The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/29/2012
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Last night was fun a more fun
night had Rick Santorum upset Mitt Romney in Michigan. But even with the
sort of anti-climax, I sort of liked the giant set and all of us being
there all night.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: Well, it was fun, and there was a lot
of news there in the last hour.
MADDOW: That`s right.
SCHULTZ: And how this is going to play out in Ohio is very
suspenseful and, of course, how it`s going to play out in the Senate with
Olympia Snowe checking out. That, too, was going to – we got a lot of
stuff going on.
MADDOW: We do have a lot of stuff going on. I got Chellie Pingree as
my guest in this for a segment. So, I`m really excited.
MADDOW: Thank you, Ed. Appreciate it, man.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
Last night, the whole political landscape for 2012 changed. It
actually had nothing to do with Michigan or Arizona or Rick Santorum or
Mitt Romney, or even Ron Paul`s secret delegate strategy. It had nothing
to do with any of those guys.
Last night, the entire political landscape for Washington for 2012
changed before we got the results of those two primaries last night. Hold
In April of 2010, just before he retired from the Supreme Court,
Justice John Paul Stevens did an interview in his chambers with a reporter
for “The New York Times” named Adam Liptak. And at the age of 90, on the
eve of his retirement, Justice Stevens said when he looked back at his
career, when he looked back at every one of the Supreme Court justice who
joined the court in the previous generation, in the previous 35 years, he
told Adam Liptak, every single one of them had been more conservative than
the justice that he or she replaced – with only two possible exceptions,
over 35 years.
Think about that for a second. When a Republican president replaced
justices on the Supreme Court, they picked judges further to the right than
the judges that were being replaced.
Also, when Democrats picked new justices for the Supreme Court, over
the past 35 years, the justice arriving was almost always more conservative
than the justice who had been there before.
This doesn`t mean that Democrats always pick hardcore right wingers or
anything, but it means that overall, over time, it has been a steady,
deliberate march to the right on the Supreme Court, even for judges picked
Similarly, the presidency, when political scientists in this case –
in this country, in this case, a political science professor from
University of Georgia is the data we`re going to show right now, when
political scientists in this country track the liberalness and
conservativeness of presidents and their political positions, you get a
graph that looks like this.
Now, it looks confusing at first. But don`t be confused. It`s
actually really simple and it totally makes sense. This is a graph that`s
You see that dotted yellow line that runs down the middle? That is
moderation. That is the line that indicates neither liberal nor
conservative, that means moderate. That is the center in terms policy
positions. The further up you get on the graph, that means the more
conservative you are; the further down you get on the graph, the more
liberal you are. OK?
So, moderate in the middle, conservative at the top, liberal at the
Now, obviously, Republican presidents broadly are more conservatives
there at the top. And Democrats broadly are more liberal.
But over time, from Ike to Nixon and Ford, and then from Reagan to
Bush the first and then up to Bush the second, you see them moving up?
Republican presidents are getting more conservative over time, Republicans
getting more conservative.
But here`s the thing – so are Democrats. Both of these lines are
going in the same direction. They are all heading up the graph.
Republicans are getting more conservative by leaps and bounds, but
Democrats are chasing them. LBJ was more conservative than John F.
Kennedy. Bill Clinton was more conservative than Jimmy Carter. And Barack
Obama is more conservative than Bill Clinton.
Oh, wait. I thought he was a communist.
Stop, we`re talking political science here. We will resume the
partisan screaming in just a moment.
But the Supreme Court, the Republican presidencies and through
Democratic presidencies is getting more conservative. The presidency
through Republican presidents and Democratic presidents is also getting
The Congress? Shocker. This is from the same political scientist the
University of Georgia using the same measures of liberal and conservative,
right? They tracked this for both the House and Senate – the same basic
pattern both of them. It`s a little easier to see with the House data.
So, we`ll look at the House.
Again, the basic idea here is that the middle line here, the middle
line, the yellow line in the middle there, that is set at zero. That is
neither conservative nor liberal, the middle line runs down the middle. It
marks moderate. The higher up you get, the more conservative; the lower
down you get, the more liberal.
And obviously, Republicans are more conservative, so they are up top.
And Democrats are more liberal, so they are down below. But check this
out, the two lines you see on each side of the middle there are the most
moderate members of each party. So, those lines are more toward the
middle, more toward the center.
The lines at the very top and lines at the very bottom, those are the
more partisan people, the more partisan members of each party. So, this
shows where those moderates and the partisans in the Republican Party, and
the moderates and the partisans in the Democratic Party have been in our
country from around Reconstruction like post-Civil War, to roughly 1975.
