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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  December 21, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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dickens, you see where the two gentlemen come to visit ebenezer scrooge on christmas eve and suggest to him that he might want to give a little bit to charity. he says they're not my problem. i think we have a congress full of folks like ebenezer scrooge who say that the long-term unemployed are not their problem. in fact, this country was founded on the principle that we elect a congress to make it their problem, to make it their concern and to go out and do something about it. >> john nichols, you and your family have a great christmas. great to have you with us here tonight. >> and to you as well. >> i'm going to be taking a few days off next week. you bet, my friend. eric michael dyson will be doing the show. we'll be having a wonderful christmas at my t schultz household. my wife wendy has finished their chemotherapy. she is on the road to recovery, or should i say she is cured. we are so thankful. it's been a rough six months. but we are together, and that is the main thing. this is "the ed show" for r for this year. i'm ed schultz. "the rachel maddow show" starts right thought.
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>> a merry, merry, merry, merry christmas to you. you guys have had a hell of a year. >> thanks, rachel. you have a merry christmas. >> thank you. and thanks to you at home for joining us tonight. ahead of this holiday weekend, on a day when the world of news didn't slow down for the holiday weekend, it rather decided to spin on its axis at about three times its normal rate. god grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference. that of course is the serenity prayer, or one well-known version of it, at least, and that prayer is what republican house speaker john boehner reportedly recited to the republicans in congress last night after they defied him and rejected their own party's plan and decided to leave washington rather than participate in making policy. to stop the bush tax rates from expiring at the end of the year and the giant spending cuts that have been slated to kick in at the same time. they just left. and as they were set to leave, john boehner stood before them
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and asked for help from god. then today john boehner invoked the all mighty again, telling reporters "god only knows what will happen next with his congressional republicans." god only knows. that was his direct quote. >> how we get there, god only knows. >> even as the republican party increasingly supports displace of religiousty of their officials, it is very rare for their senior leaders in the hisd of a public negotiation they have no plan and no understanding what to do next other than to ask the tlord get involved to sort it out. we are in a rare moment for the republican party. but you know, just in terms of the serenity prayer, the part that is turning out important about it, the wisdom to know the difference part. because what is happening in washington right now is not a standoff. it's not a fight between the two parties. it is a breakdown inside one of
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the two parties wherein their own elected leadership not only isn't in charge of their own side, their own elected leadership doesn't even know who is on their side. i mean, in terms of the serenity prayer, john boehner and eric cantor do not have the wisdom to know the difference. mathematically speaking. >> do you think you have the votes to pass plan b among republicans? >> yes. we're going to have the votes to pass both the tax -- permanent tax relief bill, as well as the spending reduction account. >> i am not convinced at all that when the bill passes the house today, that it will die in the senate. >> you know, the bill never got to the senate because it never passed the house because it turns out you guys didn't have the votes to pass it in the house. and the most important thing here is that you thought you did. you counted wrong. you thought you had the votes and you didn't. you did not know that you were going to lose that vote on your own legislation because of the votes of your own side. you didn't know you were going to lose it until you started to
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lose it, and then you had to shut everything down at emergency speed. whether you prefer the policies of john boehner or you prefer the policies of nancy pelosi, if you just compare them, te technocratly speaking, nancy pelosi never lost a vote. she never once got so confused and lost control of the group she was supposed to be leading, she never got caught out saying something was going to pass. she never put up something to pass and had it fail. whether or not you like what nancy pelosi stands for, as a speaker of the house, nancy pelosi was good at her job. john boehner is not good at his job. we've ventured this as a hypothesis very early on in his speakership, i mean right from the beginning. it seemed like there might be something amiss, right? on the first day as speaker, he tried to have republicans pull off the stunt where they would read the whole constitution from the floor of the house. but even on day one, john boehner could not manage his own
