Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 16, 2016 Guest: Amy Klobuchar, Cornell William Brooks
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
President Obama, today, gave a press conference where he`s been at a meeting of leaders of Asian countries. And he made some very punchy, edgy comments about his plans for naming a Supreme Court nominee to fill the vacant seat of Justice Antonin Scalia. We`re going to be talking about that a little more later on in the show, including an interview tonight with somebody who has been mentioned as a possible choice for that Supreme Court seat.
President Obama also rather uncharacteristically today weighed in on the 2016 presidential race. He talked about how that race is making America look to the rest of the world and he said bluntly, that Donald Trump is not going to win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: A couple of weeks ago, you told Matt Lauer that Donald Trump would not win the presidency. Do you now think that he will not win the nomination as well? And what about Rubio and what about Cruz?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think foreign observers are troubled by some of the rhetoric that`s been taken place in these Republican primaries and Republican debates.
I don`t think it`s restricted by the way to Mr. Trump. I mean, I find it interesting that everybody`s focused on Trump primarily just because he says in more interesting ways what the other candidates are saying as well. So, he may up the ante in anti-Muslim sentiment, but if you look at what the other Republican candidates have said, that`s pretty troubling too.
He may express strong anti-immigration sentiment, but you`ve heard that from the other candidates as well.
I`ll leave it to you to speculate on how this race is going to go. I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president.
And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people. I think they recognize that being president is a serious job. It`s not hosting talk show or a reality show. It`s not promotion. It`s not marketing. It`s hard.
And a lot of people count on us getting it right. The American people are pretty sensible. I think they`ll make a sensible choice in the end.
All right? Thanks, everybody. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama at a press conference today in California. Presidents don`t usually play pundit but when they do it tends to be very interesting, because they only do it when they just can`t resist. They always say, oh, I`ll leave it to you, guys. Oh, I`m not a pundit.
Whenever a president does do a little punditry, it`s because usually they can`t stop themselves anymore. And so, the nuance of what President Obama said today was really interesting because President Obama really did tell Matt Lauer a couple of weeks ago that Donald Trump would never be president. But what Ron Allen asked him today was, forget president, do you think that Mr. Trump will win the Republican nomination? President Obama, responded, "I don`t think he`ll ever be president."
Oh, so do we take that to mean that President Obama expects that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president this year. That was the end of the press conference. No further follow ups.
But the available data, at least so far, says that Mr. Trump is the most likely person for the Republican Party to nominate for president this year. This is the latest South Carolina polling on the Republican side. This is a CNN poll out showing Mr. Trump with a 16-point lead in the state of South Carolina.
Twenty-six of the last 27 polls taken in South Carolina show Mr. Trump leading in that state, the vast majority of those 26 polls that show him leading show him leading by double digits including all the polls taken in South Carolina this calendar year.
So, Mr. Trump came in second in Iowa. He then won New Hampshire by a mile. Unless things change over the next four days drastically he looks set to also win South Carolina.
Then presumably the race on the Republican side will rejigger a little bit because after South Carolina, we should probably expect that the Republican field might shrink a little further. At least somebody will quit after losing badly in South Carolina.
In terms of the president`s remarks, though, today about our allies around the world being horrified by the tone of the Republican primary, but not necessarily more horrified by Mr. Trump than by other Republican candidates, there is some polling evidence out of South Carolina today, thanks to the Democratic leaning firm, PPP, which suggests that Donald Trump supporters in South Carolina, they are, in fact, significantly more likely than the rest of the South Carolina Republican electorate to support controversial policies like these ones.
Donald Trump supporters more than other South Carolina Republicans want to ban Muslims from entering the United States, 80 percent of Donald Trump supporters in South Carolina want a Muslim ban on entry to the United States. Donald Trump supporters, more than the rest of the South Carolina Republican electorate -- they not only want to ban Muslims from entering our country. They are more supportive of the idea of criminalizing being a Muslim, making the practice of Islam illegal in this country.
They are also significantly more likely to support creating a national database listing all Muslims. They also significantly more likely to want the Confederate flag flying over the state capital. Donald Trump supporters are also more likely to want to ban gay people from entering the United States.
Nice of PPP that they thought to ask that one, right? But they did, and now we know that nearly a third of Donald Trump supporters in South Carolina think gay people should be banned from the United States.
