The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/01/11

Guests:
Dan Rather, E.J. Dionne
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Happy Fourth of July. 

Any big plans?

HAYES:  Just going to spend a little quite time with my wife and may be light off a firework or two.

MADDOW:  Very nice.  If they happen to be illegal where you live, I won‘t tell anyone.

HAYES:  Just between you and me.

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right.  Thanks, Chris.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour.  It is the start of a long Fourth of July weekend.  This is one of those days where if you are not on vacation already, you sort of feel like a sucker, because it feels like everybody else is on vacation.

But even on a sultry Friday night in July, heading into a long holiday weekends, there are two rather outstanding things that happened in American politics today.  They have no relationship to one another whatsoever.  So, I‘m not going to stretch and try to make one.  We‘re just going to do one of these stories and then the other.

The first one is this—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER ®, MICHIGAN:  Conservatism is an act of creation and love—a love for a cherished way of life we have inherited and will bequeath to our children.  Conservatism is the negation of ideology.  We sent our mind to the world.  Not of the world to our mind.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCOTTER:  We‘ll move every mountain.  We will meet every challenge.  And we will strive towards the light of a blossoming dawn that is our newest birth of freedom, because we know our future is bright, because the future is you.

Thank you for having me.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That man is running for president officially as of today.  And he announced it on a Friday in July right before a long holiday weekend.

And you know what?  Maybe Thaddeus McCotter will be the next sleeper conservative sensation.  Maybe he will be the next Herman Cain.  The crowd watching him at that CPAC Conference last year, it should be noted, loved that speech that he gave.

It is also true, however, that in the local news coverage of Thaddeus McCotter‘s announcement today, the news coverage in his home state of Michigan, even the local news reporters in his home state seemed to think that it was probably nobody would know who he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  McCotter is not necessarily even a household name here in Michigan.  He‘s a five-term congressman from the 11th district which includes Lavonia where he lives.  He‘s 45, married with three children, graduated from U.D. Mercy for undergrad and law school and Catholic Central High School.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So, welcome to the presidential race, Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.  I could already tell from everything I know about you that you are going to be a very fun edition.  Exciting.

But on the kind of day when nobody really expects any news at all, Thaddeus McCotter joins the Republican presidential race.  That was one of two major and unexpected political developments today.

The other major and unexpected political development today is that Minnesota is closed now.  The Democratic governor of Minnesota and the Republican legislature of Minnesota could not come to agreement on a budget.  And so, at midnight local time last night, Minnesota closed down.  You do not have to go home, but you can‘t stay here.  Twenty-three thousand people who worked for the state have been laid off, out of a job indefinitely – 3,000 people.

If you had a reservation at a campground in Minnesota for the Fourth of July weekend, you are not camping this weekend.  All state parks will be shut.  All rest stops are shut.  The zoos are even shut—although it is considered an essential task to keep feeding the animals, somebody will still be doing that even though there will be no visitors.

Special services for blind and deaf people in Minnesota have stopped; 950,000 pounds of food for the needy in Minnesota are sitting on the shelves and in freezers, right now.  That food cannot be delivered.  The state has had to stop child care assistance for the poor.

In terms of the state‘s prison—you can‘t exactly shut a prison while there are prisoners inside it.  But if you have a friend or family member inside prison, you will not allowed to visit them.  There will be no more religious services in prison.  No educational programs of any kind, no more Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, no more Narcotic Anonymous.

If you are in prison, as of now, you cannot go to the library.  You can do any legal research.

The assistant commissioner for the state prison system says that prison administrators started meeting with prisoner representatives yesterday to let them know that these changes are coming, quote, “We don‘t believe in surprising these guys, lest their response be surprising to us and that‘s never good.  Nowhere is it more true that idle hands,” he said, “are the devil‘s workshop in prison.”

Minnesota is shut down—and even though this is being headlined as a budget standoff, like when the federal government almost got shut down back in April, do you remember how Republicans were holding out to the very end for defunding Planned Parenthood?  That‘s what they were willing to shut down the government over and Democrats wanted to make sure everybody knew it?

Well, in Minnesota, the last round of demands from the Republican were to ban abortion at 20 weeks, to ban stem cell research at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, to strip union rights statewide, and to make it harder to vote.  Those were among the final demands from legislative Republicans in this supposedly fiscal standoff.

If making it harder to vote is still on your list of demands when you‘re getting near to the end, if you‘re still insisting on that, it may be that you are not working very hard to avoid that government shutdown.

And that‘s where this Minnesota story gets more interesting and more national, actually, because there are two well-known Minnesota Republican politicians running for president right now.  Both of them have responded to this government shutdown in Minnesota by saying—all right.  Whew-hoo, yes!

