The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/05/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Happy Thursday. Thanks for joining us this
The chairman of the Republican Party has the best name in American
politics. His name is Reince Priebus. Reince Priebus, the former
Wisconsin Republican Party chairman. And today, Reince Priebus made
himself the most famous he has ever been for anything other than his
He made himself very, very famous today by telling Al Hunt of
Bloomberg News that as Republican Party chairman, he does not understand
why everybody keeps carping about the Republicans having some sort of
problem with women. He said he does not understand why there`s a 30-point
gender gap between the two parties in the presidential race in the swing
states. He says he does not understand why everyone keeps asking him about
the ridiculous idea that Republicans have some sort of war on women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL HUNT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: The Democrats, of course, say you`re waging
– the GOP is waging a war on women. I know you don`t agree with that.
But looking at the polls, you have a gender gap problem. I mean,
recent polls show a huge, huge margin for Democrats with – among women
voters. How big of a problem is it and how do you close it?
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, for one thing, if the Democrats
said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked
about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we`d have
a problems with caterpillars. I mean, the fact of the matter is, it`s a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, I think there`s just one piece missing from what
otherwise is obviously a perfect analogy of women as caterpillars. I think
there`s just one thing missing. If Democrats said that Republicans had a
war on caterpillars and every mainstream media said we had a war on
caterpillars, the Republican Party would not then just automatically have a
problem with caterpillars. There is a missing piece of this analogy here,
In this analogy, what Reince Priebus is missing is the part where the
Republican Party introduces hundreds of pieces of legislation all over the
country attacking the rights of caterpillars, which in his analogy is in
fact what the Republican Party has been doing.
The Republican Party in this analogy has to be seen as a radically,
what, anti-cocoon party? Anti-caterpillar, pro-cocoon – sacrifice the
caterpillar, save the cocoon? Metamorphosis? I don`t know.
There is an empirical reason why the President Obama is leading the
likely Republican nominee by a two-to-one margin among women under the age
of 50 in the big swing states right now. And it is not because of some
spurious allegation by Democrats. It`s not the media reporting that
Republicans are doing things that Republicans haven`t actually done.
It`s because the Republicans took control of the House. They said
they were going to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs and then H.R. 3, literally
their third bill, was an anti abortion bill. It`s because Republicans said
they were going to play hardball and shot down the government over the new
found excitement over fiscal conservatism.
But when it came down to, they threatened to shut down the government
over funding for Planned Parenthood. It`s because House Republicans
consulted this all-male witness table and the issue of access to
contraception and because Republicans in the Senate then voted unanimously,
except for Olympia Snowe, to roll back access to contraception. And even
after they realized how that looked and they got a little shy on the issue
in the House, Republicans in the House still moved last week in committee
on yet another federal anti-abortion bill.
These are not things that Democrats are not just accusing Republicans
of doing. These are not things that the media is making up about
Reince Priebus, this is your life. This is what Republicans do, under
your leadership as Republican Party chairman.
All four remaining Republican presidential candidates are pledging to
eliminate federal funding for family planning. All four of them support
personhood measures which defined life as beginning roughly at the time of
the twinkle in your eye and that would have the practical effect of banning
all abortion and probably also banning the pill.
You don`t have a problem with caterpillars because caterpillars have
been misled about your intentions. You`re the Orkin Man, dude.
Particularly because being chairman of the Republican Party is being
chairman of the whole party, including Republicans in the state
legislatures. This is what Republicans in the state legislatures have been
focusing on since they won so many seats and governorships in the last
Watch what happened with abortion restrictions in the state after the
Republican big victories in 2010. Here`s the number of new anti-abortion
laws, each year through 2010. And, now look, here`s – oops, that`s what
happened last year. More than 90 anti-abortion bills signed into law in
the states in that year after Republicans took over.
So far this year, largely Republican-led legislatures have introduced
more than 400 anti-abortion bills.
This is what you guys do. This is what you work on. Sometimes it
seems like this is what you work on under the exclusion of everything else.
In Mississippi today, Republicans are sending to their governor
legislation that the Republicans are openly wishing and hoping is going to
end all access to legal abortion in the state of Mississippi. It`s one of
the so-called trap laws – a law that radically ups the amount of
regulation and red tape and rules that apply specifically to abortion
providers, specifically trying to drive them out of business or shut them
down through targeted overregulation.
Republicans have proposed anti-abortion trap laws this session in
Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma,
Tennessee, West Virginia.
The idea with these measures is that Republicans are supposed to
pretend that these laws aren`t anti-abortion per se. It`s just that in
this particular field, Republicans like a lot of regulation. They think
that red tape is good for their state in this one particular field. It has
nothing to do with abortion.
