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tv   All In With Chris Hayes  MSNBC  May 30, 2014 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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dictate that she marry. well, this is going to be a tough thing for the american people to accept. it should be. i hope it will never, ever be something we can imagine, much less accept. and 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. the political scandal surrounding the department of veterans ars got more intense today while the underlying issues remain stubbornly unresolved and frankly underdiscussed and poorly understood. we will explain that in a bit. first the news. in the wake of an interim watchdog report finding systemic problems at va health care facilities, which included evidence that administrators at the va hospital in phoenix altered internal records to hide the excessive wait times faced by 1,700 veterans seeking a primary care appointment, there are mounting bipartisan calls for the secretary of veterans affairs, eric shinseki, to resign.
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as of this evening according to the official nbc news count, more than 110 congressional lawmakers have called for shinseki to step down, including at least 34 democrats. shinseki called the findings in that report reprehensible in an op-ed today and vowed that "we are not waiting to set things straight." but an administration official told nbc news today that shinseki is "on thin ice" pending the outcome of internal investigations. >> the president wants to see the results of these reports. and he, as you know, made clear that he believes there ought to be accountability once we establish all the facts. >> at a hearing that went late into the night yesterday, house members lashed out at veterans affairs officials. >> the office of congressional and legislative -- >> that doesn't -- >> -- has responded to over 100,000 requests for information -- >> ma'am. veterans died. get us the answers, please. until va understands that we're
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deadly serious, you can expect us to be over your shoulder every single day. >> we should note that allegations that veterans died because of prolonged wait times remain unconfirmed by any official reports as of now. okay. there are now 42 va facilities under investigation according to that report released yesterday. 42. and unless you want to make the case that there are 42 different corrupt little fiefdoms pf shiftless hospital administrators sitting around playing minesweeper instead of helping veterans you have to acknowledge there's a systemic problem here. the altering of records and falsifying statistics is just a scandal on the surface masking the far greater scandal underneath. so if you want to punish eric shinseki, punish eric shinseki. throw him out of there. but then what? because it is very, very unclear what exactly that will do to address that underlying problem, which seems to me to be a fundamental mismatch between the demand put on the va system
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after 13 years of war and the organizational capacity the va currently has to meet that demand. the va faces an acute shortage of doctors amid a swelling patient population, has been trying to fill 400 vacancies for primary doctors, doctors who are paid less serving the v.a. than they are in private practice. so this scandal is going to continue. we're going it find out about more problems because it appears the system is completely overrun. and replacing general shinseki is not going to change that. in fact, in a moment of wisdom none other than speaker of the house john boehner made exactly that point today. >> the question i ask myself is him resigning going to get us to the problem of the problem? is it going to help us find out what's really going on? and the answer i keep getting is no. >> of course he then went on to blame the president, which again misses the point entirely. so close, john boehner, so close. joining me now, congressman jim himes, democrat from connecticut. congressman, you've called i
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understand for eric shinseki to resign. why do you want to see him go? >> well, chris, it wasn't a decision i arrived at lately. general shinseki is a good man who has served his country his whole life. wounded in vietnam. but he has presided over an organization now which, as you pointed out just a moment ago, in phoenix left 1,700 veterans behind. now, that's bad enough. and god only knows what happened to those veterans. as you point out, the allegations of deaths and whatnot are unconfirmed. nonetheless, 1,700 veterans. senior people in phoenix were promoted because of the falsification of those records, got bonuses. even worse, the report shows or suggests that there are allegations of sexual misconduct, of bullying, of inappropriate hires, and here was the kicker for me. the kicker for me was the word systemic. if this was one group of bad actors in phoenix that would be one thing. but this apparently may be permeating the organization, and general shinseki, look, the military culture is pretty clear. when something goes this badly wrong, it is the commander's responsibility.
