tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC February 5, 2014 7:00pm-8:01pm PST
you know how many times the irs commissioner went to the white house? do you? no, seriously, do you? happy february, america. there are a few weeks yet left of winter. please stay calm. that does it for us. we'll see you tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." have a great night. "american idol" contestants have become stars and now, it was bound to happen, one of them wants to become a political star and a congressman. clay aiken will join me to tell us why he's decided to run. but first, chris christie wanted david wildstein to work at the port authority so badly that he had to invent a job at the port authority for david wildstein that did not previously exist. david wildstein, of course, has resigned in a cloud of scandal and took the fifth amendment when asked about that scandal. and today, the port authority eliminated the job that only
wildstein held. >> could you state and spell your last name for the record? >> david wildstein. >> david wildstein. >> david wildstein. >> david wildstein. >> who is this wildstein guy? >> former christie port authority appointee, david wildstein. >> why should we believe him? >> the lawyer for david wildstein write, quote, evidence exists tying mr. christie to having knowledge of the lane closure. >> evidence exist, ohhh. >> it's a curious choice of words. >> it exists. >> it raises questions about what does he have? >> he hasn't presented that evidence yet. >> how do i feel about david now? >> this is just the gor nvernor word against david wildstein. >> they created a brand-new position just for him. >> specifically for david wildstein. >> what this has done is made christie look so uncredible. >> for the gop field at large. >> perhaps still has ambitions to run in 2016.
>> christie was the man to beat. >> a lot of republicans looked at their poll numbers. >> it looks very different with christie falling to the middle. >> what this has done has made christie look so uncredible as a presidential candidate. >> here is the first time that most of us saw david wildstein. >> on the advice of my counsel, i respectfully assert my right to remain silent under the united states and new jersey constitutions. on the advice of counsel, i again, assert my right to remain silent. on the advice of counsel, i assert my right to remain silent. >> right up to the time when david wildstein took the job at the port authority that was invented for him by governor chris christie, david wildstein operated under the pseudonym wally edge, not because carlos danger was already taken but because walter edge was a former
governor of new jersey who had a hand in the creation of the port authority in 1921. wally edge was the name that david wildstein used on his new jersey political blog that became required reading in new jersey politics. it was at that blog that david wildstein hired our own steve kornacki for what became steve's first political reporting job. as steve has told us, no one actually knew who wally edge was, and steve didn't know who wally edge was until wally edge hired steve to work at that political blog. there is absolutely nothing wrong about running an anonymous political blog, but there is nothing about it that would qualify anyone for a professional position at the port authority of new york and new jersey. and so wildstein's appointment to that job was greeted with skepticism by many in new jersey and at the port authority. in what is now abextraordinary
article to look back on, written almost two yearss ago for "the bergen record" it was reported that wildstein seems to serve as the administration's eyes and ears within the byzantine agency. wildstein himself wouldn't tell "the bergen record" what he actually did at the port authority. but the governor's press secretary, michael gorniak said wildstein is there in that job because he's well suited to the task of playing a role in reforming the port authority in accordance with the governor's goals. that sure sounds the governor's eyes and ears at the port authority. one source told "the bergen record" back then two years ago that, quote, he became the watcher of the entire agency.