And once this polling came out today, I think the headline for a lot of people out of this very provocative South Carolina polling is the specific finding that among all Republican voters in South Carolina, fully one in ten South Carolina Republicans is willing to openly admit that they think white people are a superior race. That number hits double digits for the Republican electorate. And that is a little spooky.
But Donald Trump supporters are the ones who are driving numbers up. His supporters believe that even more than the rest of the Republican electorate in that state.
So, the polling is getting clear that not only is he likely to win the Republican presidential nomination. But he`s likely to do so with support from voters who make up the most reactionary edge of the Republican voter base.
Against that backdrop, President Obama pointedly avoiding the question as to whether or not Mr. Trump is likely to win the Republican nomination, basically skirting around that party of the question to what he sees as the ultimate bottom line which is that according to President Obama, Donald Trump will never win the presidency.
So, if we are reading that right, and if the president is right about this, what that means is that Donald Trump may yet win the Republican nomination but he`ll lose to the Democratic nominee in November. That appears to be what President Obama is predicting.
Now, if you ask Democratic voters who they expect to be their nominee in November, the answer is a very clear and consistent one from the beginning of this campaign. Democratic voters have expected Hillary Clinton to be the candidate w who would win the nomination in the end since the very beginning of this campaign.
But there`s no shortcut between this place in time and the nomination, right? There`s no national election to win the nomination. It happens state by state.
And, ultimately, the Democratic side has much less to go on in terms of predicting what`s going to happen. In the Republican and Democratic presidential race, there`s one big difference in terms of commenting on predicting and explaining what`s going on on the two sides. And it`s that the Democratic side has been sort of a data wasteland in terms of trying to predict what`s really happening in that contest.
I mean, in the immediate short term, you can see that in Nevada, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are going to face off of the Democratic caucuses in Nevada this Saturday, but there`s no public polling about how that race is going to go. We have no idea. So, that`s a black box.
After that, they`re going to move onto South Carolina next weekend. There is polling there, which at least for now gives Hillary Clinton almost as a healthy lead in South Carolina as Donald Trump has in that state. But the polls have shown some signs of tightening there.
We also know that the Sanders campaign is working full board to try to close that gap and pull off some kind of upset in South Carolina.
Today, we got new ad spending data from NBC about the South Carolina fight. On the Republican side in South Carolina, once a gain, it`s Jeb Bush who is the biggest ad spender.
So far, Jeb Bush has come in sixth place and fourth place in the first two contests in this primary. He`s polling around that same territory in South Carolina as well. But in all three of the first states, Jeb Bush has come in first in one metric which is spending his donor`s money. He was first in spending in Iowa, first in spending in New Hampshire, and now, he is first in spending again by a long ways in South Carolina. That`s on the Republican side.
On the Democratic side, look at this though. Bernie Sanders outspending Hillary Clinton in South Carolina thus far.
So, on the Democratic side, Nevada is next and it`s basically a total black box. We have no idea. We have anecdotal information, but we don`t have any data.
After that, it`s going to be South Carolina. We have Hillary Clinton ahead in polls, but we know Bernie Sanders is polling hard and spending hard the try to catch up.
The Democratic race isn`t like the Republican race in one other important metric, which is that on the Republican side, there`s still six people in the running. We expect that field to continue to narrow as the pace of it goes on. So, we expect after South Carolina or further races we expect people who are polling around the realm of Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush and John Kasich to maybe start dropping out if they continue to place well back in the field in each subsequent contests. We think that field on the Republican side is going to narrow sooner or later -- probably sooner.
The Democratic side, only two people in the race. That`s not going to narrow. Everybody expects and the two campaigns both expect that both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will stay in that race for a very long time. Who`s ultimately going to win it?
Well, tonight, we have exclusively some of the first data that anybody has pulled together on the extent that the two Democratic campaigns are actually fighting for it. The extent to which they are up and running in a significant way for the contest that comes after Nevada and South Carolina. Namely, the 11 states that are all going to vote all at once on March 1st.
It goes Nevada for the Democrats, then South Carolina, then March 1st. On Tuesday, March 1st, these are the states that are going to hold primaries all on the same day: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. In addition, these two states are going to hold caucuses that day, Colorado and Minnesota.
