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tv   All In With Chris Hayes  MSNBC  June 26, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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over time, it will become an underwater city, a lost city, an atlantis. when that day comes, most probably in this century people will look back at those on the piggyside, politically today, those who laugh at climate change and say they were the ones who did this. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. thank you for joining us on a fascinating, frustrating news night. tonight, on "all in" we know where he is, at least re we think we do. i'll tell you where we believe the nsa leaker edward snowden is holed up at this very minute and why the trouble this guy is causing u.s. government has only just begun. plus president barack obama stood in the 93 degree heat today and delivered the speech al gore called the best ever on climate given by a president.
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we will bring you the highlights. but we begin tonight with the truly stunning decision by the supreme court where, if i may speak metaphorically, i believe john roberts' court took out a knife and plunged it into the voting rights act soft underbelly and dragged the dying gasping body across the street on to the steps of the capitol building and left it there with a note to congress saying it would be a shame if this law were to die. the decision in this case, shelby county v. holder is one i believe will go down in history as one of this court's absolute worst. it was an act of supreme judicial hubris and activism. ruled a key provision of the voting rights act unconstitutional and thus in the short term killed off the core of that act. now, whether it can be revived is an open question, one we'll visit in a moment. first, you have to understand what the court did today. there was a lot of confusion because it was complicated on
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purpose. i want to just walk through it. section 5 is often referred to as the heart of the voting rights act. it requires what's known as preclearance of any changes to the way elections are run in certain parts of this country. now, what is so brilliant about its approach? informed by history, is in the battle days before the voting rights act, some racist locality would enact some new voting rule to make it harder or impossible for black people to vote. sure, those people could sue but might be a year or two before your lawsuit was heard and in the meantime the election in question would have happened and the damage would have been done. this happened all the time. this is our history. and the genius of section 5 of the voting rights act is it's a preemptive, proactive means of stopping those types of discriminatory rules from being enacted, without some extra scrutiny by the federal government. now, the question becomes, which parts of the country should be subjected to this scrutiny, to look at every little rule that
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they want to change about their elections? and that's handled by a formula. it's laid out in section 4 of the voting rights act which has been tweaked here and there over the years. basically it targets state and localities that were using special tests to restrict voting rights when the act was passed. things like literacy tests and places where voter turnout or registration is below 50% or was below 50% when it was last passed. you'll see today most of the jurisdictions targeted under that formula are, well, where you'd expect them to be. states of the old confederacy, states with a history of racial terrorism, oppression, domination and exploitation. it also sweeps up some localities and states you would not necessarily expect like a couple counties in south dakota and california. my own home borough of brooklyn is covered because of the way the formula works. now, that's okay with me. these parts of the country are not allowed to just enact whatever restrictive voting rules they want. ny changes to voting rules. this is what the voting rights act protects us from.
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united states congress has reauthorized the voting rights act four times. most recently in 2006 by huge bipartisan margins. but today in a 5-4 majority decision, authored by chief justice john roberts, a man who has expressed skepticism toward the voting rights act from the time he was a young lawyer in the reagan justice department. the court decided that the formula congress passed is unconstitutional. that congress just did it wrong. they didn't like their math. this despite the fact that the 15th amendment for which hundreds of thousands of americans died, and which explicitly gives congress the authority to enforce right to vote, despite the plain text of that part of the constitution, nope, said roberts and alito and thomas and kennedy and scalia. we don't like the way you did it. so they struck it down. and then said to congress, if you want to keep that law, you seem to like so much, then fix it in a way that we like. if that sounds ambiguous, complicated, it is ambiguous and complicated. it is by design.