Michele Bachmann putting out a statement today praising Minnesota Republicans for standing firm and not coming to an agreement with the governor.

Tim Pawlenty made sure that he was in Minnesota as the government was shutting down so he could cheer for the shutdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think the Republicans are doing the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The government also had a shutdown when Tim Pawlenty was governor of the state in 2005.  Last night, Mr. Pawlenty said he wished that his shutdown had gone on longer than it did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAWLENTY:  I think nine days at that time and I think we would have gotten a better deal had we allowed that to continue for a while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  His only regret that it wasn‘t longer.

This may be sort of a teaching moment for Republican politics right now.  The Republicans in Minnesota do not seem to have tried very hard to avert this shutdown.  They had started threatening that there might about shutdown even while the legislative session was still going on weeks ago.  They were still throwing in new demands to ask for right up until the very end.

If you really are trying to come to a last-minute agreement, your list of demands should be getting smaller, not bigger, right?

The real question here is whether there is reason to believe the Republicans think that something like a government shutdown is a bad political outcome.  They do seem kind of positive on the idea this year.  Their crowds applaud whenever they say it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. JOE WALSH ®, ILLINOIS: And I‘ve got to tell you, most people in my district say shut it down.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS:  The American people could see, life would go on without the federal government for a little while.

REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS:  I don‘t think it would hurt one bit.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS:  Show how seriously we are.  OK? 

Government‘s going to have to shut down.

REPORTER:  Even if it were to happen theoretically, it wouldn‘t be as bad as people make it out?

REP. MIKE KELLY ®, PENNSYLVANIIA:  No, I don‘t think it would be.

REPORTER:  Do you think a shutdown should be off the table?

REP. TOM PRICE ®, GEORGIA:  Everything ought to be on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We will do what we have to do to shut down the government if we have to.

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform—I say, shut it down.

CROWD:  Cut it or shut it!  Cut it or shut it!  Cut it or shut it!

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Cut it or shut it!  Cut it or shut it!  We‘ll shut it down.

They cheered as soon he gets to the shut it idea and waits for the cheers.  That‘s the applause line in the speech.  They like that idea.

That‘s not something you should really try hard to avoid.  They‘re kind of psych for it.

Back in April, the federal government came within a few hours of full federal shutdown.  Now, the next cliff we are speeding toward in D.C.  is the debt ceiling.  That‘s what the Democrats and Republicans are negotiating over in Washington.

The premise behind negotiations, of course, is that both sides want to avoid the catastrophe of hitting that debt ceiling in defaulting on American debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Are we absolutely sure of that?  Nobody‘s willing to do that.  Are we sure?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD:  Cut it or shut it!  Cut it or shut it!  Cut it or shut it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Cut it or shut.

You know, if one side really doesn‘t want to avoid defaulting on the debt, if Republican enthusiasm for government shutdown at the state level and at the federal level also means enthusiasm for, hey, hit that debt ceiling.  See what happens.  Is there any rational reason for Democrats to continue negotiations?  And if they do, how?

How do you negotiate to avoid a crisis with somebody kind of psyche about the prospect of the crisis?

And so, although I sort of can‘t believe I am saying this, we are now at the point where Democrats in Washington appear to be seriously considering whether the president can just ignore Congress in order to ignore the Republicans and instead assert that he can raise the debt ceiling on his own?  Can he do that?  What does it mean about us that we are considering that he might try?

Joining us now is Dan Rather, former anchor of the “CBS Evenings News” and current host of “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNet.

Mr. Rather, it‘s always a real pleasure to have you here.

DAN RATHER, HDNET:  Thank you for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I would like to talk about the Republican negotiating position in just a moment.

But what about this idea that the debt ceiling could be handled without Congress?  Lots of presidents have had debt ceiling fights with Congress before.  Has any president ever tried to handle it on his own?

RATHER:  Andrew Jackson back in the 19th century in effect did it.

But what we‘re talking about now is the potential of a constitutional crisis, because Article 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution clearly says, in effect, we will pay our debts.  We, the people of the United States, will pay our debts, period.  It doesn‘t mention, doesn‘t mention the president or executive branch, but that‘s what it says.

So, the constitutional scholars, I can‘t say they‘re split evenly on this subject, that several people in the Internet, one in particular, has said, what it amounts to for the president, if push comes to shove, finally gets down to it, this is a fire ax on the wall for him.  It‘s not my praise, I‘m sorry to say.

As a last resort, he could say, Article 4 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution says we will pay our debts.  You people say we‘re not going to pay our debts.  I‘m taking it from here.

