The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/20/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks my friend.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour.
University of California at Davis, November 18th of last year –
university police decided to clear away protesters and Occupy-style
encampment on campus. And when some of the student protesters refused to
move, this happened.
A campus police lieutenant doused a row of seated, calmed, student
protesters with huge amounts of pepper spray fired out of an extinguisher
from nearly point-blank range. It was a terrible thing to watch. But
people across the country did watch it, and the pepper spraying cop became
a further spark for the Occupy movement.
With instant iconic status, the pepper spraying cop became an online
mime, started showing up all over the place. People inserting him in
historic image, pop culture settings.
But the day after that happened, the very next day, the day after the
pepper spraying, there was an almost equally resonant event that happened
on campus in response. The chancellor of the school who sent in the police
to break-up the Occupy protest on campus, gave a press conference about the
pepper spray. Students who said they had come to listen or take part of
that press conference were not allowed in the building.
And in the midst of confusing reports about public safety concerns and
the chancellor may be being intimidated by the presence of the students,
what ultimately happened is the students gathered outside and this is the
way they protested when the chancellor emerged.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: This was an emotional, intense time on the campus. And in
that context, in that environment, the silent protest, students lining that
walk there, not saying anything to the chancellor was a resonant and
We saw this happen again today in a totally different context in the
state of Virginia. Watch.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: This was the silent protest at Virginia Capitol in Richmond
today. Now, in part, it was silent because of the rules for gathering on
the Capitol grounds. Rules for gathering this prohibit assemblages without
a permit and things like flags and banners for a specific group or
movement. They don`t mandate that you be silent, but the organizers looked
at what they wanted to accomplish decided to organize this as a silent
They said, quote, “These people,” meaning the state representatives at
the Capitol, “These people are used to signs, yelling, chanting, et cetera.
It is not new. They are not used to silently being stared at and having to
look us in the eye.” So, that`s what the protesters did and it was
powerful way to protest in part because it`s not typical way to protest,
and so it grabs your attention.
But this was also a way of showing rather than telling one of the
complaints that people have particularly that women have, this was a mostly
female group of protesters today. It`s one of the complaints – you can
show it rather than explain it, about this round of controversy right now
in American social conservatism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: What I want to know is: where are
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From the outrage over House Republicans convening a hearing
on the issue of insurance coverage for contraception, where the table for
the first panel of witnesses looked like this, to the overall dynamic of
the wave of new restrictions this past year on abortion rights, this new
wave of restrictions, even on access to contraception, it`s politicians
making these decisions for American women, because American women suddenly
this year can no longer be trusted to make these decisions for themselves.
And so, in this case, in Virginia today, this is a political tactic
that conveyed its message in two ways. It`s all of these people being
willing to show up to make their feelings known about Virginia`s proposed
legislation, to mandate forced medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds
for women seeking an abortion without the woman`s permission and over the
objection of her doctor. It is a way to show up and say, “I am against
this proposed law.”
But they are also showing up in a way that implicitly makes their
case. These protesters are being seen and ostentatiously not being heard.
And for today at least, this protest worked. The House in Virginia
was supposed to vote on the state`s now famous anti-abortion mandatory
transvaginal sonogram bill, but the sponsor of the bill had it held for the
day. It`s actually two bills that those silent demonstrators were
protesting today, forcing those state legislators to walk past them while
they just stood there and looked at them. It was the transvaginal
ultrasound bill that was not voted on today, but it was also H.B. 1.
H.B. 1 as in House bill number 1, the first bill filed in the Virginia
House of Delegates after Republicans took over all branches of Virginia
state government this year.
The very first thing Republicans did when they got full power in
Virginia was file H.B. 1, a bill to ban all abortion and likely ban
hormonal birth control in the state as well, one of these personhood
measures, personhood has already passed in the Virginia House, it has not
yet passed in the Senate.
We also learned today that Pennsylvania Republicans are moving ahead
on their own version of Virginia`s ultrasound bill, that bill that earned
today`s protest and is now starting to get national attention, including a
mention on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend.
Like Virginia`s forced ultrasound bill, this bill being pushed in
Pennsylvania not only mandates that women have a medically unnecessary
ultrasound, but because of the detail required in the ultrasound, in some
of the same language it would likely require in most cases, medically
unnecessary internal vaginal probes – forced by the state against your
In the “Lehigh Valley” newspapers write-up of this today, it`s noted
that in the decade, in the 10 years before Republicans took control of the
House in Pennsylvania, over 10 years, there were a total of 19 abortion
bills voted on in Pennsylvania, 19 over 10 years. So, less than two a year
before Republicans took over the House.