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let's be very clear about what that means. what the roberts court majority wants to do is, i think quite clearly, kill off section 5 of the voting rights act. the preclearance provision altogether. they understand how politically toxic that would be. they have come up instead with a clever way of killing it without admitting to killing it. these are people that sit just a block away from the capitol. they look out at the house caucus. they know who this congress is. who it represents. and what it does every day. they know how unlikely it is that this congress will be able to save the voting rights act, come up with a new formula that suits the supreme court. we all know how unlikely that is. so all the people telling you today, the law's not dead, they are right. but it's wounded. and before we move on to how it might be saved, which is absolutely a moral and legal imperative, and can be done, let us not skip too quickly over the part where the supreme court tried to kill it today. joining me now is congressman john conyers, a democrat from michigan. he's also a founding member of the congressional black caucus. and congressman, as someone who has lived this history, and
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watched this history, and knows what this act means, what is your reaction to the court's decision today? >> well, chris, you said it so well. we've driven a dagger through the heart of the voting rights act. it is one of the decisions, i thought citizens united was about the worst decision i would ever see in these times from the supreme court, but this -- this drives a dagger through it and it gives us an enormous challenge because everyone knows that the house is quite partisan. we're quite divided on almost everything. and it's going to take a real skill to bring people together, and the one thing that we all understand it's got to be
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bipartisan. >> yes. >> the voting rights act and the civil rights act and its reauthorizations all were bipartisan. the 2006 extension of the voter rights act was bipartisan. so we've got to work with democrats and republicans and independents and we have to realize that without this, there are going to be even more states enacting their own restrictive voter i.d. laws to make voting more difficult for so many people. the people that need them the most. >> congressman john conyers, let me ask you this question. if you were sitting in the chambers of chief justice john roberts as he was contemplating writing this decision, writing
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his vote, what do you wish you could have told him? >> well, i would have told him how far we've come since the 15th amendment to the constitution in which african-americans finally got the right to vote, specifically. and what we're doing now will be a huge step backwards, and it's going to create a lot of work. it's going to be a huge challenge. and, please, let's let this voter rights case of shelby township be decided in a way that is fair to everybody in the nation. as they ought to do about everything. >> congressman john conyers, democrat from michigan. it will be in your body that this gets resolved. joining me at the table is special counsel of the naacp
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legal defense fund. debo adegbile. he argued the shelby case before the supreme court. and julie fernandes, former deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the u.s. department of justice where she oversaw the enforcement of this act and now a senior policy analyst at the ole miss society foundation. dave, can i begin with you? you argued this case. you read the decision. >> yes. >> why did they strike down? what -- can you explain to me what specifically the 5-4 majority found unconstitutional about the current formula that is used by congress? >> in a sense the court put itself in a position you'd expect congress and the legislature to be in. they were grappling with the progress that we've made as a nation. and what we said in our brief and what i'll say today, we should not get hung up and misunderstand something fundamental. the idea we made progress shouldn't mean we can't stop striving to make more progress. the court got stuck on this point because there's been progress in voting we need to cease and reassess how we proceed.
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>> justice ruth bader ginsburg said throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rain storm because you not getting wet. hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the vra." did it strike you, sitting there in the department of justice looking at this paperwork that the formula that congress had come up with then which was essentially reauthorized was capricious or arbitrary or ridiculous? >> not at all, chris. i think what our experience was in the department and has been for a lot of the voting rights advocate, the jurisdictions that were covered by section 5 were those jurisdictions that needed to be covered by section 5. the history of discrimination and the current day effects. it's an important point that justice roberts, in his opinion, made it seem as if we were in the reauthorization only relying on what had happened a long time ago to determine which jurisdiction need to continue to
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have the preclearance obligations, when, in fact, what congress did in 2006 was to look very carefully at recent incidents of voting discrimination, what was happening to real voters in real places. justice roberts and the court just got it wrong. they haven't walked in the shoes of john lewis. they haven't walked to see what discrimination looks like and where it looks that way. >> and they just also, i mean, this is just an amazing act of just of judicial activism. they have just told congress -- it's just incredible to me. the question to me, it strikes me, isn't how much progress there is or whether there's been progress. it's who gets to decide the appropriate remedy for the problem on the table. and today the supreme court, debo, said we do. >> that's what's stunning. justice kagan put this question to our adversary during the oral argument. she said, who gets to decide? and the constitution on this point is crystal clear. the 15th amendment puts it with congress to enforce the amendment against racial discrimination in voting. congress looked at this very
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carefully, as julie mentioned, and studies done at the time and since have shown that the repetitive and adaptive discrimination happens in certain places. congress never said the voting discrimination only happens there. what it said is we need a special response in the places where the case-by-case method is inadequate. >> really important point, too. these distinction are not preserved in amber. there is a way, if you feel like, oh, i'm the city of boston, this is unfair, we're under the voting rights act and have a really clean record, you can get out of it, right? >> the whole idea of there being a formula is not really accurate. it was really a way to identify in '65 and '72 when it was modified. a way to identify those jurisdictions that needed this type of remedy. but then the idea was when they can demonstrate they don't need any more, they can bail out. jurisdictions do it all the time. they certainly do it. the other point is right now we are back with congress. just to say we are back with congress now. the court has said, look, there is voting discrimination.
