Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 25, 2017 Guest: Chris Murphy
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO (via telephone): We were going to be in a blackout phase. If this storm with the power that it came, the ferocity and weak infrastructure that we had hit the island of Puerto Rico, it was going to be catastrophic and, you know, it hasn`t failed in that direction.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Governor, I want to talk to you throughout the week. Thank you for making time tonight. I appreciate it.
ROSSELLO: Thank you. I`ll be here for you. Thank you.
HAYES: All right. Thank you.
That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate it.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
The election was early November. Of course, the inauguration and the swearing in of the new Congress was in late January, right? During that 2 1/2-month period, the high-profile thing that was happening was obviously the Obama administration folding up and the new administration becoming, right? The new administration staffing up and moving to D.C.
But for the incoming Congress you know, not that much is actually expected of them during that interregnum, during that time between the election and when they actually start work. And so, the incoming Congress, between November and January, what they have time to do is basically plan. Plan what they`re going to do once they`re actually up and running.
And you might remember, this Congress announced this controversial decision that they were going to actually swear themselves in and get to work doing Congress things a little early, before the new president was sworn in. They said they wanted to hit the ground faster than usual and start working earlier than usual. And that`s because they had a very specific to-do list.
They wanted to have the delivery of an important campaign promise wrapped up and with a bow on it sitting on the new president`s desk for him to sign as soon as he was sworn in, for him to sign on Inauguration Day as he was trying out the new chair and the new desk in the Oval Office for the first time. It was his campaign promise. It was also a campaign promise for every Republican member of Congress.
There was not a single elected Republican dissident from their party`s plan to kill Obamacare, to kill the Affordable Care Act, as their first priority once they took control in Washington.
So, they had this whole elaborate plan for the brand new Congress. They would convene early. They would suspend the rules. They would pass repeal of Obamacare by a simple majority vote even before the new president was sworn in.
And that meant as soon as he was sworn in, it could be done. Obamacare would be repealed on day one, on inauguration day, even before we realized they were making up the crowd size. That was their plan for the start of this administration. That did not happen, right? They were not able to get it together for it to happen on day one.
And despite the fact that they haven`t been distracted by their efforts to pass anything else, despite the fact that they have passed no significant legislation of any kind since they took control in January, today, their latest and potentially their last effort to try to kill Obamacare finally fizzled out. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was already a no. John McCain had said no on Friday. They could spare no more Republican no votes if they wanted to get this thing passed.
But then today, Susan Collins of Maine said that she was a no vote as well. And so, once again, it`s dead. This thing that they were going to do even before Trump got there. They still can`t do this many months in.
So, we`re going to have more on that coming up tonight, including the reason why it seems to have happened, which will likely be the same reason these efforts by the Republicans will keep failing again and again and again, even if they keep trying to do this thing forever. So, that story`s ahead tonight.
I have to say, it`s been kind of a through the looking glass day in the news today. There`s been a lot of big news. Some of it is news we were expecting or watching for. But a lot of it is stuff that would be shocking at any other time in American politics, right? We`ve sort of upped the bar on what counts as weird anymore.
But even today, some of this stuff seems weird. The president`s campaign manager, for example, he`s been told by prosecutors that they plan to indict him. Paul Manafort has decided to pass the time between now and his expected arraignment by promoting a referendum that aims to break up the nation and government of Iraq.
He`s promoting the Kurdish independence referendum. This despite the U.S. government being opposed to that referendum and despite the fact that hundreds and thousands -- hundreds of thousands of American troops fought there for well over a decade to try to keep something like this from happening. That independence referendum which had Paul Manafort as a paid consultant, it was held in northern Iraq today. We`re still waiting on a result.
But given the turnout, which was very high, it looks increasingly possible that that independence referendum in northern Iraq will have passed.
I should mention we`re also trying to figure out if the president`s campaign manager Paul Manafort actually physically went to Iraq today for the referendum. It seems remarkable that he`d be comfortably traveling internationally, right? Undermining U.S. foreign policy abroad as a private citizen while awaiting indictment on other matters, it seems bizarre that he`d be doing that. But it`s been reported that he maybe was planning to be in Iraq for the referendum today.