After Republicans took over the Pennsylvania House, there were 34
anti-abortion votes just in one year.
And this is what it`s like in Republican politics right now. This is
what it`s like in Pennsylvania Republican politics. This is what it`s like
in Virginia Republican politics.
This is what Republican politics are like across the country –
anywhere that Republicans have power. They have moved abortion and even
opposition to contraception up to the top of the political agenda.
And I recognize that this is state politics and the national media is
generally not that great at covering state level politics. It`s like we
can`t talk about anything going on until it happens at the federal level.
But to be honest, this is also happening at the federal level, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO DCLIP)
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: From the moment they came in to
power, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a war
on women`s health. If you don`t believe me, just look at the first bills
they introduced after they arrived here in Washington, D.C. and were sworn
in office. The first three bills they introduced were direct attacks on
women`s health in America.
The very first bill, H.R. 1, would have totally eliminated Title X
funding for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention.
Another one of their opening round of bills more than a year ago would
have permanently codified the Hyde Amendment, the D.C. abortion ban, and
the original version of the bill didn`t include an exception for the health
of the mother.
And, finally, they introduced a bill that would have rolled back every
single one of the gains that we worked so hard to get for women in the
health care reform bill. It would have removed the caps on out-of-pocket
expenses that text women from losing their homes or life savings if they
get sick. It ended the ban on lifetime limits on coverage. It allowed
insurance companies to once again discriminate against women by charging
them higher premiums, or even denying women access for so-called pre
existing conditions that, by the way, include pregnancy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray putting it in
After a whirlwind year of hard right Republican politics on abortion,
suddenly, the Beltway media is bewildered by the fact that the frontrunner
for the Republican presidential nomination – the guy who is ahead by 10
points in the latest national tracking poll is the guy who staked his
political career on being super anti-gay and super anti-abortion – the guy
whose primary legislative record from his time in the Senate is his anti-
abortion record, the guy who`s mainstreaming his long time opposition to
contraception, the guy who this weekend argued women should not have pre-
natal testing covered by insurance.
Rick Santorum has always been like this. This is not a newfangled
version of Rick Santorum. This is who he has been as a politician. It is
remarkable that a major party would pick a guy like Rick Santorum to be
But it is not remarkable for any of the reasons the Beltway pundits
class think. It`s not like they are choosing him for the potential nominee
because they don`t understand this, because they don`t know his social
conservative views. It`s not like social issues are some hidden Rick
Santorum agenda that he has and that actually people really like other
things about him.
This is what Rick Santorum has to offer as a candidate. And this is
what the Republican Party is looking for this year.
And this is what the Republican Party is like right now. And yes,
mostly been playing out in the states, but House Republicans have been`
doing it too, to the extent it`s surprising is because we have not been
watching the Republican Party close enough as they take this hard, hard
right turn on social issues this year.
Joining us now is Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal
correspondent for “Slate” magazine.
Dahlia, it`s good do see you. Thank you for being here.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Looking at this protest in the Virginia Capitol today, I
wonder if the size of it and speed with which it was organized tells us
anything important about the reaction to this Virginia bill, this
transvaginal sonogram bill.
LITHWICK: You know, I was amazed. This appeared to have come
together on Facebook, largely on Facebook, over the course of just a few
days, Rachel. And, you know, watching the footage and hearing you talk,
the other thing I found really poignant about this is if you think about
the purpose of the ultrasound bill and all the ultrasound bills in the
states, the whole objective is to force people to see that which they don`t
want to see.
I find it very, very profound that all these folks just stood there in
front of their state legislators and said “I`m here, look at me, look at my
children, look at my pro-life spouse,” look at us and tell us that you
really are going to violate our bodies and that you can cavalierly do that
for no medical reason based on some notion that we don`t know what is going
So, it really does sort of flip the premise of the ultrasound itself
on its head. What it says is you want to see who is really there, you want
to see real people with real consequences? Here we are. And I think
that`s very, very poignant.
MADDOW: Dahlia, you I think more than anybody have done more to help
non-lawyers understand the legal means by which some of these issues have
been approached by the right – the way that abortion rights have been sort
of chipped away at from the edges, by the anti-abortion movement and
conservative movement more broadly. When you look at the approaches to the
legislation like this, trying to state change laws like this, the
approaches they`ve taken in terms of federal legislation – is there any
connection that I just can`t see because I`m a liberal, between the way
they have approached this issue as a policy matter and the rhetoric about
supporting small government?