Any impact in driving abortion providers out of business is purely
coincidental. Coincidental and unintentional. That`s how you`re supposed
to play trap attack on abortion right, right?
In Mississippi, they have forgotten that that`s the way they are
supposed to say it. Here`s the state`s Republican governor talking about
how excited he is to be using deliberately overregulation in an effort to
make it impossible for anybody in Mississippi to get a legal abortion.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MISSISSIPPI LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR TATE REEVES: It has been seven years
since we have got good pro-life legislation passed out of the Mississippi
legislature. That`s a bill that gives us a great opportunity to do – to
accomplish what our goal needs to be. Our goal needs to be to end all
abortions in Mississippi. I believe the admitting privileges bill gives us
the best chance to do that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Reince Priebus, this is your life when your party at the
federal level and at the state level and in hearing rooms and in state
houses and even on the presidential campaign trail is constantly and
tirelessly and relentlessly waging war on women`s rights. You don`t need
the Democrats or the media to help give you a reputation for that.
Dude, you have earned it. You guys are earning it every single day.
Either own and don`t be afraid to run on your record, or stop doing it.
Those are your choices.
Joining us now is Karen Finney. She is a former Democratic Party
communications director, a columnist for the Hill and MSNBC contributor.
Karen, it`s good to see you. Thank you for being here.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, too, Rachel.
MADDOW: As somebody who has been a professional in this field, as
somebody who used to be in charge of messaging for the Democrats, how would
you respond to Reince Priebus` argument about the war on women today? He
says it`s fake. It`s as ridiculous as the idea that Republicans are waging
war on caterpillars.
FINNEY: Yes, I was a little surprise about the caterpillars, because,
you know, they don`t believe in science either. And I though, well, gee,
we`re going into science biological areas.
Look, here`s the thing, on the one hand, they are not stupid. They
know behind the scenes even though they won`t admit it publicly, this
conversation is hurting them. When you talk to moderate Republicans who
won`t say so publicly, unfortunately – privately, they see the same
polling numbers that the rest of us do.
I mean, it`s not only like the “USA Today”/Gallup poll which shows
President Obama with a 19-point lead. It was other polling, looking
specifically at Virginia and how Democrats have increased their popularity
in Virginia. There is polling that suggests that they are starting to lose
men over this issue.
The problem is, what Priebus is trying to do is they want to pivot,
right? I mean, that is a classic communication tactic. They want to
change the conversation. Unfortunately, what he doesn`t get is that trying
to demean and diminish the importance of what`s going on here by talking
about caterpillars is not the way to do it because the accumulative effect
of all of the laws that you were just talking about really served to
undermine women as credible, thoughtful human beings and equal participants
in our society.
That`s what I think a lot of women are feeling. The language that has
been used is so disgusting. You know, you`ve had state legislatures in
more than one state talking about the fear that women will use rape as a
loophole in order to get access to an abortion. I mean, that`s just
ridiculous. Women are really tired of being talked about in that manner
because, again, it sort of demeans and undermines us as human beings.
MADDOW: Karen, the gender gap in politics, in elections broadly
speaking, usually tends to favor Democratic candidates. Not always but
usually. But that gender gap, as you point out, really is huge right now
between President Obama and Mitt Romney. You`ve just described a lot of
things that you think Reince Priebus is doing wrong in trying to turn that
around as chairman of the Republican Party.
What do you think would be a better way for them to do it, if
Republicans do try to turn that around and they`re going to have to – how
do you think they will try to and what do you think would be their best
FINNEY: Well, I mean, certainly they don`t want to continue to have
this conversation about contraception. For starter, they could stop
talking to women like we`re idiots going back tot the days when people
thought we were too stupid to be able to vote or, you know, take care of
our own money, for heaven`s sake. So, their rhetoric, obviously, has got
But here`s the other fundamental problem, Rachel. Part of the
reasoning, I don`t think most women really want to be having this
conversation about contraception because we all thought it was settled. We
do care about the economy.
Most women – the White House will talk about this tomorrow – would
rather talk about access to capital for small businesses, would rather talk
about ways that the economy is going to come back because women, we are the
majority of the workforce in this country. For most families in the middle
class, it is the women salary that keeps in the middle class. Women make a
lot of these decisions for families. So that is what we want to talk
But if you start to threaten our basic fundamental access to things
that we thought were settled, that`s when women say, wait a second. That`s
so too far.