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it's not going to solve everything to have him step aside but it is the right thing to do. >> that may be the case. and i -- in some ways i personally reserve judgment because i feel like i don't know what the underlying problem is yet. let's say shinseki comes out tomorrow and resigns, 8:30 in the morning he's scheduled to give a talk. let's say he resigns. what's the day two plan of attack here? i mean, i still don't understand what the problem is that has led apparently to 42 different facilities cooking the books because they could not meet the demand. >> yeah, and look, there's deep underlying problems here. the va has been under enormous pressure for a very long time to fix these incredible wait list that's have -- by the way, shinseki gets a lot of credit. you know, those wait lists are because he said we're going to serve these veterans well, and not just these veterans, iraq and afghanistan, but you know, agent orange in vietnam, pts, we're going to deal with that. he gets a lot of credit for that. but they've been under a huge amount of pressure, which does not excuse a culture. and what we're talking about, chris, and this is why shinseki is important, is a culture. what do the senior people do
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under duress? do they double their workload and work extra hard and get this done or do they do unfortunately what it looks like they've done? >> it's cook the books. and here's the question it seems to me. was it possible in these places where it looks like we have this systemic manipulation of the data, do we have a situation where people are just clocking in and clocking out every day and saying i'll fudge the data instead of working or do we have a situation in which people are working past the breaking point and still unable to make the benchmark that had come down from washington to make sure these wait times happen? if that is the case, if the latter is the case, it seems there's a whole bigger problem to deal with than eric shinseki. >> yeah, you're right. and look, this is not a new problem. the allegations of fraud, the possibility of sexual misconduct, of bullying, that comes out of the inspector general's report, but we've known for years about these backlogs. and let me draw a parallel. because you're right. it's not just about change at the top. it is also about improving systems. it's about changing culture. it's about providing the resources. as you know, while this president has been president resources for the va have gone up by 80%.
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is that enough? maybe it's not. maybe it is. but that's something for us to decide. the parallel i would draw here, chris-s think about, absolute disaster as a technical matter. the president brings in jeff zints and in short order, not fast enough for my taste, but in short order those systems are changed. that's the kind of change that changes technology, that changes culture that we need here. >> i think that's a reasonable recommendation. it seems to me even if the resources have gone up the more you look at this, the more you read the reports of the whistleblowers, i was just reading about the doctor down in jackson, mississippi, it does sound like there is just a basic bedrock mismatch between what is being asked of the va on the surface and what it has the capacity to do at the current moment, and i just feel like we can all talk about eric shinseki but when that storm passes or doesn't then there's a real problem to solve. >> you're absolutely right. and look, one of the bottom lines here, think about it from a doctor's perspective, doctors who are paid by the va on salary unlike doctors outside of the va are paid, you know, somewhere
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between a half to two thirds of what doctors in the private sector are paid for doing in some cases much more challenging work. now, this comes back to us. it really does. >> it does. >> and here we are, i've been here for five years, and the constant mantra has been cut the budgets, cut the budgets, cut the budgets. guess what? >> yep. >> that has implications. >> and i do hope that congress stays on this after the storm passes. congressman jim himes. thank you. >> thank you, chris. >> i can understand the tweet length version of the scandal is you've got administrators fudging their numbers to mask long wait times. okay. that i understand. why are there the wait times? that to me seems the fundamental question. and i feel a week and two weeks into this scandal i don't have a better sense of the answer to that. >> well, there's two different wait times people are talking about, and there seems to be a lot of confusion, and i certainly heard it from the congressman. the backlog is different from the wait times. we have a backlog in this country because a lot of veterans are making what we call
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secondary claims. sow served in vietnam and your hearing is shot. so you've got a disability claim from the va that said you're a service connected disabled veteran. under president obama he decided to make it easier for people to get a ptsd claim or an agent orange claim because you have type 2 diabetes. that's created a huge backlog. what happened in phoenix is people -- >> let me just stop you there. because i want to make sure people understand what you just said because this distinction is very important. service-connected disability, the threshold, my understanding has been lowered in certain ways, the percentage of the disability has to be service connected, and also we've expanded the kind of ambit of what counts to get care at the va, which i think everyone thinks is a good policy decision, and that has led to a backlog in disability claims, which is distinct from what happened in phoenix. now explain what happened in phoenix. >> exactly. so the obama administration has allowed more people to come into the system that other administrations wouldn't allow because how do you prove ptsd. in phoenix you have veterans who were trying to go to the doctor.
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now, some of them can be service connected, and some of them might just be using the va for their health care. so you have all these iraq and afghanistan veterans returning from a war. you have a million veterans in this country that were unemployed, that have chosen the va as their health care under obamacare. and now you have a lot of other veterans who have made more and more claims with the va over time. so what you have is accusations and so far no evidence that anybody died but accusations that people couldn't get in to see doctors, and it seems that that is the case, that people could not get in to see doctors because there was too many veterans and the demand was too high. >> that is what i have been seeing from the people i've talked to. i talked to some folks inside the va. i was corresponding with some vets today, one of whom made the point that you've got people walking in the va system when you talk about the 1 million unemployed vets, who haven't seen a doctor in years. so we're thinking about this as the sort of cost of the war, but there are a whole set of concentric circles of service that has to be provided by this organization at this point. >> this is about public health care.