LITHWICK: You know, there is none. This is – it makes no sense for
a party that purports to want to shrink government down to the size that
you could drown it in a bathtub, to then sort of insert it into your
uterus. It makes no cognitive sense.
But it`s really important to see where this comes from and you and I
talked about this over the years. This is an invitation from Justice
Anthony Kennedy, the swing voter on the court, who in 2006, in the Gonzales
case, in the partial birth abortion case, more or less announces to America
in a 5-4 decision that women are going to have regrets about their
abortions, that they don`t really fully appreciate what they`re doing and
that more information is better, and that the government is entitled to do
what it can to make them understand the consequences.
And bracket how infantilizing that is, bracket how sexist it is, what
it did was opened the flood gates for any kind of law, including these trap
laws, right, that determined the size of a janitorial closet in an abortion
clinic, but it opens the door for any kind of legislation by any state that
thinks they are helping women understand that which women are cognitively
not able to understand.
MADDOW: Do you think that this ultrasound law in Virginia – there is
a number of ultrasound laws around the state, the Virginia one is notable
for having language that would likely force it to be an internal
ultrasound, invasive one, if you want to think about it in those terms.
Do you see that it would be challenged on specific legal grounds that
might differentiate it from the other ultrasound bills that we`ve seen or
other restrictions we`ve seen?
LITHWICK: You know, it`s a really interesting question and since you
and I have been sort of thinking about this in the past week, a lot of
points folks have pointed out that this is substantially similar to the
Texas ultrasound law, that was challenged but not on the grounds of a
woman`s right to choose or undue burden under the Supreme Court
jurisprudence. It was challenged by doctors, the Texas law, who said they
didn`t want to be commandeered in reading a script that wasn`t true and
terrorizing their parents.
So, I think it`s a choice to challenge on those grounds. I should not
that challenge failed and failed at the Fifth Circuit last month. But that
was the decision, the decision was for the physicians to go forward and
challenge it. Not the women themselves.
MADDOW: We`ll soon see all of those doctors line up alongside,
alongside the walkway to some state capitals if this keeps going on.
Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for “Slate” magazine
– Dahlia, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
LITHWICK: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. At long last, somebody is sticking up for the
rights of a very, very, very tiny minority in this country. The people who
are sticking up for the minority are billionaires. And the minority group
that`s being stuck up for is, of course, billionaires. That story is
And here for the interview tonight is the one and only Michael Moore.
Please stick around for that.
MADDOW: The self appointed arbiter of truth, PolitiFact, quits.
PolitiFact calls it a day. I rate that statement mostly not really but
maybe true, sort of. Actually, pretty much false. Stay tuned for the
MADDOW: It has been three weeks now since the fine city of St. Louis,
Missouri, hosted the country`s first parade to mark the end of the Iraq
war. A hundred thousand people showed up in St. Louis to say welcome home
and thank you to the men and women who fought in that nearly nine-year war.
Since then, since that very successful parade, its organizers say
there are roughly 20 other cities working on hosting their own parades to
mark the end of the war. In almost every case, it`s regular people,
regular citizens, pushing their local government to let them throw a parade
to welcome home the veterans.
The most recent city to add its name to the list of confirmed parades
is Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia parade set for May 19th. That`s a
Saturday. It`s also Armed Forces Day.
Richmond`s welcome home our military parade has its own Facebook page.
We`ve linked to that at MaddowBlog.com, if you want to check it out today.
Meanwhile, the White House is planning to go mark the end of the Iraq
war with a gala dinner later this month. A dinner they have given the name
“A Nation`s Gratitude.” It will be held in the East Room of the White
House. Attendees will be handpicked group of Iraq war veterans of all
ranks, and from all states, representing all service branches. Some
families will be there, too.
In total, about 200 people will go to that White House dinner, and
that is a great honor for those 200 veterans and military families.
Nothing wrong with that at all.
What about the other million-and-a-half Americans who served in Iraq?
What about us average Americans, the rest of us civilians who want a chance
to say thank you and welcome home since the war was fought in our name?
Whether or not we agreed with the reasons for fighting it.
Wishing the Iraq war had never happened is one thing. Pretending it
didn`t happen is another thing.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the nation`s first and
largest organization of veterans of the wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before the White House dinner on February 29th, IAVA is now asking the
president to convene a meeting of mayors nationwide, a meeting of mayors
and leading veterans groups to plan a national day of action to recognize
Iraq war vets now that the war is over.
Now, as for whether or not there`s going to be a New York City ticker
tape parade for Iraq war veterans, the way we`ve done for previous wars,
except for Vietnam where we snubbed those vets for a decade because of the
unpopularity of the war, we didn`t recognize them until 10 years after the
end of Vietnam. Now that the Iraq war is over, will there be a New York
City ticker tape parade for Iraq veterans?