Then look what`s happened since 1975. Look. Look what happens to
those red lines up top. Those are the Republicans – getting way more
conservative. The Republicans, both the super partisan Republicans and the
moderates shoot up toward the top of that graph. They shoot up in a
Democrats stay roughly the same since 1975. I mean, the most partisan
Democrats, that`s the very bottom line there, they stay basically exactly
where they have been over not just the last generation, but the last
Moderate Democrats, that`s the other line, they get marginally more
liberal over time, but barely. I mean, look at the rest of the lines –
they stay pretty much flat. But the Republicans, look, both the moderates
and the super partisan Republicans, they just fly off the charts.
If you look over time, the craziest hair-on-fire most extreme
Republican in 1975, which that is top arrow right there, that person`s
super crazy far right wing positions in 1975 are where the most moderate
Republicans are now. That`s where the most liberal Republicans are now.
They have the positions that were far to the right of the Republican Party
just a generation ago. That has happened over one generation.
Again, partisan Democrats over this time have stayed pretty much
exactly the same. Moderate Democrats have gotten slightly more liberal,
but they are basically the same – while the Republicans have gone off the
The most extreme liberals in the Democratic Party are as far away from
the moderate position as the most liberal Republican.
So, on the Supreme Court, they are storming to the right. The
presidency, storming to the right. Congress, storming to the right, too.
And in Congress, that dynamic of storming to the right is important to
see it. That dynamic of storming to the right in Congress is happening all
on the right.
Republicans are getting way more conservative over the past
generation. And it`s happening very, very fast. And Democrats are kind of
staying where they are at.
And so, the most important news for 2012 politics that broke last
night is this – Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine is quitting.
The most moderate-ish Republican senator, goodbye.
If you`re marching to the right, if you`re making the new normal in
Republican politics, further to the right every year, frankly you can`t
afford to have your average dragged down by somebody who isn`t sprinting
right as fast as the rest of you.
And this political project of the American right, sort of, makes
sense. This is a consequence I think of the Republican Party and
conservative movement not being the same thing.
There`s nothing like this on the left. There`s no dynamic like this
on the left. But on the right, there is a conservative movement, largely
corporate, ideological, too, but it`s largely corporate, and they`ve got a
long term prospective. They`ve got their eyes on the horizon. They`ve got
an overall big picture, generations-long goal of making the country more
And so, you know, if people in my job, we waste all this breath, we do
all this stupid short term punditry about how it makes no sense how the
Republicans are going right wing. They are way to the right of the
electorate on this issue or that issue.
Boy, this is going to cost them a seat. This might cost them an
election. Why are they going so far to the right of where the center of
the electorate is?
It`s because they don`t care what happens in the short term. Losing a
few seats here and there, does not matter if the long term project is
dragging the country, dragging the center to the point where frankly a
Ronald Reagan running for president today would have to pick Dennis
Kucinich as a running mate. It`s a long term goal.
And so, Olympia Snowe, one of the last endangered species Republican
moderate-ish senators, calls it quits. And the immediate consequence of
this, the thing that gets pundits and frankly Democrats all very excited is
that as NBC`s “First Read” put it today, this gives Democrats a better than
50-50 chance of holding on the Senate in November.
And that is a big deal for 2012. But a move like this also inevitably
leads to a lot of stupidity, to lot of hand-wringing bad punditry, about
how moderates can`t survive in Washington anymore because both sides have
gotten so extreme.
If you have a piece of scrap paper anywhere near you, just tear off a
little strip of it like this and ball it up, and put it in your mouth and
start chewing on the strip and next time somebody gets on your TV screen
and says both parties have gotten so extreme, you just eject one of those
wads of paper at the screen.
Spit balling will not make the Beltway stop saying this stupid thing
but it will make you feel better. I do it myself in my office, trust me.
This is not a pox on both their houses story. This is not a oh,
mirror image, both sides so extreme. There is nothing that the Democratic
Party did or that liberals did to make it impossible for Olympia Snowe to
stay in the Senate.
This is not a Democratic story. It`s not a both sides story. It`s a
story about the right.
And it is true that Olympia Snowe leaving will make it much harder for
Maine Republicans to hold on to that one seat. But frankly, to them, that
is road kill. That one seat is essentially just road kill for the larger
Republican project of moving all Republican politics so far to the right
that when Democrats inevitably chase Republicans, when Democrats inevitably
trying to find some middle ground between where Democrats have always been
and where Republicans have sprinted to, that middle ground, that compromise
place, that triangulated center ends up being a very, very right wing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There used to be a
Republican idea, by the way – this whole idea of the individual mandate.
And suddenly, it`s like they got amnesia. It`s like, oh, this is terrible.