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and when you look at the attacks from the right, and this has been a long time coming in regards to attacks from the far right. people are attacking the va because it's public health care. and they see it as, you know, something that is challenging to them or scares them. so really what this is about is privatizing the va. the va's been underfunded for years by conservatives on capitol hill. and that's what they look at. and what we have here not just in the va but in the country's more of a health care crisis where people are coming to the va because that is the help that they need and it's just not prepared because it's not funded properly by congress and it hasn't been for decades. >> right. >> we're dealing with these issues. >> someone made a really good point today. you know, va funding is not produced by an entitlement formula, right? so medicare funding is basically a formula, it doesn't get appropriated every year. if the medicare population grows, the medicare funding expands by that population because it is on the entitlement system. va is appropriated every year. so it is possible for congress to just not keep pace. >> we're discretionary.
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i mean, there was a time when under president bush's administration they were short $2 billion. and so it's been hard to predict over the last several years, you know, what the demand's going to be. but there's always been a conversation about fully funding the va versus discretionary funding. look, the true issue here is that general shinseki really isn't to blame at all for anything that's going on. i mean, i'm very disappointed in house democrats this week. >> really? >> house democrats have been a huge disappointment this week. voting for conservative bills to attack workers at the va system when mitch mcconnell's single-handedly stopping a $21 billion bernie sanders veterans package because he's concerned about a tea party election in his home state? i mean, there's a $21 billion bill in the senate. general shinseki's not a bad administrator. what he is is a bad public affairs officer. and the first thing i would have done when i was him was say hey, mitch mcconnell, you're the senate minority leader and you're blocking a $21 billion package we need so i can do my job? that's all i have to say. this is their fault. it's been their fault for decades. >> jon soltz from thank you.
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north carolina republicans are trying to make it illegal to disclose what's in the fluid fracking companies are pumping into the ground. you'll never guess who's running point for the energy interests. i'll explain next.
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something amazing happened last night. that tiny little thing flying through space is a soyuz rocket with three astronauts on board. its destination -- the international space station. less than six hours after launch it successfully docked there. and coming up, i speak with someone, you might call him the most famous astrophysicist alive today, who's been taking a weekly trip through space. or more accurately, the cosmos. she keeps you on your toes. you wouldn't have it any other way. but your erectile dysfunction - it could be a question of blood flow. cialis tadalafil for daily use helps you be ready anytime the moment's right. you can be more confident in your ability to be ready. and the same cialis is the only daily ed tablet approved to treat ed and symptoms of bph, like needing to go frequently or urgently.
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all right. so remember how fracking works. they drill a deep hole and then pump in a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals at a pressure so intense it actually cracks the rock deep underground. and among the chief concerns about fracking, besides its tendency to appear to cause earthquakes, is the potential health hazard posed by fracking fluid. well, there's now a bill in north carolina that makes it a crime to disclose what's in that stuff. a crime. if you say, well, it's x parts water and x parts hydrochloric acid and so on, you will have committed a crime in north carolina if this bill is signed into law as expected. today that bill got final passage in the north carolina state legislature. it's now headed to governor pat mccrory, who has said he'll sign it. but perhaps the most interesting thing about this bill is who voted for it. it was voted for by this guy, tom tillis. if that name's familiar it's because he's both speaker of the house in north carolina, engineer of the onslaught of right-wing legislation in that state, and current candidate for united states senate, running
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against democratic incumbent kay hagan. while tillis was out casting votes this week, protesters with the moral monday movement were being arrested in his office after republicans vote ford new capitol rules on where all those meddlesome protesters are allowed to bather and what they're allowed to do. and like many fracking advocates, tillis says the safety of those fracking fluids is a non-issue. >> i'm very optimistic that we're talking with innovation, we're talking about, you know, future chemicals in the not too distant future that are safe, they're even saying food grade. >> tillis, however, stopped short of actually drinking the fracking fluid, as some energy ceos apparently like to do. >> a toast to the freedom that all of you in hydraulic fracking bring to america. hear hear. [ applause ] >> fracking fluid.