So, again, I think if they were to change their rhetoric and actually
start talking to women like thoughtful credible human beings on a range of
issues rather than – I mean, you know, Mitt Romney saying, well, my wife
and reports back to me on what women talk about rather than just go talk to
women, right? Like President Obama gets it, just talk to women, talk to us
about the issues we care about and understand that we care about a range of
issues. But we`re not going to let you treat us like we`re less than equal
MADDOW: Karen Finney, former DNC communications director, columnist
for “The Hill,” MSNBC contributor, and one of the people in America least
likely to give advice to Reince Priebus that will actually be accepted.
MADDOW: Still though, we would try.
Thanks, Karen. Appreciate it.
FINNNEY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Hey, we have a big exclusive coming up on the
show tonight. A bit of a political bombshell concerning the state of
Michigan. This is reporting that nobody else has. That`s ahead on the
show. We`ve been working on this for quite some time.
Plus, Mitt Romney decides that what he really, really hates is Harvard
– people who went to Harvard, like him. That`s next.
MADDOW: This is Mitt Romney and his wife Ann and two of their sons
looking sort of adorable, at a clam bake in 1973. This was a clam bake
held at the Harvard Business School where Mr. Romney at the time was a
Mitt Romney is a Harvard man. That`s how he got to Massachusetts in
the first place. After growing up in Michigan and graduating from BYU
undergrad, Mr. Romney spent four years at Harvard earning both a Harvard
law degree and a Harvard business degree.
This is Mr. Romney with a few of his Harvard school business study
buddies. They apparently get together every five years for a mini-Harvard
reunion. Mitt Romney, Harvard man, which in a weird way explains Mr.
Romney`s line of attack today against President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a president who I
think is a nice guy, perhaps he spent too much at Harvard perhaps or maybe
doesn`t have enough time actually working in the real world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mitt Romney, as we discussed on this show last night, has
exactly one trick as a presidential candidate. You take some perceived
weakness about his own candidacy and you say that it`s actually Barack
Obama`s weakness. Does Obama spend too much time at Harvard thing? This
is sort of a favorite of Mitt Romneys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I didn`t learn about the economy just reading about it or
hearing about it in the faculty lounge at Harvard.
All of those years perhaps in the Harvard faculty lounge –
That may be what they think at the Harvard faculty lounge. But it`s
not what you know from the battlefield.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, don`t bring up battlefield, big guy.
It is true that Barack Obama went to Harvard. He earned a law degree
there. But Mr. Romney was in Harvard longer than Barack Obama was. Mr.
Romney also sent three of his five sons to Harvard. Something like 14 of
Mr. Romney`s policy advisers are either Harvard graduates or actual Harvard
faculty, Harvard professors.
But Barack Obama – he`s the one with the Harvard problem, says the
former governor of Massachusetts. Now, we`re just waiting for the Romney
campaign press release attacking Barack Obama for all of his years at Bain
Capital and what a lousy governor of Massachusetts Barack Obama was.
While Mr. Romney is focusing essentially all of his rhetorical energy
right now on attacking President Obama, he does still have a nomination to
win technically in his own party. Mr. Romney made that Harvard quip today
during a campaign staff in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, of course, the home
state of Mr. Romney`s main opponent now, Rick Santorum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I do believe that I will win Pennsylvania in the fall, and
winning Pennsylvania at the White House. So this is a critical state for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, Pennsylvania is not at all a critical state for Mr.
Romney. If he wins it, he`s still roughly where he is now in the race,
just closer to the end. If he loses, the loss will be chopped up to the
fact that Pennsylvania is Rick Santorum`s home state and Mr. Romney will
still be the expected nominee.
The candidate for whom Pennsylvania really is critical is, of course,
Mr. Santorum. He has been saying all along that his home state, the state
that he represented in the Senate, is a must-win for him. But the latest
polling out of Pennsylvania shows that that race is now starting to get
away from Mr. Santorum. Mr. Romney appears to have opened up a small
Last night on this show, I spoke with Rick Santorum`s chief
strategist, John Brabender, and I asked him what happens if Rick Santorum
does lose in Pennsylvania. Listen to his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If the Pennsylvania race does not go the way you want it to,
if you come in second in Pennsylvania instead of first, do you even make it
to May? Do you make it to –
JOHN BRABENDER, SANTORUM CAMPAIGN: Well, I mean, you reevaluate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If we lose Pennsylvania, we reevaluate everything.
Rick Santorum has to win Pennsylvania. His campaign admits it. You
cannot argue that you`re the most electable guy in the race if you can`t
even win your home state.
So what is Rick Santorum doing right now to make sure that he wins
Pennsylvania? Rick Santorum is taking four days off. He`s taking four
days off the campaign trail because, why not?