In theory, he can do that.  But as a practical matter looking forward, with any president, particularly this one facing re-election possibility next year, wants to point the country into a constitutional crisis?  Now, he would argue that it was the other side and that‘s where the people would have to decide.  Was it the Republicans pushing to the brink and forcing the president to do this or was the president overstepping and taking powers to him?

Because most of us were taught in civics class in seventh grade, Congress controls the purse strings.  There it is.

My bottom line as an opinion and, you know Rachel better than most how often I‘m wrong about these things, is I don‘t think this is going to go very far.  At some future time as constitutional scholars go through their machinations with it, some future time, it might come to play.  But this time, even Chuck Schumer, as you know, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is saying, this needs more exploration.

So, where does that leave us?  It leaves us sort of plummeting towards this, crashing towards this deadline.

The Republicans, you said before, the Republicans are split.  Some Republicans, Tea Party member, not exclusive to them, are ready to shut it down, saying we think that would be a good thing for the country and, by the way, it might be a good thing for us politically.  Another part of the Republican Party is saying, that‘s too strong, and remember, we tried this shutting down the government in the 1990s, and it helped build Clinton immeasurably.

So, the Republicans are split—whereas Democrats are saying as follows: we don‘t want the government to shut down, and if it shuts down we are definitely going to blame the Republicans for doing that, and, by the way, that might not hurt us politically.

But the shift in power at the moment is, the Republicans, part of the Republicans want to argue, maybe the majority of Republicans in Washington are saying, not a bad idea to shut it down.  Some are saying, shut it down, the less government, the better.  Others in the party are counseling little moderation.

Democrats fairly united.  If they‘re going to shut it down, make it clear the Republicans had shut it down.

But I can‘t afford saying and I realize I talked some time here, all of this says to me and I think it says to a lot of people in the country just how far out-of-touch Washington as a whole, Republicans Democrats, Tea Party, Mugwumps, so far out of touch.

People are out of work.  They need jobs.  They can‘t meet their house payments.  And there these people talking about shutting down the government?

MADDOW:  The one, it strikes me that and—I‘m no economist, but it strikes me that the one bit of flexibility policymakers have both in terms of monetary policy and in terms of fiscal policy, the one bit of flexibility left even with all of the political things we have, money is very cheap to borrow right now.  And that‘s sort of a one saving bit of flexibility in the economy right now in terms of trying to prevent a double dip recession, trying to bring things back.

If we do actually hit the debt ceiling, if we start looking at money, the availability of money contracting potentially quite dramatically because we have shaken people‘s fait and the full faith and credit of the United States, that seems catastrophic to me.  And I wonder if the previous generations of saber-rattling that we have seen over debt ceiling in Washington, in decades past, if that saber-rattling was because people that we weren‘t really going to do, this time we might really do it.

RATHER:  I think that‘s the difference.  I think before people sort of felt down deep, they‘re argue, maybe, yes, they may shut down for half a day or something.  But we, the people of the United States, we‘re going to pay our debts.  And that‘s what this is about.

Are we going to pay our debts or not, and on what timeline?  Remember, I don‘t have to remind you, a presidential election is coming up next year.  So, one of the things that could happen and I‘m looking frankly – I wouldn‘t say probable, but going in that direction, is at this, if this fight gets postponed until after the election.  If they extend the debt ceiling for a limited period of time, say a year, a year and a half, that would be one way to do it.

However it comes back to, if the majority of the Republicans in Washington take the view that they would rather crunch American credit, our full faith in credit, rather than increase taxes, if they hold to that line, then you could very well see it shut down and at that moment somebody around the president might say, invoke Article 4 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution because after all it is part the Constitution.

Some people tend to think that amendments, the first 10 amendments are not really part of the Constitution, but this Article 4 has as much power as anything else in the Constitution as a last I use the metaphor against, fire ax to get out of it.  The president could do it.  I sincerely doubt he will do it.

MADDOW:  An emergency break glass.  Wow.  Dan Rather, I so enjoy your insights and being able to talk to you about this.  Thank you for coming in.

RATHER:  Oh, thank you for having me.  Happy Fourth.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

Dan Rather‘s most recent special is called “All is Not Forgiven.”  It‘s about how the archdiocese of Los Angeles screens its new priests after the Catholic Church‘s sex abuse scandal.  That news special from Dan airs tomorrow at noon Eastern on HDNet.  It is also available on iTunes and I suggest that you check it out.

MADDOW:  I should also warn you, there is more Thaddeus McCotter in the show tonight.  I cannot stop myself.  I realize I‘m the only person in the country covering, but I can‘t stop.

