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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/20/11

Guests: Josh Seefried, Victor Fehrenbach, Nancy Pelosi

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you. Congratulations on that. That was awesome. O`DONNELL: It was fun. MADDOW: Yes, really cool. Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. We begin tonight with something brand new in America today. It is day one. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CROWD: Five, four, three, two, one! (CHEERS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m 31 years old. I`m a woman. I`m a United States Marine. And I`m a lesbian. And pardon me, prior to today if I had said that, I could expect to be discharged from the military. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Don`t ask, don`t tell" is dead. (CHEERS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is history. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. (CHEERS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not just a victory for me, but everybody who`s serving their country today who can`t speak out for themselves. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the morning of September 20th. I could not sleep. It`s 2:45. And I am probably as nervous as I can ever remember being. I`m about to call my dad in Alabama. He has no clue nor do any members of my family. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, daddy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, bud! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I tell you something? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you love me, period? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like you always love me, as long as I`m -- dad, I`m gay. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yikes! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like always have been, have known since forever. And I know I haven`t seen you in like a year, and I don`t know when the next time I`ll be able to see you. I didn`t want to do it over the phone. I wanted to tell you in person -- but I mean, I didn`t want you to find out any other way. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You still love me? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still love you, son. I still love you, and I will always love. And I will always be proud of you, OK? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. All right. I love you, daddy. Thanks for everything. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, too, son. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll be home before too long. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, too, bud. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Bye. Oh my Lord. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Oh my Lord! Today is day one of the United States military after "don`t ask, don`t tell." In the run-up to Repeal Day today, an 88-year-old World War II veteran spoke at a ceremony marking the policy`s repeal in Georgia. Today, just hours after the repeal became effective, two active duty service members spoke only for the first time about being gay in the military during a process conference with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in Washington. Last night in San Diego, servicemembers and their supporters celebrated the repeal as it happened, as it took effect. In Washington tonight, parties planned to celebrate Repeal Day all over the city. "Washington Post" is actually keeping a running list on their Website at this point. There`s also a Repeal Day ceremony planned for tonight at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. The guest of honor there: Major Margaret Whit, a flight nurse who successfully sued after she was kicked out because of "don`t ask, don`t tell." Senators who worked to repeal the policy held a press conference on Capitol Hill today alongside openly gay servicemembers who this time yesterday would not have been allowed to be openly gay service members. The White House is issuing a statement today saying in part, quote, "Today, the discriminatory law known as `don`t ask, don`t tell` is finally and formally repealed. As of today patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. As of today our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as commander in chief I want those to know who were discharged under this law that your country deeply values your service." That was from the official statement out of the White House on Repeal Day today. President Obama`s re-election campaign also sent out an e-mail about the repeal from campaign manager Jim Messina. Quote, "Today, `don`t ask, don`t tell` is officially over. This is one of the administration`s signature achievements. Countless Americans fought hard to end this law over the course of nearly two decades and President Obama is proud to have signed the repeal. It`s a reminder as broken as Washington is and as long as change can take, people and organizations can do amazing things when they work together and never waiver from the vision that unites them. There`s a lot more to do in the months ahead, but today is one to savor." Now, there`s a video link to that e-mail that President Obama`s re- election campaign sent out today. It is a video that links the policy to the people that it affects and frankly to the administration`s satisfaction with winning this particular hard political fight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) JEREMY JOHNSON, DISCHARGED UNDER DADT: Living under `don`t ask, don`t tell` is something that you can`t put into words. CAPTAIN JOAN DARRAH, UNITED STATES NAVY (RET.): For