Mitt Romney`s already running as if he is the Republican Party`s
presidential nominee. Apparently now so are all of his opponents.
MADDOW: Hey, we`ve got a scoop tonight. It`s fresh reporting that
you won`t see anywhere else about a story that we`ve done a lot of work on
over the last year or so. I think this is potentially a political
bombshell for the state of Michigan. That story is exclusive and it`s
ahead. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: In America, there are no longer any Republicans for
Environmental Protection. Republicans for Environmental Protection do not
exist anymore. They used to exist. This was their logo.
But they have abolished themselves as of today, getting rid of
Republicans for the Environmental Protection name, perhaps because it
started to sound like a laugh line. They have instead rechristened
themselves, Conserve America.
I know the name sounds like a scam mortgage company that`s going to
trick your grandmother out of her house maybe, or perhaps a Newt Gingrich
Inc scam direct fax campaign that pledges to give you a prestigious award
if you mail Newt thousands of dollars. But Conserve America is actually
the new name of the artist formerly known as Republicans for Environmental
Protection. They`ve dropped ostentatiously the word Republican from their
Before their big name change, this was their honorary board that
included 22 Republican members of Congress. Notice that 17 of the 22 are
retired members of Congress.
Yes, it`s a good question. How many current members of Congress want
to be known as caring about environmental issues?
Just in the first year after taking control of the House, Republicans
in the House voted to strip environmental protections more than 150 times.
The thing is, this all seems to have happened to the Republican Party kind
of fast. It was only the last Republican election when the Republican
ticket, remember, was running on cap and trade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Joe Lieberman and I, my favorite
Democrat, have proposed legislation which is called cap and trade.
It`s cap and trade that there will be incentives for people to reduce
greenhouse emissions. It`s a free market approach.
SARAH PALIN (R), THEN-ALASKA GOVERNOR: He`s got a good cap and trade
policy that he supports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was only 2008. The Republican ticket in favor of cap
and trade, within just two years the exact same people were vociferously
denouncing this thing that they had just run on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: They have to address a little bit of the cap and tax is what I
call it. Not cap and trade, and the devastation was already suggested that
it would have on our country if it were to pass.
CAIN: I will not and cannot align myself with a giant government
PALIN: It`s even worse than the financial hits that our country and
we as individuals would take with cap and tax. It would so dis-incentivize
work ethics and industry and production because we are so reliant on our
CAIN: It`s cap and tax. It`s cap and tax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What changed? This was your own idea.
Similarly, when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts back in
2003, he liked the idea as well. Think Progress this week published this
letter that Mitt Romney wrote to George Pataki, New York`s governor that
year and says, quote, “I concur that climate change is beginning to affect
our natural sources and that now is the time to take action toward climate
protection. I believe that our joint work to create a flexible market-
based regional cap and trade system could serve as an effective approach to
meeting these goals.”
What changed? Mitt Romney decided to run for president, he pulled of
the regional cap and trade system ands he now says that cap and trade is
the gateway to hell. What changed?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and
Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems.
The first president to talk about cap and trade was George H.W Bush. Now,
you`ve got the other party essentially saying we shouldn`t even be thinking
about environmental protection. Let`s gut the EPA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama, the Democrats, they think they may have a
winning issue here. Not in necessarily selling their own ideas about
environmental protection but rather selling the Republicans wholesale
abandonment of this issue.
As Republicans for Environmental Protection strips the word Republican
out of their name, are Democrats on track to strip away centrist voters,
centrist Republican votes, who at least used to care about the issue? Are
they on track to strip those voters from a Republican Party that clearly no
longer cares about that issue?
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, host of “UP WITH CHRIS HAYES,” which
you can watch every Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern here on MSNBC.
Mr. Hayes, thank you for your time.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, “UP WITH CHRIS HAYES”: Always a pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: In our current politics, why does being pro environmental
protection equal weakness?
HAYES: Well, that`s – there`s a long complicated answer that I will
try to give a short version of which is, I think what we`ve seen with the
environmental policy on the right is this sort of perfect alignment between
the economic interests and the culture of our politics. It`s sort of right
out of Tom Franks` “What`s the Matter with Kansas?” book, in the sense that
there are huge incumbent energy interest, some of the most profitable
corporations in the history of human civilization on the planet who do not
want anything like cap and trade – I mean, I call it cap and tax – to be
passed because it will be bad for them, right?