We asked his spokesman directly if Paul Manafort was planning on leaving the country to attend this thing. The spokesman would not tell us.
If you`re watching from Iraq tonight and you have seen Paul Manafort slinking around in Erbil or Kirkuk or something, let me know, www.sendittorachel.com. Where in the world is Paul Manafort?
After a presidential campaign where the single most relentless line of attack against Hillary Clinton was her use of a private e-mail address to conduct government business while she was secretary of state, today, we learned that in this White House, even after that campaign, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon and -- and, and, and, and all conducted government business on their own private e-mail accounts.
And while we are indulging in selective self-absolving amnesia, today the "Washington Post" reported the strange news that even though Facebook for months insisted publicly that there had been no nefarious Russian activity on Facebook that was aimed at affecting the U.S. election last year, actually, Facebook twice last year, in the middle of the election campaign called the FBI to alert the FBI that in fact they had detected strange Russian activity on Facebook related to the election. According to the "Washington Post" today, Facebook noticed enough about what was happening that they twice called U.S. law enforcement about it. But then later they made repeated insistent statements that they`d seen nothing at all to worry about.
Some of the ads that were placed on Facebook by Russian operatives during the election have now been handed over to congressional investigators. The "Washington Post" reports tonight that those ads seem to reflect a particularly subtle and sophisticated understanding of U.S. politics and political divisions including ads about Black Lives Matter and American Muslims and, of course, it`s possible that Russian operatives working alone were just tremendously excellent at what they do and they really do have a sophisticated understanding of what works on American audiences and which exact Americans might make the difference in a narrow electoral college- driven strategy. They might just be that good at it.
But the themes in the Russian-funded ads that have been described so far, they do seem to match what the Trump campaign itself was pursuing as its own strategy at the time these Russian operatives were pushing it as well. Again, those Russian-purchased Facebook ads are now in the hands of congressional investigators. We don`t know exactly what they`re going to do with them. But figuring out whether the Trump campaign and these Russian operatives might have knowingly been working together, that is obviously the next crucial investigative step, either by the special counsel or by the congressional committees or both.
So, like I said, a lot of news today. Also, you know, a lot of news that would feel a little surreal at any time more normal than this one. In late 1968 and early 1969, U.S. service members regularly flew reconnaissance flights, surveillance flights, over the Korean peninsula and just outside North Korean airspace. They did these things almost every single day.
And this was a low-profile effort not just because surveillance efforts by definition are designed to be kept secret. It was also low profile because the American public was focused on other things, even if you were just talking about foreign policy. I mean, we had a brand new president at the time, Richard Nixon, was sworn in January 1969. He had run in part on the intimation that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. Nixon did not have a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. The war effort by then was massive and growing and more domestically divisive than ever.
And so, U.S. sailors and airmen and marines flying routine surveillance flights near communist North Korea at the time, it was something the United States was doing. It wasn`t exactly a front of mind concern for the American public, though. Until all of a sudden, it had to be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence now is the North Koreans did indeed soot down the American plane as they boasted they did. Some wreckage full of shrapnel holes has been found. But of the 31 men aboard they have found no survivors. So far, President Nixon has said nothing in public. He`s left it to the Pentagon to tell what few details there are. A Pentagon spokesman, Daniel Henkin, had a short statement telling what the U.S. military had learned so far.
DANIEL HENKIN, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: All evidence now available to us, including North Korean claims and the very sightings leads us to believe that the aircraft was shot down by North Korean aircraft. As of this hour, regretfully, there has been no report of survivors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems certain that 31 crewmen of the plane are dead. An American destroyer found the bodies of two of them today and the Defense Department said it is gravely concerned about the prospects of finding any survivors. Defense Secretary Laird was talking today to a meeting of newspaper editors, and he gave some details on the lost airplane.
MELVIN R. LAIRD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It should be understood I think by all that during the last three months or the first three months of 1969, there were 190 flights similar in nature flown over this general area. These missions had been flown over international waters. For more than 20 years, they`ve been flown right in this particular area in the Sea of Japan. There was absolutely nothing unusual about this mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There was nothing unusual about that mission except it was shot out of the sky, 31 Americans died. Two Soviet-made North Korean MiG jet fighters shot down that surveillance plane.