Now, the Sanders campaign has been willing to go on the record and say publicly that the states where they expect themselves to be competitive are the two caucus state, Colorado and Minnesota, and the two primary states that are either Bernie Sanders` home state or the state that is in some ways quite a lot like it that`s just next door, Massachusetts.
So, they say they will compete in the two caucus states plus Vermont and Massachusetts. That`s what they are saying publicly. But as you know, all public statements by all games are game.
And look at what we have discovered about the rest of the states they will be competing in that day. The biggest prize in terms of delegates on Super Tuesday is Texas. Hillary Clinton has long been expected to win in Texas, but it was the Sanders campaign that planted its flag in Texas first. The Sanders campaign opened their first state office in Texas back in November. The Clinton campaign didn`t start opening offices in Texas until this month.
We`re also hearing that same story out of Alabama where the Clinton campaign has long been expected to do great, but it was again the Sanders campaign that was first on the ground. The Sanders campaign opened three offices in Alabama back in December. The Clinton campaign only opened their first Alabama office this month.
In Tennessee, it`s the same story. Secretary Clinton is widely expected to have a big advantage in Tennessee. The last poll in Tennessee was back in January. It had Secretary Clinton leading by 32 points.
But again, the Sanders campaign in Tennessee was first on the ground. They were first to open campaign officers in that state. They have offices in Memphis, Nashville. They`re opening in Chattanooga and Johnson City offices next week. The Hillary Clinton campaign, we`re told, arrived in Tennessee and opened its first offices in that state last week.
Now, there are some states that will be voting March 1st where it`s hard to get perspective for a variety of reasons. For example, Vermont is different than every other state because it`s a home base and literally a headquarters for Senator Sanders. Arkansas isn`t exactly equivalent but it`s home base for Hillary Clinton, who, of course, is the former first lady of Arkansas.
And then there`s the state of Oklahoma, which is also a little bit hard to read. Oklahoma is going to be voting on March 1st. It`s nobody`s home base in this race, but also, I`m not embarrassed to tell you, nobody in the state seems to have any idea what is going on in the Democratic race. We`re having a hard time getting any intel out of Oklahoma at all.
If you have any, please tell us. Rachel@MSNBC.com.
Up in Minnesota, the Minnesota contest where it`s going to be a caucus on March 1st, Minnesota appears to be an evenly matched, hard fought battle, where both candidates have multiple paid operatives and lots of volunteers and multiple offices throughout the state and both campaigns are spending a lot of money on TV ads already. So, Minnesota is a state where it seems like it`s tooth and nail.
Hillary Clinton appears to have larger campaign operation on the ground in Colorado. Senator Sanders appears to have larger campaign operation on the ground in Virginia.
So, there are individual narratives starting to shape up in all of these states that are going to be voting on March 1st. And we have been trying to nail down the metrics. All of these states are suddenly going to be very important in the Democratic contest once we`re through Nevada and South Carolina. But neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton is going to drop out no matter what happens in those states.
And I think the pundit class and beltway media have all had this perception that the Bernie Sanders campaign is still a bit of a quirky phenomenon, right? It`s not a full grown presidential campaign. That Senator Sanders is not a candidate who is built to last throughout the long, grueling primary process.
But honestly, we have been approaching this as an ongoing project on my staff. We have been having doing this as a data-driven effort, with a totally open mind, having no idea what we would find, looking down the primary calendar in all of these states.
And out of all these 11 primaries and caucuses that they`re going to have on March 1st, there`s only one state where we talked to people on the ground, people on the ground who are impartial but good observers of that race, there`s only one state out of everybody who`s going to vote on March 1st, that told us that it feels like the Clinton campaign has a clear advantage in that state, a clearly better campaign than the Sanders folks do, and that was the state of Georgia. We got very solid news on Clinton - - the Clinton campaign, vis-a-vis the Sanders campaign in Georgia.
I expected we would hear that from a lot more states. We heard that from one state. And other than that, it`s a mixed bag. A lot of closely fought tooth and nail battlegrounds. A few places, at least three of the Super Tuesday states where the Sanders campaign appears to have significantly beat the Clinton campaign to the startling line, in terms of setting up their campaign on the ground, opening their campaign offices and getting to work.