There‘s also the “Best New Thing in the World that we have flown in from Iowa.  That is coming up at the end of the show.

E.J. Dionne from “The Washington Post” is here and we have some weird news about shoes that show all your five toes.

That‘s all coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Today, this man declared that he is running for president.  Do you think he has a chance of winning?  His name, in case you do not know is Thaddeus McCotter.  He is from the House of Representatives representing Michigan.

And he has a book out, which may tell you more about why he decided to run for president than any rational calculation about securing the Republican nomination.

But is there anybody in the Republican Party have a real chance of securing the presidential nomination other than Mitt Romney?  At Intrade right now, where people are betting on this stuff, the candidates closest to Romney are Rick Perry, who hasn‘t declared he is running, and Michele Bachmann who is amazing.

Nobody else makes it out of single digits.  Not even Thaddeus McCotter.

Mitt Romney is the prohibitive favorite on Intrade and in the press and seemingly in the polls for the Republican nomination.

And, frankly, being the prohibitive favorite was his idea all along.  In March, Governor Romney told his fundraising team that he wanted to raise $50 million fast by the end of the second quarter, the first financial filing deadline.  That‘s an astonishing amount to have planned to make.  A shock and awe fund-raising plan to raise so much so early that it would drive anybody squeamish, they said, out of the race.

It would create the impression for donors and for king makers and anybody else that whether or not you like Mitt Romney, Romney was inevitable.  Romney train is leaving the station.  You better get onboard.

Now, how did that go for Hillary Clinton last time around?  This is not a foolproof strategy but it has been Mitt Romney‘s strategy.

In May, the not-yet declared Romney campaign claimed it raised more than $10 million on a single day, on one day—a kind of claim that earns Mr. Romney rapturous coverage in the political press.  Romney displays fundraising prowess, Romney raises $10 million in one day of phone calls, Mitt Romney makes a fundraising splash, lays down the gauntlet to Republican contenders, shock and awe.

Until yesterday when “The Los Angeles Times” reported that Mitt Romney didn‘t so much raise $10 million in one day back then, as he did some light bookkeeping, using that day to add up all of the pledges he had taken in earlier and announcing that instead.

If you are building confidence in your candidacy based on how much money you can attract as a candidate, if you actually don‘t attract as much as you said you were going to, what happens to your campaign?

In March, Mitt Romney told those assembled rich guy supporters and fund-raisers he wanted them to help him raise $50 million by right now, by today.  Instead, Mitt Romney is now saying he raised less than $20 million, which is still ahead of any other Republican candidate, but it is a lot less, less than half of the $50 million he set as his goal.

So, the real question apparently is whether the fund-raising bust for the Republican presidential candidates, all of them including their front-runner, whether this bust is just bad news about enthusiasm for these candidates, or whether what‘s going on here is that money is just carving a new path down the mountain this year.  Five successive Supreme Court decision by the conservative majority in the Roberts court have basically have taken apart campaign finance law over the last couple of years.

This is what Stephen Colbert has been applying his comedic genius to for the past couple of months, culminating in this week‘s Federal Election Commission decision to OK Mr. Colbert‘s own super PAC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN:  Now, the real work begins, and I am reminded as we stand here as the pilgrims who on this very spot but in Massachusetts filed their papers on Plymouth PAC to be free of the tyranny of King George who refused to allow even a single corporate carving to be spent on U.S. presidential elections.

Of course, they‘ll be others who say Stephen Colbert what will you do with that unrestricted super PAC money?  To which I say, I don‘t know.  Give it to me and let‘s find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So, why aren‘t the Republican candidates raking it in so far this year?  Nate Silver at “The New York Times” today said even without all the numbers in yet, it does looks like all the Republican candidates together as a group are raising about half of what they raised this time in the last election cycle.

Mitt Romney‘s raised less than half of what he said he‘s raise by now.

But think about what‘s different now from the last time around.  If you‘re a rich guy and you want to influence elections, why wouldn‘t you take the Stephen Colbert route?  If you‘re a rich guy, a rich corporation, or, heck, even if you‘re a rich foreign government that wants to influence the American presidential election, why bother doing it the old-fashioned way?  Why bother giving to some candidate‘s campaign where you have to give your name and your donation is limited?  Why not instead give unlimited money that you don‘t put your money on to one of these outside groups that can spend infinitely with none traceable to you?

Why not put the money down that part of the in this year?  Why not starve the candidate, instead spend all the donations on outside groups?