And as you heard in that somewhat bewildered statement from the defense secretary at the time, the U.S. didn`t believe there was anything unusual about that particular flight that would have warranted any sort of confrontation, let alone that shoot down. I mean, yes, things were tense between us and North Korea at the time in the spring of 1969. But things were more or less stressful and tense all the time with them, which has continued to be true.
One prevailing theory at the time as to why they maybe picked that date to shoot down that particular plane and kill those 30 U.S. sailors, not one U.S. Marine, one prevailing theory on why that flight got targeted is because that flight happened to take place on April 15th and April 15th was the birthday of Kim Il Sung. And so maybe that was just the way he decided to celebrate.
In 1994, they did it again. This time it was a smaller U.S. military aircraft. It was a two-seater Kiowa helicopter. One of the crewmen was killed. The survivor was named chief warrant officer Bobby Hall. He was held prisoner in North Korea for 13 days before they finally let him go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCKY SEVERSON, REPORTER: Tonight, after surviving a helicopter crash and 14 days in captivity doctors here at Yongsan Army Base gave Hall a thumbs up.
Looking more poised after the checkup, Chief Warrant Officer Hall was ready to go home.
BOBBY HALL, CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER: I`d also like to express my gratitude toward my family, friends, and everybody in Brooksville and everybody that had anything to do with helping me and supporting me get back to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The United States and North Korea have been at some level of hostile standoff for decades. As countries go, we tend to think of North Korea as a little bit crazy. And most of our domestic discussion about what to do about them includes U.S. experts and observers trying to figure out how crazy they might be, how rational their thinking might be, how far they might be willing to go to make good on their always bellicose and hyperbolic threats. In the past, though, North Korea really has proven itself, happy to shoot down U.S. military aircraft and kill U.S. service members when they get the chance.
And while North Korea remains something of an enigma to us among nations, we still don`t know exactly how to outthink them or predict their next actions. But we have seen how they`ve behaved in the past.
The new real wild card in this difficult relationship is our own president. After several days of Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump trading personal insults and threats to destroy one other, today, the North Korean foreign minister stepped up to a bank of reporters and cameras outside his hotel in New York where he`s staying to attend the U.N. General Assembly and he told reporters that North Korea believes the recent insults and threats by President Trump constitute a declaration of war against his country.
The audio from the translator here is not that great, but let me tell you what he said here. He said: All of the member states participating in the United Nations should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country. The U.N. charter stipulates individual member states have a right to self-defense. Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.
You know, it`s one thing when they are threatening to turn us into a nuclear sea of fire or some crazy thing, or they`re calling our president mentally deranged or any other playground/South Park tantrum stuff that makes nuclear North Korea scary but also sometimes funny as well. But clearly, if there has been any strategy behind our new president`s insult comic approach to the North Koreans, it doesn`t seem to be working.
Remember when he threatened he would rain fire and fury like the world has never seen on -- rain that down on North Korea if they ever threatened us again? Remember what their response was? They tested a hydrogen bomb. I mean, they started threatening us the day he wielded his fire and fury at them and they didn`t stop. And they then tested a hydrogen bomb.
And the threats have escalated. And the missile tests have escalated. And the nuclear tests and nuclear posturing and now the nuclear threats have just escalated.
Given the latest round of threats that North Korea has now issued today, I have two questions, both of which I think can be answered. The first one`s about the latest nuclear threat they have made. The United States, what was then the Soviet Union and China, have all conducted tests of nuclear bombs where the bomb blew up in the air, an atmospheric nuclear test.
So, there are a few countries on Earth who have tested nuclear bombs that way. The United States and the Soviet Union both tested nuclear bombs in the air over the open ocean. China did it over some uninhabited desert on its own territory. But we haven`t had a test like that, an atmospheric nuclear test on this planet since that Chinese one in 1980, 37 years ago.
Well, North Korea, in response to this latest fight with President Trump is as of now saying that they are going to detonate their new hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere, over the Pacific Ocean.