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you can drink it. you just can't say what's in it. joining me now is north carolina state representative pricey harrison. representative harrison, how did this bill come about? who's pushing this bill? >> it's hard know because there wasn't a lot of transparency. it sailed through the senate with two unnoticed committee meetings and then to the senate floor and then it came to the house with to unnoticed committee meetings and then went to the floor without any public notice. so it's difficult to know who was pushing it, but it does seem to be a republican priority. >> what do you mean by unnoticed? when you say unnoticed committee hearings. >> when you issue a notice you're going to have a committee hearing you usually say what's on the agenda, what bill's being heard and never was it publicly noticed the fracking bill would be up in any of the house or senate committees and it never went to an environment committee either. >> it never went through an environment committee and they never said at any point we're going to be discussing this bill about fracking fluid at any point in either house? >> right. >> that's odd. >> yes. and the schedule with which it
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-- normally you don't vote on the bill in committee and send it straight to the floor, especially a bill as controversial as a fracking bill, and that's what happened yesterday. straight from finance to the floor. the process was bad, and the substance was horrible. >> the substance also -- it's unclear to me that it is even constitutional under the first amendment. i mean, we're at the case that say one of our producers or i or one of my colleagues were to find out what's in the fluid and publish it in the newspaper, it seems to me there's a pretty strong first amendment claim that they cannot put me in jail, right? >> it seems to be the case. but they are trying to criminalize disclosure for sure. they tried to move it from a felony to misdemeanor but you can still end up in jail. >> in the original draft it was felony and they moved it back to misdemeanor as a compromise? >> yeah. but still four months in jail. >> four months in jail is a misdemeanor if you disclose what's in the fracking fluid. >> a doctor telling his patient why he's sick. yes. could be in jail.
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>> if the fracking fluid is so safe, one must ask, why would they pass a bill like this to make it a crime to disclose what's in it? >> right. well, apparently, some of this has roots in alec model legislation. >> i'm sorry, say it again. >> some of these disclosure components have roots in alec model legislation. >> the american legislation education council which incorporates model legislation in he various states across the country. >> right. and apparently they were involved in that at the commission level, the mining commission level which was drafting the rules. but the legislature ultimately wanted to put its stamp on what they considered good disclosure. they described it as some of the best disclosure rules in the country. i'm not sure from whose perspective. i think probably from the drilling companies' perspective but not from the public consumer. >> are there a lot of drilling companies operating in north carolina? obviously, duke energy is a huge part of the state, a big employer. pat mccrory worked for them. are there other companies who are fracking in the state? >> no, fracking is not allowed
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in north carolina until today. it was outlawed until today. so today's legislation greenlighted fracking. so there hasn't been any operations heretofore. >> wait. i'm sorry. somehow i missed this. they actually legalized the whole shebang today? >> yes, they did. basically. yes. as soon as the rules are written that are going to come out in january, fracking's going to be legal in north carolina. >> and they did this with no public notice and no public comment and no hearing witnesses brought from -- all of it just sailed through, all of it just pushed through in a matter of weeks, if i'm not mistaken. >> about ten days, i'd say. and what's even more remarkable is the republicans promised the public that we were not going to allow fracking until we had the strongest rules in place in the country and the legislature hay chance to review them. and they just broke that promise today. >> so what are you and your colleagues going to do about this? >> well, we tried to fight them today by adding a bunch of amendments that would have protected -- that would have
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required -- would remove the penalty for the disclosure, that would have prohibited waste pits. apparently waste pits are now authorized by the proposed rules and scale back the air emissions testing. and land under protections. we don't have very good land under protections in north carolina. . we don't have a history of destructive industries here. we don't have mining here. this is all new. and the mining and energy commission that's drafting the rules is dominate by industry including a 30-year halliburton employee. >> north carolina state representative pricey harrison, thank you. >> thanks for having me. >> i'm sorry. that's crazy. they just legalized fracking and made it illegal to disclose the fracking chemicals in ten days. amazing. all right. coming up, what you've seen -- have you seen the amazing show "cosmos" with neil degrasse tyson? i got to talk to him today about the show and a whole lot of other stuff. we'll have part of that interview next.
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>> this is what the earth looks like in the infrared.
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neil degrasse tyson is one of the most famous scientists in america and the host of the critically acclaimed reboot of "cosmos." got a chance to sit down with him today to talk about science, politics, the planet, the universe, a whole host of other things, including the climate change denialism currently practiced by the republican party. >> abe lincoln would turn in his grave if he knew that his descendants, his political descendants, if i remember
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correctly, abe lincoln was republican, if he knew his political descendants were cherry-picking scientific results. i don't know what he would say. i'm pretty sure he'd be disappointed. what you should be doing is recognize the scientific results, then let the political conversations be about -- >> that's exactly right. >> -- what kind of legislation you might need to put into place that might serve your political interests. >> you can have a totally left-right values-based conversation about how deal with the fact of a warming planet in all kinds of different ways. there can be libertarian arguments. there could be statist arguments. there's all sorts of ways -- >> in fact, i think the republican party is missing out on occasions to shape legislation in the face of climate change that could favor their interests going forward because right now there's so many that are busy trying to stand in denial of an emerging scientific truth. >> we'll have much more of my conversation with neil degrasse tyson this monday.