This is going to take away freedom for Americans all over the world, all
over the country. So, that`s a little puzzling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It would be puzzling if Republicans were anything like
Democrats. But Republicans are not anything like Democrats. There is no
liberal movement to that pulls Democrats further and further to the left
every year. Democrats pretty much stayed the same or they scooch to the
right every year. It`s not a slam on Democrat, just what happened over
Republicans on the other hand are sprinting to the right deliberately
– even when it has bad short term consequences for the next election.
Republican ideas like the DREAM Act, Republican ideas like cap and trade,
Republican idea like the individual mandate in health reform, which you
just saw the president talking about there, those Republican ideas which
Democrats decided to embrace as a gesture of moderation, those ideas are
now communism! We can get back, communism! They were Republican ideas
five minutes ago, but now they are communism.
And, you know, Olympia Snowe is not even an exception to that.
Olympia Snowe voted for example to create the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau. But then when it came time to appoint somebody to be the head of
the thing, so it could actually run, she filibustered his nomination.
Was there anything wrong with Richard Cordray as a nominee? No, it
was just a bad idea to have somebody running that agency that she had just
And so, that is the context. The Republican Party and American right
doing something that the Democratic Party and Democratic left are not
doing. There is no mirror image here.
This is about the right and what we are left with is the state of
Maine, right? The moderate, common sense-driven, not particularly partisan
people of the great state of Maine – now, all of a sudden in a surprise
having to replace their anomalous long time, middle-of-the-road-ish
What`s the choice going to be? Do Mainers want to bet on another lab
rat in this grand political science radicalization experiment that the
Republicans and the conservative movement have been engaged in for the last
generation? This experiment that Olympia Snowe said she does not want to
be part of anymore?
Or might Maine pick a Democrat for that seat instead?
Joining us now is one of Maine`s two Democratic members of the House
of Representatives who is reportedly considering running for the Senate
seat, by why take reportedly for an answer when we can just ask her?
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree represents Maine`s first district.
Thank you for being with us tonight.
REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D), MAINE: Absolutely. Thank you for having
MADDOW: Do you think that the national Republican Party and Maine
have become a bad match?
PINGREE: Well, I do think Olympia Snowe was accurate in her
reflection of the fact that the party had changed, she hadn`t. And, you
know, in her statement in speaking to her on the phone, I think she found
this just untenable. I think you did a great job explaining the fact that
it`s the Republican Party that`s gone to the extreme, while Democrats have
actually gotten more moderate or conservative, or at the very least stayed
It`s made the Senate a very difficult place to operate.
MADDOW: Is it a place you might ever want to work? Are you in fact
thinking about running for the seat?
PINGREE: Oh, I am absolutely thinking about running for the seat.
You know, this isn`t anything I was contemplating. You know, as of
yesterday, we had two U.S. senators who were going to stay for a long time,
but we have been flooded with calls and e-mails and people offering to
And I think People understand nationally and certainly in our home
state, this Senate seat could tip the balance or make it possible for
Democrats to stay in control in a time when Republicans have gone way too
far to the right for my state for any other state frankly.
MADDOW: Speaking to the state of Maine right now – obviously, a lot
of liberals from the state of Maine watch this show. But we hear from a
lot of conservatives, too. If you were making your case to the voters of
the state of Maine right now, would you tell them that as a senator, they
should expect you to be essentially a moderate in keeping with the record
of Olympia Snowe, who`s basically a moderate in her own party, although she
leaned further and further right in recent years? Or would the state of
Maine expect you to be a strong progressive in that seat?
PINGREE: Well, I have been a strong progressive in the House. I was
previously in the Maine senate. And Maine has chosen to reelect me over
So, I think I reflect the views of many Mainers, but I think we look
at it differently. We`re not a hyper partisan state. We`re a third
Republican, a third Democrat, a third independent. We like Olympia Snowe.
We like Chellie Pingree.
So, the fact is, people in Maine, they look for common sense
solutions. They look for people who reach across the aisle, find common
ground. You know, we`re a state I think that in the long run wants to fix
the problem not get stuck in ideology, and I think that`s what people want
you to run on.
They want you to talk about what you`ve done, your record, you know,
the things you`re engaged in, fighting for the middle class, clean energy
jobs, health care – you know, things that matter to everybody, that aren`t
left or right. And I think they want us to move beyond political ideology,
constant elections, you know, one fight after the other, they want things
to start being fixed and feel good about America and feel good about their
MADDOW: Because of that reputation and I think frankly a lot more
states are like that than get credit for it, in the country, I think that
reputation is why it was so surprising in 2010 when Maine elected not just
a lot of Republicans at the state level, but elected a Tea Party guy,
pretty extreme far right guy, Paul LePage to be governor of the state.