Not what I expected to hear when we started calling around all these states and working sources in all these states. It has not been easy to get this data. The campaigns, in particularly, have been holding onto this data like it`s gold, right? I mean, we expect these numbers, these profiles of the individual states to change as the campaign moves on and Super Tuesday gets closer.
But right now, this portrait of what`s happening on the ground in the campaign ahead, it is not at all the picture you`re getting from the beltway press.
Oh, and by the way, voting has already started. Georgia and Tennessee started early voting already last week. Today, early voting started in Texas and Arkansas. It`s on. The future is already here, and we have no idea what`s going to happen. Buckle your seat belts.
MADDOW: Today, California state Attorney General Kamala Harris told reporters she is not in the running for the U.S. Supreme Court seat that was recently made vacant by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Kamala Harris told reporters today that she is in the running for the U.S. Senate in California. That is what she is running for. She says she does not wish to be considered for the Supreme Court seat, and beside, she said, quote, "President Obama hasn`t called."
Kamala Harris is one of a number of basically non-traditional candidates who have been suggested as a potential nominee, non-judge candidates in particular. Non-traditional candidates and non-judges are being suggested, particularly because of the over the top political circumstances of this particularly Supreme Court vacancy and how the Republicans have reacted to it.
So, at this point, today and from here on out, who`s not in the running for that Supreme Court is big news. Who is in the running for that is bigger news and that`s ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Justice Kennedy when he was nominated by Ronald Reagan in Ronald Reagan`s last year of office, the vote was taken. And there are a whole lot of Democrats I`m sure who did not agree with Justice Kennedy on his position on a variety of issues, but they did the right thing. They confirmed him.
And if they voted against him, they certainly didn`t mount a filibuster to block a vote from even coming up.
This is the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. It`s the one court where we would expect elected officials to rise above day-to-day politics, and this will be the opportunity for senators to do their job. Your job doesn`t stop until you`re voted out or until your term expires.
I intend my job between now and January 20th of 2017. I expect them to do their job as well.
All right? See who we got here. Jeff Mason?
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Following up on that, should we interpret your comments that you`re likely to choose a moderate nominee? Would you --
OBAMA: I don`t know where you found that. You shouldn`t assume anything about the qualifications of the nominee other than they`re going to be well-qualified.
REPORTER: All right.
REPORTER: Following up. Would you consider a recess appointment if your nominee is not granted a hearing?
OBAMA: I think that we have more than enough time to go through regular order, regular processes, as I intend to nominate somebody, to present them to the American people, to present them to the Senate. I expect them to hold hearings. I expect there to be a vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama saying he expects there to be a vote.
Upon news that conservative Justice Antonin Scalia had died unexpectedly this weekend, Republicans took an instant stand that President Obama should not nominate someone to fill that seat. He should just hold the seat open for a year until there`s a new president, basically because Republicans do not want to consider a nominee for the seat.
That was the instant and quite radical position that Republicans staked out instantly once news came that Justice Scalia had died. Now, though, that position is starting to wobble a little bit, I think in part because of the shock it caused when they did.
Conservative Senator Thom Tillis said today that Republicans shouldn`t be obstructionists about the court. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley seemed to soften his initial suggestion that he wouldn`t hold hearings on a nominee. Ron Johnson, senator from Wisconsin, also dialed back tonight, a little bit his previous comments, suggesting that he would hold the Republican line on this.
So, maybe the shock of a plan by Republicans to hold a Supreme Court vacancy open for a year, maybe this plan is starting to crack a little bit. President Obama today seemed to indicate that he expects it to.
But how much does that prospect depend on who President Obama is going to pick for the seat?
Today, some people who said they were in the running started taking themselves out of contention. Some of them also didn`t. One of the people who is in everybody`s short list is here for the interview, live, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: I suppose you want your hearing to come to an end now.
MS. JANE KELLY: I`m sort of enjoying it.
KLOBUCHAR: On that, you know, you may be the first person that said that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who enjoys their confirmation hearings? People who get confirmed unanimously by the U.S., that`s who. That was Jane Kelly, a Harvard classmate of President Obama`s, an Iowan, a distinguished lawyer. She was confirmed by the Senate unanimously in 2013 to a seat on a federal appeals court. That`s just one level below the U.S. Supreme Court.