Again, we haven`t had an atmospheric nuclear demonstration or nuclear test on this planet in 37 years. So, my question about that is, is that threat real? Do we have a way of knowing if they are capable of pulling that off? Relatedly, if they do try to pull that off, what are the material consequences of that for the rest of the globe? And is there reason to worry that they might screw it up?
They`ve had this incredibly increased pace of nuclear tests and new missile tests that they`ve been displaying over the last several months as President Trump has ramped up his threats and insults. They`ve been a nuclear power since 2006. They`ve been a missile threat to their immediate neighbors and to countries in increasingly far-flung parts of the globe since even before 2006.
But now that they`re threatening a new highly unusual, very rare nuclear demonstration in the sky, do we have reason to fear that they might be able to successfully do that or that they might make a mistake if they try to do something like that? Is a mistake also potentially very dangerous if they give it a try?
So that`s my first question about their new nuclear threat. Here`s my second question. They are now threatening to shoot U.S. warplanes out of the sky. What was the quote exactly? Quote: Even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.
And yes, we all know that the North Koreans make threats against the United States all the time. They have trademarked bellicosity in international relations. But U.S. warplanes fly over the Korea Peninsula and near to North Korea as a matter of course. I mean, just because we`ve got 35,000 U.S. troops based in South Korea but also because every time North Korea does a new test or issues some new threat, the way we typically respond now is by sending strategic, meaning nuclear-capable, bombers basically to go buzz them. We do it all the time now.
We went through just news stories we`ve seen this calendar year of President Trump presumably ordering B1 or B2 nuclear-capable bombers to fly near North Korea. It happened on March 22nd. It happened on May 2nd. It happened May 29th. It happened June 8th, June 20th, July 6th, July 8th, July 17th, July 19th, July 30th, August 7th, August 31st. It happened this weekend on Saturday -- nuclear-capable bombers buzzing North Korea.
I mean, the way we respond to their threats and their threatening rhetoric now is by sending strategic bombers near to the North Korean peninsula. The president insults them and threatens them which they take as a declaration of war and then we send nuclear capable bombers. That`s pretty much what we`re doing now. And we do it all the time.
But it`s one thing to threaten nuclear war. It`s another thing to threaten to shoot down U.S. military aircraft. They have shot down U.S. military aircraft in the past. So, that`s my other question. What is the United States likely to do in response to this new threat from North Korea, that they`re going to start shooting down U.S. military planes?
If as I expect the United States is going to keep flying these strategic bombers near North Korea because they don`t want to stand down from a threat like that, does that mean that we`re now at an increased risk of the worst happening? Maybe not by deliberate intention, but maybe because of mistake or miscommunication or miscalculation.
These are the questions I`m worried about. I think they`re also questions that can be answered with the right expert.
Joining us now is the right expert. Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, who now, I`m pleased to say, is MSNBC`s nuclear security analyst.
Mr. Cirincione, congratulations on this MSNBC gig and I`m really glad to have you here.
JOE CIRINCIONE, MSNBC NUCLEAR SECURITY ANALYST: Thank you very much, Rachel. It`s a pleasure to be here.
MADDOW: Let me ask you the sort of specific stuff I`m worried about first. Do we know if they are capable of setting off an atmospheric nuclear test of the type they are threatened today?
CIRINCIONE: Probably. Probably. The last test they had was almost certainly a hydrogen bomb. It was quite large, hundreds of kilotons of explosive force. That`s the size of a hydrogen bomb. Could they put it on the nose cone of a missile? Probably. U.S. intelligence says we have to make that assumption. And now, military planners now plan for that eventuality.
But it would be very risky. There`s no certainty here. So, yes, they could do it.
Could they do it reliably? Could they -- I think your word was screw it up? Yes. They could screw it up.
They could send this missile over Japan and it might not make it over Japan. It could explode prematurely. It could fall into the ocean. It could explode too close to Japan.
The plan would be to put it deep out into the Pacific actually in the area roughly where we used to test. We detonated about 100 hydrogen bombs in the Pacific. But it could go wrong and that could be absolutely catastrophic.