I mean, it will be bad for them in the sense that it must make fossil
fuels more expensive. They make money by pulling fossil fuels out of the
What has happened is there is a lot of money pouring into revving up
the base on this issue by turning it into of these kind of a symbolic
cultural war issues – the big bad nanny state and socialists want to take
care of light bulbs. And they have been amazingly effective at taking the
issue and making it into sort of a badge of tribal pride that you are not
one of those socialists, you know, Barack Obama-loving people that want to
cap and tax. You`re for industry, you`re for hard work, and you`re for
buying your own light bulbs.
So they`ve managed to kind of take something that wasn`t a cultural
war issue and made it into a cultural war issue.
MADDOW: And so, I mean, most Americans don`t want to gut the EPA.
Most Americans don`t want salmonella in the food supply, right? So – but
are you saying that essentially those being actual results of
environmentally protective policies have been disguised with this idea of
it`s nothing than a liberal elitism and that none of these things have any
concrete benefits to regular voters?
HAYES: That, partly that, yes, right? So, the part of it is that the
gains, in some ways, the environmental movement, particularly EPA, is a
victim of its own success, in so far as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air
Act, and things like has been very successful, right? And so, the success
becomes invisible at a certain point.
But I also think the terrain upon which the biggest environmental
fight has happened recently, over the last four or five years, the one you
highly lighted which is climate change is a much more abstract issue. It`
it is a tougher political sell for the environmentalist, for Democrats, for
progressives, because it is not as tangible as clean drinking, as arsenic
in the drinking water or as mass deforestation or preserving some plot of
land that everyone can take photos of and it`s beautiful.
And so, I think Republicans saw a strategic opportunity to both do
something for their benefactors in the oil industry, but also because it`s
a tougher position to advocate than some of the environmental fights that
happened before that were more tangible.
MADDOW: Briefly, Chris, do you think that the Democrats do have any
potential traction at getting centrist voters, at getting voters who might
care about basic environmental issues, even ones that haven`t been highly
politicized, by caricaturing or just describing the Republican Party as
being sort of radically anti-environment in the way that they weren`t three
HAYES: I thought the way that you put it in the intro is exactly,
right, which is that it is part of a larger story about a party going off
the rails. And when you can point to the top of the ticket four years ago,
advocating a position which two years later they were recanting as if march
before a Stalin show trial, it shows there`s something that`s gone terribly
wrong in the level of ideological extremism in the Republican Party and
that feeds into something very dangerous for the Republican Party in the
general election. We`re seeing it now in polling on independents and in
swing states with Mitt Romney.
MADDOW: Chris, the host of “UP WITH CHRIS HAYES,” weekend mornings,
from 8:00 to 10:00, right here on MSNBC – Chris, thank you very much.
HAYES: Thank you.
MADDOW: Right after this show, in “THE LAST WORD,” Lawrence O`Donnell
has as his guest, Abby Huntsman Livingston, one of Jon Huntsman`s famous
daughters. Together, they will map out the rest of the Republican
presidential race. That promises to be a good time.
And here, a surprisingly gleeful correction and a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
All ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, we had the senior strategist for the Rick
Santorum campaign here on the show. It was great. I love talking with
Republicans. It`s really hard to get them on the show and it was really
nice of John Brabender to be here. I thought it was a really good
In our discussion last night, I brought up a couple things that Mr.
Brabender`s candidate Rick Santorum has said that are not true, things that
are blatantly not true, mainly, I brought up Mr. Santorum`s rants about the
Dutch killing all their elderly people against their will. I also brought
up what Mr. Santorum said this week about the University of California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was just reading
something last night from the state of California and that the California
universities, it`s several – I think it`s seven or eight of the California
system of universities don`t even teach an American history course. It`s
not even available to be taught.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not true. It`s really not true.
And since not true, I asked Mr. Santorum`s strategist last night if
Mr. Santorum will correct that just as a matter of integrity? Mr.
Brabender told me our air last night that Rick Santorum would be the first
person to admit he`s wrong if it does if fact turn out he was wrong about
that. He was wrong, so today we followed up by e-mail to the campaign
documenting Mr. Santorum`s error and we are now waiting for the correction.
And in the interest of modeling good behavior, now I will do a
correction of my own. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is true that you can`t take American history courses at
one campus in the University of California system, at least I think that
you can`t. As far as I can tell, you cannot take a history classes at the
University of California San Francisco. That`s because UCSF is a medical
But, still, I`m sure there`s a reason to be outraged about that any
way. After all, you know, San Francisco.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Correction. It turns out you can take American history
courses at UCSF even though it`s a medical school. You can take all sorts
of history classes. You can take the history of pharmaceuticals. You can
take disease and social order from the Black Death to SARS.
And, yes, specifically, American history. You can take a history
course in 20th century American medicine.