Joining us now, E.J. Dionne, “Washington Post” columnist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

E.J, it‘s good to see you.  Thank you for being here.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST:  Good to be here.  I think all the money‘s going to Thaddeus McCotter.  Just wait until July 15th, from his appearances on this show.

MADDOW:  Thaddeus McCotter, I feel like, is a special favor to me from God.  I must have done something good in a past life.  Some ancestor of mine did.  He‘s running for president.  Does it mean he‘s going to do more of those weird videos, with the guitar, showing weird nylon socks?

DIONNE:  He‘s pretty good at the guitar actually.

MADDOW:  Yes, he plays “Californication” and talks about prostitution.  It‘s amazing.

All right.  Is it possible outside groups are a more attractive spot instead of the candidates?  Is that possible?

DIONNE:  Well, it sure looks that way.  I think what you‘re seeing among Republicans is a lot more enthusiasm for the proposition “let‘s beat Barack Obama” than for the propositions let‘s elect one ever these other people.  Republicans know they want to win the election but they‘re not really satisfied with any of these candidates.  And I think one indication of that is that every time a new name goes out there, whether serious or not, Donald Trump, unserious, Rick Perry, hard to take seriously, but maybe serious.  They suddenly zoom up in the polls.

There seems to be somebody, Republican opinion that just wants to go somewhere else.  I think the money here may reflect some of that, that Romney obviously is the guy who‘s best positioned to raise the money, and he‘s still getting probably more attention than anyone else along with Michele Bachmann.  But there‘s still mistrust to him and people wonder, can we win this election against Obama?  So, the money goes to Rove groups where they know it will do good, buy a lot of negative ads against Obama in important states.

MADDOW:  Broadly speaking, E.J., with all of these Supreme Court decisions striking down all the different campaign finance rules, in broad strokes what it means, more of the money will be anonymous and just more of it, because there‘s no limits on donations and not limits on expenditures.

What do you think that is going to do materially to the way that we elect the next president?

DIONNE:  It ain‘t going to be good.  I mean, I think this is very, very alarming.  I think Citizens United—I mean, there are a lot of candidates for the worst Supreme Court decision in history, I‘m not a fan of Bush v. Gore, but this was a terrible decision because, first of all, it said, you know, corporations can spend money directly.  We have been against that as a country all the way back to 1907.

Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican, warned against the danger of corporate money in politics, but at least most of the time we knew where the money came from.  So you had some sense of who was influencing someone.

With what‘s going on now, you don‘t even know who owns somebody, if somebody is owned.  And, also, the kind of—I worry about the threats against—a good member of Congress takes on an interest group, and somebody walks in there and says, you like this job, wouldn‘t it be nice if there were a lot of negative ads unanimously funded by us in your next campaign, would it?

So, it really creates a whole slew of problems.  It was very impractical decision as well as the decision on the side of the very rich and powerful.

MADDOW:  One other issue of financing came up in way I did not expect.  Jon Huntsman had said in May that he would not self-finance his presidential campaign even though he‘s rich enough to do that, at least in large part.  Today, he didn‘t have to file any campaign fund-raising information, because he hasn‘t been declared for very long, but did say he raised about $4 million and his campaign would just say that he did contribute to his own coffers here.  All they‘ll say, it wasn‘t a majority.  They‘ll only say that what he gave is less than half.

So, Jon Huntsman is, at least, sort of self-financing here and he is declaring it, and letting it be known.

Is that worrying in terms of his chances as a real candidate or encouraging because he has his own money to spend if he wants to?

DIONNE:  Well, first of all, I don‘t understand the original statement.  Don‘t make a statement that you know can be disproved when the FEC reports come out.

And in terms of his fund-raising, I am inclined to say, wait until the next cycle.  I mean, Jon Huntsman has only been around for a little bit.  I think his opening is that Republicans who are not Bachmann Republicans decide that in the end he might have a better chance of beating Bachmann and winning the election than Romney.  And so, some people start coming to him.

But I do think it‘s disconcerting when someone says one thing and then ends up doing another.  I‘m curious why he denied he was going to self-finance in the first place since he‘s clearly got the money.

MADDOW:  E.J. Dionne, “Washington Post” columnist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, when it is Cain/McCotter 2012 when they finally settled on that as the inevitable ticket, can you and I go on the campaign trail together and follow them around?

DIONNE:  I would love that.  We could sing with them.  Happy Fourth to you.

MADDOW:  Thanks, E.J.  Appreciate it.

I honestly do not pay attention or criticize what people wear, right, something about glass houses and all that sense I dress like a color blind kindergartner.

But you have seen this weird footy shoes?  The ones that show your toes?  Creepy in a devolutionary way.