The Pentagon still says they don`t think there ought to be. The
Pentagon line on this is that they are all for the St. Louis parade that
was such a success, and they are all for other cities doing parades or
whatever they want to welcome home troops, but the Pentagon says they are
against New York doing it. Yes, I`ve talked to them directly and I still
don`t get it, either.
But now, more cities after St. Louis are apparently on deck.
Richmond, Virginia, again on May 19th. Good for them.
And I hear we`re about to have other new cities parades announced
soon. At least that`s what little birds tell me.
Personally, I have to say I think the New York question still is not
settled. We will keep you posted. This thing is still in motion.
MADDOW: In the great state of Maine this weekend, they voted some
more! Republicans in four places in Maine met and caucus and tried to
settle the question of whether Maine Republicans meant to give most of the
state`s 24 delegates to the establishment candidate, Mitt Romney, or to
Congressman Ron Paul. Maine Republicans tried to settle this question at a
more or less statewide caucus two weeks ago when the party chairman
declared that night, Mitt Romney the winner. He said that Mitt Romney had
won over Ron Paul by 194 votes.
Now, at the time, this seemed like great news for Mitt Romney. He was
coming off losses in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. But then, the Maine
Republican chairman announced that Romney had won in Maine, right? So,
He announced that Romney had won, even though an entire county and
several towns had not yet voted, and about a dozen towns that had voted
nevertheless got recorded in the official Republican tally as having zero
votes. And other towns` results had landed unnoticed in the chairman`s e-
mail in box. He had asked the towns to e-mail him the results and some end
up in junk mail.
When aggrieved Maine Republicans started confronting their party
chairman about this, he told them essentially to go stick their heads in an
ice fishing hole. Then the chairman said he recorded the results from that
one county that voted but that showed up with all the zeros in the official
tally. He said he had counted those votes. He had them but he wasn`t
going to tell anybody what those results were to avoid stirring up more
drama, he said.
The Maine Republican Party chairman also said he would not count the
votes in Washington County, where there are 7,000 registered Republicans,
and where they postponed the caucus because of a forecast for snow.
Washington County could still caucus, the party chairman said, but the
results wouldn`t count.
In the end, the chairman caved on that, and now, he says Washington
County might count. The turnout was heavy in Washington county this
weekend, nearly three times what they have seen in recent years. But they
had no where near the crowds that had been predicted, and then as he told
us last week on the show that he would do, the county chairman from
Washington County told the world what happened there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had four votes for Newt Gingrich. We had 57
votes for Rick Santorum. We had 80 votes for Mitt Romney. And 163 votes
for Ron Paul.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ron Paul skunked Mitt Romney in Washington County, Maine. He
doubled him up.
Ron Paul also won the caucuses held in three small towns in other
Maine counties this weekend. But Ron Paul did not win in those places by
enough overall to overtake Mitt Romney statewide lead.
So, if you have been following this, want to know what happened here?
What started in Maine as Mitt Romney winning by 194 votes, was then revised
to Mitt Romney winning by 239 votes. Now, after Washington County, we
expect that Mitt Romney will have won by 156 votes. But maybe it`s 117
votes if you count like the “Bangor Daily News” counted.
Honestly, who knows? Who could possibly know?
But the next time Maine Republicans tell you that they should be
trusted to fix voting problems of some stripe in the state of Maine –
remember, this is how the state party runs their own elections when left to
their own devices.
We`ve got Michael Moore for the interview, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Little history – I was born
and raised here. I love the state. It seems right here. Trees are the
I like – I like seeing the lakes. I love the lakes. Something very
special here. The Great Lakes but also all the little inland lakes that
dot the parts of Michigan.
I love cars. I don`t know – I mean„ I grew up totally in love with
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When Mitt Romney went to Donald Trump`s hotel in Las Vegas to
bask in an endorsement, it`s hard to believe that was February 2nd, right?
It feels like a lifetime ago.
February 2nd was the beginning of a month of February that has not
been kind to Mr. Romney. This is the graph we showed last week that I
still think is the most important thing in the 2012 horse race. The navy
blue line shooting up to the stratosphere is Mitt Romney`s unfavorability
And then there is Michigan. The Michigan primary, a week from
tomorrow, is being cast as a do-or-die moment for the Romney campaign.
Mitt Romney grew up in Michigan. His dad George Romney was a popular
governor there. Mr. Romney, the younger, won the primary in the `08
election, campaigning there intensely this year.