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we think the way congress did this may not be the right way, but congress, it's up to you. that's the important part we are now. >> we have a member of congress, a republican who voted for that reauthorization the last time it came up and a current member of congress. a democrat. we're going to talk about precisely that. debo adegbile. julie fernandes. how is congress going to take on this mess? i will ask a democrat and a republican if there's any hope. that's next.
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right now as i speak, there is a state senator named wendy davis doing a one-woman filibuster of legislation that would drastically restrict access to abortions in texas. calling republican efforts to pass the bill in a special session, "a raw abuse of power." she is right now on hour eight and has five more hours to go to stop this bill from being passed. meanwhile, hundreds of activists
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for and against the bill have been storming the capitol to protest. the "rachel maddow show" will be covering this story coming up. you definitely want to stick around for that. we'll be right back.
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this decision represents a serious setback for voting rights and has the potential to negatively effect millions of americans across the country. >> this is a sad day. i would hope that the congress would step in. >> we're going to work with congress in this effort and the administration can do everything in our power to ensure fair and equal voting processes are maintained. >> that is just some of the reaction from washington officials today after the supreme court basically said
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that until congress fixes it, section 5 of the voting rights act is dead. in the near term, at least, it really is up to congress and then the president to make this happen. joining me now is congressman keith ellison. he announced he would announce legislation to amend the u.s. constitution to guarantee the right to vote. and former governor of delaware who voted for the reauthorization of the voting rights act in 2006. congressman castle, can i begin with you, it was striking to me today that eric cantor came out and issued a statement saying he supported a reauthorization of the vote rights act, but he was really a voice in the wilderness on the republican side of the aisle. we tried to get republican sitting members of congress to come on the show and talk about the future of this important piece of legislation and basically have struck out. my question to you as someone who voted for it in 2006 when it enjoyed broad bipartisan support is, can your party rally to the cause yet again? >> well, does my party want to rally to the cause is the issue?
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i tend to agree with chuck schumer who basically said that with the house under republican control and needing 60 votes to get anything done in the senate that it's unlikely that you're going to see preclearance be done by congress in that format. and i think that's probably correct if i had to guess. i don't know all the facts that were before the supreme court in terms of how they looked to various municipalities and various states that actually have been named and placed into the voting rights act and saying there's been a change over a period of time. maybe there's some, you know, credibility to that. i don't necessarily agree with the decision, but the idea that this congress is going to make changes, i think, is fairly unlikely. but there's a remedy and the remedy is if somebody is wronged, they have the right to bring suit and to reinstate --
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>> you're referring to section 2 of the voting rights act which does remain intact but does not have the preemptive effect. hearing congressman castle talking about the congress you go to work in every day, you work with those colleagues across the aisle. what is your sense of whether this congress can come together around a new formula? >> you know, i believe that when politicians feel the heat, they see the light. and that if citizens step up and tell this congress that they expect every american to have equal and fair right to vote and in jurisdictions where that right has historically interfered with that they want some preclearance, i think we will get it. now, i'll tell you that, you know, things like the voting rights act, they have had a high degree of bipartisanship over the years. i think voting rights are different. i mean, the fact is that the last time this bill was reauthorized, you had ample
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support on both sides of the aisle for it. i mean, you know, congressman sensenbrenner voted for it, congressman goodlatte did, congressman castle who's with us tonight did. i don't see why any of these gentlemen or ladies would want to back away from their prior commitment. i think we step up to the plate. we get hearings started right away. i've been talking with colleagues. i know that we're getting this thing rolling right away. and i know that senator leahy is, too. but i think this is a moment when all americans, black, white, latino, asian, need to say, equal right to vote for all and be real clear on it. this is a moment for that. >> congressman castle, can i ask you a question just as a matter of institutional personal pride. you're someone who's had a tremendously accomplished career in politics, and you voted. you cast a vote for reauthorization based on the hearings, based on the testimony, based on your judgment, based on being the elected representative in the article 1 institution in our proud republic. and the court today just said you didn't do your job.