Turns out there‘s a controversy about these frog toe thingy that the Army, the Army United States Army felt it need to address, and for that we have “Debunktion Junction” coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It has been a very big 24 hours in the courts against three different breeds of anti-abortion extremists.

First in North Carolina a jury found a nationally known anti-abortion extremist leader guilty of criminally stalking a Charlotte area doctor who does abortions.  This is a story we‘ve covered for several months on the show, including interviewing one of the doctors who was targeted in North Carolina.  There‘s a long history of doctors being murdered, of course, after the anti-abortion movement distributed wanted posters of them.

Today‘s ruling against the director of a group called Operation Rescue Operation Save America who had targeted these North Carolina doctors, the ruling bans him from getting anywhere near where the one doctor named in the lawsuit lives or works.  It bans him from contacting the doctor or his family or from publishing anymore wanted posters or anything else about the doctor online or in print.

The defendant says he will appeal, but the order protecting the doctor stays in place while the appeal is being considered.

Also, today in Topeka, Kansas, a federal judge blocked Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback from instituting new regulations that nearly shut down every abortion provider in the state of Kansas as of today.  There are only three facilities providing abortion left in Kansas since Dr. George Tiller was murdered there by an anti-abortion extremist two years ago.  As we have reported on this show, the few remaining doctors providing abortions in the state of Kansas say that Sam Brownback‘s new law was designed to put them all out of business as well.

Like the Republican Mitch Daniels Indiana law going after Planned Parenthood clinics, Sam Brownback‘s law to close the clinics, too, has now been stopped by a federal court.

And for good measure, also in the last 24 hours, a federal court has stopped the law in South Dakota.  A law that would have forced women seeking an abortion in that state to wait three days and to sit through lecture by an anti-abortion activist at a so-called pregnancy health center before the state would allow them to have an abortion.  That last provision came in with withering scorn from the judge in this case.

Quote, “Forcing a woman to divulge at a stranger the pregnancy health center, the fact that she‘s chosen to undergo an abortion humiliate and degrades her as a human being.  The woman will feel degraded by the compulsive nature of the pregnancy health center requirements which suggest that she has made the wrong decision, has not really thought about her decision to undergo an abortion or is not intelligent enough to make the decision even with the advice of a physician.

So, the South Dakota law on ice.  Thanks to a federal judge.

The Kansas law also on ice thanks to a federal judge.

The North Carolina wanted posters creep, again, on ice, thanks to a jury of his peers.

It has been a big 24 hours in abortion rights.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  First Lady Michelle Obama‘s “Let‘s Move” campaign spreads the gospel of healthy eating, exercise and if necessary, doing the dougie.

On her recent trip to South Africa, the first lady and Archbishop Desmond Tutu got down on the ground and did push-ups.  The archbishop so delighted he did this little dance when he was done, which made me very happy.

Back home in the White House, President Obama, of course, keeps in good shape, although he is very skinny, he‘s not scary skinny.  He‘s very fit like President Bush before, President Obama works out regularly.  He‘s not afraid to be seen playing sports.

I also don‘t think I‘m telling tales out of school say that when I have seen President Obama eat, which I have done, he is one of those highly disciplined people who even when all the food is delicious and it‘s all right there on the plate, he avoids the stuff that‘s bad for you and eats just the stuff that‘s good for you.

Meanwhile, I‘m shoving dessert in my face with both hands.

It‘s being highly disciplined, right?  I think it‘s just part of deal wig the rigors of the job of being president.  We all know how the president ages a person.  It is a hard enough job.  The president having a pretty austere diet is probably considered a very prudent thing to do.

But you know what?  It‘s also kind of a bummer, having to be that good all the time.  And if it is a bummer that I think it must be, the great news for President Obama right now is that while he still is president, he also has a go back to being candidate Obama now, too.  When you are campaigning, out on the road, and you are pressing the flesh and meting the people and dropping into the diners and hitting the small towns, frankly, there is no austere president‘s diet.  There‘s no hold the sauce, can I get that grilled, not fried.

As the campaign gets going again, as it did this week with the president making stops in Iowa we got a very, very, very specific, very clear, very wonderful piece of evidence that the life of the president of the United States is already starting to get way more delicious than it usually is.

Direct evidence of that here in the studio is “The Best New Thing in the World Today” coming up at the end of the show.  It‘s already made the studio smell good.  I‘m very excited.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Debunktion Junction, what‘s my function?

First question: true or false?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUE KROLL, NBC NEWS:  You continue to say the economy is worse, but unemployment is worse than it was in 2009, the stock market is tumbling, now above 12,000 and it is growing slowly, we just had a 2 percent gain in this last quarter.  So, how can you continue to say that things are worse when they really aren‘t worse?