MADDOW: Could I just ask you? I know you just said we did this 100 times with our own nuclear program. If this thing, if they do it and they don`t screw it up, if they do it and they do it correctly, is that also a dangerous thing in terms of fallout?
CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. I mean, the fallout from our hydrogen bombs spread around the world. It wasn`t just regional. It was carried by the wind. It`s one of the reasons that President Kennedy and the Russians, the Soviets, negotiated what they called a Limited Test Ban Treaty back in 1963, to stop atmospheric tests.
The Soviets and the U.S. stopped. Other countries, France, China gradually stopped. As you said, the last one on earth was in 1980.
But then it`s not just the radiation. It`s the shock of this. Remember, this was 1980. Most people in the United States were born after 1980. Median age is about 37. So, most people have never seen a hydrogen bomb go off in the atmosphere, never seen a mushroom cloud.
This would be a hugely psychologically shocking event to see something like this. And it`s unpredictable what the U.S. response would be.
MADDOW: Joe, what do you make of this threat which is not a nuclear threat that North Korea says that they`re going to -- they now see it as their right and their prerogative to shoot down U.S. military planes even if they don`t cross into North Korean air space? I know they`re anti-aircraft capability is not the same as ours and their air force is not necessarily state of the art. But is this a real risk?
CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. That`s why the Air Force when they flew the B-1 bombers up the coast of North Korea, farther north than any plane, U.S. plane has flown in this century, they sent F-15s to escort them. They sent a defensive unit.
Remember, in 2010 the -- 2003, rather, the North Koreans sent MiG 21s up to scare away a reconnaissance plane, which scooted out of danger quickly. Yes, I think there`s a real risk here.
You know, I`m a big admirer of Admiral James Stavridis, the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, up at Tufts. He puts the odds of a conventional war with Korea right now at 50-50 and the odds of a nuclear war at 1 in 10. I think that`s about right. Except I`d put the odds of a nuclear war higher. I don`t think there would be a fire break once we started firing at each other.
Nuclear experts, nuclear security experts, Asia hands, are freaked out today at what they see as this escalatory crisis. It got so bad that the experts at 38 North, one of the leading expert sites, had to do an editorial today saying take a deep breath. People are very worried about this crisis. It is, as one said, the closest we`ve come to a nuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis. This is a dangerous new phase of this confrontation.
MADDOW: Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, MSNBC nuclear security analyst -- Joe, thank you. Appreciate it.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK, lots more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Hundreds of people wanted a spot inside that hearing. This was the one and only hearing they were going to hold on this thing. So, people got in line at 5:00 this morning. It was first come first served to get in. People got there at 5:00 a.m. this morning for that hearing even though it didn`t start until 2:00 p.m.
The committee only made room in the end for 20 seats for the general public. And they made even fewer spaces available for people who use wheelchairs. But then once things did get started they went downhill quite fast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: We will come to order. I`d like to welcome everyone, and I do mean everyone --
GRASSLEY: If you want a hearing -- if you want a hearing, you`d better shut up.
GRASSLEY: Let the police take care of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That one`s going to go down in history. If you want a hearing, you better shut up.
Republicans in charge of that hearing about getting rid of the Affordable Care Act and gutting Medicaid, they tried repeatedly to get the disability rights activists in the room to shut up. Eventually, they did give up and they called a brief recess, and that`s when the arrests started.
One by one, every single one of those protesters from the group ADAPT, those folks who woke up before dawn to get in that room, they were physically removed from the U.S. Capitol for protesting the Republican health care bill. It took three officers to push this woman and her wheelchair out of that hearing room. This other woman was carried out of her wheelchair by her arms and legs, taken out into the Senate hallway. Once police got her out there, they put her on the floor. So, she kept chanting, no cuts to Medicaid.
This woman on the bottom right there, her name`s Colleen Flanigan. She was in the very front line of this thing this morning. She said she and her fellow ADAPT members were nervous, they were sweating bullets about what they were going to do to try to stop this thing today but then they went ahead with it. And this is how it ended for her today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Took about 15 minutes for police to arrest every single protester at that hearing. Capitol Police say they in total arrested 181 people today. People who were there to try to save the Affordable Care Act.