what he was watching for was strict adherence to the christie agenda, end quote. the governor's now subpoenaed press secretary michael gorniak pleaded guilty to that, telling "the bergen record" agent wildstein, if he's not liked for that role, if he's accused of being in that regarding -- then we plead guilty. that's not the exact quote. let's see if we have it. i can't read it from here. let me see if i can try. if he's not liked for that role, that's right, and if he's accused of being zealous in that regard, then we plead guilty. bill baroni who was installed as the port authority's deputy executive director by governor christie, and was forced to resign in the scandal along with wildstein, told "the bergen record" then two years ago that wildstein was at the port
authority to, quote, aggressively pursue two things. to pursue new jersey's aefr governor christie's priorities and to reform this agency. if there are people who have been here for decades who don't like the fact that we have real -- a real aggressive approach to getting these projects done, they should get used to it. our job here is not to make friends. well, they succeeded at that job. when david wildstein was forced to resign in scandal, governor christie released this statement. mr. wildstein has been a tireless advocate for new jersey's interests at the port authority. we are grateful for his commitment and dedication to the important work of the port authority and thank him for his service to the people of new jersey and the region. that statement, as with all such press releases in governor christie's office was written under the supervision of the
subpoenaed press secretary michael gorniak. he is still chris christie's press secretary. and chris christie's press office run by michael gorniak on saturday sent out a memo that attacked david wildstein using the very information included in the almost 2-year-old article. that same article in which he himself is now trying to use against david wildstein. it's that article in which he
defended dafd wildstein. it refers to david wildstein being, quote, publicly accused by his social studies teacher of deceptive behavior. owe. >> accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior? what does that even mean? wildstein stand up. you didn't have to go to the bathroom, did you? you just wanted a hall pass. you son of a bitch. why can't you be more like star athlete and class president chris christie. >> that is a daming list. and it doesn't even mention the troubling rumors that wildstein is a known associate of scandal plagued governor chris christie. >> joining me now is brian murphy, a professor and a former political reporter in new jersey.
and joining us is a senior editor of wnyc. so brian, it all is coming down to david wildstein these days. of course, there's bridget anne kelly which no one has heard from including her voice pleading the fifth amendment. but the christie camp actually using elements of this 2-year-old article to attack david wildstein, an article in which the same players in the christie camp actually were defending david wildstein against these kinds of accusations is just an amazing thing to see tonight. >> so you weren't convinced by this? you didn't find this to be a really smart press move? >> i'm kind of in the makeup your mind position on this. it's so -- it's just a riot to
see drewniak and the governor saying everything nice they possibly could right up until friday when wildstein's lawyer writes this report that says evidence exists that christie knew. and then it's attack mode on david wildstein. oi'm not con finsed that michael drewniak saw this before it went out. or if the professional communications staff did see this, i can't imagine that anyone who was a paid professional on that staff would have given the green light to this statement. this just seemed like when i read it, something that had been cooked up, maybe in panic, maybe in anger, maybe in a bit of both by either the governor or people very close to him, perhaps people who have been long time, really long-time backers.
it just doesn't strike me as something that came out of the professional communications office. especially -- and who would get to the point where you see, you know, make sure you use the part about his social study teacher, right? because that's going to blow the thing open. >> remember, this is the same professional communications office that in the article two years ago said we plead guilty. andrea bernstein, if not the professional communications office, who at team christie, including possibly the governor is sitting around typing up these things? >> well, i think this is another question that we don't know the answer to. i mean, i think the key question here is all this stuff was known for decades about david wildstein and what he did in high school by no one better than chris christie himself. so knowing this information, why do you give him the job of director of interstate capital projects for the port authority of new york and new jersey. this wasn't a nothing job.