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I didn‘t say things were worse.  What I said was that the economy hasn‘t turned around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I didn‘t say the economy‘s worse under President Obama. 

Not me, never said that.  Is that true or false?

Mr. Romney, please meet the video record.  The video record, please meet Mr. Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.

He didn‘t create the recession, but he made it worse, and longer.

When he took office, the economy was in recession.  And he made it worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So just to be clear here.  Just to be clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  He made it worse.  He made it worse.  He made it worse.  I didn‘t say that thing, worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes, you did, Mitt Romney.  Yes, you did.

Not telling the truth about what you said.  Also, not telling the truth on the substance.  The economy under President Obama has gotten better factually speaking.  Mitt Romney, false, and also Mitt Romney false about being false.

Next question, true or false.  The U.S. Army has outlawed five-toed shoes for all soldiers.  You know, these beauties, designed to increase your athletic performance, improve posture, add an octave to your singing range or bring back the Latin you forgot from college or seriously make your toes fee better, which seems weird to me, because don‘t toes get lonesome like dogs when they‘re separated and all by themselves?

Anyway, the Army has banned five toed shoes?  Is that true or is that false?

True.  There has been some confusion about this in the five-toed show aficionado community.  Some feeling that it might have been a hoax or Internet rumor.  The five-toed shoe fan site birthday shoes reporting in February that the Army had already banned them.  Birthday shoes said they got the scoop from an anonymous tipster leading to this postscript, quote, “Though we cannot attest to the accuracy of this information, we doubt it is a hoax.”

A hoax?  I don‘t know.  Prescient maybe, because this week, in fact, we learned that the Army, in fact, has, in fact, stunned the five-toed community by banning those creepy little critters, quote, “Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear.  Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes, those shoes detract from a professional military image and are prohibited for wear.”

Those shoes detract from a professional military image.

More than the compartments for the toes, more than the fact that there is apparently a five-toed aficionado community, my favorite part of the story is that the U.S. military has banned the gorilla feet shoes for no operational reason at all.  The Army‘s stated rationale why you cannot wear these in Uncle Sam‘s Army is that they are freaking hideous.  That‘s the reason.

Thank you for playing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  All right.  “The Best Thing in the World Today” began in August 25th, 2008 in Iowa when then-Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama made a campaign stop in Iowa and he met a very nice woman in the audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My name is Cynthia Ross Freidhof and I‘m a small business owner.  We have a restaurant that my father started in the 1940s.

OBAMA:  What‘s your best dish?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Magic Mountain, we‘re known for.  We‘ve been in “Sports Illustrated.”

OBAMA:  Magic Mountain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Magic Mountain.

OBAMA:  What is a Magic Mountain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A Magic Mountain is Texas toast grills, loose steamed hamburger meat—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Cynthia went on to describe what a Magic Mountain is and how it is made and that appeared to intrigue candidate Obama.  Then she got to the real point of why she was there, which was to get candidate Obama to convince her Republican husband back at the restaurant handling the lunch rush to vote Democratic this time around.

So, candidate Obama got on the phone and made a promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I know it‘s in the middle of lunch hour.  So, I don‘t want to interrupt you too much.  But I‘m going to give your wife all the answers to my questions.  And if we need to follow up, you and I can talk later.

All right.  I got to try out one of these Magic Mountains.  That‘s what I was talking (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Nearly three years later, this past Tuesday, President Obama was back in the neighborhood, back in Iowa, and he surprised Cynthia by popping in at Ross‘ Restaurant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Cynthia came to one of my town halls in Iowa and told me about Magic Mountains and Volcanos.  So, Magic Mountains are—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Magic Mountains are Texas coast grilled, loose steamed hamburger meat on top of that, French fries or hash brown, and then we need a homemade cheddar cheese sauce that goes on the top, and also put ice on it, chopped onions on the top.  And then we add our really spicy—doctors recommended, they come here for their sinuses (ph) – chili on top, it‘s called a volcano—

OBAMA:  Then it‘s called a volcano.

So, anybody—anybody who wants one, I will buy it for you. 

Anybody in press corps has to eat the whole thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So, that was Tuesday.  And when we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW heard about this, we collectively at the news meeting as the staff had one thought.  Yes, please.  We‘d like one.  We decided that we would actually make some here in New York.

But we wanted to do it authentic style, so we called Ross‘ Restaurant in Bettendorf, Iowa, to find out how to make an authentic magic mountain and/or volcano.  And when we called them, they said, you know, we‘d be happy to just come out there and make you one and here they are.