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that is the message from the john roberts opinion is that you screwed up, you didn't do a good enough job in figuring out whether this was the right way to use the formula. do you feel at all personally insulted by that? >> well, perhaps a little bit. as i said, i don't know all the facts that were before the supreme court, so i'm reluctant to be too critical, but, yeah, it bothers me. as i said, i don't necessarily agree with the underlying premise of this particular decision, but, you know, they made it and now congress has to go to work. you know, the congressman makes what i consider to be very valid points. that is the members of the house and senate need to sit down and at least see if they can work this out. if they can't, i think you will see court remedies that will eventually straighten it out. whether that's sooner or later, i'm not 100% sure. but the bottom line is, you know, one can be critical of the supreme court in this, and i can understand the reaction of those who believe in civil rights.
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as i do in all this. but perhaps they knew something that i didn't and perhaps others did not. exactly. >> congressman ellison, let me ask you this. what i find maddening here is the court said this formula doesn't work for us, we think it violates an unspecified part of the constitution. what is to say whatever you come up with is going to, you know, pass the liking of these same five justices if you do come up with the formula? >> you know, when justice scalia said that he believes that somebody's sort of -- i think the term of art that he used was -- oh my goodness, i'm blanking on it. >> racial entitlement. >> racial entitlement. thank you. when he used that terminology, it was clear to me he had a certain perspective on things and that his preconceived ideas about civil rights law, voting rights law, were going to prevail. i mean, look, congress did a lot of work. 15,000 pages.
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all kinds of hours of testimony. a number of egregious cases cited. it was all there, but, you know, no amount of facts is going to overcome somebody's ideology. congress has to sit down and get it done. we have a bipartisan history of standing up for the right to vote. look, we can argue about taxes, we can argue about trade, we can go back and forth on immigration, but give the people a right to vote. >> congressman keith ellison, democrat from minnesota. former republican congressman mike castle of delaware. thank you, gentlemen, for your time. >> thank you. why today's supreme court decision on voting rights act creates huge problems, huge problems for the republican party. coming up.
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if i were chief justice john roberts today, i imagine i'd be feeling pretty good about myself. i've essentially just killed the heart of the voting rights act, finally achieving a personal goal of mine, and of the larger conservative movement over the last 40 years. this morning when john roberts killed section 4 of the voting rights act and sent it back to congress, he also created huge, massive problems for the republican party. here's why. republicans know that the single biggest question in all of american politics right now, the question that will determine the outcome to almost every important issue in politics, from whether or not people get health care and food stamps, to whether we stop the unceasing rise of the oceans and the heating of the planet, is whether or not the electorate that showed up in 2008 and 2012 to elect barack obama will be a
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durable, sustainable electoral coalition in future elections. or whether it was the product of an exceptional man who is an exceptional politician with an exceptional campaign. republican party knows that if you get the electorate that came out, voted for obama in 2008, and again in 2012, the country and its future looks one way and not a way that looks very good for the grand old party. but if you get the 2010 electorate, which, itself, was the most diverse midterm electorate in history but still less diverse than 2008 and 2012, the country looks a very different way. it is much more of a tea party nation. republicans understand that in a country that is getting less white, where african-american turnout is reaching record highs, and republicans are losing by historic ass-kicking margins among the two fastest growing ethnic groups with mitt romney losing hispanics in 2012 by 50 points to obama and asians by 47 points, they know that all of this spells demographic and
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electoral doom for them. and right now we are watching them tie themselves into knots over immigration reform because of this very conundrum. republicans know if they continue to antagonize and insult the nation's latino voters, they will pay an electoral price, and yet their base demands they do precisely that. but if you thought the house republican caucus was antagonizing the ascendant obama multicultural majority before, well now just watch as they kill the voting rights act. because chief justice john roberts might have thought this morning he was being too clever today by kicking the voting rights act back to a dysfunctional congress and wiping his hands of it, but he just took the voting rights act, the single most significant piece of civil rights legislation in our country's storied and bloodied history and hung it around the neck of every republican member of congress. so if there is ever any question about whether the people who stood in line and knocked on doors and called their neighbors
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in 2008 and 2012, if there was ever any question if those people would mobilize in an off-year election, in 2014, john roberts just issued all of those people, all of you, a direct challenge. he may as well have walked up to each and every volunteer, to each voter of color, and said we're going to take away the progress you have worked so hard for and there's nothing you can do about it. that's where john roberts is wrong. there is something we can do about it. because if it's congress that guarantees our rights, our right to vote, you go out and you vote for that congress. make no mistake, the 2014 election started today. russian president vladimir putin is now officially acknowledging that nsa leaker edward snowden is holed up in a moscow airport. putin is also acknowledging he doesn't like shaving baby pigs. i'll make some sense of that next. all kinds of reasons. i go to angie's list
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it's day two in the search for nsa leaker edward snowden. we have strong confirmation where he is, perhaps. according to vladimir putin, edward snowden is a free man, currently in the transit zone of a transit airport. he has not passed through immigration so he's technically not in russia which has given russia the justification. russian foreign minister sergei lavrov saying there are no legal grounds for such conduct of u.s. officials. vladimir putin took the opportunity to deliver a rhetorical wedgie during a news conference today. "any accusation directed toward russia is ravings and sheer nonsense. snowden is a transit passenger and as such still remains in the transit lounge." putin dismissed the importance of the entire snowden case saying "it's like shearing a pig, lots of screams but little wool." snowden's visa rules require a special transit visa for anyone staying more than 24 hours in transit zone.