this was a really important position where he was in charge of doling out billions of dollars for capital projects. much of that in new jersey. and what we know now is that david wildstein was taking money and putting them into projects that solved other problems for chris christie. lots and lots of money. so it wasn't just tying up traffic on the george washington bridge that he was doing. but he was arranging the kinds of mega projects that advanced chris christie's political fortunes and were it not for this traffic tie-up on the george washington bridge probably would have helped him position himself for a 2016 campaign. >> andrea, elaborate what kind of projects that the port authority was able to do with david wildstein and others' guidance that helped specifically chris christie and helped new jersey specifically. >> well, for example, there was a project lifting up the bayonne
bridge. i think the key issue was it had a wig suppo a big supporter for the labor union twho then endorsed him for reelection. then that group turned around and made giant contributions to the governor's association which chris christie chaired. there was also billions of dollars that went into the polaski skyway, which is a road leading out of the lincoln tunnel in -- excuse me, the holland tunnel in new york city. now, this seems like a mundane project, but the key thing about it is that it meant that chris christie didn't have to spend new jersey funds. so it solved a big budget headache. and interestingly, when i asked michael drewniak about these projects just a couple of weeks oork his response then, as it
has been, was these were very important projects for the state of new jersey. how can you fault governor christie's team for pushing for them? so it's sort of a which is it? is he somebody who was unstable and manipulated a high school teacher? or is it somebody that was doing the work of the state of new jersey effectively in his position as director of interstate capital projects. now, as you mentioned, the top of the segment, i learned and some other reporters learned this week, that this position had been eliminated. which sort of goes to, was it key? was it important? or was it something that was created so that david wildstein could carry out chris christie's will at this authority, which is, let's not forget, a by-state authority. new york and new jersey. it runs the airports. it runs the bridges and tunnels between new york and new jersey. that's its function. >> brian murphy, the bottom line, which is literally the bottom line on the christie
defense statement that went out this weekend says bottom line, david wildstein will do and say anything to save david wildstein. is that the david wildstein you know? >> i think that david wildstein is -- the line i've used before is that i think david wildstein isn't going to be the only one left without a chair when the music stops. i think if he says that he has either he's aware that there is evidence that the governor knew about this, that would be something that chris christie should take very seriously. >> i would just add to that -- >> i think that -- yeah. >> go ahead, andrea. >> to that point, lawrence, at the governor's marathon january 9 press conference, governor christie went out of his way to say i don't know what david wildstein was doing in high school, i hardly knew him. i was a star athlete, i was
president of the student body. essentially he was saying who was david wildstein? now, maybe this wasn't the greatest thing to say about somebody that is now, you know, staring down the barrel of multiple federal investigations potentially. >> brian murphy and andrea bernstein, thank you both very much for joining me tonight. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> coming up, clay aiken is here. for the first time he joins me live to talk about why he's running for congress. how are you doing? >> i'm doing well. >> today was the big announcement day down there in north carolina. >> it was, big day. >> we're going to hear from you about day one of campaigning coming up. when does your work end? does it end after you've expanded your business? after your company's gone public? and the capital's been invested?
or when your company's bought another? is it over after you've given back? you never stop achieving. that's why, at barclays, our ambition is to always realize yours. there's nothing like being your own boss! and my customers are really liking your flat rate shipping. fedex one rate. really makes my life easier. maybe a promotion is in order. good news. i got a new title. and a raise? management couldn't make that happen. [ male announcer ] introducing fedex one rate. simple, flat rate shipping with the reliability of fedex. bulldog: you know, not all heroes wear capes. bulldog: you know,
some wear fur. and mattress discounters good deed dogs is here to help them. meet yara. she helps veterans like marv stay independent. this is caspin. he helps wallace with things she can't do on her own. and goldie helps children with developmental disabilities, while suzie works with people in the hospital. you can be a hero, too. give it mattressdiscountersdogs.com, or any mattress discounters. mattress discounters good deed dogs: helping dogs help people.
>> to say that it all came about in 6,000 years i think is just nonsense. we would say this is impossible. >> so pat robertson thinks that bill nye the science guy won that ed bait on evolution versus creationism. up next, why republican primary voters have a new favorite. and it has something to do with chris christie collapsing in the polls. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
told ya you could do it. (dad vo) i want her to be safe. so, i taught her what i could and got her a subaru. (girl) piece of cake. ♪ (announcer) love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru. waffle bars... fancy robes... seems every hotel has something to love... so join the loyalty program that lets you earn free nights in any of them. plus, for a limited time, members can win a free night every day. only at hotels.com but then it goes to the closet...to die. so try glow unstopables. they fill your closet with scents so fresh they last for 12 weeks! [ male announcer ] unstopables. america's best scent booster.
