profile and spare debate schedule. Whether or not now looking back you think it was a good decision, is it true that your campaign advocated for a light schedule and particularly these debates being on in TV Siberia, on weekends and holidays?
CLINTON: Well, Rachel, I really don`t have any knowledge of that. I`m not saying that nobody representing me or the other campaigns didn`t express an opinion. But it was my understanding that in looking at the sequencing of these debates, looking at the numbers of people who watched back in `08, there was a decision to try to have a monthly debate once people were beginning to pay attention and try to drive more viewership. And actually I believe that we`ve had more viewers on average this year than we did back in `08.
So, I`m not going to substitute my judgment for whatever the thought process was. But as to when they`ve been scheduled, again, what I`m told is that they were partnered with broadcast and networks that wanted to provide the time. And indeed for most broadcast networks, Saturday or Sunday was preferable.
But because the viewership has been above average, I think people feel like there is a message in their process.
MADDOW: Well, if you and Senator Sanders and Governor O`Malley ever decide that you want more and you don`t want to negotiate, it you can all just show up here and I`ll help.
CLINTON: Well, we did have that great forum that you moderated.
MADDOW: In South Carolina. That`s right.
CLINTON: I think that got -- yes. That got a lot of good response. So, we sure have enough attention to this campaign.
So I hope whatever the format is for getting us before the voters, it will encourage even more people to come out and caucus and come out and vote in the primaries.
MADDOW: Let me ask you, one last question about the sort of state of the Democratic race. I know that you say you that don`t follow poll to poll and you don`t necessarily think that every poll tells a compelling story. But there`s new polling analysis that`s out today from fivethirtyeight.com and they`ve got a very good predictive track record.
And they say that -- today that you are more likely than Senator Sanders to win both in Iowa and in New Hampshire, despite his particularly good numbers in New Hampshire right now. If you -- if they`re right, if you do beat him and you become the nominee, what is your plan to try to get Senator Sanders`s supporters to back you?
We just showed footage of him tonight in Alabama. He`s got this huge crowd. We all know from public information that he`s got millions of individual donors. If you win the nomination, how do you win Bernie Sanders supporters over, especially now that you`re being so tough with him and his record?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, Rachel, I don`t pay attention to the polling when it`s good or bad because I think it`s distracting. I`m just going to keep working as hard as I can to convince as many people to support me as possible. So, I don`t want to put any, you know, carts before the horse here.
I think it`s important to stay focused on what we have to do in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in Nevada and South Carolina, and then right after South Carolina, we have March 1st, where there`s a large number of states that will be holding contests.
But if I am so fortunate as to be the Democratic nominee, I`m going to work as hard as I can to reach out to supporters of my opponents and particularly to help do what I hope would be successful in making the case for their support going into the general election. You know, I remember how hard I had to work back in `08 to convince a lot of my supporters to support President Obama. And you recall, I nominated him at the Democratic Convention in Denver, put my whole self on the line to make the case that whatever differences we might have had in our very long primary, they paled in comparison to the differences we had with the Republicans.
And I believed with all my heart, it would be a terrible result if by some combination of misfortune or indifference, the Republicans were to take back the White House. I can`t even imagine everything that would be disrupted and the clock turned back on.
So, I`m not going to -- I`m not going to talk about what hasn`t happened yet. But if it were to happen, I would work very hard to earn the support of anybody who either supported my opponent or wasn`t involved in the primaries or even people who under normal circumstances might have voted for the Republican Party, but if they nominate someone who is likely to be a very contentious presence in our country, you know, making sure that everybody understands what`s at stake. And I hope I could be successful in doing that.
MADDOW: That last prospect that you raised, are you talking specifically about the Republican front-runner or is there a number of candidates you`re thinking of there?
CLINTON: Well, I think a number of them -- in fact, all of them -- have said things that I find not only factually wrong but divisive and problems we face in the country. I`ve just been coming from an event we had in a small town here in Iowa, and I said, I don`t know who the Republican candidates talk to. They sure aren`t talking to the people I`m talking to or, you know, struggling with three jobs, or trying to afford college or burdened by debt, or unable to pay for their description drug costs, and so many more of the very personal problems people share with me.