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symbolic gesture. they skipped parts of the constitution. they skipped parts they did not like. and some parts they skipped because they were reading it out of a loose leaf binder and the pages stuck together. right then we should have known that was a bad sign. john boehner did not even succeed in getting all of his members sworn in when he took over as speaker. two new republican members of congress went to a reception and missed the swearing in. they apparently saw it happening on a tv screen that was playing at the reception, and they sort of tried to swear themselves in by raising their right hand to the television. but that does not count. and so then when those two members of congress, well, when those two guys started voting on stuff, anyway, even though they had not officially become members of congress, john boehner had to go back and redo all those votes after doing backsies and getting those guys sworn in to something other than a television. john boehner insisted on new rules when he became speaker, saying republicans could cut spending for every bill they passed that would add to the deficit. and then they had to exempt
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themselves from their own rule for the very first bill they introduced when the war on women thing really picked up pace and the republicans' insays sent focus on abortion stuff started to hurt the party politically. you remember john boehner insisting over and over again that this anti-abortion stuff was a democratic conspiracy. republicans were not focused on war on women at all, jobs, jobs, jobs. the furthest thing was the anti-abortion legislation. they weren't even working on that. all the while he was making that case, his own republicans kept introducing more and more and more and more anti-abortion legislation. forget what john boehner says. he doesn't speak for us. since john boehner has been speaker, since early 2011, the house has had real trouble just doing basic run of the mill governing stuff. bills failing unexpectedly and needing to be pulled at the last minute and tried again. the republican leadership's own legislation failing to get enough republican votes to pass. and that happening in public because they couldn't count it
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properly in private? they did get better at all the symbolic stuff that does not have real world consequences. they may not have been able to find their way through the constitution on the first day in the majority. but they did figure out how to fake symbolically repeal obama care 33 separate times. it didn't mean anything, but when there were things that didn't mean anything that were just symbolic, ultimately they figured out that they could get some of that stuff done. but when things really did matter, like in the debt ceiling standoff, when the republicans decided to block something they happily voted for dozens of times under republican presidents, they did end up having to vote to raise the debt ceiling, but not before they pushed the fight so far and so late that the nation's bond rating got downgraded explicitly because of the breakdon in basic governing capacity in washington, and the length and the ferocity and the pointlessness of that fight this to job growth for the term of that fight. not good. the john boehner is bad at his
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job hypothesis is by now a pretty well-founded hypothesis. that was the case even before mr. boehner's republican caucus just imploded last night and gave up and went home and asked the democrats to instead see if there is something maybe they instead can do at the end of year negotiations that the cbo says will put the country back in recession if they are not successful. john boehner is in fact bad at his job. i think the hypothesis has been proven. but now the most important question is why. why is he so bad at his job? is it just a matter of him not being up to the job as a person, as a individual? does he not have the capacity and somebody else could do it? or is his job in fact impossible? what if the fractious ideological argument commitments of congress are incompatible with governing. if you need to, say, compromise in order to govern, and one side for political reasons cannot compromise, then they cannot govern. it's like if you have a peanut allergy, okay. you can't get a job making
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reece's piece's. or if you have a religious prohibition against you operating modern motor vehicles. that's neat. but then you cannot get a job as a bus driver. if john boehner's job is making governing policy, and if john boehner is bad at that job because republicans in washington are now existentially politically incapable of making governing policy, that's against who they are and they won't survive if they prove that is who they are, then what we have as a country is not just a john boehner is bad at his job problem. this is a problem for which we may need to find the serenity and certainty that it will not change. john boehner's job as speaker of the house will be subject to a vote on january 3rd. you might think his speakership might be in danger given how he has performed in the job. but as of yet, no named other republican is challenging him for the job. maybe that's because whoever is holding the job, the job is doomed to failure. today president obama met with senator harry reid. he gave a statement saying he
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expected republicans to come back after christmas before the end of the year to try again. mr. boehner gave his own statement saying maybe something could break the rules a little bit and start in the senate to fix the problem instead of starting with his side in the house. if that happens and they can put something together on the senate side that can pass the senate, and that can earn all of nancy pelosi's 193 democrats in the house, they would need, then, 25 republicans to defect and vote with all the democrats to save the country. to save us at least from a self-inflicted recession. they would need 25 republicans. among the republicans who did side with john boehner last night on one bill that he was able to pass before it all fell apart, among the republicans who were on john boehner's side last night were exactly 25 republicans who are not coming back to congress after this year. who are gone as of january, and on whom the usual republican