>> herman cain is ahead of mitt romney. >> debut here what rick santorum said. he's the man of the hour in republican politics. >> the latest leader in the republican race at the top of the national polls. >> and tonight, there is a new front-runner for the next republican presidential nomination, with the former front-runner chris christie hurt by overzealous and possibly criminal staff who, as he put it, embarrassed and humiliated him. the new front-runner is former preacher, former arkansas governor and 2008 republican nomination loser mike huckabee. here's what it took for mike huckabee to the the new front-runner. chris christie had to collapse in scandal and then mike
huckabee had to say this. >> the democrats want to insult the women of america by making them believe that they are helpless without uncle sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month with birth control because they can't control their libido without the assistance of the government, then so be it. >> a week after that, what happens? a cnn poll shows that mike huckabee is right up there in front of the pack now of the republican, possible republican presidential candidate next time around. and so once again, the republicans have a front-runner for their presidential nomination who has absolutely no chance of ever actually being elected president of the 50 united states of america. joining me now are msnbc political analyst steve schmidt and "the washington post's" nia malika henderson. i know steve -- i will let steve
take a little pause to get over the nightmare of that video we just showed over various people who at various crazy times who have been front-runner. and now mike huckabee. >> mike huckabee has always brilliantly strung everyone along talking to different reporters saying he was looking at this field and possibly entering the field in 2016. then this very quotable, you know, message that he had about women and the democratic party. uncle sugar, whoever thought of that. but again, i think it is 20 112 all over again. i covered all those people. and the polls determined where i would go next. and, you know, very much from week to week it could be, you know, bachmann, cane. you have this field that seems to be dividing once again, it was romney and not romney. and then here it seems to be sort of the same thing. the christie wing and then the not chris christie wing. what will be interesting to see
is if people start to crowd the field that are in the establishment wing like chris christie is. >> we're obviously seeing a christie effect in that poll. >> look, no doubt. he was the punitive front-runner. the instability now that the situation has caused in the race is now people are sfek lating about a lot of different candidates. mike huckabee now top of the polls. the problem lawrence is for republicans, if you look at just the states democrats have won six out of the last six elections, there are 242 electoral votes. and that's a tough wall to overcome with 270 needed to bin. and the question, when you give consideration to a mike huk kcke candidate see, what state when you look at the country does mike huckabee pick up that we haven't already won. there's just not a good answer for that. there's no a candidate you can win in a general election with if you're a republican and you care about winning. >> nia, i want to put the poll
back on the screen. it remains fascinating in chris christie terms. there's mike huckabee at 14, rand paul at 14. you move down a notch to jeb bush at 10. but there's chris christie at 10, right there with jeb bush now in the middle of the worst scandal any of these guys have been near. and then what i think is significant, there's three people below him. paul ryan is right now under chris christie's worst situation of scandal, polling below chris christie. marco rubio is below him and ted cruz is polling below him. that should not just create problems for investors in a christie campaign b, but people who are thinking about rubio or ted cruz. they're looking at that going wait a minute, chrted cruz is running behind him. >> he was on the cover of "time" magazine as the republican savior. it doesn't help that he was backing the senate plan around
immigration. i think again you have to look at folks like a john kasich out of ohio. he's up for re-election. looks like he'll win. he's polling at about 53%. he's part of a midwestern renaissance. that unemployment rate there used to be 10%. it's about 7%. i think he's going to be somebody, who doesn't have a lot of name recognition and maybe that's a good thing. we see what good that did for chris christie, but i think that's going to be where investors start to look as they look to 2016, who is going to be that candidate for the money class. >> steve schmidt, who is not on the current list of usual suspects might emerge and end up being the real front-runner here. >> ewe look at how staggering unpopular the republican brand is in congress. just unthinkable we would nominate a united states senator to be the republican nominee in 2016. so you have to look at the governors, not at the talk radio hosts.
brian sandoval in nevada, not hugely well known nationally. talented political leader. scott walker in wisconsin. john kasich in ohio we just talked about for a second. but if you're a republican governor, or even someone who has a profile, has popularity outside of politics, i think it is as wide open a field as you could possibly construct at this moment in time. anyone could win it. >> steve schmidt and nia, thanks for joining me tonight. we're going to make political history here tonight. this is clay aiken. he's going to get his last word tonight on his first day of campaigning for congress in north carolina. don't go anywhere.