I mentioned that part about her being from Iowa because that ended up being seemingly sort of important to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, when Jane Kelly`s nomination came up, and then she got her unanimous vote.
Everybody is trying to game out who might be confirmable in this Senate when the Republicans are trying to insist that President Obama shouldn`t even send a nominee to the Senate at all. That has led to some speculation, by jerks like me, in part, that maybe the only confirmable Supreme Court nominee, maybe the only confirmable Supreme Court nominee this year might be somebody who is not just a non-traditional pick, in the sense that they`re not already a judge.
Maybe the only person who can get confirmed by the Senate is somebody who is already in the U.S. Senate.
Oh, hello, there? Who is that?
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, member and good standing of the U.S. Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor and a practical centrist legislator, and somebody who doesn`t have an enemy in the world, particularly among her fellow U.S. senators.
Hello there, Senator Amy Klobuchar. Fancy meeting you here.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, hello, Rachel. It`s great to be here for my confirmation hearing with you.
MADDOW: You seem to be enjoying it.
KLOBUCHAR: Actually, today, as you can see from the backdrop -- I`m in Chicago where I gave a speech at the University of Chicago, where I went to law school. And I said there that I love my job in the Senate. There`s a lot of work to do.
But more importantly to me, I have a duty as a member of the judiciary committee to review the nominee the president puts forth and to also make the case that we cannot leave this job open. I think that is a very serious duty that I have, because when you look at the facts here, you have to go back. It`s in the last century. We have never left a Supreme Court position open for over a year. We have never let this happen, and it just can`t happen in the way.
Essentially, what be Republicans would be doing if they follow through on these initial comments which you have rightly pointed out that they are backing away from, if they did this, they would be shutting down the Supreme Court because most of these cases are close. They are very important cases. That`s why they get to the Supreme Court just as they shut the government down a few years back.
MADDOW: We have started to see little wobbling on the Republican side. Senator Grassley appeared to suggest he wouldn`t even consent to there being confirmation hearings. He`s now being not quite so specific about that maybe in way to suggest that he may be changing his mind about that. Senator Johnson has also walked back his comments on it. Senator Tillis from North Carolina seems to be walking back his initial, or at least not taking a hard line stance on it, in the case of Senator Tillis.
Do you get the sense as a Judiciary Committee member and as a senator that maybe the initial threats here are not going to pass? That maybe the initial stance isn`t going to happen?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I hope so. But they were pretty firm about it. It was shocking to me that a lot of these comments were made immediately after finding out that Justice Scalia, a scholar, had died. This judge that has really many of his other justices have loved and to suddenly say, well, guess what, we`re not going to have hearing, it just struck me as inappropriate.
So, I hope they are now backing down from that. You look at the fact that all those justices, themselves, on the Supreme Court, the longest time period between nomination and confirmation, Rachel, was Justice Thomas. That was 99 days.
And the average time period since 1975 is 67 days. So, the way I look at this, if the president picks, as he has said, and he has shown in the past with the choices of Justice Kagan and Sotomayor, if he picks someone who is very qualified, we will have, you know, he does it about a month, if you look at the time periods, it should be done by the Fourth of July, which is a good day to pick when you respect the Constitution.
MADDOW: I know that you said you like your current job, and obviously as a member of the Judiciary Committee, when the president does put forward a nominee, if there are hearing, you will have an important role in those hearings. But this isn`t the first time it`s happened when you have been shortlisted, when your name has circulated as a possible nominee. Your name also came up as a possible nominee in 2009 when Justice Souter retired.
I have to just ask you, are you saying that if the president called you and asked if you would consent to be vetted and said that he wanted to consider you that, that you would say no or would you consider it if the president asked?
KLOBUCHAR: I`m saying I like my job now. I haven`t -- like Kamala Harris talked about it. It`s not like we have been plotting to get a job like this. We have jobs or she`s hoping will be in the Senate at some point. I know there`s a race out there in California.
But I think the point here is the president will make a decision. I really enjoy being in the Senate. I also think you need people that are willing to work across the aisle and get things done. That is what I`ve been doing since I got there. And I think there`s a real need for that.