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centrifugal forces do not apply. if those 25 republicans defect, then something they end up cooking up, it might work out. it might end up saving the country's bacon. if it does not happen, we are still counting on john boehner's leadership to find a way out of this. and if john boehner's leadership is your national economy's parachute, how do you feel about taking this leap? joining us now is chris hayes. he is 000 author of "twilight of the elites" and up with chris hayes weekends here on msnbc. >> how are you? >> i'm weirded out by the uncertainty of the future over a very short time period in washington. uncertainty of the future over a lom long period. i'm wired for that. uncertainty about what is going to happen for the next 12 days for something this big of a deal, i feel rattled. >> votes like last night, that is very rare. and it's funny. i came in here thinking i was
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going to disagree with you, and i've been tracking the john boehner bad at his job hypothesis which i think is right in some ways. but is it structural or some personal incompetence. i think it is structural. and last night -- last night was a combination of personal incompetence and the structural problem. the personal incompetence is the plan b compromise never made any sense, because as one aide told one reporter, what happens after you vote is you have the entire republican caucus half pregnant, right? they've all voted now to raise taxes and gone against the pledge they've signed without gaining anything concrete. so the plan they cooked up made no sense. >> which was a john boehner problem. >> exactly. that's what i'm saying. that's a john boehner incompetence problem. the deeper problem about john boehner unable to whip his own caucus has to do with the fact that he has no credibility amongst the people that now occupy the center of the republican caucus. he is to the left of the center of the republican caucus. and he is to left of the center
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of the republican caucus that is particularly recalcitrant, and particularly angry and rebellious. and i think the only possible person who could pull off doing that job would have to be someone who is really of that part of the caucus. and the only analogy i think to that is lbj with the southern democrats passing civil rights in the '60s, which is that it was really only lbj in certain ways who could be the person to sell that vote to democrats because of where he came from. >> see, i feel like the fact that he doesn't have weight with the rest of his caucus, with the sort of -- where he needs to have it with his caucus right now is not so much ideological. i think it's a crisis of authority on the republican side. i don't think anybody, no matter where they were on the ideological number line could move republicans in a leadership role, because i don't think republicans in the house believe in following leadership anymore. anybody who is in leadership by definition is the man. they're an insurgent party. you should never go along. going along -- being part of the larger number of people doing the thing as a group marks you
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as suspect in the first place. i don't think anybody could hold the job. >> you know, thing is something to that culturally. the irony to that of course is newt gingrich initiated this revolution in which he changed the culture to be very deferential to the leader. all of the sudden the house leadership was controlling who was the committee. he took the power out of the committee chairs and centralized it in the speakers -- in the minority leaders' offices and the speakers' offices. and all of that really did change the the way the entire houseworked to make it more like the nancy pelosi house that we saw in the congress before it was taken over by boehner. >> salute and you do what you're told. >> party line votes. if you need to deliver the votes, you can. now it's coming apart there is no road map or diagram or architect in place for what the next iteration of what the house culture looks like from a parliamentary perspective. >> there is no -- one of the things that i think is most important about that is that there is no credibility that can be held by any member of the house that would give them sway over other members of the house
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on the republican side. but there is also nobody in the conservative movement. you saw the grover norquist groups fracturing on this issue. you saw -- you've seen the freedom works coming out in favor of what john boehner was doing and having to take it back there is chaos even in the conservative movement, which is traditionally where the republican party has looked when they're weak. >> and it also means that you can't -- you can't do this basic deal-making. and the grand irony here i think is once again, republican obstruction will save progressives from barack obama doing something that they didn't want done. there was a moment of time back when we go back to after scott brown was elected, there are voices in the white house going small on the affordable care act. and the other voices are saying well, the republicans are going to kill you either way. and the republicans could have jumped into that opportunity and they didn't. and what they got as a result was the big enchilada affordable care act. now the tea party is going to have ended up killing that possible compromise. >> that's right. and taking whatever harry reid gives them. >> yeah.