The breaking news tonight, of course, is that they won. Maine Senator Susan Collins, the latest Republican senator to come out against the Republican bill. Do the math. Add her to John McCain and Rand Paul, they were no votes already. With two no votes, the Republicans could still pass it, but with three they`re dead. If this vote were held right now it would be toast.
The CBO also put out its latest score on the Republican plan. Because of the way it`s written, it`s hard to estimate exactly how many Americans would lose all health insurance because of what the Republicans are trying to do, but the CBO felt safe today in estimating that the number would at least be in the millions.
It`s anybody`s guess at this point whether Republicans are going to go for it again and if so when. But if they do, unless they change course radically, they are very likely to keep running into the same brick wall, the same resistance, including from some very, very determined Americans for whom this is absolutely life or death.
MADDOW: So, we have a couple of these two very large, very consequential stories playing out tonight. One international, one domestic. Internationally, it`s the continued ratcheting up of tension between the United States and North Korea, what one expert says has brought us closer to intentional nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis.
And also simultaneously, the domestic matter of what looks like the end for now of Republican efforts to kill Obamacare, to kill the affordable care act, which of course would result in millions of Americans losing all health insurance coverage. That effort appears to have collapsed today in the United States Senate.
Two big stories, and our next guest has a front row seat for both of them. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut serves in the Senate Health Care Committee and on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks for making time to be here tonight. I really appreciate it.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first about health care. We`re reading this as it`s dead for now. Do you think that is true? And what do you think happens next?
MURPHY: It is not dead yet. In part because you have only two hard noes that you can really trust, which are Susan Collins and John McCain. I remember that Rand Paul was a no on the last bill before he suddenly changed to a yes.
So, this is not over yet. You know, it`s just miraculous at some level that we are even where we are today, a few days before a vote with no CBO score and not yet enough members of the Senate aligned against a bill that essentially is the equivalent of health care system arson. You would be lighting the American health care system on fire by ending Medicaid as we know it, ending the health care exchanges, removing all of the tax credits today that help people buy insurance, cutting the amount of money that states get by about 25 percent and asking them to deal with the mess.
But that`s where we are. I think it looks a lot better tonight than it did this afternoon. But we still need one more hard no before this thing goes down.
MADDOW: Do you believe that the pressure that people -- that members of the Senate, their constituents have placed on them, both at their home offices and with these demonstrations in the lobbying efforts in Washington, do you think that regular people have made a difference in terms of stemming this off thus far?
MURPHY: So, it`s funny, I was just talking about this with some colleagues earlier today. I said remember, you know, early last week where we really thought that we were in trouble, it felt like there was tremendous momentum behind this bill. And I remember thinking then but you haven`t seen the real troops arrive.
You haven`t seen these groups representing handicapped Americans. You haven`t seen the phone calls. You haven`t seen the big turnout to members` offices.
And when that cavalry came last week and over the weekend, it did start to change minds. The fact of the matter is this bill still enjoys a 20 percent approval rating across this country. People are plugged into the issue of health care in a way they haven`t been since 2009. And it is an enormous political liability to Republicans who are already freaking out about their prospects in 2018 with Donald Trump on the ballot.
So, I absolutely think this political pressure ends up being dispositive. The only thing I worry about is that, you know, people who have family members with pre-existing conditions, they have a lot to worry about. And for them to get up off the mat over and over again as version 10 and 11 and 12 of the repeal bill comes before Congress, it`s hard for them to do that. But so far, they`ve stepped up and made an impact.
MADDOW: Senator, let me also ask you about what`s going on with North Korea. Obviously, we`ve got a new strategy of dealing with North Korea in this country, which is personal insults and threats from the president, which has now been met by North Korea making some very specific threats. They say they`re going to carry out an atmospheric nuclear test. We haven`t seen that on this planet since 1980. They also say they`re going to start shooting at U.S. military planes even if they don`t stray into North Korean airspace.
Is this just sort of a new day of crazy threats from North Korea? Or are you legitimately concerned that this is at a new level?