If Mitt Romney can`t win in Michigan, it is going to be a shock to the
Now, the most recent polling in Michigan shows Mr. Romney behind Rick
Santorum. He`s closer than he was but still trailing. Hence, Michigan
Mitt Romney ads like this one featuring Mitt Romney with his dad, also ads
showing Mitt Romney driving a car. He`s been doing that as well.
Do we have the car ad, too?
He`s driving a car, notable thing about the one he`s driving the car
it`s him driving a car that was made in Canada. But still, you get the
idea. He meant it to look American.
What can Mitt Romney do in Michigan to turn around his fortunes on his
campaign? We got word the next campaign move for Mr. Romney in Michigan
was going to be to bring back Donald Trump. Mr. Trump doing radio
interviews on behalf of Mr. Romney in Flint and Traverse City and Detroit
When we learned the that the next stage of the Romney campaign in
Michigan was a Donald Trump phase, it made me wonder what the Romney
campaign expects from that. It made me wonder how the Donald Trump
endorsement has worked so far for the Romney campaign and prospects.
It turns out, there`s an app for that. It`s trackable graphically.
We did it today on our blog. This is the realclearpolitics.com graph of an
Obama versus Romney head-to-head race that starts in roughly mid-October.
President on top there the whole time, the blue line. Mr. Romney, the red
line, coming in lower.
But the point at which things start to go badly for Mr. Romney, the
inflection point there, you can see there. That point, that date, February
3rd. February 3rd. Why is that date – what was going on for Mitt Romney
Oh, right, that was the day after the Donald Trump endorsement. It
may just be a coincidence, but that endorsement does coincide exactly with
Mitt Romney`s poll numbers being thrown down the dark well with no rope.
The Romney campaign nevertheless doubling down on giving Michiganders
all the Donald they can handle and more.
Joining us now for the interview is filmmaker, author, and
Michigander, Michael Moore.
Mr. Moore, thank you for being here.
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Thanks for having me. Happy Presidents
MADDOW: Yes, indeed.
Do you love trees and cars and lakes of all sizes?
MOORE: Well, he does have that right. The trees in Michigan are just
the right height. In Wisconsin, they go way you can`t even see the top, in
Ohio just a bunch of shrubbery.
MADDOW: Honestly, that`s not a Michigan joke.
MOORE: No, it`s not a Michigan joke at all. No, it`s not joke.
MOORE: And he likes the Great Lakes but all these little lakes.
I mean, the poor guy – I mean, I just start to feel sorry for him on
some level, not too much.
MOORE: But you know, when I was in grade school, his dad was the
governor of Michigan. All through grade school, all growing up, it was
George Romney. And this Romney, George Romney was the man who supported
the civil rights movement, when he was the CEO of American Motors, he took
a pay cut he thought CEOs shouldn`t be paid this much.
He came back from Vietnam after a tour there to see what was going on,
came back and said we`re not being told the truth. That cost him, he had
to drop out of the presidential race.
MADDOW: Yes, because he flipped on that. He initially had been
positive on the war and said, actually, I was brainwashed, I was parroting
what the generals told me, I think we ought to leave.
MOORE: Right. And that ended his chances. And yet had America
listened to George Romney in 1967 when he said that, think of all the lives
that possibly could have been saved after `67.
So, that was his dad. And his mom, Lenore Romney, was our United
States senator for a short period of time and one of the chief backers for
Equal Rights Amendment for women.
So, those of us who are 45 and older, we remember the Romneys, even if
you`re not a Republican you remember them somewhat fondly.
And this apple has fallen far from the tree. It`s mind-boggling to
see who he has become or whoever he thinks he is.
MADDOW: Is the Romney name so sort of gold-plated in Michigan that it
should be sort of earning him the state?
MADDOW: I mean, he should be able to win because of his reputation.
MOORE: Even if you weren`t alive then, the name carried on. It was -
- it was the lieutenant governor under Romney, Governor Milliken, was a
very liberal Republican, pro-choice. I mean, Republicans in Michigan
actually have been fairly liberal up until this recent era. And now, you
have these really two Michigans.
I think this is something people need to understand, not only mean
just the lower peninsula and the upper peninsula. I mean, there is the
Michigan that is – has the long history of populism, the union movement,
sit down strike 75 years ago this month, got the UAW their first interest,
their contract. So, you know, there is a lot of – you know, that really
is the majority of Michigan.