So when I said Rick Santorum was lying about history not being taught
at the University of California, I was correct. I was wrong however to
even speculate that his lie might be true for even just one of the U.C.
It turns out that Rick Santorum was 100 percent wrong. He was
totally, utterly wrong. I`m sorry for suggesting he might not have been
quite as wrong as he was.
And that`s how you make a correction. And now, we are waiting for a
correction from Rick Santorum.
MADDOW: OK. We`ve got a scoop here, a story that nobody else has
figured out. It starts in Michigan.
In the early 1960s, Michigan reworked its constitution a little bit.
They had a constitutional convention. That guy that you recognize on the
left, that`s Mitt Romney`s dad, George Romney. He chaired that commission
before he became governor of the state.
Now, one of the reasons they had this constitutional convention back
then, one of the things they thought need tinkering within their state
constitution was a specific question about when bills that were passed at
Michigan would become law. So once something is passed, when does it
This is the language that they settled on. Quote, “No act shall take
effect until the expiration of the 90 days from the end of the session at
which it was passed.” OK. That`s a really slow process. That`s slow by
The legislature is in session all year in Michigan. So, the
legislative session doesn`t often doesn`t end until the end of the calendar
What this little phrase means is that theoretically, a law could pass
in January and not take effect until March of the following year, 90 days
after the end of that year`s legislative session.
Michigan has a really slow process on purpose. They did it that way
on purpose. Laws taking a long time to take effect allows people who are
going to be affected by that law to have time to adjust. It also gives
people who don`t like that law a chance to start overturning it, by a
Michigan designed that process to be a slow one, clearly and on
purpose. It`s in their constitution that way for a reason.
But as practical people, they also recognize that sometimes
extenuating circumstances, you need your loss to take effect faster.
Something has happened, right? Maybe you`ve been invaded or you have a
flood, or an outbreak of disease. Something has happened. There`s an
emergency that needs responding to right now by state lawmakers.
To account for that in Michigan, while most bills do have to wait
until the end of the session plus 90 days, they have to wait that really
long time. The constitution also says this, “But the legislature may give
immediate effect to acts by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to and
serving in each house.”
So, that means with a two-thirds majority vote, a big super majority
vote, you can have a new law go into effect right away, immediately.
Otherwise, you wait. You pass it under normal rules, under a majority, you
have to wait. If you want it to go into effect immediately, you need a
That`s what they decided back in the 1960s. That`s what the state
Half a century later, January 2011, a new and hardcore conservative
Republican majority took over the state government in Michigan.
Republicans controlled both chambers of the legislature and they have the
governorship. They have been passing bills at quite a clip.
The Democrats in Michigan say that since Republicans took over the
Michigan house, they`ve passed 566 bills. We have looked into that count
ourselves. It does seem accurate and the Republicans are not contesting
Of those 566 bills, 546, all about 20 of them, were passed under the
immediate effect clause – 96 percent of the bills they`ve passed have
essentially been an emergency. Almost everything they`ve done has been
done under this provision of the constitution that let`s you put things
into effect immediately because you`ve got a super majority. They`ve been
designed to rush from the legislature to Governor Snyder for a quick
signature and into full immediate effect that day, that minute, right now.
This is new in Michigan governance. This is not the way Michigan was
set up. This is not the way it was supposed to be.
This is if a cop once waved you around a traffic accident by directing
you to drive on the shoulder to get around the crash and then on the next
day on your commute and the every day thereafter, you just drove on the
shoulder because you think that`s your lane now.
Michigan Republicans are using what supposed to be an emergency
provision for everything, even for the most contentious and partisan and
divisive things they want to do.
Republicans for example us immediate effect to take away health
benefits for domestic partners of public employees, they jammed it through,
Governor Snyder signed it, and then three days before Christmas, it was
like, hey, gay folks, good luck finding health insurance for your families,
we just stripped your benefits on the basis of your sexual orientation,
starting now, starting today, effective immediately, merry Christmas.
Republicans also used immediate effect to set the date and the rules
for the 2012 presidential primary in Michigan, which did not end up going
all that smoothly. They then used immediate effect to set aside $10
million to pay for that primary whose rules they had screwed up and
Republicans also used immediate effect to stop one of Michigan`s most
powerful unions from expanding. Now, seriously, this is a fierce union,
seriously thuggish. I`ll show you.
Here they are conducting a labor action. Ooh. It`s the union of
Michigan grad students. Michigan grad student employees, here they are
staging a grade in, so everybody can see them at work – grading papers
from the classes that they teach.
Are you afraid when you see this? Are you afraid of their vicious
I think that guy stretched out in the banquette really looks like he`s
ready to end academia as we know it, right?