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>> it's unbelievable. i want to stay at work like i want the holiday weekend. >> that's a little weird. >> chris hayes, the host of up with chris hayes which airs tomorrow at 8:00 eastern. but if i'm in my office,come get me for pastries. >> and tomorrow we're having a the publisher of swat magazine along with a woman who wrote an incredible essay about loving guns and having a gun used against her. and it's going to be a really interesting conversation. >> excellent. i'll be there watching you if i'm not here in person. we'll be right back. a restaurant is hard, try running four. fortunately we've got ink. it gives us 5x the rewards on our internet, phone charges and cable, plus at office supply stores. rewards we put right back into our business. this is the only thing we've ever wanted to do and ink helps us do it. make your mark with ink from chase.
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lots ahead tonight including a visit from rick astley. and from richard engel after the harrowing ordeal at the hands of kidnappers. richard is here tonight for the interview. that's ahead. [ male announcer ] this is sheldon, whose long dy setting up the news
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moisturizes while actually repairing very dry skin. the end of trial and error has arrived. try a free sample at president obama announced today his first nominee to his second term cabinet. it has been 45 day news since the election. this is the president's first official nomination for his cabinet. now historically speaking, this is rather late. it's taken him longer than president reagan after he was reelected, longer than president bush after he was reelect, longer than president clinton. but today president obama did it. he announced today that he wants senator john kerry to be his next secretary of state. to replace hillary clinton. one of the reasons we may have had this announcement today, an drea mitchell pointed out today, is that the white house finally had time to deal with this issue only because congress cleared the deck when the republicans and congress all decided to give up and go home and submarine their own speaker last night.
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that unexpectedly left some time for making announcements today. >> i'm very proud to announce my choice for america's next secretary of state, john kerry. he has earned the respect and trust of his senate colleagues, democrats and republicans. i think it's fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as john kerry. and this makes him a perfect choice to guide american diplomacy in the years ahead. >> now senate republicans are not expected to oppose senator kerry's nomination. republicans were the ones, in fact, who suggested that john kerry be nominated in the first place, rather than u.n. ambassador susan rice, who the republicans did not want in the job, and who they pressured into removing her name from consideration for the job. the john kerry as secretary of state announcement now ends speculation on who will fill that one seat in the president's cabinet. but of course, it does set off immediately a new round of speculation about some other job
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questions like, for example, who will become the senator from massachusetts to replace john kerry? who gets it on an interim basis, and who goes on to run in the special election for that seat to hold it on a long-term basis. everybody in massachusetts now is saying that republican scott brown will run on his party's side in the special election. but the democratic side is not yet clear. and then the next white house personnel matter that rises immediately to the floor is who is going to be the secretary of defense. the person whose name has been floated this week is chuck hagel. republicans are trying to stop his potential nomination too, even though chuck hagel himself is a former republican senator. they think he is not right wing enough. chuck hagel does not just have critics on the right, though. on the left there is rumbling that democratic presidents should stop putting republicans in the secretary of defense job like bill clinton did with bill cohen and president obama already did once with bob gates.