There is this other part of Michigan, especially on the west side and
a lot in the northern part of the state, where I live up in this red part
of the state, that always seems very upset what the rest – what the
majority of us are doing. They don`t like the liberal senator, the liberal
Congressman Conyers, or it`s just too liberal for them, and they hate
Detroit and Flint. And they moved out of there to get as far away
sometimes as they can from these areas that they don`t particularly care
And I think this is why Santorum is probably doing so well with them,
because it`s a very – I mean, just to give you schizophrenic nature of the
state. You know, again, it`s the state that – you know, the union
movement began there, it`s also the state of Father Coughlin, the right
wing anti-Semitic radio preacher before World War II. It`s – the school
district next to mine is where Terry Nichols went to school, was the
participated in the Oklahoma City bombing. Tim Tebow, the Boston goalie,
who snubbed President Obama, wouldn`t go and meet with the rest of the
players with him. He and I went to the same high school.
MADDOW: The Bruins, yes.
MOORE: Yes. So, that high school produced me and him. That is
MADDOW: So, you`re saying rather than thinking of Michigan as a state
that is any one thing, because if you can have a conservative state that
brings – gives you kind of a specific kind of conservative politics, but
if you`ve got a state that`s got a lot of liberal populism in it, you end
up with kind of a combative form of conservatism on the Republican side?
MOORE: Yes, it swings way to the right because it`s trying to fight -
MADDOW: They are afraid.
MOORE: Trying to fight this nucleus of liberal thinking in America
that is very much a part of Michigan`s history.
And so, Santorum probably will do very well with them and it is
surprising – I think a year ago nobody would think this was even a
contest, why bother, it`s Romney, Michigan equals Romney. And I don`t
think that`s the case.
I don`t think it`s because of his auto bailout thing, because the
polls have shown Republicans actually in Michigan are opposed to the
bailout to some fairly large extent, because again, they hate anything that
has to do with unions, auto workers, African Americans, I mean, there`s a
racial element to this, there`s Detroit, and then there is the rest of us.
And I think that Romney, I think the people just – this is – here
what is I want to say. President Obama – I mean, I have been laughing a
lot during this whole Republican thing, and thinking just why are we even
having an election, Obama has got another four years. I think that`s a
mistake to feel that way, because I remember us laughing at George W. Bush
when he mispronounced things or he said things wrong, like Santorum was
saying this weekend, you know, it`s theology – I didn`t mean theology –
MOORE: He only said black – I didn`t say black people, I just said
black. But it`s always code with them. But yet he does mean to get that
in there to say those things – Islamic policies, you know, if he said
Obama was a serial killer, you know, they would come back later and say I
didn`t say that, I meant he likes cereal.
So I think this is going to be very interesting next week in Michigan.
And the trees, the trees will be happy I think with the eventual outcome in
MADDOW: And if Michigan is swayed by Donald Trump, I will be very
surprised and will need to talk about that.
MOORE: Yes, that`s the weirdest thing – sending Trump to Michigan.
MOORE: I mean, it`s alike a state that`s had 15 percent unemployment,
here comes Donald Trump.
MADDOW: Here comes the “you`re fired” guy.
MOORE: Gold cuff links. It`s just – who`s running this campaign.
MADDOW: Michael Moore, our translator from Michiganese – thank you
very much, will you come back and talk to us about this again before it
MOORE: Yes, I will. Yes.
MADDOW: Excellent. Thank you.
MOORE: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The latest on one great American state`s fight not to be
completely own the by billionaires is coming up next.
MADDOW: In the 1890s, a few years after the sate of Montana became a
state, there was a very public debate where their capital should be. There
are two cities in the running, Helena and Anaconda. Each city had a
multizillionaire copper baron pulling for it. The men were known as the
copper kings of Montana.
And in order to win the vote and therefore benefit their own companies
and their own fortunes, those two guys did stuff like sponsor parades and
speeches and fireworks. They distributed free cigars and drinks and $5
bills to win peoples loyalty. After millions of dollars were spent in the
1890s, the city of Helena won – to the joy of one of those copper barons
and to the sorrow of the other.
Decades after that fight, the people of Montana decided to pass
something called the Corrupt Practices Act to keep that sort of corporate
influence out of their state politics. Because of the history of the
copper kings, Montana has long thought about things differently than the
rest of the states, and they still do.
In December, the Montana Supreme Court essentially thumbed their noses
at the U.S. Supreme Court by upholding their state`s ban on corporate money
in state politics. Regardless of the Citizens United ruling.
But this past Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped Montana from
enforcing the limits that they want to put on corporate donations in
politics at the state level until the Supreme Court can decide on the
Now, we don`t know if the Supreme Court is going to hear that case or
when it will decide whether to hear it. But until then, post-Citizens
United and pre-whatever they`re going to decide about Montana, we are all
still living in a billionaire`s world.