when you order the works you want everything. an expert ford technician knows your car's health depends on a full, complete checkup. the works. because when it comes to feeling safe behind the wheel, going the distance and saving at the pump you want it all. get our multi-point inspection with a a synthetic blend oil change, tire rotation, brake inspection and more for $29.95 or less. get a complete vehicle checkup. only at your ford dealer. but with less energy, moodiness, and a low sex drive, i had to do something. i saw my doctor. a blood test showed it was low testosterone, not age. we talked about axiron the only underarm low t treatment that can restore t levels to normal in about two weeks in most men. axiron is not for use in women or anyone younger than 18 or men with prostate or breast cancer. women, especially those who are or who may become pregnant, and children should avoid contact where axiron is applied as unexpected signs
of puberty in children or changes in body hair or increased acne in women may occur. report these symptoms to your doctor. tell your doctor about all medical conditions and medications. serious side effects could include increased risk of prostate cancer, worsening prostate symptoms, decreased sperm count, ankle, feet or body swelling, enlarged or painful breasts, problems breathing while sleeping and blood clots in the legs. common side effects include skin redness or irritation where applied, increased red blood cell count, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, and increase in psa. ask your doctor about axiron. i tr ied depend last weekend. it really made the difference between a morning around the house and getting a little exercise. unlike the bargain brand, depend gives you new fit-flex®, our best protection. it's a smooth and comfortable fit with more lycra strands. get your free sample at depend.com.
>> and the spotlight tonight, it was bound to happen, an "american idol" runs for congress. joining me now, democratic congressional candidate for the second district of north carolina, clay aiken. thank you very much for joining us tonight on what is now your first day of campaigning. how did day one go? >> it's a very busy day. i tell you what. it's been a good day, it's been a positive day. we've heard a lot of incredible feedback and had a lot of positive support. but i tell you what, this is a
hard job. >> well, you announced your candidacy in a video that i think is an extraordinary video. i want to show some pieces of it, beginning with how it actually begins. your initial statement about this. let's watch this. >> i was 1-year-old. and my mother knocked on that door with only a diaper bag, the clothes on our backs and me in her arms. she needed a place to stay where she should escape from my father and start a new life. and she found that place here, in the home of a friend. for eight months we stayed in this living room and slept on a mattress on the floor, a tarp hung around the bed for privacy. i'm clay aiken. and i don't remember that time. mom thinks that's for the best. my father could be a violent man who would get drunk and angry and he decided mom was the reason for the pain in his life. i saw later when i was older the pictures her bruised face and blackened eye in police
photographs. in some way, this is where my life really began, on a floor of a living room in a small north carolina home where my mother and i only had each other. and she protected me. not just from my father but from as many harsh realities as she could. and more often than not, she would distract me wl music. so much of who i am was shaped in the early years and it's part of why i decided to run for congress. >> clay, that is as personal an opening statement as i have ever heard in a political candidacy. i can imagine some of that was not easy to go over. >> you know, some of the stories of my past, i've shared before, but i don't think any of them have meant as much as when i told that. because, you know, i've said in the past that i believe that i've been allowed this opportunity and this platform in the public eye to speak about issues that are important to me. but to do this today and to share that today in that way as
an intro to what i think is probably the most important thing that i'll do, i think it made it a lot more important to me. >> and, you know, listen, what's interesting to me about this video is here you are, an amateur in this field coming into it, this is your first professional day, and this is a very impressive video. because you've got a lot of the rules of politics in there. the former speaker of the house that you're trying to be a member of, tip o'neill, of course, famously said all politics is local. and that video really localizes you to that district and that place. and now i want to play a piece of your video where you get into the hard politics of why you're running and the distinction you draw between yourself and the current incumbent republican congresswoman in that district. let's listen to what you say in your video about renee elmers who is the incumbent you'll be running against if you get that democratic nomination. let's listen to this part.