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the stakes get higher. glenn greenwald telling eli lake of "the daily beast" snowden has given encoded files of the secret nsa documents to several people and if anything happens to them, the files will be unlocked. while the tension ratchets up between the u.s. and russia, hong kong's government finally explained why it would not process the u.s. paperwork requesting detention of edward snowden. "on the diplomatic documents, james was used as a middle name. on the record upon entering the border, joseph was used as the middle name. the american court documents sent to us by the american justice department, it only said edward j. snowden." i mean, who can't relate to such confusion? remember how hard it was to keep track of dr. dre the rapper? or what about the vanessa williams, vanessa k. williams crisis of the early '90s? who hasn't confused dave thomas of strange brew with davis thomas of wendy's? what's becoming obvious of the snowden affair is the
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opportunity it provides for other nations to give the united states a big diplomatic middle finger. and while the story still centers on edward snowden's whereabouts and the substance of the documents he leaked and what they revealed, it's also increasingly clear edward snowden is all things to all people, to all nations. hero, traitor, pawn, weapon. he's a fugitive for the digital age. an avatar, whoever the user wants him to be. coming up, the president gave an amazing speech on climate change today. it even included a special quasi secret shout-out that i bet you most people didn't even catch. i'm going to let you in on that next. she's still the one for you -
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president did something today i find pretty remarkable. yes, he laid out a detailed plan to limit greenhouse gases from power plants and listed ways a warming planet impacts our health. we're going to talk about the substance of these policies and what they mean in just a moment. the president did something today that basically no official in washington hardly ever does and that's talk to the american people in clear, complete adult sentences, sentences you can print without having to snip the ums and the ahs. about the single greatest threat that we face. our carbon pollution and the planet it is warming. >> so the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late.
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and how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. as a president, as a father, and as an american, i'm here to say we need to act. >> the president is finally saying here is we don't have time to deny the fact that human activity is warming the earth. sea levels practically a foot higher than they were at the end of the 19th century. the president has understandably lost his patience for anyone who denies the science is real. >> we don't have time for a meeting of the flat earth society. [ applause ] sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm. and ultimately we will be judged as a people and as a society and as a country on where we go from
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here. >> speech was refreshingly free from any ambiguity and light on rhetorical hedges. it was bold and it was pressing because it needed to be. the funny thing about climate change, it never seems to arrive really per se. there's not some day where you wake up and some thing called climate change announces itself. you can start to think it's not here, this is just the weather. it's just hot because it's the weather. it's just a storm because that's the weather and there have been storms before. but the worst mistake we can make is to continue to view climate change as some, "looming, perpetually unaddressed crisis." >> some day our children and our children's children will look at us in the eye and ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? and i want to be able to say, yes, we did. can we imagine a more worthy goal? for while we may not live to see the full realization of our
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ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did. >> joining me now is senator sheldon whitehouse, democrat from rhode island who's been one of the most prophetic voices on climate change. my first reaction from you, just to get your reaction from listening to that speech today. >> well, i suppose it was ironically hot, but it was also a terrific speech and immensely welcome. it is so frustrating to sit in this congress that has been tied in knots by the polluters and the special interests and not be able to make progress and to look over at the potential in the executive branch, and today president obama seized that potential and it was a big day. >> one of the things the president did in his remarks was call out your colleagues in the
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senate for blocking the nomination of his nominee to be the head of the environmental protection agency, gina mccarthy, and just said there essentially is no reason for her to be blocked. they've been making her do, jump through a million hoops. do you -- >> yeah, they've been making her jump through specifically a thousand hoops. >> yeah, explain that. >> asking her a thousand questions. >> they've asked her a thousand questions. explain this, because it's kind of an amazing stalling technique the republicans have employed here. what is going on with her nomination? why have they asked her a thousand questions? >> well, i think they, frankly, can't accept that the environmental protection agency exists. and so they are very concerned about anybody who might lead it, notwithstanding that she has served five republican governors and has a wonderful reputation within the industry for being somebody who's smart and good to deal with. she'll follow the law, but she's smart and she's good to deal with. you really couldn't ask for better.