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it really was an incredible interview. you will not want to miss it. up next, what president obama is doing about climate change and how it has the usual suspects crying foul.
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monday could very well be the single most important day in the obama presidency. a day that's looked back on 50 years from now when he's being evaluated for his legacy. and it could be seen as a turning point. president obama is preparing to announce new rules that will cut carbon emissions from the nation's coal-fired power plants by up to 20%. according to people familiar with this plan speaking with the "new york times" specifically a new regulation will be issued by the environmental protection agency that would set a national limit on carbon pollution from coal plants but it would also allow states to devise their own plans to cut emissions from a range of options including wind power, solar power, energy efficiency and cap and trade programs. this will be the most aggressive effort yet by a u.s. president to curb carbon emissions by far in fact. now, cue the sound because just
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like the last heady days of cap and trade when a democratic-controlled house actually passed cap and trade legislation, which was later abandoned by the senate, republicans will holler cap and tax. >> i have to address a little bit of the cap and tax is what i call it, not cap and trade. >> the short answer is it is a tax on c o2. >> the left is going to continue with their cap and tax proposal. >> i urge a yes vote on this amendment and no on the cap and tax bill. >> this is cap and tax. >> cap and tax. >> yeah. >> he just moments ago on this floor there was cheering, there was clapping over the passing of the crap and trade bill. >> i call it crap and trade. you heard me right. this time around you'll also hear about the administration's war on coal. i'll ask senate minority leader mitch mcconnell. and also hear about the cost to the economy. the u.s. chamber of commerce just came out with its pre-emptive strike against obama's regulations. the scare is that the regulations would cost the u.s. economy $52 billion per year between now and 2030.
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as paul krugman notes, the average economy will be $21 trillion. so .2% of gdp is the cost according to the chamber's own analysis. in other words, out of every $1,000 the economy generates, take aside $2. think of it as a let's not ruin the planet and make it uninhabitable fund. joining me now msnbc contributor republican strategist steve schmidt. steve, i get the politics here. so let's start with the politics. if you're mitch mcconnell, you're just -- you can't wait for monday. monday's the best day that ever happened to you if you're mitch mcconnell, who's in a really tight race because you can just say obama war on coal, right? >> it's a terrible day for his opponent as you go forward with this. chris, one of the things that -- we've talked about this issue before. the objections are not simply republican objections to this. there will be an awful lot of democrats in industrial states, through the midwest of the country who are vehemently opposed to this.
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so this is not an issue that should be looked at strictly through a partisan lens. it will be interesting to see the reaction of democratic governors, member of congress in some of the states that will be affected most acutely by the coming regulations. of course we have to wait and see what they are. >> part of me thinks that part of what is so remarkable about this decision and the timing announcement is precisely how bad the politics will be in coal states, how bad they'll be for west virginia, how bad they'll be for kentucky, because you're right, it's going to be geographic. you're going to see alison lundergan grimes running to the microphone as quick as mitch mcconnell is to condemn them. it's going to give her an opportunity to put distance between herself and the president. >> there is precedent, chris, when you lose the senate race. george herbert walker bush a perfect example, losing the texas senate race in 1970 and then moving into a series of appointments that led to the presidency. maybe alison lundergan grimes want to be appointed to an administration position but if she doesn't come out and condemn
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it in kentucky ken i think that race and effectively over. this also hurts begic in alaska and hurts landrieu in louisiana. it will be interesting to see how these democratic incumbents who are in tough races come out, mark pryor for example in arkansas as well. >> this is precisely why i'm so fascinated and so admire it. the politics just are bad. there's no point for someone like me who supports the policy to pretend otherwise. i do think, however, it's interesting the chamber's own analysis of the cost on this was so minuscule. i was actually myself expecting a bigger number and i wonder how much that can be communicated over the noise of war on coal, war on coal. >> look, there's a number of divergent economic estimates on this. cbo has a number. it's higher than the administration's number with economic impact. chamber has the number. i do think given where the president's approval is, i do think given where the economic
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growth rates are, where anxiety is in the country, all of those facts just are going to be subordinate to the phrase "cap and tax" which you were playing a minute ago. >> right. >> it is not as if this debate that's going to take place in the heart of an election season is going to be a particularly enlightened one. we're not going to get deep into the details. i just think when you look at the contours of the race the politics of this i think are very, very difficult for the democrats and i think there's already some tension between the democratic senatorial committee and the white house when it comes to these races. and you know, not very different than what we were dealing with in 2006 on the -- from a white house perspective with president bush. it was unpopular at that point. republicans were getting ready to lose control of the congress. and a lot of tension between the congressional, presidential wing of the party. >> you know, it's striking me i was just reading about how there are more people employed in
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kentucky in the auto industry than the coal industry. and we've seen this dramatic shrinkage in the a coal industry labor force participation and employment, and yet it still retains this power in politics. it will be interesting to see how this plays out. msnbc contributor steve schmidt, always a pleasure. thank you. >> thank you. >> coming up, michelle obama has become a political target for an issue you wouldn't think would be controversial at all. i'll tell you what that issue is, next.