MURPHY: Well, I know the North Korean ambassador today suggested that we had issued a declaration of war. That`s nonsense. And frankly, if insults were a declaration of war, the Trump would be at war with half the world at this point.
But more importantly, you know, there is two ways to think about the regime and North Korea. One is that Kim Jong-un is a rational actor and if that is true, then making him understand the consequences of his continued nuclear escalation may make him think twice or at least make him think twice about launching a weapon anywhere near the United States or our allies.
On the other hand, he could be an irrational actor. He could be a true madman. And by spinning him up with this kind of escalating rhetoric, you could prompt him to do something truly catastrophic.
And so, I don`t think the Trump administration understands the consequences of the language they are using and then by creating no off ramp, by giving no diplomatic path by shutting down any prospect of talks, you make it very hard to give even a rational actor a way out and that`s the box that the administration is in right now.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you for your time tonight, sir. I know lots going on. Thanks for being here.
MURPHY: Thanks. Yes.
MADDOW: Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Classes had already been in session for three weeks when the first African-American students arrived to enroll at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, September 1957. The reason the Little Rock Nine couldn`t start closes with everybody else in the actual first day of school three weeks earlier is because the Arkansas governor had called up the Arkansas National Guard to physically block those nine kids from entering the building, while pro-segregation white mobs did their part, too, outside of central high, and that went on for weeks.
Until finally on September 25th, 1957, the Little Rock Nine got an intervention from on high, specifically from the freaking 101st Airborne Division. Sixty years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower deployed 1,000 U.S. paratroopers from 101st Airborne to go to central high school in Arkansas to get the kids into the school and those soldiers stood against the segregation mobs, including with bayonets and they escorted those nine kids safely to and from school.
President sends troops to Little Rock, federalizes Arkansas National Guard, tells nation he acted to avoid anarchy. Sixty years ago today.
Since the civil rights era, presidents over and over again have been handed these moments. Moments they didn`t necessarily choose but where they had to decide what to do and in fact, whether they would do anything. Presidents usually don`t get to pick that moment when it happens. But when circumstances compel them to take action, the response they choose always becomes a hallmark of their time in office. It happens with every presidency.
Turns out the whole mechanism there can also go in the other direction, too, when the president decides to and that`s what is happening now. Hold that thought. That`s next.
MADDOW: In 1970, as the Vietnam War raged on and as his approval ratings circled the toilet bowl, President Richard Nixon saw a way to help himself. He decided he would pick a convenient fight with a convenient enemy to try to bring his own base back home to him. As president, he started berating and provoking anti-war protesters at his public appearances.
After protesters obligingly threw eggs and rocks at his motorcade in San Jose, California, President Nixon released a vitriolic statement condemning what he called the stoning at San Jose, calling it an example of the viciousness, of the lawless elements of our society.
In May 1970, when 1,000 young anti-war activists took to the streets in New York City they were actually counterattacked. They were attacked by 200 middle-aged white construction workers carrying lead pipes and crow bars and American flags. It was a legit riot. Over 70 people were injured including four police officers.
A few weeks later, President Nixon invited members of the so-called Hardhat Riot to come visit him at the White House. Nixon looked at the tensions in play in the country and figured out how he could use them to his own political benefit, how he could amplify them and harness them to accrue to himself for political gain.
By now, you`ve seen the images from this weekend of hundreds of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of police violence against African-Americans. This is a protest that`s been waxing and waning in the NFL for months now. By now you`ve seen the president cranking the handle on his Twitter machine, swearing at NFL players over this long- standing protest, saying they should all be fired.
Lest you think this is an undisciplined outburst on the part of the president, consider the fact that a group created by the Trump campaign team is now running Facebook ads urging Trump supporters to turn off the NFL and stand with Trump.
This isn`t an outburst. This wasn`t some sort of political burp. This was a coordinated, intentional political operation, an opportunistic response to this moment in our national cultural life. We`re 60 years out from Little Rock today, when one president used his power to help those kids go to school against even a governor who called up the National Guard to stop them. Sixty years ago today, Eisenhower and the Little Rock Nine.