When these fearsome graduate students ask the state for permission to
consider including more grad students in their union, Michigan Republicans
went into emergency mode. They used the emergency immediate effect thing
to hustle through a bill to block them. They hustled through last month
under immediate effect, so immediate in fact that Governor Snyder signed
the law against grad students` union rights and an hour and a half before
the state hearing that could potentially have said yes to what the grad
students union wanted to do.
Never mind your little democratic process. Republicans are in charge
now. Nobody gets a hearing. Nobody gets a vote. Grade this.
You might recognize the sponsor of the bill to stop the grad students
union. He`s the Representative Al Pscholka, the Republican freshman who
represents a town called Benton Harbor in Michigan. In this picture, he is
celebrating the signing of another bill he sponsored, the state`s revamped
emergency manager law. That is the law that we have been covering for a
year now. It`s the law that let`s the state take over your town, overrule
the law that says Michigan Republicans, Governor Rick Snyder can strip
democracy from your town if you they to. It`s the law that let the state
take control of Mr. Pscholka`s Benton Harbor.
Under this law, the state installs a single unelected manager who is
free to fire all the elected officials, sell off the town`s assets, move to
dissolve the town, cancel contracts, almost anything the manager wants to
do. This emergency manager person just has unilateral control.
In Michigan now, a long list of cities and school boards are run this
way. They are being run as democracies anymore. They are being run as
something much closer to dictatorships. And I realize that`s a very
inflammatory word. But frankly, that`s what it is. When you have somebody
in charge who has unilateral authority to do whatever he or she wants, that
is autocracy. That is dictatorship.
As has been their custom since taking over last year, Republicans
passed the souped up emergency manager law naturally under immediate
effect. They passed it on March 15th last year, the next day, the governor
signed it and it took effect right then, immediate effect.
And less than a month later, Benton Harbor`s emergency manager seized
all power in Benton Harbor, took power from the town`s elected mayor and
elected commission. In the span of one month, starting with the bill
sponsored by Benton Harbor`s own representative, Michigan Republicans
routed the democracy of that mostly poor, mostly African-American Michigan
And they were just getting started. The emergency manager law is the
reason that Pontiac, Michigan, got its own new boss who joked about himself
being the tyrant in Pontiac. And remember the students who got arrested
for protesting the planned closing of the Catherine Ferguson Academy, the
school for pregnant girls and young moms?
The idea of closing that girl was made possible by the new emergency
manager law because the state appointed czar for the city schools didn`t
have to listen to the elected school board anymore, democracy didn`t matter
anymore. Those girls did end saving their school, but just barely.
Here is the crazy thing. This is the thing that we have been digging
for since we first got wind of this story last week. It is something – it
is astounding enough that I almost can`t believe it. I have to tell of
My mind almost cannot compute what I`m about to tell you, that we
reported this out carefully so we can tell you this with confidence. Under
the Michigan constitution, remember, again, you can only make a law take
effect immediately if you have a 2/3 majority, a super majority.
Michigan Republicans don`t have that. In the House, they don`t have a
2/3 majority. In order to get a 2/3 vote, House Republicans would need the
help of almost a dozen Democrats. You need 63 lawmakers on your side
before you get what the state constitution says you can have if you want
that immediate effect, right? You need 73 votes to take effect right away.
So for the emergency manager law, for example, Democrats voted against
that law in a block. Republicans did pass it with their 62 votes, and 62
votes is enough to pass it but not nearly enough for it to go into effect
But regardless, they just attached immediate effect to it anyway.
Look, it`s in the record. Quote, “Representative Stamas moved the bill be
given immediate effect, the motion prevailed, 2/3 of the members serving
That did not happen. I do not see how that could be true.
Republicans don`t have a 2/3 majority and Democrats voted against the bill.
So you`re telling me that a dozen Democrats voted against this radical,
emergency manager takeover law thing, this bill that they hated, Democrats
voted against it, and then once it passed anyway over their objections they
decided – oh, well, it passed, I guess I`ll vote to put this thing in
effect immediately. Seriously?
I mean, if you look at the numbers you need for immediate effect in
Michigan and the numbers Republicans actually have, it does not seem
possible that the emergency manager law or maybe any of these laws passed
in the way Republicans are saying that they did. It didn`t happen that
For the past year, we have been reporting on Republican governments in
Michigan. For the past year, we have called emergency – Michigan`s
emergency manager law the most radical Republican legislation in the
country. And if that radical, radical law had passed under regular rules.