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calling it the bizarre tradition of sorts where democratic presidents suddenly act like republicans are right, that only they, republicans, can run our national security affairs. so there is general criticism from the left that democrats should stop bolstering the myth that republicans are stronger on defense because they're republicans, and therefore, only republicans should run defense even when a democrat is president. but there is also this one very specific criticism of chuck hagel individually. it's not a general criticism. it's about his record. back when it was mr. hagel who had the power to confirm presidential nominees or deny them, back when he was a united states senator, mr. hagel stood in opposition to president clinton's nominee to be the ambassador to luxembourg, a man named james hormel. senator hagel explained at the time that he was oppose odd to the nomination because mr. hormel was guy. he said to his hometown paper that ambassadors, quote are, representing america. they're representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. and i think it is an inhibiting
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factor to be guy openly, aggressively guy like mr. hormel to do an effective job. chuck hagel said that in 1998. today he took it back, releasing a statement to the "washington post" calling his own words back then insensitive, saying they did not reflect the totality of his views or public record. he apologized to mr. hormel and apologized for saying it. he then says he supports, quote, open service, which means i think he is not going to be a creep about "don't ask, don't tell" if he gets put in charge of the pentagon who has just gone through hell and high water to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," thank you very much. we don't know if chuck hagel was sorry about his attack on hormel before that might stop him from getting the top job. we don't know if huck hagel is the president's top choice to get nominated for that job. it seems like we only got the first nominee for president obama's new cabinet today because of a meltdown in congress last night.
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hey, one more thing about president obama potentially picking former republican senator chuck hagel to be secretary of defense in his second term. in 1998, as we just mentioned, chuck hagel opposed the nomination of james hormone male to be an ambassador because mr. hagel said hormel was aggressively too guy.
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well, chuck hagel apologized for remarks 14 years later when it might potentially screw up his nomination to head the pentagon. today greg sargent followed up. he asked if he accepted the apology. jim hormel said no. he said the apology was never made to him. it was only made publicly. it only had the appearance of being defense, not sincere, only in the service of his attempt to, quote, get the nomination. i do not know if president obama wants to nominate chuck hagel or not. but if he is, so far it's not going all that well. this holiday, share everything.
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do you remember when the white house rick rolled millions of people on twitter? if you were fortunate to not know what rick rolling was, allow me to demonstrate. in july 2011, the white house tweeted the following. fiscal policy is important, but it can sometimes be dry. and then they pasted a link there for people to click on. when you click on the link to find out about this dry fiscal
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policies thing, this is happen had when you clicked on the link. ♪ >> there. you have been rick rolled. congratulations. a rick roll is an internet made you look prank. you promise somebody that they're going to see something cool and interesting new, and then they click on the link and get. this always this. it's not like any song, it's always this song. and this song is from 1987 from a man who i'm sure is very nice person who is named rick astley. but his name is rick, so it's rick rolled. this is an old online joke. it's weird and annoying, but it's annoying on purpose. you not only don't get to see the noteworthy thing that you were promised that you were interested enough in to click be, you also get this song stuck in your head, and it stay there's forever. it's the rick roll, okay? well, earlier this week, the national rifle association announced that they would be holding a major press conference to respond to the shooting at the sandy hook elementary school
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in newtown, connecticut. and at this press conference, they said they would offer meaningful contributions to help make sure that nothing like sandy hook ever happens again. it seems like a big deal that the nra did that, right? they never really say things like that after there are shootings, after mass shootings. they never, for example, call press conferences. it's not how they usually handle it. would this actually be a new and different message from the nra? was the nra prepared to change, sing a different tune? at the press conferences this morning, they were still teeing us up, right? we were ready to hear new never before ground from the nra. the nation tuned in expectantly. what would happen? >> at the end of this conference, we will not be taking questions, but next week we will be available to any of you who are interested in talking about these or other issues of interest to you. so contact us, please, at this point. thank you very much. wayne?