example, when the admiral would call me to his office, this little voice in the back would always say, gee, I hope that somehow I haven`t been outed and that he`s calling me in to tell me my career is over. JOHNSON: The wording of it is really misleading because it makes people think under the policy you can be gay, lesbian or bisexual and serve but just not talk about it. It`s a lot more than that. STACY VASQUEZ, DISCHARGED UNDER DADT: "Don`t ask, don`t tell" also meant I would lead a very empty life by myself, to be able to follow the law. MAJOR GENERAL DENNIS LAICH, UNITED STATES ARMY (RET.): My professional judgment as an old straight bald guy who spent 35 years in the military. "Don`t ask, don`t tell" actually takes away from military readiness. We have critical very, very difficult to fill military occupation specialties where we discharged fully qualified, fully trained combat veterans who are exactly what the military wanted simply because we had a "don`t ask, don`t tell" law on the books which most of the military thought didn`t make sense. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not a nation that says don`t ask, don`t tell. We are a nation that says out of many, we are one. We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today and now it is my honor to sign this bill into law. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: The message from the Obama re-election campaign is not just let`s be glad "don`t ask, don`t tell" is over. They`re doing all they can to lock up the political capital that should accrue to them for having won this, for having gotten "don`t ask, don`t tell" repealed. This is part of why winning political fights is actually a great predictor of whether you will win more of them. It`s because to the victor go the spoils, both politically and emotionally. Winning helps you win more. Maybe the most moving thing, the most emotional thing about this policy change for people who support this policy change is finding out what is going to happen to the individual people whose lives were ruined by this policy but who still now, because it happened now, because it didn`t take longer, because it didn`t take another 10 years, those people who still have a chance to U-turn their lives. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) JOHNSON: As soon as "don`t ask, don`t tell" was officially off the books, I`m going back to finish what I started. VASQUEZ: I`m going back in because I want to keep giving back to my country. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: In addition to those folks highlighted in the Obama re- election campaign video today, Army lieutenant and Iraq war veteran Dan Choi who you met on this program, who was discharged under the policy after coming out on this show. Dan Choi now says he plans to reenlist. An ousted New Mexico airman tells his local news station today he is considering reenlisting. Two others telling their local Chicago news station they`re thinking about going back. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says they are already working with a number of people discharged under "don`t ask, don`t tell" who are now going to rejoin. This Navy officer was married in Vermont at the stroke of midnight last night. Highlighting that openly gay people in the military will also want equal rights. So, it`s not like this is a done deal. But today was a big deal. And today was about coming out which is what the policy was fundamentally about. Tens of thousands of gay people have been serving in the United States military during this whole debate, while the policy has existed. Now that the policy is gone, they can make their own decision about whether or not and how to say who they are. It can no longer be used against them. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Why is it worth it to you to take the risk to speak out like this and do the work you have done with OutServe? "J.D. SMITH": I think why it`s important for me, at some point while you`re serving under the military and under this policy, you see some of the atrocities that occur to people across the world, including myself, who was blackmailed under this policy. At some point you have to see there`s something larger than yourself out there and you have to take these risks to do something like this, to help others and to help create the change that`s needed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I did that interview last year with an Air Force lieutenant using a pseudonym. And as you can see there, pictured only in silhouette. I`ve only done a few rare interviews like that in my life. That Air Force officer had been blackmailed for being gay as a young officer. He started the underground network of active duty U.S. military personnel that`s called OutServe. The pseudonym was J.D. Smith. Well, today, OutServe`s magazine published a feature called "101 Faces of Courage." That includes real photos and real bios and real names of 100 other gay servicemembers plus the real J.D. Smith. Joining us now live from Washington, D.C., at a party hosted by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the very first time not in silhouette is United States Air Force First Lieutenant Josh Seefried who will never again have to be known as J.D. Smith. Lt. Seefried is the founder of OutServe and author of "Our Time: Breaking the Silence of `Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell`." Also joining us is newly retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach who came out nationally on this program. He fought his discharge under "don`t ask, don`t tell" and won -- as he saw the policy crumbled this year. Gentlemen, I have to