>> even though she knew that voting for massive cuts to the military was bad for our country and our district, she voted for them anyway. ten times. after her party leaders told her to. and when her party leaders told her to vote for the government shutdown, she did. 21 times. even though she said herself it would be a disaster for the economy. and then she complained that she needed her paycheck. these votes hurt north carolina. they hurt our military readiness and they led to thousands of civilians at fort bragg being furlou furloughed. cuts to child care for children who live on base, survivor and outreach for family offalen warriors. even free phone calls so families could call soldiers serving in afghanistan were cut back. this is what's wrong with washington. that a congresswoman would go there and vote against the best interest of north carolina military family and those that depend on the military for their jobs. to do it when you know is wrong is even worse.
and to do it because your national party told you to, well, that's what in the end convinced me that if i didn't try to do something about it, i couldn't complain if no one else did. >> clay, i've got to say that's as strong a statement i have heard from a democrat about the government shutdown and about this kind of budget cutting that the republicans have been pushing in washington. >> you know, i think that we are in the second district experiencing what is really indicative of what this entire process has been like. people who have stood in the way of progress, people who have gone to d.c. and voted the party line. you know, i say also in the video at one point, you know, i like to believe that everybody goes to congress because they want to do so good. and of course, i have ideological differences with people. and may not see that their way is the way that i would do it, but i want to believe that everybody goes and does the right thing, you know? and is doing it for the right reasons at least. but when you see what's happened in this district and so many
other districts around the country, where people have gone to d.c. and they've just lined up behind the people in their party, lined up behind the leader, taken votes, cast votes in order to get leadership positions for themselves. it's days heartening. it's frustrating. i think the entire country is tired tired of this kind of dysfunction in washington. it bothered me to the point where i said i need to stop doing what i'm doing for me and give a voice for some of these people who are not being heard. >> clay, we are now meeting for the first time and through the magic of this satellite, but you and i have mutual friends including one very tall one. the tall half of penn and teller, who tells me who are the nicest, maybe politest guy he knows. and it leave mess wondering, are you ready for this rough and tumble that you're going to be getting into in a north carolina congressional race? >> first of all, it's very nice of pen. he was texting me while i was sitting here waiting for you.
you know, i've been through quite a bit in the past ten years in the entertainment industry and i think i've got a pretty thick skin. i will say that i've learned and discovered and realized over the past week or so that politics is really the only business, the only industry where one person's success is wholly dependent on the failure of someone else. in any other industry, you can be successful and your competitors can be successful. in politics, you only win if the other person loses. and i think that type of attitude has to change. because what we see is people going to washington and they're not trying to do what's right for the district that they're representing. all they're trying to do is make the other side look back. all they're trying to do is fry to destroy the other side so they look good. and we've got to dispense with that. am i ready for it? i'm certainly tough enough. do i plan on practicing the same kind of politic ooifs seen practiced in this district for the last 3 1/2 years? no. >> congressional candidate clay
aiken, thank you very much for joining us on your first day of campaigning. and i eave got to tell you, on the first day of someone turning pro in politics, i have not seen anybody turn out a better campaign announcement than that and a better more -- more strongly and passionately put political rationale for running. so thank for joining us on this important night for your career. coming up, an extraordinary moment in the house of representatives that you must witness. a congressman attacks the war on drugs like no one in washington has before him. that is next in "the rewrite." and after that, that congressman will join me. of thell.
r over a decade millions have raised their hand for the proven relief of thell. and that relief could be in your hand. for many, nexium helps relieve heartburn symptoms from acid reflux disease. find out how you can save at purplepill.com. there is risk of bone fracture and low magnesium levels. side effects may include headache, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. if you have persistent diarrhea, contact your doctor right away. other serious stomach conditions may exist. avoid if you take clopidogrel. for many, relief is at hand. ask your doctor about nexium.
and the people who choose to pursue them, like gwen, a machine engineer from new york. she's a real person, with a real dream of starting her very own business. and she's got a message for her boss, ted. hi, ted. i quit! wow! just like that, a puppet dream is born. [ turturro ] build your dream online at godaddy. it's go time. to help me become an olympian, she was pretty much okay with me turning her home into an ice rink. ♪ she'd just reach for the bounty select-a-size. it's the smaller, powerful sheet that acts like a big sheet. look, one select-a-size sheet of bounty is 50% more absorbent than a full size sheet of the leading ordinary brand. use less, with the small but powerful picker-upper, bounty select-a-size.