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>> good morning. the national rifle association, four million mothers, father, sons and daughters joined the nation in -- ♪ >> same old thing. it's going to be stuck in my head revere. they rick rolled us. the nra rick rolled the whole country. they promised us something that sounded new, something that sounded meaningful, something you thought maybe this time would be a change, it would be worth tuning in for. something you hadn't heard before from this very important group, right? but then you tuned in, you clicked, and what you got is something that they have always done, and that you have heard many, many times before. >> there exists in this country,
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sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people. through vicious, violent video games. i mean, we have blood-soaked films out there. a thousand music videos, and you all know this, portray life as a joke. and they play murder, portray murder as a way of life. and throughout it all, too ma m in the national media, their corporate owners and their stockholders act as conspirators. >> music, video games, videos, at one point he blamed hurricanes for whatever is the bad thing that happens next. but definitely not guns. and this blame everything except guns, this is not a new pr
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strategy for the nra. this is what they always, always do. >> we believe that people adjudicated mentally incompetent by a court of law should be prevented from owning guns. as discussions continue in the weeks ahead, and i know they will, we're going to have many, many discussions in the weeks ahead, we'll take our responsible place at any gathering that seeks meaningful solutions in this country as long as they do not erode even a little bit the freedoms this association exists to protect. >> that was as far as they have ever been willing to go in the past. that was when wayne lapierre at the nra conference in 1999, not two weeks after the columbine shootings. that is what they said was their meaningful contribution back then to support something that was already the law. this is what the nra does, puts the blame on everyone and every thing other than the one thing they do not want to talk about,
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which is guns. joining us now is councilman ricky burgess from the ninth district, which includes homewood, an area that has had more than its share of lives lost to gun violence. we visited last may when the nra held its annual convention in his hometown of pittsburgh. councilman, it's nice to have you back on the show. good to see you. >> thank you very much. it's good to see you too, rample. >> wayne lapierre from the nra made the idea that the only way to deal with gun violence is more guns, more guns would make us safer. we need armed security, he said, in every school. with your experience of gun violence in your district in pittsburgh, what is your react to mr. lapierre's proposal? >> well, it was saddened and shocked that he would try to solve a problem that doesn't exist. you see, school violence is very rare. of all youth violence, only 1% occur in schools. so youth violence in homicides occur on street corners, in homes, in alleys.
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that's where the violence is occurring in my neighborhoods and across this country. i am sad and shocked that the nra, which i believe is simply a spokespeople for the gun industry, their solution is always more guns. guns are killing our people. assault rifles are killing communities. it's killing our nation. the problem is that we have too many guns. we need responsible gun laws. we have to reduce the number of guns. the more access you give kids to guns, the more homicides you'll have. 84% of all homicides by guns occur in the united states. they don't have this problem in other countries because they don't have the volume of guns. guns are what is killing our community, and the nra is the prime cheerleader for an industry going mad with guns. and the lives of our children are the price we are paying for the gun industry to have their profits. >> even as the nra is sticking with their old line, that the problem is mental illness, the
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problem is movies, the problem is the media, the problem is president obama they blamed today, they blamed everything other than guns today for whatever the problem. even as that is happening, the conversation in washington is turning to whether or not there should be another approach to having an assault weapons ban. with the gun violence that you have in pittsburgh, does the type of gun matter? would specifically targeting semiautomatic military-style assault rifles make that much of a difference? or are there too many guns of too many different kinds to narrow it down like that? >> certainly there is no reason to have assault rifles on the streets. but there was a shooting in my neighborhood today about an hour from pittsburgh, there was a man who killed three people, one in a church, shot a state trooper. all those occur from guns. it doesn't really matter whether they're assault rifles, whether they're pistols. it is too many guns on the street. there is about 300,000 guns in the united states on the
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streets. until we get rid of the volume of guns, we will continue to have the senseless tragedies. we will have communities like mine devastated because of the results of senseless gun violence and families like mine devastated by senseless gun deaths. it is elimination of guns. and unfortunately, the nra is a cheerleader for the manufacturing of guns. and no matter what the problem is, their solution will always be more guns, which means more deaths, which means, you know, 20 deaths a day across this country in urban america. there are 20 needless, shameless deaths occurring because of gun violence. and our streets are running red, and the nra makes a profit. and the gun industry makes a profit. and it's one of the nation's greatest shames. >> pittsburgh city councilman ricky burgess. it's nice to see you again, sir. thanks very much for being with us tonight. >> thank you very much. my friend richard engel, the truly intrepid chief foreign
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news conference is going to be joining us tonight for the interview to tell us the whole story of his kidnapping, his time in captivity, his escape, and what he took away from the experience. you do not want to miss this. it's coming up. [ snif [ sniffs ] i took dayquil but my nose is still runny. [ male announcer ] truth is, dayquil doesn't treat that. really? [ male announcer ] alka-seltzer plus fights your worst cold symptoms, plus it relieves your runny nose. [ breathes deeply ] awesome. [ male announcer ] yes, it is. that's the cold truth!