Today is the day that we got the tiny little bit of disclosure that we
do get from the super PACs that have overtaken our presidential elections.
And while you might think a while, as a human before writing a $5 check or
a $15 check or a $50 check to a candidate, these guys funding these PACs
write $500,000 checks for their given candidates because – who knows? I
mean, the only thing we know for sure they have that kind of change sitting
in their checking accounts.
And money being given in chunks that big means that individual
decisions by individual named billionaires can make all the difference in
the world to a presidential campaign. The whole reason we still think of
Newt Gingrich`s campaign as alive is because of the news that one guy, his
casino billionaire guy, is reportedly thinking about pumping another $10
million in the Gingrich side over the next few days. So, Mr. Gingrich
doesn`t need other humans to donate to him – just one guy`s decision can
keep the presidential campaign at least vaguely viable.
Same thing, frankly, with Rick Santorum, when his billionaire or his
multi-hundred millionaire started doing the media rounds last week, talking
how women need to keep an aspirin between their knees to avoid getting
pregnant, Mr. Santorum tried to deflect the fall-out from that by saying, I
can`t believe held accountable for what my supporters say.
And that`s broadly true. You can`t hold a politician accountable for
everything said by somebody who supports them. But Foster Friess is not
just a person who supports Rick Santorum possible. In some ways, he is the
person who makes Rick Santorum`s possible. He`s essentially Rick
Santorum`s sole major donor. He is Rick Santorum`s billionaire.
Ron Paul also has a billionaire, naturally a libertarian-minded
billionaire. The eccentric founder of PayPal has donated nearly $2 million
to Congressman Paul`s side.
And then there`s Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney naturally has a lot of
billionaires. Given who Mitt Romney is, you might think he doesn`t even
But Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com has been writing recently about an
Idaho`s billionaire who is Mitt Romney`s national campaign finance co-
chair. And, frankly, it looks like an act of bravery both for Glenn and
for Salon.com to publish anything about this gentleman. His name is Frank
VanderSloot. He`s subscribe in local press reports as a billionaire. He
lives in Idaho.
In addition to being the national finance co-chair for the Mitt Romney
presidential campaign, he also runs a company called Melaleuca, which sells
all sort of household products. Mr. VanderSloot has involved himself in a
number of political causes in Idaho over the years, in what would seem to
be a very high profile kind of way. But he has taken a very aggressive
stance toward anybody reporting on his political involvements.
For example in 1999, Idaho Public Television planned to air a
documentary how elementary school kids were being taught in school about
issues of sexual orientation. Mr. VanderSloot and his company led the
opposition to the documentary being aired by paying for billboards to be
put up across the state railing against the documentary and warning about
the, quote, “homosexual lifestyle.”
In 2005, a local newspaper called the “Post Register” ran an award-
winning investigative series about how the Boy Scouts organization had
tried to cover up allegations of sexual abuse in Idaho. As Glenn Greenwald
writes at “Salon,” the series detailed how a Mormon bishop knew of one
scout leader`s pedophile history yet still recommended him as a scout
master, and how top level local and national leaders of the Mormon Church
had also received warnings about the scout master.
Mr. VanderSloot responded to that series in that local Idaho paper by
taking out this full-page ad in the same paper, attacking the credibility
of the reporter, and outing the reporter who broke the story, outing him as
a, quote, “homosexual.”
That reporter, Peter Zuckerman, had not come out to his friends and
neighbors in Idaho, yet, and according to his editor, after those full-page
ads started running, strangers started ringing his bell at midnight and his
partner of five years was fired from his job.
Mr. VanderSloot`s rise to prominence as an important supporter of not
only Mitt Romney but also Idaho`s Republican senator, James Risch, has led
other people to report on his political activity and raise questions about
whether or not his politics, particularly on gay rights issues, are shared
by the candidates that he supports.
A number of reporters who have raised those questions have very
quickly found themselves to be targets of Mr. VanderSloot`s lawyers. In
February, a blogger with the website called “The Idaho Agenda” wrote a
piece titled, “Romney receives big money from Idaho`s not-so-gay-friendly
After publishing that piece which described Mr. VanderSloot`s history
on gay issues in Idaho, that blogger, quote, “received an accusatory letter
from a Melaleuca lawyer. But before he could respond to the letter, he
received a follow-up missive by e-mail from a different company lawyer
demanding compliance. When the blogger e-mailed back to say he was working
on a response, the Melaleuca lawyer responded, `We really need to address
this issue today or else we will have to consider escalating this issue to
a much more serious level.`”
Similarly, back in 2007, an independent journalist in Idaho authored a
piece on Mr. VanderSloot`s support for Idaho`s current Republican senator,
James Rich. In the article, she talked about Mr. VanderSloot`s involvement
in that gay documentary that was to be aired on Idaho Public Television.