Republicans took control of the House and Senate there.
How has Republican governance at the state level under Paul LePage and
those Republicans at the state level affected Mainers` view and your view
of the two parties?
PINGREE: Well, I think it`s gotten people feeling a little frustrated
with the Republican Party. And remember, we put Governor LePage in the
statehouse with 38 percent of the vote. It was a three-way race. You
know, that can happen in Maine politics, you get an independent, a
Republican, a Democrat and you end up electing somebody that doesn`t
reflect everyone in the whole state of Maine.
I think people are very frustrated about that. I spent all Sunday at
the caucuses in Maine, even before I knew I was considering this seat.
And the fact is people – they are frustrated, they`re tired, they
don`t like the agenda of the governor or the way that our legislature has
moved too far to the right. I think they are ready for a big change and I
think we`re going to see a lot of changes in this election cycle.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Democrat of Maine, a lot of
attention paid to you in the next few days as you make this decision –
thanks for talking with us about it tonight. I really appreciate it.
PINGREE: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: Chellie Pingree telling us she is definitely considering. I
should also say, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee – this is hot
off the presses – just launched a Web site that is called
DraftPingree.com. Look, there it is.
In less than 24 hours since they put this up, more than 5,000 people
have signed up to encourage Chellie Pingree to run for the Olympia Snowe
Senate seat in Maine.
All right. We will be right back.
MADDOW: Late last year, the Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
announced that he would run for governor of Virginia. Ken Cuccinelli is
just as conservative on social issues as the current governor, Bob
McDonnell. Mr. Cuccinelli is the guy whose staff issued lapel pins with a
modified version of the state seal that showed less cleavage.
Virginia`s attorney general again is named Ken Cuccinelli. His
nickname in state politics is the Cooch.
There`s a user-friendly consumer access Web site that will help you
find the Cooch online. The web address is VAAG.com, which then repopulates
to the attorney general`s office, the attorneygenerals.gov Web site. So,
in case you were going to try to buy VAAG.com, too bad, that has taken by
the attorney general`s office in Virginia. VAAG.com.
For Bob McDonnell himself, his association with initials V.P. has
changed quickly in the matter of weeks, from Bob McDonnell V.P., as in vice
president, to Bob McDonnell V.P. as in vaginal probe.
Governor ultrasound cannot do an interview, can`t talk about vice
presidential prospects, cannot make a public appearance now without being
asked about state mandated vaginal probes in Virginia. He is, however, now
trying to back away from that.
Listen to this from an interview he did today.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARK SEGRAVES: Governor, let me ask you about, you know, this is now
a Republican-controlled general assembly now, Republican governor.
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Almost controlled.
SEGRAVES: Pretty much controlled.
You gave a warning to them or some advice to them, quoting you here,
“Don`t be arrogant, don`t overreach and don`t fight.” Do you think the
majority is taking your advice? I can go through the list of their agenda,
seems like a conservative agenda, socially and economically and otherwise.
Do you – are you signing off on all this? Or do you think they are
heeding your advice?
MCDONNELL: Mark, we`re a couple weeks in the session. Everybody can
put bills in. But you know what? Every year, half of the bills pass. So,
we`re just in the early stages.
Now, listen, I know the Democrats are trying to make hay unfortunately
out of some social conservative bills. But, Mark, these are bills that get
put in every year. The question is, what`s actually going to pass? I
think Republicans, you wouldn`t expect any less than them sticking to their
guns, and doing things that they said they`re going to do.
So, I think we are focusing on the big things that affect Virginia,
which is jobs, taxes, regulation, government reform, and jobs. That`s what
SEGRAVES: How about restrictions on abortion? We got calls and e-
mails from people who are concerned about some of the proposals that would
put further restrictions on abortions in Virginia.
MCDONNELL: Well, nothing has passed yet. Of course, people will put
SEGRAVES: But what do you support? The idea of having a woman have
to take a sonogram before getting an abortion, is that something you would
MCDONNELL: And ultrasound, yes. I actually was the original sponsor
of the bill about 10 years ago.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bob McDonnell caught on WTOP radio. It was yesterday
actually, by Mark Seagraves saying, this isn`t my agenda, this is just
Democrats trying to make hay, this is all Democrats fault. I want to be
known as the jobs, jobs, jobs guy. But, yes, I`m going to sign that bill.
And, in fact, it`s my bill.
If it`s your bill and you`re going to sign it, you can`t complain that
you are known for it. If you sign a mandatory ultrasound bill in your
state, that has a way of sticking with people. It`s your agenda. You are
not rubber, you are glue – whatever you do in politics sticks to you.