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so if you don't want her, you really don't want anybody, and that means, i think, that we may end up having to go to demolishing the republican filibuster on this and use our other procedural options. we can't let this obstruction continue, not for a nominee like her. >> you are someone who has taken time in the that to try to call attention to this issue. do you feel sometimes like you're just shouting into the darkness? because i feel that way sometimes when i cover this issue on cable television, and i even, today, was watching the speech and watching the networks turn away from the speech in the middle of the speech as if it were not news at all, and i watched my twitter feed and social media and facebook and people were talking about a lot of other stuff and it was a very heavy news day. does the president have the power to focus the nation's attention on this problem? >> he does if he persists and continues to make this the issue of our time that it is. the deniers win when this issue does not get attention.
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attention is the enemy of their position because their position is unsustainable. it's virtually harebrained at this point. and it can't stand scrutiny. so the president applying attention and scrutiny and all of us applying attention and scrutiny will enable us to begin to grapple with this issue in a sensible way and force the republicans to move to a logical and sensible position on this. >> quickly, let me finish with this. do you think there will be pushback from the republicans in the congress and in the senate and the house to these executive actions? will they try to do things like defund the epa or attack it in other ways? >> yeah, of course. there's a pretty wild group of extremists in the republican party right now, but i think we can count on a lot of the more sensible voices who realize that this for the republican party is a path of destruction. every year it gets worse. do they really want to go down in history as the party that allied itself with the polluters and ignored the scientists?
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when things really continue to turn bad, that's going to prove to have been an awful choice for their party. it goes right up with immigration and with gay rights, as places where they're on the wrong demographic side and they've got to catch up if they're going to be a realistic party in the years ahead. >> senator sheldon whitehouse, democrat from rhode island. thank you so much. >> thank you. we'll be back with former epa administrator christine todd whitman and climate activist tim dechristopher.
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what you'll hear from the special interests and their allies in congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy and basically end american free enterprise as we know it. for example, in 1970, when we decided through the clean air
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act to do something about the smog that was choking our cities. but at the time when we passed the clean air act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doom sayers were saying, new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry. guess what? didn't happen. our air got cleaner. >> we're back talking about what the president can do on his own without congressional approval to fight the most pressing issue of our time, climate change. joining me now, former republican governor of new jersey christine todd whitman. she was administrator of the environmental protection agency under george w. bush. now president of the whitman strategy group. consulting official that specializes in energy and environmental issues. tim dechristopher, a climate activist and co-founder of peaceful uprising. it's great to have you both here. so we bump back in with the president's long section on the clear air act because that is one of the key policy elements announced today in this speech. i want to just explain this briefly for people then i want to get your response to it, christine.
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the clean air act regulates things that are dangerous or harmful to public health. right? and, in fact, requires the epa -- >> absolutely. >> -- to regulate pollutants that are dangerous and harmful to public health. the courts have found that carbon pollution is such a dangerous pollutant. >> right. >> and my understanding is that under the court's finding, it wasn't just that the epa had the power to regulate carbon, it was then required -- >> it is required. >> isn't it -- so the president today, what struck me as interesting, the president announced today he's directing the epa to draft rules for existing power plants that give off a lot of our carbon pollution. but, in fact, that was actually required by law. i mean, it gives you a little bit of sense of where the politics are on this issue that telling the epa to do its lawfully required job is news making. >> i know. that's, well, to the extent that this makes news at all, unfortunately. it is. it's something the epa is required to do. he was calling out particular sections and a particular part of the energy industry on which to focus, or of industry, the energy industry.
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so that you could argue was slightly different and slightly new. but, no, epa has, they went to court, they said they've had a finding that, in fact, carbon was bad, injurious to human health. it was taken to court because everything epa does is taken to court. and the court backed them up on that. so there's no question. they've been working on this rule for a while. what he did is set some timelines of when they're supposed to come out with it, and it really wouldn't be -- come out with a final rule and require the utilities to be back to the agency with how they were going to meet it until 2015. >> so let me just make the stakes clear for people, right? we've got a lot of the carbon pollution happening in our economy is coming directly from coal. i mean -- >> 40% comes from the energy industry overall. fossil fuels. >> and a big part of that is coal. >> yes.