say, congratulations. Thank you both so much for joining us tonight. LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): Thank you, Rachel. This is a great day for everyone here and all the servicemembers across -- all around the world. MADDOW: Are you guys wearing those little Janet Jackson mikes because it`s a really exciting, loud celebration? FEHRENBACH: There`s a little disco action going on. FIRST LT. JOSH SEEFRIED, U.S. AIR FORCE: Everyone`s shouting behind us. It`s a great day -- it`s a great excitement for everything that`s going on today. It`s a great day for America and for our military. MADDOW: Lieutenant Seefried, formally known as J.D. Smith on this program, let me start with you. How has it felt to you personally to be able to say who you are, to have spent this first 24 hours in the new military? SEEFRIED: It feels like a huge burden has been lifted off your shoulders. I mean, there`s not a single day that you cannot think about this policy while serving in the military. And knowing today that there`s a career I have an opportunity to have where I don`t have to be scared of who I am and who I love, that I can be part of the military family and I`m so excited about it. And I think every other gay person in the military feels the exact same way. MADDOW: Josh, do you feel like there is a need for a group like OutServe to continue? OutServe obviously functioned as an anonymous way, an underground way for gay people actively serving in the military to find one another, support one another and communicate. Will OutServe continue to exist? Do you think there will be continued need of support for gay people in the military? SEEFRIED: Absolutely. What we can see from our British counterparts, there`s not one single British Royal Marine that`s out right now. The policy`s been changed for years. So where OutServe can help is to help build the respect. In the military to make sure that people feel comfortable coming out. Like you said, we published our magazine today that`s going around bases, on military bases today that publish real names, real faces of military people and that goes to show that we`re here and we`re part of the team. And so, in the future, we need to continue to develop that respect in the environment and we`re going to do that. MADDOW: Let me turn now to Lieutenant Colonel Fehrenbach. You are newly retired from the U.S. Air Force. You fought your discharge from the Air Force and were able to retire successfully just in recent weeks. Victor, do you feel like your decision to come out and the decision of other individual service members to come out and fight their discharges made this happen faster than it otherwise would have? FEHRENBACH: I think so. And I just want to say thank you, Rachel. You allowed a lot of us to come on and tell our stories. And I think that changed some politicians` minds and I think it changed America`s attitudes and people in the military as well, that we were ready for this. And as you mentioned, when I came out, the day after I came out on your show, I went back to duty, I put the uniform on. I remember the morning walking up to the building. And it was really, at that point, 18 years in, it was the proudest day of my life because it hit me. And it was the first time I realized I was going to go into work, wasn`t going to have to lie or look over my shoulder. And today, that`s why this is such a great day -- 65,000 other service members put their uniforms on today and it was a different great day for them. And they were able to be proud and serve with integrity. MADDOW: Victor, are you -- are you anticipating that there are going to be problems with implementation of repeal? The military has been very firm, the Pentagon has been very firm in saying there are not going to be problems. We are prepared, we are trained, we are ready for this. Having been in the Air Force for 20 years and seeing what you`ve seen, most of that time not being a man who people knew was gay, do you think there`s going to be trouble? FEHRENBACH: I think there may be isolated cases. I think the way this was done -- I was obviously the most impatient man in the world having this threat of discharge hang over me for the last three years and four months. But what I learned from that in the last two years, again, I`ve been able to serve openly. I shouldn`t be surprised by this. But, you know, the military people are professional, they`re disciplined, they`re dedicated to the mission. And that`s all they care about. So, there may be isolated cases. But across the board, we took our time, got everybody trained. I think people have been expecting this for the last 10 months or so. So, I think we`re ready. And I think those cases will be very isolated. MADDOW: Let me go back to Josh Seefried, United States Air Force First Lieutenant, founder of OutServe and the author of this new book that`s out today, "Our Time: Breaking the Silence of `Don`t Ask, Don`t tell`" -- with names and faces and real stories of people who are openly gay serving in the military as of today. Josh, thinking about serving in the Air Force right now, is a person who is on active duty and who is now newly really not anonymous. Will it be difficult not to be anonymous as an activist now? You`re now both out in the Air Force as gay men, but also out in the Air Force as somebody who was an activist to get this policy change. Is this going to affect your ability to fit in with your unit? SEEFRIED: Absolutely not. When I go back to work, I`m going to go back in there and do a good job, that I was signed up to do, that I raised my right hand for. And that`s the United States Air Force. Under this policy, like you said, I was blackmailed. I