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the garden was something that i always thought about. i was probably like most busy mothers. we were, you know, a busy working family, and i would find it difficult to feed my family in a healthy way quickly. so i decided to change our diet.
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>> in the first year of the obama presidency first lady michelle obama enlisted the help of some local elementary school students in planting an organic kitchen garden on the white house grounds, ultimately hosting a lunch for those students featuring veggies from the garden. pretty innocuous, right? wrong. less than a week after the first lady and her elementary school helpers broke ground on the garden a letter arrived to the white house addressed to mrs. obama reading in part and i quote "congratulations on recognizing the importance of agriculture in america," exclamation point. "as you go about planning and planting the white house garden we respectfully encourage to you recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the u.s. in feeding the ever-increasing population. contributing to the u.s. economy, providing a safe and economical food supply. america's farmers understand crop protection technologies are supported by sound scientific research and innovation. signed sincerely, mid-america crop life association," a pesticide industry trade group made up of former execs from the likes of monsanto and du pont
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crop protection. see, they didn't like the fact she planted an organic garden, she wasn't using pesticides. so they wrote her that letter. that is my favorite example of michelle obama meeting the buzz usa that is national politics. i think we can all agree the role of first lady is kind of a weird one, it's often unspecified, under a microscope, holds no official power. so when michelle obama i think she very carefully carved out a niche. she tried use her role as first lady to help families make minor changes in diets, eating out less, cutting out processed foods. but from the moment michelle obama began her eat healthier initiative she became a political target. >> what she's telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families and what we should eat. >> i don't want michelle obama, even though i respect and i understand what she's trying to do, to tell the restaurants to give -- or tell vinny he can't have all you can eat. i don't want that. >> you know how hard it is to make your kids eat those veggies? coming in and forcing kids -- >> why would you want to raise
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your own kids when michelle obama will do it for you? in fact, she'll do it at gunpoint. >> don't tell vinny he can't have all you can eat. for her part michelle obama has mostly stayed out of the fray even as right-wingers go craze you why because she wants children to eat healthier food in a country where according to the cdc about 1 in are overweight or obese. after staying away from legislative fights today the first lady broke new ground with an op-ed in the "new york times" calling out lawmakers who are trying to scale back nutrition standards to the federal school lunch program. "remember a few years ago when congress declared the sauce on a slice of pizza should be counted as a vegetable in school lunches? we're seeing the same thing happen again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools. since 2010 when obama signed the healthy hunger-free kids act which helped replace fried foods with baked foods and white bread with whole wheat groups like the school nutrition association which is backed by companies like domino's, coca-cola, pepsi and kellogg's have been trying to chip away at the nutrition standards. a few hours ago the house appropriations committee voted to allow schools to temporarily opt out of those rules.
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michelle obama may not have wanted a political fight on these issues but she's got one now. marion nestle, professor of stood studies and public health author of eat drink vote an illustrated guide to food and politics. they passed this bill it said you had to feed kids things other than chicken fingers and french fries more or less. who was against that? >> the people who sell those foods in the schools. schools are an enormous, enormous amount of money for food companies that sell to schools. and if the nutrition standards change so that it excludes foods from schools, those companies aren't going to like it. >> why can't they just -- i understand that. i understand these are huge markets, there's big contracts and these big food conglomerates sell food to them. why can't they sell them carrots instead of french fries? is it just those calories are so cheap in the junk that they're paring back on? >> well, it's that they've been marketed. so people expect that these kinds of foods are normal.
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i think schools are supposed to set an example for what a healthy diet is. and you would think that anyone who's suggesting that kids eat healthier in schools would be applauded. how absolutely terrific. it's one meal a day we don't have to worry about. we know our kids are going to be fed well during that meal. let's just applaud it. but that's not how the economic system works. and there are many, many stakeholders in this particular operation who are just furious about what's going on. >> and they have been really waging legislative war against this. this is underneath the surface, before today's op-ed they've been on the hill lobbying about this, haven't they? >> yes. and what everybody needs to understand is this is a seven-year process. the department of agriculture started working on new nutrition standards for schools in 2007. the institute of medicine produced three reports on it. and every stakeholder had plenty of opportunity during that time to weigh in on it.