I don`t know who these people talk to on the other side of the aisle because I think maybe they just have a cast of actors that they move from site to site because they`re sure not hearing the stories and the concerns about what the next president is going to have to try to deal with. And so, I think all of them would be a very bad choice for our country.
MADDOW: Former secretary of state, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton -- I really appreciate you taking the time to call in tonight from Iowa. Thank you so much, Madam Secretary.
CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you. Take care. Bye-bye.
MADDOW: You, too. Thank you.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s been a pretty remarkable situation unfolding over the last few hours in San Francisco. Earlier tonight, a big group of protesters completely shut down one part of the Bay Bridge, which is the big bridge that connects San Francisco and Oakland. Protesters stopped traffic essentially by driving to the middle of the bridge, stopping their cars, and then chaining themselves to their cars and to each other.
The group is apparently an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement. They say they took this action on the bay bridge tonight to protest police brutality. There were protests across the Bay Area tonight tying to the Martin Luther King holiday, but this was clearly the most dramatic and most consequential for people who did not expect to be caught up in a major protest today.
Traffic on the Bay Bridge shut down for more than 45 minutes. Those lanes have now been reopened. Police say more than a dozens of the protesters were arrested.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I like Congress better, but I will say the British parliamentary system has such high standards in terms of expected levels of elocution and oratory from random members of parliament that even if they`re debating like kibble versus wet food, even if they`re debating something that you really do not care about, if it`s happening in the British parliament, it almost always sounds awesome -- and not just because of the accents but because they`re really good at debating.
So, their debates are fun even when you don`t care. But when they are debating whether or not Donald Trump should be allowed in that country, when they`re debating if he is too odious a person to be allowed to cross their border, that makes their usually fun stuff all the more riveting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL FLYNN, LABOUR MEMBRE OF PARLIAMENT: The first petition has been signed by more people than any other in this parliament. It`s signed by 573,971 signatures. And it calls to block Donald J. Trump from U.K. entry.
THOMAS TUGENDHAT, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Now, while I think this man is crazy, while I think this man has no valid points to make, I will not be the one to silence his voice.
PAUL SCULLY, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: I`ve heard of a number of cases where people have been excluded for incitement or for hatred. I`ve never heard of one for stupidity.
TULIP SIDDIQ, LABOUR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Hate crime is being inflamed and stroked by the words that Donald Trump is using.
JACK DROMEY, LABOUR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Donald Trump is a fool. He is free to be a fool. He is not free to be a dangerous fool on our shores.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is a buffoon.
ALEX CHALK, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Ultimately, buffoonery should not be met with a blunt instrument of a ban but with the classic British response of ridicule.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not buffoonery, that is absolutely repugnant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s be clear, Donald Trump is an idiot. He`s an idiot. What he is, an idiot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This motion is actually embarrassing to the U.K. and makes us look intolerant and totalitarian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are simply adding fuel to this whole media circus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Division, hatred, and hostility have no place in our society.
VICTORIA ATKINS, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: His policy to close borders if elected as president is bonkers. And if he met one or two of my constituents in one of the excellent pubs in my constituency, then they may well tell him that he is a wazzock.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are united in condemning the comments of Donald Trump.
JAMES BROKENSHIRE, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Best way to defeat nonsense like this is to engage in robust Democratic debate and make it very clear that his, Donald Trump`s views, are not welcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bonkers, a fool, a buffoon, and a wazzock.
If the Republican Party chooses Donald Trumps a their presidential nominee and if, yes, it`s possible, he then goes on to win the general election race for president, today in the British parliament, this is a nice little taste of how the rest of the world will feel about us in that eventuality. Ultimately, today, Mr. Trump was not banned from entering the U.K., but the British parliament had a lively, healthy debate about it. And regardless of party affiliation, they did all seem to feel more or less the same way about our Republican presidential front-runner.
And now I have to go look up the word wazzock. Wazzock. How do you spell it?
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