saw the crimes that were committed against other people including like Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach. And when you serve under the policy and see some of these crimes that are committed, you just can`t sit back and let that happen. I saw an opportunity to help the Pentagon to get this policy change and I took it. And with an amazing team, we help to support thousands of active duty servicemembers. So, I don`t think it`s a problem at all to go back to work, to go back to do my job the best I can and what I signed up to do. MADDOW: First Lieutenant Josh Seefried, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, I want to thank you both for your activism, for speaking up, the bravery it took. Thanks for joining us. I sense the cost of that viscerally because I know there`s an open bar there and you are both in the mood to celebrate. So, I release you both. Congratulations, you guys. Have a great night. SEEFRIED: Thanks, Rachel. Cheers to you. FEHRENBACH: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks to you both. All right. Nancy Pelosi is also going to be joining us live from Washington tonight. You will not believe where in Washington Nancy Pelosi is going to be joining us from tonight. But she will be with us live for the interview. That is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: No matter what your politics are, no matter how frustrated you might sometimes be with the state of play in Washington, tonight there is a Republican congressman for whom you will applaud with real feeling. "The Best New Thing in the World Today" is coming up right at the end of the show, and it will make you very happy about a particular Republican member of Congress. And the interview tonight, Nancy Pelosi, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you`re someone who is afraid of bugs, if you`re someone who`s creeped out by the very sight of bugs, I give you permission to just squint drastically or turn away from the television screen for just the next few seconds -- because this right here is a tiny little guy, kind of sort of looks like a caterpillar, kind of sort of appears to have cute little bunny ears by its head. See? This is a distinct species of something called a spring tail. This particular species of spring tail you`re looking at is named after a current member of the United States Senate. As you can see down there on the bottom, the official name of this rather adorable little bug is Cosberella Lamaralexanderi. This little guy was named after Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee for two reasons. First, physical resemblance -- I`m not kidding. The scientist who discovered this cute bug a few years ago said that its checkerboard coloration sort of resembled the trademark red plaid shirts Lamar Alexander used to wear across the country when he campaigned for president in two successive presidential years. See, sort of? Maybe a bit of a stretch. Maybe if he wore bunny ears. More importantly, however, this charming bugger was named after Lamar Alexander because of Senator Alexander`s long standing support of federally funded scientific research. It was an honor paid to him because he supports government supporting science. The bug is now off the screen. So you can feel free to turn back to your television. If you`re a member of the modern day Republican Party who`s had an insect specie named after you because of your support for federal funding of science, that is both inherently awesome and it means you are probably not going to be the biggest hit at the next Republican power cocktail party. Today, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander announced that he is resigning from his leadership post as the number three Republican in the Senate. This amid speculation that if he was going to resign from the number three job in order to run for the number two job in the Senate, he would not win that election. Mr. Alexander is currently the chairman of the Republican Conference in the Senate. He is quitting that job in January. Now, Senator Alexander enjoys a nearly 80 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. And on a whole host of issues, he is pretty much a Republican`s Republican. Back when he was running for president in the 1990s, he pledged to never ever -- never -- raise taxes. He was against the minimum wage. Yes. Rejected any and all gun control measures. Even though he was previously the nation`s education secretary, he ran for president on a platform of abolishing the Department of Education, which he used to run. But in this year`s version of the Republican Party, even a record that conservative is not conservative enough. Republican sources telling CNN today that Senator Alexander likely chose to leave the Republican leadership because some conservative members of his party think he is too moderate. In addition to being sort of suspect because scientists named a bug after him, Lamar Alexander committed the cardinal sin of working to cut down pollution from coal-fired power plants. He once supported a bipartisan health reform proposal. Ooh. Remember when the bipartisan Senate "gang of six" was going to be the group that came up with a big deficit deal? Lamar Alexander endorsed the "gang of six" end product. So, he endorsed a bipartisan thing. And now, of course, that means Lamar Alexander has got to go. He`s too moderate for a leadership role in today`s Republican Party. That dynamic in the Republican Party -- the dynamic between the Republican Party and the far right wing edge of its base tells you a lot more about what`s going on in national politics right now than anything going on the other side of the