This is exactly what`s going on the exact same thing that`s going on
with Rick Santorum right now. Another politician who like Bob McDonnell
has made anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-contraception politics central to
everything he has done as a politician, but who doesn`t want to be thought
of that way, now that he`s getting attention for a national gig.
Fellas, the only way to escape the reputation is to stop behaving in
the way that earned you that reputation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Freedom of worship is not
just what you do within the sanctuary. It`s how you practice your faith
outside the sanctuary. And at least in America that I grew up in, that
used to be around, that was freedom of religion. That was what this
country was founded upon. All reporters in the back saying, oh, there is
Santorum talking about social issues again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right. And you can`t complain about people saying you`re
talking about social issues again when you`re talking about social issues
Bob McDonnell`s forced ultrasound bill is not some cockamamie idea
that somebody introduced and has no chance of becoming law in Virginia.
It`s on the way back to his desk after he personally rewrote it to his own
specifications and now he`s going to sign it.
A Democratic Virginia senator just tried to amend it to say, OK, then
guys who want prescriptions for Viagra have to get prostate exams.
Another amendment to say that the state, if the state will force a
woman to have the medical procedure, even if it`s against her will and the
advice of her doctor, that maybe the state should pay for it. Maybe the
state shouldn`t also force her to pay for it.
Republicans voted down those amendments. Republicans even, Democrats
even proposed that a woman who is pregnant because of a rape be allowed to
opt out of this forced medical procedure, Republicans only agreed to that
if the rape had already been called into the police, because you don`t want
too big of a rape loophole. I mean, some rapes don`t deserve an exemption
Meanwhile, the Women`s Strike Force PAC, political action committee,
that has form in Virginia vowing to defeat any lawmaker who votes for the
forced ultrasound bill or the personhood bill that would ban contraception
and likely hormonal birth control in the state, that PAC reports that they
have been raising money hand over fist since they were formed a few days
ago. People who founded it are former elected officials in Virginia, women
who are Democratic, independent and Republican.
It may have taken Bob McDonnell to wake up women to what is happening
but people are getting mad all over the country now where Republicans are
passing these bills.
Texas they`ve already got this law. In Texas, that state`s forced
vaginal ultrasound law went in effect last month. “The Fort Worth Star
Telegram” reporting on how furious Texas women are, women who are having to
deal with this new law. The “Star Telegram`s” piece today using terms like
“upset, angry, absolute outrage,” saying women are finding the forced
ultrasound required by the state to be condescending. Quote, “It treats
women as if they are stupid.”
In Oklahoma, where 92 percent male state senate is debating their
personhood measure right now, there was a protest in Oklahoma at the state
capitol yesterday. “The Huffington Post” wrote about how one Oklahoma
state senator posed for a photo holding this sign. We have blurred out a
word in the sign.
It says, “If I wanted the government in my womb, I would bleep a
senator.” She told “The Huffington Post,” “I saw a sea of signs that
caught my eye, but this one in particular I loved its offensive language,
because it`s as offensive for Republicans of Oklahoma to do what they are
doing as relates to women`s bodies. I don`t apologize for it.”
She said, “I was so excited about the fact that the women in Oklahoma
have finally begun to wake up and fight for their rights.”
Women all over the place have woken up and are fighting for their
rights and are mad about these kinds of bills that were otherwise sort of
steaming through the state legislatures. Anywhere there was a Republican
majority, these things have been going right ahead.
The people are getting mad about it now, coast to coast. No wonder
Bob McDonnell, if he wants to be a vice presidential nominee, does not want
to thought up as governor vaginal probe. He doesn`t want to be associated
with all this stuff.
But if you want to be seen instead as the jobs guy, don`t sponsor and
then rewrite and then promise to sign a forced ultrasound bill. Don`t
spend your career working on that and say I don`t want to be seen as the
social issues guy.
He`s arguing that he should not be seen as the social issues guy,
while simultaneously supporting the forced ultrasound bill. And he`s
making this argument that he ought to not be seen as the social issues guy,
when he is signing into law a repeal of Virginia`s restriction on buying
more than one handgun per month.
If you want to be seen as a jobs guy, sign jobs legislation. Don`t
sign legislation like this. You have to live with the consequences of your
And making Republicans live with the consequences of their political
actions on these social issues is why tomorrow in the United States Senate,
there`s going to be a vote on the Republicans federal anti-contraception
bill. The United States Senate is, of course, controlled by Democrats.
Democrats do not have to let Republicans get this measure to the floor.