Another interesting fact is that there are actually more women on the Supreme Court right now than there are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on the entire Senate Judiciary Committee. So, I have an important role to play here.
MADDOW: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, well-dodged. Thank you for being here.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: It`s nice to see you. Thank you.
All right. We got much more ahead. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: They`ve released more new tests of the water in Flint, Michigan. They are testing for how much lead is still coming through the ordinary kitchen faucets in Flint.
The federal cutoff to where you have to take action is 15 parts per billion. To get up to 5,000 parts per billion, that`s considered hazardous waste. Last week, one home in Flint tested at more than 10,000 parts per billion. Hazardous waste times two. And it wasn`t the only home with astronomical leads numbers.
Still, still, almost two years into this crisis, the crisis is now something that gets a lot more attention, but the disaster is not over. Nothing has been fixed. It`s an ongoing disaster.
Last week, we reported about the Flint mayor`s ambitious, technically interesting plan for getting the city`s pipes replaced quickly, so the water system can start to be safe again. It`s a plan that could start right way. The governor, Governor Rick Snyder, has agreed in principle that the mayor`s plan should happen.
But there`s been no action from lawmakers to make it happen. The Michigan House speaker`s office today told us that that request for actually finally starting to fix Flint`s lead pipes will be considered during negotiations for the budget which should go through, I don`t know, May? No rush. Why hurry?
Not one pipe in Flint has been fixed yet, not one. If you`re feeling a burning nugget of anger inside your chest over this, you`re not alone. And that story is next.
MADDOW: Thirty days, 30 days. That`s how long the president of the national NAACP is giving Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan to take action, to start finally replacing the wrecked pipes in Flint, Michigan, that continue to pump out poison water in that city.
NAACP national president Cornell Brooks spoke yesterday in Flint and he said while he was there that if Flint`s water system doesn`t actually finally start getting fixed, then the NAACP will step up its attention to the Flint disaster and they will start calling for, quote, "disruptive civil the obedience".
Joining us now is Cornell William Brooks. He`s national president and CEO of NAACP.
Mr. Brooks, thank you very much for being here tonight. I really appreciate your time, sir.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, NAACP PRESIDENT AND CEO: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Why direct action protests? What would that look like and why change to that now?
BROOKS: Well, in the face of what feels like for Flint citizens infuriating action by the governor. We have to step up the pressure. And so, what that means and what that looks like is civil disobedience that`s disruptive and democratic. That can take the form of sit-ins, die-ins. It can take the form of blockades or occupying offices or city halls.
What it means is that we are intending to disrupt business as usual. Think about this -- the governor has yet to put forward a timeline, a deadline and a price tag on reform. The mayor has put forward a starter plan, $55 million to begin the process.
The governor, on the other hand, has more infinitely resources at his disposal both in terms of personnel and monetary, and yet, he has not put forth a timeline, a deadline and a price tag on reform.
Meanwhile, we have young people literally imbibing poison water and citizens being asked to pay for water they can neither drink nor use.
MADDOW: Are you calling on national campaign? You`re the head of the NAACP nationally. We have seen NAACP in Michigan and locally in Flint and all sorts of different kinds of civil rights organizations and just concerned citizens get upset about this crisis, and want to do something about this. Stepping in is the president of the national NAACP, which is a big and powerful organization. Are you calling for nationwide activism on this, do you want this to be locally focused?
BROOKS: No, depending on the governor`s response, we will call for a national response. What we have seen all across the length and breadth of our country is Americans inspired by a sense of generosity and compassion. Americans have sent bottles to Flint.
We will have to call upon Americans to send bodies and conscience to Flint. In other words, we will issue a Macedonian call, if you will, for people to come across the country to Flint to engage in a campaign of civil disobedience to convey in no uncertain terms that the governor has the address the replacement of the water infrastructure in Flint. It`s not enough to simply treat the water and hope it turns out for the best. We have citizens who cannot trust the water.
In fact, the governor said trust looks like clean drinking water coming out of tap. Right now, we do not have clean drinking water coming out of tap as a consequence of poisonous pipes. The pipes have to be replaced. And when the governor puts forward a timeline, deadline and a price tag for reform we can move forward. In the absence of that, we have to respond vigorously and on the ground.