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nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel is back home in the united states safe after a five-day ordeal in syria where he and his crew were kidnap and held hostage. it started with a fatal ambush.
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it end edwith a fatal firefight. in the end, all of nbc's personnel made it out okay. tonight right here richard is here in person exclusively to map out for us how the kidnapping happened, what happened during the time he was held hostage, and what he thinks should be learned from this. i spent the afternoon with richard here at 30 rock today talking about this. and the answer to that last question about what he thinks is important about this, and what should be learned from this experience is going to surprise you. you are going to want to watch this. this is like nothing you have ever heard. that's next. [ male announcer ] this is bob, a regular guy with an irregular heartbeat. the usual, bob? not today. [ male announcer ] bob has afib: atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem, a condition that puts him at greater risk for a stroke.
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okay. here is me and richard engel in afghanistan together. really, not my best look. but there you have it. here is me and richard engel together in iraq. here is me and richard engel together in this room, on this show, talking about something that involved a map. and here is richard engel last
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week in syria, in extreme miss, along with his crew, both of whom whom we've had to work with on the show. richard and his crew managed to get out safe, and the chance to hear from him the story of what happened and what it means. i'm telling you is worth stopping anything else that you are doing right now just to hear this out. this is worth it. i am glad you are back, obviously. >> i'm very happy to be here. >> nbc's chief foreign correspondent. you have spent your entire adult life reporting from places that most people have never been to and do not understand well. can you just tell us places people do not understand well. can you just tell us logistically where you were and how it started. >> so this map shows the border between turkey and syria.
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the yellow line, everything above that is turkey. this is the gate, the crossing between turkey and syria. and we crossed through bab al hawa, we were heading into this area in the center to meet with a rebel commander. and we were traveling with well-known people, it was set up. the rebel actually came to the border to get us, that is how comfortable people felt moving in this area. we were going to meet this rebel commander, he was going to show us his area, he said i'll come and pick you up. he came, picked us up, hello, hello, then we drive off. just a few minutes after leaving the border crossing, traveling with the rebel commander and one of his men and our whole team we got ambushed. and gunmen came from the side of the road, surrounded our car,
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wearing ski masks, they had a truck waiting for us. and threw us in the back of the truck, boom, the doors close. and they drive off. >> large number of people, they were lying in wait. it seems like it was a well-coordinated. >> they were ambushed, these were government people, they were -- the rebel commander thought maybe these were other rebel units because it was so unusual that it would happen in this area. and he said, what are you guys doing? where are you talking us? and they said oh, you're with the rebels don't you support bashar al-assad? well, yes, of course, we support bashar, they said you dog, don't even deserve to say his name. so we knew we were with pro-government forces. the rebel commander was saying to them, kill me, these guys are journalists, they have nothing to do with it.