he's a strong man. that's what russia needs. >> we have different ideas about a bright future and we don't want a shirtless man on a horse leading us into that. >> an extraordinary rewrite is next. and i can say that because it is not my contribution to the rewrite that is extraordinary. you've got to see this. stay with us. o traffic? no, just had to stop by the house to grab a few things. you stopped by the house? uh-huh. yea. alright, whenever you get your stuff, run upstairs, get cleaned up for dinner. you leave the house in good shape? yea. yea, of course. ♪ [ sportscaster talking on tv ] last-second field go-- yea, sure ya did. [ male announcer ] introducing at&t digital life. personalized home security and automation. get professionally monitored security for just $29.99 a month. with limited availability in select markets. ♪ everything life throws my way. except for frown lines. those i'm throwing back. [ female announcer ] olay total effects. nourishing vitamins, and 7 beautiful benefits in one.
the rewrite tonight, once again, america's longest war. a $3 trillion policy that produced murder and mayhem here and abroad for over 40 years. the war on drugs. that's the name that president nixon gave to this war before he was forced to resign the presidency under the threat of impeachment in the water gate scandal. the war on drugs turned out to
be one that all subsequent presidents could not resist continuing to fight. and of course, it is not a war of drugs, tos a war on dealers. but we don't want to call it that. we know who the drug users are. the drug users are our children. the drug users are our sister, our brother, our fathers, our mothers. they are otherwise law abiding americans who use marijuana to as much intoxicating effect as a glass of wine, and they are wall street cocaine users, and some of them are tragically fatally heroin addicts. the addicts need help, not a prison sentence. the addicts need treatment. we have the resources to provide that treatment for addicts who can't afford it. but we waste that money trying to arrest them and imprison them. and so some of us publicly and in some cases passionately insist that the war on drugs is
a failure but we don't get to say it directly to one of the generals conducting that war. yesterday, congressman steve cohn of tennessee did exactly that in an extraordinary exchange. i have never heard a member of congress more forcefully and effectively describe the madness of the war on drugs in a congressional setting. he brought intelligence, and compassionate and life experience to everything he had to say. he will be my next guest. but first, you must listen to him speak for so many of us directly to the leaders of the war on drugs. >> i would submit, with all due respect to my fellows on the other side, that schizophrenia, which my father was a psychiatrist and taught me
something about, could be described as a party that talks about saving money all the time and being concerned with deficits and being totally driven by that, but not being concerned at saving money when people are in jail for marijuana and mandatory minimums the judges said were awful. and for nonviolent first-time offenders who are serving lifetime sense tens in jail, costing us $30,000 a year and the population of jail has gone up 800% in the last 30 years. that's schizophrenia, you're concerned about costs but not when it's jailing a population. your hands are tied on schedule one. but it is ludicrous, absurd, crazy, to have marijuana in the same level as heroin. ask the late phillip seymour hoffman, if you could. nobody dies from marijuana.
people die from heroin. and every second that we spend in this country trying to enforce marijuana laws is a second we're not enforcing heroin laws. heroin and meth are ravaging our country. and every death, including mr. hoffman's is partly the responsibility of the federal government's drug policy for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill, that cause people to be addicted and have to steal to support their habit. and heroin and meth is where all of your priorities should be. heroin is getting into arms of young people. and when we put marijuana on the same level as heroin and lsd and meth and crack and cocaine, we are telling young people not to listen to the adults about the ravages and the problems, and they don't listen because they know you're wrong. with all due respect, you should be listening to scientists.