MADDOW: Cornell Brooks, president of the NAACP nationwide, I have to tell you, I sort of knew that this was going to come at some point when we have seen the pace of the response thus far in Michigan. We`ll be checking back in with you over the course of these 30 days in hopes you spark something to happen. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
BROOKS: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, today, four days ahead of the South Carolina Republican primary, the Ted Cruz campaign released a five-and-a-half-minute-long straight to camera video of Ted Cruz talking about his anti-abortion politics. And in addition to that, we just got another very bright line from Senator Cruz that I would not have predicted. Apparently, there is a way to go too far in the Republican presidential primary process. We just found out what that is from the Ted Cruz campaign, and that`s next.
It`s nuts, I`ll warn you. But that`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, at the top of the show, we reported on some new data about the character, the nature of the Republican Party electorate that is expected to vote in South Carolina this weekend, and the data from the polling from PPP, it`s kind of a doozy.
Three in five South Carolina Republicans say they want to Muslims from the United States, nearly half of them won a nationwide registry of Muslims, nearly a third of them want to shut down mosques in the United States. A quarter of them want a full on ban the practice of Islam in the United States. One in five of them want to ban gay people from the United States. One in ten of them admit openly that they believe that white people are a superior race.
In addition to that, slightly more than one in ten South Carolina Republicans say they`re not sure about the superior race thing, they`re still thinking about it. Still thinking about whether or not white people are superior racially. Check back with them later, so maybe.
So, South Carolina Republicans are quite a bunch and the South Carolina Republican presidential primary is really early in the process, it`s really influential. And over the years, you combine those two facts and you find that Republican candidates have conducted themselves during the South Carolina primary in ways that show they are fully cognizant of the views and prejudices of the typical South Carolina Republican voter.
So, for example, in the year 2000, John McCain was favored to win in South Carolina, George W. Bush, though, came to beat him -- came from behind to beat him that year after a campaign that included e-mails and anonymous robocalls claiming that John McCain secretly had a black baby.
In the 2008 South Carolina Republican primary, somebody sent out fake Christmas cards from candidate Mitt Romney, including lots of out of text quotes from the "Book of Mormon" that were basically designed to make him seemed like he wasn`t a Christian.
In 2010, this was the tenor of the Republican South Carolina primary in which Nikki Haley was one of the candidates for governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. STATE SEN. JAKE KNOTTS (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: In the next three days, we find out that her daddy wears a turban around Lexington and her mama wears a ruby between her head and she is a sheikh and trying to be a Methodist, and it gets to Greenville around the Bob Dylan University they`re not going to look that. With Pat Robertson sending out that e-mail today, people need to look at that. We got a raghead in Washington. We don`t need a raghead in the statehouse.
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MADDOW: That was a South Carolina senator named Jake Knotts speaking in 2010 about Nikki Haley running as Republican candidate for governor. His defense after that tape surfaced was that he wasn`t saying what he thought. He was just channeling what his South Carolina Republican constituents thought.
South Carolina is really important in Republican politics, but the way Republican presidential candidates have tried to win that primary has not always been to appeal to the better angels of the electorate.
So, just to follow through, that state senator who called Governor Nikki Haley a racist slur that starts with the word "rag", he`s not exactly a pariah because of those comments. This year in the presidential primary, Senator Knotts has endorsed Donald Trump and the Donald Trump has had him doing presidential primary campaign events around South Carolina in advance of this weekend`s vote.
As another example, Dr. Ben Carson did a radio interview today ahead of the primary where he said that for a Muslim to be a good American, he or she would have to be a schizophrenic. Basically making a case that being a Muslim by definition makes you a bad American.
This time of year, year after year, doesn`t bring out the best in Republican politicians, not at least on the specific issue of religious bigotry.
And one of the uglier moments in that kind of bleeding edge conservative politics, just from the past week was this image that was posted online by a national board member of the National Rifle Association, an image that makes that case that it`s the Jews who are coming for your guns.
A bunch of different Jewish public figures all mark with little Israeli flags next to them, the caption on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls him "Mikey Bloomberg, the mayor of Jew York City".
The caption on the late Senator Frank Lautenberg says, "Gave Russian Jew immigrants your tax money."