If it hadn`t been put into immediate effect, if they couldn`t get a 2/3
super majority to put it in effect that day when Governor Snyder signed it,
then that radical law would only just now being taking effect.
Now in 2012, Benton Harbor would only just now be losing democracy
instead of barreling into the second year of having no local voting rights.
That would not have happened yet. It appears that it should not have
Those pregnant girls would not have been arrested trying to save their
school in Detroit. The law would be going into effect as of last week.
The city of Detroit would not have been in the position of choosing between
handing the state oversight of its finances as it did yesterday or facing
an involuntary takeover.
If you are an African-American living in Michigan, there`s a 50/50
chance that this year, the state of Michigan has considered scrapping your
right to vote, scrapping your right to elect local officials to represent
Well, Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan have done is radical beyond
radical. And if it is true that the law should not have even been in
effect all this time, if it is true that Republicans circumvented democracy
and the legislature too – then what do you call that? Radical beyond
radical beyond radical beyond radical. It`s revolutionary, even, but not
in a romantic way. You could call it bullpuckey, and I can tell you now
that finally somebody has.
Michigan House Democrats have sued the House of Representatives. And
specifically they have sued the Republicans in the House of
Representatives. The Democrats say that Republicans are denying them the
right to vote in the legislature. It`s not just for Benton Harbor anymore.
It`s for the whole state.
Democrats have begun demanding role call votes to see whether
Republicans have this 2/3 majority they claim. They`re demanding an actual
count to see if they have all 73 votes that the Republicans would need for
these laws to go into immediate effect. This is the picture of the
Democrats demanding a vote like that last week. Demanding it and not
We asked the Michigan Democrats if they could provide us with an
example of the way that Republicans are running the House, saying that
they`ve got a 2/3 majority when it seems impossible that they do. And they
sent over this clip from last month.
This is amazing. What`s happening here, the context here is that
Republicans have just passed a measure making it harder to get a repeal on
the ballot, to get a citizen`s repeal on the ballot. So, as you know,
Michigan Democrats want to repeal that emergency manager law, right?
Republicans are trying to unilaterally change Michigan law to make it
harder to repeal it.
And naturally, they want that to take effect right away. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker recognizes Majority Floor leader Stamas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The speaker – the majority floor leader has
requested a record roll call vote. All those in favor, please rise – I`m
sorry – the majority floor leader has requested immediate effect. All
those in favor, please rise. Immediate effect is ordered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wait, that was the count? Depending on how you time this,
the Republican speaker let the voting go on for I think three seconds
before he gavels in his party`s success.
What he is purporting to have done there is counting at least 73 votes
in favor of the motion in a blink, in a snap. One, two, three – 73. Like
he`s a kid speed counting for hide and seek.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of those in favor please rise. Immediate
effect is ordered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In that time, do you believe he counted 73 people in favor of
that motion in the span of that clip?
On Monday, a county judge issued a temporary injunction ordering
Michigan House Republicans to follow the law, to follow the constitution,
to let the minority vote even though the minority are Democrats.
The court put on hold several bills that Republicans have passed using
this kind of technique. Passed what appears to be illegally, including
about that one about the grad students union.
Republicans are appealing the judge`s ruling. Their arguments boil
down to, A, they say no court can interfere with the legislature, and, B,
they say this is dog bites man. This is standard operating procedure.
There`s nothing to see here. This is totally normal. Keep moving.
This case has implications for what happens in Michigan over the next
few months and to some extents what happens nationwide. Michigan
Republicans are now considering a law that would make it much harder to
register to vote in the state. If that passes, under immediate effect and
goes into effect right then, that will become a factor in 2012 race in
Also, Michigan voters voting on a bill that makes it harder to get a
referendum on the ballot. That could affect the current drive to put the
Rick Snyder emergency manager law up for appeal.
Do you think Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans would like
repealing his law to be a harder thing to do? And does anybody else get a
say in that?
The 2010 elections ushered in a lot of radicalized Republican
legislatures and governors across the country and have done a lot of
radical things. Scott Walker is famous for a reason.
But what`s happened in Michigan is the most radical thing Republicans
have done anywhere in the country. They have eliminated democracy. They
have eliminated voting rights at the local level in their state. They have
tried to eliminate Democrats` voting rights in the state legislature.
Whether you`re on the left or you`re on the right or you`re in the
center or if you don`t particularly care about politics, if all you care
about is that we have a form of government in this country called
democracy, we vote. If you care about the idea that we still use voting
here, we still use democracy, if you care about the Constitution –
frankly, Michigan ought to have a flashing red light siren on it right now.
Thank you for being with us tonight. Now, it`s time for “THE LAST
WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell.
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