But if Republicans want to make a political issue out of being against
access to contraception, Democrats have decided they are going to make
Republicans do that through a megaphone.
Rick Santorum earned the man on dog nickname. He said that. Those
were his words.
Bob McDonnell earned the V.P. asterisk next to him name, standing for
vaginal probe, instead of vice president. He supported the vaginal probe
forced ultrasound. He introduced ultrasound legislation himself. He`s
going to sign forced ultrasound legislation.
You`ve earned it. You can`t escape it.
And Republican U.S. senators are part of the anti-contraception party.
They have gone to Washington to block access to contraception for American
Democrats by putting the thing on the agenda tomorrow are saying,
Republicans, this is your policy and you are going to have to live with it.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, joins us next for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I come from a state, New
Hampshire, where in 1999 as governor, I signed legislation that was passed
overwhelmingly by a Republican House and Democratic Senate with strong
bipartisan support that put in place essentially the requirement insurance
companies cover contraceptive care. There was no outcry from the religious
The fact is the law in New Hampshire has been working well. It hasn`t
been objected to by the religious community. And now, we`re seeing
politics here in Washington that`s driving the decisions about health care
and the Blunt Amendment. We should be better than that here in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us tonight for the interview after making those
remarks today on Capitol Hill is Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
Senator Shaheen, thank you so much for being here. I really
appreciate the chance to talk with you.
SHAHEEN: Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Democrats control the Senate – so, your party can pretty well control
the agenda in the Senate within reason. Why did Democrats put the
Republicans anti-contraception bill, this Blunt amendment, up for debate?
Why put this out there?
SHAHEEN: Well, what`s unfortunate is that this is an amendment that`s
being proposed to the highway bill, the transportation bill, that has broad
bipartisan support. And the Blunt Amendment is very divisive amendment
that the Republicans want to get a vote on.
And so, we want to get moving to the highway bill that`s going to put
people back to work, that has bipartisan support. And so, we said, you
know, we`ll vote on your amendment.
It is a continuation attacks we have seen on women`s health that began
with the effort to defund Planned Parenthood and then stop supporting
family planning services, Title X, and now we`re seeing an effort to
prevent women`s access to contraceptive care.
MADDOW: Is it your sense as this is going to be voted on as you and
others have drawn attention to this, trying to make sure that everybody
understands what`s being voted on here, is it your sense your colleagues on
the Republican side are a little bit split on this?
Olympia Snowe, who`s announced that she`s not going to run for
reelection, she told Andrea Mitchell on this network today that she has
worries about the bill. There are some people who are uncommitted.
Do you sense that Republicans may not be unified on this anymore?
SHAHEEN: Well, I hope not. What this amendment would do would be to
take the efforts around preventing access to contraceptives a step further,
because what it does is say that any employer, any corporation can deny
anyone any preventive or essential health service based on their own
religious or moral beliefs, and they don`t define what the beliefs have to
be. So, it really opens a Pandora`s Box to say we can deny vaccinations
for kids if you don`t believe in that, you could deny HIV/AIDS screenings
if you don`t believe in those. You could deny type II diabetics their
preventive care if you don`t like their lifestyle.
So, I think this is fundamentally an attack on women`s access to
contraceptives. But it really opens the door to a much broader impact for
families, for spouses, for children, in a way that I think is going to have
very far-reaching effects.
MADDOW: We have been trying on this show to contextualize what`s
happening at the federal level, alongside what`s happened in so many
Republican-led state legislatures, and with so many Republican governors –
a lot of anti-abortion legislation, moving around the country, a lot of
anti-contraception including some bills in some states that would likely
ban all hormonal forms of contraception, if these things pass. Oklahoma is
very close to passing something like right now.
One of the things that happened since that is that there`s been sort
of a backlash. We have protests at the Oklahoma state capitol. We have
seen a new political action committee of women forming in Virginia. We`ve
seen large demonstrations in Virginia.
Do – does that resonate at the federal level when Republicans and
Democrats are making strategic decisions on this, are you cognizant of
what`s happening at the state level on these issues, too?
SHAHEEN: Well, sure. And we hear from people in our own states. The
fact is women want to make their own decisions. These are very private and
personal health care decisions. Women and their doctors and their families
should be making these decisions. Government should not be getting between
a woman and her doctor.
MADDOW: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic of New Hampshire – it`s
very good to have you with us. It`s always nice for you to be able to be
SHAHEEN: Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: Thank you so much.
SHAHEEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. I should note that Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney was himself split on this issue today. He was asked
by reporters if he supported the Blunt Amendment, the anti-contraception
amendment and he said he was against the amendment not for it, he was pro-
contraception. Then, within the hour, his campaign reversed the
candidate`s position on that and said he had simply misunderstood the
So the Republican Party split on this issue, Mitt Romney personally
also split on this issue.