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kill me, i'm a rebel commander. let them go. and he had a bodyguard. so they took his bodyguard, who he just -- we just met minutes ago. and the rebel commander. they took us all. they loaded us in the back of this truck. doors go. they drive off. they're beating people in the truck. they grab me by the hair, slam me against the side of the truck. and they're starting their -- little bit of interrogation. putting duct tape around our eyes and hands. they drive from there to one of their safe houses, don't know exactly where. but roughly in this area up here. so it is a farmhouse. they take the guard, the rebel commander's guard out of the truck. kill him. execute him. >> and you can't see that happen because you are blindfolded or you can see it happen? >> i couldn't see it has been, because we were blindfolded, but it was the distance between the two of us right now, so i'm
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utterl utterly convinced that it happened. and they were dragging the body away. we knew it happened. that happened in front of us, since we were blindfolded, we couldn't see it but could certainly hear it. and then they took all of us, the rebel commander, in the safe house. he continually said let them go, they are not with us, we continued to -- >> you speak arabic, other people do, but the people holding you don't know that. >> they don't know that. something that proved to be very valuable over the course of this captivity. we were taken from the farmhouse, we know know, we didn't know at the time here. and this is half -- mostly sunii
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with a small shiaa pocket. >> you can listen to them -- >> he went outside, our main captor, it was like a farm house, and he was begging his commander to let him kill two of us. and the commander refused. he said there are six of them. come on, why don't -- why don't i give you four and i'll keep two. and the commander wouldn't let him. one time they were moving a metal tub of water, dragging it across the floor. if you're blindfold his and think you may be interrogated. i thought maybe they were going to put us in the tub, with electricity, your mind goes to bad places. you try to push those thoughts out. and when that doesn't happen,
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you're not interrogated or tortured, you start to feel okay, i'm comfortable in this place. >> every time you move it all starts again. >> exactly. >> we were here, they wanted to move us here, it is a place that is very hard core shiaa, very loyal to the government. mostly surrounded by the rebels, it is being air-supplied by the syrian government. so this is a hand-in-glove between the relationship, the government and this very nasty militia group. getting to fou 'a wouldn't have been a problem. >> and it is not that far. >> it is not that far. >> they have this little pocket here and they have all of this town. but to get there is a problem for them, especially now since the rebels are on alert, and that is how we got out. one night, the fifth night, they decide to move us, they load us
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in the back of a car. back of a mini van. they leave. they're leaving out this direction, and they're going to do sort of a round about way to get there, i assume, because they're leaving in the opposite side of the town. and they got nailed. they got stopped by a surprise checkpoint. stopped the car, there was a gun fight. two of the -- two of our keepers, two of the kidnappers were killed, including the one who was our main connection. >> he was killed in the vehicle? >> he was killed in the vehicle. >> that you were in. >> that we were in. >> were you worried that you were going to get shot in a vehicle, you were in a vehicle that somebody else wants to get shot and killed? >> they were pretty good shots, they didn't brass up the vehicle. they were precise, they shot the two guys, and that was it. >> wow. so -- did you know that at that
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point you were safe, or that you were at least relatively safe? did you know who the people were that had been shooting at the car? >> no, we know that they were shooting at our kidnappers. so that was a good sign. we knew that they were their enemy, but then when we saw them these are very hard core islamic fundamentalsi fundamentali fundamentalists, and the guy came up with a very long beard, it was quite clear they were from the rebel group and they couldn't have been nicer to us. they were hard fighters, clearly good shots. >> were they syrians. >> syrians, and then they brought us back to the headquarters, gave us food and water, let us make a phone call. and then they escorted us personally to the border. >> richard, just talking about this, hearing this story and knowing what i know of you and the other guys in the crew.
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the thing that seems scary to me, i don't think you did anything wrong. it doesn't seem like there was any sort of bad planning here, other than being in the middle of a war zone that you were being reckless here, do you think you did anything wrong? >> no, i don't. we were in an area that is very much considered rebel control. the rebel commander came to meet us personally, and he was going to take us in the area, show us the activities there and then drive us out. not that -- i had done a few days early, a trip into aleppo that i think was much more dangerous than this. except somebody found out that we were waiting on that road. waiting, and they informed on us. and they set up a trap and they grabbed us. >> does that mean that a war that is in the stages that this war is in, and territory that this -- that you were trying to cover is uncoverable? if -- you have to cover it


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