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but they lost. and so if you lose what do you do? you go to congress. and since you have bought congress you get to get congress to do what you want. >> there's two important points in that. one is that michelle obama did not come in and wave some magic wand. even though she's been a public advocate for this you're saying the process that led to these guidelines preceded michelle obama. >> seven years. >> so this is an actual regulatory process that worked its way through the usda i imagine, right? >> mm-hmm. >> from the civil servants on up. >> mm-hmm. >> they lost, then they go to congress and they got this -- today they got this temporary opt-out. what's that mean? >> first of all, it means that schools that are not making money on the school lunch, or losing money, can say that they want to opt out and they get a year to do that. but everybody sees this as a foot in the door to get rid of the standards altogether, and the republicans who are opposed to these standards have said that that's their goal, to get rid of them. >> this just seems like one of these classic examples of
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interest group capture. who is out there saying yes, we need crappier food in school lunches, we should go back to, you know, really bad processed fried food in school lunches? it doesn't seem like there's any mass mobilization in favor of that. this is really just big food dictating policy. >> no. what there is is an opposition to anything that the obamas do. so this is part of the entire political operation to try to undermine every single thing that they do, whether elected or not and whether kids get hurt in the process or not. >> right. so there's this kind of marriage between big food, which has its own economic reasons to oppose this, and this is a tweet from tea party news network. more obama #tyranny. usda issues new rules about what your children will eat. #nanny #nannystate. >> the usda already dictates what your children will eat -- >> they've been issuing #rules on your #kids for a while. >> for a long time. the idea that you would make foods healthier, that something like that would elicit this kind
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of political storm is just breathtaking. >> you cover food politics. you're an expert on this. you write about it. you've studied it. have you been surprised at the backlash? >> i've been surprised at two things -- the extent of the backlash, which seems absolutely overt top. but they think they can win. and they may be able to win on this one. and then the idea that mrs. obama, who has been very much behind the scenes in everything that she's done up until now, has been forced to go forward. >> marion nestle from new york university. great thanks. >> you're very welcome. >> up next i'm going to talk to a former press secretary for then first lady hillary rodham clinton. msnbc's own karen finney and josh barro from the "new york times." stick around.
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from the frozen tundra deep inside the white house kitchen, richard sherman and his seahawk sous chefs are hard at work to create a healthy school lunch that kids will love. this is how champions are made. let's go to our sideline reporter to hear more. >> richard, take me through your final plate. >> well, let me tell you. we the best chefs in the game. so when you try us with an easy meal like salmon cakes and succotash, that's the result you're going to get. >> god, i love that. richard sherman reprising his post-playoff victory role on the sidelines with michelle obama promoting the let's move campaign. join meg now my msnbc colleague karen finney, host of "disrupt." also former press secretary to then first lady hillary rodham clinton and msnbc contributor
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josh barro co-host of the upshot for the "new york times." and karen, i've just been amaze at the invective level at michelle obama. it seems there were some people who said what can we do that's going to be good for the world that's correct good policy, that i can make my own and isn't going to be super controversial. and they picked this. and oh no, no, no, we're going to make it controversial. >> but i think the sort of thing where the gop in particular sort of waits to see what's she going to do, what's she going to do, is this incoming first lady going to -- since hillary, right? because she took such a big policy role. there's always this question of are they going to try to step into policy. and each woman really figures out her own way in what's appropriate for her. whether it's reading which is laura bush or nancy reagan with just say no, whether or not you loved that. the point being each woman figures out her own deal. but this one i agree with you that michelle obama probably didn't think that healthy food for children particularly when we're seeing obesity rates actually go down because of what
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she's proposed and talking about is working, would be something controversial. although if you've been around washington you know that big food as you're calling it, the food lobby is very powerful, particularly the sugar lobby. >> see, that wasn't surprising to me. what's surprising to me, and maybe it's dumb to be surprised by this i suppose on one level it's not surprising is the kind of grassroots like nanny state. the fact that basically the interests were able to sell it to the base as something they should be upset about. the fact they were able to hustle them on that, josh, that's surprising. >> it's remarkable to me in that we have these two political figures in the country who are really associated with these movements to change the way people eat. it's michelle obama and you have mike bloomberg. and bloomberg unlike michelle obama really is out there trying to do these very invasive nanny state things -- >> yes, exactly, provocative things that even people i am friends with and like don't like. >> and even the stuff that's just messaging. mike bloomberg had his health department put these ads in the subway with disgusting fat pouring out of a gatorade bottle basically. if you get diabetes you might have to have something amputated. it's like the anti-michelle obama. >> exactly.