All right. Chart imitating life. That`s coming up next.
MADDOWE: Chart imitates life.
For instance, yesterday, the stock market closed at a nice high level
that we haven`t seen since months before the financial crisis of 2008. It
closed at 13,005.12. And Wall Street was glad for every digit of that,
even the ones past the decimal point.
Also, the NASDAQ, which is made up of tech companies, the NASDAQ
reached a level today that it hasn`t seen since the dot-com bust of the
year 2000 – the highest NASDAQ level in nearly 12 years.
And here is where chart imitates life. The other day, Bloomberg
posted a graph of the stock market under various presidents going back to
President Kennedy. The blue lines are for Democratic presidencies, the red
lines are for Republicans.
Take note of the bright blue spikes during President Clinton`s tenure
and again under President Obama.
What they are charting here is this. This is fascinating. If you had
invested 1,000 bucks in the stock market under JFK and kept it invested
only or Democratic presidents, Bloomberg calculates you would have almost
$11,000 from your original $1,000 investment today.
Conversely, if you invested that same 1,000 bucks under President
Nixon and you kept it invested only under Republican presidents, your 1,000
bucks would have grown to just over $2,000 today.
So, under Democratic presidents, you`d have $11,000. Under Republican
presidents, you would have $2,000. Your pick.
Now, a chart like this is about correlation, not causation. Still,
though, heck of a correlation, right?
The excellent Steve Kornacki joins us next.
MADDOW: It did not get much pick up yesterday because it was the
Republican primary day. But President Obama gave one of those speeches
yesterday that is going to go down in the history of President Obama
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`ve got to admit, it`s been funny to watch some of these
folks completely try to rewrite history, now that you`re back on your feet.
The same folks who said if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit,
you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. Now they`re saying
we were right all along!
Or, or you`ve got folks saying the real problem is, what we really
disagreed with was the workers, they all made out like bandits. The saving
the auto industry was just about paying back the unions.
Really? I mean, even by the standards of this town, that`s a load of
You know, you – about 700,000 retirees had to make sacrifices on
their health care benefits that they earned. A lot of you saw hours
reduced or pay or wages scaled back. You gave up some of your rights as
workers. Promises were made to you over the years that you gave up for the
sake and survival of this industry, its workers, their families.
You want to talk about sacrifice? You made sacrifices. This wasn`t -
- this wasn`t an easy an easy thing to do.
Let me tell you, I keep on hearing these same folks talk about values
all the time. You want to talk about values? Hard work, that`s a value.
Looking out for one another, that`s a value! The idea that we`re all in it
together and I`m my brother`s keeper and sister`s keeper, that`s a value!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was yesterday.
Beltway common wisdom right now is that Republicans are best off for
2012 if they keep everybody talking about the economy, because President
Obama doesn`t have anything to say about the economy. That speech was
yesterday morning, the day the Dow hit 13,000, and then today the NASDAQ
hit its highest level in 11 years.
I know it`s not the common wisdom, but if I were a Republican, I might
pick God, guns, and gays over talk about the economy right now. I might
even pick anti-contraception as my platform instead of the economy right
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, the political news editor for
Steve, thank you for coming in.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Sure.
MADDOW: Have we turned a corner, where the thing that was thought to
be President Obama`s big electoral weakness may now be his strength?
KORNACKI: For the moment, we have. I mean, I`d say, you know, that
the recovery at this point is as tenuous as Obama`s poll numbers are,
I mean, we`ve had five straight months of declining unemployment.
We`re now down to sort of the lowest unemployment level since the first
full month of his presidency. You`ve got the Dow, you`ve got NASDAQ, and
you`ve got polls really starting to show that voters for the first time
really in his presidency are feeling more confident about the direction the
country`s going in.
So, that`s when that`s sort of the backdrop for a speech like
yesterday, yes, that`s going to be – that`s going to be a winner as a
political speech. If that`s the speech he gets to deliver and that`s the
backdrop he enjoys for the entire campaign, then, yes, he`s going to be
hard to beat.
The question still though is, what`s going to happen four, five, six
months from now? Are we going to reach a point where the stalls – are we
going to have June, July, August where unemployment spikes? Because if
that`s the backdrop, then we sort of revert to where we were in 2010, where
that Republican message of he made it worse, saying it over and over again,
that kind of works.
But there`s been a pivot here for the last two months because the
Obama message was, you know, here`s what it`s going to do. Now it`s about
bragging about, here`s what it did. And that`s a much more confident place
MADDOW: And that`s the Democratic calculus on this.