The board member of the National Rifle Association who posted this Jews coming for your guns graphic is a board member named Ted Nugent. Mr. Nugent is definitely a professional provocateur. But this is kind of beyond the appeal for gun rights people who usually like him.
Not for Ted Cruz though, not before the South Carolina Republican primary.
Despite Ted Cruz wanting to be seen as the most pro-Israel candidate in the whole Republican race, Ted Cruz is sticking with Ted Nugent. He`s campaigning on having Ted`s support for president. Ted Cruz bragging on his website even tonight about how Ted says Ted Cruz is his favorite presidential candidate, even after Ted Nugent has done this thing about the Jews coming to get your guns.
And while on the subject of religious bigotry, Senator Cruz is also currently touting on his website his support and endorsement from this guy.
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MIKE BICKLE: Let me tell you these less than 20 million Jews worldwide, the Lord says, "I`m going to give all 20 million of them the chance to respond to the fisherman. I`m going to give them grace. I`m going to give them grace." And he says, "If they don`t respond to grace, I`m going to raise up the hunters and the most famous hunter in recent history is Hitler."
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MADDOW: God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews.
A number of Jewish groups have complained to Senator Ted Cruz that maybe he shouldn`t be campaigning on the endorsement from that guy, what the God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews guy.
On Friday show, we reported on that controversy. The following day, on Saturday, the Cruz campaign put out a statement clarifying the relationship with the "God sent Hitler" guy. They explicitly are now are not rejecting his support, they continue to tout that man`s endorsement on Ted Cruz`s website, but they now say they don`t like the thing that guy said about Adolf Hitler.
Misspelling the word "Adolf" twice, the Cruz campaign told "The Times of Israel" on Saturday night, quote, "The statements from Pastor Bickle concerning Adoph Hitler are not statements with which Senator Cruz agrees. It is indisputable the Adoph Hitler was the embodiment of evidently."
Adolph has an L in it. I don`t know why that`s the hard part of this. But now, while we`re tracking the muddy path of religious insult and incitement on the way to the South Carolina Republican primary, there is a bit of a bright spot in this story -- courtesy of this guy.
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KEVIN SWANSON, NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES CONFERENCE: Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. Yes, Romans Chapter 1 Verse 32, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death, his words, not mine! And I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ! And I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God and I am willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God!
And I know I`ve taken the counsel, many have told us this weekend, you be careful, you choose your words carefully, we have presidential hopefuls coming to this conference this weekend, I understand that. But I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So we`ve been reporting for a couple of months on Senator Ted Cruz`s decision to go to that event, with that same pastor in the lead up to the Iowa caucuses. We sent the kill the gays comments from that pastor to the Cruz campaign and ask for comment, Ted Cruz would not distant himself from that pastor who called for gay people to be rounded out and executed in this country. He did it at that event before welcoming Senator Cruz on stage with him. They told us this call to kill all gay people in the country was not explicit enough to warrant any criticism from Senator Cruz.
So, here`s your little bright spot: in case you`ve been feeling like maybe this Republican presidential campaign is about to devolve even further below the proposals to ban Muslims from the United States and the calls to kill the gays, here is a ray of sunshine, the Ted Cruz campaign now tells us that even though Ted Cruz was not willing to distance himself from the kill the gays pastor to us, to me, to the show, they were willing to do that to someone else.
After telling us that this call to round up and execute all the gay people in the country was not explicit enough to warrant any concern from Senator Cruz from that event, they subsequently told "USA Today" that it was a mistake for Senator Cruz to do the kill the gays event. It was a mistake. Ta-da!
So, if you are keeping track at home, that means they`re sticking with the guy who says God sent Hitler to do the Lord`s work of killing millions of Jews, Senator Cruz is sticking with that guy, he`s just not his particular idea, and they`re still touting their support from the Jews are coming for your guns guy, especially that mayor of Jew York City, sticking with him. The Cruz campaign is still campaigning on their support from the Jew York City guy.
But the part where the guy calls for rounding up the gay people in America to execute them for the crime of being gay, now we know that that`s too far. Now we know. In case, we`re drawing where the lines are in the Republican race ahead of South Carolina, they didn`t want to tell us, but they would tell somebody else that`s too far. So, that`s -- there`s the line.
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.
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