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>> and in directing coal-fire power plants, currently existing ones and putting rules on them, this could actually be a quite seismic shift in what our emissions are. >> it would be. you're already seeing a shift within the energy industry away from coal. coal used to be 50%. it's now down to about 48%. what you'll do is see other clean coals, i mean, not clean coal, but clean energy and renewable energy, both nuclear, wind, solar, start to have a bigger play. >> tim, you're someone who i think has a clear-eyed view of our future. it's not a particularly rosy one from our last conversation. it's like cormac mccarthy's "the road" no matter what we do. when we hear encouraging signs of progress, i think, christine, you feel the same way about this speech. what is your reaction to it? >> i think if you look at this speech and take out the substantive policy that he was talking about, everything outside of that was a good speech on climate change and a step forward in terms of his rhetoric. the substantive policy was not all that encouraging. as you were saying, he's telling the epa by 2016 they have to enforce the law the supreme court told them to enforce six years ago. and obviously, you know, he was talking a lot about promoting
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natural gas in there. and he had one little throwaway comment about, of course, there's some controversy around natural gas development as well. i was kind of waiting for him to say, but american ingenuity will find an alternative to water because that's the reality for people that are impacted by hydraulic fracking which is where an increasing part of our natural gas -- >> natural gas is being produced. >> we're seeing more and more studying show hydraulic fracking, the entire life cycle of that natural gas is is comparable to coal. we're not talking about major improvements with emissions. certainly not on the scale we need to turn things around. >> that last question always strikes me as the issue here. there's the political reality of how washington works and i think anyone who surveys the political scene and says the biggest obstacle to stopping climate change is barack obama, i think is ridiculous, because i can name you hundreds of thousands of people who are a bigger obstacle. obviously barack obama has a lot of power. there's the political reality of
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where we are, then there's how quickly we need to get our act together to avoid some really, really disastrous consequences. and one place where this has come together is in the keystone pipeline which has become both a real and symbolic battle line for where this president signs on it and whether we can ever make the decision as a society and as a political community to not take fossil fuels out of the ground is really what it kind of comes down to. this is what the president said today on keystone. >> i do want to be clear, allowing the keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. and our national interest will be served. only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. the net effects of the pipeline's impact -- [ applause ] the net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to
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determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. >> how did you understand that very fine line he was walking there? >> it was a very fine line. he was parsing his words. i think it all comes down to what he meant by substantive impact, because clearly fossil fuel of any sort has an impact. >> particularly the tar sands coming out of the -- >> some of the worst. is it better to ship that, move that by pipeline than by truck? yes, you're still talking about you're burning it at the end. that's a fossil fuel. you lose and pollute the atmosphere even when it's coming out. it's a question, i think what he will get it down to, is it going to happen anyway? and therefore, is it less polluting if we take it in a pipeline? i think what he's doing is giving himself wiggle room here to decide how he really wants to go. >> and i would say this is one of those areas where what he's talking about in real terms doesn't align with his policy. or with his rhetoric. you know, when he's talking about the rhetoric of i want to be able to tell my children and my grandchildren that we did all that we could, right -- >> keystone is one of those key
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decision points. >> that's absolutely clear on keystone. >> let me play this last little bite where he shouts out the divest movement which organizers started a month ago. >> convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. invest. divest. remind folks there's no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth, and remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote. >> a pretty remarkable shout-out to all the activists across the country right now working on divestment. the president just said divest. >> that was, to me, the most surprising thing of the speech. i said, oh my god, he gave a shout-out to the divestment movement. the climate movement has had a radical shift over the past few years and created this moment
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for where obama's at right now and are going to keep pushing. >> i think he recognized how important it is. former epa administrator christine todd whitman. climate activist tim dechristopher. that's "all in" for this evening. the "rachel maddow show" begins right now. thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour. it's election day in massachusetts. went to the polls. the polls in massachusetts closed almost exactly one hour ago. and as far as we know, right now, it's undecided. 49% of the vote in. right now ed markey leads gabriel gomez 51% to 48%. again, that is 49% of the vote in at this point. mo cowan was picked essentially as a place holder for the seat by massachusetts governor deval