In terms of the Republican calculus on this, while the economy is
moving in the directions that we are seeing it move in, and while he`s
making speeches like that about the auto bailout, does that drive
Republicans towards campaigning on social issues?
KORNACKI: Yes, you know, that`s interesting. And I think you reach a
point, if we don`t have bad news this year. If the good news sort of
continues, then let`s face it, Obama`s basically going to be unbeatable for
re-election because at the end of the day, the economy`s going in the right
direction, people good about it. They`re going to reelect the incumbent
So, the real question to me is, let`s see what the Republicans are
talking about in September and October, because that will be the giveaway.
If they`re then talk about the social and cultural issues, I think the
strategy there isn`t so much, here`s our last-ditch effort to beat Obama.
I mean, they`d like to.
But what it really becomes at that point is – wow, this guy`s got us
on the thing that counts, he`s going to beat us. Let`s save the House,
let`s try to win as many of these Senate seats as we can, let`s excite the
base as much as we can. Let`s make sure they`re not depressed by Obama`s
good prospects and let`s get them out to vote.
It`s sort of similar to the position Republicans were in 1996, the
last time there was an incumbent Democratic president. They gave up on Bob
Dole in October of that year. They decided they wanted to save the
Congress. Dole still a little bitter about that, I think.
But at the end of the day, they did save the Congress. Let`s see if
that`s where they end up this year.
MADDOW: Well, Republicans have to make a decision right now, with the
economy the way it is right now, with the dynamics the way they are right
now, might this, and no strategic considerations, lead them towards picking
a Rick Santorum instead of a Mitt Romney because right now, while they`re
making their decision, they might feel like the economy actually isn`t
really their best line, and that`s what Mitt Romney sort of personifies as
KORNACKI: Yes. No, that`s the thing about Santorum to me, he`s had
the opportunity – I don`t know if he`s squandered it yet. But he`s had
the opportunity to make that case with a wink to Republicans, where he sort
of – he could pitch himself potentially in Michigan as a guy with an
economy message and a middle class story.
But with a wink of, hey, if it doesn`t work out, by the way, I`m still
the true believer you want out there. I think they`re still at the point
where Republicans, if you listen to talk about the economy, they`re still
making all sorts of excuses about the jobs report, about the Christmas
holiday season and all that –
MADDOW: It`s not real!
KORNACKI: They`re still hoping we get those three bad months in the
middle of the year, but, you know, if it doesn`t, at that point, then I
think they have to make a serious decision.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, political news editor for Salon.com, as soon
as we started kicking around this thesis today in our news meeting, I was
like, can we get Steve? You were exactly who I wanted to talk about this.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
All right. Right after the show on “THE LAST WORD,” the story of a
Catholic priest who walked out of the funeral service he was officiating
because the daughter of the deceased person is gay. The daughter is
Lawrence O`Donnell`s guest, coming up on the show that`s right after this
one. You cannot miss that.
Also, there is a dinner of great importance currently being eaten in
Washington, D.C. Footage of said dinner and why it is so important, when
we come back.
MADDOW: Right now, tonight, at the White House, an event to mark the
end of the Iraq war, and to honor those who fought in it. These are
pictures that we`ve just been getting in tonight – the president and first
lady hosting the equivalent of a state dinner.
This is what it looks like when the White House pulls out all the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not the first time that we`ve paid tribute to those
who have served courageously in Iraq. This will not be the last. And
history reminds us of our obligations as a nation at moments like this.
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War – a time
when our veterans didn`t always receive the respect and the thanks that
they so richly deserved. And that`s a mistake that we must never repeat.
The good news is, already, we`ve seen Americans come together, in small
towns and big cities, all across the country, to honor your service in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Seated next to the first lady tonight is Kim Felts from
Fayetteville, North Carolina. She`s the widow of Colonel Thomas Felts, who
had served more than 20 years in the military before he volunteered for
Iraq. He was killed in Iraq in 2006.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, their home town, is one of the towns
that the president mentioned in his remarks tonight – a town where people
have came together to mark the end for the Iraq and to welcome home and
thank the troops. Fayetteville did a convoy through the city to mark the
end of the war
Fayetteville is obviously home to Ft. Bragg, so it is a military town,
but this is the way the civilians in the city of Fayetteville decided to
mark the end of the war, and that`s what this is about.
The Pentagon still insisting, I think inexplicably, that they`re happy
for every other city to mark the end of the Iraq war, but they don`t want
New York City to do that. So, there has not been a ticker tape parade to
the mark the end of the Iraq war, the way there`s been for other wars in
But tonight the White House itself is marking the end of the war in
its own way.
That`s` it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with
Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night.
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