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it's the bad cop good cop. >> but they've drawn the same reaction. so it's -- >> that's a great point. >> michelle obama kind of might as well have gone the full bloomberg. if people are going to be like you're the nanny trying to interfere in my life, mike bloomberg has shown that you can make that approach work and you won't win on everything. he wasn't able to ban large sodas. he took a lot of flak for it. but he had a lot of big effects in new york. >> in some ways it feels to me, this is exactly the fight we're having over health care, right? the fights we're having over increasing the minimum wage. we're talking about predominantly low-income people for whom access to fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy food is not as readily available. a lot of bodegas do not sell them. right? so for a lot of children you're going to get that nutrition at school. we know kids do better in school when they have proper nutrition. and again, we're seeing that these things are actually working in terms of lowering obesity rates, and yet they're selling to the base, particularly low-income folks like this is nanny state, you don't want those vegetables, you want a hamburger and fries for your kid. right?
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>> and there is something to food populism. watching the politics play out in new york with the soda ban, that food -- the food populism that came in response, very interesting to me, crossed a lot of lines, political lines, in terms of race and class and socioeconomic status. you had people who are staunch democrats and liberals being like don't tell me what i can drink. there is something to that. >> and you had minority-owned business associations lining up against bloomberg on that issue. a lot of people who are in the business of retailing beverages. and so yeah, it was definitely something that split the coalition. and i think it was an elite versus mass issue. you have else where often the sort of norms about food that bloomberg was trying to push are already very much within the culture, especially in new york. so yeah, it was kind of politically backwards in a way. >> having sat in that office, which is in the east wing of the white house or is now. >> it is now. >> it was probably in the west wing under hillary rodham clinton. and there's a whole story to tell about it moving from the west to the east.
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>> and east to west. >> for people who -- the west wing is where the official offices of the president are. the east wing is the residence. and there's a whole -- >> the east wing is the pink ghetto is what we used to call it. >> right. >> social secretary's office. >> right. >> all due respect i should say. >> there's an interesting thing to be said about that, right? >> yes. >> what do you think the discussion was about the "times" op-ed today? it seemed like whoa, hello. that was michelle obama taking it it to someone in a way that you do not -- the campaign for junk food. that's something. >> i think the question was at the beginning of the week remember she start out doing an event and basically probably along the lines of how far do we want to go. we know this is this week. this is going to come again this summer when they have to rectify the two bills between the house and the senate. i think the question was probably how far do you want to get in it because the farther you get in it the more you're going to get attacked and are you comfortable with getting attacked on that? at least i hope that was the conversation. i hope that's what they said. and you can tell, though, just
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from her demeanor i think she feels very strongly about this. and i think it's appropriate for her, particularly again on something she's really dedicated so much time on, and she does know what the science says. she knows what she's talking about. it's good for her to be out there. >> the other point we should make here about the way this has become polarized in this area is george w. bush signed a somewhat similar bill in 2007. as marion nestle just said these standards have been developing seven years. it is one of these examples like the mandate the thing exists and the name obama becomes attached to it it becomes polarize pd p. >> it's also interesting michelle obama hasn't always been at war with these big food interests. you remember this drink up initiative she had last year, this kind of weak sauce thing about how people aren't drinking enough water and they should drink more water. and nestle and coca-cola were partners in it. i was in the press call when they announced it and someone was like, isn't this about people not drinking soda because that's what's actually bad for you. and they're like oh, no, this is not about people not drinking anything. >> and that was also interesting to me because she has tried to play nice with those interests.
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drink more weak sauce. karen finney, you can catch her show "disrupt" at 4:00 p.m. weekends on msnbc. josh barro from the "new york times." that is all. "the rachel maddow show" starts right now. good evening, rachel. >> good evening, chris. thanks, man. and thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. this is one way, famously, that political ads can be really, truly terrible. this is iconic classic of a terrible, almost evil ad. >> you needed that job. and you were the best qualified. but they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota. is that really fair? harvey gantt says it is. your vote on this issue next tuesday. for racial quotas, harvey gann. against racial quotas, jesse helms. >> the white hands ad. that was an ad conservative republican senator jesse helms ran in his 1990 senate re-election bid against harvey gantt.