Yay!  Cynthia Freidhof and Melissa Freidhof, thank you so much for coming this way.  Did I get the story right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  I have to—I don‘t mean to be too politics-oriented, but do you know who your husband voted?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You know, he never told anybody, but it was the next day I said to Ron, we had been so busy afterwards and I said, “Tell me what happened?  What it is that you say to him?”  He said, “Honey, I told him when I get in that ballot booth, I voted for you.”  And he said, “And he looked pleased.”  My husband is so shy and quiet.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  So, in—I mean, I want to talk food in a second, but I just—in Iowa, and you guys are a landmark restaurant, now that the campaign season has started, and you‘re getting all the candidates are coming back and everybody is doing campaign events, is it kind of a drag because you‘re like, everybody‘s back drop or it‘s exciting?  Do you look forward to campaign season in Iowa every year?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s exciting for us.  Our restaurant started in 1940, and my grandfather loved talking politics.  It‘s kind a part of who we are, we loved it and it‘s fun to meet new people.

MADDOW:  And do people get like snarky about it, though, like oh, here comes old senator so and so again?  Or is everybody very earnest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think people really enjoy it, involved and being part of it in the Midwest.  People love the caucus time.  I think people look forward to it.

MADDOW:  All right.  Well, can we talk about Magic Mountains and Volcanoes now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  Can you explain, I know the volcano is more than a magic mountain.  So, can you explain that magic mountain first?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The magic mountain, we are going to do Texas toast and then we do our Iowa ground beef, and then French fries and then cheddar sauce.

MADDOW:  Now, something special about the Iowa ground beef, it‘s not like you think of it normally ground—you do it differently?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right.  We do it differently, we cook it, kind of a big—steam it in a big vat.  And we do loose meat sandwiches.

MADDOW:  Loose meat is a weird term.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is a weird term.

MADDOW: But I‘m sure it‘s delicious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is delicious.

MADDOW:  Will you make one?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  OK.  We start with the Texas toast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Start with the Texas toast.  Yes, I‘m about as nervous as I was when Secret Service watched me do this on Tuesday?

MADDOW:  So, when the president ordered from you, you didn‘t have it

in advance done?  You just made them right there

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, because I asked him what he wanted to order and he said, I‘m here to have Magic Mountain, like I should have known that.  So—

MADDOW:  Did you have to prove yourself to Secret Service?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, they were fun.  I was (INAUDIBLE) of the whole experience.  And they were so sweet, I said I‘m so surprise that you‘re here.  You know, we thought you would check us out and look at the exits and he was very cut.  He had a blonde and southern accent and said, honey, we‘ve been checking you out all weekend.

MADDOW:  You haven‘t known they were there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We had no idea.  No.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  So, you put the French fries on top of the meat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, we put the French fries on top of the meat.

MADDOW:  Is it better with fries or hash browns?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I like hash brows.  Our hash browns are homemade hash browns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And then we put wonderful cheddar cheese sauce over the French fries.

MADDOW:  Oh, my God.  I‘ve never been happier than I am at this moment.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Come here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I already had the Bettendorf, Iowa.  I‘m a big man.

MADDOW:  This is Magic Mountain.  This is complete.  Do people put

this snow on top of - 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You have optional snow.

MADDOW:  All rig ht.  Should we make it into a volcano?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I think so—

We have to warn you, when we brought the chili through the airport, it did not pass TSA.  It had its own pat-down because it‘s so spicy, it heat up the sensors.

MADDOW:  Were they wearing gloves?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They wanded it and everything.  It was funny.

MADDOW:  Is this the chili—the chili is also meat chili?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Oh, yes.  We use our local Iowa jalapenos and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They have jalapenos in Iowa?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Lots of jalapenos.  Give it a taste in a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t wait.

MADDOW:  Did you hear if President Obama actually eat it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We did.  We did.  He—one of our servers was able to see him try a bite as I left in his limo, which was very fun.

MADDOW:  Really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Then the White House called and said it was delicious, but he couldn‘t finish the whole thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You go ahead.

MADDOW:  OK.  This is stupendous.  How long have you been making this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The late ‘70s.

MADDOW:  Oh, my god.  All right.  From Ross‘ Restaurant in Bettendorf, Iowa, Melissa and Cynthia, I have to say you‘ve made very happy and we‘re going to the end of the show so I can eat this in privacy while watching a documentary about prisons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

MADDOW: Thank you so much for coming and doing this.  This is seriously “The Best New Thing in the World.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:   It‘s an honor for us to come here.

MADDOW:  You‘re not even the one eating this.

Good night.

      

                                                                                   

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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