For that dip into true history, she, too, said she received a warning
letter from Mr. VanderSloot`s lawyers accusing her of defamation.
According to Glenn`s reporting at Salon, she also included the
official photograph of VanderSloot taken from the Melaleuca website. In
response, she was sent from Melaleuca`s counsel, accusing her of copyright
infringement for using the photo.
After another website writing about Mr. VanderSloot decided to post
the letter that they received from Melaleuca`s lawyers, quote, “Melaleuca
responded” – this is amazing – “by obtaining an after-the-fact copyright
certificate for that lawyer`s letter, then demanding that the hosting
company remove the letter from the website on the ground that it
constituted copyright infringement.”
The hosting company promptly complied and Melaleuca then sued for
copyright infringement for having published the now copyrighted lawyer`s
letter without their consent.
So, this is the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney for
president campaign. And this is what we know from the public record about
his activism, his political views, and his apparent strategy for dealing
with people who report on him.
But he also serves as a good general reminder: billionaires have
always had a ton of weight to throw around in this country, going back to
the days of the copper kings of Montana, right? And they have always used
that weight for all sorts of reasons, including, trying to shape what we
are able to know about how exactly they throw their weight around.
But now in this post-Citizens United world we are living in, these
billionaires, who frankly have never been wanting for influence in the
country in the first place, now in this post-Citizens Unite world, they are
the one we`ve decided to also hand our elections over to – because they
needed that too. Tada.
MADDOW: Hey, good news! PolitiFact is quitting. At least, I think
PolitiFact is quitting.
OK, whether or not they`re up and going out of business, PolitiFact is
at least letting us know, I think, that they are giving up. That they are
at least no longer trying.
Here`s what`s going on. My colleague, Lawrence O`Donnell, has an ad
running about the G.I. bill. The G.I. bill, of course, provided tuition
and other benefits to soldiers returning home from World War II. Lawrence
describes the success of that program and then says its critics derided it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: It`s the most successful educational
program that we`ve ever had in this country and the critics called it
(END VIDEO CLP)
MADDOW: Now, the group PolitiFact decided to fact-check that
statement from Lawrence – the statement that critics of the G.I. bill
called it welfare. PolitiFact looked at that record and they found that
the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House at the time
criticized the G.I. bill by saying, quote, “The bane of the British Empire
has been the dole system.”
What`s the dole system? What`s the dole? The dole is welfare.
That`s what British people call welfare. It`s an English language, slang
term everywhere for welfare.
So, case closed, right? Lawrence`s ad says that critics of the G.I.
bill called it welfare. PolitiFact finds that, indeed, critics of the G.I.
bill did call it welfare. So, this is an easy one. PolitiFact fact checks
historical claim A, it finds historical claim A to be true, PolitiFact
therefore rates the claim – mostly false!
They found it to be true, but they rate it mostly false. They print
the evidence that it`s true, “The bane of the British Empire has been the
dole system,” and then right under that they say, “We found no evidence of
critics referring to the G.I. bill as welfare.”
Dudes, you just published the evidence of critics referring to the
G.I. bill as welfare. It is right there, on the same page. You wrote it,
in your same article.
What do you think the British dole system is? Do you think it`s a
pineapple program of some kind? Maybe something having to do with bananas?
Everybody gets a little sticker?
Did you seriously print this piece without once Googling “the dole” to
see what that meant? “British, the dole” – you don`t even have to use
quotes. Did you check to see if maybe it meant welfare? Which is what you
were supposedly fact checking.
In space, no one can hear you scream.
This is why PolitiFact has to go away, or at least they need to stop
using the word “fact” as part of their name. Everybody should do fact
checking. PolitiFact should go away.
I have not talked to Lawrence O`Donnell about this, I have not talked
to anybody on Lawrence`s staff about this, I have not talked to anybody
else in the building about this. But as a nation that cares about the word
“fact” and ought to demand it back from these people abusing it, I think
there is a silver lining here. I think PolitiFact is giving up.
This is so bad. This is so egregiously bad that if they do not
correct this one, I think we can safely assume that PolitiFact, for all
intents and purposes, is dead. They are over. They are over and out.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.
And now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD” with its totally true host,
Lawrence O`Donnell, who I don`t usually toss to, but I thought like we sort
of probably ought.
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