parents who are grieved because their child died for an overdose. they didn't overdose on marijuana. and you're listening to them rather than the scientists? mr. bottecelli, it may go back to "a few good men" the movie, jack nicholson, you can't handle the truth. the truth is the drug war failed. your direction on marijuana is a failure. get to saving kids from heroin overdoses. now, you talked about alcohol and you may have gotten to this. cirrhosis of the liver, pretty serious thing. violence against spouses and women, people don't smoke marijuana and beat up their wives and girlfriends. they get drunk. sometimes they beat up their wives and girlfriends. maybe the reason there's so many
more people smoking marijuana now is because they're not listening. and maybe doing other drugs, too. but it shows the war on drugs has been a failure. a serious failure. >> congressman steve cohen, i can tell you, you are getting teary eyed standing ovations in living rooms around the country right now. thank you very much for your words. we're going to be back with congressman steve cohen. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ there was a boy who traveled to a faraway place
welcome back. [ applause ] >> i am not a man prone to hyperbole, world's greatest actor. phillip seymour hoffman, world's greatest actor. and i quit smoking with chantix. when my son was born, i remember, you know, picking him up and holding him against me. it wasn't just about me anymore. i had to quit. [ male announcer ] along with support, chantix (varenicline) is proven to help people quit smoking. it reduces the urge to smoke. chantix didn't have nicotine in it, and that was important to me. [ male announcer ] some people had changes in behavior, thinking or mood, hostility, agitation, depressed mood and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking or after stopping chantix. if you notice any of these, stop chantix and call your doctor right away. tell your doctor about any history of mental health problems, which could get worse while taking chantix.
don't take chantix if you've had a serious allergic or skin reaction to it. if you develop these, stop chantix and see your doctor right away, as some could be life threatening. tell your doctor if you have a history of heart or blood vessel problems, or if you develop new or worse symptoms. get medical help right away if you have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. use caution when driving or operating machinery. common side effects include nausea, trouble sleeping and unusual dreams. i had to quit smoking to keep up with this guy. [ male announcer ] ask your doctor if chantix is right for you. i had ♪o quit smoking to keep up with this guy. they lived. ♪ they lived. ♪ they lived. ♪ (dad) we lived... thanks to our subaru. ♪ (announcer) love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru.
>> cirrhosis of the liver, pretty serious. violence against spouses and women. people don't smoke marijuana and beat up their wives and girlfrien girlfriends. they get drunk, sometimes they beat up their wives and girlfriends. >> joining me now, tennessee's congressman steve cohen. i've been to a lot of congressional hearings, senate hearings especially. and i've always had an eye, especially when i was sitting there in the back chairs, in the staff chairs of who's working right off their talking points word for word. i could see you had some notes up there, but i think you went way beyond what was on the paper in front of you. >> i don't do notes. i'm kind of like butch cassidy. >> it sure seemed that way. >> and what i was seeing there was a mastery of the facts and a willingness to bring real world experience to this, including
your own knowledge of people with these problems and people who have had these problems. and you mentioned philip seymour hoffman. i have to think that his death was part of what pushed you in the emotional direction you went. >> i've known a lot of people who have, from the '60s, '70s, whatever, who have smoked marijuana. most of them were very successful business people, political leaders, titans of industry. and it hasn't affected their job performance whatsoever. and i've known a young man who was a son of a girl i dated, a woman i dated who died of a heroin overdose. and i've known another friend who was a navy s.e.a.l. who smoked marijuana when he had pan kree -- pancreatic cancer. his mother said the only thing that makes him smile or eat is marijuana. i thought this is insane. marijuana isn't our biggest problem. but we've had this war, a lot of
it precipitated on race towards african-americans and latinos and continued through the years that has been a loser of a war, costing a lot of money, taking people's liberty. the united states government should not take people's liberty for something that is really not more harmful than alcohol. >> you made the point that marijuana was made illegal largely out of fear of mexicans who were coming into the united states back at that time. and also, that marijuana is classified essentially the same as heroin in this war on drugs. and is that, do you think, the -- it's hard to identify what is the single biggest madness in that war. but this is one of them. the idea that marijuana is the equivalent of heroin. >> it's schedule one as heroin is, opium and cocaine is schedule two. and it's based on a system for determining drugs in the schedule on potential for abuse and medical reduce yoouss as a medicine.