Clearly, what we`re seeing with this president now is different. But is it the opposite? And is it unprecedented? Are there things that our history can show us about what we`re seeing now, what`s likely to happen next?
Joining us now is my friend Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, thank you for being here. It`s nice to have you here.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: My pleasure. Thank you. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I don`t like to see anything as unprecedented, and I like to talk to you in terms of historical echoes of these things. I think the president has moved deliberately to try to take this moment of civil rights activism and racial animus and try to turn it into political capital for himself.
BESCHLOSS: Totally agree.
MADDOW: And are there parallels for that?
BESCHLOSS: Yes. And the best one is probably Nixon because Nixon started out in his inaugural and his victory statement saying: my great objective will be to bring the American people together.
1968 was a really tough year with a lot of conflict. And as you said, by 1970, you know, he was running behind in the polls, behind Democrats. He had a bad economy.
So, he thought the way to do this is to come up with a wedge issue, just as you were saying. You know, law and order. You know, he talked about these anti-war protesters. He said these bums who are blowing up the campuses.
And Nixon`s objective was, you know, if Americans were unhappy with what he was doing in terms of not getting things done, at least they could say Dick Nixon hates the same people that I do, that would bind his supporters to him, make it more possible for him to run in 1972.
What does that sound like today?
MADDOW: Well, and the way you tell that story, I mean, the lesson that politicos are taking hearing that is that it worked. It did work for Nixon in a way. I mean, the wedge issues -- the whole concept of wedge issues persists because it works time and again.
But is there anything that we`ve learned as a country in terms of the type of damage that that type of politicking does or if there`s any antidote to it?
BESCHLOSS: It`s ugly and it`s dangerous and it`s destructive because the whole idea of this country going back all the way to 1789, George Washington, he said it, almost every president has, is the job of a president is a lot of things but a central task is to bring the country together. It`s a big diverse country. A lot of people with different views, different aims. Almost every single country, every single president has understood that, perhaps Abraham Lincoln above all. The bad presidents, the few of them, have been the ones who`ve tried to rip up the country for their own political benefit. That`s what Richard Nixon did in 1970.
MADDOW: Does it in their own political era, not just in history but in their own time in office, does it ever come back and bite them?
BESCHLOSS: I think it does because in Nixon`s case, for instance, his short-term aim was to win the midterm election of 1970. And as it turns out, the Republicans lost and Republican leaders felt that the reason they lost, you mentioned San Jose and that episode with Nixon and the throwing of rocks. They went to the White House and they said Mr. President, this law and order stuff, you know, things like San Jose, that didn`t work, you`re killing our party, stop it. And Nixon behaved at least a little bit better the next year.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, thank you. Very good to see you.
BESCHLOSS: Wonderful to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Puerto Rico is now enduring its sixth night in almost complete darkness. Most of the island remains without power in the wake of Hurricane Maria. And for all the urgency of the humanitarian situation there, the lived experience of this storm is waiting, waiting for help, waiting for government response. Residents of Puerto Rico waiting in line for hours to buy gas, to power generators, which is mostly the only source of power still on the island.
People are also waiting in lines for water, including people setting up makeshift water stations at streams and springs that opened up in landslides after the storm.
Governor confirmed last hour with Chris Hayes that only 40 percent of house -olds on the island have running water, which means 60 percent do not. The almost complete lack of phone service means many people have still not been unable to reach their loved ones and relief efforts are just that much harder to coordinate.
In the northwestern part of Puerto Rico, residents are still watching the local dam, one of the largest on the island, which has been threatening to collapse since the end of last week. A few hundred people are in shelters, but tens of thousands of people are downstream from that dam.
Above all, though, these Americans in Puerto Rico are waiting for more help. Puerto Rico`s governor felt the need to put a statement out today making basically just an urgent plea for more help and attention. Quote: We will need the full support of the U.S. government. People cannot forget we are U.S. citizens.
Dispatches from reporters across the island today paint a picture of many areas of Puerto Rico that are still utterly cut off, many places on the island that have yet to see any aid or any assistance whatsoever. And as I say, this is the sixth night of this thus far.
That does it for us tonight. We will 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
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.