aisle -- particularly anything going on between President Obama and his base. Right now, Republicans nationally as well as the Beltway media are busy accusing President Obama of pandering to the extreme left wing of his Democratic base by calling for tax increases on corporations and on the wealthiest Americans to help balance the budget. As the Republican attack goes, it`s only the far, far, far, far left, like the Maddow left, that wants this sort of thing and shame on Barack Obama for giving into those left wing crazies. According to conservative columnists like David Brooks of "The New York Times" today, quote, "President Obama repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives." You want to see how enraged moderates are at the idea of tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans? Sixty-five percent. That`s the percentage of moderates in the latest "New York Times" poll who say they support tax hikes on the rich. The number was even higher in a recent CNN poll -- the number of self- declared moderates who support higher taxes for the rich, 74 percent. A Marist and McClatchy poll, 80 percent of moderates tell Marist and McClatchy that they would be for a plan to raise taxes on the rich. That mirrors the 80 percent of moderates who told "The Washington Post" the same thing last month, 80 percent of moderates favor tax hikes on the rich. If that`s the Democratic Party`s base, 80 percent, then, frankly, Democrats are pretty psyched -- more likely, it`s the Beltway pundits who are either Republicans themselves or just in the process of parodying Republican Party talking points, more likely it is that the punditocracy is wrong about this. What is the president is doing does not appear to be a play for the Democrat Party`s base. It will likely make the Democratic Party`s base very happy, but it`s also going to make happy huge majorities of Americans who agree with President Obama on the substance of what it is he is proposing. The only people who are not into ideas like President Obama is proposing, the only people who are not into the idea of raising taxes on the rich in order to close the deficit is the very, very tiny of the minority that is actually the Republican Party`s base. And that is the great political liability for elected Republicans right now. The Republican Party is shifting themselves so far to the right to deal with their own base that they are now really completely in alignment with the farthest right edge of their party. The two ways to move a political party in one ideological direction or another -- first, you have to elevate to leadership positions, the more extreme members of your party, right? The most ideologically pure members of your party and you have to demand that everybody go along with their policy preferences. But you also to have to make sure that moderates in your party lose their power. You have to purge the moderates from any positions of power. But that sort of purge, that sort of enforcement of ideological rigidity leaves a good part of the electorate in play for some other politician to come along and capture. It`s not just the Democratic base who`s for tax hikes on the rich. It`s everybody who is not in the Republican base. It is a very, very, very large majority of the country. President Obama`s now barnstorming around the country on the basis of the single most popular economic idea in the nation if you consider the polling on it. Remember the Lamar Alexander bug? The Cosberella Lamaralexanderi? It`s a specific species of a spring tail. The spring tail was long considered to be an insect. But, now, it is no longer considered an insect by scientists who study these things. Instead, the Lamaralexanderi bug is classified now as a hexapod. We seem to be getting to the point where Republican moderates, or even the moderate conservatives among the Republicans are no longer allowed to be considered Republicans anymore. I don`t know if we`ll be calling them hexapods in the future or conservative Democrats or what. But there appears to be no more room for them in their own party. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a party night for everybody who is glad to see the end of the military`s don`t ask, don`t tell policy. We`re looking at footage right now of a party going on in Washington, D.C. In just a minute Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, one of most devoted opponents of "don`t ask, don`t tell," will join us live from this very festive not secret for much longer location along with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. That will happen in just a moment. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Joining us tonight for the interview is House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who for the entire time that the "don`t ask, don`t tell" policy was alive, before, during and after her term as speaker of the House, helped lead the fight against it. So, tonight, she is out celebrating its demise with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network at their party in Washington, D.C. Leader Pelosi, thank you so much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you here. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Thank you, Rachel. As you can see, it`s a cause for great celebration that we are -- it is the end of "don`t ask, don`t tell." And it`s pretty exciting, both for our country and for each of the people who are here, each of their personal stories is really a victory. MADDOW: It has been received wisdom in Washington for nearly 20 years that President Clinton hurt himself politically when he tried and failed to repeal the ban on gay people serving in t the military. Do you think it was risky for you and other Democrats and President Obama to push so hard to repeal the ban these path couple years? PELOSI: Well, whether it was risky or not, it was the right thing to do. President Obama deserves a great deal of credit for creating the atmosphere, providing the leadership for those in the military to follow the lead of the commander-in-chief and look carefully at this issue, to see how we could enable patriotic Americans to serve our country. The American people seem to be way ahead of Congress. I`m very pleased we were able to get two strong votes. My colleague whip Steny Hoyer is here tonight. He`s an important part of what we did in the House. Senator Reid in the Senate, putting together a bipartisan coalition there. And so, again, the American people approved. The issue was urgent. The president led. Tonight we celebrate. MADDOW: Do you have anything to say tonight to Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee or to Senator John McCain or other members of the Congress who you fought against all these years, the ones who fought so hard to keep this ban in place? PELOSI: You know what, I`d rather be thinking in a positive vein tonight about what was accomplished and the joy it brings to all of these people here and the 14,000 people who were discharged under the "don`t ask, don`t tell" policy -- the respect that they are receiving, the opportunity they have to go back and to be reinstated and what it means for those who have never served but want to serve our country. That`s the emphasis I would like to place tonight as we have this celebration. I hope that in the hearts of those who have not been as enthusiastic, that they will see the inevitability of it. When we took the vote last year in the spring, we got -- we had a 40- vote majority. When we took the vote again in the winter, it had grown to 75 votes majority, nearly double. I think that`s the wave of the future and that others -- I always say about "don`t ask, don`t tell," it was inconceivable to us that it would not be repealed. It was inconceivable. It was inevitable that it would happen. We wanted to shore up the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable and make this night happen. Some people just take a little longer to come around, but I think the American people have led and the president has been absolutely great. It`s a real tribute to him. But I`m proud of my members because every district isn`t the same. And all of them were very courageous. MADDOW: To hear your optimism about this, about the sort of making the inevitable happen, is a glass half full way of looking at it. Does that mean when we hear Republican presidential candidates, for example, talking about putting -- reinstating "don`t ask, don`t tell," it`s essentially rescinding the repeal if they became president -- do you think that`s just noise? Do you think there`s no chance of that ever happening? PELOSI: I don`t think so. I think this has its -- the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell," the participation of our men and women, everyone in our country what wants to serve in the military has a momentum to it. It`s really a celebration of their patriotism, of their love of our country. And it is really part of two bookends in the Obama administration. He started his -- the first bill the president signed passed by the Congress. The first bill he signed was Lilly Ledbetter, to end discrimination in the workplace. One of the last bills he signed in that two-year period was the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell." And in between, the hate crimes bill, fully inclusive and many other initiatives, he broadened opportunity in our country. That is the wave of the future. I think that we`re on pretty solid ground here. MADDOW: Leader Pelosi -- PELOSI: Pretty happy ground, too. MADDOW: It sounds like it. PELOSI: It`s hard to hear you. I`m sorry. It`s very hard to hear because -- MADDOW: I`ll try to be emphatic. I`m sorry. I have one last question for you about President Obama and his strategy, as he`s heading into his re-election campaign. He is talking more and more about Congress these days. About the priorities of Republicans in Congress in particular and how he sees his priorities and the nation`s priorities as different than what Republicans want. Do you think there`s been a real important strategic pivot for the president, that he`s being more confrontational or more willing to call out people he sees as standing in the way of progress? PELOSI: Well, I would hope that the president, taking his message on jobs and deficit reduction that is fair, that is marked by fairness, where all Americans pay their fair share, as he takes his message to the American people that all of us can find common ground on the high ground of values - - the education of our children, the dignified retirement of our seniors, the creation of jobs of the American people, the safety and good health of our neighborhoods, the strength of our country and is done in a fiscally sound way, nothing partisan about that. I think as the president shows that what our values are and how the budget reflects them, that hopefully we can find common ground in the budget. But I do think that it`s really about not only his re-election, it`s about his belief in the future. A vision of America that is more, that provides more fairness, more opportunity, that speaks to the greatness of America. So, I`m very proud of the president. Our caucus -- our House Democratic Caucus is fully behind him in what he is doing and we just would hope we can, again, find common ground with the American people and our colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle in Congress. We will find a solution. We will have to find a solution, but we cannot find a solution by surrendering. We have to fight the fight, find common ground, if not, stand our ground. The president has made that very clear. MADDOW: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi -- thank you so much for taking time away from the party you are at tonight, and joining us on tonight of all nights. Congratulations to you for your hard work on this. I know it`s a real achievement for you, personally. So, thank you, ma`am. PELOSI: I`m very proud of it. Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. "The Best New Thing in the World Today" -- a life or death story and life wins with a big assist from a Republican congressman. "Best New Thing in the World" coming up right at the end of the show. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The strange story of Texas Governor Rick Perry and the expenses for his family`s out of state trips. Ed Schultz has that story right after this show. And ahead here, if something incredible happens once, it`s generally called a fluke. If it happens twice, it`s a coincidence. But if it happens three times, it`s "The Best New Thing in the World Today" -- coming right up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is sodium thiopental. In small doses, this drug is sometimes called truth serum. In large doses, it is the way that we prefer to kill prisoners in America. Sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in combination for lethal injection. Sodium thiopental is used to be made in this country by a company in Illinois. But after that company moved its manufacturing operations to Italy, it stopped making the drug. It wasn`t worth the trouble anymore because Italians are molto, molto against the death penalty. So, about a year ago, the company just stopped making the drug. With no more sodium thiopental being made in the United States or by the American company that outsourced its manufacturing overseas, death penalty states had to look for new ways to get the drug or they had to come up with new ways to kill their prisoners. The state of Georgia first tried to find an alternate source for getting the drug. Along with Arizona, Arkansas, California and Tennessee, Georgia scored some from a fly-by-night distributor operating out of the back of a driving school in west London in the U.K. Georgia killed two people using the drug they got out of the driving school that sodium thiopental. They brought it from a drug distributor operating in a fly-by- night shack and they used it to kill two people. Then in March, the Drug Enforcement Agency seized Georgia`s supply of sodium thiopental, arguing the drug was imported illegally. They took away ever single vial of it that the state had. So, then, how does Georgia keep killing its prisoners? Georgia decided to switch drugs. The state decided they would start using a drug that has the trade name Nembutal instead to kill its prisoners. Nembutal is a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals. It is not used as a human anesthetic. The Danish company who makes Nembutal shouldn`t be used in executions. The first time Georgia nevertheless used Nembutal to kill a prisoner, reporters who witnessed the execution said the man being killed, quote, "jerked his head several times throughout the procedure and muttered after the drug was injected and he was supposed to be asleep." Controversy over the means in which we kill the prisoners led to an unprecedented decision this summer, in July, when the state of Georgia used Nembutal to execute a man named Andrew Grant DeYoung. The state videotaped killing him. It was the country`s first recorded execution in almost two decades. The first ever videotaped lethal injection. And it happened because lawyers for another prisoner on death row in Georgia wanted evidence. They wanted evidence for a lawsuit challenging their client`s death sentence on the grounds that the states knew we use the drugs they use on animals, lethal injection protocol is brutal and therefore unconstitutional. Because of that lawsuit, somewhere in a sealed locker in Georgia is a video of the state killing a man. But head of the man who was bringing that lawsuit to the state of the Georgia is now set to execute another man, a man named Troy Davis. 20 years ago, Davis was convicted and sentenced to death to the murder of a Savannah police officer after nine witnesses identified him as the shooter. Since then, seven of those nine witnesses have recanted their testimony, saying they were coerced by the police. The case also suffered from a lack of physical evidence. The murder weapon, for example, has never been found. Because of all of that, three of the jurors who convicted Troy Davis now say they would change their vote. Today, Georgia`s Board of Pardons and Parole refused to block the Troy Davis execution. He`s scheduled to be killed tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. The board said it considered, quote, "the totality of the information presented before deciding to deny clemency." That board is the only body in the state of Georgia that has the power to commute this death sentence. A last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would be Troy Davis` only hope. But that is considered to be an unlikely prospect. This afternoon, the justices of the Supreme Court did stop another execution, the execution of a man named Cleve Foster who was scheduled to die tonight in Texas for the rape and murder of a woman 10 years ago. Mr. Foster maintains that he is innocent. His lawyers say he did not receive adequate legal help during his trial. This is the third time the Supreme Court has stepped in to stop Cleve Foster`s execution. The court`s brief order today said the reprieve would remain in effect pending the outcome of Mr. Foster`s request for a review of his latest appeal. On Thursday, the Supreme Court also stepped in to stop the execution of another prisoner in Texas, a man named Duane Buck. Duane Buck`s conviction was marred by a psychologist testifying that the fact that Duane Buck is African-American could contribute to his, quote, "future dangerousness, his blackness equals his dangerousness," the jury was told. The justice has granted a 30-day reprieve to Duane Buck until they decide whether to take the case. Duane Buck or Cleve Foster would have been the 11th Texas prisoner executed this year. Governor Rick Perry of Texas has sent 235 prisoners to their deaths in Texas during his time as governor. It`s more than any governor in the modern history of the country. Governor Perry, of course, is very proud of that record. Conventional political wisdom says that killing prisoners, even one whose guilt is vigorously challenged, is a thumbs-up for the voters that Republicans count on to give them something like the Republican nomination for president. But with all that`s going on right now in death penalty politics and in death penalty jurisprudence, are there any limits to that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you -- (APPLAUSE) WILLIAMS: -- have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent? GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you`re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas. And that is, you will be executed. WILLIAMS: What do you make of -- (APPLAUSE) WILLIAMS: What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause? PERRY: I think Americans understand justice. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Since then, Texas has executed another person. They`re now up to 235 on Governor Perry`s watch. In Texas, the cases of Duane Buck and Cleve Foster are likely to return to Governor Perry`s desk if the Supreme Court ultimately turns away their appeals. In Georgia, Troy Davis will not even get the luxury of a last-minute appeal to that state`s governor. Vigils are happening tonight in Georgia on the steps of the state capitol. And in the state of prison in Georgia, where they kill prisoners, tomorrow, there will be a vigil there. Among those asking for the Troy Davis execution to be stopped are Pope Benedict, Georgia native son, former President Jimmy Carter, and William Sessions, a former director of the FBI. Nevertheless, Troy Davis, due to be executed at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World Today" has absolutely nothing to do with politics. But it is about politicians. A couple of years ago, a couple of blocks south of right here, a woman was walking down the street in midtown Manhattan and some punk ran up and mugged her, stole her cell phone PDA thing and ran off. One of New York`s deputy mayor, a 6-foot, four-inch sort of Clark Kent-looking guy named Ed Skyler, heard the woman yelled, tackled the perp, and got the woman`s back. Yay! Six months later, even more dramatically, the mayor of Milwaukee was leaving the Wisconsin state fair when he tried to help a woman who was being attacked by a man wielding a lead pipe. The mayor got his teeth knocked out and a fractured hand for his troubles. But the woman and the baby she was holding were both OK. Now, it has happened again, not fighting crime this time, but saving a life -- and going above and beyond any politician`s call of duty to do it. This morning, Congressman Phil Roe of Tennessee was heading to work on Capitol Hill by way of the Charlotte, North Carolina airport. He heard somebody yelling for a doctor saying a man had collapsed. Congressman Phil Roe is also Dr. Phil Roe. He used to practice as an obstetrician. And in the airport, he sprung into action. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PHIL ROE (R), TENNESSEE: We put the defibrillating device on him, little external defibrillating device and he was flat-lined. And we started obviously cardiopulmonary resuscitation with him then and then defibrillated him. And his heart rhythm starting back and he began to breath on his own. The police officer -- I gave him card. And just as I got in the office after getting on the flight, he said he thought this fellow was going to make it. Well, that was great news. You have to realize this man left home this morning, this person, I don`t even know his name, thinking that his day was going to be just like any other day. So, yes, it was -- I hope he does well. I certainly hope his family well and wish him well, whoever he is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Part of the whole political culture now of running down government as if government`s a bad thing also means talking smack about public service as if it is a shady career, as if people who run for office are by definition a little suspect. Maybe some politicians are a little suspect and maybe even good politicians sometimes misbehaved. But the same is true for every profession, frankly. And sometimes, like Republican Congressman Phil Roe today or Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett or indeterminate political party, former Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler in New York, sometimes politicians find their inner superhero and fight crime and save lives personally. I feel like it`s little message, little reminder, "The Best New Thing in the World Today." That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE ED SHOW." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END